/ Reading Notes /
Davis, Kenneth C.
Don’t Know Much About the Bible, 2009
Very good. I’ve been reading at Davis’ About the Bible for a few years now, ever since bk gave me a kindle with several hundred books on it: including the King James Bible: and lots of books about the Bible: and about myth: lots of scholarship, Bart Ehrman preeminently. And I’d been reading Ehrman’s many titles from the library before that … and quoting Karen Armstrong, among others, at K, since 1995 …
The Bible was big in my life since childhood, and is very big again right now. Davis’ book is kin to the two volumes Isaac Asimov devoted to the Old and New Testaments that I immersed myself in decades ago, 1970ish. [I’ve got to say though, this 2013 11 29, this reading is one of the best of my life despite 75 years of wear and tear, natural and induced degenerations of hearing, sight, memory, concentration, all that tobacco and alcohol didn’t help, thanks to my landlord’s WyFi, wikipedia, and the new Mac my girl friend bought me. I read a passage, pause to look stuff up, follow the action of wikipedia maps. I was doing this yesterday through the Hebrew Writings: and I’m blazing with it today: Ephesus, Theodosius, Nicea, Anatolia … It’s especially good to be reviewing the New Testament after digesting several Bart Ehrman books over the last several years.]
Davis is very good on Job. Lots of people are good on Job. Job is what I want to talk about now. [2013 11 30 though maybe I ought to develop a post just on Job: meanwhile help yourself to the following blather.]
K. has reported for some time now that Mark Van Doren in the later 1960s wrote on a paper of mine (on the related subject of Abraham), “I think you really understand Abraham”: one of my favorite professorial comments on my work ever. Till today I sort of thought of Abraham and Job as coming in the same basket: both heroes of faith. I don’t remember what I wrote for Van Doren, but it probably displayed the damn the torpedoes attitude of my youth: God is right, no matter what!
Since 1979 (and the publication of Gregory Bateson’s Mind and Nature) my emphasis for understanding such knights of faith has concerned information, contradictory information, paradox and the double bind. My ideas about information, simmering since the 1960s, boiled up in 1999 as Macroinformation. That’s good, that ought to be enough for any thinker’s life time, but now I’m at it again, thinking something I’ve never thought before, preparing to try to share it. I’ll scribble first as a notebook and try to make ordered sense of it later.
What’s the purpose of worship?
Does natural truth need to be celebrated?
Are we in debt to nature the way some believe they’re indebted to God?
The “reason” this or that “pagan” “worshiped” this or that “god” seems clear: they wanted the god to favor them, to give them good luck, good fortune. You prayed “Give me a red bicycle for Christmas”, “Let me disembowel Goliath tomorrow, then the king will sit me at his side by the fire”, “Please give me the girl”, “Please let this baby be a boy” … No pagan prayed, “Dear God, please let me be misunderstood by everyone, let me be betrayed, scourged, crucified” … “Please let the scholarship committee pass me by, proving for ever that they’re all idiots, their injustice to me matches their injustice to … everything, proving that my assumptions of Original Sin are right”. Those attitudes, however rare, are not unknown; but they’re strictly “Christian”, are they not?
People prayed to this or that god for good luck, good fortune, wealth, leisure, prosperity … good rain, good hunting … for a long time before anyone cut anybody’s foreskin to a Yahweh. Understand, this point holds regardless of whether Tammuz or Osiris, Baal, Lilith or Yahweh exists. You throw one kid into the fiery furnace in hope of some of your kids surviving; no one kills for no benefit, not in a sustaining population: perversions like random murder, murder for the sake of perversity, die off.
OK. Now, notice: Job starts off good, pious, and prosperous: friends, family, herds and crops. He’s pious and he’s lavishly rewarded.
Now, how pious will he be if everything is taken from him? (That’s how the tempter tempts God.)
Put this in perspective: consider other gods. You capture a town, you throw the less attractive of the captured children into the furnace for Moloch. If Moloch says, “Eat shit and die” to all of you, you the conquerors as well as them the conquered, who’s going to bother to throw any kids into the fire?
And consider other cultures: the Chinese throw superfluous girl babies into the river, into the fire, why not? But not all the girls, and certainly not your best boys.
Also notice, in conversation with Job, God challenges Job to verbally re-engineer how God made the world. Notice, we believe characters in fiction, at least for the moment of the fiction. Thus, “Job” seems real to us: and so does “God”! and so does God’s “creation”!!! There’s no question, at least while reading Job, at least for many a reader, that the earth was created, didn’t occur naturally, and that the magician who created it, was God: and further, that we owe the Creator admiration, faith, loyalty …
god, what a mess, a better draft will follow.
God’s challenge seems unanswerable. But what if Job counterattacks with accusations of megalomania? If the world wasn’t created but came about naturally what does it matter
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid the cornerstone
when the morning stars sang together
Ugh, that’s not what I mean yet, but I’ll work further. I’m trying to get to some points, new from me, about the nature of ideas about God: Who, what, where, why …?
2013 12 13 Just my cup of tea: Davis quotes Stephen, the “first” martyr: “God, the “Most High,” did not live in houses made by human hands”. Just what I’m saying, perpetually: and I get stoned too, though not yet so fatally that I no longer breathe; stoned enough though that I can barely function, and that without effect.
so many more things to say, if only I could get to everything.
2013 12 18 Finished the book last night, only the appendixes still to root around it: a forever task, god bless it.
The Acts of the Apostles
I loved being reminded of the book of Acts, a book which was of the utmost importance to me in Sunday School but which I hadn’t read since! When I was ten or so the efforts some Christian made to share communally struck me as utterly implicit in the Gospels, in the Sermon on the Mount. Now I’m inclined to see it all as gibberish, contradictory data being twisted this way and that by people with preexisting agendas: preexisting but nevertheless evolving: evolution not necessarily positive, progressive, improving.
I’ll develop a new post to develop that thought, Commie Christians, and to tie a few things together.