Tuesday, December 05, 2006

People unclear on the concept...

Out for a peaceful stroll?
You might be on a highway to hell!

One of the scholarly listserves that I belong to delivers posts from various scholars on the synoptic gospels, i.e., Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Usually, I find in the posts delivered an ongoing, reasonable, scholarly discussion about things like the Griesbach Hypothesis (priority of Matthew) or the Two-Source Hypothesis (priority of Mark, supplemented by Q).

Occasionally, though, really important posts arrive, posts like this one by a new member, Maria Heisch:
I figured that she wasn't talking about the Burned-Over District of western New York State since those fires had supposedly burned themselves out -- not that a post of that sort would have had much to do with a scholarly discussion of the synoptic problem anyway. So ... what was she talking about? Let's see:

Hi, my name's Maria Heisch and I've just recently joined the group. I'm reading a scientifically documented article concerning an American city that has been literally burned off the map by an underground fire that has burned continuously for forty five years, and now threatens other cities. This is not an imaginary fire, it was an actual American city. The story is told by using photos that show the fire's progression over the years, until finally, the entire city was turned into a blazing inferno that historians describe as a burning hell.

A "burning hell," you say. So it hasn't yet frozen over, though Milton aptly describes such a region of hell:
Beyond this flood a frozen Continent
Lies dark and wilde, beat with perpetual storms
Of Whirlwind and dire Hail, which on firm land
Thaws not, but gathers heap, and ruin seems
Of ancient pile; all else deep snow and ice,
A gulf profound as that Serbonian Bog
Betwixt Damiata and Mount Casius old,
Where Armies whole have sunk: the parching Air
Burns frore, and cold performs th' effect of Fire. (PL
Whole armies sunk? Perhaps Milton would have been interested in Maria Heisch's link to the hellish underground fire that has engulfed an American town:
Should you ever find yourself walking through the burned out forest in the dead of a very cold winter just outside what use to be Centralia, Pennsylvania, and feel like your feet are on fire, it's by no means an illusion. Just a few feet below the ground upon which you are walking, the earth is literally blazing with fire. It's an underground fire that now covers dozens of square miles. As pictured below, this fire has literally consumed the City of Centralia, Pennsylvania, and it now threatens Ashland, Pa, and other surrounding cities. If you continue walking you will eventually pass by several open fiery pits, which continue to belch fire and brimstone (sulfur) after forty years. The noxious fumes will make you ill.
The website is brought to us courtesy of Really Bad News, which you can subscribe to if you like to read news that's even more depressing than the daily headlines. The next issue promises even worse:
What you have just seen is real. The fire is not your imagination. There's a lot more going on under the ground we as Americans are walking on than one would suspect. In the next issue of Really Bad News we will demonstrate that the fire problem you've just seen is in no way limited to Centralia, but that in fact a much larger fire looms under the entire N. American Continent!
The entire continent! Good thing that I'm living over on the Korean Peninsula, where I have only minor problems like Kim Jong-il and his nuclear threats to worry about.

But why did Ms. Heisch imagine that this material belongs on the Synoptic List? Was she simply unclear on the concept behind Synoptic List? Or is there a clever sort of inversion at work here? The synoptics are variants on the gospel, which has the etymological meaning of "good news" -- really good news -- and this stuff supplied by Heisch is about ... really bad news.

That's about as good as I can make out.


At 10:21 PM, Blogger Hathor said...

Came to mind. I thought the world was to end with fire. Is that prophecy in the gospels or even in the bible?

At 7:16 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

World to end in fire?

I know it's in the Book of Revelation (aka Apocalypse of John) -- or seems to be.

I don't think that it's in the Old Testament, maybe not even in the Gospels (though there are possible allusions there to the belief).

Jeffery Hodges

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