Tuesday, 23 June

20:40

Book Review: Brian Murdoch, The Apocryphal Adam and Eve in Medieval Europe [History of Interpretation]

Murdoch

Here’s another old book review I published in the Review of Biblical Literature back in 2010. It deals with the various versions of a later non-biblical book called The Life of Adam and Eve. As Murdoch’s fine volume shows, there were many different versions of this text. It was an incredibly rich tradition that found itself travelling all over Europe in the medieval period, influencing art, story, theater, etc. The story, in its varied forms, was about Adam and Eve after the Fall. At its core, the story is one of penance, of Adam and Eve’s sorrow over their sins, and the various ways in which they expressed this sorrow penitentially, including  immersing themselves in the cold water of a running stream. For me, one of the other very interesting aspects of this tradition–which clearly has Christian influences in many of its later expressions, but which Murdoch believes may have Jewish roots in its earliest form–is the depiction of the demonic serpent as a violent aggressor. In his more popular work, A Father Who Keeps His Promises, Catholic Theology and Scripture professor Scott Hahn interprets the account of the Fall in Genesis 3 in such a way that the serpent was delivering a veiled threat of violence to both Adam and Eve with the serpent’s retort: “you shall not die.”(1) Indeed, such conflict may be implied in its ancient context, in light of comparable ancient literature from the ancient Near East.(2)  Interestingly, The Life of Adam and Eve implies such violent intent on the part of the serpent. In fact, after Satan’s failure here, popular versions of the text depict the serpent going after their son Seth, and even biting him in the face. Murdoch’s volume is thus a welcome addition to the scholarly literature on the history of biblical interpretation, showing some of the many ways earlier readers understood Genesis 3 and its aftermath.

(1) Scott Hahn, A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love in Scripture (Cincinnati: Charis, 1998), 69, where Hahn writes:

“He said, ‘You will not die.’ And that defiant contradiction hung in the air until slowly the serpent’s meaning became clear: ‘You will not die–if you eat the fruit…’ In other words, Satan used the form of a life-threatening serpent, with his evil stealth, to deliver what Adam rightly took to be a thinly veiled threat to his life, which it was from the outset.”

Where does Hahn get this interpretation, which to many may sound bizarre? From the combination of several factors: 1) the man was given the command (in Gen. 2) to “keep” or “guard” (in Hebrew, shamar) the garden (pp. 58-59). Hahn explains further:

“the other word, ‘keep’ (shamar), carries a distinct meaning, ‘to guard,’ implying the need to ward off potential intruders. This was how the word was used to describe the task of the sword-wielding Levites, who were ordered by Moses to keep Israel’s sanctuary free of encroachers (see Nm 17:12-18:6). Perhaps it struck Adam as a curious command, for it seemed to imply not only a need for the sanctity of the garden to be guarded but the existence of a potential intruder to desecrate it” (pp. 58-59).

2) Hahn underscores the ambiguity of the reference to “life” with the tree of life mentioned in Gen 2. He asks the pointed question, “After all, didn’t God already give Adam the gift of immortality? What’s the use of a tree with fruit to make you life forever if you’re already going to anyway?” (p. 59). Hahn thus takes this to imply that there would be a potential threat to life (pp. 59-60). 3) Hahn is also aware of the many ways in which “sons” are tested throughout the Bible, a sort of filial test. He thus envisions the temptation narrative as just such a test (pp. 63-64). 4) Hahn shows that the Hebrew word for “serpent,” nachash, is much broader than what we typically think of as a snake, e.g., it is used of Leviathan in Isaiah 27:1 (p. 66). He explains:

“Across this wide spectrum of usage, the word generally refers to something that bites (see Prv 23:32), often with venom (see Ps 58:4). In any event, at minimum, the serpent here is a life-threatening symbol. And it represents mortal danger. In this case, the danger was not only (or mainly) physical but spiritual, particularly since the New Testament identifies this ‘ancient serpent’ with Satan himself (see Rv 12:9; 20:2)” (p. 66).

5) Hahn also notes that the word employed for “subtle,” (‘arum), can be used to describe “the ‘stealth’ and ‘guile’ of the wicked (see Jb 5:12; 15:5)” (p. 66). 6) Finally, Hahn asks the question about where the man is during this ordeal when the serpent speaks to the woman. He emphasizes how the text seems to indicate the man was by her side, silent, the whole time. The serpent’s verbs are plural, not singular, and there’s no description of the woman looking for the man; apparently, he’s right there when she gives him the fruit (pp. 67-69). Thus, Hahn links the pride and envy of Adam with fear of suffering (pp. 69-74).

(2) Richard E. Averbeck, “Ancient Near Eastern Mythography as It Relates to Historiography in the Hebrew Bible: Genesis 3 and the Cosmic Battle,” in The Future of Biblical Archaeology Reassessing Methodologies and Assumptions: The Proceedings of a Symposium, August 12-14, 2001 at Trinity International University, ed. James K. Hoffmeier and Alan Millard, 328-356 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2004).


10:03

Moderater Realismus [Scholastiker]


Normal 0 21 false false false DE X-NONE X-NONE

Die scholastische Philosophie vertritt einen moderaten Realismus, der sich vom Nominalismus, dem Konzeptualismus bzw. Rationalismus einerseits und vom radikalen, bzw. platonischen Realismus andererseits unterscheidet und gewissermaßen eine Zwischenposition darstellt. Unter einer realistischen Philosophie versteht man eine solche, die davon ausgeht, dass Wesenheiten mehreren Dingen gemeinsam zukommen. Das Wesen von Wasser ist etwas, dass der Michigan See mit dem Wasser aus Ihrem Wasserhahn oder dem Wasser auf einem Jupitermond gemeinsam hat.




Die Argumente für den Realismus gehen bis auf Platon zurück, wenn auch seine Version des Realismus extrem ist. Sein Argument des „Einen von Vielen“ zeigt, dass Wesenheiten nicht auf ein einzelnes Vorkommnis dieser Wesenheit reduziert werden können (was die Annahme von Wesenheiten natürlich überflüssig machen würde). Aber auch eine Reduktion der Wesenheit auf eine bestimmte Menge von Dingen ist nicht möglich. Der Grund ist der, dass jede einzelne Instanz einer Wesenheit, die der Wesenheit von Wasser oder des Dreiecks oder des Hundes aufhörenkann zu existieren, ohne dass deshalb die Wesenheit aufhört zu existieren. Wenn der Michigan See austrocknen sollte, ist damit nicht das Wesen des Wassers ausgetrocknet und der See könnte auch wieder gefüllt werden. Daher müssen Wesenheiten echte Bestandteile unserer Welt sein und nicht bloße Erfindungen des menschlichen Verstandes und der Sprache.

Nicht nur unsere Alltagssprache, sondern auch alle Wissenschaften, einschließlich Wissenschaften wie Logik, Mathematik und Geometrie, die nicht zu den empirischen Wissenschaften gehören, setzen Universalien voraus. Zwei und zwei ist vier und zwar universal und immer und überall. Der modus ponens, ein logischer Schluss, ist immer und überall – universal – ein gültiger logischer Schluss. Das Gleiche gilt für die Klassifikationen und Gesetze der empirischen Wissenschaften, die universal anwendbar sind.

Wenn Nominalisten und Konzeptualisten versuchen, Universalien zu vermeiden, kommen sie in enorme Schwierigkeiten, die durch aufwendige Theorien zu lösen versucht werden. Wenn der Nominalist behauptet, dass es kein Rot gibt, sondern nur das Wort „Rot“, das wir auf verschiedene Dinge anwenden, weil diese sich ähneln, dann führt dies zu einem Regress, der nicht gelöst werden kann, wie z.B. auch Bertrand Russell gezeigt hat. Denn Ähnlichkeit ist selbst eine Universalie. 

Ein STOPP-Schild ähnelt einem Feuerwehrfahrzeug oder einem Ferrari, weil wir beide „rot“ nennen. Gras ähnelt dem unglaublichen Hulk, weshalb wir beide „grün“ nennen. Dies bedeutet aber, dass wir verschiedene Instanzen ein und derselben Universalie haben, nämlich der Universalie Ähnlichkeit. 

Der Nominalist könnte dieser Schwierigkeit begegnen indem er sagt, dass dies Beispiele von „Ähnlichkeit“ sind, weil sie sich ähneln ohne sich festzulegen, in welcher Hinsicht sie sich ähneln. Doch damit taucht das Problem von neuem auf einer höheren Ebene auf, die wiederum eine Universalie ist usw. Aber auch das allgemeine Wort „rot“ ist ja bereits selbst eine Universalie, denn Sie sagen „rot“ und ich sage „rot“ und Angela Merkel sagt „rot“ und dies sind einzelne Äußerungen ein und desselben Wortes, das über all den einzelnen Äußerungen des Wortes steht.

07:00

Edith Hall and Classics for the People [Cum Lazaro]


The haute vulgarisation of the Classics is currently well served in the UK, and, from a very strong team, I've always rather favoured Professor Edith Hall, in part on the ground that she really does seem to care about how to bring Classics to everyone whilst herself remaining a proper scholar.

Her latest piece for the Guardian is well worth reading. But perhaps the most important part of it is not the eloquent plea for the study of the Classical World, but the claim that a key part of this is the promotion of studies of classical civilization in translations rather than an elitist focus on the study of the Ancient Greek language.

The article makes the following main claims:

a) Studying Classics is very important.
b) Studying Ancient Greece is more important than studying Ancient Rome.
c) Studying Ancient Greeks is more important than studying Ancient Greek.
d) Focusing on language rather than culture (and especially Latin language rather than Ancient Greek culture) is counterproductive and liable, especially in the State sector, to see the complete demise of any teaching of the Classical World.

Frankly, I'm torn. If the question were simply, 'Should children study ancient Greek literature and civilization in translation or have no contact with the ancient world at all?' then her argument is a bit of a no-brainer. And I think it is because she sees, for most pupils in England, certainly in bog-standard comprehensives, that to be roughly the choice, that she comes to the conclusions she does. But I'm not sure that is quite the question, and so I'm not sure hers is quite the answer.

The first thing I'd say is that this sort of dispute is a local manifestation of a wider problem: the lack of depth and quality in modern (especially secondary) education. One of my children, just embarked on a History Higher (the main Scottish exam for university entry) was bemoaning to me the lack of any option before the twentieth century. The syllabus doesn't quite support that view, but like a great many things in Scottish (and I assume elsewhere in the UK) education, the reality on the ground doesn't fit the theory: certainly my experience of history education up till now has been that it's basically Glasgow sewers in the nineteenth century and Hitler. So anything, anything which puts something odd and rich into that gray gloop is welcome, whether it's philosophy classes, Latin classes, Chinese or classical civilization. The possibility of immediate escape for at least some children is to be welcomed, and if that possibility currently exists in the form of classical civilization rather than Attic Greek, I'd grasp it with both hands.

This inspiring past of people’s Greek can help us to look forward. It is theoretically in our power as British citizens to create the curriculum we want. In my personal utopia, the ancient Greek language would be universally available free of charge to everyone who wants to learn it, at whatever age – as would, for that matter, Latin, classical civilisation, ancient history, philosophy, Anglo-Saxon, Basque, Coptic, Syriac and Hittite. But classical civilisation qualifications are the admirable, economically viable and attainable solution that has evolved organically in our state sector. Classicists who do not actively promote them will justifiably be perceived as elitist dinosaurs.

[From her article here.]

Presumably, however, her call is not just to cherish what is already there but to encourage its expansion. And it's there I'm not quite so sure. The root of the problem is what the classics are for. Professor Hall seems to (at leas at university level) emphasize the production of good citizens:

 This means engaging with literary texts fearlessly in translation plus increasing the importance of critical thinking and lowering that of language acquisition. Undergraduate degrees are supposed to produce competent citizens. Traditional classics courses are not making the most of those ancient authors on their curriculum who enhance civic as opposed to syntactical competence.

Study of Greeks is an important component of that because they uniquely (or at least at an unusually high level) embodied critical thought about what it was to be a citizen:

History, [Jefferson] proposed, is the subject that equips citizens for this. To stay free also requires comparison of constitutions, utopian thinking, fearlessness about innovation, critical, lateral and relativist thinking, advanced epistemological skills in source criticism and the ability to argue cogently. All these skills can be learned from their succinct, entertaining, original formulations and applications in the works of the Greeks.

I don't particularly want to challenge her assumption about the purposes of a humane education, although I'd rather put the emphasis on being a good human being rather than just a good citizen. And as part of that -and I suppose the turn to the historical which is part of the 2500 years or so of intellectual development since Classical Greece- I'd want to include a relativisation of that 'being a good citizen': to be a good citizen, it is necessary not just to consider what it is to be a citizen simpliciter, but an Englishman, a Scotsman, a European etc. In other words, you need to say something about the study of our history and thought since Greece. Moreover, Hall's view of Greek attitudes to citizenship is partial:

Socrates dedicated his life to proving the difference between the truth and received opinion, the unexamined life being, in his view, not worth living. No wonder Hobbes thought that reading Greek and Roman authors should be banned by any self-respecting tyrant, in Leviathan arguing that they foment revolution under the slogan of liberty, instilling in people a habit “of favouring uproars, lawlessly controlling the actions of their sovereigns, and then controlling those controllers”.

If Socrates did that, did Plato spend his life arguing that the ignorant should be subject to the wise few? Aristotle that there were natural slaves? Professor Hall has worked on the reception of Greek ideas in subsequent European history: she is well aware that they have just as often been used to justify tyrannies and hierarchies as to undermine them.

I'm am left at this point agreeing with her that classical civilisation studies is a very good thing, but not that it is a uniquely good thing. By all means, if the local situation is favourable, argue for its availability. But I'm not at all convinced that it is more important to argue for it rather than (say) Chinese or philosophy, and am equally not sure that, in fact, it will always be easier to produce students in classical civilisation than these other 'deep and interesting' subjects, even that of the Latin language.

Going back to what is ideal -what we should aim for in a slightly more idealistic way rather than scrambling to rescue whatever shards of culture we find at hand- I can't help thinking that it is the teaching of Latin that is really the crucial point. It is Latin (rather than Greek) which runs as the linguistic thread of culture throughout western history. It is Latin (rather than knowledge of Greek civilisation) which remains a charged cultural marker in our society, between those who have some Latin from a public school education, and those who have no Latin at all from a state education. It is Latin which is the language of Christendom (and thus of a whole layer of civilisation and reflective thought that encountering the Greek will leave aside).

And do we need Latin language rather than (say) a Great Books curriculum in translation? Well, we could certainly do with something like a Great Books curriculum in secondary education. But there remains, I think, something crucial about some Latin, at least for those going to something like a university level education. It is just a matter of historical fact that various civilisations have used a particular language to realise a cosmopolitan culture. By that, I mean they have used a special language to mark a culture which is not bound to the local either in time or place. (The use of Latin I think is clear enough, but the use of Sanskrit in Asia in an analogous way is addressed in Language of the Gods in the World of Men .) Now, certainly, you might wonder whether such a cosmopolitan idea is a good one, or even if having a 'designated' language is the best or only way of achieving it. I'd answer (probably) 'yes' to both questions, even if I'd struggle to articulate fully the reasons for these answers. But the very fact that such a language does exist across many different civilisations (Mandarin, Sanksrit, Arabic, Hebrew, Church Slavonic etc) should at least require a very clear answer as to why we are so sure that nothing is being lost by abandoning it.

In sum, I sympathise with Professor Hall's desire to hold onto and promote, where possible, the existence of studies in classical (Greek) civilisation in translation. But to the extent that we are mobilising our forces for a better, more ideal curriculum, I'd hold out for the wider teaching of Latin as an (almost) essential part of a proper humane education. (And if you're a Catholic, you can probably add the traditional 'and then some' onto the end of that last sentence.)


00:00

Pigeonniers on Midsummer’s Eve [Arimathea Atom Feed]

For those who follow the new calendar, I would like to wish you a pleasant Midsummer’s Eve and a lovely feast of Saint John tomorrow. Of course, you’ll celebrate the saint on the wrong day, but at least your heart is in the right place.

As I was working in the garden this morning, I noticed my first Saint John’s Wort in bloom this year (on the frondosum). I have four species of Hypericum in my yard—frondosum, prolificum, punctatum, and pyramidatum. These plants without fail bloom around Western Saint John’s Day. I laughed to myself as I thought of an ecclesial council’s anathematizing the offending species for adhering to the schismatics’ calendar (which happens to agree with the seasons). Horticultural heresy!

I read Bruce Charlton’s site today (as I often do), and followed a link in a comment to his post, “If a leader emerged who might be a saviour of the West - what kind of person might he be?” (worthwhile to read, as are most of Charlton’s offerings). The linked article concerned the birth of twin sons to the légitimiste claimant of the French throne, Louis Alphonse of Bourbon, Duke of Anjou (Louis XX), but the story is not news—the births occurred in A.D. 2010.  Still, it is a good sign. By the way, Wikipedia notes that Louis Alphonse of Bourbon is also Franco’s great-grandson through his mother—promising genes there. France and Spain may yet contribute to the salvation of the West . . . it is quite unlikely that anything good will emerge from the Anglosphere.

How do I get to pigeonniers—you may reasonably ask. When I sought information on the French pretender, I found Messynessy Chic’s “Meet the Would-be King of France (he’s Kind of a Babe).” Indeed, he is, which is what a people should want for their ideal sovereign—which reminds me of poor Grand Duke George Mikhailovich, in line as claimant to the Russian imperial throne. He looks like a mafioso’s son who eats too much pizza on Jersey boardwalks—which is quite a decline from the last reigning imperial Russian family. Those wicked Bolsheviks—their misdeeds are ever with us—may they burn, burn, burn!

Anyway, I looked around on Messynessy Chic and found several blithe blogposts, including (and especially) “The French Castles fit for a Pigeon (Literally).” “MessyNessy” writes about the stately pigeon coops found around the French countryside. They are merveilleux—and for pigeons! I always used to say that I would have handsome honeybee hives and charming chicken coops were I to come into great wealth, but now I must add another manorial luxury—a palatial pigeonnier.

Finally, as a lifelong amateur vexillologist—and because I am a contrarian who despises unprincipled opportunists, busybodying schoolmarms, mindless sheeple, and, above all, the vermicular Left, I offer a brief memorial to one of the finest Americans in history:

For those who do not know, the “Battle Flag” was originally Robert E. Lee’s battle flag for the Army of Northern Virginia (courtesy of his predecessor, P. G. T. Beauregard). I did know until today that Lee had another banner for his headquarters flag. Robert E. Lee, may his memory be eternal!

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That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
The American Catholic XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
The Badger Catholic XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
The Catholic Dormitory XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
The Catholic Thing XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
The City and the World XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
The Daily Register XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
The Deacon's Bench XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
The Divine Lamp XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
The Eponymous Flower XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
The hermeneutic of continuity XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
The Jesuit Post XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
The Josias XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
The Lepanto Institute XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
The Low Churchman's Guide to the Solemn High Mass XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
The Paraphasic XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
The Prosblogion XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
The Rad Trad XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
The Remnant Newspaper - The Remnant Newspaper - Remnant Articles XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
The Sacred Page XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
The Sensible Bond XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
The TOF Spot XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
Theological Flint XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
totaliter aliter XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
Traditional Catholic Priest XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
Transalpine Redemptorists at home XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
Unam Sanctam Catholicam XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
Unequally Yoked XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
Voice of the Family XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
Vox Cantoris XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
Vultus Christi XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
Whispers in the Loggia XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
Zippy Catholic XML 22:00, Thursday, 21 January 23:00, Thursday, 21 January
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December 2014
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December 2013
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August 2013
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April 2013
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December 2012
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June 2012
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March 2012
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February 2012
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December 2011
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July 2011
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April 2011
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March 2011
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November 2010
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August 2010
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June 2010
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January 2010
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December 2009
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November 2009
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