Category Archives: Not your daddy’s Bible

On the Bible’s “erotic love poem…”

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Antique Valentine 1909 01.jpgToday is Valentine’s Day, which makes this a perfect time to explore the Bible’s “erotic love poem.”  And besides, Lent is coming up.  (It starts on March 1, with Ash Wednesday.*)  And that means 40 days of “penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement, and self-denial.”

So now is the perfect time to live it up a little…

Anyway, Valentine’s Day started off as a purely “Christian liturgical feast day honoring one or more early saints named Valentinus.”  And several “martyrdom stories” circulated about various Valentines connected to February 14, the most popular being Saint Valentine of Rome.  He was imprisoned for – among other things – “ministering to Christians,” and according to one account, he healed the daughter of his jailer.  Then – shortly before his execution – he “wrote a letter [to the daughter] signed ‘Your Valentine’ as a farewell:”

The day first became associated with romantic love within the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.  In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other…

Which brings us to the Bible’s own love poem, the Song of Songs.  (Aka, “Song of Solomon.”)

Isaac Asimov wrote of the “Song of Songs” in his Guide to the Bible: Two Volumes in One.  He used five pages to cover the book,* first noting that this was the “third of the canonical books to be attributed to Solomon.”  (Shown at left, he was the son of Israel’s King David who became widely known for his wisdom, as well as for his habit of acquiring “foreign wives,” as shown below.)  Asimov added:

The Song of Solomon is a love poem, frankly erotic, apparently composed to celebrate a wedding.  This, too, is appropriate, for Solomon had numerous wives and was, presumably, an experienced lover.

(See for example, 1st Kings 11:3:  “He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray,” which sounds about right…)

And here are some highlights.  For starters, the poem features a back-and-forth exchange between a man and woman.  (Together with “Others,” acting as a kind of chorus.)

It starts off with the woman saying, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!” (1:2, and in verse 3, she adds that “virgins love you.”)  In verse 1:13 the woman says, “My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh that lies between my breasts.”  Moving on, in 4:5 the man tells the woman: “Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that graze among the lilies.”

In Chapter 7, verses 1-3, the man adds these observations:

Your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand.  Your navel is a rounded bowl that never lacks mixed wine.  Your belly is a heap of wheat, encircled with lilies. Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle.

Which raises an interesting question:  Why don’t Biblical Fundamentalists interpret the Song of Songs literally?  That is, why don’t they adhere to the “exact letter or the literal sense” of this book?  It also brings up the matter of selective interpretation.

On that note Asimov added, “Because of the erotic nature of the book, it has been customary to find allegorical values in it that would make it more than a description of bodily passion.”  Thus:

Jews would have it speak of the love between Yahveh and Israel;  Catholics of the love between Christ and the Church;  Protestants of the love between God and man’s soul.  However, if we simply accept the words as they stand, the book is a human love poem and a very beautiful one.

Which is fine, but why not be consistent?  Or in the alternative, why reject a spiritual, or even – (gasp!) – a liberal interpretation of the Bible, in favor of only a literal interpretation?

Which brings up the whole point of this blog.  The point is that if you limit your Bible-study to a purely literal interpretation, you’re robbing yourself of at least half it’s value.  (And driving potential converts away in droves.)  But if you move on from a purely literal interpretation, to an open-minded spiritual interpretation, your Bible-study can take you to exotic adventures and explorations that you couldn’t have dreamed of before.

Or as St. Paul said, God made us “servants of a new covenant not based on the letter [of the law] but on the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”  (2d Corinthians 3:6.)

Put another way, if Jesus had been a Biblical conservative and/or literalist, we’d all still be Jewish.  And besides, by taking that “open” approach you won’t have to find a non-erotic literal-but-pure meaning of “your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand…”

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“Solomon sinned by acquiring many foreign wives…”

(Which made him well-versed in the “Art of Love.”)

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The upper image is courtesy of Valentine’s Day – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “An English Victorian era Valentine card located in the Museum of London.”

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to Asimov using “five pages to cover” the Song of Songs:  The reference is to the 1981 Avenel Books edition of his Guide to the Bible, at pages 518-23.

Re:  Canonical “Solomon” Bible books.  He is said to have written Proverbs, “a collection of fables and wisdom of life;”  Ecclesiastes, a book of contemplation and self-reflection, and Song of Songs.  The black-and-white image to the left of the paragraph about him is captioned:  “An engraving, ‘Judgment of Solomon,’ by Gustave Doré (19th century).”

The “Weird Tales” image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article on Isaac Asimov.  The caption:  “The novelette ‘Legal Rites,’ a collaboration with Frederik Pohl, was the only Asimov story to appear in Weird Tales.”  The article noted that in addition to his interest in science and history, Asimov was “also a noted mystery author and a frequent contributor to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.  He began by writing science fiction mysteries … but soon moved on to writing ‘pure’ mysteries.”

The lower image is courtesy of Solomon – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Solomon sinned by acquiring many foreign wives.  Solomon’s descent into idolatry, Willem de Poorter, Rijksmuseum.”

Moses at Rephidim: “What if?”

Moses at the Battle of Rephidim:  “If I let my arms down, the other team will win!

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This year’s Super Bowl has come and gone, which means that some of us still haven’t recovered.  (The First Super Bowl is shown at right.)  Which is another way of saying that – with the New England Patriots’ win over the Atlanta Falcons – the 2016-17 NFL season has come to an end.

That in turn means that among Patriot fans, there are some who think their team won because of something they did.  The flip side is that among Falcon fans, there are some who are asking, “Why did my team lose?   What did I do wrong?

In my case, my sweetheart and I deliberately did not watch the first three quarters.  And all during that time the Falcons did quite well, thank you very much.  (We went to a movie, then went to dinner, though we did occasionally check the score.)  First it was the Falcons leading 7-0, then leading 20-3, then 28-9.  By that time we were home and decided to play cards.

Then Sweetheart decided to watch the fourth quarter, and things went downhill from there.

Despite my begging and pleading, she continued to watch the game.  Finally I got up and left, first driving around the neighborhood, then walking around the neighborhood.  And I kept waiting for the set of loud cheers – from all the Super Bowl parties around the neighborhood – that would signify the Falcons had finally pulled through; finally pulled it off.

It didn’t happen…

But the worst part was the way that “Sweetie” denied my urgent pleas for us to turn off the TV and go back to playing cards.  For one thing, she said “I’m invested now.”  (Which made about as much sense as saying she didn’t want to stop pounding herself over the head with a 2×4, for the reason that she was equally “invested.”)  But  the worst part was when she said, “You don’t  seriously believe that us turning off the TV would change the outcome of the game, do you?”   

Which brought to mind – eventually – what Moses did at the Battle of Rephidim.

I’ve written about that in posts like On football, Moses and Rephidim, and – from this blog – On the Bible and mysticism, and Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of the episode in the Bible – at Exodus 17:8-16 – was that Moses “helped his team win:”

Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill.  As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it.  Aaron and Hur held his hands up – one on one side, one on the other – so that his hands remained steady till sunset. [E.A.]

So what do you suppose would have happened if Aaron and Hur refused to hold Moses’ hands up?  Or what do you suppose would happen if the wife of Moses – or his Sweetheart for that matter – had come up the mountain and said, “Moses, you look ridiculous.  Do you honestly think that holding your hands up like that is going to change the outcome of the battle?”

65068339I’ll tell you what would have happened.  Chaos: Israel defeated.  No Moses, no Bible, no Jesus and His teachings to temper the inherent greed and cruelty of humans.  Which of course would make some people happy. (As shown at right.)

Those people who think life would be ever so much better without religion.  (As shown in the image at right.)  Such people seem to think life today would be a matter of the sun perpetually shining down on a literal Paradise on Earth, complete with people of all nations and cultures frolicking happily around in a circle dance.  Baloney!!

(We saw plenty of “life without religion” in The Holocaust…)

Put another way:  To that I’ll give the same answer my Dad gave me after Watergate and Nixon’s resignation in 1974.  I asked him if it wouldn’t have been better if George McGovern had been elected instead of Nixon.  His answer?  “Things would have been worse, much worse!”

I don’t know if the country would have been better without the constitutional crisis of Watergate, but I do know history would be way different – way worse – without the tempering effect of religion.  Without the host of Men – and Women – in Black, keeping us on course:

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down, Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town…  [F]or those who never read, Or listened to the words that Jesus said, About the road to happiness through love and charity, Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.

Hey, “Johnny Cash said it, I believe it, that settles it.”

But we seem to be ranging far afield here.  The point of all this is that if Moses had listened to pure logic and reason – as opposed to instinct and intuition – the world would have been much worse off.  If nothing else, with the Amalekites defeating the Children of Israel, world history would have been a much different, and “worse, much worse.”  For one thing, Moses would never have gotten the chance to write – or at least finish – the Bible, that “most influential, most published, most widely read book in the history of the world.”*

I figure that in all of this there is “some kind of object lesson…”

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J. R. Cash

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The upper image is courtesy of Rephidim – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The full caption:  “Moses holding up his arms during the Battle of Rephidim, assisted by Hur and Aaron, in John Everett MillaisVictory O Lord! (1871).”    As to previous posts on Moses at Rephidim, those posts noted that devoted sport-fans love to think if their team wins, they – the fans – helped out.  (Through their rituals, “lucky shirts” and the like.)  See for example “God’s Favorite Team” – Part II:  “It’s a natural tendency for people to make connections between events.  ‘When I do this, that happens…’  Primitive people [and perhaps modern football fans] developed superstitions in similar ways:”

Superstition is a large part of a fan’s repertoire these days, especially when the home team is in Super Bowl XLVIII today…   Kenny Shisler has similar superstitions.  The lifelong Broncos fan said he will wear Broncos gear all week long, but refuses to do so on game day… “Like the Bud Light commercials [say], ‘It’s only weird if it doesn’t work…’”

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to the Bible being the “most influential, the most published, the most widely read book in the history of the world,” see Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (Two Volumes in One),  Avenel Books (1981), at page 7.  

Asimov (1920-1992) was “an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books.  Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards.”  His list of books included those on “astronomy, mathematics, theBible, William Shakespeare’s writing, and chemistry.”  He was a long-time member of Mensa, “albeit reluctantly;  he described some members of that organization as ‘brain-proud and aggressive about their IQs.’”  See Isaac Asimov – Wikipedia.

As to the Bible being the most influential and most widely read book, Asimov added:

No other book has been so studied and so analyzed and it is a tribute to the complexity of the Bible and the eagerness of its students that after thousands of years of study there are still endless books that can be written about it.

The “world without religion” image is courtesy of Date: July 4, 2016 Author: bige1972 … Commentsbigguycollege.  But see also Science without religion is lame. Religion … comquotefail.com:  “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”

Re:  “Johnny Cash said it, I believe it…”  The allusion is to the phrase “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.”  BTW: Googling that phrase got got me 4,280,000 results.

The lower image is courtesy of Johnny Cash – Wikipedia.  See also Man in Black (song) – Wikipedia

An update on “dissin’ the Prez”

Donald Trump Obama

Will the man on the left get the respect due him by Exodus 22:28?   (As the man on the right didn’t?)

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Saint James the Just.jpgThis morning’s Daily Office Readings include Joel 3:10, and a reading from James, the brother of Jesus.  (Shown at right.)  And James 2:6-7 said this:

Is it not the rich who are exploiting you?  Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?  Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

As to Joel 3:10, it says  “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears.”

Both of which seem strangely appropriate after last Tuesday’s election.

Which brings up this subject:  Are good Christians – both liberal and conservative – duty-bound to honor and obey the newly-elected “leader of our country,” Donald Trump?

In May 2014, I posted On dissin’ the Prez.  Mainly it was about Exodus 22:28, and how – at that time – it seemed “more honored in the breach.”  That is, Exodus 22:28 clearly commands:  “Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people.”

And that’s where honored in the breach* comes in.  Since conservatives spent the last eight years “cursing and reviling” the ruler of our people, are liberals – not to mention the majority who voted for Hillary Clinton – now free to do the same with Donald Trump?

The thing is, the people who interpret the U.S. Constitution “strictly” or “literally” are – generally speaking – the same ones who say that the Bible must also be interpreted literally.  But if those Conservatives – Christian or otherwise – had truly followed the letter of the Bible, they wouldn’t have “cursed and reviled” President Obama over the last eight years:

To sum up: Conservative Christians can avoid getting into trouble for violating the letter of Exodus 22:28, but only by using a liberal interpretation.  They can criticize the President all they want, as long as they don’t criticize “the Sovereign People” who elected him.  (A subtle distinction to be sure.)   Put another way, conservative Christians only avoid the penalty for violating the strict letter of Exodus 22:28 by using a liberal interpretation [of the Bible].

http://kara.allthingsd.com/files/2011/03/irony3.jpegThat’s where the closing “Oh, the irony” in that post came in.

On dissin’ the Prez also went into great detail about the differences between strict construction, as opposed to the rules of liberally interpreting the Bible.  (And on such topics as Biblical inerrancy, or what I call being a boot-camp Christian.) 

But in one sense those pointy-headed liberals may not need to interpret Exodus 22:28 “in a fair and reasonable manner in accordance with the objects and purposes of the instrument.”  (The Bible.)  That’s because in America the “leader of the people” is The People.  As in the Sovereign People or the “We the People” that start the Constitution.

In other words, the President of the United States is not a “leader of the country” as that term was interpreted at the time the Bible was written.  (See also On “originalism.”)

Back then a leader was a king or other dictator, who served for life – or until a stronger king bumped him off.  But these days a president is more like a plumber.  He’s a hired hand who serves the people of the United States for no more than eight years.  (Or less if he ends up impeached and convicted.  See AU Professor Predicts Trump’s Impeachment.)

Therefore, since we Americans follow majority rule, and since Hillary Clinton won a majority of the popular vote, it would seem that Americans everywhere are free to “curse and revile” Donald Trump as much as they want – according to the Bible.

But as Paul noted in 1st Corinthians 10:23:  “Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right.”

Ikone Athanasius von Alexandria.jpgThen too, that brings up what I wrote last January.  I posted On Hilary – 1″L,” and HE was a bishop.  Saint Hilary – shown at right, and who died in the year 367 – served as bishop in Poitiers, a city in France.

But he served at a time of a great early-church conflict, and perhaps not unlike the conflict we just went through.  (In St. Hilary’s case, the one pitting Athanasius against Arius, for whom Arianism was named.)

Basically it was a struggle for the “soul of the Church,” much like this last election was part of a “war for the soul of America.”  (And by the way, Googling “war for the soul”  got me 13,400,000 results.)

The thing is – during that earlier “war for the soul” – Saint Hilary had to serve a term in exile. (Too?)  In 356 he backed the wrong horse, and was sent into exile by Constantius II.  (Who  found the Arian position persuasive enough to banish Hilary to Phrygia.)  However:

Hilary put his four years in exile to good use.  He honed his arguments so well that they ultimately acquired the force of (church) law.  In essence he was a “Great Dissenter…”  Which is another way of saying “Athanasianism” ultimately won the day.

And who knows?  Maybe the same will happen with today’s Hillary…

And finally, it is within the realm of possibility that that consummate Showman – Donald Trump – actually “played those far-right conservatives like a piano.”  That is, it’s possible that Trump is the “New York Liberal” that Ted Cruz said he was.  (Or at least more of a moderate than he let on, either of which – liberal or moderate – would have doomed his Republican nomination.)

At the very least it’s looking like Donald – like life itself – is like a box of chocolates.  And as that great philosopher Forrest Gump observed, “You never know what you’re gonna get.”

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“Are you telling me Donald Trump just got elected president?”

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Notes:

The upper image is courtesy of Trump and Obama meet at the White House to begin transition.  

The full Satucket Daily Office readings include:  “AM Psalm 87, 90; PM Psalm 136,” along with Joel 3:9-17; James 2:1-13; Luke 16:10-17(18).

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this, the “notes” section.  Thus, as to “more honored in the breach:”  The quote is from Hamlet Act 1, scene 4, 7–16.  And something I didn’t know:  As properly interpreted the saying means to ignore a bad custom or rule, rather than a “good custom … often breached:”

Hamlet means that it is more honorable to breach, or violate, the custom of carousing than to observe it.  So the phrase is properly applied to a bad custom or rule that should be ignored.  Instead, we and others frequently use it in almost the opposite sense…

See Mangled Shakespeare – The New York Times, and – for more on the context – More honored in the breach – eNotes Shakespeare Quotes.

The latest from a “None…”

Stoning of Moses, Joshua and Caleb

Many times Moses almost got stoned to death – for not “dumbing down” the Torah enough…

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I finally got to read the September 26, 2016, edition of Time magazine.

(I get the magazine hand–me–down from my sister-in-law.)  Page 63 had an essay:  My Life As a ‘None’ and Tales of Being Unaffiliated, by Susanna Schrobsdorff.  (Which included the image at right.)  

The essay had a subhead, saying that Nones – Americans not affiliated with any religion – now make up almost a quarter of the population.

Schrobsdorff began, “Like a lot of women of a certain age, I’ve taken up yoga.”  Then – for reasons not quite clear – she apparently gave up on yoga, then went on to question her “casual pursuit of spirituality:”

I’m agnostic about God, and there’s just a smallish space where faith might fit into my life.  So I check the “spiritual but not religious” box…  I’m just the kind of person that author and pastor Lillian Daniel has aptly mocked, writing, “You are now comfortably in the norm for self-centered American culture, right smack in the bland majority of people who find ancient religions dull but find themselves uniquely fascinating.”

She added that people like her are “on the rise,” followed by a wealth of statistics showing that in a few years, “the largest ‘religion’ in the U.S. will be None.”  (Emphasis added.)

I wasn’t sure if she was bragging or complaining.

But then she started the second half of her essay.  She noted she grew up in a mixed-faith family.  Her mother Mary Anne “was a Catholic until she eloped with my atheist German father…   We’d ask her about God and all the miraculous stories from the Bible, and she’d say:

Don’t take everything so literally.'”

(Which is pretty much the whole point of this blog:  That if you read the Bible too literally, you’re only cheating yourself…)

And yet – she wrote – that same mother was both certain that God existed and seemed to pray fervently as she approached death.  (From the emphysema that would “kill her at 73.”)

That is, shortly before she died, the mother, her atheist-husband and her None-daughter stopped at the church where – years before – Mary Anne had taken First Communion:

I don’t know if she prayed.  But I do know that my mother had the certainty that she would go “home,” as she called it, where her long-gone parents and my sister were.

Ihs-logo.svgShe closed by saying that she longed for the kind of faith her mother had.  She also noted a Jesuitical proof that “God does exist:”

We have innate cravings for food and sleep and love, and so perhaps a desire to identify with a higher power…  That built-in yearning is there because there’s something worth yearning for.  It’s the kind of logic that my mother, the student of Jesuits, would have loved.

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So:  Where to begin?  How do I respond to what seems to be a cry for help, a pleading for some proof that you don’t have a to be far-right conservative to be a “real Christian?”

(Or as it says in Mark 9:24, “Lord … help thou mine unbelief!”)

For starters,  I wrote about “Nones” in the May 2015 post, On WHY we’re getting “less Christian.” (Which noted in part that it was “hard to imagine Jesus ever saying ‘There’s No Such Thing As A Liberal Christian.'”)  See also The Blog – above – where I wrote out some of my goals:

Another thing I’m trying to do is reach out to Nones and others turned off by “negative Christians.”  See “Nones” on the Rise and The Growth Of The “Nones.”  (About the rise of the “religiously unaffiliated.”)

So this is a perfect chance to make this a Teaching – or “Teachable” – Moment.

For starters – again –  The Blog said reading the Bible can lead to “an entirely new world.”  It also said that reading the Bible doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to shape yourself into a pre-formed “carbon copy Christian.”  (Or just “another brick in the wall.”)

Which seems to be the goal of those boot-camp Christians who get all the media attention.

A drill sergeant posing before his companyThose boot-camp Christians – discussed in the notes – are the Bible literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” And they are generally perceived to be extremely negative.

(Googled “negative Christians” and got 12 million hits.)

But in John 10:10, Jesus was anything but negative.  In saying He wanted His followers to live abundantly, His goal was for you to grow and develop into all you can be.  (And not stay a “career buck private,” never going beyond the fundamentals.)

I’ll be writing more on Ms. Schrobsdorff‘s essay in a later post.  But I want to close this post by noting something that most people don’t factor in when they read the Bible.  (And especially the first five books, the Torah.)  That factor is:  Moses had to “dumb it down” enough that he wouldn’t get stoned to death, as noted in last January’s On Moses getting stoned:

In plain words, “Moses was forced by circumstance to use language and concepts that his ‘relatively-pea-brained contemporary audience’ could understand…'”  And to the extent he was writing for a future audience, he probably expected that future audience to understand those circumstances, and take them into account.

That is, if Moses had written in the Torah that the earth was billions of years old – or that the earth revolved around that “big bright round thing in the sky” – he probably would have been stoned to death as a heretic.  (By the people he was leading – “those backward, ignorant, sons-of-the-desert” – as nearly happened several times in his account in those first books of the Bible.)

That post also ended with this note:

“It was never ‘contrary to Scripture’ that the earth revolved around the sun.  It was only contrary to a narrow-minded, pigheaded, too-literal reading of the Scripture…”

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Galileo facing the Inquisition, for saying the earth revolved around the sun…

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 The upper image is courtesy of Stoning of Moses, Joshua and Caleb | Byzantine | The Metroplitan Museum of Art.  (It’s a mosaic from the 5th century.)  See also Stoning – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which includes another painting of the incident. The caption to that painting, under Punishment of the Rebels:  “The Punishment of Korah and the Stoning of Moses and Aaron (1480–1482), by Sandro Botticelli, Sistine Chapel, Rome.”  See also Heresy – Wikipedia

The “stoning” article said this of the “Korah” painting:

The painting … tells of a rebellion by the Hebrews against Moses and Aaron.  On the [left] the rebels attempt to stone Moses after becoming disenchanted by their trials on their emigration from Egypt.  Joshua has placed himself between the rebels and Moses, protecting him from the stoning

Which raised the question:  “What would those backward, ignorant, sons-of-the-desert have done to Moses if he’d told them the truth about that ‘big bright round thing in the sky?’”

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Re: Ms. Schrobsdorff, who wrote the “Nones” essay.  She is the “Chief Strategic Partnerships Editor and a columnist for TIME.”  She is also 53 years old as of this writing, and began her essay:  “Like a lot of women of a certain age, I’ve taken up yoga.”  Just as an aside, I – the “Scribe” – just turned 65 and have been doing yoga since the mid-1970s.  That’s over 40 years, which means I started yoga when Susanna was about 12 years old.  The point being that while some people – including conservative Christians – see yoga as a “cult,” there are Christians who are open-minded.  

File:Picswiss UR-28-18.jpgA side note:  Ms. Schrobsdorff seems to have gone to a trendy-slash-upscale yoga center, of the kind catering to the “norm for self-centered American culture.”  My point being:  There have always been those who take a good spiritual discipline and twist it to their benefit. See e.g., The Bible as “transcendent” meditation, which said back in the 1970s you could pay a week’s salary to a TM center – of the kind that made Maharishi Mahesh Yogi rich enough to buy this “headquarters” in Switzerland – or buy an under-two-dollar copy of Lawrence LeShan‘s book, How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery.  (Which would require a bit of self-discipline…)  

And finally – on a related topic – see 2d Corinthians 2:17.  In the NIV:  “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit.”  The NLT version reads:  “You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit.”

 Re:  “Nones.”  See also Irreligion – Wikipedia.

The image to the left of the paragraph – “But then she started the second half” – is courtesy of Atheism – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “1929 cover of the USSR League of Militant Atheists magazine, showing the gods of the Abrahamic religions being crushed by the Communist 5-year plan.”

The image to the right of the paragraph including “She also noted a Jesuitical proof,” is courtesy of Society of Jesus – Wikipedia.  (“Jesuitical” is defined in pertinent part as of or pertaining to Jesuits, or as applying to those who practice “casuistry or equivocation,” and/or those who use “subtle or oversubtle reasoning,” or those who are “crafty; sly; intriguing.”)

The lower image – Cristiano Banti‘s 1857 painting Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition” – is courtesy of the article, Heresy – Wikipedia:

Galileo Galilei was brought before the Inquisition for heresy, but abjured his views and was sentenced to house arrest, under which he spent the rest of his life. Galileo was found “vehemently suspect of heresy,” namely of having held the opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the centre of the universe, that the Earth is not at its centre and moves, and that one may hold and defend an opinion as probable after it has been declared contrary to Holy Scripture.  He was required to “abjure, curse and detest” those opinions. (E.A.)

Note that Galileo almost got burned at the stake – for saying the earth revolved around the sun – almost 3,000 after Moses was trying to lead his people to “the Promised Land…”

On snake-handling “redux”

The snake handler on the right – “Stumpy?” – is arguably taking Mark 16:18 “out of context…”

*   *   *   *

I just went back over some posts from last year around this time.  I found this post, still in draft form.  So for the past couple days I’ve been updating it to this final form.

http://www.themonastery.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Jesus-Prayer.pngAlso last year at this time I did WHY we’re getting “less Christian.”

Posted on May 23, it included the ironic image at right.  Then there was The wisdom of Virgil – and an “Angel,” posted on June 2, 2015.

So this post will review those two from last year, plus the original On snake-handling, Fundamentalism and suicide – Part I and Part II.

Part I noted that a small group of rural Christians practice “snake handling” as part of their religion. And that they do that based on a passage from Mark 16:16-18, part of Jesus’ “Great Commission:”

 And [Jesus] said to them, Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation…    And these signs will accompany those who believe:  in my name they will cast out demons;  they will speak in new tongues;  they will pick up serpents with their hands;  and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them;  they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (E.A.)

On the other hand there was an article, Snake-Handling Pentecostal Pastor Dies From Snake Bite.  (Which arguably showed that “such a practice may not be such a good idea.”)

Then came the meat of the post, that the Bible is both “simple” and “deep:”

In other words, you could say that the Bible message is both simple enough for a child to understand, yet so full of subtle mysteries that a lifetime can be spent on its study, yet still leave myriads of lessons yet to be learned.  (See 1st Corinthians 4:1:  “This then is how you should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”)

Part II went on to discuss what many say is the proper way to read, study and interpret the Bible.  It also discussed both the topics of “Biblical inerrancy” and Fundamentalism.

I said the business of “requiring every word of the Bible to be inerrant” reminded me of what Jesus said in Matthew 23:4.  He was talking about the Pharisees of His time, and noted that they tended to “make strict rules that are hard for people to obey.  They try to force others to obey all their rules.  But they themselves will not try to follow any of those rules.

Which brings us to WHY we’re getting “less Christian.”  That post noted a study: Americans Less Religious Than Ever Before.  The gist of the article was that a then-recent poll found Christianity is on the decline, especially among the young.  And here are some of the reasons:

Among young non-Christians, nine out of the top 12 perceptions were negative.  Common negative perceptions include that present-day Christianity is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%) – representing large proportions of young outsiders who attach these negative labels to Christians. (E.A.)

And finally, note The wisdom of Virgil – and an “Angel.”  That post led off with the fable of the Blind men and the elephant.

The moral of that story?  That each man ended up with a good idea of part of the elephant.  But each went on to “err greatly” – as Jesus might say – by mistakenly assuming that his view was the only accurate picture of the whole elephant.

(Or as Wikipedia said, “the parable implies that one’s subjective experience can be true, but that such experience is inherently limited by its failure to account for other truths or a totality of truth.”)

That in turn brought up Virgil, and his views.  That is, throughout history most people have seen religion “in terms of black or white:  ‘our attitude toward the possibility of divine control of things tends to be all or nothing.'”  But Virgil’s view seemed more practical.

His view was that – despite our best efforts – some of what happens to us may make some sense.  But then again “some of what happens seems to make pretty much no sense:”

There is, in other words, an overarching order at work in the world, a final coherence in the way that things work.  But it remains out of human reach, and despite our efforts, we can merely come to know it only in part

Which could be just another way of saying that when you become a Christian, God doesn’t become your personal servant, willing and able to cater to your every whim.  Or as one Christian mystic once said,It is to vigor rather than comfort that you are called.”

Or here’s another way to put it.  (In case I’m being too subtle.)  In plain words, God doesn’t owe you a thing.  (See Luke 17, verses 7-10.)  In still further words:

…way too many people think that getting good stuff from God – The Force that Created the Universe– is somehow easier than trying to shoot the head off a match stick…

Which means there are a some important lessons for our spiritual quest.  One is that we shouldn’t expect God to cater to our every whim, like some glorified butler.  (Maybe we should learn to say, “It’s hard as hell, but now and then I’ll do it just right…”)  And maybe we should start worshiping – not to get anything – but rather “asking nothing but to enjoy God’s presence.”

All of which could lead to a far more accurate picture of that “elephant as a whole…” 

 

The parable of the “Blind men and the elephant…” 

*   *   *   *

The upper image was featured in On snake-handling, Fundamentalism and suicide – Part I.

For some background on the “redux” part of the title, see On “Job the not patient” – REDUX.  It’s an allusion to the 1971 book by John Updike, Rabbit Redux.  That book-title in turn “led to a redux in popularity of the word redux.”  So much so that in a later book, Rabbit At Rest, Updike had his hero – Harry Angstrom – say he “hates that word, you see it everywhere, and he doesn’t know how to pronounce it.   Like arbitrageur and perestroika…”

Re: Draft form.  See also Writing Rough Draft of Research Paper – Duke of Definition.

Re: “vigor rather than comfort.”  The quote is an allusion to the book Practical Mysticism, by Evelyn Underhill, as discussed in On the Nativity of John the Baptist:

Hearing now and again the mysterious piping of the Shepherd, you realize your own perpetual forward movement . . . and so are able to handle life with a surer hand.  Do not suppose from this that your new career is to be perpetually supported by agreeable spiritual contacts, or occupy itself in the mild contemplation of the great world through which you move.  True, it is said of the Shepherd that he carries the lambs in his bosom; but the sheep are expected to walk, and to put up with the bunts and blunders of the flock.  It is to vigor rather than comfort that you are called.  (E.A.)

Ariel Press (1914), at page 177.  See also Evelyn Underhill – Wikipedia.

The lower image is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Blind monks examining an elephant, an ukiyo-e print byHanabusa Itchō (1652–1724).”  (See also Stay tuned, for future reference.) 

St. Joseph and the “Passover Plot”

Guido Reni - St Joseph with the Infant Jesus - WGA19304.jpg

Saint Joseph – his feast day is coming up on March 19 – “with the Infant Jesus…”

 

Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has three main themes:  1)  That God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37.)  2)  That God wants us all to live a life of abundance.  (John 10:10.)  And 3)  That God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did.  (John 14:12).  And here’s a fourth theme:  That the only way to achieve those last two goals is to read the Bible with an open mind.

In plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Bibiical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible offers so much more than that…  (Unless of course you want to stay a Biblical buck private all your life…)

There’s more in the notes below.  Or – to expand that mind – see the Introduction.

In the meantime:

Here’s a spoiler alert:  Saint Joseph – earthly “father” of Jesus – has nothing to do with The Passover Plot.  It’s just that this post is about both St. Joe and the book by Hugh Schonfield.

(The thesis of that 1965 Schonfield book:  The Crucifixion was a “conscious attempt by Jesus to fulfill the Messianic expectations rampant in his time,” but His plan “went unexpectedly wrong.”)

Resurrection (24).jpgThen too, a discussion of The Passover Plot seems especially appropriate because Easter Sunday – March 27 – is now less than two weeks away.

But first, about St. Joseph.  Last year at this time I posted On St. Paddy and St. Joe.  There I noted the unusual situation in March – of most years – where a minor feast day is celebrated more than a major feast day.

That is – in a liturgical sense – the “earthly father[figure] of Jesus” outranks – by far – Saint Patrick, patron saint of Ireland.

(As noted in St. Joe, when it comes to the list of important Bible figures with feast days, St. Joseph “comes in third only to Christ the King and Mary.”)

St Patrick's DayNevertheless,  St. Patrick’s Day – March 17 – is celebrated far more widely than St. Joseph’s Day.  (March 19.)  On the other hand, this year’s Lectionary Page does list St. Joseph’s Feast Day, but it doesn’t list St. Patrick’s Day.

That’s because this year Easter comes way earlier than usual.

In other words, for this year – on what would normally be St. Patrick’s Day – the Lectionary Page has March 17 officially listed as Thursday in the Fifth Week of Lent.  But of course that won’t change the fact that “St. Paddy’s Day” will be the more widely celebrated…

For more on St. Paddy and St. Joe, see last year’s post.  It included a section on How the Irish Saved Civilizationand on how the Irish went from widespread ridicule to acceptance:

Facing nativist detractors who characterized them as drunken, violent, criminalized, and diseased [ – as illustrated at right – ] Irish-Americans were looking for ways to display their civic pride and the strength of their identity…  [They] celebrated their Catholicism and patron saint … but they also stressed their patriotic belief in their new home.  In essence, St. Patrick’s Day was a public declaration of a hybrid identity [with] a strict adherence to the values and liberties that the U.S. offered them.

And that seems to be an object lesson we could re-learn today…

But back to The Passover Plot.  As noted, the thesis of Hugh Schonfield‘s 1965 book was that the Crucifixion was part of a “conscious attempt by Jesus to fulfill the Messianic expectations [but] that the plan went unexpectedly wrong.”  On a related note, here’s something I didn’t know before:  The book was made into a movie in 1976.  That is, it was made into a:

Dramatization of the controversial best-seller that posits an alternate version of the birth of Christianity.  In this version, Jesus planned for His crucifixion by taking a drug that would simulate death.  After His unconscious body was placed in the tomb, a religious sect known as the Zealots would secretly steal Christ’s body from the tomb, then spread the rumor that He had risen, thus fulfilling Biblical prophecy.

The one thing I do remember is that the book was so fascinating it made me miss a plane to Key West.

This was in the days before cell phones.  (In the late 1980s or very early 1990s.)  My late wife was working as a traveling sales-lady, for a company that did church directories.  So when she got posted down to Key West, I planned to fly down for the weekend.  (From Tampa Airport.)

I brought along a copy of Passover Plot.  I got checked in and seated in the waiting area, then started reading.  When I looked up from the book – finally – I saw that my “flight had flown.”

I ended up getting to Key West on a later flight.  I also ended up disagreeing with many or most of Schonfield‘s conclusions.  But I found his methodical research enlightening.  (In much the same way that I found Last Temptation of Christ enlightening.  There too, I didn’t agree with all the premises of the movie, but I did feel it showed the conditions in which Jesus lived, far more accurately than the typical Hollywood “blonde, blue-eyed Jesus.”)

Then too, I’ve always felt that personal faith is not a matter of scientific proof.  (Like those “boot camp Christians” who look so assiduously for proof of Noah’s Ark in Turkey, on or near Mount Ararat.)    To me, faith is more a matter of that ongoing interactive walk to Jesus.

(See also GIST of the matter, and Why I’d Still Believe In God Even if the Bible was a Fairytale.)

Hugh J. Schonfield.But we were discussing Passover Plot.  I’ve included some excerpts in the notes, but first a couple reviews.  For one, Goodreads also called the book fascinating, as well as “lucidly written and carefully documented.”  At the same time it acknowledged “probably no other figure in modern Jewish historical research” was more controversial than Schonfield.  (At right.)

Tim Chaffey said the book “created quite a stir.”  He also questioned the author’s claims of objectivity:  “it is easily demonstrated that his bias and philosophy overrule any attempt at objectivity.”  And Stefan Zenker got to the crux of the matter:

[T]he discussion of Jesus’ faith and objectives was not what made the book controversial.  The part that created an uproar was Schonfield’s claim that Jesus painstakingly built his own legend without actually performing any miracles.  In particular, the greatest miracle of all: resurrection after death, had been carefully staged.

But Zenker also acknowledged that this “unusual book … read[s] like a thriller.”

And finally, there’s a review with a title that sounds a bit like a country-western song:  “Pass Over ‘The Passover Plot’.'”  But this review by the Christian Courier does provide one very valid reason for reading the book:  “The Passover Plot  illustrates every argument that tries to naturally explain the empty tomb.”  (Emphasis in the original.)

And if that is true, then the Courier’s take on the matter almost makes The Passover Plot a bit of  “required reading.”  After all, Jesus Himself said in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves:  be therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

Other translations of Matthew 10:16 tell us to be “cunning as serpents,” or “crafty as snakes,” or “shrewd as serpents.”  And since the serpent is a metaphor for the Devil, what Jesus seemed to say in Matthew 10:16 was that we should be “wise as hell” or “wise as the Devil.”

In plain words, Jesus was saying, “Know your enemy.”  (A shrewd bit of wisdom officially attributed to Sun Tzu.)  So for whatever reason, it might be “wise” to read The Passover Plot.

Unless of course you never made it beyond Bible boot-camp. . .

 *   *   *   *

 

The upper image is courtesy of Saint Joseph – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which also noted that the “Pauline epistles make no reference to Jesus’ father; nor does the Gospel of Mark.”    The caption for the painting:  “Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus, Guido Reni (c. 1635).”

The plot summary of the movie version of Passover Plot was written by Mike Konczewski.

The Schonfield image is courtesy of the zenker review.

The lower image is courtesy of The Passover Plot – Wikipedia:  “First edition (publ. Hutchinson).”

*   *   *   *

The following excerpts are from the 1967 “Bantam Books” paperback version of The Passover Plot.  

1)  At pages 17-19, Schonfield described circumstances “making the Messianic Hope the powerful influence it became in the first century B.C.,” one of which was a “change of attitude towards the Bible.”  The Hebrew Bible had three divisions, the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings:

The Law, as consisting of the five books of Moses, had binding force by the fifth century B.C., or not much later.  The Prophets did not acquire their force until about the third century B.C….  The effects of the recognition of the Law and the Prophets … as a corpus of sacred Scriptures were far-reaching.  It opened the way for a new development, the treatment of these books as the Oracles of God.  They became subject to all kinds of interpretation to draw out of them hidden meaning hidden meanings and prognostications.

This and other factors – including occupation by foreign armies – led to an increase in both religious devotion and “messianic thinking and prediction.”  As a result, from “160 B.C. we are in a new age, an age of extraordinary fervour and religiousity…  The whole condition of the Jewish people was psychologically abnormal.”  At page 23 he added, “A whole nation was in the grip of delirium.”

2)  And speaking of Palm Sunday – coming up next week – at pages 114-15, Schonfield wrote of “the brilliant move on the part of Jesus” to enter Jerusalem openly, and with great fanfare.  “There had been no attempt  to sneak into the city unobserved.”  That brilliant move also kept the members of Sanhedrin from “molesting” Jesus.  And speaking of being “wise as a serpent:

He had finally allowed Himself to be acknowledged as the Messiah; but the clever way in which He had done this secured Him for the present complete freedom from molestation.  They had to recognise that they were up against a man of courage, cunning and ingenuity.

And finally,  3)  At pages 179-80, Schonfield noted the love and compassion of Jesus, but “united with commitment …  the emphasis is on deeds as the proof of faith and love.”  He then indicated – in an offhanded way – that we too could fulfill John 14:12 by performing as great or greater miracles than Jesus.   (Okay, that last was a bit of artistic license on my part.)  He concluded Part I with this:

The Iron Chancellor Bismarck, with reluctant admiration, once said of Disraeli, another famous schemer, “The old Jew, there is the man!”  Seen in the Messianic light of the Passover Plot we can with more wholehearted approbation say of jesus, “The young Jew, there was the Man!”

All of which leads to a key observation.  It was apparently only from the fifth century B.C. on that the Hebrew Bible achieved “binding force.”  It was also at that “original” time that the Scripture “became subject to all kinds of interpretation to draw out of them hidden meaning hidden meanings and prognostications.”  In other words, it appears that as originally intended, there were no “boot-camp Hebrews.”  Then too, it can be said that in his book Schonfield greatly admired Jesus, even if he didn’t recognize Jesus as “the Messiah.”  But as noted above, while I disagreed with much of what Schonfield wrote, I found his research enlightening.  That is, giving “spiritual or intellectual insight.”

*   *   *   *

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgRe: “Boot-camp Christians.”  See Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of which is that starting on the Bible is like Army Basic Training.  You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you’ll want to move on to more Advanced Individual Training

Also, and as noted in “Career buck private,” I’d previously written that the theme of this blog was that if you really wanted to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”  

In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See also Slogans of the United States Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image above left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

Did Jesus write the Gospels?

Luke, Matthew, Mark and John, each of whom did write a Gospel

 

As noted in earlier posts, my Lenten discipline is a formal contemplation – some deep profound thinking – about exactly how and when Moses put the first five books of the Bible – the Torah – into writing.

One thing I’ve learned:  Moses may have relied heavily on oral tradition.

It wasn’t until Moses’ lifetime that writing as we know it got used at all. (And then only among the “learned classes.”)  And as late as 700 years after Jesus, even Charlemagne – lord and ruler of the Holy Roman Empire – couldn’t read or write.

And Moses lived a thousand years before Jesus.  (And two millennia before Charlemagne.)

Another thing I learned:  Moses may have gotten the “One God” idea from a Pharaoh who ruled 100 years before him.  (That would be Akhenaten.  Egyptians later called him the “heretic king” for messing with traditional Egyptian polytheism.  See Moses, the Burning Bush, “et alia.”)

Of course you may find that a bit hard to swallow.  (That Moses got “One God” from an Egyptian.)

But consider this new evidence from the Daily Office Readings for Saturday, February 27.

In Genesis 43:16-34, Moses continued the story of how the Hebrews came to be in Egypt.  For starters,  Joseph was the son of Jacob, whose name got changed to Israel by God.  And basically, Joseph ended up in Egypt after being kidnapped and sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.

So Joseph ended up in Egypt as a slave, but that was a good thing.  (As it turned out.)

And aside from being a slave, Joseph also had to become pretty much a convicted felon.  That is, he got “convicted” after Potiphar’s wife – seen at right – falsely accused him of rape.  But then he ended up so well rehabilitated that Pharaoh made him his right-hand man.  (Pharaoh seems to have given Joseph the functional equivalent of a pardon.)  

In the meantime, Joseph’s family back in Canaan was going through a devastating famine. So Jacob – alias “Israel” – sent most of his sons down to Egypt to negotiate for some food.

In turn, the reading for Saturday, February 27, had Joseph invite his brothers to dinner.  Of course the kicker was that his brothers didn’t recognize the guy who invited them to dinner as their “dead brother.”  (Joseph was “dressed as an Egyptian ruler,” and the the last thing the brothers expected was to “find the brother they had sold into slavery.”)

The point of all this:  According to Genesis 43:32 the Hebrews were unclean to the Egyptians:

The waiters served Joseph at his own table, and his brothers were served at a separate table. The Egyptians who ate with Joseph sat at their own table, because Egyptians despise Hebrews and refuse to eat with them. (E.A.)

According to the Pulpit CommentaryEgyptians couldn’t “break bread” with Hebrews, basically because they were ritually unclean.  (The ritual painting at right is of “taking the bride to the bath house.”)  

In turn, the Hebrews – after Moses – went on to develop their own tradition of refusing to eat with, come in contact with, or even visit “Gentiles.”  See for example Salvation of the Gentiles, Part 1:

A strict Jew wouldn’t allow himself to be a guest in a Gentile house, neither would he invite one to be a guest in his own home…  The Jews viewed Gentiles as unclean, and that had great ramifications.  For example, milk that was drawn from a cow by Gentile hands was not allowed to be consumed by Jews…  No Jew would ever eat with a Gentile. (E.A.)

So it would seem that the Hebrews “borrowed” this idea of ritually unclean foreigners from the Egyptians.  In turn it seems well within the realm of possibility that – in the same way – Moses borrowed the idea of “One God.”  (From the “heretic” Egyptian king, Akhenaten.)  But note that Moses did a much better job than Akhenaten.  He literally changed history, in such a way that it can be said, “His burning bush still lights our world.”   (Moses, the Burning Bush, “et alia.”)

But we were talking about about exactly how and when Moses put the first five books of the Bible into writing.  And to that end, we were discussing the related topic of whether Jesus Himself personally “wrote” the four Gospels found in the New Testament.

Of course the short answer is No, Jesus didn’t personally write any of the Gospels.

In turn the fact that He left that task to His disciples – and/or followers – seems rarely to have been debated in history.  (Of course one “atheist” answer is that Jesus didn’t write His own Gospel because He was, “as a Galilean peasant, most probably illiterate.”)

Then too, it seems to have been commoAristotle Altemps Inv8575.jpgn practice back then for really smart people to have their students – and followers – take down what they said.  For example, consider what Will Durant wrote about Aristotle, who lived from 384 to 322 “before Jesus.”  (And so well after Moses):

…it is possible that the writings attributed to Aristotle were not his, but were largely the compilations of students and followers who had embalmed the unadorned substance of his lectures in their notes…  Even the unity of style that marks Aristotle’s writings, and offers an argument to those who defend his direct authorship, may be, after all, merely a unity given them through common editing…  About this question there rages a sort of Homeric Question…  We may at all events be sure that Aristotle is the spiritual author of all these books that bear his name:  that the hand in some cases [may be] another’s hand, but that the head and heart are his. (E.A.)

In turn it could easily be said that Jesus “spiritually authored” the four Gospels.  But might the same thing be said of Moses?  Once again, there seems no certain answer.

“Boot camp” Christians say that of course Moses personally hand-wrote all first five books of the Bible.  (See Don Stewart :: When Did Moses Write, or Compile, the Book.)  Others point out various anachronisms and/or “chronological inconsistencies” that seem to prove otherwise.  (See Why Moses Did Not Write the Torah – Mesa Community College.)

But couldn’t Moses too have had his own “students and followers,” just like Aristotle?

Those students and followers might well have “embalmed the unadorned substance” of Moses’ “lectures.”  After all, what else was there to do on those long dark nights during 40 years of wandering in the wilderness?  And those students and followers might well have numbered in their “hundreds, fifties and tens.”  (Just like the other “leaders over groups” noted in Exodus 18:21.)  And just what was Moses trying to do during those 40 long years?

Mainly Moses was trying to forge a disciplined army – from a bunch of former slaves – capable of bringing down the walls of Jericho, on the way to re-conquering the Promised Land.

(As alluded to in the Old Testament reading for the Fourth Sunday in LentJoshua 5:9-12.)

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  And unfortunately we’ve gone beyond the ideal length of blog posts, meaning this Homeric Question will remain unresolved a while longer…

 

 Aristotle [contemplating] a bust of Homer, by Rembrandt

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Four Evangelists – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  For the four listed in order of appearance, see Peter Paul Rubens: The Four Evangelists – Art and the Bible:

Rubens portrayed the four evangelists while working together on their texts.  An angel helps them…  Each gospel author can be identified by an attribute.  The attributes were derived from the opening verses of the gospels.  From left to right:  Luke (bull), Matthew (man [angel]), Mark (lion), and John (eagle).

Re:  “Boot-camp Christians.”  There’s more on that concept at the end of these notes.  See also 2d Timothy 2:3-4, where Paul wrote,  “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” 

Buckprivatesposter.jpgAlso re: “buck private.”  See Buck Privates – Wikipedia, on the “1941 comedy/World War II film that turned Bud Abbott and Lou Costello into bona fide movie stars.”  (A poster for which is seen at right.)

The image of Potiphar’s wife and Joseph is courtesy of Potiphar – Wikipedia, captioned:  “Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife, by Guido Reni 1630.”

On Joseph becoming “Israel.”  See On arguing with God.

Re: brothers not recognizing. See Why didn’t Joseph’s brothers … Answers.

Re: Egyptians refusing to eat with Hebrews.  See the full Pulpit Commentary on Genesis 43:32:

Because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews.  Herodotus (2:41) affirms that the Egyptians would neither use the knife, spit, or basin of a Grecian, nor taste the flesh of a clean cow if it happened to be cut with a Grecian knife.  For that is an abomination unto the Egyptians.  The reason for this separation from foreigners being that they dreaded being polluted by such as killed and ate cows, which animals were held in high veneration in Egypt.

The Durant quote on Aristotle is from The Story of Philosophy: The lives and opinions of the world’s greatest philosophers from Plato to John Dewey.  Specifically, from the 1953, Washington Square Press “Pocket Books” edition, at page 57, from Chapter II, “Aristotle and Greek Science,” sub-section II, “The Work of Aristotle.”

Note also that – strictly speaking – a Homeric Question “concerns the doubts and consequent debate over the identity of Homer, the authorship of the Iliad and Odyssey, and their historicity…” 

The lower image is courtesy of Aristotle – Wikipedia.

Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”

A drill sergeant posing before his company

An Army Drill Sergeant, ready to teach new recruits “the fundamentals of being a soldier…” 

*   *   *   *

As noted in My Lenten meditation, I’m not giving up anything this 40 days of Lent.

Instead I plan to spend this time “contemplating on how and when” Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible.  (The Torah.)  But first, here’s a note about the “lead-in paragraphs.”

(The ones above “In the meantime.”)

Up to this point, those paragraphs have said the blog is about exploring “the mystical side of Bible reading.”  That’s an accurate statement, but a trifle vague.  On the other hand, help in curing that vagueness came to me in the form of some recent see Daily Office Readings.

Specifically, help came from one of the “gap readings,” between February 6 and 7.  That reading is 2d Timothy 2:3-4:

 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. (E.A.)

(Saint Timothy is shown at right, with his grandmother.)  On that note, see also On reading the Bible.   That’s a post I originally published in July 2014, but recently “tweaked.”  Near the end of the update, I took issue – again – with Biblical literalists.

Such literalism means “adherence to the exact letter or the literal sense” of the Bible.  But to me, “literalness” doesn’t give full effect to the Bible’s frequent use of metaphor and parable.  (See also On three suitors (a parable), on the “essence of the parabolic method of teaching.”)

Accordingly, I agree there is a time and place for fundamentalism, “learning the fundamentals.”

I also agree that the best place to start your “Bible training” is to take it literally:

Just like Army Basic Training, the best place to start is with the fundamentals:  “This is where individuals learn about the fundamentals of being a soldier…”  But no good soldier wants to be stuck as a buck private [during] his whole time “in service.”  (Although there are some few [“soldiers of Christ”] who enjoy having no additional responsibility…)

In turn I concluded that this blog is for and about those Christians who want to develop into something “more than just someone who knows the bare ‘fundamentals.’”

See also Spiritual boot camp, which talked about the words “mystic” and “mysticism,” and how they affect some people:

The words “mystic” or “mysticism” seem to give some Christians apoplexy.  Try it on a Southern Baptist some time!  But seriously, one online dictionary defines a mystic as “a person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute.”  Again, arguably different words but the same idea…

All of which is a good reason to switch to Paul’s “soldier metaphor…”

There’s more on that metaphor later, but first some notes about that Lenten discipline.

I’ve noted that in writing the Torah, Moses had to be extremely careful.  He had to be extremely careful because if his audience took his message the wrong way – or weren’t ready for it – he’d likely be killed.  (As by getting thrown off a cliff or stoned.  See Moses getting stoned.)

Jesus faced the same risk of stoning – a number of times – as shown by other recent Daily Office Readings.  For example, John 8:59:  “At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.”  And again in the NLT version of John 10:31:  “Once again the people picked up stones to kill him.”

And Jesus Himself noted the danger – in the Gospel for February 21, the Second Sunday in Lent:  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones to death those who have been sent to her!”  (Luke 13:34.)  And that’s not to mention Paul’s recital in Hebrews 11:36-37 (NIV):

Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were put to death by stoning;  they were sawed in two;  they were killed by the sword.

The point of all this is that anyone – up to and including Jesus – had to be extremely careful in putting forth “the Word” to people who weren’t ready to receive its full implications yet.

And of those potential prophets, Moses – shown at right – was arguably the one who faced the greatest danger of all.  He was after all “the First.”  He was the original “prophet,” the man who single-handedly had to meld a huge group of former slaves into an army able to enter and conquer their own particular Promised Land.

But getting back to the Lenten meditation…

It turns out that there’s a number of theories on when, how, or even if Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible.

For example, according to Mosaic authorship – Wikipedia, “The Talmud discusses the authorship of all the books of the Hebrew Bible and assigns all but the last eight verses of Deuteronomy, which describe the death of Moses, to Moses himself.”

Then there’s Did Moses Write Genesis? | Answers in Genesis.  After noting the “Documentary (or JEDP) Hypothesis” – which the author rejected – he came to this conclusion:

There is abundant biblical and extra-biblical evidence that Moses wrote the Pentateuch during the wilderness wanderings after the Jews left their slavery in Egypt and before they entered the Promised Land…  Contrary to the liberal theologians and other skeptics, it was not written after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon (ca. 500 BC)…   It is the enemies of the truth of God that are failing to think carefully and face the facts honestly.  As a prophet of God, Moses wrote under divine inspiration, guaranteeing the complete accuracy and absolute authority of his writings. (E.A.)

For the sake of argument, I’m assuming as well that “Moses wrote the Pentateuch during the wilderness wanderings.”  But note also that the author of Did Moses Write Genesis seems to be one of those Biblical literalists I frequently take issue with.

Then there’s From What Did Moses Compose Genesis?  That article claims Moses had access to material written by “Abraham, Jacob, Noah, and even Adam.”  For myself, I’m inclined to think Moses got those materials, but through oral tradition, as noted in My Lenten meditation.

Finally – for now – there’s When did Moses write Genesis:

The Book of Genesis is traditionally attributed to Moses, writing around 1400 BCE.  However, scholars now say that the Book of Genesis was really written in stages over a period of several centuries during the first millennium BCE.

I should note there’s a pretty good chance that statement – that Genesis was written by somebody other than Moses – will likely “give some Christians apoplexy.”  

That in turn makes this a good stopping point.  Except to say that after Basic Training, the good soldier – and by extension the “Good Soldier of Christ” – has a chance to go on to Advanced Individual Training, “where new soldiers receive specific training in their chosen MOS.”

For example, a new soldier could go to the Field Artillery Center at Fort Sill Oklahoma.  (With all of the Freudian implications appertaining thereto.)

Or to the Aviation School at Fort Rucker Alabama.

Or even to the Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

On the other hand, a ” Not-so-good Soldier of Christ” could choose to remain a buck private for the duration.  But I seriously doubt if that would “please his commanding officer…”

 

Re:  “‘Gap readings’ between February 6 and 7.”  The dates for Lent and Easter shift each year.  (It’s a “moveable feast.”  See How Is the Date of Easter Calculated?)  So, most lectionaries include Daily Office Readings for a Season of Epiphany that can last up to eight weeks.  But in 2016, Lent started early.  Thus the “Week of the Last Sunday after the Epiphany” – which includes Ash Wednesday –  came on February 7.  But the readings for the week before February 7 were for the Week of the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany.  That means there’s a “gap,” in which the readings for the Fifth, Sixth Seventh, and Eighth Sunday after  the Epiphany go unread in a year like 2016.  On the other hand, there are other – more assiduous – “Daily Office Readers” (like me), who do all the readings, regardless of any gap.  And it was from just that practice that I “re-discovered” 2d Timothy 2:3-4 – and it’s “soldier metaphor” – in such a timely manner.

Re:  Biblical literaiism.  See also Biblical Literalism – Huffington Post.

The image to the left of the “spiritual boot camp” paragraph is courtesy of the link, “United States Marine Corps Recruit Training,” in the Wikipedia article on Army Basic Training.  The full caption:  “A Drill Instructor provides an example of boot camp instructional style to a Marine Corps poolee, before the poolee’s departure for boot camp.”

The “Moses” image is courtesy of Moses – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Moses holding up his arms during the battle, assisted by Aaron and Hur; painting by John Everett Millais.”  For more on the Battle of Rephidim, see Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”

The “Moses writing” image is courtesy of: 
theosophical…evidence-that-some-of-genesis-was-not-written-by-moses.

The “Sad Sack” image is courtesy of www.coverbrowser.com/covers/sad-sack/2.  See also Sad Sack – Wikipedia, an article about the fictional World War II-era soldier, an “otherwise unnamed, lowly private experiencing some of the absurdities and humiliations of military life.”

Note that I originally planned to end this post with the image below, with the caption:  “An Admiral speaks to the remaining Navy SEAL trainees “at the end of ‘Hell Week.’”

That image is courtesy of United States Navy SEAL selection and training – Wikipedia.  The full caption is this:  “First Phase [of training:]  Then-Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Mullen addresses the remaining trainees of Class 266 at the end of ‘Hell Week:'”  (See also United States Navy SEALs – Wikipedia.)  As to the “Hell Week” in Navy SEAL training:

The first two weeks of basic conditioning prepare candidates for the third week, also known as “Hell Week.”  During Hell Week, candidates participate in five and a half days of continuous training.  Each candidate sleeps at most four hours during the entire week, runs more than 200 miles, and does physical training for more than 20 hours per day.

But then I would have had to note also that the U.S. Army equivalent of Navy Seal training would be held at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, North Carolina.  “However, the latter site did not offer a suitable image for this post.”  

Then too the point of that “Navy SEAL” image would have been to contrast the truly-zealous “Good Soldier of Christ” – volunteering for such training – with the slacker content to get by with just learning “the fundamentals.”

*   *   *   *

And finally – really, really this time – note other articles of interest, to be addressed in a later post:  Don Stewart :: When Did Moses Write, or Compile, the BookWhy Moses Did Not Write the Torah – Mesa Community College, and Tablets of Stone – Wikipedia.

My Lenten meditation…

 

We’re now well into Lent, which means doing Lenten Disciplines.  For many, that means giving up something.  On the other hand, some people choose to add a discipline “that would add to my spiritual life.”  (See Lenten disciplines: spiritual exercises or ego trip?)

For my part, I’ve always wondered just when, where and how Moses came to write the first five books of the Bible. (The Torah.)  So I’ve decided that – aside from Bible-reading on a daily basis, which I already do anyway – I’ll spend this Lent “meditating” on this topic.

More precisely, I plan to spend this Lent contemplating on how and when Moses wrote those first five books.  And as Wikipedia explained, contemplation means “profound thinking about something.”  Further, “In a religious sense, contemplation is usually a type of prayer or meditation.”  And finally there’s this:

Within Western Christianity contemplation is often related to mysticism as expressed in the works of mystical theologians such as Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross as well as the writings of Margery Kempe, Augustine Baker and Thomas Merton.

So in so “contemplating,” I’d be in pretty good company.

And aside from all that, there’s the matter of “reaching the unreached.”

Put another way, from 1972 to 1985 there was a British sitcom on PBS called “Are You Being Served?”  Which brings up an interesting fact these days.  That fact is that there’s a whole segment of possible converts to Christianity who aren’t being served.

They are the potential Christians who’d like to find out more about the Bible.  However, they don’t want to develop the faith of a narrow-minded pinhead. (Mere rhetoric hyperbole.)

Take for example the sentiment expressed by Gordon Sumner, known to his fans as Sting:

I don’t have a problem with God.  I have a problem with religion.  I’ve chosen to live my life without the certainties of religious faith.

But as noted below, “If your religion makes you ‘certain,’  you’re missing the point!

The point being, that maybe – just maybe – if I could figure out a common-sense explanation to some of these Biblical mysteries, I might be able to “convert” Sting and others like him…

Sen. Howard Baker covering mike w. hand as unident. man whispers to Sen. Sam Ervin during Watergate hearings.But getting back to the meditation-contemplation.  The key question is:  “What did Moses know, and when did he know it?”  For example, did Moses know the full story about the “big bright thing in the sky?”

Did Moses know – far in advance of his fellow human beings – that the “earth” revolves around the “sun?”

On the other hand, there’s some pretty good evidence that if Moses did know that, he’d have been well advised not to share that information.  He would have been “well advised” on pain of being stoned to death, for “heresy.”  As it was, on more than one occasion Moses came close to being killed by the very tribe of Habiru he was ostensibly leading.  (See On Moses getting stoned.)

And something like that almost happened to Jesus, in the Gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany. (That is, last January 31st.)  But in Luke 4:21-30, Jesus wasn’t threatened by stoning, as Moses was.  Instead, “the people” wanted to throw Him off a cliff.

When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.  They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff.  But he passed through  the midst of them and went on his way.

As Wikipedia noted, “Throwing or dropping people from great heights has been used as a form of execution since ancient times.”  And in what may well be overstating the obvious:  “People executed in this way die from injuries caused by hitting the ground at high velocity.”

Another aside: The article noted that in “pre-Roman Sardinia, elderly people who were unable to support themselves were ritually killed.  They were intoxicated with a neurotoxic plant … then dropped from a high rock or beaten to death.”

But we digress…  Getting back to Moses, tradition says he wrote the first five books of the Bible. (The Torah.)  Of those first five books, the last four – ExodusLeviticus,  the Book of Numbers, and Deuteronomy – are all pretty much autobiography.  Moses wrote about his life, and his role in leading the Hebrews out of slavery and into their Promised Land.  (In doing so he referred to himself in the third person, a literary device called illeism.  See also On Moses and “illeism.”)

But in writing Genesis, Moses had to go back to the origins of time itself.  He had to go back to the Creation of the World itself.   And in doing so, he almost certainly had to rely on oral tradition.   (Referring to “cultural material and tradition transmitted orally from one generation to another.”)  Note also that from Sunday, January 10, up to Saturday, February 6, the Old Testament Daily Office Readings have been from the Book of Genesis.

Beyond that, the readings from Genesis resumed on Monday, February 15, with the story of Jacob[:] Father of the 12 Tribes of Israel.  Those OT Daily Office Readings will continue until Wednesday, March 9.  (After that the DOR‘s from the OT will be from the Book of Exodus.)

So the subject of the Book of Genesis – as arguably written by Moses after the fact – is definitely topical.

And for starters, there’s the question whether Moses “wrote” the Torah at all.

On the matter of “Semitic writing,” see History of writing – Wikipedia;

The first pure alphabets … emerged around 1800 BC in Ancient Egypt, as a representation of language developed by Semitic workers in Egypt…  These early abjads remained of marginal importance for several centuries, and it is only towards the end of the Bronze Age that the … Proto-Canaanite was probably somehow influenced by the undeciphered Byblos syllabary, and in turn inspired the Ugaritic alphabet (ca. 1300 BC).

Since Moses apparently lived from about 1392 to 1272 – see Answers.com – writing as we know it was just beginning.  Which is why – it seems – Moses probably had to rely on oral tradition

Then there’s the question whether Moses actually dictated the Torah to an amanuensis, rather than actually “writing” it himself.  (See On Amanuenses, about Paul and his “person employed to write … what another dictates.”)  Did Moses dictate the first five books of the Bible to another person, in the manner of Peter dictating to Mark?  (And as shown below.)

To be continued

 

The Apostle Peter dictates to Mark the Evangelist

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Mark the Evangelist – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption:  “Saint Mark the Evangelist Icon from the royal gates of the central iconostasis of the Kazan Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, 1804.”   The lower image is also from that article:  “Saint Mark writes his Evangelium at the dictation of St. Peter, by Pasquale Ottino, 17th century, Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux.”

Re: “Sting.”  See 10 Questions for Sting – TIME.  And re:  “If your religion makes you ‘certain,’ you’re missing the point!”  See On a dame and a mystic. The comment by Sting exemplifies some common perceptions today:   1) that too many Christians are too close-minded; 2) that too many are way too negative; or 3) that too many think The Faith of the Bible is all about getting you to follow their rules, on pain of you “going to hell.”  (See also my way or the highway – Wiktionary.)

“…what did Moses know, and when did He know it?”  This is one of many phrases – like “Irangate” or “Benghazi-gate” – that can be traced back to the 1972 Watergate scandal.  It can be credited to Senator Howard Baker, who famously asked, “What did the President know and when did he know it?”  The question was originally written by Senator Baker’s counsel and former campaign manager, future U.S. Senator [and Hollywood star], Fred Thompson.  See, wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Baker, and firstthings.com/blogs/evangel/2011/04/what-did-jesus-know-and-when-did-he-know-it.

The image to the right of the “when did He know it” paragraph is courtesy of 40 Years Since The Watergate Hearings | Getty Images.  Senator Baker is at left, covering the microphone.  Senator Sam Ervin is at the right of the photo, arms folded.  See also On Jesus as a teenager.

The “cliff” image is courtesy of thatpreacherwoman.blogspot.com/2013/02/a-real-cliffhanger-sermon-that-did-not-go-well.  The article noted that the “people” – the ones Jesus spoke to in Luke 4:21-30 – “hadn’t really grasped the radical reforming he had in mind in order to bring good news to the poor and imprisoned and blind and oppressed.”  In other words they weren’t ready for it yet…

The “Jacob” image is courtesy of Jacob – Wikipedia.  The caption: “Joseph’s Coat Brought to Jacob
by Giovanni Andrea de Ferrari, c. 1640.”  The story of Joseph being thrown into a pit began in the DOR’s for February 15, with his brothers being jealous.  (Gen. 37:1-11.)  On Tuesday, February 16, the brothers throw Joseph into a pit as an alternative to killing him.  (Gen. 37:12-24.)  On Wednesday, February 17, the brothers Joseph’s coat in goat’s blood, then show it to their father, as shown in the Ferrari painting.  From there he went into slavery in Egypt…

Re: “To be continued.”  See Cliffhanger – Wikipedia, which noted that a “cliffhanger is hoped to ensure the audience will return to see how the characters resolve the dilemma.”  See also the image below, courtesy of  Did Back to the Future Originally Not End With ‘To be continued?’

 

2015-10-21-1445410698-8403632-futurecontinued.jpg

On Moses getting stoned…

Stoning of Moses, Joshua and Caleb

One time when Moses almost got stoned – to death – along with Joshua and Caleb…

 

Here’s an update on some recent Dally Office Readings.

The Old Testament reading for last Sunday – January 10, 2015 – was Genesis 1:1, up to Chapter 2:3.  That story of the creation of the world begins – and ends – like this:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters…  And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.  So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

In turn, that account causes a lot of non-believers to scoff.

They scoff because the person who wrote it – presumably Moses – didn’t put forth a “carefully constructed treatise, reflecting a well-thought-out plan.”  They scoff because Moses said the earth was created in seven days.

And they scoff because Moses didn’t tell his audience that the earth was some billions of years old by that time.  Or that there’d been “dinosaurs” roaming the earth millions of years before the Israelites became slaves in Egypt.

Or that that the terra firma on which they stood actually revolved around that “big bright round thing in the sky.”  (And not the other way around.)

What those scoffers fail to realize is that if Moses had mentioned any such things, he would have been stoned to death.  (At yet another time and for yet another reason;  one such incident is shown in the image at the top of the page.)

In other words, what those scoffers fail to realize is that at the time he was writing, Moses was addressing an audience of the largely “unwashed.”  That is, illiterate men and women who had been trained since birth to be “mindless, docile slaves.”

So again, if Moses had mentioned any of the things above, he would have certainly been “stoned,” there in the Wilderness.  (And not in a good way.)  And by the way, Jesus noted a similar problem in John 3:12, where He told His disciples, “If you don’t believe me when I tell you about things on earth, how will you believe me when I tell you about things in heaven?

Which is another way of saying that our puny little human minds are simply incapable of fully understanding God and all that “He” – anthropomorphism– is.  And this was especially true of the main audience Moses addressed when he wrote the First Five Books of the Bible.

Suppose Moses had mentioned dinosaurs in his writings.  Or how “we” revolve around that “big bright thing in the sky.”  The result would have been similar to what nearly happened in the Old Testament reading for January 8 – 2016 – Exodus 17:1-7.  In Exodus 17:4, “Moses cried out to the LORD, ‘What should I do with these people?  They are ready to stone me!'”

That was the incident at Mount Horeb, where God responded to the Israelites’ whining about being thirsty.  (By telling Moses to “strike the rock” – as shown at left – out of which came a stream of water.)

And that’s not to mention Numbers 14:10, “The whole assembly talked about stoning them.”  That was also part of “the people rebelling” – while Wandering in the Wilderness – told in Numbers 14.  (And as mapped out below right.)

In this case, the Bible noted “the people” were ready to stone not just Moses and Aaron, but also Joshua and Caleb.  (Who tried to defend them.)  In turn, God told Moses He was ready to “strike them down with a plague and destroy them,” that is, the Whiners.  But fortunately, Moses was able to persuade God not to do that.  (See also On arguing with God.)

So here’s what the Pulpit Commentary said about that incident – where Moses almost got stoned:

This is the first which we hear of stoning as a punishment.  It is naturally one of the easiest modes of wreaking popular vengeance on an obnoxious individual, and was known to the Greeks as early as the time of the Persian War

A couple of notes:  The reference to the Persian War (or “Wars”) means the ancient Greeks were also familiar with stoning-as-punishment, apparently somewhere around 470 B.C.  And that wreaking “popular vengeance on an obnoxious individual” has also been around awhile.

(And I’m not making any suggestions about our current political situation…)

But getting back to the problem Moses faced, while writing the Pentateuch

In plain words, “Moses was forced by circumstance ‘to use language and concepts that his ‘relatively-pea-brained contemporary audience’ could understand.'” (See On the readings for June 15 – Part I.)  And to the extent he was writing for a future audience, he probably expected that future audience to understand those circumstances, and take them into account.

But getting back to the point, “our puny little human minds are simply incapable of fully understanding God:”  On that note the DORs for January 11 included Isaiah 55:8 and 9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Gill’s Exposition of the Bible said that this passage denotes “the heavenliness of the ways and thoughts of God, the eternity and unsearchableness of them, and their excellency and preciousness; as well as the very great distance between [God’s] ways and thoughts and men’s [ways and thoughts] which this is designed to illustrate.”

All of which is another way of saying that “our puny little human minds are simply incapable of fully understanding God.”  Or as one professor put it – on our inability to understand God:

We are simply not up to the task, not wired for such an overload.  We are no more prepared to comprehend [God] than – to make use of a memorable example – cats are prepared to study calculus.  It’s just not in our nature. (E.A.)

So to sum up, if Moses had mentioned dinosaurs – or the earth being billions of years old, or our earth revolving around that “big bright round thing in the sky – in the first five books of the Bible, “the people” would have thought he was crazy, or worse.  They probably would have stoned him to death – as a heretic – or burnt him at some nearby convenient stake.

At the very least, Moses would have faced some sort of Inquisition – like Galileo did, some 2,800 years after Moses.  (For holding a view ostensibly “contrary to Scripture,” that the earth revolved around the sun, and as shown below.)   Which leads to one final comment:

It was never “contrary to Scripture” that the earth revolved around the sun.  It was only contrary to a narrow-minded, pigheaded, too-literal reading of the Scripture…

 

 

The upper image is courtesy of Stoning of Moses, Joshua and Caleb | Byzantine | The Metroplitan Museum of Art.  (It’s a mosaic from the 5th century.)  See also Stoning – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which includes another painting of the incident. The caption to that painting, under Punishment of the Rebels:  “The Punishment of Korah and the Stoning of Moses and Aaron (1480–1482), by Sandro Botticelli, Sistine Chapel, Rome.”  See also Heresy – Wikipedia

The “stoning” article said this of the “Korah” painting:

The painting … tells of a rebellion by the Hebrews against Moses and Aaron.  On the right the rebels attempt to stone Moses after becoming disenchanted by their trials on their emigration from Egypt.  Joshua has placed himself between the rebels and Moses, protecting him from the stoning

Which raises anew the question:  “What would those backward, ignorant, sons-of-the-desert have done to Moses if he’d told them the truth about that ‘big bright round thing in the sky?’”

*   *   *   *

Re:  The Creation Story.  See also The Creation Story – Bible Story Summary and/or Creation Stories (from around the World) – University of Georgia.

The “dinosaurs” image is courtesy of Dinosaur – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Artist’s impression of six dromaeosaurid theropods:  from left to right Microraptor, Dromaeosaurus,Austroraptor, Velociraptor, Utahraptor, and Deinonychus.”

The “Moses striking the rock” image is courtesy of BLB Image Gallery :: Moses Striking the Rock.

The “wandering in the wilderness” map is courtesy of davidblum61 … /2012/01/09/bible-maps-2.

Re:  The DORs for January 11.  The four-volume book version of the Daily Office has readings specified for a specific day in January – January 7 through 12 – beginning with the “Epiphany and following,” up to the “Eve of 1 Epiphany.”  However, in the online Satucket website, the reading for January 11 is listed as for the Monday after the First Sunday of Epiphany.  The net effect is to require the assiduous Daily Office reader to have two sets of readings for the days in January from the 7th to the 12th. 

Re:  the “cats-calculus” quote.  See On “Job the not patient” – REDUX, citing Professor Timothy Shutt of Kenyon College, author of Hebrews, Greeks and Romans:  Foundations of Western Civilization.

The lower image – Cristiano Banti‘s 1857 painting Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition” – is courtesy of the article, Heresy – Wikipedia:

Galileo Galilei was brought before the Inquisition for heresy, but abjured his views and was sentenced to house arrest, under which he spent the rest of his life. Galileo was found “vehemently suspect of heresy,” namely of having held the opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the centre of the universe, that the Earth is not at its centre and moves, and that one may hold and defend an opinion as probable after it has been declared contrary to Holy Scripture.  He was required to “abjure, curse and detest” those opinions. (E.A.)

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 And here’s more on the  ostensible “Bible contradictions,” alluded to above.  See the notes for The Bible readings for September 27.  They cited the For or against link at the Secular Web site.  (Owned and operated by Internet Infidels, Inc.)  The site included this:  “The Bible is riddled with repetitions and contradictions, things that the Bible bangers would be quick to point out in anything that they want to criticize.”  The website also took the Bible to task for not creating a “carefully constructed treatise, reflecting a well-thought-out plan.” 

I addressed such criticisms in posts like The readings for June 15 – Part I.  I pointed out that Moses – for example – in writing the first five books of the Bible, was limited by “his audience’s ability to comprehend.”   The audience he “wrote” for was almost wholly illiterate – not to mention ignorant by present-day standards – and had been trained since birth only to be mindless, docile slaves.  Thus Moses was forced by circumstance “to use language and concepts that his ‘relatively-pea-brained contemporary audience’ could understand.” 

In further words, if Moses had written the “carefully constructed treatise” suggested by the “Infidels,” he almost certainly would be burned at the stake or stoned to death.  (Or both.)  See also Reflections on Volume 3 – Part II, which includes “The Stoning of Moses and Aaron.”

Then too, those “Bible bangers” are just the type of people inclined to give a “narrow-minded, pigheaded, too-literal reading of the Scripture.”

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A final note:  The DOR Gospel reading for Saturday, January 16 – the day this was posted – was John 2: 13-22.  That included verses 19-22, where Jesus was asked about his “authority:”

 Jesus answered them, Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”  They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?”   But the temple he had spoken of was his body.

Which leads to another reason not to read the Bible too literally:  Jesus often spoke in metaphors, not to mention “parables.”  See for example, On three suitors (a parable)