Zelda Rubinstein, J.D. Salinger

Two people have passed away: Zelda Rubinstein and J.D. Salinger.

1.  Zelda Rubinstein played on the movie Poltergeist, though I knew her more as the mischievous secretary on Picket Fences.  My family didn’t watch Poltergeist, probably because we felt that it was flirting with evil, and some of the people who played on the movie died shortly thereafter (see Poltergeist (film)).  I’m not sure if that was a curse or just plain coincidence.  I mean, tragic things happen! 

But I watched Poltergeist at some point in my adult life.  It had Craig T. Nelson from Coach, so I figured it couldn’t be too bad!  It was okay.  Plus, many people still use the catchphrases “He’s baaaack!” or “They’re heeeere!”, and that movie is, what, twenty-eight years old?

2.  J.D. Salinger wrote Catcher in the Rye.  I didn’t read it in high school, but I just now read the plot of it here.  I first heard of the book when I was reading about the religious right taking on the public schools.  One of its favorite targets was Catcher in the Rye, a big reason being that it had a lot of cuss words.  And, sure enough, when I looked at the first page of the book, it did!  But, when I read the wikipedia summary, I saw other objections that the religious right had to it: it undermines family values, encourages promiscuity, etc.

Ironically, a New York Times article on the controversy surrounding the book quoted someone who compared the religious right to Catcher‘s provocative protagonist, Holden Caufield.  Holden hoped as an older kid to protect the younger children and their innocence, to catch them in the rye as they fell.  And that’s what the religious right tried to do in banning Catcher in the Rye (see  “In a Small Town, a Battle Over a Book”). 

The book covers the sordid side of life, but it also speaks about alienation and the belief of the protagonist that others are “phony.”  I don’t think wrestling with those issues is wrong.  Personally, I don’t like being judged as phony, but there have been Christians (i.e., Francis Schaeffer) who’ve offered similar critiques of American culture.  I once had a conversation with a guy, and he asked me if I’d seen The Bridges of Madison County and Six Feet Under.  I replied “no,” for the former has an affair, and the latter depicts homosexual activity.  He then replied that I don’t have to approve of those things, but I should still listen to what the stories are trying to say. 

Maybe Catcher in the Rye is the same way.  There are people who prefer stories with heroes we can admire, and they may shy away from an anti-hero like Holden Caufield.  For them, stories should depict how things should be, not how they are.  And they can easily point out the negative effects of bad stories.  I once heard a sermon that said some women have affairs after seeing The Bridges of Madison County.  The wikipedia article on Catcher states that some have blamed the shootings of John Lennon and Ronald Reagan on the book. 

But life is a struggle, a hard path with a clearly sordid side.  And we ourselves, like Holden Caufield, are a mixture of good and bad.  I’m not sure if everything in Catcher is age-appropriate for certain levels of school, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with reading about a person who struggles with himself and others, while learning lessons along the way. 

Published in: on January 28, 2010 at 8:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tim Tebow

I joined a Facebook group supporting Tim Tebow’s pro-life commercial, which may or may not appear during the Superbowl.  (Go Colts!)

I joined it because, on the commercial, Tebow talks about how he’s glad that his mom didn’t abort him when she was presented with the opportunity.  A friend of mine called this a political ad, and I then realized that I should probably see it if I’m going to be in a group defending it.  So I did a search.

I didn’t find the ad, but here’s a picture of Tim Tebow’s girlfriend: See full size image.  Man!  How’s a born-again Christian like him handle the no-sex-before-marriage rule?  It would be hard for me, if I had a girlfriend like her!

I know, I’m a pig.

But this should make up for it: Izgad’s posts on why sex outside of marriage is ethically wrong. 

The Ethical Case Against Sex Outside of Marriage (Part I)

The Ethical Case Against Sex Outside of Marriage (Part II)

Published in: on January 28, 2010 at 5:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Howard Zinn

The AP has a story, Howard Zinn, liberal author of ‘A People’s History,’ dies.

I don’t know much about him.  I heard of him on Good Will Hunting because Matt Daimon told Robin Williams’ that Zinn’s People’s History will “knock your socks off.”  I have a CD of some of Zinn’s speeches, for one of my relatives was a fan of his.  This relative of mine likes anyone who’s anti-establishment, whether it’s leftists such as Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, or rightists such as the John Birch Society.  That makes a degree of sense, for both Mother Jones and the Birchers criticize Rockefeller!  There’s a place where the radical left meets the far right, and vice versa.

The AP story characterizes Zinn’s history as follows:

At a time when few politicians dared even call themselves liberal, “A People’s History” told an openly left-wing story. Zinn charged Christopher Columbus and other explorers with genocide, picked apart presidents from Andrew Jackson to Franklin D. Roosevelt and celebrated workers, feminists and war resisters.

The story says that Zinn himself fought in World War II.  The book may be worth reading if it picks apart FDR, even from a liberal perspective!

Published in: on January 28, 2010 at 1:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Tigay and Khirbet Qieyafa?, Intertextuality and Judges, Is Mullen a Minimalist?

1.  In Ancient Israelite Religion, I read Jeffrey Tigay’s “Israelite Religion: The Onomastic and Epigraphic Evidence.”  Tigay’s conclusion after his survey is as follows (page 178): Since personal names, salutations, votives, prayers, and oaths express thanks for the gods’ beneficence, hope for their blessing and protection, and the expectation that they will punish deception, the low representation of pagan deities in the names and inscriptions indicates that deities other than YHWH were not widely regarded by Israelites as sources of beneficence, blessing, protection, and justice.  In short, for Tigay, eighth century B.C.E. evidence indicates that most of Israel worshipped only one god: YHWH. 

Why, then, does the Hebrew Bible assert the contrary?  For Tigay, its authors were trying to find a reason that Israel fell, a sin for which God punished their nation.  Tigay acknowledges that there were a few idolaters in ancient Israel.  Because God often punished the entire group for the sins of a few individuals (e.g., Achan in Joshua 7), God held all of Israel responsible for the idolatry of a few, in the minds of certain biblical authors.

Some of the evidence that Tigay considers contains the names of a foreign god—some, but not the vast majority.  Tigay accounts for this in a variety of ways: the names with foreign deities belonged to foreigners dwelling in Israel, it took a while for some Israelites to shed their pagan names, or some of the non-Yahwistic names refer to demons or spirits, not full-fledged gods.  Here, I want to interact with another of his explanations. 

Tell Qasile is located on the western coast of Israel.  An ostracon found there refers “to a shipment of Ophir gold to, or belonging to, the town of Beth-horon” (175).  The ostracon is in Hebrew script but has a Phoenician numeral, perhaps because Phoenician influence existed in the harbor town of Tell Qasile.  Is the ostracon referring to a temple of the deity, Horon?

What intrigued me was this statement by Tigay (page 176): One may even wonder whether the Hebrew script necessarily implies that the inscription was written by an Israelite.  The Moabites used Hebrew script (witness the Mesha inscription), and perhaps it was used in Philistia too.    Tigay then refers to a “fragmentary inscription in Hebrew letters” found on “a fragment of an eighth century jar at Ashdod,” which indicates to scholar M. Dothan that “by the eighth century B.C.E., if not earlier, the Ashdodites shared a common script and language with their neighbors, the Phoenicians, and with the people of Israel and Judah.”

Of course, Tigay’s whole point in all of this is that the Tell Qasile finding doesn’t show that the Israelites worshipped another god besides YHWH.  Even if the ostracon is in Hebrew script, Tigay contends, it could’ve belonged to the Philistines rather than the Israelites. 

I wonder if this information is relevant to the discussion about the Khirbet Qeiyafa inscription, which was found on the Judahite-Philistine border and dates to the tenth century B.C.E. (see here and here).  Because it’s in Hebrew and contains biblical-like language, many have argued that it demonstrates that much of the Hebrew Bible was written early and that King David’s kingdom actually existed.  But could it belong to the Philistines rather than the Israelites, even if it’s in Hebrew?  The name YHWH does not explicitly occur in the inscription, though scholars have put it in brackets.  Perhaps it’s a Philistine inscription, urging the Philistine king to do justice. 

I don’t want to be dogmatic in this case, though, because there’s plenty that I don’t know.  The Khirbet Qieyafa inscription doesn’t just use the Hebrew script: it’s in Hebrew.  But a document can use Hebrew script without being in Hebrew.  Was the Mesha inscription in a language other than Hebrew, even though it used a Hebrew script?  Is the Tell Qasile ostracon in Hebrew in terms of its language, not just its script?  Still, M. Dothan affirms that the Ashdodites shared a common script AND language with the people of Israel and Judah.  Does that indicate that a Hebrew inscription found near Philistia could be Philistine rather than Israelite?

2.  In Reading Between the Texts, I read Timothy Beal’s essay, “Ideology and Intertextuality: Surplus of Meaning and Controlling the Means of Production.”  Beale discusses Mieke Bal’s feminist interaction with the Book of Judges.  To be honest, I’m not sure if I thoroughly understand her point.  She says that biblical scholars tend to focus on the nationalistic wars in the Book of Judges, rather than the women, who have a voice in the book.  I get that.  But does she believe that the Book of Judges itself subordinates the women to the nationalistic battles?  That’s where I was unclear.

Intertextuality is relevant here because we’re juxtaposing two texts: the Book of Judges, and the scholarly approaches to it.  Feminists look at the scholarly approaches and compare them with the Book of Judges itself, and they see things in the Book that are not really on the radar of the scholars.  Beale even went so far as to suggest that the scholarly focus on nationalistic battles may have been culturally-conditioned, for “theologically driven nationalism” was big in nineteenth-twentieth century Germany.

3.  I found a key quote in Theodore Mullen’s Ethnic Myths and Pentateuchal Foundations, which may explain where he’s coming from.    It’s on page 25:

…it may have been during the Persian period, and not earlier, that the Torah was created as the basis of the community and that the mode of this creation and its transmission was through the scribal schools associated with the Jerusalem priesthood as functionaries of the Persian government.

Does Mullen believe that the national history of Israel was written during the Persian period?  I’ll see.  There are indications that he leans in a minimalist direction.  He doesn’t really accept the historicity of Josiah’s reform, for example.  He may acknowledge that it existed on some small level, but (for him) it wasn’t big, and it wasn’t in response to a book of the law.

Published in: on January 28, 2010 at 1:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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