What’s in It For You?; The Essence of Covenant; Proverbs and Myth; One Angel or Two?; Constraining Catenae?

1.  Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, pages 39-55:

Dale Carnegie says that all of us are self-interested: we’re interested in what we want.  But the key to success is for us not to talk to others about what we want, but rather to show others how we can fulfill what they want.  If you’re selling something, for example, your goal should be to show your prospective customer how your product can meet his or her desires.  Your desire is not particularly important to that person (sorry!).

I think that this is an important insight.  My problem is that I’m not always sure what people want, and if I have much to give to them.  Some value what I give.  Some don’t.  But the difficulty of this rule for me shouldn’t excuse me from trying to meet people’s needs, if I at all can, even if those needs are simply wanting someone who will listen to them or show them courtesy.

I wonder how this principle can apply to my blog.  My blog is about my interests, thoughts, gripes, likes, and dislikes.  Whether it’s popular or not, however, will depend on the extent to which it meets other people’s needs.  Does it give people information that they are seeking?  Does it inspire them?  Does it make them laugh?  Is it fun for them to read?  Do they identify with what I’m saying, as they rejoice that someone else feels the way that they do?  Do they receive practical advice that can help them solve their problems (as did my blogs through Zosia Zak’s book on strategies for coping with autism)?

At this moment, I’m just going to be myself and let the chips fall where they may.  I don’t, however, spend as much time anymore whining about my problems on my blog, hoping that people will feel sorry for me.  As Dale Carnegie would probably say, other people are self-interested!  They may not care about my gripes, if my gripes don’t help them somehow to cope with their gripes!  So if I ever decide to gripe, it will be so I can vent.  And, if anyone’s not tired of my griping and wants to offer me some helpful feedback, feel free!

I also enjoyed Dale Carnegie’s comments on how applying his principles is a process.  We won’t apply them successfully all of the time.  But, in a cool hour, maybe we can think about what we did right and what we could have done better.  It’s all about growth!

2.  Rolf Rendtorff, The Covenant Formula:

Rendtorff talks a lot about how the covenant is about the LORD being Israel’s God.  That’s the key.

3.  R. Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship, pages 83-84:

In [Aristotle’s] first anti-Platonic dialogue…he regarded proverbs as ‘survivals of a pre-literary philosophy’ and treated them in a survey of early wisdom, together with the ‘Orphics’, the Delphic maxims…and the precepts of the Seven Wise Men.

I don’t know enough about proverbs to judge whether or not they came before literary philosophy.  But I found it interesting that the Delphic Oracle did more than give people confusing oracles that could be interpreted in different ways, for it also spoke proverbs.  It gives me a cozy feeling to think about societies that had wise sayings, from people who were esteemed.  It reminds me of Dale Carnegie, and how he refers to the examples of Ben Franklin, Abe Lincoln, and other famous people to teach us successful ways to navigate our lives.  Where would we be without our myths?  They encourage us.  But some feel shackled by them, for these myths present an avenue to success, which doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.

4.  R.P.C. Hanson, Allegory and Event,  page 259:

And in reply to the suggestion of Celsus that the difference on the part of the evangelists about the number of angels appearing at the tomb at the Resurrection impugns the accuracy of their account [Origen] hints that the differences can all be harmonized (as well as allegorized).

Do the Gospels contradict one another in their stories about Jesus’ resurrection?  In Matthew 28, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary go to Jesus’ tomb and see an angel, who descended from heaven and rolled away the stone that covered the tomb.  In Mark 16, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome go to the tomb, wondering who will roll away the stone.  They see a young man clothed in white, sitting inside Jesus’ sepulchre. 

In Luke 24, women who followed Jesus from Galilee go to the tomb, see the stone has been rolled away, and enter the sepulchre to find it empty.  Suddenly, there are two men in shining garments standing near them.  In John 20, Mary Magdalene visits the tomb and sees that the stone has been rolled away, and that the tomb is empty.  She runs to Peter and the disciple Jesus loved, saying that she doesn’t know where Jesus’ body has been placed.  The two disciples run to Jesus’ tomb and find that, indeed, it is empty.  Mary stands there weeping, and two angels appear to her.  Then, Jesus comes to her as a gardener.  That’s how she learns of his resurrection.

How many angels appeared at Jesus’ tomb to inform the women (or woman) that Jesus had risen from the dead?  In my first year at DePauw, I took my first New Testament class, and we heard about these differences.  One Christian student suggested that maybe the women were conceptualizing what they saw in different ways: they all beheld something spectacular, but one woman thought she was seeing one angel, whereas another believed that she saw two.  Another Christian I knew took the same class and lost his faith for a season, in part because of the different resurrection accounts.

In a class that I took the next year, “Images of Jesus”, I said that the accounts were not contradictory, because if there were two angels, then there was one angel: one, two.  For some strange reason that I can’t pinpoint, the class wasn’t receptive to my idea!

Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort offer the following attempt at harmonization: The question has arisen simply because Matthew and Mark mention one angel, whereas Luke and John refer to two. There is no conflict if there were two angels but Matthew and Mark quote the one who was a spokesperson.

Here’s Origen’s attempt at harmonization in Contra Celsum V:56 (see BOOK V): Proceeding immediately after to mix up and compare with one another things that are dissimilar, and incapable of being united, [Celsus] subjoins to his statement regarding the sixty or seventy angels who came down from heaven, and who, according to him, shed fountains of warm water for tears, the following: It is related also that there came to the tomb of Jesus himself, according to some, two angels, according to others, one; having failed to notice, I think, that Matthew and Mark speak of one, and Luke and John of two, which statements are not contradictory. For they who mention one, say that it was he who rolled away the stone from the sepulchre; while they who mention two, refer to those who appeared in shining raiment to the women that repaired to the sepulchre, or who were seen within sitting in white garments.

Origen says that Matthew and Mark refer to the one angel who rolled away the stone, whereas Luke and John are discussing the two angels who appeared to the women and told them of Jesus’ resurrection.  But, in Matthew and Mark, the one who rolls away the stone is the one who tells the women about Jesus’ resurrection (though, actually, Mark doesn’t explicitly say that the young man was the one who rolled away the stone). 

That brings up other questions.  In Mark, the women show up and the young man was sitting inside the tomb.  In Luke, they arrive and see the tomb is empty, with no young man sitting inside of it.  Suddenly, two shining men are standing next to them.  Are these different versions?  Did both somehow happen?  Could both have happened?

I wonder if Origen even thought that this whole issue mattered that much, for he says in V:57:  Moreover, regarding the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, we have this remark to make, that it is not at all wonderful if, on such an occasion, either one or two angels should have appeared to announce that Jesus had risen from the dead, and to provide for the safety of those who believed in such an event to the advantage of their souls.

“Either” one or two angels?  Origen seems to be saying (my paraphrase): “Look, it doesn’t matter how many angels appeared to the women.  Maybe it was one.  Maybe it was two.  What’s noteworthy is that the women experienced something supernatural.  The Gospels agree that the women saw something.” 

5.  N.F. Marcos, The Septuagint in Context, page 287-288:

According to Marcos, “A catena is a collection of fragments taken from different works (commentaries, homilies, scholia) by ancient writers on texts from Scripture.”  Basically, you open up a Bible, and you see in the margins thoughts about the passage from commentaries and sermons.  Marcos states that catanae “began to be formed at the beginning of the 6th century when original production of patristic literature was in decline.”  But the concept came from before that, dating back to the first century C.E. and earlier.  Scholia had notes on the “more difficult or stranger” passages of Homer, located near the Homeric text.  Certain Hellenistic medical and judicial works had a body of text, with comments in the margins by renowned experts.  There are Jewish texts that are similar: I’ve seen such books in the Rare Book Room of the Hebrew Union College library.  In them, you have Scripture, surrounded by passages from commentaries.  These texts date to medieval times.

I’m not sure if Judaism was imitating Christian catanae, or if the Jews did this sort of thing at the same time that the Christians were beginning to do so.  But it’s cool to open up a passage of Scripture, and to study it with the ancients.  We can read things that did not occur to us when we initially looked at the biblical text.  Yet, it can also be constraining, for here are traditions telling us to see the text in a certain way.  Can we develop fresh insights, or allow the biblical text to speak for itself, when there are so many other interpretations going through our heads?  

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.
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