Friday, June 18, 2021

An end in itself?

Again and again we are taught that the Torah is not an end in itself. It is the gate through which one enters the court in which one finds awe of heaven. “Said Rabbi Yanni: Woe to him who has no court; woe to him who thinks the gate is the court . . . And Rabbi Jonathan said: Woe to those scholars who occupy themselves with Torah and have not awe of the Lord.“—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays 200

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Why not?

What stands in the way of accepting revelation is our refusal to accept its authority. Liberty is our security, and to accept the word of the prophets is to accept the sovereignty of God. Yet our understanding of man and his liberty has undergone a serious change in our time. The problem of man is more grave than we were able to realize a generation ago. What we used to sense in our worst fears turned out to have been a utopia compared with what has happened in our own days. We have discovered that reason may be perverse, that liberty is no security. Now we must learn that there is no liberty except the freedom bestowed upon us by God; that there is no liberty without sanctity.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 189

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Job opening

If I were about 15 years younger, this would be a fun job:

Assistant Managing Editor—Academic or Trade (PDF)

Papyrus information

This is another in the ongoing series on copyediting. Over the years, I've edited a lot of books that contain papyrus references. I find them almost as confusing as the Dead Sea Scrolls designations. If you don't deal with papyrus on a regular basis, the somewhat arcane and confusing abbreviations can be a problem. Consequently, I've bookmarked a couple of sites that can help: I'm sure there are other sites out there, but especially the first one has been a great help to me. I mentioned it in my Supplements to the SBLHS abbreviations, but figured it would catch more visibility in a post of its own.

If you have a favorite site, please mention it in the comments and I'll add it to the body of the post.

Here's the table of contents for all the copyediting stuff.

Besotted by our own opinions

Modern Man used to think that the acceptance of revelation was an effrontery to the mind, Man must live by his intelligence alone; he is capable of both finding and attaining the aim of his existence. That man is not in need of superhuman authority or guidance was a major argument of the Deists against accepting the idea of prophecy. Social reforms, it was thought, would cure the ills and eliminate the evils from our world, Yet we have finally discovered what prophets and saints have always known: bread and beauty will not save humanity. There is a passion and drive for cruel deeds which only the fear of God can soothe; there is a suffocating sensuality in man which only holiness can ventilate. It is, indeed, hard for the mind to believe that any member of a species which can organize or even witness the murder of millions and feel no regret should ever be endowed with the ability to receive a word of God. If man can remain callous to a horror as infinite as God, if man can be bloodstained and self-righteous, distort what the conscience tells, make soap of human flesh, then how did it happen that nations did not exterminate each other centuries ago?—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 188

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Here's the question, the only really important question

Is it meaningful to ask: Did God address Himself to man? Indeed unless God is real and beyond definitions that confine Him; unless He is unfettered by such distinctions as transcendence and immanence; unless we feel that we are driven and pursued by His question, there is little meaning in starting our inquiry. But those who know that this life of ours takes place in a world that is not all to be explained in human terms; that every moment is a carefully concealed act of His creation, cannot but ask: Is there any event wherein His voice is not suppressed? Is there any moment wherein His presence is not concealed?

True, the claim of the prophets is staggering and almost incredible. But to us, living in this horribly beautiful world, God's thick silence is incomparably more staggering and totally incredible.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 186–87

Monday, June 14, 2021

A little excitement

We had a storm come up suddenly on Friday. I mean very suddenly and I mean a STORM. Winds up to 75 MPH were recorded. The power in our house went out for about 1/2 hour or so, but two places in town had gas lines damaged and were without power for a day or so. We saw some seriously large trees down when we went for our walk later. One tree had landed on a car, flattening it significantly. I heard that there were other cars damaged, too.

A similar storm last year took down a huge limb in our front yard that blocked the street. It also took down a limb on the neighbor's tree that landed on our garage roof. The damage was minimal and the limb slid off onto the ground.

This year's storm knocked another large tree limb off that same tree in the back. This limb was larger than the one last year. It could have done some serious damage to the garage roof, but it barely missed it, landing on my compost bins instead. So, Saturday, the first day in June that didn't get into the 90s F, I cut it up. See the pictures below:

Where did it come from?

Have you ever wondered where the idea that Judaism was only about law came from? Abraham Joshua Heschel has an interesting thesis, which is todays' extract from his book Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays
Spinoza was the man who attempted to destroy Jewish theology. He found many admirers and they followed him (I discuss this in the early part of God in Search Man). He claimed that the Bible, as such, has nothing relevant to say regarding philosophy and ideas. To him the Bible was not theology but only law. This concept was, paradoxically, taken over by Moses Mendelssohn. He must have grasped the situation existing in the Western world, that throughout the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries there was only one book written about Judaism, and that was the Tractatus, by Spinoza. Since it was the only book available on Judaism in the Western language, it had the most profound impact on Christians and Jews alike. It is evident when studying Kant or Hegel that whatever they have to say concerning Judaism was derived from the Tractatus. Paradoxically, Moses Mendelssolm was profoundly influenced by this book and by its approach. Moses Mendelssohn’s influence upon Jews, in turn, was enormous. Thus, a system was developed whereby Judaism was halacha, Law—nothing else.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 155
<idle musing>
Not sure if he is correct, but it makes sense to a degree. But there were currents of it running around as far back as Augustine, as an essay by Paula Fredriksen in an SBL Press book coming out soon makes clear. And Luther definitely thought that Judaism was nothing but law. Perhaps Spinoza's book simply hardened that view and made it more firmly entrenched—with devastating effects.
</idle musing>

Friday, June 11, 2021

Thought for the day

1 Doom to those who pronounce wicked decrees,
    and keep writing harmful laws
2 to deprive the needy of their rights
     and to rob the poor among my people of justice;
     to make widows their loot;
     to steal from orphans!
3 What will you do on the day of punishment
     when disaster comes from far away?
To whom will you flee for help;
     where will you stash your wealth?
4 How will you avoid crouching among the prisoners
     and falling among the slain?
Even so, God’s anger hasn’t turned away;
     God’s hand is still extended. (Isa 10:1–4 CEB)

<idle musing>
Pretty much describes the current crop of politicians, doesn't it? And the billionaires who paid to put them in office. James 5 comes to mind, also:

5:1 Pay attention, you wealthy people! Weep and moan over the miseries coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted. Moths have destroyed your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you. It will eat your flesh like fire. Consider the treasure you have hoarded in the last days. 4 Listen! Hear the cries of the wages of your field hands. These are the wages you stole from those who harvested your fields. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of heavenly forces. 5 You have lived a self-satisfying life on this earth, a life of luxury. You have stuffed your hearts in preparation for the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who doesn’t oppose you. (CEB)
</idle musing>

We've lost the question

The most serious obstacle which we encounter in entering a discussion about revelation, however, does not arise from our doubts whether the accounts of the prophets about their experiences are authentic; the most critical vindication of these accounts, even if it were possible, would be of little relevance. The most serious obstacle is the absence of the problem. An answer, to be meaningful, presupposes the awareness of a question, but the climate in which we live today is not genial to the growth of questions which have taken centuries to bloom. The Bible is an answer to the supreme question: What does God demand of us? Yet the question has gone out of the world. God is portrayed as a mass of vagueness behind a veil of enigmas, and His voice has become alien to our minds, to our hearts, to our souls. We have learned to listen to every ego except the “I” of God. The man of our time may proudly declare: Nothing animal is alien to me, but everything divine is. This is the status of the Bible in modern life: it is a great answer, but we do not know the question anymore, Unless we recover the question, there is no hope of understanding the Bible.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 186

<idle musing>
Indeed! That's one reason apologetics is basically worthless in our society. You can prove all you want that God exists and scripture is correct, etc. But it won't matter, because "this people's hearts have become hardened" to the point where they are unable to see beyond themselves. The results are all around us in the individualism that no longer says, "As long as it doesn't hurt someone it's ok." It now says "I can do whatever I want, when I want, in the way that I want—and screw you if you try to stop me."

Sorry to be the one to tell you, but life doesn't work that way…
</idle musing>

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Pathos and prophecy

After a hiatus of several weeks, let's get back to Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays:

The knowledge about the inner state of the divine in its relationship to Israel determined the inner life of the prophets, engendering a passion for God, a sympathy for the divine pathos in their hearts. They loved Israel because God loved Israel, and they frowned upon Israel when they knew that such was the attitude of God. Thus the marriage of Hosea was an act of sympathy; the prophet had to go through the experience of being betrayed as Israel had betrayed God. He had to experience in his own life what it meant to be betrayed by a person whom he loved in order to gain an understanding of the inner life of God. In a similar way the sympathy for God was in the heart of Jeremiah like a “burning fire, shut up in my bones and I weary myself to hold it in, but cannot” (20:9).

The main doctrine of the prophets can be called pathetic theology. Their attitude toward what they knew about God can be described as religion of sympathy. The divine pathos, or as it was later called, the Middot, stood in the center of their consciousness. The life of the prophet revolved around the life of God. The prophets were not indifferent to whether God was in a state of anger or a state of mercy. They were most sensitive to what was going on in God.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 183–84 (emphasis original)