Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 2:35 PM
Gregory Beale notes in The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God that the verb used in Genesis 2:15 for “put” is not the expected sim, but the rather rarer yanach, which bears some relation to the verb nacham, which describes the rest which Noah brought to the world (Genesis 5:29).
It’s a truism that Noah is a new Adam, but it also seems that Adam was the first Noah. Adam, the first man, is at rest from the outset. He begins in rest, only to lose it, so that it could be recovered by Noah, the new Adam.
Sunday, May 12, 2013, 6:34 PM
Mark Mazetti’s The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth explains that Obama’s expansion of drone war is linked with his opposition to black sites and Bushian enhanced interrogation. The TNR reviewer writes:
“To John Rizzo, the carryover general counsel at the CIA, the new administration chose targeted killing because that was ‘all that was left’ once it eliminated the interrogation option. Mazzetti puts the point in political terms. The’political conditions were set for an escalation of the secret wars,’ he maintains, because interrogation and detention were so controversial, and because no prominent Democrat had opposed drone strikes and the Republicans wouldn’t oppose Obama ‘for fighting too aggressive a campaign against terrorists.’ And so Barack Obama greatly expanded the secret war that George W. Bush began.”
Sunday, May 12, 2013, 6:22 PM
In a review of several recent works on Hegel, Robert Pippin suggests that “the greatest Hegelian promise is a way of understanding what have seemed intractable dualisms and antinomies in modern thought and in modern life, while still doing justice to the claims of both sides of the dualism: claims we find difficult to reject and impossible to reconcile. Much of Hegel’s idealism, and his emphasis on his ‘logic,’ could be summarized as the claim that we seem stuck with such dualisms because of the way we think about them. If we could figure out how to think them through properly, the tension in the dualisms could be alleviated and a ‘reconciled’ position would be possible. Second, Hegel promises to help us think about a feature of modern self-understanding that seems impossible to reject, but also seems to lead to unacceptable implications: our awareness that we are profoundly historical beings.” In a broader sense, he aimed to reconcile the tension “between nature on the one hand, and humanmindedness in thought and action on the other (what he called Geist: spirit).”
He also points to the links between Hegel’s theory of action and his teleological understanding of meaning and being: “Hegel has an ‘expressivist’ theory of action: one wherein motivations and intentions are understood as expressed in, or realized by, bodily movements, rather than being the causes of those movements. This means that for Hegel, the content of the action and the proper determination of intention are only accessible interpretively after the fact.”
Sunday, May 12, 2013, 5:54 PM
In his TNR review of Jonathan Sperber’s widely reviewed Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life, Peter Gordon includes some illuminating contemporary portraits, and self-portraits, of Marx’s life and thought.
After first reading Hegel, he wrote this ecstatic account to his father: “A curtain had fallen. . . . [I] ran like mad in the garden on the filthy water of the Spree … ran to Berlin and wanted to embrace every day laborer standing on street corners.”
His father responded by describing his son’s hopeless devotion to useless theorizing: Karl had given himself to “disorderliness, dull floating around in all areas of knowledge, dull meditation in front of a darkling oil lamp; running wild in the scholars’ night-gown and with uncombed hair. . . . And here, in this workshop of senseless and purposeless learnedness, this is where the crop will ripen, that will nourish you and your beloved, the harvest will be gathered that will serve to fulfill your sacred obligations?”
A Prussian spy wrote in 1852 about the Marx’s living condition: “As father and husband, Marx, in spite of his wild and restless character, is the gentlest and mildest of men. Marx lives in one of the worst, therefore one of the cheapest, quarters of London. He occupies two rooms…. In the middle of the salon there is a large old-fashioned table covered with an oilcloth, and on it there lie manuscripts, books and newspapers, as well as the children’s toys, the rags and tatters of his wife’s sewing basket, several cups with broken rims, knives, forks, lamps, an inkpot, tumblers, Dutch clay pipes, tobacco ash—in a word, everything topsy-turvy, and all on the same table…. Here is a chair with only three legs, on another chair the children are playing at cooking—this chair happens to have four legs. This is the one which is offered to the visitor but the children’s cooking has not been wiped away; and if you sit down, you risk a pair of trousers.”
Sunday, May 12, 2013, 5:30 PM
I offer a critique of anti-supercessionism at the Trinity House site.
Friday, May 10, 2013, 4:04 AM
The story of Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus is recounted several times in Acts: First when the event happens (ch. 9), and then twice retold by Paul, once before Jews and once before Agrippa and Festus (chs. 22, 26).
In the final retelling, Paul quotes Jesus’ words: “I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you” (26:16). What do these categories of witness refer to? “What you have seen” refers specifically to the appearance of Jesus near Damascus, which constitutes proof that Jesus was risen from the dead.
But in addition to this dramatic appearance, Jesus promises to appear to Paul in the future. When did that happen? Verse 17 explains: “delivering you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you.” Every escape from Jewish or Gentile enemies was another appearance of Jesus, and became another saving event to which Paul was a witness.
Paul then had to suffer persecution in order to have something to preach about. He had to be afflicted so he could be a “minister and a witness” to Jesus’ repeated advents, so he could testify that God had fulfilled the promise to the fathers that we, being delivered from fear of our enemies, might serve him without fear. Like David, if he were not attacked, he wouldn’t have anything to sing about.
Friday, May 10, 2013, 3:37 AM
I argue that cultural conservatives can’t address the crisis in the family without being willing to pose uncomfortable questions about our economic, political, and technological way of life at firstthings.com this morning.
Thursday, May 9, 2013, 5:44 PM
Apringius (Latin Commentaries on Revelation (Ancient Christian Texts), 43) follows a common tradition in interpreting the scroll in Revelation 5 as the Old Testament, once sealed and concealed and now revealed by the Lamb. On this interpretation, the seals of the book represent moments in the life of Jesus: ”The seven seals are these: First, incarnation; second, birth; third, passion; fourth, death; fifth, resurrection; sixth, glory; seventh, kingdom. These seals, therefore, are Christ.”
As William Weinrich explains in his translator’s introduction, this interpretation reflected rites in the Mozarabic liturgy: “Upon recital of the Nicene Creed the priest took the largest host which is consecrated and broke it into two pieces. From one piece he further broke the host into five pieces and from the other part into four, arranging them on the paten in the form of a cross.” Each piece corresponded to a moment in the life of Jesus,and the rite was intended “to teach the faithful concerning the mystery of the Faith in which they participated when partaking of the Supper of the Risen Christ” (xxxi).
Thursday, May 9, 2013, 5:37 PM
Apringius Latin Commentaries on Revelation (Ancient Christian Texts), 25-6) offers a fascinating numerological interpretation of Jesus’ declaration that He is Alpha and Omega. The numerical value of Omega is 800, and so is the Greek word peristera, “dove.” Alpha adds a 1 to this, and thus Jesus’ self-description indicates “the deity of the Holy Spirit [dove] in the unity of the Trinity.”
The shape of the Greek Omega and the Latin “o” also bear theological weight: “In Greek, the Omega is written with three curved marks that lie along the bottom and in part are raised. In the Latin, the letter is closed in the roundness of a circle. Now, both in this enclosure of the circle and in that raising of what lies at the bottom, that divinity is declared that contains and protects all things.”
Their position in the alphabet is also significant: Omega comes at the end of the Greek alphabet, “O” in the middle of the Latin, and these together indicate that Jesus, identified with Alpha and Omega, is “himself the beginning and the end and the middle of wisdom.”
Thursday, May 9, 2013, 5:29 PM
From Irenaeus on, the vast majority of patristic and medieval commentators have claimed that Revelation was written during the reign of Domitian in the mid-90s AD. There have been a few dissidents, the most famous of which was Epiphanius of Salamis (fifth century), who may reflect an independent tradition in saying that John wrote the book during the reign of Claudius in the 40s.
The long-forgotten Apringius of Beja is another. He writes (Latin Commentaries on Revelation (Ancient Christian Texts), 26): “The ecclesiastical writers have taught that at the time of Claaudius Caesar, when that famine that the prophet Agabus had announced in the Acts of the Apostles would come in ten years was at its height, that during that difficulty this same Caesar, impelled by his usual vanity, had instituted a persecution of the churches. It was during this time that he ordered John, the apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ, to be transported into exile, and he was taken to the island of Patmos, and while there he confirm this writing.” He seems to be referring to the expulsion of Christians from Rome that Suetonius refers to.
That dating is hard to square with the way Revelation 17 speaks about the kings who have been, are, and will be. Yet Apringius does provide evidence that Irenaean dating is not altogether uncontested.
Thursday, May 9, 2013, 5:18 PM
Julianus Pomerius, who directed a school in sixth-century Gaul, emphasized straightforward, unadorned preaching. “A teacher of the Church should not parade an elaborate style,” he writes in his The Contemplative Life, ”lest he seem not to want to edify the Church of God but to reveal what great learning he possesses.” It is not “the glitter of his words” that distinguishes a preacher but “the virtue of his deeds.”
Caesarius was one of his devoted students, and learned the lesson about the rhetoric of preaching well. According to William Klingshirn (Caesarius of Arles: The Making of a Christian Community in Late Antique Gaul), the issue was status: “It was the social meaning of rhetoric in late Roman Gaul that gave the [simple] standard its novelty and importance. The spoken word not only communicated information, but also defined social rank. The ability to compose and deliver complex an elegant speeches required many years of education and great expense to perfect. Because this skill was generally available only to members of the aristocracy, it served as a mark of aristocratic birth and carried with it a series of powerful associations. The refined speech of an aristocrat was calculated to reinforce feelings of solidarity with his peers, evoke a sense of deference in his inferiors, and demonstrate to everyone his knowledge and capacity for leadership. Thus, bishops who addressed their congregations in the highly ornate style . . . did so not to confuse their congregations but to establish their credentials as aristocrats, to reinforce their authority as leaders, and to demonstrate their status as spiritual experts.”
Preaching can reinforce or subvert the Pauline declaration that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free.”
Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 2:27 PM
With my views on baptism again subject to scrutiny, I take a moment to summarize what I’ve written on the subject. There is nothing new here. It is what I wrote in my dissertation, The Priesthood of the Plebs: A Theology of Baptism, in my book, The Baptized Body, and it is the assumed theology of baptism behind my various incidental writings on the topic.
First, we should take the Bible’s statements about baptism as statements about baptism. Through Paul, God says that those who have been baptized are dead and buried with Christ (Romans 6:4) and that as many as have been baptized into Christ are clothed in Christ (Galatians 3:28-29). By analogy with the exodus, Paul implies that those who are baptized are rescued from Egypt and baptized into Christ, the new Moses (1 Corinthians 10:1-4). Peter tells his hearers at Pentecost to repent and be baptized “for the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38) and says “baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21). We can choose to disbelieve these things, or explain them away, but that’s what these texts say. I submit that we should believe what God has to say on the subject of baptism. That’s the starting point. When the Bible speaks about baptism, it is speaking about the rite of baptism; and what it says is true.
But how can we say this? We know that not everyone who is baptized is saved. We know that not all baptized people even profess to believe. The New Testament speaks this way about baptism, I have argued, because of what it teaches concerning the church.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 5:05 AM
As Stephen recounts the history of Israel to his persecutors, he refers in passing to several chronological details. Abraham’s descendants were slaves for 400 years (Acts 7:6), God appeared to Moses after 40 years of sojourn in Midian (7:30), and another 40 years passed with Israel in the wilderness (7:36). Stephen thus highlights the parallel, already evident in Exodus, between the experience of Moses and that of Israel, the 40 years of the “head” recapitulated in the 40 years of the “body.”
Paul repeats some of the same chronological details in his first sermon in Acts 13. Yahweh bore the grumbling of Israel for 40 years (13:18) and there were 450 years between the promise to Abraham and the entry into the land (13:19). Paul adds that Saul reigned for 40 years (13:21).
One effect of this repetition is to link Stephen and Paul, the first martyr and the former persecutor who would eventually be a martyr. Another effect is to highlight the significance of 40-year periods, which suggests a link between the apostolic generation and the wilderness generation. Whatever the intentions, the fact that chronology is part of the apostolic proclamation is not insignificant.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 4:53 AM
In a 2006 article in Studies in Philology, Sean Benson explores Shakespeare’s use of hawking imagery in romantic relations. Shakespeare “employs the gendered discourse of hawking language in order to make the interspecific leap from the falconer’s training of his female hawk to a husband’s training of his wife. Beginning with The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare uses hawking metaphors to suggest that a husband tame his haggardlike wife as a falconer would his bird. What allows such a leap is the language the falconry manuals use to describe the training of a hawk and in particular their recommendation that falconers cultivate a loving relationship with their birds, one whose intimacy implicitly draws upon the language of marital love.” Hawking, like marriage, involves an asymmetrical union of wills.
But Shakespeare inverts the standard gendered use of the imagery. Benson examines “Shakespeare’s decadelong engagement with wife taming by means of hawking language and his increasing tendency, between 1592 and 1604, to experiment with shifting the normative gender roles of falconer and hawk. Even as early as Romeo and Juliet, there is some gender slippage: Juliet is both tamer and, at certain moments, would-be tamed woman. Only in Othello,a play that has received scant attention for its hawking metaphors, does Shakespeare’s exploration of hawking language reach its culmination. Othello and Desdemona vie with one another for the right to tame the other, only to have Shakespeare point out, as he had hinted in the much earlier The Taming of the Shrew, that the interspecific leap from training hawks to training one’s wife is finally incompatible with human dignity.”
Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 4:32 AM
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Milbank further argues that gay marriage is not about gay rights per se but instead about the modern state’s continuing expansion of its power and persistent elimination of all rivals. As he says, legalization of gay marriage “would end public recognition of the importance of marriage as a union of sexual difference. But the joining together and harmonisation of the asymmetrical perspectives of the two sexes are crucial both to kinship relations over time and to social peace.”
This union of difference “has always been the very ‘grammar’ of social relating as such. The abandonment of this grammar would thus imply a society no longer primarily constituted by extended kinship, but rather by state control and merely monetary exchange and reproduction.” From this angle, the push for gay marriage appears as “a strategic move in the modern state’s drive to assume direct control over the reproduction of the population, bypassing our interpersonal encounters. This is not about natural justice, but the desire on the part of biopolitical tyranny to destroy marriage and the family as the most fundamental mediating social institution.”
He acknowledges that these lines have already been crossed with the allowance of sperm donation and surrogate motherhood, both of which invite “psychological confusion, family division and social conflict.” Britain (and America too) has “sleep-walked into the legalisation of practices whose logic and implications have never been seriously debated.”
Milbank suggests that the church’s best response may be to take marriage more fully into the church: “ in order to safeguard the churches from pressures to conform to the norm, we should now welcome a withdrawal from the churches of their rights as a civil marriage broker. This would leave the churches free, in their turn, to claim that only natural and sacramental marriage are genuinely ‘marriage,’ while state marriage is mere civil union. They could trump secularisation by declaring that the era of civil marriage had been a failed experiment.” Instead of ceding marriage and reproduction to the state, the church might have an opportunity to affirm and bolster the mediating institution of marriage and family.
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