Good Family Quote, Historicity of Chronicles, Interpersonal Education, a Human Bible Animated by the Spirit, Cut Short

1.  Zosia Zaks, Life and Love: Positive Strategies for Autistic Adults, page 337:

While it is important to disclose your diagnosis when your child is also on the spectrum, be careful that the diagnosis does not become an excuse or a technique of “dividing and conquering.”  For example, you don’t want a situation where your child says, “Daddy and I don’t have to go to the restaurant because we have Asperger Syndrome.”  Either find a restaurant the whole family can enjoy, involve all your children in planning a picnic instead, or pack a Sensory Emergency Kit with your autistic child and teach him how to survive this type of unavoidable social situation by asking politely for breaks during the meal or whatever other positive strategies you use to take care of yourself.

I like this quote because it highlights the importance of valuing all of the members of one’s family, as well as the need for people with Asperger’s to adapt to their disability, while being thoughtful of others.

I finished this book, and my blog didn’t scratch the surface of its contents.  I recommend that you read it for more of its insights and suggestions!

2.  Sara Japhet, The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles and Its Place in Biblical Thought, pages 514-515:

In the absence of adequate critical means of assessing the data found in Chronicles, we must rely primarily on the criterion of “historical probability”: is the information—or, at least, the information at its factual core—probable or improbable from an historical point of view?  Using this criterion, we may compare two new, similar pieces of information provided by the Chronicler, one concerning Manasseh (“Therefore the LORD brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks and bound him with fetters of bronze and brought him to Babylon”—2 Chr 33:11) and one concerning Jehoiakim (“Against him came up Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and bound him in fetters to take him to Babylon”—2 Chr 36:6).  We conclude that the former is probable in the light of both Israelite and non-Israelite evidence from the time of Manasseh and may therefore be historically accurate, whereas the latter is not probable and apparently stems from the Chronicler’s unique approach to the period of destruction.  Thus, we must examine each case individually when it comes to the question of historical reliability.  Our prospects of arriving at a convincing conclusion depends on two factors: knowing enough about the historical reality in its various aspects to weigh the question of probability and knowing enough about the Chronicler’s purposes and methods to understand how his presentation of history came to be formed.

Japhet says that the history of scholarship on Chronicles has vacillated between the tendency to see none of it as historical, and the view that much of it is historically accurate.  She proposes that we evaluate each story on a case-by-case basis.  If it appears plausible and/or corresponds with non-biblical evidence, then it’s historically accurate.  But if it reflects the Chronicler’s ideology, then there’s a good chance that the Chronicler made it up.

At Hebrew Union College, a professor of mine actually made the same point that Japhet makes about II Chroniclers 33:11: that there’s historical reason to believe that Manasseh would be taken to Babylon by the king of Assyria.  I doubt that the reason is that Manasseh wrote his name in the pit where he was cast, but I vaguely recall my professor saying that the Assyrians took captives to Babylon, so the Chronicler makes a sensible point in his story about Manasseh.

Regarding Japhet’s argument on II Chronicles 36:6, I don’t feel like straining my brain over that right now.  I checked out pages 366-367, and Japhet proposes that Daniel 1:1-2’s idea that Jehoiakim went into exile was borrowed from the Chronicler.  But I’m unclear as to why Japhet considers the tradition un-historical.

3.  R. Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship, pages 31-32:

In the first place the immediate target for the attacks was the Sophists, their exaggerated respect for the written word, and their own preference for the use of books.  Such an attitude, it was argued, propagated by influential teachers, was bound to weaken or even destroy physical memory…on which the oral tradition of the past was based, and in the end would be a threat to true philosophy, which needs the personal discourse of the dialectician to plant the living word in the soul of the listener.

From what I’ve heard, the rabbis had some of the same ideas as Plato in this regard.  They liked for their ideas to be passed on orally and by example, from master to pupil.  Persecution was what drove them to write their traditions down.

I can respect Plato and the rabbis, and see beauty in their love for interpersonal education.  Personally, however, I like to stay home and read, without putting up with the intimidation that being in a classroom can entail.

4.  R.P.C. Hanson, Allegory and Event, pages 211-212:

Origen thought that there were degrees of inspiration (if you will) among the prophets, as some could foresee Christ more clearly than others.  According to Origen, Moses was a childish schoolmaster compared to Joshua, and the prophet Gad made a mistake when he told David that there would be three days of pestilence, when there ended up being only one day (II Samuel 24).  Origen also stated, “I would boldly say that a much more human element is exhibited in the Old Testament than in the New”.  According to Hanson, Origen “sometimes refers to the Old Testament as ‘watery’…and to Christ as turning the water of the old dispensation into wine”.  Is Origen saying that the coming of Christ has turned the human, partially-inspired Old Testament into a spectacular medium of divine revelation?

This reminds me of the homily today at my Latin mass.  We had the priest who speaks about love, and he marvelled at how the Holy Spirit can take an ancient story and breathe new life into it, such that it inspires us and speaks to us in our present situation.  That brought to my mind the church bulletin, which talked about how the disciples were fearful and timid at Jesus’ crucifixion, yet they were bold and fearless after Jesus rose from the dead.  Christian apologists have cited this as evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.  “I believe in Christ’s resurrection because of the change in the apostles,” some of them say.  But skeptics would ask why we should accept the biblical stories on this as historically accurate.

Christian apologists would likely respond that writers like to portray themselves or their movement in a good light, so, when a writing presents Christian leaders in an unflattering manner, then there’s a good chance that it’s telling the truth.  But what if the writers want to exalt Jesus rather than the leaders of their movement?  Couldn’t they make up a story that does so?

Of course, there are biblical scholars who claim to see politics in the Gospels.  When the disciple Jesus loves beats Peter to the tomb in the Gospel of John, some scholars claim that the Gospel is elevating the John party at the expense of the Peter party.  When Thomas doubts and receives a mild rebuke from Jesus, there are scholars who see in this a criticism of the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas.  My dad once saw a documentary on the Gospels during the Easter season, and it said that Mary tried to get her voice into the Gospels (or something like that).  “They made it sound like Mary was running for Congress!”, my dad exclaimed.

Maybe the text tries to make a theological point through story.  And maybe there are times when there is politics going on in the texts.  But I believe that the Spirit can breathe fresh life into these texts such that they inspire and challenge us, and bring us closer to God.

Yet, is there a historical kernal to the stories?  In a sense, I believe that there is.  The early Christians were renowned for their fearlessness.  Pagans were baffled that Christians were not afraid of death, for Christians experienced martyrdom for the cause of Christ, and they helped pagans during plagues, even though, by doing so, they were placing their own lives at risk.  Can the Gospel of Jesus Christ make a fearful person fearless?  It did—numerous times!

5.  N.F. Marcos, The Septuagint in Context, page 243:

According to one view, the Vatican Codex relays a recension that is incomplete and shorter than other recensions by necessity rather than choice, for persecution in third century C.E. Alexandria (in Egypt) interrupted the development of the recension. 

That just shows that there are various reasons that a text can be as it is.

I’m off to watch Desperate Housewives and Brothers and Sisters!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
This entry was posted in Asperger's, Autism, Bible, Church, Greco-Roman, Rabbinics, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.