Monday, 30 October 2006
Posted by Ben C. Blackwell under General
This weekend I attempted to start a cell phone contract after hearing from another American that he got one without any trouble. Pay-as-you-go phones don’t require any authorization, but I’d have to pay full price (£220+) for the phone I wanted. After making 3 trips, then working over the web, and calling the help line, I was finally able on my 4th trip to the T-Mobile store to walk away with a new phone and a contract. The trouble spawns from having no credit history in the UK. (I’m not sure how my friend fell through the cracks and got not hassles since he has less ID than me!) Anyhow, I’m now the proud owner of a T-Mobile MDA Vario.
I played around with it most of the day and, of course, got nothing productive done! Besides not having a cell phone, I am beginning to get tired of lugging around a laptop everywhere. It would be much more easy to carry a PDA (with Pocket Word) and a Bluetooth keyboard. Plus I hope to use it for German flashcards as I did for GRE and Greek words with Southpaw’s Palm version.
Update (July 2007): The phone’s been doing great. I’d definitely get it again. I even accidentally briefly soaked it in some water. I let it dry out over night and no problems. I would say the only drawbacks are the weight–not to bad but more than I want sometimes–and dialing numbers–which I don’t do that often b/c I usually just use my contacts. Dialing isn’t hard but it’s just a little awkward on the touch screen.
Monday, 30 October 2006
Posted by Ben C. Blackwell under Languages
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die Uhr — clock
Hast du die Uhren umgestellt? — Did you change the clocks?
Thursday, 26 October 2006
In Adolf Deissmann’s Paul: A Study in Social and Religious History (2nd ed.), he gives a general summary of Paul’s religion and ministry. His main thesis is that Paul experienced a Christ-intimacy or Christ-mysticism that drove his ministry. As such he was not a great theologian that presented a systematized thought, but a man with a deep religious experience that drove everything.
Deissmann begins with the argument that Paul is primarily a religious person, that he is more interested in Christ than christology, based on the nature of his letters. He did not intend on them to be published widely as a formal “epistle” (e.g., James), but he wrote them as personal “letters”, dictated to personal recipients. Although, Romans approaches the “epistle” type of writing, and since many consider it to be the key letter of Paul, they throw all his other letters under that rubric. Regarding the specific letters Deissmann has only a few questions about the pastorals and none about the others, and he quotes all 13 without comment throughout the book.
Deissmann took several trips throughout the Mediterranean area and this is clearly reflected in his book. He describes the landscape and geography quite often in order to help the reader understand Paul’s setting. Paul himself was somewhere between the lower (as a tent maker) and middle classes (as a Roman citizen). The nature of his ministry, focusing on the major towns of the Aegean, shows him to be cosmopolitan in nature and a good speaker. Although, he existed in relative obscurity to those outside the church, much in contrast to Philo, for instance. As a Jew, Paul was raised in the Synagogue reading the Septuagint. Deissmann brings the Law issue back to Paul’s childhood, trying to draw the picture of Paul being harassed by the Law from then, which highly influenced his becoming a Pharisee to master it. That seemed like a bit of over-speculation. Though, he points out that Paul clearly held to his Jewish worldview after conversion–e.g., he still marked time by the Jewish feasts, held an us/them attitude towards Gentiles, and highly relied on the Septuagint.
Deissmann goes on to speak of the nature of religious experience and to respond to the critics of the first edition of this work. Namely, he has a very broad view of the concept of “cult”, basically any religious experience or dependence on diety, versus “cultus”, which is organized worship. He applies the term Christ-cult to Paul, but the rest of the thesis doesn’t hang on that one definition.
A summary of Paul’s religion is this: Christ in Paul, Paul in Christ. He is a christological thinker, but above all a Christ-bearer, or one who’s life is driven by the Christ-experience. Paul views Christ in the traditional Jewish perspective of the transcendent and exalted Son of God who is coming in judgment. But even more central to Paul’s faith is the Hellenistic-mystical view of Christ, the immanent and living, spiritual Christ who is Pneuma. The means to communion with God through Christ is not the sacraments, which don’t cause the communion but are outward expressions of it.
The core explanation of Paul’s motivation comes in chapter 6 when Deissmann discusses the nature of Paul’s mysticism. He makes a couple of quick affirmations that the mysticism is primarily Hellenistic in its origin through the Septuagint, but he also footnotes work of Reizenstein on the mystery religions as well. However, this is not a Neo-platonic deification mysticism–oneness with the deity, as this is too narrow. He holds a more general definition of the term: it is “every religious tendency that discovers the way to God direct through inner experience without the mediation of reasoning. This constitutive element in mysticism is immediacy of contact with the deity” (149).
He gives two ways to anlyze mysticism with two poles for each: 1) who takes the inititive and 2) what is the aim. In regards to initiative, one can be active or reactive. The active is characterized as anabatic, performance driven, or man to God; while the reactive is characterized as catabatic, grace driven, or God to man. While Paul’s religion was reactive (which Deissmann repeatedly relates to the Damascus experience), later Christianity has become active. The other pole of mysticism is the aim or intent of unio or communio. Unio is characterized by oneness with God, loss of human personality, transformation into the deity, participation in the deity, ego-centric, aesthetic intoxication, and denying personality. On the other hand, communio is characterized by fellowship with God, sanctification of human personality through the presence of God, conformation of the human towards the divine, prostration before the deity, Theo-centric, ethical enthusiasm, and affirming personality. With such loaded terminology, it was clear that Deissmann saw Paul as a communiomystic. As a reacting and communio-mystic, Paul viewed Christ-intimacy as experience and confirmation of God-intimacy. One was not deified, but “transformed by God, he became spiritual and he was one whom Christ possessed and a Christ-bearer” (153).
Deissmann was an accomplished paprolygist and grammarian, so much of his argumentation comes from his analysis of Paul’s letters linguistically. He particularly focuses on the “in Christ” statements in Paul, but he also focuses on statements like the “faith of Christ”, which he termed a ‘mystical genitive’ or ‘genitive of fellowship’. In a related vein, he describes five major metaphors of salvation in Paul: justification, reconciliation, forgiveness, redemption, and adoption. These all are relational statements about man standing before God (interestingly, all in legal terminology) as an accused person, an enemy, a debtor, a slave, and as a slave/orphan. In all these the Living Christ is the means to rectifying our problem.
Deissmann does spend a little time on Paul’s theology (proper) and his christology as such, but with much qualification. For his theology of God, he says that Paul and Jesus have the same view of the majestic Lord over heaven and earth who demands are infinite but who also is a loving Father showing mercy on sinners. As to Christ, he presents him as the Crucified and Living One. Interestingly, Deissmann doesn’t use the term “resurrection” much, but focuses on the “living” nature of Christ. To conclude his work he speaks of how ethics based on the “love of Christ” and eschatological hope “the hope of Christ” also play a part in Paul’s thought. He says eschatology is not just an appendage to Paul’s thought, but with its scant attention in Deissmann’s work, you wouldn’t interpret it otherwise.
Deissmann with his very strong emphasis on Paul’s religious experience, does give a valid critique against those who stalely divide up his christology without truly understanding what is driving his categories. However, I was left wanting more of a structure to his thought on Paul. In a way Deissmann used the mystical trump card that we can’t systematize this because Paul didn’t. Ultimately, Deissmann hit on the major areas of Paul’s thought, but I was still a little unsure how the Christ mysticism drove all those points.
Also, regarding the mysticism analysis, I think he offered some good categories for analyzing things. However, I wish he would have spent more time providing exegetical proof for his choice of communio-mysticism for Paul. Although, he provides clear statements about what they mean, he doesn’t provide much evidence for his conclusions.
Even though I agree with his general argument that Paul was a Christ-mystic, I think Deissmann was weak in presenting the details at certain (key) points. He footnoted lots of works, but this doesn’t carry an argument. In some places he seems simplistic (e.g., the authorship of Paul’s letters. I’m pro Paul actually writing them, but Deissmann seems to flippantly pronounce that there aren’t really that difficult of issues to deal with.), and I think this is reflected in several areas where he sometimes over generalizes conclusions.
Deissmann’s work is helpful in that it does address a core issue with Paul. He also provides a helpful appendix that provides some diagrams which help the reader to conceptualize some of his thoughts around Paul’s mysticism.
Wednesday, 25 October 2006
Posted by Ben C. Blackwell under Languages
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gemeinsam — together
Gemeinsam sind wir stark. — Together we are strong.
Monday, 23 October 2006
Posted by Ben C. Blackwell under Philosophy & Religion
In Plato’s The Symposium, Socrates and a handful of others after attending a dinner party decide to give a panegyric to Love (that is, to give speeches on the excellence of the god of Love). Several of the examples in this dialogue relate to homosexual-type love, men and young boys; however, the ultimate stated goal is not to seek these relationships for physical desires but to ascend beyond these desires to reach the highest goal of understanding ultimate beauty and goodness.
Phaedrus begins and notes that Love is one of the the oldest gods, and if all were moved by his power, society would be great because the lover always takes care of the beloved. Pausanias then makes a distinction between two Loves that are joined with the two Aphrodites (Heavenly A. and Common A.). The common Love cares only for meeting bodily desires, while the Heavenly Love searches for the excellence of the soul. So relationships with boys are okay if they are for the mutual attainment of excellence and not just from physical desire or greed. Next, Eryximachus, a doctor, speaks of love being the source of harmony in life, whether in a healthy body (balance of the elements–hot-cold, wet-dry, etc.) or music (balance of the notes) or other.
Aristophanes then gives the background of why people are attracted to one another. At the creation of humanity there were 3 types of people–males, females and hermaphrodites. They were circular in form with double the amount of appendages of current humans, having 4 legs, 4 arms, 2 heads, etc. These beings made the gods angry so Zeus decided to split them in half, with the belly button being where the extra skin was sown together. The males were made two males, the females, two females, and the hermaphrodites a male and female. As such they longed to be joined together again. The male-males became homosexuals, the female-females became lesbians, and the hermaphrodites became heterosexual. There is a comment regarding attraction to young boys that seems to make the male-males at the top of those three groups. Those who form life-long partnerships are those that have found their other half, and they desire nothing but to become again and remain one flesh in this life and in the next.
Agathon, a poet and the host of the party, speaks next about the nature of Love then his gifts. Rather than being ancient, Love is of the youngest gods because he rests so easily on the young flees before old age. Agathon goes on to explain Love’s sensitivity, suppleness, goodness, self-control, courage, and beauty. He is the source of all kinship and relationship.
Socrates chides the others for attributing everything good to love whether it applies or not. He then takes Agathon through a quick dialogue to develop these points: Love exists only in relation to some object (e.g., “Father” to child) and that the object must be something of which he is a present lacking. He then applies it against Agathon who said Love loves beauty and goodness. For if Love loves something then he lacks it, so Love lacks beauty and goodness. This being so Love cannot be a god because all gods possess these traits. Accordingly, love is a spirit half-god and half-man, who serves as an intermediary between gods and men. He was begotten as the son of Poverty and Contrivance on Aphrodite’s birthday. From Poverty he is lacking, but from Contrivance he is always seeking. One must not confuse Love with Love’s object.
The only object of men’s love is what is good (because they do not truly desire what is harmful to themselves). Accordingly, love is the desire for perpetual (therefore, immortal) possession of the good. The function of this love is procreation in what is beautiful, whether physical or spiritual. When procreating one touches on divine beauty and is endowed with a touch of immortality. (E.g., animals protect their procreation because the young are their piece of immortality.) Immortal spiritual children are the work of the wise (e.g., Homer’s poetry).
The process of attaining to the highest goal is this: start observing beauty from the sensible world and use these examples as steps to ascend continually with that absolute beauty as one’s aim–from physical beauty to moral beauty to beauty of knowledge to supreme knowledge of absolute beauty. Young boys seem to be the model of physical beauty so focus first upon them to find the step to moral beauty. If men find ecstasy in mere reflections of beauty in gold or boys, how much more in beauty itself. He concludes his speech with this: “Do you think that it will be a poor life that a man leads who has his gaze fixed in that direction, who contemplates absolute beauty with the appropriate faculty and is in constant union with it? Do you not see that in that region alone where he sees beauty with the faculty capable of seeing it, will he be able to bring forth not mere reflected images of goodness but true goodness, because he will be in contact not with a reflection but with truth? And having brought forth and nurtured true goodness he will have the privilege of being beloved of God, and becoming, if ever a man can, immortal himself.” (212c ff.)
Alcibiades comes late to the party, already drunk, and will not speak about love but only about Socrates, but really he is explaining his desire for Socrates. He tells of how Socrates’ orations enrapture him and of Socrates’ high character. He then tells of how he tried to engage Socrates in (what seems to me) a homosexual relationship, but was rebuffed at each step by Socrates. [It seems that this desire is a foil for the true enlightened relationship that Socrates sees as proper.] He also notes several of Socrates’ exploits in battles.
Since this is partially in narrative form it is a little hard to know what Plato wants us to do with the speeches before Socrates, but after talking to a friend here that’s been working through these texts, he commented that we should use the advice of Socrates to understand the ones before him. That is, consider the lower, incomplete forms of love, beauty, and goodness and use those as stepping stones for higher understanding. So the earlier discussions give us ideas about the nature of love and relationships although they are not wholly complete or accurate. I’m exactly sure what to do with the spheroid people who are divided up, but it is an interesting insight into sexual preference.
Ultimately, the goal my professor had in having us read this was to capture Plato’s concern with how people are to ascend above this world to the absolute. It is through consideration of those things that have the absolute within them and to ascend your thoughts ever higher to the untainted vision of beauty. I can see how later theologians took to this model of understanding. I believe it is quite common in the Greek tradition.
Thursday, 19 October 2006
Rudolph Bultmann focuses on Paul and his theology in the second half of volume 1 in his Theology of the New Testament. He summarizes his understanding of Paul in this manner: “Standing within the frame of Hellenistic Christianity he raised the theological motifs that were at work in the proclamation of the Hellenistic Church to the clarity of theological thinking; he called to attention the problems latent in the Hellenistic proclamation and brought them to a decision; and thus—so far as our sources permit an opinion on the matter—became the founder of Christian theology” (187). In this way, Bultmann sees a distinct separation between Jesus the eschatological prophet and Paul the Hellenizing theologian.
In his analysis of Paul Bultmann’s lense is solely anthropological. He has two main sections in his summary Man Before Faith and Man Under Faith.
Man Before Faith
In this section Bultmann first gives the anthropology of all people. Much of his methodology in this section is based on extended word studies, and reaches fairly traditional conclusions. Speaking of the internal unity of the person, each one does not just have a soma (body) but is a soma. However, he goes on to point out that the psyche, pneuma, nous, and heart reflect the inner self where the seat of choice, intention, and desire acts. He goes on to discuss the moral failings of humanity and how all live under the power and sphere of sin and the flesh. The result is that people experience both the juristic punishment of death, but death is also an organic “fruit” or outcome of sin. That is, the problem is both guilt and mortality, in addition to the inability of the Law to deal with this.
Man Under Faith
For those under faith Bultmann (following in his methodology of doing word studies) begins by discussing “righteousness” as the Jewish eschatological pronouncement of right relationship at the judgment. However, with the advent of Christ, righteousness is now a present reality experienced by believers, and it is in Romans 5-8 that Paul shows the Jews how an eschatological righteousness can be seen as present.
Bultmann then moves on to the concept of grace and the salvation-occurrence of Christ. Just as God’s wrath is active and eschatological, so his grace must also be and it is found in the death-and-resurrection of Christ and our experience of it. He lays out metaphors/explanations of this salvation-event in Paul’s understanding:
- Propitiatory sacrifice – juristic (but meaning of resurrection is not highlighted pg. 300)
- Vicarious sacrifice – instead of us, in place of us – very similar to propitiatory
- Redemption – redeemed, ransomed – freedom from punishment/guilt of sin but also powers of the Age
- Participation into death of divinity through sacraments – like Mystery Religions
- Participation into incarnation-death-resurrection/exaltation – like Gnostics
It is this last category that Bultmann focuses after this point. Since the incarnation and resurrection didn’t historically happen, believers are joining in the cosmic relationship with the cosmic Gnostic Redeemer by faith, which is a self-surrender, an utter reversal of one’s previous self-understanding. This process is appropriated to the individual through the proclamation of the word. Bultmann explains: “The union of believers in one soma with Christ now has its basis not in their sharing the same supernatural substance, but in the fact that the in the word of proclamation of Christ’s death-and-resurrection becomes a possibility of existence in regard to which a decision must be made, in the fact that faith seizes this possibility and appropriates it as the power that determines the existence of the man of faith” (302). By entering into this cosmic union, the eschatological event is replayed in individual lives–it it the eschatological Now found in the proclamation of the word and sacraments.
In regards to being ‘in Christ’ Bultmann goes on to explain: “Christian experience can be called existence ‘in Christ’: ‘for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal. 3.28). To belong to the Christian Church is to be ‘in Christ’ or ‘in the Lord’…. ‘In Christ,’ far from being a formula for mystic union, is primarily an ecclesiological formula” (311). [In my opinion, Bultmann is led to this point because there is no historical reality in Jesus after his death. It is just in the proclamation of the word that a reality of this cosmic-mythical event is realized. So how could he endorse a real union between humanity and Christ other than in name alone?] Being ‘in Christ’ for Bultmann is not just ecclesiological but also eschatological and a life determined by Christ in one’s daily walk. The result of this cosmic union is a freedom from the flesh, the Law, and death and a freedom to walk in the spirit. [The spirit doesn't seem to be the third person of the Trinity but just a "miraculous power" and "the norm of life".]
Bultmann builds his theology of Paul based on the idea that the Hellenistic church has incorporated Gnostic ideas and terminology into their theology. However, he also states that Gnosticism was also seen as a competitor of the “most serious and dangerous sort” (165). Why then would they draw so much from something that they so disagreed with? Also, in many instances Bultmann clearly distinguishes the Christian meaning from that of Gnosticism. It seems that since Bultmann doesn’t see the incarnation-death-resurrection event as historical, he must find a way to allow Paul to use this as the basis for his theology. And for that purpose the cosmic Gnostic redeemer works well.
I am a little confused on what Bultmann thinks is the primary salvation metaphor. He begins his discussion of the Man Under Faith with righteousness of the propitiatory type, much in the fashion of Romans. But later, after he lays out the range of metaphors in Paul, Bultmann seems to pick up the participation in the Gnostic death-resurrection metaphor. His system of thought seems to fall more with the latter, but he gave the priority to righteousness in his discussion (by place). I suppose this his part of my question for my thesis as well. How do justification and participation fit together, and is there a priority?
Bultmann follows (what seems to me) a Barthian emphasis on meeting Christ in the preached word. However, this doesn’t seem to be that primary in Paul, but from Bulmann’s need to translate this mythical doctrine. Again since there is no actual historical incarnation or resurrection, the historical becomes proclamation of the cosmic event. This is turn produces an overemphasis on anthropology.
Accordingly, Bultmann makes use of the term/concept of eschatology, but to him it seems almost fully realized and personal versus more of a tension of already/not yet and corporate. He redefines eschatological to be cosmic event in present time—the “eschatological Now”. With each proclamation/faith occurrence in an individual, the eschatological event occurs again. He concedes a future completion/confirmation so it is a matter of emphasis. But possibly I am assuming too much as “not yet”, and that Paul really did think more was realized now than I giving him credit for.
Thursday, 19 October 2006
Posted by Ben C. Blackwell under Languages
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gewöhnt — used to
Ich bin das gewöhnt. — I’m used to that.
Wednesday, 18 October 2006
Posted by Ben C. Blackwell under Languages
der Gewohnheitsmensch — creature of habit
Ich bin ein Gewohnheitsmensch. — I am a creature of habit.
Tuesday, 17 October 2006
Posted by Ben C. Blackwell under Jesus and the Gospels
I read the Gospel of Thomas for the first time for our NT Seminar yesterday. Simon Gathercole came down and read a paper on the Christology of Thomas. A little background in case you aren’t familiar with it… It is a collection of 114 sayings (so a relatively quick read) of Jesus that dates from some time in the 2nd century. It’s genre would be similar to the proposed Q document. I believe scholars had about 20% of the manuscript in Greek from the 19th c., but the full Coptic text was discovered along with the Nag Hummadi manuscripts in the middle of the 20th c. While at first the Gospel was considered fully Gnostic, Simon said today the consensus is more that it definitely has Gnostic tendencies but does not reflect full-blown Gnostic tendencies, that is, an incipient or proto-Gnosticism.
I was struck by the fact that quite a few of the sayings have direct overlaps with the Synoptic Gospels or parallel sayings. The difficulty for me was to find a flow in the sayings. There is no narrative, except for a periodic small story within one of the sayings, so it harder to see the connection between the sayings, other than by repeated themes.
It was mentioned that Gnosticism was really primarily a system developed to explain the occurence of evil in the world. When discussing the Gnosticness of the Gospel, Simon mentioned that the basic criteria that he had for calling a writing Gnostic was the existence of a demiurge and a conception of evil creation, which Thomas has nothing of the kind. However, he also said this may be a different genre, so that may not need to show up here. Themes related to knowledge and light are found there.
Simon gives four previous interpretations of christology in Thomas: 1) Gnostic redeemer, 2) Sage, 3) No christology, and 4) Exalted Jesus with exalted disciples (the sayings have the disciples sharing in an exalted state with Jesus). Simon’s thesis (branching off #4) is that an exalted Jesus can be found over and above the disciples, rather than an egalitarian relationship. He points to themes such as Jesus being judge, source of light, the electing one, pre-existent, etc. It seemed convincing to me. However, it is difficult though to pull out a systematic theme with the seemingly random assortment of sayings, which Simon conceded that he wasn’t trying to develop a systmatic theology of Jesus based on this text but just show the tendencies shown in the document. A friend, Matthew Scott, thought the theme of knowledge was much more important to the interpretation than Simon pointed out. In the sayings, Jesus does nothing but reveal knowledge and know the truth.
Monday, 16 October 2006
This dialogue recounts the last day or so of Socrates’ life (399 B.C.). He is awaiting the execution of the death penalty and discusses topics related to death and the soul. Early on in the dialogue, the group agrees that death is the separation of the soul from the body (64c). Different ideas are given about relationship of soul to body: prison 62b, communion 65a, contamination 66b, deceit 83a, etc. The body hinders the soul–pure intellect–from reaching truth, and it is the soul that perceives the “forms” of justice, beauty, good, etc. Death is a good thing for a philosopher because it allows him to leave the encumbrance of the body. It can be called purifying and a release 67c/d. In life then a philosopher’s goal is to “live as close as he can to being dead” 67e. Accordingly, a philosopher shouldn’t fear death, but look forward to it.
Several arguments are given for the eternal nature of the soul. 1) Opposites are derived from one another. As a result, death feeds into life and life into death in an eternal circle. 2) Learning is really just a recollection of knowledge already acquired from the soul’s pre-existence before birth. (This is the basis of the Socratic method of learning through questioning because the knowledge is already present within people without being taught.) An example he gives is the knowledge of equality. In this discussion bodily senses are helpful in reminding ourselves of the knowledge we forgot. 3) The soul is not a composite, so at the death of the body it cannot be dispersed into smaller parts (annihilated).
Soul vs body. “Soul is most similar to what is divine, immortal, intelligible, iniform, indissoluble, unvarying, and constant in relation to itself; whereas body, in its turn, is most similar to what is human, mortal, multiform, nonintelligible, dissoluble, and never constant in relation to itself” 80b.
Socrates also gives a basic cosmogony with a description of the afterlife. Once someone dies that person’s soul is escorted into Hades. If s/he was a good, wise person who sought after philosophy, s/he will enjoy the company of the gods before being led again out of Hades to a new body. However, if one was vile or a murder, his/her soul would be cast into Tartarus to suffer and can only be released at the will of the one whom was harmed or killed.
Ultimately, this text is on the immortality of the soul, shared within the context of Socrates eminent death.
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