Saturday, March 20, 2010

Preaching to the Perverted

Just a few more random observations about Ruden's Paul Among the People. Most of them have to do with the very different cultural context in which Paul was operating. A multiculturalist he was not.

For example, when Paul rails against things like sorcery and witchcraft, eliminate from your mind innocuous images of earth-worshiping radical feminist lesbian wiccans dancing around naked in the forest (and get that erotic image out of your mind; see picture at right-->). Although undoubtedly kooky or disturbing, going after Shirley Maclaine or Jean Houston is not really what Paul had in mind.

Rather, witchcraft and sorcery had entirely different connotations in a Greco-Roman context. Ruden cites the example of Horace's image "of a small boy buried up to his neck and left to starve to death while staring at food, so that his liver and bone marrow, which must now be imbued with his frenzied longing, could serve as a love charm." You know, that kind of thing.

To see a closer approximation of the context, we would have to travel to Haiti or to Africa, where violent witchcraft is still common, for example, witch doctors "who kill people, especially children, for their genitalia and other body parts, which are believed to be love and money charms" (Ruden).

Also, if Ruden is correct, then much of the puritanical, anti-pleasure reputation of Christianity is rooted in a huge misunderstanding. She points out that Paul is indeed the original authority for all puritanism. The only problem is that his condemnations of certain activities must again be understood in the proper cultural context. For example, when he forbids "carousing" or "revellings," he isn't talking about having some harmless fun and blowing off a little steam.

Rather, Ruden points out that Paul was likely talking about something with which his audience would have been very familiar, the drunken and destructive komos. Imagine someone understandably condemning Chicago Bulls fans for rioting and setting fire to their city, but taking that to mean that one should never celebrate if one's team wins a championship. A komos "was a late-night, very drunken sometimes violent postparty parade," and "which could even end in kidnapping and rape."

And when Paul councils things like meekness and long-suffering, he is certainly not talking about being a wimp. Rather, it is almost impossible for us to imagine how impulsive people were in the past, and how quickly emotion led to violent action, with no space in between. I discussed this a bit in my book, and Ruden confirms everything written there. As she says, things would "often go from strong emotion straight to violence." Today one occasionally sees a patient or father-in-law with this particular problem, but one must imagine an entire culture composed of such people.

Ruden notes that "Hatred and revenge were not marginal or shameful for the ancient Greeks and Romans, but matters of routine and pride. A person who simply forgave an injury was held to be feeble and a coward," for "How could he protect his family and friends?" Likewise, "when there was political rivalry, someone always ended up getting plundered, exiled, or killed." That is human nature in the raw, and that is what Paul was fighting against.

The ancients projected these same violent attributes into their "self-centered and merciless gods," which in turn sanctioned their behavior -- similar to how the violent Mohammed is taken as the ideal man for Muslims, thus sanctioning their own violent jihad.

Again, the reason why the Christian message was so appealing to people is that it offered them a way out of the awful human conditions that had prevailed from time immemorial, or "since the Fall," if you like. In my book I suggest that the problems began when man became self-conscious and had to adapt to the strange new condition of having thoughts, emotions, and impulses. Every baby that comes into the world must repeat this journey, i.e., learn to regulate and master these things. But there was a historical time when virtually no one had this capacity. (This was also the central thesis of Jaynes' The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.)

Perhaps I should also emphasize that this problem of impulsivity (or what I call "brake failure") has hardly been mastered by contemporary man, for it is the stock in trade of the clinical psychologist. Almost all patients are struggling with some form of impulsivity, whether it is anger, or sexuality, or food, or alcohol, or video games, or stalking my blog. Furthermore, the more primitive the person, the more impulsive -- or, the more "holes" in the personality structure, where impulses "leak out," outside conscious control.

Indeed, as the B'atman once said, the liberal is someone who exalts in self-expression and outsources self-control to the state -- for example, "I refuse to take care of my health, so you must do it for me."

Interestingly, when Paul uses the word "faith," he is doing so in an unprecedented way. Ruden says that "Before Christianity, neither the Greeks nor the Romans seem ever to have used the concept in what we could call a spiritual sense." Rather, for them, it was much more analogous to what we would call "protection," or having someone to watch one's back. For pagan polytheists, it was analogous to having faith in one's fellow gang members to strike back if one is punked by a rival gang.

Sexuality in the Greco-Roman world was probably even more twisted than you might imagine. First, it took human beings in general a very long time before they could tolerate the ambivalence of expressing both loving and sexual feelings toward the same object. Here again, this is something the psychologist deals with on a daily basis, because millions of contemporary individuals still struggle with this dilemma which no premodern man seems to have mastered. (I might add that it is really not until around the 12th century, I believe it was, that we see the full flowering of romantic love in the Western world.)

Ruden points out that household slaves "were less respected as outlets for bodily functions than were the household toilets," and that one of the sanctioned roles "of slave boys was anal sex with free adults." And make no mistake, this was a sadistic act, just as many psychoanalysts believe that contemporary male homosexuality is often an expression of sadistic impulses. Whatever the case may be, it certainly wasn't caused by "genes": "The Greeks and Romans thought that the active partner in homosexual intercourse used, humiliated, and physically and morally damaged the passive one," and that "the satisfaction needed to be violent, not erotic."

Some psychoanalysts theorize that compulsive male homosexuality has to do with the need to magically incorporate the masculine essence of the object through the sex act. Interestingly, this is what the ancients believed: "a real man needed to transform an at least potentially active and powerful creature into a weak and inferior one." I don't know if this is true, but I also read somewhere that victorious armies would sodomize their vanquished opponents before killing them outright, first "stealing" their masculine essence via the back door. (I am also reminded of how Mike Tyson would taunt opponents by boasting that he would make them his "bitch.")

Well, that's it for today....

42 Comments:

Blogger Northern Bandit said...

These accounts are horrifying and eye-opening. I am at once struck by how civilized our modern age is by comparison, yet torn back to the sickening reality that we have recently become a culture which terminates human heartbeats on a massive, organized and "sanitized" basis. Somehow we're supposed to just "disagree" over this "issue". Are we closer today to pagan Rome or to the Jewish culture of the same era? For all the vaunted excellence of the anglosphere, we still murder our children.

3/20/2010 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

It makes me wonder what it was like before this period. Was it worse? I imagine that it was better, and that it in a sense had to get worse before it could get better. Inevitable, maybe I mean.

3/20/2010 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

it was pretty bad, based upon the archaeological evidence showing the great extent of violence that plagued primitive groups.

3/20/2010 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger jp said...

"And when Paul councils things like meekness and long-suffering, he is certainly not talking about being a wimp."

You know, it was this, along with "turn the other cheek" that I internalized at a very young age, probably by about 6 or 7.

In any fight in which I was involved, I would never hit back, because you were never supposed to fight back.

I got beaten up a few times in my youth.

3/20/2010 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

For example, I think it's possible that Homo sapiens committed fratricide against Homo neanderthal, which may be the basis of the Cain & Abel story -- which is the first crime after man leaves the garden -- like a collective memory of our bloody origins.

3/20/2010 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

JP:

Yes, the real meaning of "turn the other cheek" is more like, "Dude, you don't have to go postal on someone for every perceived slight. Just take a deep breath and let it go."

3/20/2010 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

So the Beatles were right, it's getting better all the ti-ah-ime.

3/20/2010 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

In some ways, it is. To a large extent, things are always simultaneously getting better and worse (like anabolism and catabolism), but we must try to ride the waves of the former, for they're always available.

3/20/2010 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger jp said...

Of course, in the school system, when you got into a fight, the punishment was 10 days in school suspension for "aggrivated assault" when the other person was not actually fighting back.

Since I never hit back, but would rather take what was being inflicted on me, the result was sometimes not pretty for the other student.

It's odd to have the ability to have your head slammed into the floor by a drunk guy while explaining to him that you would prefer that he not slam your head into the ground.

It's not all bad. Just odd.

3/20/2010 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

I suppose they defined the word violence differently than we do now, if they even had such a word. I mean, if everything is violence, is anything? Can you "see" violence, or rather, non-violence in such a state.

3/20/2010 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger jp said...

It's always getting better somewhere.

Just not necessarily where you are at the moment.

3/20/2010 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger jp said...

Non-violence in the primitive state probably meant non-long-for-this world for the most part.

3/20/2010 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, absolutely.

3/20/2010 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Gil Bailie's Violence Unveiled gets into that subject on a very deep level.

3/20/2010 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger jp said...

There's also the "Fourth Turning"/"Generational Dynamics" theory on periodic cyclic violence.

www.fourthturning.com
www.generationaldynamics.com

Basically, after the "genocidal" crsis war, the next generation is stunned and disgusted by the violence, so you don't get anymore massive violence for a few generations.

And there's the historical Great Power western "war cycle". Hopefully, that's over, or we are going to have all kinds of fun with nuclear weapons.

3/20/2010 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Excellent portrait of Rosey... I believe you've captured the inner hurl -

3/20/2010 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Rather, it is almost impossible for us to imagine how impulsive people were in the past, and how quickly emotion led to violent action, with no space in between. I discussed this a bit in my book, and Ruden confirms everything written there. As she says, things would "often go from strong emotion straight to violence." ... Ruden notes that "Hatred and revenge were not marginal or shameful for the ancient Greeks and Romans, but matters of routine and pride. "

I think that goes with things 'getting better all the ti-ah-im' as well as hurtling towards the 'age of destruction'. Aristotle clearly had the concept of Courage and it's incomplete mockeries in Cowardice (thought without resolve) or Rashness (resolve without thought), both of which are impulsive knock-off's which discard vertical thought and its corresponding self control. And society seems to track with that.

The Romans had a concept of cycles which roughly covered eight decades (JP, I think that book you mentioned has some interesting observations on this (I saw the authors on C-SPAN, I have it, but haven't gotten around to reading yet))... and also seems reflected in "The sins of the father shall be visited onto the son until the seventh generation..."... and I wonder how the UK article on Evolution and Epigenetics linked to yesterday might fit into this as well?

As you read how the Roman's culture changed, the piety of the family and emphasis on virtue waned and approached the end of the Republic, it also came to the time when instead of restrained senatorial debate, debate itself snapped in the face of rude impulsive actions of Gracchus (who, btw, legislatively acted unconstitutionaly), and the senators took up clubs, surrounded him and his supporters in the Forum, and clubbed him to death - and that ushered in the end of the Republic, of civil wars, and assassination as a useful method for settling an argument.

Philosophically it seems that as when civilization brings the leisure to ponder, a lack of the correct principles and understanding establish thoughts built upon false conclusions and quickness towards smart 'common sense' assumptions, leads towards skepticism, cynicism and materialism, so that leisure to ponder tends to result in a reduction of thought, a horizontalizing of the vertical, and a lessening of considered self control brings about acting on unreflective impulse.

There is a way out of this, as pointed out in the coonifesto, up and out... but we've got to help ourselves.

3/20/2010 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger Jamie Irons said...

Bob,

I'm so glad you alerted me to this book, which I purchased and started reading a few days ago.

As I am a a person who was steeped in both the Old and New Testaments since early childhood (via Scots Presbyterianism), and I read Greek, including the Koine dialect of the New testament, I always assumed I "got" Pauline Christianity, but after reading Rudin I am convinced I did not.

Extremely valuable. Her writing is both profound but also has, in some way, a light touch about it.

Thanks!

Jamie Irons

3/20/2010 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

A komos "was a late-night, very drunken sometimes violent postparty parade," and "which could even end in kidnapping and rape."

Frat parties! No wonder they are called Greeks.

RE: the violence of male homosexuality -- I once caught a bunch of flak from a guy because I suggested that such a thing was possible.

My experience with prisoners convinced me that, most of the time, homosexual activity in prison is mostly about domination. I heard a guard sum it up as: "You either have a punk, or you are a punk."

Of course we are talking about a "self-selected group" of guys with poor impulse control. Still, I think there's some reason to extrapolate to the general population.

And FWIW The Shawshank Redemption was very accurate in it's depiction of the prison environment I was familiar with -- in both guards and cons.

3/20/2010 02:24:00 PM  
Blogger Jewel said...

Children, live-born children, were disposable. I read an interesting piece in Biblical Archaeology Magazine, where an underground, Roman-era pipe was discovered, clogged with the skeletal remains of babies.

3/20/2010 02:50:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, I read that too. In fact, Ruden says that it was against the law in Rome not to expose a "defective" baby.

3/20/2010 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Bob - Thanks for the Rudin. Like I always quote, "a text without a context is a pretext".

3/20/2010 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger Donald Sensing said...

David Bentley Hart documents in his book, Atheist Delusions, the radically different nature of Christian morality from all the koral systems of the age (except Judaism's, which was the same as Xty's, except that the Jews were not evangelical and the Xns were).

a major part of the ancient cultures' propensity toward interpersonal violence was that they were heavily honor-shame systems. Ancient cultures were (and much of the world still is) primarily tribal. Alone among ancient religions, Xty denounced tribalism and honor-shame systems - even the ancient Jews had not outgrown it. Many of Jesus' teaching are directed against honor-shame, such as when he saw everyone jockeying for table position at a prominent Pharisee's dinner party.

That the God of Xty apparently had no concern for his divine honor (as Paul put it, Christ embraced the shame of the cross) meant that his followers had to accept social leveling as the price of discipleship. That Xty spread first among the lower classes there is no doubt, but increasingly the uppers were converted also, probably because the higher the class, the more spiritually burdensome protecting one's honor is.

Disciples proved their claims of Xn equality were not empty words in deeds of charity and compassion. Finally, pagan Emperor Julian the Apostate (second after Constantine) complained in a letter to a pagan priest that it was bad enough that Xns were ministering to their own dispossessed, but even worse, they were doing so to the pagan dispossessed, too. Scandalous stuff, that.

3/20/2010 03:33:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

An interesting article/interview on Stacey Ruden ('Paul Among the People'), and links to her other books, including the first full translation of The Aeneid by a lady,
""Robert Fagles, shortly before his death, set the bar very high for translating [Vergil's] Aeneid. Yet already the scholar-poet Sarah Ruden has soared over the bar.... The translation is alive in every part.... This is the first translation since Dryden's that can be read as a great English poem in itself.”"

(ahwhh...ragglefrattin mmmgryllfrggn... 'Must Buy' book list grows again. Arggghhh.)

3/20/2010 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Oops... dropped her quote,

"...Here's some of what I want to know. Why should we hugely compress the range of historical time from which we cause students to read, and also the array of permitted thematic questions? (In many schools, you're now not only kept to race, gender, and class, but you're punished if you say anything ABOUT race, gender, or class that quite a tiny elite wouldn't also say.) And why at the same time do we tell students that, anyway, it's all about their expressing their own concerns, when they don't yet know what an intellectual concern is? Isn't that going to produce little more than a confused boredom and a little skill at parroting?..."

3/20/2010 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

I'd be interested in reading Ruden myself--especially the Aeneid.

3/20/2010 05:33:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

OT: good writing re atheists

http://network.nationalpost.com/NP/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2010/03/20/rex-murphy-bluster-masquerading-as-reason.aspx

3/20/2010 05:50:00 PM  
Blogger jp said...

Donals says: "Ancient cultures were (and much of the world still is) primarily tribal."

I've never been a fan of tribal systems myself.

Every once in awhile I think about how to make sure that they cease to exist.

What arises from the destablized and dismembered wreckage of tribal societies? Another tribal society?

I grew up near the amish. I always thought they could use a good assmilation. Disowning family members always really annoyed me. I went to school with a guy who was dis-amished.

3/20/2010 06:03:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Re: abortion, Chesterton would have said that it takes a civilization to do really evil things - you need a good cover of official pomp and ritual and manners to really cover up evil. I'm personally convinced that as for violence it comes and goes - and indeed it all has to do with how each generation is raised, given that a feral child is possible in any generation. We have an inheritance that God-help-us if we do not continue.

Anyway the point is that even as barbarism can excuse wickedness in the name of its gods or honor or authenticity, so can civilization excuse evil as great for the status quo, and so on. It probably didn't help that the late Roman empire was both in some sense barbaric and also civilized. The Mayans were no doubt both very strongly.

Abortion continues in our time because no one is willing to step up and stop it; or rather that the trappings of civilization have made the machine impossible to stop.

As for the ancient world, I think that Lewis' 'Till We Have Faces' made me really think again about the whole subject. There is the possibility that the entire created order was actually changed with the incarnation; Lewis, and indeed perhaps any Christian should believe it. After all, was it God, the unchanging who changed? Or...?

3/20/2010 08:23:00 PM  
Blogger Grant Maher said...

I don't for a minute buy into the "brutish ancients" view presented here.

They have been impeached in absentia and the evidence is sketchy.

The default condition of humanity is benevolence and love, and likely always has been.

That's my position and I'm stickin' to it.

3/20/2010 10:57:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

grunt maker said "The default condition of humanity is benevolence and love, and likely always has been."

As one who doesn't buy into the extremes of 'brutish ancients', I also refuse to be swindled by the "default condition of humanity is benevolence and love". The default condition of man, is the natural, animalistic state, that of the clever omnivore. Anything worthy of the term Humanity, is so only if it involves humans who have striven to rise above their natural impulses and seek to conceive what is true and right.

Btw, your short story about the WWII brutish German child of a Russian rape, gives the lie to your claim to believe the best of Man qua Man. Simply put, you are a hypocrite and a fraud, and a very feeble provocateur... and probably should stick to being an aninnymouse.

3/20/2010 11:33:00 PM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

Obama: "People have lost faith in government," he said at a recent rally in St. Louis. "They had lost faith in government before I ran, and it has been getting worse."

Saw this and had to respond.

What is it with "Constitutional Lawyers" that they revert to faith when eviscerating a rational contract between the people and its government? I am so tired of this bumpkin. I am so tired of ivy league asshats preaching envy as something deep and thoughtful. The ends justify the means until their ends are achieved a which point no further debate is permitted. The endless war on poverty continues, with no recognition by these ivy league pinheads that its the culture and beliefs of their constituents that causes poverty. They love to talk rational, but the reality is they are merely "believers" in the perfectibility of man (see Stalin, Mao, Hitler, et.al.) through the application of redistribution of others achievements. I guess today they are going to break a few eggs to make their omelet. What happens when the hens stop laying is not a question they are prepared to answer.

To paraphrase Chesterton, all political debate is theology. There is a reason Libs don't believe in God, He is not up to their standard (didn't go to Yale or Harvard). Maybe it was this total revulsion of the elites that caused the burning of Library in Alexandria? Who knows, but I am quite tired of ivy leaguers with their indoctrinated racism and classism being revered and enacted. Lets just call them what they are, modern day Lester Maddox's with a new ax handle (a fancy degree and a new Messiah). You really have to wonder whether Jeremiah Wright really thought he would have this much effect on the country? He and the ivy league seem to share the same world view.

3/21/2010 05:08:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

"Interestingly, when Paul uses the word "faith," he is doing so in an unprecedented way. Ruden says that "Before Christianity, neither the Greeks nor the Romans seem ever to have used the concept in what we could call a spiritual sense." Rather, for them, it was much more analogous to what we would call "protection," or having someone to watch one's back. For pagan polytheists, it was analogous to having faith in one's fellow gang members to strike back if one is punked by a rival gang."

Its funny that no one has discussed the difference between Christians and polytheist with regard to the after life. Within Greek/Roman religions the concept of a heaven did not exist. When you died you died, unless you were a hero and elevated to demigod status. Further, within the Jewish tradition the focus of behavior was on the immediate material world. Their strength, like a lot of ancestor worshipping cultures was on the family. The Christians were one of the first religions to speak of a heaven and connect entrance to it based on personal behavior on earth. It is this concept that pretty well establishes the core of Christ's teaching. I said that Christians were one of the first, the other religion would be the Persian based Zoroastrianism. This two monotheistic religions held followers personally responsible for their behavior, encouraging right behavior, as a condition of salvation. While the Jewish world did indeed conceive of a heaven, birthright versus behavior was your ticket in.

I am quite taken by the amount of Zororastrianism that was syncretised by Christianity. Pretty much the entire book of Revelations structurally comes from the Avesta. The concept of heaven and hell and the battle between light and dark forces makes up the core of Zoroastrianism. This is a new discovery (theory/speculation) for me. If anyone knows of any quality writers who cover this comparison please let me know. (I believe Jung saw these connections).

3/21/2010 05:15:00 AM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

Dear Bob,

Please let's not confess to the genocide of Homo neanderthalensis. The paleontological record is much too thin to even begin to understand exactly who the Neanderthals were, whether they had any contact with our ancestors, whether they might or might not be counted among our ancestors, or to know what exactly happened to them.

Personally, I think the apparent failure of the Neanderthals to associate themselves with dogs (wolves) --again, based on an admittedly thin and inadequate archeological record-- made them less competitive than our ancestors, whose domestication by very far-sighted and canny wolves enabled hominids to develop our verticalizing properties rather than the horizontal skills of smelling, seeing, and chasing game. The canine psychopomp sacrificed his verticality to us, allowing us to use his physical skills, which are evidently so superior to ours.

You are correct, however, in alluding to the fact that the one hunting skill we do have that is superior to the skill of dogs, is the ability to kill large game. That may be the one talent of ours that the wolves found so valuable.

But that's another story.

3/21/2010 06:32:00 AM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

Dear Grant Maher,

The idea that "the default condition of humanity is benevolence and love, and likely always has been" is something which it would be pretty to think were so, and which visionaries like Wilhelm Reich and James DeMeo have made the basis of an alternative anthropology (see DeMeo's magisterial "Saharasia" for a well-argued case).

However, the available evidence suggests that it just aint so.

I've just been reading the Icelandic Sagas. I'm struck by how often apologists for Islamist savagery use a "tu quoque" argument against the Bible. Well, let me tell you, the Icelandic Sagas are more violent than anything in Scripture, and present a mater-of-fact account of revenge, theft, raiding, war, and murder that I am sure you would characterize as nothing but wanton.

The war between the Pandawas and the Kurawas was recorded as killing tens of thousands of warriors in a day.

There is absolutely nothing in the historical or archaeological record of any time or place to demonstrate that any group of human beings ever lived a life of pure benevolence and love. Of course, the nature of the physical world, and its establishment on the basis of complementary horizons, ensures that such could never be the case. We would not know what benevolence and love were, had we no experience of their opposites!

Moreover, the archeologist Lawrence Keeley showed that fully 50% of the skeletons in a 12,000 year old Nubian cemetery, to cite one example from his book, "War Before Civilization," died as the result of violence. 25% of aboriginal men in the XIXth century died in inter-tribal violence. On our own continent, 60% of the inhabitants of the Crow Creek village were massacred in an attack hundreds of years before Columbus had ever been born. It may be that in the eras preceding civilization, most men died as the result of murder, raiding, and war. That's certainly the impression we get from the Book of Genesis, and certainly characterizes the way the world is described as being in the generation of the Flood. The Laws given to Noah represent an attempt to get humankind beyond that overriding level of primitive violence.

3/21/2010 06:45:00 AM  
Blogger Grant Maher said...

To Address Van and Gandalin:

Van, I am not a fraud. "Knockout Maus" ends in love and conciliation. Yes the route to that end was violent and ugly, but that's life.

Gandalin: I see your point. My take on the enormous violence of the epic period of India and elsewhere is that it was conducted by a Shatriya class of warriors, and did not greatly displace other castes (service workers, administration, religious leadership).

The Shatriyas in any culture, yesterday or today, bear the brunt of the fighting.

3/21/2010 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Gandalin said "I've just been reading the Icelandic Sagas... let me tell you, the Icelandic Sagas are more violent than anything in Scripture, and present a mater-of-fact account of revenge, theft, raiding, war, and murder that I am sure you would characterize as nothing but wanton."

Got that right! (But what a thrill to read!)

3/21/2010 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Grant - I was a tad in my cups when I wrote that, and out of line. I apologize.

But.

The rosy world of the noble savage was a ludicrous notion when Rousseau promoted it, and could lead nowhere but to the successions of murderous regimes that it has, building and expanding upon his notions, as they have.

3/21/2010 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

Grant,

The kshatriyas didn't come to earth from another planet.

I hadn't even mentioned the Muslim conquest of India, which Will & Ariel Durant characterized as the "bloodiest story in history."

But most telling is Keeley's demonstration that the most common cause of death in all of the archaic (paleolithic, neolithic, ancient) skeletons we've found is violence. That wasn't the province of any particular caste. Keeley shows that archaic man lived much the same way that many of the most primitive tribes lived until recently in the bucolic Amazon, raiding and murdering each other.

Van,

yes, the Icelandic sagas are superb. The resilience and fortitude of those men and women in the face of an unforgiving physical environment and a difficult social milieu makes for some splendid storytelling.

I would venture to hazard the guess, as well, that the sagas or chronicles of any people or culture on earth who saw fit to keep them, are in large part the stories of struggle and strife, and not the description of the sort of Edenic kumbaya world that some moderns imagine there once to have been common.

3/21/2010 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger A_Nonny_Mouse said...

Again on the idea of "Turn the other cheek":

So you're saying the "olden" response was like what we currently see in urban street gangs and the fundamental Islamists: ie, tribal-based honor/shame cultures in which --if somebody dissed you or your tribe-- you HAD to fight them to the death to "restore your family honor". To turn away would mean being shamed as the cowardly offspring of a family with no honor and no pride.

Is that it?

3/21/2010 08:00:00 PM  
Blogger A_Nonny_Mouse said...

And now I've finally read thru all the comments and found the confirmation of my tribal/honor/shame question.

I know, should slow down & read EVERYTHING before spouting off...

By the way to Tigtog-
Your remark "what happens when the hens stop laying" is pretty close to what I muttered to myself on the same topic: "What happens when they find out the Golden Goose got cooked?"

3/21/2010 08:15:00 PM  
Anonymous NickyB said...

The substance of these blog entries on Paul seems to bear out the view of the 50's and 60's Bible / Rome movies that I grew up with. You know, 'The Robe', 'Spartacus', 'King of Kings' etc; that Rome really was a despotic if not 'evil' empire, and that the Christian community really did 'introduce' compassion / love / equality and spirituality into this era.
Obviously these movies portray this in a far simpler, if not naive fashion, but they certainly jibe with the findings that Bob is portraying about Graeco Roman culture.
To me Pauls moral exhortations may also be misunderstood in the sense that they were probably aimed at rasing conciousness and spritual elevation. They used morality as a means and not an end in themselves, and were aimed at facilitating mystical experience of Christ in You and the seventh heaven.

3/22/2010 06:05:00 AM  

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