Three Social Skills, Finny, Baffling P, Homer: The Platonic Edition, Origen and AA, “Translation”, Me to a T

1.  Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, pages 70-86:

The lessons today were smile, call people by their names to show them that they’re important to you, and listen to them talk about themselves and their interests.  The “smile” rule reminds me of something I heard in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.  Dale Carnegie is saying that we should try to have a positive attitude.  That recalls to my mind a person in AA who said that, when people tell him that they’re having a bad day, his question to them is, “What’s wrong with this day?”  His point is that the day is neither good nor bad in itself; rather, it’s our reaction to what is going on in that day that is making it good or bad for us.

I think that, listening to Joel Osteen these past five years, I should recognize the value of keeping a positive attitude.  But there are plenty of days when that is easier said than done.  A person in AA once referred to male PMS.  There are times when certain things bother us, and there are other times when we can blow them off, as if they don’t matter to us at all.  I wish that I could control my mood, rendering myself calm and at peace.  I once heard a person with Asperger’s state that his medication helps him to have that state of mind: he no longer obsesses over a person who disses him, for he’s able to blow that off and go about his business.  Sounds good to me, but I can’t really afford medication in this season of my life, so I’ll be going the “struggling and prayer” route for the next few years!

On calling people by their names, I find that helpful.  I wrote a post a while back on that, entitled What Is Your Name?  On getting people to talk about themselves, that rule deserves a little more nuance.  I need to say something that will encourage people to talk about themselves, as well as ask the open-ended questions that will keep the conversation going.  For some people, it’s easy: you just ask a question and they go on and on.  For others, it’s more difficult, since they’re quieter.  But, come to think of it, there are also talkative people who don’t like to talk to me when I’m asking them questions.  All I can really do is practice the rule of being a good listener.  Sometimes, it will work, sometimes not.

Deb Fine says that we should say to people, “Tell me more.”  I’m not sure if that works, for the reason that I don’t know how I’d respond to it.  “Tell you more?  I mean, there’s not much more that I can come up with!”  I prefer to answer a question rather than being told to tell a person more.

2.  Robert Heinlein, Sixth Column, pages 34-36: 

A character named Jeff Thomas has been assigned to gather information on the Pan-Asians, who have conquered the United States.  Jeff encounters an anarchist named Finny, who, unlike most Americans, does not hate the Pan-Asians.  Rather, he viewed them as “more misguided souls whose excesses were deplorable.”  Finny states that the Pan-Asians have been “duped into the old fallacy of the State as a super-entity.”

I have relatives like that.  They think that our system is corrupt, but they disagree with those who actually believe that Americans can mount a successful revolution.  These relatives of mine go about their lives and regard the system around them as misguided.  They don’t expect that much out of it.  As far as they’re concerned, Jesus will come and sort things out! 

3.  Rolf Rendtorff, The Covenant Formula, page 62:

Rendtorff refers to W. Zimmerli, whose thesis was that the Priestly Writing “‘ruthlessly pushed’ the tradition about the making of the covenant at Sinai, and spoke only of a covenant made by God with Abraham…”

The priestly writer has baffled me, ever since I wrote my first paper on the Documentary Hypothesis in the eleventh grade, for my Bible Literature class.  According to the traditional JEPD model, the Yahwist (J) presents God commanding Noah to take seven of each clean animal onto the ark, and two of each unclean animal.  The Priest (P), however, says that God commanded Noah to take two of each, period.

The reason that J has Noah take seven clean animals onto the ark is that Noah needs some animals for sacrifice after the Flood.  But what puzzled me was this: Wouldn’t the priest be the one who’d be big on sacrifice, since he was a priest?  I learned years later that the priest was somewhat leery about sacrifices being offered before the establishment of the Aaronide priesthood, for he believed that only Aaronides had sacrificial authority. 

Now, a new puzzle has been thrown into the mix: the priest has a beef with Sinai and prefers to see the covenant as Abrahamic.  I wonder what that’s all about!

4.  R. Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship, pages 113-114:

Pfeiffer refers to a fourth century B.C.E. copy of Homeric works, which omitted some lines that Plato criticized in Republic 389E.  Wow!  Plato had influence there! 

5.  R.P.C. Hanson, Allegory and Event, page 280:

The miracle of the stilling of the storm takes place in the experience of the Christian himself; he battles against the winds and waves of temptation; the Word comes to save him; the Peter in him attempts to be entirely master of the temptation and fails.

Origen saw allegorical meaning in the stories of the Old and the New Testaments.  Did he believe that those stories happened in history?  In many cases, yes, but there were exceptions.

There are many times when the allegorical meaning that Origen claims to detect does not speak to me.  It appears to place a lot of the burden for spiritual growth on the shoulders of the individual.  Martin Luther himself had this problem with Origen: Origen allegorized from the Bible such concepts as asceticism and overcoming sin, rather than pointing to the love and the mercy of God through Jesus Christ (which Luther deemed to be the Gospel).  Origen’s allegorization of the “miracle of the stilling of the storm” is an exception, for it states that we by ourselves cannot overcome temptation, for we need God’s help through Christ.

Alcoholics Anonymous has a similar concept: our steps teach that we look to a higher power to restore us to sanity and to remove from us our character defects.  Those defects are usually defined as selfishness and unkindness to others.  There is a “sexual moral inventory” that people take, but AA doesn’t really require people to practice the Judeo-Christian principle of “abstinence before marriage, fidelity thereafter.”  Bill Wilson, the founder of AA, supposedly had a mistress. 

I wonder to what extent God delivers us from temptation.  There are homosexuals who struggle against their sexual orientation, to no avail.  I can decide that I won’t lust after women, but I don’t expect to get too far, there.  But there are people who report that God has removed from them their lust.

Change takes work.  Some of it is realistic.  Some of it is not.  But I do hope to get to the point where I don’t snap at people as much. 

6.  N.F. Marcos, The Septuagint in Context, page 346:

Not only did Christianity adopt a translated Bible as the official Bible, but from its beginnings it was a religion that favoured translation of the Bible into vernacular languages.  Unlike Jewish communities, the Christian communities did not feel themselves to be chained to the Hebrew text as such but only to its contents, nor were they tied to the Greek text of the LXX.  The new translations, as distinct from what happened with the Aramaic Targumim, became independent and took the place of the original in the life of the communities.  This attitude conferred on the new versions of the Bible a status unlike that of the Jewish translations.  They were not merely an aid to understanding the text but they replaced the original with authority.  Hence, biblical translation is spoken of as a specifically Christian activity.

This may explain some of the odd quotations of the Bible in the Epistle to Barnabas (see Sneaking Stuff In).  Maybe there were Christians who mixed their Christian interpretation in with their translation of the Old Testament, for they believed that their interpretation was the truth.  The Jews did something similar: they translated the biblical text in services and added their interpretation.  But this occurred orally.  They didn’t add their interpretation to the written text, at least not ordinarily (see Theological Correction for exceptions).   

7.  I’m superstitious about the number 6, so I’ll be adding a seventh item.  On Rachel Held Evans’ blog, I encountered a post by Donald Miller, entitled, Does Your Personality Influence Your Theology?.  The following fits me to a T:

Then there is the scholarly type, who tends to understand everything from different angles, but has trouble landing or stating they believe in much of anything. They are on a search, looking for truth, and don’t like the idea of having arrived. These people make great Bible Scholars because they try to understand an idea from various angles, and yet they have a very hard time landing, mainly because they feel like when they land, they stop learning.

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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