Sunday, October 31, 2010

Epistle to the Hebrews: Delay of the Name "Jesus"

Icon on Altar Side near Royal Doors
Libotin Wooden Church
(Image from Wikipedia)

In preparing for this morning's group study of the Epistle of Hebrews, a New Testament text noted for its High-Priestly Christology -- namely, a priesthood placed above even the Levitical one and identified with the priestly order of Melchizedek -- I noticed that the "Son of God" is only first called "Jesus" in verse nine of chapter two. Except for the very short letter of Third John, a text of merely one chapter consisting of just fifteen verses (which does not use "Jesus" at all), only Hebrews, among all the epistles, delays so long -- in effect, twenty-three verses -- before supplying the name "Jesus."

Why? Why this delay?

The epistle opens by emphasizing that God has spoken to mankind, or at least to believers, through his Son, a status quickly affirmed as superior to that of the angels by virtue of reflecting the glory of God, bearing the stamp of his image, and sustaining the universe, in whose creation he was the agent

The Son's subsequent role as High Priest is also soon affirmed, albeit less explicitly, in verse three of chapter one, which refers to the Son as having made purification for sins.

By first emphasizing the high status and eminent role of the Son, the author of Hebrews takes pains to ensure that there be no doubt about the theological and soteriological understanding before providing the human name "Jesus," a name quite common among first century Jews.

Note therefore that when the author of Hebrews does finally refer to the Son as "Jesus," he does so in 2:9 with implicit allusion to the incarnation and emphasizes the brevity of this 'humble' state:
τὸν δὲ βραχύ τι παρ’ ἀγγέλους ἠλαττωμένον βλέπομεν Ἰησοῦν διὰ τὸ πάθημα τοῦ θανάτου δόξῃ καὶ τιμῇ ἐστεφανωμένον ὅπως χάριτι θεοῦ ὑπὲρ παντὸς γεύσηται θανάτου

But the one who for a little while was made lower than the angels we see, Jesus, through the suffering of death with glory and honor crowned so that by the grace of God for all he might taste death. (translation mine, largely to preserve word order)
The allusion to the incarnation comes in the expression "who for a little while was made lower than the angels" (βραχύ τι παρ’ ἀγγέλους ἠλαττωμένον), which refers back to verse seven in its citation of Psalm 8:6 from the Septuagint, the Greek rather than Hebrew text of the Old Testament. The author of Hebrews understands this expression -- that the Son was, for a short time, made lower than the angels -- as meaning that the Son took on the lower status of human nature.

Even in acknowledging that the Son lowered himself, however, the author insists that this was merely temporary, for the purpose of the Son's suffering and death, and at any rate resulted in his being crowned with glory and honor, an affirmation of his supra-angelic status.

From the evidence, then, I tentatively suggest that the author of Hebrews was concerned with countering an argument to the effect that as a human being, Jesus was necessarily lower than the angels and therefore could not be divine. This is the issue of status, which the writer deals with immediately and directly by insisting on a high, pre-incarnate existence as "Son." This leads to the second issue, that of role, which explains the Son's earthly function as a priestly one in offering himself up as purification for sins, a purpose whose incarnational necessity is explicated in the remainder of chapter 2 (verses 10-18), which is at pains to justify why the Son took on flesh and blood. And note that the priesthood is later proclaimed to be of the order of Melchizedek (2:6, 10), a priestly order that appears to transcend human nature (7:1-3).

These interlinked issues of status and role are, I think, why the author of Hebrews only belatedly refers to the human name "Jesus."

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Angling for Books . . .

(Image from Wikipedia)

Back in mid-September, commenting on a blog post about Japanese fly-fishing, my older, fly-fisherman brother referred to Izaak Walton's familiar Compleat Angler, first published in England in 1653 with thirteen chapters, but which -- like all fish stories -- grew with the re-telling until by its fifth edition in 1676, it had twenty-one chapters!

Well, not only can one write books on fishing, one can also fish for books, as British bibliophile Holbrook Jackson (1874-1948) explains at some length in his Anatomy of Bibliomania, even to noting the distinguishing various quirks among the fishers of books, including a particular book-angling quirk of fellow bibliophile T. J. Wise reported on by literary critic Edmund Gosse (1849-1928):
T. J. Wise is so meticulous in the pursuit of his favorite quarry that Gosse compares him with the angler who caught a salmon by accident and threw it back in again, because when he was out to fish for perch he wished to fish for perch. (Jackson, Bibliomania, University of Illinois Press, 2001, page 454)
Gosse relates this anecdote in his article "The Ashley Library," written for the Sunday Times on January 15, 1928. Thomas James Wise (1859-1937) was the noted "English book-collector, bibliographer, editor & forger," according to an "Annals of Crime" column by Dwight MacDonald, "The First Editions of T. J. Wise," in the November 10, 1962 issue of The New Yorker.

The tidbit about forgery, and MacDonald's further information "that a number of first editions by such writers as the Brownings, Ruskin & Swinburne, were not first editions but counterfeits," puts in doubt Gosse's observation about Wise's single-minded pursuit of 'perch' when he obviously had bigger fish to fry . . . though one might also counter that a forger of stories does fit the image of the true, dishonest fisherman.

Was Gosse thus taken in by a big fish story? Hard to say, for truth and lies, like the good and evil noted by Milton through his argument in Areopagitica against the censoring of books, are "so involv'd and interwoven" and with "so many cunning resemblances hardly to be discern'd."

If the lie has such a cunning resemblance to the truth as "hardly to be discern'd," then perhaps the Wise anecdote has sufficient semblance of truth as to be believed, at least to the degree that one willingly suspends disbelief in any fishy tale.

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Art Imitating Life Imitating Art?

Super Sad True Love Story
(Image from Amazon)

From reading Clifford J. Levy's NYT article on Gary Shteyngart, "A Wayward Son Checks in With Mother Russia" (October 24, 2010), I suppose that there's yet another fine contemporary author in addition to David Mitchell whose works I ought to read. Or should I read those of his doppelgänger, Igor Semyonovich Shteyngart? Wait a minute -- which is which? Anyway, so many decisions . . .
"The thing about Russia is that, for a satirist, it's almost too easy," he told an audience in Moscow after reading from his new novel, "Super Sad True Love Story," which revolves around the relationship between Lenny, a son of Soviet immigrants, and Eunice, daughter of Korean ones. The setting is a futuristic America in bedraggled decline, but, as Mr. Shteyngart points out, he learned everything that he needed to know about decaying superpowers from the collapse of you know what. "Having Russia and America -- these two giant empires -- under your belt, as a writer, you can't ask for anything better," he said.
I guess that means that his art imitates his life:
On this trip, sponsored by the State Department, Mr. Shteyngart also gathered material for a memoir that is to be his next work. And he showed his fiancée, who is of Korean descent, the nostalgic sites of his St. Petersburg childhood.
Yep. Guess so. But the Korean connection, at any rate, makes me more open to taking a chance on this writer. And there may be something in common between Russians and Koreans:
But literature here has usually been rigidly labeled as Russian or foreign.

"There is this basic split in people’s minds -- you are either here or there," said Tatyana Venediktova, a professor at Moscow State who specializes in American literature and helped organize Mr. Shteyngart's talk on campus. "This split identity -- Gary's -- is taken as a wound to be healed rather than a resource to be used."
That's like the division that Koreans make: Hanguk or Waeguk. Korean or Foreigner. But Koreans and Russians aren't the only folks who do this. It's also the case in Switzerland. When I lived there, I loved to watch the evening news, when the Swiss anchor would refer to "das Ausland" -- literally, "the Outland" -- in contradistinction to Switzerland. One of my Swiss friends jokingly once remarked, "It's a big country, the Ausland."

But he was right, as I can attest, for I've been living in the great big Outland ever since I left the Ozarks.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Concha Buika: Smokin'!

Concha Buika con el Cigarrillos Peligrosas
(Image from Kadmus Arts)

I appreciate a woman who's not afraid to present herself openly smoking a cigarette despite these politically correct times . . . though I don't perceive any actual smoke rising from the tip.

I'd heard of Buika, or at least seen her image somewhere, but only Larry Rohter's recent NYT article, "A Singer From Everywhere Arrives Here" (October 21, 2010), sparked my interest in listening to her sing. Her parents fled Equatorial Guinea for Spain in the late 60s or early 70s, I gather, for she was born on the island of Majorca in 1972 and grew up there as the only black kid and hung out with the local Gypsies (no Gypsy scholars, though):
Outside the house . . . Buika (pronounced BWEE-kah) spent time with the local Gypsies and absorbed their passion for flamenco and the tradition of "cante jondo," or "deep singing."

"I identified with their solitude," she explained, speaking Spanish in an accent close to Castillian, "because we were the only black family on the island, and I was the only black kid, which was very difficult for me."

But American music also fascinated her, both jazz and pop. When asked about female singers who influenced her style, notable for its dark and raspy intonation and bent notes, she mentioned not just the flamenco singers Lola Flores and Remedios Amaya but also Bonnie Raitt, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, whom she probably most resembles. Her favorite male singers include both Michael Jackson and Julio Iglesias, and she said her preferred instrumentalists are John Coltrane and Bill Evans.
That's quite an eclectic collection, which intrigued me since I'm rather an eclectic collection of interests myself . . . in my own, obscure fashion. The good multiculturalism. I therefore went to You Tube and chose "No Habrá Nadie en el Mundo," taken by Buika's image with the cigarette that you see above. The title means something like "There Won't be Anyone in the World," but I don't know specifically what the song concerns. Love, probably. Flick away a cigarette butt anywhere, it's likely to land on a love song.

Let's find out by borrowing the Spanish lyrics and adapting the English translation from All the Lyrics:
Desde que el agua el libre,
Libre entre manantiles vive.
Jazmines an llorao,
y yo no comprendo como
en tus ojos niña solo hay desierto.

Hermosa era la tarde,
cuando entre los olivos nadie,
nadie vio como yo a ti te quise, como te quiero.
Hoy los olivos duermen y yo no duermo.

No habra nadie en el mundo que cure
la herida que dejo tu orgullo.
Yo no comprendo que tu me lastimes
con todo todo el amor que tu me diste (x2)

Pá cuando tu volvieras, pensé en cantarte coplas viejas,
esas que hablan de amores y del sufrimiento.
Cuando tu vuelvas, niña, te como a besos.

Y volaremos alto donde las nubes van despacio.
Despacio va mi boca sobre tu cuerpo,
tan lento que seguro se pare el tiempo.

No habra nadie en el mundo que cure
la herida que dejo tu orgullo.
Yo no comprendo que tu me lastimes
con todo todo el amor que tu me diste (x4)
Now for the English translation:
Since the water is free,
it lives free among springs.
Jasmines have cried,
and I can't understand my girl
why there's only desert in your eyes.

It was a beautiful afternoon,
when among the olive trees nobody,
nobody saw how I loved you, how I love you.
And now the olive trees are sleeping, but I can't sleep.

There won't be anyone in the world able to cure
the wound left by your pride.
I can't understand how you hurt me now
after having given me so much love. (2x)

I thought about singing old verses to you upon your return,
the kind that speak about love and suffering.
When you'll come back, my girl, I'll devour you with my kisses.

And we'll fly high, up to where the clouds move slowly.
My lips slide along your body slowly,
so slowly that time will stop for sure.

There won't be anyone in the world able to cure
the wound left by your pride.
I can't understand how you hurt me now
after having given me so much love. (4x)
See. I told you it would be about love. I should even have said "love gone wrong." What else is there to sing about? Except for love gone right . . .

But it sounds pretty good in Spanish, and for those interested in more by or about Concha Buika, visit You Tube, or Wikipedia, or even her official site.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Emanations: A New Anthology Series Devoted to Fiction, Poetry, and Essays

(Image from Emanations)

My cyber-friend Carter Kaplan -- author of the novel Tally-Ho, Cornelius! -- has founded a new literary journal, Emanations, and since I'm on the "Board of Editorial Advisors," I'm duty-bound to do my part in promoting this journal. It's described as:
"A New Anthology Series Devoted to Fiction, Poetry, and Essays"
And here's the call for submissions:
The editors of Emanations seek fiction, poetry, essays, manifestos and reviews. The emphasis is on alternative narrative structures, new epistemologies, peculiar settings, esoteric themes, sharp breaks from reality, ecstatic revelations, and vivid and abundant hallucinations.

The editors believe that recognizable genres are fit points of departure -- science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, local color, romance, realism, surrealism, postmodernism -- but the idea behind the idea is the thing, just as the magician behind the magician is . . . the magician. In other words, Emanations seeks to say something new, but the illusion of something new can be just as important. Essays should be exuberant, daring, and free of pedantry. Length is a consideration in making publication decisions, but in keeping with the spirit of the project contributors should consider length to be "open."

Send Microsoft Word files in Times New Roman, 12-point font (tabs set for three spaces) along with a brief cover note to Carter Kaplan:

Board of Editorial Advisors

Ruud Antonius
Michael Beard
Mike Chivers
Tessa Dick
Mack Hassler
Horace Jeffery Hodges
Carter Kaplan
Michael Moorcock
Darren R. Partridge
Vitasta Raina
Elkie Riches
Kai Robb, 2
Joel K. Soiseth
Norman Spinrad, blog

Emanations is a not-for-profit literary project and contributors cannot be compensated at this time. All proceeds from the sale of Emanations will support the efforts of International Authors to publish new voices from around the world.

Published By International Authors
If you feel that you have literary talent or literary-critical insights and have written something original, daring, or possibly ecstatic, then do as advised, namely, send Microsoft Word files in Times New Roman, 12-point font (tabs set for three spaces) along with a brief cover note to Carter Kaplan:
Submissions, of course, should be sent as attachments. We'll get back to you . . .

UPDATE: Mr. Kaplan has informed me that he has revised the call for submissions. See here.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Honor Killing and Islam?

Noah Ha Mim Keller (Translator)
(Image from Amazon)

One of my students in a research writing course that I'm teaching wants to write on honor killings, and in her proposal presentation, she made the assertion that such killings are justified by Islam. I cautioned her to be very careful in stating this claim and to make sure that she has evidence to back it up, for the general view is that support for honor killings in Muslim circles stems more from culture than religion.

Figuring that she might have difficulty locating relevant sources, I looked into this issue myself and found the book depicted above, from the Shafi'i school of sharia in Sunni Islam, which states a legal point that might be relevant:
o1.2 The following are not subject to retaliation:
. . .
(4) a father or mother (or their fathers or mothers) for killing their offspring, or offspring's offspring (Al-Naqib, Reliance of the Traveller, Beltsville, Maryland: Amana Publications, 1994, pages 583-584)
No restrictions are mentioned, so this would at least appear to allow for honor killing by parents or grandparents. Note that this text, including its English translation, has been approved by the prestigious Al-Azhar University's Islamic Research Academy, which has provided its stamp of approval (pages xx-xxi).

Honor killings, however, are not mentioned in this legal context cited above, so I don't know for certain that the legal point here is even broached in arguments based on sharia with respect to honor killings. Moreover, such killings are often carried out by other relatives -- a brother, an uncle, a cousin -- so I would expect to find the issue of honor killings dealt with elsewhere in Islamic law. I suspect that my student will have a bit of digging to undertake in excavating laws with any explicit bearing on honor killing. There's also the issue of differing schools of Islamic law, which would need to be investigated.

I wonder if a look into defenses of honor killings in Muslim countries would offer much of substance.

Assistance welcome . . .

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Rand Paul, the NoZe Brotherhood, and the TRUTH!

Typical NoZe Brother?
Where's the wig, tux, & cigar?
Photo by Jed Dean
(Image from Baylor Lariat)

My post of four days ago on "Rand Paul: NoZe Brother" generated a lot of traffic for my blog, or so my site meter informs me. Apparently, people are interested in Mr. Paul and the NoZe Brotherhood, and are probably asking three questions: what's the NoZe Brotherhood, what does the NoZe do, and what did Mr. Paul do as a Brother? For those who are asking a fourth question, namely, who's Rand Paul, well, never mind. I'll answer the other three questions in no particular order.

I can't personally vouch for certain that Mr. Paul was in the NoZe since I graduated from Baylor in 1979, and he entered that university in 1981, according to the online issue of GQ in an article by Jason Zengerle, "GQ Exclusive: Rand Paul's Kooky College Days (Hint: There's a Secret Society Involved)" (August 9, 2010), which proceeds to demonstrate pretty convincingly that Mr. Paul was a Brother:
According to several of his former Baylor classmates, he became a member of a secret society called the NoZe Brotherhood, which was a refuge for atypical Baylor students. "You could have taken 90 percent of the liberal thinkers at Baylor and found them in this small group," recalls Marc Burckhardt, one of Paul's former NoZe Brothers. Sort of a cross between Yale's Skull & Bones and Harvard's Lampoon, the NoZe existed to torment the Baylor administration, which it accomplished through pranks and its satirical newspaper The Rope. The group especially enjoyed tweaking the school's religiosity. "We aspired to blasphemy," says John Green, another of Paul's former NoZe Brothers.

And so the NoZe Brothers would perform "Christian" songs like "Rock Around the Cross"; they'd parade around campus carrying a giant picture of Anita Bryant with a large hole cut out of her mouth after the former beauty queen proclaimed oral sex sinful; and they'd run ads for a Waco strip club on the back page of The Rope. In 1978, the Baylor administration became so fed up with the NoZe that it suspended the group from campus for being, in the words of Baylor's president at the time, "lewd, crude, and grossly sacrilegious." During Paul's three years at Baylor, according to former NoZe Brothers, if the administration discovered a student was a member of the NoZe, the punishment was automatic expulsion.
That report sounds to me like an entirely authentic depiction of the Brotherhood, except for the part about "liberal thinkers," which is a gross exaggeration, precisely the sort of blanket overstatement that a typical NoZe Brother would make. This blog post, however, is about the TRUTH, so let me correct Mr. Burckhardt on this point. The NoZe was not a political organization, but a satirical one, and it included anybody of any political stripe whatsoever so long as the person was very funny, willing to be utterly outrageous, given to smoking cheap cigars large enough to raise Freudian suspicions, and entirely unafraid to confront authority while garbed out in Groucho Marx nose-glasses, carefully unkempt wigs, and bemedaled tuxedos that had seen better days. That 'dress code' preserved our anonymity -- or rather, our pseudonymity, for we chose individualized NoZe names, which we crafted carefully. My own was "Brother AgNoZetic." One of my close NoZe buddies, a missionary kid, was "Brother NebuchadNoZer." Another couple of NoZes whom I knew well were "KimoNoZe," from Japan, and "UnamuNoZe," a philosophy student. There were many other Brothers with equally inventive names.

But how did the NoZe Brotherhood get suspended from campus by the Baylor administration? In an article for The Baylor Lariat last year providing a potted history of the Noze, "Brotherhood NoZe no boundaries" (Oct. 23, 2009), Trent Goldston explains:
[A] major reprimand to the NoZe was made in 1978, when they stole the Lariat nameplate and printed a fake Lariat with the headline, "Homecoming Cancelled." The NoZe were . . . forced underground for a time.
That bit of information could use a little more detail, so let's see what the January 1979 issue of Texas Monthly had to say at the time, in an article titled "No NoZe is Good NoZe":
[T]he Brotherhood published a fake edition of the Baylor Lariat -- the official, if rather stuffy, student newspaper -- that included the banner headline, HOMECOMING CANCELLED, [and] an account of Bertrand Russell's conversion to the Baptist Faith (he was "impressed by opulence and white shoes") . . .
Whoa! What's this about Bertrand Russell? Well, therein lies the TRUE story of how "anyone caught wearing fake NoZes and glasses on campus," as the Texas Monthly noted in the same article, "would be expelled" from Baylor University. I actually wrote a blog entry on this very issue five years ago in a post titled "Down Memory Lane . . . hey, this is a dead end street . . .", and in the interest of TRUTH, I repost some of that entry here today:
[I]n the Fall Semester of 1978, we Noble NoZe Brothers cancelled Homecoming. We printed our fall issue of The Rope -- a parody of the campus paper, The Lariat -- with the bold headline:
"Homecoming cancelled"
We waited until the campus paper had been delivered to the dormitories early on the Thursday morning before Homecoming, then sneaked around to each dorm and placed hundreds of copies of our parody on top of the newspaper piles. Since we had designed this special Rope to look exactly like a Lariat, the effect was convincing and devastating.

Students really believed that Homecoming had been cancelled. People were weeping, distraught, angry.

We thought it was pretty funny.

The administration was not amused. They banned us from campus. If a NoZe Brother were to appear on campus, he would be faced with arrest.

That just made tweaking the administration's collective nose all the more enjoyable, and it certainly didn't stop us from making our mischievous appearances. We just had to run more quickly, chased by Baylor's Keystone Cops . . .

* * *

Now, I maintain that Baylor expelled us from campus because of the ruse about Homecoming being cancelled, but there is a revisionist view.

In the same issue of that parody, Brother NebuchadNoZer and I (Brother AgNoZetic) published a satire about the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas and its pastor W. A. Criswell. At the time, we had just read a report that Rafael Septien, who was an excellent placekicker for the Dallas Cowboys football team in the late 70s to mid-80s, had recently joined First Baptist Church of Dallas . . . as the 20 thousandth member.

It seemed odd to me that a really famous person would just happen to be number 20,000. After all, that's a two followed by four zeros.

"Look," I told my friend Brother NebuchadNoZer, "they made this guy wait to get baptized so that he would be exactly the 20 thousandth member!"

We decided to satirize that, and for your convenience, I reproduce it here:
Bertrand Russell joins Baptist faith
Impressed by the church's opulence and the pastor's white shoes, Bertrand Russell accepted Christ into his heart as his own personal savior and submitted himself as a candidate for baptism and membership in the First Baptist Church of Dallas, the largest Southern Baptist Church in the entire world.

W. A. Christwell, currently celebrating his 50th year in the ministery, expressed genuine pleasure at the famous atheist's sudden reversal, noting, "We are really pleased to have Bert as one of our congregation; it's always nice to have famous people join our church."

Russell, the 144,000th member at First, followed in the steps of Dallas Cowboy placekicker Rafael Septien.

"I guess I made it by the skin of my teeth," he quipped.

When asked about his surprising move, Russell said, "I was standing gripping the pew in front of me and asking myself why I am not a Christian and I couldn't think of any logical reasons; then it hit me, by God, there are a lot of good benefits to being a Christian, especially in America."

Russell did not elaborate.
As I noted above, some revisionist historians point to this satirical piece as the real reason for the NoZe's expulsion from campus. I'm willing to concede that the Bertrand Russell article written by Brother NebuchadNoZer and me may have been one deciding factor.

But I still think that the Homecoming deception most annoyed the administration.
Readers of Gypsy Scholar can draw their own conclusions about which of the two articles in that fake Lariat might have been the deciding factor in Baylor University's expulsion of the NoZe. I'm told that Pastor Criswell did not at all appreciate the satirical Bertrand Russell article, and that several Baylor trustees were utterly outraged about it as well, but I've always been rather proud of that piece of sharp satire because it was well-honed, accurately aimed, and entirely appropriate in its choice of target. If it was 'blasphemous', then thank God for blasphemy!

I would like to point out, however, that Mr. Rand Paul had nothing to do with any of these NoiZome antics and thus can share neither blame nor glory for whatever 'blasphemous' actions the NoZe might or might not have carried out during my days as an active Brother. As for what Mr. Paul himself may have done during his years at Baylor as a NoZe Brother, I know nothing about that, other than what I've read in the news. Rafael Septien, however, who was never a NoZe Brother, eventually proved himself an embarrassment to the First Baptist Church of Dallas.

By the way, for anyone willing to sit through 15 long minutes of NoZe infamy, here are a couple of videos from 1980 showing the NoZe acting out at Laughingstock, apparently a parody of Woodstock but actually a satirical send-up of Baylor for banning the Brotherhood. Mildly amusing NoZe antics, perhaps, but I guess you really had to be there.

Which I wasn't, having already left for Berkeley and the big, wide world . . .

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Funniest Verse in the Bible?

Some king or other . . . somewhere
By Nicolas 'Somebody' Cordier
(Image from someplace in Wikipedia)

In looking over Hebrews 2:6 this morning to prepare for today's Bible study, I was once again struck by how humorous the verse sounds, at least to some of us sometimes:
διεμαρτύρατο δέ πού τις λέγων τί ἐστιν ἄνθρωπος ὅτι μιμνῄσκῃ αὐτοῦ ἢ υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου ὅτι ἐπισκέπτῃ αὐτόν

But somewhere someone testified, saying, "What is a man, that you remember him or a son of man, that you care for him?"
Somewhere? Someone? Well, someone else might expect more specificity here than a careless "πού τις," especially since this psalm of 'remembrance' so obscurely cited (Psalm 8:4) is attributed to King David (cf. Psalm 7:17/8:1) and gets used in Hebrews as a messianic prooftext.

Despite how amusing this might sound to our ears, given that one would likely assume inspired text to cite inspired text in a less careless fashion, the scholar Harold Attridge, in his commentary on The Epistle to the Hebrews (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1989), notes the "indefiniteness with which the citation is introduced is paralleled in Philo" and suggests that this "probably reflects a common homiletic practice, whereby the expositor does not dwell on what is commonly known or presupposed" (pages 70b-71a). One of the Philo passages Attridge cites is De ebrietate 61:
εἶπε γάρ πού τις . . .
In English, this translates as:
For someone somewhere said . . .
That's certainly a close parallel, and it sounds equally peculiar to our ears since Philo was citing Genesis 20:12, in particular quoting Abraham, not the sort of fellow one would likely forget. Attridge suggests that this manner of citing scripture is "a common homiletic practice," but I haven't noticed its prevalence by anyone anywhere. Whatever its justification, it should give pause to anybody whose views on scripture tend toward bibliolatry.

Or if I might be allowed a greater degree of subversion, perhaps this manner of quoting without specifically identifying is merely a vain attempt to circumvent what someone has said somewhere:
He who quotes others lacks the ability to think for himself.
On that note, I close today's words of wit . . .

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Imaginartsy . . .

Imagine the Minotaur sculpted by Sophie Dickens rising from The Red Blue Chair constructed by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld.

But that could be difficult, for the Minotaur, borrowed from the Imagine Gallery in Great Britain, stands only 73 centimeters high, whereas The Red Blue Chair, borrowed from the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, is 66 centimeters wide, 83 centimeters deep, and 88 centimeters high.

Goldilocks wouldn't stand for it: "Too grobe!" she'd gripe.

But the Minotaur is less persnickety and would be satisfied with The Red Blue Chair . . . if only he could imagine a place to put his tail.

Were form to follow function rather than De Stijl's pure abstraction based on the straight line, the square, and the rectangle, his cubistic back might not ache so much . . .

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Church of the Transfiguration, Cape Cod

(Image from Christianity Today)

A recent issue of Christianity Today has an article by David Neff, "The Art of Glory" (September 20, 2010), with stunningly beautiful images of Christian art photographed by Gary Gnidovic in the Church of the Transfiguration of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. As Mr. Neff puts it:
The Church of the Transfiguration, located near picturesque Rock Harbor on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, may be the most art-intensive worship space built in recent years. Everywhere you look there seems to be carved stone, cast bronze, mosaic, fresco, or stained glass.
I can say nothing in words to compare with the images, of which the photo above offers only the barest of hints, so go to the pdf of the article, which presents them in their full glory, or to the church website itself, and prepare to be transfigured . . . or at least transfixed.

Meanwhile, I have a couple of midterm exams to administer . . .

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rand Paul: NoZe Brother?

The NoZe Brotherhood
Ho, Ho, Ho!
(Image from NoZe Homepage)

Mr. Rand Paul, NoZe Brother? Hey, I didn't vote to let him into the Noble NoZe! But the evidence seems to point to him as a bonafide Brother, for the Democratic State Attorney General of Kentucky, Mr. Jack Conway, has used Mr. Paul's putative membership to attack him in their Senate race:
Why was Rand Paul a member of a secret society that called the Holy Bible a "hoax," that was banned for mocking Christianity and Christ? Why did Rand Paul once tie a woman up, tell her to bow down before a false idol and say his god was "Aqua Buddha."
Well, Keko Muckety Muck, why indeed? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. Nah, just kidding. The answer is more likely found in an observation posted by "Swamp" on October 18, 2010 in the "Comments" section to a Christianity Today article by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, "Rand Paul Blasts Opponent's Ad Referencing Baylor" (October 18, 2010). Here's Swamp's comment:
As a graduate of Baylor University and part of a long line of family members with Baylor ties, I have to laugh (rather than cry) at the depths that some fools will descend to win an election. Jack Conway obviously does not know a thing about the culture of Baylor or anything about the NoZe Brotherhood. I could go on ad nauseum as to how idiotic this charge is, but it really makes me wonder what Conway was doing at age 20.
Hey, I'm mildly curious about that myself, but I'm willing to wager that Mr. Conway wasn't attending either a Pink Tea or a Millard Fillmore, both hosted by that satirical organization sporting Groucho Marx noses, The Noble Noze Brotherhood, a secret fraternity about which Mr. Conway undoubtedly prefers to know less so as to use his ignorance all the more effectively.

Good thing that I'm not running for political office, else my proboscisial name "Brother AgNoZetic" would be held against me, as would particular photographs from a certain parody of Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper, in which I played the host. Long sharp bread knives were out for me that day -- and would be again if I were a politician running against Mr. Conway.

Look, everybody was young once. Some of us were even members of clubs engaged in all sorts of juvenile behavior. Most of us eventually grow up.

It's long past time that 41-year-old Jack Conway also grew up.

UPDATE: Given all the interest in this topic, I figured that I ought to provide the actual reason that the NoZe Brotherhood got banned from Baylor, which had nothing to do with Rand Paul or his antics.

FURTHER UPDATE: See my blog entry of October 25, 2010 for more on "Rand Paul, the NoZe Brotherhood, and the TRUTH!"

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Revolutionary Birthday Party for Goodness to all Mankind"

'Birthday Babies'
(Image Supplied by Terrance Lindall)

Extravatantly good news from the revolutionary world of art: Terrance Lindall has recently had a birthday, as has also Yuko Nii. Both are pictured above in a photograph that Mr. Lindall personally sent to me. Admittedly, he probably sent the same photo in an email circular to several hundred other individuals, but that doesn't negate the fact that he also sent it to me . . .

In addition to the above photograph, the email circular also offered a few words of wit:
Our "Revolutionary Birthday Party for Goodness to all Mankind" was held Saturday!! Will be covered in the Philippines Press. Very International with guests from Pakistan, Nepal, Philippines, Japan, Denmark and probably more . . . .

A signed copy of the requiem that Terrance commissioned from the foremost Lutheran hymn writer Amanda Husberg was presented to him. It is being performed for the first time by a major chorale in Kentucky later in the year.

PS: Terrance is not dead yet, but many people are hoping to hear this masterpiece soon.
Hmmm . . . well, let's interpret that postscript generously, as meaning that people want to hear Mr. Lindall's requiem before he dies. I hope that he and Ms. Nii both enjoy many more artistically productive years of health blessed by wealth.

I privately wished both of them a happy birthday, and received this reply:
Thanks Jeffery. There are a lot more photos coming. To that list of internationals you can add Korea (she sang for Yuko & me), and Thailand. Terrance
I suppose that 'Korea' here is synecdoche for a Korean woman who offered a birthday song to them, perhaps the Korean happy birthday tune. I wish that I'd made the party, for that cake looks delicious, and I could do with a glass of wine from either of those two bottles about now.

For those readers interested in the art of Mr. Lindall and Ms. Nii, click here for the former and here for the latter. And be sure to visit the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center (full disclosure: I'm on the Advisory Committee).

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tetragrammaton in Popeye the Sailor Man?

In Popeye?

With all my recent attention focused on the Gospel of John and the Tetragrammaton, I almost neglected to note the Name of the Lord implicit in the title and text of the second Popeye cartoon, released in 1933, though it was apparently the first official one according to The Big Cartoon Database entry on this animated feature:
The first official Popeye cartoon. This short also has Bluto singing the opening title song. This cartoon also featured the debut appearance of J. Wellington Wimpy, as well as the first usage of the opening/closing ship doors in the main titles. (The Big Cartoon Database)
You Tube seems to have the entire animated cartoon for our viewing pleasure, though tastes in humor have changed, as have views of Native Americans, thank goodness.

An interesting side note is that Ralph Ellison's protagonist in Invisible Man, published in 1952, quotes Popeye's self-identifying line. According to Anne Seidlitz, writing "Ralph Ellison: An American Journey" (PBS, August 24th, 2005):
When the protagonist in INVISIBLE MAN comes upon a yam seller (named Petie Wheatstraw, after the black folklore figure) on the streets of Harlem and remembers his childhood in a flood of emotion, his proclamation "I yam what I yam!" is Ellison's expression of embracing one's culture as the way to freedom.
Was Ellison alluding not only to Popeye but also to Exodus 2:14 in his protagonist's own madeleine episode? Exodus was, after all, a favorite book for African Americans, given its story of freedom from slavery.

Well, one can't always be serious about issues of religion, hence today's blog entry on Popeye's self-identification, but as to whether the Popeye figure himself obscurely alludes to Exodus 2:14, only Max and Dave Fleischer know for sure . . .

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Monday, October 18, 2010

"I Am That I Am" in the Gospel of John?

God Appears to Moses in Burning Bush (1848)
Eugène Pluchart
Saint Isaac's Cathedral, Saint Petersburg
(Image from Wikipedia)

About a week ago, I posted a hermeneutic on John 17:11b, speculating on the possibility that the verse should be read as meaning that the Son bears the Father's name, i.e., "Yahweh":
Πάτερ ἅγιε, τήρησον αὐτοὺς ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου ᾧ δέδωκάς μοι, ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν καθὼς ἡμεῖς.

Holy Father, keep them in Your Name, which You have given me, that they may be one as We are.
My suggestion was that the clause "Your Name, which You have given me" implies that the Father has given His Name to the Son. Since that post one week ago, my Uncle Cran has reminded me that John 8:58 rather clearly identifies Jesus with Yahweh:
εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί

Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I Am.
As Uncle Cran notes, this alludes to Exodus 3:13-14 of the Burning Bush theophany, especially to vere 14, where God reveals his name to Moses in a pun on the Tetragrammaton "Yahweh" (יְהוָה):
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֶל־מֹשֶׁה אֶֽהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶֽהְיֶה וַיֹּאמֶר כֹּה תֹאמַר לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶֽהְיֶה שְׁלָחַנִי אֲלֵיכֶֽם׃

And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
There's some debate over how to translate the Hebrew, e.g., "I Am That I Am" or "I Will Be What I Will Be," but the allusion in John's Gospel is fairly clear, as the Septuagint might also suggest:
καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεὸς πρὸς Μωυσῆν ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν καὶ εἶπεν οὕτως ἐρεῖς τοῖς υἱοῖς Ισραηλ ὁ ὢν ἀπέσταλκέν με πρὸς ὑμᾶς
The red-fonted expressions are "I Am The Being One" and "The Being One," respectively. While a more rigorous argument would need to be constructed, the evidence -- cf. ἐγώ εἰμι (i.e., "I Am") in John 8:58 and in Exodus 3:14 of the Septuagint -- seems to me to support my suggestion that John 17:11b, in stating "Your Name, which You have given me," implies that the Fourth Evangelist presented the Son as bearing the name of the Father, i.e., "Yahweh."

But I've not yet constructed a rigorous argument, which would be time consuming . . .

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Everybody NOT Draw Muhammad Day

Readers will recall that a few days ago, I announced this Sunday to be "Everybody NOT Draw Muhammad Day" because I believe "that we must all stand up for our right not to draw Muhammad, else even that right will be taken from us!"

The response has been overwhelming. Among the billions of people who didn't draw Muhammad were three artists who went to the trouble of sending in their non-depictions of Muhammad. First and foremost is Dario Rivarossa, with the punny That's Not M!

That's Not M!
Dario Rivarossa

Mr. Rivarossa's work, with its vertiginous perspective from the upper heights of skyscrapers and its swirl of bright colors against a gray background, appears to portray Spiderman swinging through NYC's urban jungle, and perhaps another superhero as well, possibly Daredevil. Obviously not Muhammad!

Next comes a work sent in by Horace Jeffery Hodges, imaginatively titled Not Muhammad:

Not Muhammad
Horace Jeffery Hodges

Mr. Hodges, in a simple facial sketch against an even simpler, bold-red background, takes particular pains to ensure there be no misunderstanding, that this is not Muhammad! But is it also not art?

And finally, we see a true masterpiece of not-Muhammad art, En-Uk Sequoya Hwang's Daddy:

En-Uk Sequoya Hwang

Mr. Hwang's drawing is a bold postmodernist colored sketch that appears to allude to the Cubists with the triangular slap of black to his father's face, but the drawing also recalls the ancient Egyptian manner of portraying heads from the side rather than the front. There might also be an allusion to a famous sketch of Darwin, given the massive brow. At any rate, you see that Mr. Hwang's art looks nothing like Muhammad. Of course, it also looks nothing like me . . .

There we have it! Three great works of astonishing artistry not depicting Muhammad. Our right not to draw Muhammad is safe.

I hearby declare "Everybody NOT Draw Muhammad Day" to have been an astounding success!

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Saturday, October 16, 2010


(Image from Jugendherberge)

Some readers will recall the story of how I met my wife on a train. Not like the character in Ionesco's Bald Soprano who meets his wife on a train:
Mr. Martin: Madam, I took the 8:30 morning train which arrives in London at 4:45.

Mrs. Martin: That is curious! How very bizarre! And what a coincidence! I took the same train, sir, I too.
After a series of other bizarre 'coincidences,' e.g., living in the same flat and having a daughter with the same name, they conclude that they are husband and wife:
Mr. Martin: Then, dear lady, I believe that there can be no doubt about it, we have seen each other before and you are my own wife.
One of the other characters in the play does call this 'indubious' conclusion into doubt, but let us leave Mr. and Mrs. Martin happily married, for any state of affairs can be doubted by the most skeptical of skeptics, and if the Martins are not man and wife, then my own 'coincidental' meeting with my wife on a train might not inevitably lead to the conclusion that she is my wife.

But to the best of my memory, I met my wife -- though she was, of course, not yet my wife -- on a train to Lauenberg, Germany, for we were 'coincidentally' headed for the same Naumann-Stiftung orientation seminar to be held at the Zündholzfabrik, or translated into English, the Matchstick Factory. Apparently, matches were once made there.

The place seems to have retained a bit of its productive capacity, for it managed to produce another match, and one quickly struck, too, lighting a fire that still burns 18 years later, so our match must have been fated, designed, even if seen only through a glass, darkly:
At times, that match we kindled sorely sticks,
To burn within our craw, if we eat crow,
But most we glimpse the lines of that fabric's
Uncanny dark design we've sought to know.

We wandered down a street and saw a sign,
You took my hand in yours, to my surprise,
Then let it drop as if disdained design
Were little more than worthless alibis.

But later, when rejoined, that match to bless,
'Twixt two of us, by matchless deity,
That altar was a bloody, lovely mess
For you and me, if devil making three.

Or was it just we two, and no one else,
I and your own, most obscure, secret self's.
The devil's ever in the details, and there are always things to be worked through and out, but our marriage match seems to have been made in the heavens even if necessarily lived down to earth.

My "aye" and her "aye" in the "I do, I do" of marriage, and this has been a "Poetry Break" for the apple of my eye, who will understand it even when no one else does . . .

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Friday, October 15, 2010

The Title "Lord" in the Gospel of Mark

Andrea Mantegna, 1431-1506
(Image from Wikipedia)

Following up on yesterday's blog, I checked for "Lord" in the Gospel of Mark and found, if I've not miscounted, that it occurs 20 times, about 9 times referring to Jesus.

But the term does not seem to stand for "Yahweh" (יְהוָה), as a careful reading of Mark 12:35-37 implies:
12:35 Καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἔλεγεν διδάσκων ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ Πῶς λέγουσιν οἱ γραμματεῖς ὅτι ὁ Χριστὸς υἱὸς ἐστιν Δαβίδ

12:35 And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the Son of David?

12:36 αὐτὸς γὰρ Δαβὶδ εἶπεν ἐν τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἁγίῳ Εἶπεν ὁ κύριος τῷ κυρίῳ μου Κάθου ἐκ δεξιῶν μου ἕως ἂν θῶ τοὺς ἐχθρούς σου ὑποπόδιον τῶν ποδῶν σου

12:36 For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.

12:37 αὐτὸς οὖν Δαβὶδ λέγει αὐτὸν κύριον καὶ πόθεν υἱός αὐτοῦ ἐστιν καὶ ὁ πολὺς ὄχλος ἤκουεν αὐτοῦ ἡδέως

12:37 David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he [then] his son? And the common people heard him gladly.
The term "Lord" that is here applied to the Messiah is not "Yahweh" (יְהוָה), which does also occur, but "Adonai" (אדֹנִי), as shown by the Hebrew of Psalm 110:1, which was being interpreted as a Messianic prooftext:
110:1 לְדָוִד מִזְמֹור נְאֻם יְהוָה לַֽאדֹנִי שֵׁב לִֽימִינִי עַד־אָשִׁית אֹיְבֶיךָ הֲדֹם לְרַגְלֶֽיךָ׃

110:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
But the Gospel of Mark nevertheless does appear, in Mark 11:9-10, to assimilate the "name of the Lord" to Jesus as Messiah:
11:9 καὶ οἱ προάγοντες καὶ οἱ ἀκολουθοῦντες ἔκραζον λέγοντες, Ὡσαννά Εὐλογημένος ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου

11:9 And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed [is] he that cometh in the name of the Lord:

11:10 Εὐλογημένη ἡ ἐρχομένη βασιλεία ἐν ὀνόματι Κυρίου, τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν Δαβίδ Ὡσαννὰ ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστοις

11:10 Blessed [be] the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.
Here, we see that Jesus is described in Mark as coming in "the name of the Lord," which doesn't quite say that he bears that name as his own, but does imply that he bear's the Lord's authority. These two verses seem to allude to Psalm 118:26, where "Lord" translates "Yahweh" (יְהוָה):
118:26 בָּרוּךְ הַבָּא בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה בֵּרַֽכְנוּכֶם מִבֵּית יְהוָֽה׃

118:26 Blessed [be] he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.
The Gospel of Mark therefore, perhaps consistent with what William Wrede called Mark's "Messianic Secret," only coyly links Jesus as Messiah to the title "Lord" with the meaning of "Yahweh" (יְהוָה).

As we've seen, then, the Gospel of John is much less coy about this linkage, claiming not merely the title but even the name . . .

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Non-Occurrence of "Lord" in the Four Gospels

The Four Evangelists
an Aachen Gospel, 820
(Image from Wikipedia)

In a post the other day when I was looking at "Yahweh" (יְהוָה, Yahweh) as the unexpressed Name of the "Son" in the Gospel of John, I noticed an intriguing point: The word "Lord," which in Greek is κύριος (Kyrios), does not occur from John 15:20 to 20:2 (and not clearly to Jesus from 14:22).

I decided to check the other gospels and discovered much the same ( with John having, arguably, the longest non-occurrence, though Mark is in some ways even more surprising):
Matthew: from 26:22 to 28:6 (except for 27:10 and 28:2, where they do not refer to Jesus)

Mark: from 13:35 to 16:20 (and with clear reference to Jesus, not from 11:3 to 16:20, but this would bear more examination, for "Lord" with clear reference to Jesus is surprisingly rare in Mark generally)

Luke: from 22:61 to 24:3 (though Luke differs in using the term with clear reference to Jesus in the passion narrative)
I'm not entirely sure what to make of this other than a passing notice that the term "Lord" (κύριος, Kyrios) is missing or rare in the passion narrative of all four gospels, possibly because Jesus is not generally being addressed by those who respect him, though this isn't the full answer since the narrator could have referred to him as "Lord" anyway, as in Mark 15:5, where it could have replaced "Jesus" quite easily:
But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled.

ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς οὐκέτι οὐδὲν ἀπεκρίθη ὥστε θαυμάζειν τὸν Πιλᾶτον.

But the Lord yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled.

ὁ δὲ κύριος οὐκέτι οὐδὲν ἀπεκρίθη ὥστε θαυμάζειν τὸν Πιλᾶτον
Luke, for instance, uses "Lord" twice in 22:61, a passage from the trial scene:
And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

καὶ στραφεὶς ὁ κύριος ἐνέβλεψεν τῷ Πέτρῳ καὶ ὑπεμνήσθη ὁ Πέτρος τοῦ λόγου τοῦ κυρίου ὡς εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὅτι Πρὶν ἀλέκτορα φωνῆσαι ἀπαρνήσῃ με τρίς
Otherwise, the term is largely missing from the passion narratives. Scholars must have noticed this before and offered explanations.

I'll have to look into this another time since I have another batch of grading now . . .

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The 'Eighteenth Brumaire' of Kim Jong-un . . .

"Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice.

He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy . . . "

"the second time as farce . . . "

". . . Caussidière for Danton, Louis Blanc for Robespierre, the Montagne of 1848 to 1851 for the Montagne of 1793 to 1795, the nephew for the uncle. And the same caricature occurs in the circumstances of . . ."

. . . Kim Jong-un for Kim Il-sung.

Karl Marx himself couldn't have said it any better . . . for he already did say it best in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852). Unfortunately, the farce of this dead suryong tradition up North will play out like a nightmare on the brains of those living there.

For copyright purposes, I should note that the first photo is borrowed from Life Magazine and the second from DPRK State Television.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Where's Muhammad?"

Where's Muhammad?

I've borrowed this "Black and White" image from my son's art blog because the Muslim prophet Muhammad is conspicuous in it by his utter absence from it. One might opine that there remains a Muhammad-shaped hole in every non-depiction of Muhammad's image.

Is non-depiction therefore also now forbidden?

The Washington Post thinks so, as Andrew Alexander has noted in his Ombudsman column for Sunday, October 10, 2010, "Where was the 'Where's Muhammad?' cartoon?" In that column, Alexander drew attention to a recent cartoon titled "Where's Muhammad?" by Non Sequitor artist Wiley Miller:
Miller is known for social satire. But at first glance, the single-panel cartoon he drew for last Sunday seems benign. It is a bucolic scene imitating the best-selling children's book "Where's Waldo?" A grassy park is jammed with activity. Animals frolic. Children buy ice cream. Adults stroll and sunbathe. A caption reads: "Where's Muhammad?"
Alexander notes the cleverness in Miller's cartoon:
What is clever about last Sunday's "Where's Muhammad?" comic is that the prophet does not appear in it.
Nor did the cartoon itself appear in the hard copy of the Washington Post for October 3, 2010, though that cartoon did inadvertently make the online version. What was the reasoning behind this laughably slipshod censorship? Alexander again explains:
Style editor Ned Martel said he decided to yank it, after conferring with others, including Executive Editor Marcus W. Brauchli, because "it seemed a deliberate provocation without a clear message." He added that "the point of the joke was not immediately clear" and that readers might think that Muhammad was somewhere in the drawing.
Well, Muhammad might also be obscurely present in my son's drawing above, too, but I dare anyone to find him, and double-dare anyone to take offense, though some fanatics, undoubtedly, will take my double-dare. Perhaps even earnestly rather than deceitfully. Would anyone question this, given our experiences of the past few years? Oh, I suppose that some readers might still be unaware of the controversies over images of Muhammad. Alexander also recognizes this possibility and therefore goes to the trouble of explaining the point:
Miller's cartoon is clearly a satirical reference to the global furor that ensued in 2006 after a Danish newspaper invited cartoonists to draw the prophet Muhammad as they see him. After the cartoons were published, Muslims in many countries demonstrated against what they viewed as the lampooning of Islam's holiest figure.

Miller's Sunday drawing also keyed on "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day!," a free-speech protest this year by cartoonists responding to what was widely interpreted as a death threat from an Islamic cleric against two animators who depicted Muhammad wearing a bear suit in an episode of the "South Park" television show. If enough cartoonists drew Muhammad, protest organizers reasoned, it would be impractical to threaten all of them.
I agreed with the cartoonists who protested death threats against South Park's non-depiction of Muhammad, which is why I also at that time posted an image that was not Muhammad. Indeed, I stoutly hold that we must all stand up for our right not to draw Muhammad, else even that right will be taken from us!

With that in mind, I hereby declare Sunday, October 17, 2010, as "Everybody Not Draw Muhammad Day," and I expect an enormous number of participants since even Muslims will join in.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Rivarossa's Jeffryon

Dario Rivarossa

Inspired by my posts on the creature Geryon from Dante's Inferno, Dario Rivarossa has drawn a creature that he calls "Jeffryon" and made it available for viewing on ImageShack, but somebody must have objected, for it was removed with the message:
403 Forbidden
This file removed due to violation of ImageShack Terms of Service or by user request.
I suppose that Dario didn't realize that as with the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, depictions of my image are objectionable. Dario wasn't very happy:
huh... are they crazy??!! they removed the picture from ImageShack because of a "violation" or "by user request"!

Even the Vatican has restored the original Judgement by Michael Angel...
Dario therefore sent me the image, which you see above (courtesy of approval by me for nonprofitable use), along with a description:
Geryon + manticore + Sin + Lilith, and a clear quotation from a painting by Magritte.
The Magritte allusion might imply that "This is Not a Jeff" in which case, the image is merely a depiction of me, not the genuine article (especially since the "quotation" is from a different Magritte). That's comforting, I guess, but I have to admit that Mr. Rivarossa is an artist who has looked deeply into my unfumigated soul -- or my nephesh, as he might put it:
the Jewish word that is usually translated as "soul" was nephesh, that literally refers to "throat, breathing."
At any rate, I'm flattered to have been immortalized in this 'nephetishistic' work of art.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Paradise Lost: "virtually unreadable"?

Sophie Gee
Writer and Scholar

A scholar on the Milton List linked to a humorous article by Daisy Fried on 'failed' attempts to rewrite Milton's epic poem, "Sing, God-awful Muse!" (Poetry, July/August 2009), an article partly incited by Sophie Gee's observation that the poem is "now virtually unreadable."

Intrigued by this remark, I followed up on Professor Gee's words at the New York Times in an article titled "Great Adaptations" (January 13, 2008) and discovered that she was also speaking of that old poem Beowulf:
Take "Beowulf" and "Paradise Lost." The unpalatable truth is that both originals are now virtually unreadable. "Beowulf" is written in Old English, an inflected Germanic tongue that looks a lot less like our language than one would hope. As for Milton's epic, it's in "normal" English, but its blank verse is so densely learned, so syntactically complicated and philosophically obscure, that it's almost never read outside college courses.
There's considerable truth to these words, I suppose, though I strongly suspect that Milton's poem was already "virtually unreadable" when it was first published, not only now, three centuries later, and for precisely the reasons offered by Ms. Gee.

Ms. Gee goes on to praise recent adaptations of both Beowulf and Paradise Lost, referring to "Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary's film version" of the former and "Philip Pullman's [Dark Materials] trilogy" version of the latter. Readers may recall that I had kind words for the Beowulf film but unkind words for Pullman's reworking of themes in Paradise Lost. Pullman can write very well, but I find profound bitterness in the novels, a bitterness so pervasive that it distorts the story and ruins the narrative . . . at least for me. Not that Pullman is uninteresting, for he is intelligent, and draws on Milton for ideas with literary potential, as Ms. Gee notes:
The oddest of Pullman's ideas is Dust. Composed of animate, freely moving particles that gather on adults and avoid children, Dust turns out to be the stuff of consciousness itself, the matter that permits people free will and choice (and arouses the hostility of those in authority). Pullman gets it from "Paradise Lost," where Milton describes the universe as composed of animate particles, originally the matter of chaos. In this, Milton builds on a philosophy called Vitalism, which holds that all animate things -- including plants and insubstantial beings, like angels -- are made from "thinking matter."
I wasn't aware that vitalism attributes plant life to "thinking matter," but this does have me curious about the degree to which Milton may have built on the philosophy of vitalism, assuming that this philosophy even pre-dates Milton, and curious about the sense in which Milton's particles of chaos are animate, assuming that one can call them particles.

At any rate, despite Pullman's updating of Milton, I find Paradise Lost far more readable than Dark Materials.

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Saturday, October 09, 2010

Tetragrammaton and "Your Name" in John 17:11b?

Crucified Jesus
and the
Photo by P. Vasiliadis
(Image from Wikipedia)

If the text of the Greek New Testament critically edited under the direction of Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland (3rd edition, 1983) has the correct reading, then the Greek of John 17:11b is as follows:
Πάτερ ἅγιε, τήρησον αὐτοὺς ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου ᾧ δέδωκάς μοι, ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν καθὼς ἡμεῖς.

Holy Father, keep them in Your Name, which You have given me, that they may be one as We are.
The dative case of the neuter singular relative pronoun, (), should be accusative, (ho), but this relative pronoun has been attracted to the dative of "Name," ὀνόματί (onomati), according to Mary Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1981, page 336).

Anyway, the thought suddenly struck me yesterday that the Fourth Evangelist meant that Jesus has received from the Father the Name of the Father, i.e., "LORD," which in Greek is κύριος (Kyrios) and in Hebrew is יְהוָה (Yahweh). The Gospel of John is written in Greek, of course, and Jesus is often called Kyrios (cf. GJn 1.23; 4.49; 6.23; 34, 69; 9.38; 11.2, 3, 12, 21, 27, 32, 34, 39; 13.6, 9, 13, 14, 25, 36; 14.5, 8, 22; [cf. 15.15]; 20.2, 13, 18, 20, 25, 28; 21.7, 12, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21), though Jesus is routinely called Kyrios in the New Testament.

By bearing the Divine Name, Jesus would be presented by the Fourth Evangelist as bearing the stamp of God's approved authority and therefore as able to speak authoritatively in the Name of God (cf. GJn 12:13).

Undoubtedly, some clever hermeneut has already noted this interpretive possibility and speculated at lengh upon the point.

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