No True Heroes; Inner Nurturing; Death as Punishment?; Born Again; Post-Exilic Composition or Update?; Prophets; IMDB

1. Samuel C. Hyde, Jr., Pistols and Politics: The Dilemma of Democracy in Louisiana’s Florida Parishes, 1810-1899, page 176:

J.W. Armstead, a black West Feliciana proponent of education, informed congressional investigators that the Republican misuse of school funds created scores of Democratic supporters among the freedmen.

Why would freed slaves support the Democrats, who were the conservative party of the South, the party that looked back at the time of slavery as the “good old days”?  One reason that Hyde cites is that the freed slaves were intimidated by white supremacists against voting Republican.  At the same time, the Republicans were telling freedmen that they wouldn’t get any acres and mules from the Republicans if the G.O.P. got into power, unless the freedmen supported the Republicans.  And so freedmen were caught between a rock and a hard place.

So there were freedmen who were scared into becoming Democrats, or at least into staying home on election day, which was fine with the white supremacists.  But there were also freedmen—many of them—who supported the Democratic Party, on account of the corruption of Republican officials, who misappropriated public funds that were intended to help African-Americans and others in the Louisiana parishes. 

So there were not good guys to root for in the political arena, at least at this point.

2. Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land, page 100:

Agnes should have seen how easily [Smith] was frightened, then she wouldn’t talk that way.  Smith would appeal to the maternal in her.

Fear in a strange world.  The desire for comfort.  If only we could internalize a nurturing sense.  Is that possible? 

3. Erhard Gerstenberger, Psalms, Part I with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry, page 205:

Vv. 9-11 [of Psalm 49] might counteract the preposterous attitudes of the rich: even if they paid the highest ransom, they still must pass away (v. 9).  Could one of them live on and not see the grave (v. 10)?  Certainly not!  Even wise men die (v. 11).  The whole concern is thus with the oppressing class.  The stanza emphasizes the fact that, contrary to appearance, the powerful wealthy are under the unfailing supervision of God and controlled by death…The main emphasis, however, is on hope…because in the last analysis the powerful are only finite human beings…

A sobering statement about death.  But I can see why Judaism eventually adopted a conception of an afterlife.  Sure, the rich oppressors die, and that should humble them.  But so does everybody else, including the oppressed, so why would the oppressed feel better at the prospect of their oppressors dying?  All people die.  Plus, couldn’t another oppressor take the departed oppressor’s place?  And Job talks about rich oppressors who die in a state of happiness.  For Job, death’s not a real punishment for them!  I can understand why Judaism felt a need to embrace a scenario in which justice triumphs, things are made right, and the good and the bad get what they deserve. 

But human mortality is still very humbling.

4. Richard Sarason, A History of the Mishnaic Law of Agriculture: A Study of Tractate Demai, page 229:

Sarason talks about a Gentile proselyte to Judaism and his Gentile brother, whose father dies.  The proselyte is now a Jew, so he is prohibited to derive benefit from idolatry.  Consequently, he is forbidden to inherit the father’s idols and libation wine.  That stuff can go to the Gentile brother.  But the proselyte can still stipulate that he wants to inherit money and produce.  To do so, he must make a “formal act of acquisition”.  Under the rabbinic law that Sarason discusses, proselytes have no inheritance rites, for they have been born anew as Jews, and thus are severed from their old family.  But they can still legally stipulate what they want from their father’s property.

At Harvard, Jon Levenson once presented us with a scenario.  Under Judaism, a Gentile loses his old identity and becomes the son of Abraham and Sarah when he converts.  And so Levenson posed a question: suppose the man’s mother also converts.  Can they marry each other?  Technically, they’re no longer mother and son, for they have new identities.  Levenson’s response was that Judaism says they can’t marry each other, because that looks bad to outsiders. 

5. Baruch Levine, Numbers 1-20, pages 107-108:

Levine tries to date P according to its language—whether it reflects Hebrew that is early or late.  Numbers 2 and 10 use the term degel, “otherwise known from Aramaic documents of the Persian period as the designation for a military unit arrayed around a fort or command post.”  But Levine does not conclude that Numbers 2 and 10 were originally written in the Persian Period, but “only that they were redacted or adapted at that time”—namely, in the sixth-fifth centuries B.C.E.

But there are other sections of P that Levine dates to the Persian Period—when he believes that they originated, rather than merely being updated.  He refers to Numbers 30, which uses the term issar, “ban”, in the context of a discussion on vows.  According to Levine, “The term is basic to the entire votive system embodied in that chapter, so in no way can it be regarded as editorial.”  The term “has now turned up in the Samaria Papyri from Wadi Daliye, dated to the third quarter of the fourth century”.  And the term appears nowhere else in the Hebrew Bible, except for the Aramaic sections of Daniel, which is late, by both conservative and liberal standards.  So Levine dates Numbers 30 to the fifth-fourth century B.C.E. 

I was once talking with a colleague about the age of documents: can we say they are late because they have later features?  His response was that the text could be early, yet be updated at a later time.  Levine takes this possibility into account, but he offers a way to distinguish composition in a late date from editorial updating. 

6.  For my ATLA book review reading, I realized that I should probably take a look at some of the books.  I’ll still be reading and writing about book reviews, for I can’t read all of the books in time.  But I should probably be a little more knowledgeable about the scholarly debates about what prophets are—are they poets, or prophets, or both?  I’ve heard that my professor who’s giving me my Hebrew Bible comp views the prophets primarily in a literary sense, rather than as actual fortune-tellers.  That coincides with one book review I read, which reviewed a book that presented the Book of Zephaniah as a writing that has multiple post-exilic compositions within it.  For this author, if there was a prophet Zephaniah, he didn’t have much to do with the final form of the book that bears his name!

Some of the books also cover Native American prophecy, which sounds interesting to me. 

7.  I got Volume 2 of Season 3 of Highway to Heaven today.  You know, there are actors in episodes that I have seen over and over, but I never connected who they were with other shows I had watched.  I watched one that had the lady who played Miriam on the Ten Commandments (“Blessed am I among all mothers in the land…”), and she also was Mary on Ben Hur.  On another episode, there was one of the Baldwin sisters from the Waltons, but she doesn’t remind me of her all that much—not only because she’s not drinking recipe, or waiting for Ashley (the father of Riker from Star Trek: The Next Generation, who plays Ashley’s son) to come back, but also because she doesn’t have that dainty quality that she has on the Waltons

The Internet Movie Database opens a lot of doors!

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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