Jr High Drop Out

Thank you for existing, @TheTweetOfGod


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Thank you for existing, @TheTweetOfGod

title:

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Thank you for existing, @TheTweetOfGod


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Batman is strange woke, y’all


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I'm just gonna put this here


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Math solves another problem

There’s 350k churches/temples/mosques in the US and 3m homeless. That’s 8 people each.


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Pretty much


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H.L. Mencken, from A Mencken Chrestomathy

"Where is the graveyard of dead gods? What lingering mourner waters their mounds? There was a time when Jupiter was the king of the gods, and any man who doubted his puissance was ipso facto a barbarian and an ignoramus. But where in all the world is there a man who worships Jupiter today? And who of Huitzilopochtli? In one year - and it is no more than five hundred years ago - 50,000 youths and maidens were slain in sacrifice to him. Today, if he is remembered at all, it is only by some vagrant savage in the depths of the Mexican forest. Huitzilopochtli, like many other gods, had no human father; his mother was a virtuous widow; he was born of an apparently innocent flirtation that she carried out with the sun. When he frowned, his father, the sun, stood still. When he roared with rage, earthquakes engulfed whole cities. When he thirsted he was watered with 10,000 gallons of human blood. But today Huitzilopochtli is as magnificently forgotten as Allen G. Thurman. Once the peer of Allah, Buddha and Wotan, he is now the peer of Richmond P. Hobson, Alton B. Parker, Adelina Patti, General Weyler and Tom Sharkey. Speaking of Huitzilopochtli recalls his brother Tezcatlipoca. Tezcatlipoca was almost as powerful; he consumed 25,000 virgins a year.Lead me to his tomb: I would weep, and hang a couronne des perles. But who knows where it is? Or where the grave of Quetzalcoatl is? Or Xiuhtecuhtli? Or Centeotl, that sweet one? Or Tlazolteotl, the goddess of love? Of Mictlan? Or Xipe? Or all the host of Tzitzimitl? Where are their bones? Where is the willow on which they hung their harps? In what forlorn and unheard-of Hell do they await their resurrection morn? Who enjoys their residuary estates? Or that of Dis, whom Caesar found to be the chief god of the Celts? Of that of Tarves, the bull? Or that of Moccos, the pig? Or that of Epona, the mare? Or that of Mullo, the celestial jackass? There was a time when the Irish revered all these gods, but today even the drunkest Irishman laughs at them. But they have company in oblivion: the Hell of dead gods is as crowded as the Presbyterian Hell for babies. Damona is there, and Esus, and Drunemeton, and Silvana, and Dervones, and Adsullata, and Deva, and Bellisima, and Uxellimus, and Borvo, and Grannos, and Mogons. All mighty gods in their day, worshipped by millions, full of demands and impositions, able to bind and loose - all gods of the first class. Men labored for generations to build vast temples to them - temples with stones as large as hay-wagons. The business of interpreting their whims occupied thousands of priests, bishops, archbishops. To doubt them was to die, usually at the stake. Armies took to the field to defend them against infidels; villages were burned, women and children butchered, cattle were driven off. Yet in the end they all withered and died, and today there is none so poor to do them reverence. What has become of Sutekh, once the high god of the whole Nile Valley? What has become of:
Resheph
Anath
Ashtoreth
El
Nergal
Nebo
Ninib
Melek
Ahijah
Isis
Ptah
Anubis
Baal
Astarte
Hadad
Addu
Shalem
Dagon
Sharaab
Yau
Amon-Re
Osiris
Sebek
Molech?
All there were gods of the highest eminence. Many of them are mentioned with fear and trembling in the Old Testament. They ranked, five or six thousand years ago, with Yahweh Himself; the worst of them stood far higher than Thor. Yet they have all gone down the chute, and with them the following:
Bilé
Ler
Arianrhod
Morrigu
Govannon
Gunfled
Sokk-mimi
Nemetona
Dagda
Robigus
Pluto
Ops
Meditrina
Vesta
You may think I spoof. That I invent the names. I do not. Ask the rector to lend you any good treatise on comparative religion: You will find them all listed. They were gods of the highest standing and dignity-gods of civilized peoples-worshiped and believed in by millions. All were omnipotent, omniscient and immortal. And all are dead."

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Dirty Secret

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Could it be?


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The Second Noble Truth


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The 8-Fold Path


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Society needs a reboot

Our edicts and mores—deeply rooted in our religious, cultural, social, political, and legal history—are flawed and foolish.  They sit, leaden-bottomed, on our chests until we can't breathe.  Like a cast molded around a broken arm, they served a purpose but over time they itch and cramp.  Won't do any good to point this out, but it's still true.


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I call this one Axis Mundi


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With liberties from Paradise Lost Book I, 38-44

[Tom] was aspiring
To set himself in glory above his peers,
He trusted to have equalled the Most High,
If he opposed, and with ambitious aim
Against the throne and monarchy of God,
Raised impious war in Heaven and battle proud,
With vain attempt.

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The Truth of Evolution

They lie!  Everyone knows birds come from God's eyelashes.


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Finding the Buddha of the Moment

I smacked into the back of some chick's car this morning.  No real damage.  No injuries.  She is still filing against me insurance.  Some people are just that way.  Oh well.

I am, nonetheless, the smiling Buddha.  I refuse to let the world's lameness get in the way of my smile.

Taste it, world!  I will not back down.


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Om

shanti shanti shanti


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A thought exercise

Tom wonders if the force and authority of government makes him more or less evil than he would be without it.


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Ella Wheeler Wilcox from Voice of the Voiceless

"So many gods
So many creeds
That wind and wind,
While just the art
Of being kind
Is all the sad world needs."

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Our most fundamental flaw

I'm so acutely aware of how natural it is for Man to try to attain power without recovering grace. I see it in my daughter trying to tie her shoes, in me trying to do a good job, and in all of us as we try to work through our various relationships and interactions. This fundamental flaw worms its way into all human endeavor, making a mess of our works.


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Doubt

Doubt, the essential preliminary of all improvement and discovery, must accompany the stages of man's onward progress. The faculty of doubting and questioning, without which those of comparison and judgment would be useless, is itself a divine prerogative of the reason


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But is it truly mine?

My tao is forever changing. One state flows to the next. A movement without rest. My fortunes and fates rising and sinking without fixed law or expectation. They cannot be confined within a rule; It is only change that is at work here. Nameless, Named, Nameless. So moves my tao.


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Theta Alpha Kappa


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Should it be a NullPointerException()?

I have entered the Age of the Spiritual Machine. All praise the Great SysAdmin in the sky. In the Name of the Programmer, the Administrator, and the Holy Help Desk. Throw new AmenException().


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I command mighty Yaldaboath...

"Rise!"


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Maximillian Cohen

"9:22, Personal note: When I was a little kid my mother told me not to stare into the sun, so once when I was six, I did. At first the brightness was overwhelming, but I had seen that before. I kept looking, forcing myself not to blink, and then the brightness began to dissolve. My pupils shrunk to pinholes and everything came into focus and for a moment I understood"

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Niebuhr, The Irony of American History

We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization. We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about a particular degree of interest and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimatized.

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My faith

I beleive the sun is simply reflecting the shine from the moon.


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Hold none before me

Tom is the root of heaven and earth.


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Mmmmm Sacra-licious!

I felt that the body of Christ, the---the meaning of Christ, is about the sweetness. Tell me more about this divinely-tasty Messiah of yours.

OK, enough with the dessert jokes. I did have one semi-serious point to make. To the guy in the linked article who said this was "one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever," I'd like to respond with, "Then let me introduce you to the Colosseum. I think its rich history might afford you some damn perspective."


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In Honor of the Holiday Season

I present a history of the religions of the world in 90 seconds. Enjoy.


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The Origins of Halloween

There has been a great deal of misunderstanding about the Halloween holiday and in some cases, outright lies designed to eliminate its practice. Here is the actual history of the holiday. If you read this and still decide not to celebrate the holiday, well, then at least you've done so knowledgably. Personally, I like th eholiday. As secular holidays go, it's one of the funnest, not to mention it heralds my favorite time of year---from Halloween to the end of the New Year's celebration.

Halloween began 2000 years ago with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The Celts of the British Isles began their year on November 1st. This was for agricultural reasons. The growing season was ended and the winter came, with it a new year dawned. As you might expect for an ancient civilization tied to agriculture for its sustenance, with winter came death. It was on the day before this "season of death" that the Celts believed the veil between this this world and the next was at its most thin. The ritual of Samhain helped the Celts ward off the evil spirits (that might otherwise cause all manner of deadly mischief) and to allow the Druids to soothsee the next year's future---thus allowing them to plan for the foreseen problems and events. They would offer burnt sacrifices to the the Celtic deities and engage is various nature rituals to appease the Gods, warn the spirits, and scry for impending dooms. Of course, they would dress as animals, which may be the origin of our costumed tradition.

Much later, during the Roman occupation, a couple fo Roman festivals began to merge slowly into the Celtic festival of Samhain. The first was Feralia, a Roman day of the dead, and the second was a holiday devoted to Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruits and trees. Though her symbol was the apple, there exists no direct proof that this might be the origin of our modern apple bobbing tradition.

As the middle ages bore close and Christianity's influence began being felt in all things across Europe, Pope Boniface IV designated the 1st of November as All Saints' Day to honor the Catholic saints and martyrs who've passed. There is some evidence that he coincided his new holiday with that of Samhain as a way to take some of the focus off the older pagan festival. The Catholic celebration was also called All-hallows and the day before, which was the day of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve or Halloween. Later, the church added All Souls' Day to it's roster of holidays on November 2nd. With a celebration quite similar to the older Samhain, the three holidays became lumped together in the minds of the people celebrating and were referred to collectively as Hallowmas.

Much later, as European immigrants began their migration to America, they brought with them the traditions they'd grown to practice---among them, Halloween. Of course, due to Puritan interests in the New World, celebration of Halloween was limited and rare, but it did not die out, particualrly in southern America, where Puritanism had no substantial foothold.

As the traditions of the colonists and the American Indians began to mix, a distinctive American holiday took shape. They would hold public parties to celebrate the harvest---remember that for early colonists, the harvest held almost the same public importance and worry that it held for the early Celts. At these "play parties", the celebrants would whisper ghost stories and soothsay, and generally revel into the late evening. All-around mischief-making became part-and-parcel with the ghost stories. Though all this was done to celebrate the harvest, and it borrowed memes from the earlier Hallowmas festivals, t was not actually a celebration of Halloween itself---not directly, at least.

By the 1850s, America was awash in immigrants, many of whom brought with them a fresh practice of the Hallowmas. Takng a cue from the English and Irish immigrants, the colonists began to dress in costume and go house to house asking for food or money. As the popularity of the Hallowmas grew, so too grew a movement to shape this "new" holiday into something more modern and less superstitious. By the end of the 1800s, the holiday had begun making its transformation into a festival that, while having the trappings of a pagan celebration, had more to do with community and fun than ghouls and goblins.

Around 1900, parents were encouraged to remove the superstition from the nightly celebrations. References to ghosts and witches were replaces with princesses and animals. By 1920, the holiday had become wholly secular in practice in the Unites States. By 1950, the practice of begging for food and money had been reborn as the more modern "trick-or-treat".

Commercially-speaking, Halloween is the second largest holiday practiced in the Unites States, with Americans spending an estimated $6.9 billion annually.

While I've left some details out (like the Soul Cakes and bowls of food and drink left out for the spirits) you should now have the gist of the history of Halloween.


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The Gospels and Canonical Inclusion

Abstract
Concerning the decisions which led to the inclusion of the four gospels currently found in the New Testament.

Paper
In their attempt to canonize the new covenant of Christ, it is profoundly important that Christians utilize those works extant that will most closely intimate the teachings and life of Jesus, the Messiah, and as there are no known written works whose authorship can be directly attributed to Jesus, Christianity must search elsewhere for source information concerning his word and deed; thus for this reason Christianity looks to the various Gospels. Sources other than the Gospels exist and are viable as references to the Christian doctrine in their own various ways; however, since each classification of source would merit its own separate essay, this essay will concentrate on the Gospel genre by discussing the concept of the Gospel, arguing for a Gospel inclusion into the New Testament, and positing a rationale for determining which Gospels should become canonical.

Gospels are as diverse and varied as the people who write them---each having its own unique emphases and style; nevertheless, there are certain universal qualities which characterize and classify them as Gospels. Scholarly opinion is divided on several fine points as to what specifically defines a Gospel. Some see the Gospels primarily as forms of biographies of Jesus Christ while others regard them as having much more to do with the statement of the good news of salvation through Christ, however, a middle ground is more likely to be the case. The Gospel genre of writing steps beyond simple storytelling and the manifesto of religious aphorisms and coalesces into an admixture of the two---the combination of a biographical narrative and a religious ethos. Having established what a Gospel essentially is, one must next consider what reasoning is there to include this genre of writing in a religious text at all.

Christianity is a religion based on both the Old Testament canon and the teachings of Jesus Christ and as such it becomes eminently important to gather detailed information concerning the life and teachings of Jesus. Since Jesus was not an author, the only sources of knowledge on these matters are found in the writings of others closely associated with the man himself and most of these writings were not meant be to used as religious text, such as those official Roman documents and other non-Jewish/Christian texts that reference Jesus and the Christian movement. The Gospels, much like Paul's letters, were set forth as true and proper accounts of what it was to know Jesus and his way. Several documents in the New Testament can give the careful reader an understanding of the Christian doctrine, yet none but the Gospels discuss the man, through his words and deeds, who pioneered these principles. If a person wished to learn about Plato, he would ask Socrates or another close associate (that is, of course, only if Plato, himself, were not available to respond), he would, rightfully, not assume that the random Grecian citizen would be capable of holding a meaningful conversation on the subject unless he were in some manner familiar with Plato. So it is with Jesus as well that one cannot expect to learn about Christianity without drawing knowledge from those persons familiar with Christ. Any other method would produce misinformation, misunderstanding, and possibly a biased or skewed view of the subject of the investigation. Therefore, it can be concluded that to best understand Jesus Christ in his role as founder of the Christian religion a careful study of his life and teachings must be undertaking and the Gospels, which as a rule lay claim to an "inside track" on these events, are the obvious best choice. The Christian community is now left with the decision as to which Gospel or Gospels are to be accepted and which are to be denied canonical status.

There are two logical and opposite paths which can be taken at this point. In this paper, they shall be referred to as the Marcionian and the Tatian perspectives. The Marcionian perspective involves the acceptance of one Gospel as the binding truth and denies all other Gospels this standing. More specifically Marcion, himself, was partial to the Gospel of Luke. His position on the subject of Gospel inclusion was that with only one Gospel as official scripture the critics who cite Gospel confliction as a sign of religious falsity could be more easily combated. His hypothesis is correct in that with only one official story of the life and words of Jesus, there would be no internal conflict, and it should be noted that for this purpose, the Gospel of Luke makes an excellent choice since it is Luke who seems to be not only an excellent writer of Greek text but who also lends a historical perspective to the life of Jesus and, unlike other Gospel authors, has written a sequel which is called the book of Acts. Choosing this Gospel allows the Christian church to portray Jesus as something other than a mythic and non-existent leader; it puts Jesus into a setting which can be identified and is familiar to the average reader. It further allows the church to show, through the continuity of the Gospel and Acts literature, a link between Jesus Christ and the development of the early church. All these things together bring Jesus into focus as a real person who lived and influenced the lives of his many Christian followers which has the effect of staving off the critics who would use inconsistency and source reliability as an attack against the early Christian church. It is also possible that Marcion was simply following Paul's lead by proclaiming the righteousness of only one gospel. Paul consistently refers to the Gospel of Christ in the singular and has stated his belief in Galatians 1:7 that there is only one Gospel. Paul's system of thought has been quite influential in the current theology of the Christian church and if Marcion wanted to follow Paul's example, he would have to conform appropriately. It cannot be denied that Marcion had many good reasons for choosing the position he did.

The Tatian perspective falls on the opposing end of the Gospel inclusion spectrum with a belief in using many different Gospels as canonical sources for information about Jesus. According to this perspective, these source Gospels would be reviewed, evaluated and, after gaining a clearer idea of the truth of Jesus' life, synthesized into a single cohesive Gospel. Tatian has done this in his work, the Diatessaron, by using the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; some would also claim that he was influenced by other Gospels as well. His theory involved the belief that multiple portraits of the same thing must, by the simple law of common sense, be intrinsically better than relying on a single portrait. The multiple portraits would give the examiner a more thorough picture of the object portrayed. However, he, like Marcion, was concerned about the apparent inconsistencies in the various Gospels and how that may look to the critic---or worse, to the prospective Christian---thus for clarity's sake, Tatian chose to compose a new Gospel, the aforementioned Diatessaron, based strictly on the extant Gospels and thus merge the various portraits into a fused whole which would be as internally consistent as the canon proposed by Marcion.

There is yet another popular opinion on the subject which has been set forth most eloquently by a Bishop of Lyons, Irenaeus, who said that there is only one legitimate Gospel of Christ, but four worthy literary shapes which the Gospel has taken. He was referring to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John which, by his day, had come into common use. This new perspective seems to be more pragmatic, in that it accepts Paul's notion that Jesus' true Gospel can only be singular, for he did not live multiple lives, but also recognizes that different people will recall and interpret the events in different ways. This notion seems the most sensible of the three options mentioned thus far for several reasons. Firstly, in the Marcionian perspective, the reader is expected to gain a clear and comprehensive understanding of the life and teachings of Jesus with only one witness to rely upon. Though Luke may have been a devoted Christian, his Gospel, just as with the other Gospels, emphasizes those aspects of the Word that he wanted emphasized; thorough as it may be, his Gospel is not all-inclusive and never claims to be. Secondly, the Tatian perspective requires that a person should, after careful study, pick-and-choose which parts should stay, which should go, which are right, and which are not. This might be acceptable if that editor were someone who had lived with and followed Jesus, but it is wholly impossible at this late date to find a candidate with the ability to meet this criterion. Anyone editing the Gospels at this point could not do so with any degree of assurity and the finished product could no more be counted upon for accuracy than the sources from which it was derived. It seems that, to Irenaeus, obtaining the truth about Jesus was deemed more important than the defensibility of the canonical Gospels. Ireneaus' perspective, it seems, welcomes the inconsistencies that the two previous perspectives denounced by accepting them as natural variations that arise when different artists paint the same scene. Ireneaus expects and accepts this, and furthermore, he seems to prefer this. One portrait may show something about the scene that the other portrait does not. This is the beauty of difference---to make the scene complete. So, while no single perspective can be said to be absolutely correct in all ways, it seems that Ireneaus provides Christianity with the most sensible solution to the dilemma---canonize several different versions of the Gospel of Jesus and thus gain the benefit of many different views on his life and teachings.

The enormous task which now lies ahead is the determination of which Gospels to canonize. While there have been over 30 Gospels discovered to date, not all Gospels are suitable for canonization and for this reason Christians must be selective in choosing which ones to accept as "official" reference to the life of Christ and the doctrine he taught. A set of criteria must be developed to filter what enters into the New Testament. Based on earlier discussions in this paper, one can deduce that the first piece of criterion should be some form of association with Jesus or his direct disciples since any further distancing from the subject of the Gospel will be reflected in the Gospel writing itself. This first piece of criterion narrows the list dramatically to the following Gospels; Matthew, John, Mark, Luke, Thomas, James, Peter, and Philip. Of these remaining Gospels, several stand out as not having one or more of the familiar elements of traditional Gospel-genre writings. The Gospel of Thomas, which claims to contain the "secret words" given to Didymos Judas Thomas by Jesus, is a collection of sayings, typically beginning with "Jesus said...", does not discuss, in more than an inadvertent manner through sayings associated with events, the life of Jesus making this a less than satisfactory source for learn about the life of Jesus. The Gospel of James also proves not to be up to the task of retelling the story of Christ's life due to its engrossment in the discussion of Mary's birth and the subsequent virgin birth of Jesus. Further, James does not substantially delve into the teachings of the Messiah nor his death on the cross---a major theme of other Gospels as shall soon be discussed. The Gospel of Peter, which we possess only in part, seems closer to the traditional Gospel style; however, the text we have is short and contains only the account of Jesus' persecution on the cross while omitting, due to lost manuscript, the majority of his life and teachings. One point of note here is the unusual resurrection scene presented by Peter. He describes a heavenly host descending from heaven to spirit away the raised Jesus and all this is done within plain sight of the guards of his tomb. This account differs so substantially from the other discussions of the resurrection that, had we the full text of the Gospel of Peter, it still might not be included in the canon. The Gospel of Philip, discovered in the same collection as the Gospel of Thomas, is written in proper Gnostic fashion. The Gnostics tended to believe that true knowledge could not come from the written word, but only through the "living speech" according to Ireneaus in his work Against Heresies (3:1-3) and thus the Gospel of Philip is written not as a biography or a discussion of doctrine, but as a text on meditative ideas and symbolic gesturing which can best be explained through example as follows:

"Light and darkness, life and death, the right and the left are each others brothers. They cannot separate from one another. Therefore, the good are not good nor are the evil evil, nor is life life, nor death death. On account of this, each one will dissolve into its beginning origin. But those who are exalted above the world cannot dissolve; they are eternal." (Philip 1:10)

This type of mystic interpretive language is not typical of the Gospel genre and, in addition to this, the Gospel of Philip does not discuss the life of Jesus. Some might argue that it does not even correctly reflect the teachings of the man.

Having disqualified all but the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, a discussion of their relative merits must be entered into. Of the remaining Gospels, it is now generally believed that the Gospels of Matthew and John were not written by apostles, as once believed, and Luke and Mark, contrary to the original idea, may not have been associated with the apostles either. So why then should they still be considered for canonical acceptance? Because they are the earliest known accounts of the life of Jesus and therefore are more reliable than other later Gospels. Still, it seems logical that if indeed these four Gospels are not as closely related as one might have otherwise thought, a closer look at the quality of their reliability and their use to the average Christian reader should be obtained. Certain questions must be answered before including them into the New Testament. Do they serve a purpose? What purpose do they serve? Are they reasonably true to the word of Jesus? And finally, taken together, is this group of Gospels going to provide the Christian church with a well-rounded view of the wisdom which Jesus preached and lived by as well as the message which Jesus brought with him and intended for his followers to spread? To answer these questions, an in-depth examination of these Gospels will be undertaken.

The inclusion of the Gospel of Matthew would serve a multitude of purposes. Beyond being a reasonably accurate portrayal of the life of Jesus, inasmuch as can be determined by modern scholarly exegesis, Matthew paints a picture of Jesus' deeds and words which grounds them firmly in the known Judaic history with a strong emphasis on Old Testament law which he is careful to explain that Jesus proclaims it to be correct and binding as exemplified in Matthew 5:17. It is noteworthy that there are instances when Jesus does side against the Old Testament law. He is shown to do so three times in Matthew 5:31-43; however, this is the exception and not the rule as adduced by the many times in which the Gospel of Matthew tells us that Jesus defends the Judaic laws. Moreover, Jesus is seen as a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy in Matthew 2:15 and 8:17. Matthew seems to distill his image of Christ and his teaching through Old Testament prophecy and doctrine which has the effect of giving Christianity a history or perhaps arguing that it already had one in conjunction with the Jews---something which many Christians and most Jews did not acknowledge. The popular layman opinion was that Christianity was a new religion and this rationale was used as a basis for attack and prejudice on the newly formed Christian community. Matthew shows that Christianity has a religious history and it is the Jews which have diverged from the faith, not the other way around.

The Gospel of Mark is perhaps less factually accurate, though not unacceptably so, than the four other Gospels being discussed and this is where its weakness lies. This is evidenced by the severe redaction seen in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke4 which are widely believed to be derivative works of the Gospel of Mark which was written years before any other Gospel. Mark's Gospel seems to have an emphasis on the pre-resurrection teachings of Jesus which stands in contrast to Paul's letters which demonstrate a profound interest in the theology of Jesus' death at the cross and his subsequent resurrection. Again a quandry is presented and the reader, who is most likely going to be familiar with Paul and his importance to the theology of the Christian church, might be inclined to find the common message or central theme present in both. Nevertheless, in doing so, the reader detracts from the richness of diversity in the portraits of Jesus. Mark may not be in total agreement with Paul or other prominent theologians as to the particular emphasis of Jesus' teachings but he certainly does not deny the significance of the theology of the cross. Here also lies its hidden strength. While Mark does not entirely accurately depict the events of Jesus' life it is only due to his emphasis on the works of Jesus and not geographical or chronological accuracy. As examples of this emphasis, one can turn to the many references to Jesus' miracles (Mark 1:25, 1:41, 2:11, 3:5, 4:39, 6:41-42, and over 10 other direct references to miracle acts.) and suffering (Mark 8:31, 9:30-31, 10:33-34 as well as the entire account of the crucifixion and torturous death of Jesus.) and the lessons to be learned therefrom. Mark, unlike some apocryphic Gospel authors, does not discuss miracles for their own sake but instead discusses them as they pertain to what Jesus taught. In this Gospel, the reader gains a clear idea of Jesus as a human, without denying his divine significance, whose example is shown as an inspiration to all.

Luke's expertly crafted Gospel brings history into the Christian picture, albeit in a far different manner than Matthew. Rather than concentrating on the history of Christianity, Luke concentrates on the Christianity in history. He uses real-world events and places to create a "stage" which will be recognizable to the Christian and non-Christian reader and thereby places Christianity in the firm position of fact, showing these depicted stories as having actually occurred, and pulls it out of the realm of fantasy and imagined mythology. By referencing other events and associating them chronologically to Gospel events, he gives Christianity its reality. Take, as an example, the following passage from the Gospel of Luke:

"In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah..." (Luke 3:1-4)

Here Luke depicts the story of John receiving the word of God, yet before discussing the story itself, he paints an explicit picture of when and where this took place and goes further to discuss John's lineage so as to place him wholly in a setting which the typical reader will identify and accept, thus making it far easier for that reader to accept the story itself.

At this point, one might conclude that the Christian community could gain a reasonably clear understanding of Jesus' life and teachings with just the above three mentioned Gospels and they would be correct. The Gospel of John deviates from the standard Gospel genre ever so slightly---but meaningfully. It is feasible to postulate that, since John is believed to have been written last of the four main Gospels discussed herein, he recognized that the events of Jesus' life had been satisfactorily retold and therefore chose a fresh approach to the discussion of Jesus. He does tell the story of Jesus' life, for if he did not we might have some difficulty calling his work a Gospel, and yet his story takes on an entirely different significance. Some philologists have speculated that the Gospel of John is as different from the other Gospels as the Gospel of Mark was from previous Christian writings about Jesus. True or otherwise, John's work seems to have built upon the Gospel genre, improving it, rather than breaking away from it as Mark did from the earlier Christian documents and so John can still stand as a form of Gospel. Having established this, the discussion must turn to its proposed merits as a canonical Gospel. Many have said that John wrote a sort of "fill-in-the-blank" Gospel in that he speaks about those aspects of Jesus' life which are not discussed in the other Gospels. Found in the Gospel of John are many events that cannot be found in other Gospels but still possess a significance. Examples include Jesus' meeting with Nicodemus in John 3:1-21, the scene described in John 11:35 of Jesus weeping at the tomb of Lazarus before resurrecting him, and the discourse with the Samaritan at the well in Sychar in John 4:7-26. This Gospel seems to contain an interesting synthesis of the Hebraeistic and the Hellenistic philosophies of the time. John's use of the Logos idea was distinctly a Greek-influenced thought and he often referred to the enemies of Jesus as the "Jews." At the same time, however, though his use of the Logos was Greek-influenced, it was originated in the Old Testament book of Genesis as were many ideas he put forth. His Hebraeistic belief in God was naturally modified by his Grecian worldview and background giving him a distinctly unique perspective on the teachings of Christ which the other Gospel authors did not possess. John's Gospel helps to define what Jesus' relationship was with respect to the Jewish-Christian faith. He alone discusses Jesus as "the way" and "the light" and shows Christ to be the path to salvation.

The four Gospels discussed above give the reader an excellently well-rounded portrayal of Jesus, the man, the teacher, the Christ, and the way. They show the Christian community, with Matthew, that through Jesus, it is grounded firmly in the Judaic past and is not an upstart cult with no true meaningfulness. They show the Christian community, with Mark, that Jesus' teachings are to be used as an example for community. Mark also shows us Jesus' divinity and his humanity through the stories of his miracles and suffering. The Gospels further show the Christian community, with Luke, that it has a reality and concreteness which serves to fortify a faith in the stories to the reader. And finally, the Gospels show the Christian community, with John, the theological importance of the Christ figure as represented by Jesus. These Gospels do have their differences, but also they have their similarities. All of them concentrate on the teachings and life of Jesus and how that relates the Christian community to God and not just sayings or dissertations on theology. All of them accept the importance of Jesus' death at the cross for mankind's sins. All of them accept Jesus as the true messiah as expected in Old Testament prophecy. So it is seen that four portraits from differing angles do in fact give the observer a fuller and more complete rendering on the scene. These Gospels should be canonical due to the merits of what each one, individually, can teach the reader about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.


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Writing Tip of the Day: See only the birds eye

First read this story of Arjuna and the bird's eye, then apply that to your writing.

When you approach a writing task, always know ahead of time what one thing you want conveyed. Start there. Be there. End there.

Start your writing task by jotting down a one sentence summary of your point or reason for writing. Some examples include "I want to meet you about the open position I saw in the newspaper", "There are motherf*cking snakes on a motherf*cking plane", or "I will need more resources to accomplish the task I've been assigned".

As you write, refer back to your synopsis periodically to refocus yourself on the task at hand. When you are done, edit your work culling everything you can that doesn't matter to your summary point.

Thus endeth the writing lesson for today. More will come.


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Have you heard the story of the bird's eye?

Many years ago in India, there lived a man named Druna. He ran a school in the middle of the forest where he taught archery. Students traveled from all over asia to learn archery from the master, Druna. Arjuna wanted to be the best archer in the world. So he chose Druna's academy at which to learn his craft. He lived in the cottages with the other students.

Druna showed his pupils how to hold the bow and arrow. He taught them to focus, "Look at where you want your arrow to be. Let the rest dissolve away." He taught them to concentrate, "Think only of what you want your arrow to do. No more."

Arjuna listened attentively. He practiced from morning til evening. One night while Arjuna was eating his dinner, a gust of wind blew out the oil lamp. Arjuna continued eating.

"I can eat in the dark because I know where my mouth is," he thought to himself, "I don't need to look at anything else."

He decided to practice archery in the dark. He relighted the lamp and used it as a target. He thought, "I know where my target is and I don't need to look at anything else."

He picked up his bow and arrows and began shooting. TWANG! TWANG! The sound of bow strings filled the air. When Druna heard the sound, he came out of his cottage. The sight of Arjuna practicing archery delighted him. He blessed Arjuna, saying "May your arrows never miss their targets."

Soon other students grew jealous of the attention Arjuna was getting. "Why do you think Arjuna is the best among us all?" they asked the teacher. That evening Druna made an announcement.

"Tomorrow, there will be an archery competition to determine the best archer among you," Druna said. "When the sun peeps from the moutaintops, be ready with your bows and arrows."

The students polished their bows and sharpened their arrows. Next morning, they gathered in the yard. Glossy bows and pointed arrows gleamed in the sun. The wind was still but the students' hearts fluttered with excitement.

Druna placed a wooden bird on the branch of a distant tree. It was partly hidden by the foliage. A prominent artificial eye was painted on the wooden bird. The teacher called all his disciples and said, "Look my children, a bird is sitting on that far off tree. You have to hit the arrow exactly in its eye. Are you ready?"

Everyone nodded. First the eldest Yudhisthira was invited to try his skill. He stretched his bow-string and was about to release the arrow when Drunacharya asked him a question, "O eldest son of Kunti, may I know what is visible to you at this point of time?"

Yudhisthira replied innocently, "Why, O Gurudev, I am seeing you, the tree, people around me, and the bird!"

When his arrow flew out, it missed the target wide

Similar questions were put to Duryodhana, Bhima, Nakul, Sahadeva and others, and Druna got the similar answers as those given by Yudhisthira.

"What do you see ahead of you?" Druna asked.

"I see the tree, the branches, the leaves," the student replied as he released the string. The arrow shot forward and landed near the roots of the tree.

The next student came forward, plucked an arrow from his quiver, placed it on the bow, and pulled the string.

"What do you see ahead of you?" Druna asked.

"I see the bird, its legs, its wings," the student replied as he let the string go. The arrow shot forward and grazed the wings of the bird.

Finally it was Arjuna's turn. He plucked an arrow from his quiver, placed it on the bow, and pulled the string.

"What do you see ahead of you?" Druna asked.

"I see the eye of the bird," Arjuna replied.

"What else do you see, Arjuna?" Druna asked.

"Nothing. I only see the round black eye of the bird," Arjuna replied as he released the string. The arrow shot forward with a swoosh. It pierced the center of the eye of the wooden bird.


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UltraChrist

What would Jesus do if he returned to Earth and discovered he was wildly out of touch with modern trends? Don a Spandex costume and fight sin on the streets of New York City, of course! But as always, he faces several obstacles: a disapproving Father; the Antichrist, in the guise of the New York City Parks Commissioner; and the temptations of a beautiful seamstress.


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Word of the Day: Dharma

(DHAR-muh) noun

  1. Duty; correct behavior.
  2. Law, especially the universal law of all things.
  3. Proper expression of religion.

Dharma comes to us from the Sanskrit word of the same name and in that language also carries with it the connotation of "duty" in addition to the above definitions. Ultimately, it comes from the Indo-European root dher- (meaning to hold firmly or support). Dher- is the root source of words like "firm", "affirm", "confirm", "farm", "fermata", and "firmament".

"The most important pedagogic dharma that should guide the teacher in such a situation is that he should not hastily jump to the conclusion that his learners are unfit, dull, stupid, lacking in motivation, can never be made to learn and so on."
Dr. Aruna Chalam Angappan; The Teacher's Handicap, the Learners' Advantage; Yemen Times; Jan 9, 2006.


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Milton's Mythological Restructuring Of The Fall

Abstract
Concerning Milton's poetic license in his recasting of the myth of Genesis and the Fall of Man.

Paper
Milton's work, Paradise Lost, retells the story of the Garden of Eden as found in Genesis, the first book in the canon of Hebrew Scriptures known as the Torah or Bible. This story relates the tale of the fall from grace which anthropos, the original man, supposedly had early on in human history. Due to the popularity of the story, it is not surprising that Milton, an educated man and poet, chose it as the subject for one of his works. What is worthy of note, however, is the multitude of ways in which he deviated from the original story. For example, while it is true that many are under the misunderstanding that Satan plays an important role in the Genesis story of the Fall, he does not. He is, in fact, not mentioned even once in the Book of Genesis and yet Milton confers on him a large role. Milton was a man educated in the Hebrew Bible and language from a young age by a tutor his father had hired, Thomas Young (c.f., Hutchinson 8ff.) and so it was unlikely that Milton was unaware of his discrepancies. It seems that for the reader to fully understand Milton's theology of the Fall, one must understand first what was changed in the story from the original and second what theological significance the change has.

The original story of the fall of man is presented in Genesis 3:1-7 and is abbreviated below:

[T]he serpent said to the woman, "You will not die [for eating fruit from the tree which God has said not to eat from]; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." ... [S]he took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:4-6)

In this story, as presented in Genesis, the two are tempted by the forbidden fruit at the prompting of a serpent who is later punished for his role in the affair. Thus they fall from grace and are cast from Eden to "toil" (Genesis 3:17) for all their days until death, which after the fall is now an eminent reality in their lives (Genesis 3:19). Before any detailed exegesis is begun, one must consider the work being dealt with. Genesis is not an historical work designed to describe accurately the early world and its origins. Genesis is a mythological work which is designed to describe accurately the relationship of God to his earthly creation and more precisely the relationship of God to his chosen people---the Jews. The exegesis of genesis, then, should account for a mythological framework and allow for the historical inaccuracies typically found in mythological works.

As any mythology, the book of Genesis makes heavy use of a complex symbol system which the early Jews would have invested with particular meaning. The fact that this symbol system is not immediately at hand for the average modern reader has caused some problems. Many of these problems arise as a result of the unusual nature of the characters in the story. The characters associated with The Fall are Adam, Eve, and the serpent. Some investigation reveals that the Hebrew word Adam---which means man---is intentionally similar to the Hebrew word Adamah---which means earth, dust, or ground. Also, the character of Adam was used early in the work to refer to all men. It was not until later editors of the story began adding new parts that Adam became an individual rather than collective man. The original concept of the character of Adam, then, was meant to represent the race of men as a whole and their relation to the ground which is God's other creation. Genesis, for these reasons, is notoriously ambiguous about Adam's status. Eve, on the other hand, seems less entangled by conflicting portrayals. Her name, which is similar the Hebrew word for life, shows that she is quite literally "the mother of all living" (Genesis 3:20), but moreover, she is also blamed and punished by God harsher than Adam for her apparently more significant role in The Fall. Though Adam was there with her with she was tempted, and though he did nothing to stop it, he is still punished less severely than her. The third character, the serpent, has been the primary point of confusion and misunderstanding in the story. Nowhere does it say that this serpent is Satan. Satan does not appear in the Torah (The first 5 books of the Bible also known as the Law) at all. It is not until the Kethuvim (The collection of Hebrew books known also as the Writings---as distinct from the Torah [law] and the Nebi'im [prophets]), in 1 Chronicles 21:1, that his name is uttered. Yet, for all this, most modern readers see the serpent as Satan in serpent form. The cause of this is likely the much later references to Satan as being analogous to a serpent or dragon. Though later Jews made this symbolic connection, the writers and editors of Genesis did not. The serpent's mythological meaning must be found elsewhere. Many scholars now believe that rather than a symbol of whole evil, the serpent may have been a symbol of life. It is known that many, if not most, primitive peoples associate the serpent or snake with life and rebirth because of its ability to shed its own skin seasonally and begin anew. If the ancient writers of Genesis were also working under this mythological symbology, then the story of The Fall takes on new meaning. Rather than the serpent representing that which is purely evil, it begins to represent that which is a synthesis of good and evil. Genesis becomes a story of man's inevitable entrance into life which has its temptations and its shortcomings, but also its joys and its invaluable experiences. Through it all, the Fall tells us that though we may stray in life, God is ever-present and ever-protective when needed (c.f. Genesis 3:21 & 4:15). Thus the myth of the Fall establishes an understanding of the nature of God's relationship to us from the beginning as one of unconditional concern for His creations.

Milton, as he attempts to recast the myth for a later audience, brings with him certain assumptions---primarily from his Puritanical background---which color his interpretation of the story. It is apparent from reading Paradise Lost that Milton was trying to convey the same truths that were presented there. He recognized that these truths were not present in the objects of the story but rather in the meaning and symbology of the story:

"The claim for the truth of events is absolute: these things happened; for the truth of images---the poem's places and personages---less absolute, but still insistent that the qualities and potencies bodied forth in them are real" (qtd. in Madsen 18)

It was not apparent accuracy in objects he strove for, but symbolic accuracy in meaning. Milton foreshadows the dynamics of The Fall as early as the creation story when Adam and Eve are first shown to be distinct in their inclinations. Eve, upon her creation, is transfixed by her own mirror image (c.f. Paradise Lost IV:443 ff) in a pool of water nearby---reminiscent of the story of Narcissus--- while Adam, in Book VIII:277ff, begins his life mindful of God's role in this event. Interestingly, this prelapsarian relationship between Adam, Eve, and God is not a mirror image of the one presented in Genesis. Instead of an equal and non-hierarchical relationship between Adam and Eve, Milton begins with Adam as the dominant partner as established by Eve's remark concerning Adam:

... O thou for whom
And from whom I was formd flesh of thy flesh,
And without whom am to no end, my Guide
And Head ... (Paradise Lost IV:440-443)

This can be contrasted with Genesis' understanding of their relationship as equal until after the Fall when God pronounced that man "shall rule over" woman (Genesis 3:16) as punishment for her sin whereas in the prelapsarian state, they were equal (c.f. Genesis 1:27-28 & 3:18-23).

To his defense, Milton had the difficult task of presenting an Adam and Eve who seemed believable, poetic, and yet not superficial or lofty. They are the archetypal civilized savages---an oxymoron which can only sustain existence in theory. Portraying their roles and relationships as presented in the book of Genesis is flatly impossible. They are ripe with contradiction partly as a result of their own ambiguity and partly as a result of the brevity of their roles in that earlier story. Genesis gave no substantial dialogue and thus avoided Milton's pitfall. Still, it seems that Milton was aware of this problem. Only in a few places does the dialogue become too philosophical for a savage or too savage for a philosopher. And yet this tension does exist. Whereas in the prelapsarian state of Genesis they are sinless and full of God's glory, the prelapsarian state of Paradise Lost shows them to be inescapably drawn toward the Fall. As Waldock put it in his work Paradise Lost And Its Critics, "[t]here was no way for Milton of making [sic] the transition from sinlessness to sin perfectly intelligible" (Waldock 61). As mentioned earlier, Eve spends her opening scene transfixed by her vanity, but it cannot be ignored that Adam is no saint either. Shortly after his creation Adam, not content with what he has been given, asks for more:

Thou hast provided all things: but with mee
I see not who partakes. In solitude
What happiness, who can enjoy alone,
Or all enjoying, what contentment find? (Paradise Lost VIII:663-666)

Later, in talking with Raphael, the Angel, he begins to slander even the helpmate which he'd asked for by first telling of his weakness for Eve's "Transported touch" and rather than accepting blame for his weakness he blames either the Maker (God) or Eve herself as a temptress:

... but here
Farr otherwise, transported I behold,
Transported touch; here passion first I felt,
Commotion strange, in all enjoyments else
Superiour and unmov'd, here onely weake
Against the charm of Beauties powerful glance.
Or Nature faild in mee, and left some part
Not proof enough such Object to sustain,
Or from my side subducting, took perhaps
More then enough; at least on her bestow'd
Too much of Ornament, in outward shew
Elaborate, of inward less exact. (Paradise Lost VIII:528-539)

"[C]arnal desire is not a surprising sequel to Adam's uxoriousness" according to Kelley in her work, This Great Argument (Kelley 149). Adam and Eve, in Milton's work, already possess those errant tendencies with contribute to the occurrence of the Fall. If fact, Adam and Eve have, by the very nature of possessing these tendencies, already fallen. They were created fallen. Here Milton's theology becomes evident. The Genesis story does not parallel this sentiment. In Genesis, Adam makes no such statements about Eve, nor does he ask for more from God than he is given. God's wisdom is sufficient to account for all of their needs (c.f. Genesis 2:18). Furthermore, Adam's understanding of his own urges is moralized in Milton's work in a way that does not mimic Genesis:

Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:24-25)

In the above passage man and woman specifically do not consider this a cause of a strange "[c]ommotion." Milton's Puritanical and moralistic upbringing has crept into his work.

Satan's presence in the story thrusts into it a particularly interesting dynamic. He is shown as a fallen angel full of contempt and false pride. It is he, in Paradise Lost, who tempts Eve when she wanders away from Adam. By appealing to her vanity he seduced her into partaking of the forbidden fruit. Thus some would say she was felled rather than fallen by the serpent-disguised Satan. Having left a state of grace, she appealed to Adam to join her and he, not willing to give her up, did just that by eating the fruit as well. The Fall is complete. Madsen, in his work From Shadowy Types To Truth, describes Adam's fall as follows:

When he determines to throw in his lot with Eve, he has seen his image in her, just as Satan saw his image in Sin, and he turns from God to Eve, as Eve had turned from Adam to her own shadow in the water. (Madsen 104)

The question must then turn to who or what these figures (Adam, Eve, and Satan as the serpent) are meant to represent in Milton's mythological restructuring. One theory which seems supported by the text is the idea that while Adam and Eve may be symbolic of men and women universally, the other beings---angels, demons, and specifically Satan---are physical representations of God's hand in action. Thus the Fall, which in Milton's work is inevitable and expected, becomes God's will. Satan, Raphael and others in the story act as tangible markers of God's intangible work. Through Satan, God frees man to live and learn. Through Raphael, the reader sees God's ever-present protection and help when man needs it most. As if to make this point himself, Milton includes the following passage:

... so doth the Prince of Hell
And his Adherents, that with so much ease
I suffer them to enter and possess
A place so heav'nly, ...
And [they] know not that I call'd and drew them thither
My Hell-hounds, to lick up the draff and filth
Which mans polluting Sin with taint hath shed
On what was pure, till cramm'd and gorg'd, nigh burst
With suckt and glutted offal, at one sling
Of thy victorious Arm, well-pleasing Son,
Both Sin, and Death, and yawning Grave at last
Through Chaos hurld, obstruct the mouth of Hell
For ever, and seal up his ravenous Jawes. (Paradise Lost X:621-637)

Here God is saying that not only is it through His will that they exist, but moreover, that they exist specifically to do His bidding. As James Sims explained it in his work, The Bible In Milton's Epics, "even these horrible monsters, unknown to themselves, fulfill His purposes" (Sims 157).

Paradise Lost is a story which tells of the relationship between God and His creations. It talks of God as ever-present in the lives of men, ever-caring for them, and even in punishment giving them the gift of life. Is this so different from the story told in Genesis? Though the characters, the crimes, and the plot are utterly different, the story remains substantially unchanged. The myth and its message are brought to a new audience using images that will convey to them the symbolic meaning which the Genesis images conveyed to the early Jewish readers. Milton seems to have succeeded in his endeavor. The Genesis story is retold and his changes, upon analysis, do betray his motives. The myth is recast.

Works Cited:

Other Works Consulted:


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Choose Wisely

Claim that an alien is melon-balling you in your sleep---you go to the sanitarium. Claim that you've seen the face of Mother Mary in a misshapen bagel---get on Oprah.


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The Theta Alpha Kappa Shindig Results Are In

The new inductees are a good bunch and I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the House of Wansink. The refreshments were good (I'm a total whore for blueberries!) and the conversation was both pleasant and engaging...except when I said that Kristin's house was full of clutter because it helped to distract her from her profound loneliness. Probably a little too pointed---true, but pointed. Personally, I liked her just fine, but like all of us, she had some problems that needed addressing. I'm not sure they were being addressed back then. I hope they are now.


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Dr. Wansink just called!

Coolness. I have an official Theta Alpha Kappa shindig to attend next week. I wonder if I should show up in full vestment and a scholar's crown? I'd hate to be underdressed.


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Just went to the VWC RelSt website

They had some quizes on all the big world religions. I smoked em! Is that the best you can do, Dr. Wansink?!? Challenge me, old man, that I may take your crown!


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Loves Labours Confused - Augustine and the Journey to Christianity

Abstract:
Concerning Augustine's transition from a Gnostic knowledge of God to a Christian relationship with God. Augustine's conversion and insight forms the basis of so much of Christianity that study of the subject is central to any study of modern theology.

Paper:
In many ways, the death of Augustine's mother became his moment of true gestalt. Though he had had an earlier moment of insight which led to his conversion experience in the garden in Milan, it was not until his mother's death when, confronted with the need to apply his new-found insight, he truly understood its importance. Until this point, even after his conversion, Augustine existed in a state of anxiety produced by what he might describe as a contest of conflicting wills. It was his mother's death that settled that anxiety.

Augustine seemed to see those two wills as a dialectic between man's covenant with God and his desire for attachment to worldly things---that is to say, between the spirit and the flesh. The tension born of this dynamic conflict within the soul of man, according to Augustine, caused much of man's suffering. At one point, he describes this state of anxiety:

The one necessary condition [of entering the covenant with God], which meant not only going but at once arriving there, was to have the will to go---provided that the will was strong and unqualified, not the turning and twisting first this way, then that, of a will half-wounded, struggling with one part rising up and the other part falling down. (Augustine 147)

Augustine originally saw this anxiety as an inescapable side-effect of his own humanity. His flawed nature could do nothing but produce the effect. His reasoning in this matter relied heavily on a Manichean---and ultimately Gnostic--- dualistic approach to understanding the human condition. He believed that the mind was of a higher order than the body. This hierarchy created in man the innate ability of free choice---the ability to choose the actions which one will perform in any given situation. "The mind commands the body," Augustine believed, "and is instantly obeyed" (Augustine 147). Yet this same hierarchy was cause for conflict when the mind tried to command the mind. Apparently the mind need not follow its own commands, therefore one cannot command oneself not to want something or not to think something. "The mind commands itself," Augustine added, "and meets resistance" (Augustine 147). Man, under this system of thought, becomes his own most difficult problem.

Added to this dire theory was Augustine's view that Man's will was confused at heart since his fall from grace and now, rather than loving God for His own sake and God's works for the uses they provide, he loved God's works for their own sake and God for the uses He can provide. Man's will is thusly confused and Augustine simply did not see a way to correct that since he could not will himself to change his own will. Prior to his episode in the garden of Milan, Augustine sought after worldly things just for the sake of having them. He chased after women, sought academic prizes, and desired money. Anything that satisfied his desire for the purely sensual was the recipient of his attention. As Augustine put it, "in an ulcerous condition [my soul] thrust itself to outward things, miserable avid to be scratched by contact with the world of the senses" (Augustine 35).

It was Lady Continence, a figure who appeared to him in the garden, who brought Augustine, intellectually, out of the quandary of fighting a losing battle against an evil will. She talked of God's grace as the answer:

Why are you relying on yourself, only to find yourself unreliable? Cast yourself upon him, do not be afraid. He will not withdraw himself so that you fall. Make the leap without anxiety; he will catch you and heal you. (Augustine 151)

Through this experience Augustine became able to accept, logically, the precepts of Christian faith, thus the whole garden incident is often dubbed his conversion experience. However, examination of the text both during and after this experience may indicate that it was only a prequel to the actual moment of his entering into a relationship (or covenant) with God. That moment may have been later, at his mother's death.

It is true that Augustine described a difference of worldview after the garden conversion. He used typically Gnostic imagery when he talked of a "light of relief" which removed his anxiety (Augustine 153). He described a peaceful time when, with his mother, he learned to climb the scale of goodness to reach its near-peak, which he believed was the human mind. As he put it, "we ascended even further by internal reflection and dialogue and wonder at your works, and we entered into our own minds" (Augustine 171). Using the Gnostic, and therefore Manichean, doctrine of salvation through intellectual reflection and special insight, Augustine had taken the next step toward Christianity by being able to embrace its doctrines because of his rational for them. But he had not yet entered into a relationship with God. That was to come a bit later.

The reader gets the impression, through Augustine's writings, that anxiety had left him, as much as it ever would, at this point. As a testament to the falsity of that statement, however, the death of Monica, his mother, crumbles the framework of Augustine's logical-salvation experience. His first substantial test proves to be his true conversion experience. Augustine falls back into an anxiety once again--- this time unsure of his condition or its possible solution. He became, "tortured by a twofold sadness," (Augustine 175) and his mind and body warred again:

I closed her eyes and an overwhelming grief welled into my heart and was about to flow forth in a flood of tears. But at the same time under a powerful act of mental control my eyes held back the flood and dried it up. The inward struggle put me in great agony. (Augustine 174)

Augustine suddenly saw his attachment to his mother, formed of the habit of living with her for so long, as drawing him toward some inappropriate grief. He wrestled with the idea that he had fallen into the habit of loving her for her own sake rather than for her use to God and the world as a Christian. He retired to a bath in hopes that this thing would help resolve his conflict. Again he turned towards worldly things, just as he was wont to do earlier in life, for a salvation that he would never find there. After the bath he found that he was, "exactly the same as before" (Augustine 176). His Gnostic manner of understanding God had not produced in him any relationship with God and therefore he had not learned to truly let go of the world around him. Exhausted from his returned anxious state, he slept. It was this sleep which would herald his actual conversion. In chapter IX, paragraph 33---rather than chapter VII, paragraph 28--- Augustine truly converts to Christianity by accepting its doctrines of salvation and love not simply with his mind, but with his heart.

Suddenly, Augustine, "was glad to weep before [God] about and for her, about [him]self and for [him]self" (Augustine 176). He learned to cry not for his loss of a mother, but for a mother, "who had wept for [him] that [he] might live before [God's] eyes" (Augustine 176). He saw his mother, and the rest of creation no longer as ends, in and of themselves, but as means to know God. "If anyone lists his true merits to you, what is he enumerating before you but your gifts" (Augustine 177)? Augustine has that moment of Christian gestalt, which some call rebirth, here at his mother's death, not in a garden in Milan as has been suggested. "Thereby [Augustine] submitted [his] neck to [God's] easy yoke and [his] shoulders to [God's] light burden" (Augustine 155). Augustine had finally made the transition from a Gnostic knowledge of God to a Christian relationship with God. His conversion was complete.


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Coercion and the Selfish Impulse in the Theology of Reihold Niebuhr

Abstract:
Concerning Reinhold Niebuhr's beliefs on Coercion and its role in the society of Man. Writing this paper helped me to form opinions of my own about the nature and role of human selfishness and shortsightedness.

Paper:
Coercion is an integrated component of all extant governing bodies. As individuals living under these systems of government, we must be willing to explore the necessity of any system that uses such force to achieve its own ends. Reinhold Niebuhr, in his work Moral Man and Immoral Society, has attempted just such an exploration. In his inquiry, he has determined that coercion is not morally justifiable, but it is pragmatically justifiable. This conclusion relies heavily on his understanding of human nature, which while positive with respect to many Christian thinkers is none-the-less decidedly negative. He argues that coercion is a necessary tool for both social cohesion and social justice. While both are needed in the ideal society, social cohesion is the most logical first step, since without it there will be no justice. Therefore we will look primarily to his theories of selfishness, reason, and empathy that lead toward his understanding of the problems of social cohesion rather than his theories of benevolence and justice.

Niebuhr has claimed, in his work The Nature and Destiny of Man, Volume I: Human Nature, that, "Man has always been his most vexing problem" (Niebuhr NDM, 1). Man's selfishness is the root of many of his problems. Essentially, Niebuhr argued that human beings have an inherent selfishness which neither reason, empathy, nor man's inherent benevolence can overcome well enough to create, for any substantial period of time, an idyllic society. In his work Moral Man and Immoral Society, he stated:

This insinuation of the interests of the self into even the most ideal enterprises and most universal objectives, envisaged in moments of highest rationality, makes hypocrisy an inevitable by product of all virtuous endeavor. (Niebuhr MMIS, 45)

Selfishness, according to the above passage seeps into all that man does and cannot be avoided. But selfishness is not man's only attribute; he is also a reasonable creature.

Man's reason both hinders and helps him in the creation and application of equitable rules of conduct. It allows him to apprehend the nature of situations removed from his own immediate one, therefore it acts as a tool of the conscience, helping man to recognize the needs of others. As Niebuhr put it, "[R]eason tends to check selfish impulses and to grant the satisfaction of legitimate impulses in others" (Niebuhr MMIS, 29). That recognition then allows him to empathize with those needs, even when those needs may have never weighed personally on the individual empathizer. That is why Niebuhr preceded his earlier point about man's rationality with a qualifier concerning empathy. "Man is endowed by nature with organic relations to his fellow men; and natural impulse prompts him to consider the needs of others even when they compete with his own" (Niebuhr MMIS, 2). Further, man's reason can help him to reign himself in:

Human existence is obviously distinguished from animal life by its qualified participation in creation. Within limits it breaks the forms of nature and creates new configurations of vitality. Its transcendence over natural process offers it the opportunity of interfering with the established forms and unities of vitality as nature knows them. (Niebuhr NDM, 26)

That is to say, man has a sense of self-transcendence and through that quality he can choose to act against his immediate desires or needs. That sense enables man to see and act on the needs of others or of a greater whole even when the actions may oppose his personal exigencies or desires. That same sense of transcendence allows him to see himself and his fellow men in a different light. He can recognize injustice and social decay for what it is rather than merely for what it does for him as an individual.

The measure of our rationality determines the degree of vividness with which we appreciate the needs of other life, the extent to which we become conscious of the real character of our own motives and impulses, the ability to harmonize conflicting impulses in our own life and in society, and the capacity to choose adequate means for approved ends. (Niebuhr MMIS, 28)

Reason, in other words, affords him the ability to critique the world and his place in it.

Reason, however, is not man's salvation. With all these benefits come problems. While reason may allow man to see beyond the immediate---allowing him to empathize with those removed from him---that same quality allows him to see his own needs in a new light. He may see, through his reason, needs and wants that he never could have foreseen without reason. This perspicacious sight creates in man new greater needs and alarms him to otherwise unknown exigencies. That extended sense of self-preservation wars with man's sense of rationalized empathy. Therefore, though man can view the world in a greater light, that light is not without partiality.

While it is possible for intelligence to increase the range of benevolent impulse, and thus prompt a human being to consider the needs and rights of other than those to whom he is bound by organic and physical relationship, there are definite limits in the capacity of ordinary mortals which makes it impossible for them to grant to others what they claim for themselves. (Niebuhr MMIS, 3)

Partiality breeds social inequity and injustice, which are the exact things that man despises in others. This problem is accentuated when society assumes man will be capable and willing to bend to its motives and actions. Niebuhr, in his work The Irony of American History, addresses this point directly:

[The value and dignity of the individual] is threatened whenever it is assumed that individual desires, hopes and ideals can be fitted with frictionless harmony into the collective purposes of man. The individual is not discrete. He cannot find his fulfillment outside of the community; but he also cannot find fulfillment completely within society. In so far as he finds fulfillment within society he must abate his individual ambitions. He must 'die to self' if he would truly live. In so far as he finds fulfillment beyond every historical community he lives his life in painful tension with even the best community, sometimes achieving standards of conduct which defy the standards of the community with a resolute "we must obey God rather than man." (Niebuhr IAH, 62)

Thus man is in a constant struggle between self and community that cannot be won by either side except through compromise, which is difficult at best with a society that uses coercive means to acquire desired ends.

Niebuhr's view of reason does not match exactly with the Kantian view of human reason, which wants to set reason up as man's salvation. The Kantian view assumes that reason can make itself, or perhaps is itself, impartial and therefore can destroy biased social structures and actions. Reason, in this view, is much more powerful. It can be applied almost perfectly even in an imperfect society. While Kant didn't assume that reason would immediately resolve social problems, he did suggest it was through reason that those problems would eventually be solved. Niebuhr, it seems, had a rebuttle to this in mind when he wrote, "Reason is not the sole basis of moral virtue in man. His social impulses are more deeply rooted than his rational life" (Niebuhr MMIS, 26). Niebuhr seemed to be pointing to some quality external to reason that allows for true goodness. For Niebuhr, this was comprised of his inherent benevolence and his empathy. Kant did not acknowledge a soteriological need outside of reason.

It should be noted that the same reason that grants man the ability to better understand his self-preservational situation will also allow him to better see his hierarchical situation. As Niebuhr stated it, "The will-to-live becomes the will-to-power" (Niebuhr MMIS, 18). There exists a disparity between needs and desired that must be acknowledged in any successful social structure. Man is not content with mere sufficiency. Once needs are met sufficiently, man seeks more. "The individual or the group which organizes any society, however social its intentions or pretensions, arrogates an inordinate portion of social privilege to itself" (Niebuhr MMIS, 6-7). That is a product of his selfish nature. Hence to curb injustice and inequity in the face of a selfish people, society must force upon them mutually acceptable rules of conduct that will allow for maximum---though not perfect---equity and justice:

We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization. We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about a particular degree of interest and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimatized. (Niebuhr IAH, 5)

Coercion, then, is a necessary and integrated component of all extant governing bodies. Therefore it is true that, "The society in which each man lives is at once the basis for, and the nemesis of, that fulness of life which each man seeks" (Niebuhr MMIS, 1). Kant would disagree about its necessity by arguing that we could resolve conflict and partiality through the wholesale application of our full reasoning capacities. Niebuhr objected, saying that we cannot expect reason to fully overcome self-interest. Niebuhr spoke directly to Kant's---and other idealists'---beliefs when he said:

Our dreams of bringing the whole of human history under the control of the human will are ironically refuted by the fact that no group of idealists can easily move the pattern of history toward the desired goal of peace and justice. The recalcitrant forces in the historical drama have a power and persistence beyond our reckoning. (Niebuhr IAH, 2-3)

Self-interest possesses a gravity, pulling man toward himself, in a sense, even when reason offers him a chance to move away from the self. "Human beings," according to Niebuhr, "are endowed by nature with both selfish and unselfish impulses" (Niebuhr MMIS, 25). This basic fact forces the necessity of coercion. Coercion, though not ideal, keeps individuals in check by metering out punishments for disobeying rules. The individual apprehends those punishments as distinctly opposing self-interest and thus he avoids them by following the rules set forth. "All social cooperation on a larger scale than the most intimate social group requires a measure of coercion" (Niebuhr MMIS, 3). Since society is no more than institutionalized cooperation, it must use coercive means to meet its cooperative objectives. Society is propelled along this forced path---continually resetting its goals and its methods, seeking perfection in coercion where none is to be found. Niebuhr saw little hope in self-perfection. The self, he argued was too muddled in its own delusions and selfishness to even see the problem correctly, let alone resolve it:

The modern man is . . . certain about his essential virtue . . . [and since] he does not see that he has a freedom of spirit which transcends both nature and reason . . . [he] is unable to understand the real pathos of his defiance of nature's and reason's laws. He always imagines himself betrayed into this defiance either by some accidental corruption in his past history or by some sloth of reason. Hence he hopes for redemption, either through a program of social reorganization or by some scheme of education. (Niebuhr NDM, 96).

Man, he suggested, is in a precarious position. The final note on the subject must be Niebuhr's most lucid example of destructive and necessary coercion yet---the ultimate example of both the necessity and the immorality of coercion. "Our dreams of a pure virtue are dissolved in a situation in which it is possible to exercise the virtue of responsibility toward a community of nations only by courting the prospective guilt of the atomic bomb" (Niebuhr IAH, 2).


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Milton's Satan - Lucifer's Symbolic Meanings in Paradise Lost

Abstract:
Concerning Milton's portral of Satan in his work, Paradise Lost. I wrote this paper for an English class called Milton and Spenser. It makes the argument that Milton may have been trying to offer insight into our Western understanding of Hero and Villian with the Satan figure.

Paper:
In Milton's Paradise Lost, the character of Satan plays an interesting, if sometimes, ambiguous, part in the whole of the mythos being related. He is, at once, the epitome of the struggling individual fighting against oppression, the dark figure culled from our own religious experiences, and the cynical yet almost innocuous troublemaker who seeks to betray God while inadvertently doing His bidding. The question is begged by the text: Who is Milton's Satan? Most people are somewhat familiar with the biblical Satan---the Satan character as found in the Hebrew and Greek scriptures sometimes called the Old and New Testament. In general, people also seem familiar with the later interpretations of the character as a pitchfork-wielding, horned and tailed, shoulder-sitting tempter. In fact the typical reader of Milton's work is likely to be familiar with many different and often conflicting views of the Satan character. It is this historical and literary ambiguity which helps make Satan so delightful to the Miltonic reader. Satan, in Paradise Lost, is a character whose symbolic meaning, it will be argued, is manifold. He is the portrayal of a theological concept as well as a political ideal. Gerald J. Schiffhorst, in his work John Milton, discusses Milton's propensity to assign symbolic meaning to his characters.

Spenser was Milton's principle literary mentor, as he acknowledges in Areopagitica, and the first to treat epic material allegorically. [And b]ecause [Milton's] personified characters and events stand for moral, religious, or political ideas, he was able to combine classical and Christian elements in a single poem as symbols of truths beyond the literal level of the story [sic]. (Schiffhorst 70)

Certainly Milton was capable of imbuing Satan with even more plurality of meaning, and it is likely he did so, however the above two metaphorical roles---that of a theological and a political symbology--- stand out as significant and reoccurring themes within the text.

Before a study of Satan's metaphorical or allegorical meaning is begun, it would behoove the student to first look at the simple, literary, plot driven Satan as portrayed in the actual events of the story behind Paradise Lost. In this strictly literal interpretive sense, Satan plays a huge role. Created by God, Satan, an archangel in Heaven, becomes jealous and discontent with God's rule and His Son's glory. For these reasons he chooses to revolt against God and His faithful after inciting a large group of compatriots to join him. Once defeated by an angelic army of the remaining faithful, he and his fellow revolutionaries are cast into hell---a place of unending torment. Here the plot thickens. God, upon seeing His heavenly creation marred, seeks to repair the damage done by building another world. His reasoning in this is best left to His own words:

But, lest his heart exalt him in the harm
Already done, to have dispeopled Heaven,
My damage fondly deemed, I can repair
That detriment, if such it be to lose
Self-lost; and in a moment will create
Another world, out of one man a race
Of men innumerable, there to dwell,
Not here; till, by degrees of merit raised,
They open to themselves at length the way
Up hither, under long obedience tried;
And Earth be changed to Heaven, and Heaven to Earth,
One kingdom, joy and union without end. (Paradise Lost Book VII, 150-161)

Suddenly Satan is given (or so he believes) another indignity by God. This new creation, too, will be a source for jealousy and hatred against the God from which Satan was and still is rebelling. Satan then schemes to destroy God's new creation by tainting it with the seed of doubt and hubris to which Satan himself and all his horde had already fallen. The two separate stories of Satan's fall and Man's fall become parallel. This parallelism runs its course through the work until the end when the differences appear sharply to the reader. Satan does eventually tempt Man and Man does fall, just as Satan did before Him, yet Man, unlike Satan, learns from the error. Adam and Eve, in fact, suppliantly apologize to God for their transgression against Him---a step taken by neither Satan nor his crew. The story ends not with Satan centered in the conflict but with Man, as portrayed by Adam and Eve, moving into a new life in God's service. In a literal sense, Satan is the antagonist who drives the plot with his machinations. In a non-literal sense, he is far more.

Satan is the great adversary. He is the archfiend who we are to loath for his rebellious nature. Many have argued that this negative and contemptible Satan is non-existent within the text. To justify this position, those persons often refer to Satan as the hero figure of Paradise Lost. Ralph Waterbury Condee describes this heroic Satan in his work Structure in Milton's Poetry: From the Foundation to the Pinnacles.

I propose that Satan is not the hero of Paradise Lost, but that he is in a very significant way one of the heroes; ...Satan fades and Adam emerges as a hero during the course of the poem. Underling this fading and emergence are concepts of heroism which Milton presents, juxtaposes, and brings to fruition, as he moves through the story of Adam's creation, fall, redemption, and exile. (Condee 7)

He is most certainly correct in that assessment just as are all others who proclaim the characteristics of Satan to be categorizable as the Heroic ideal. Satan is a hero figure in the vein of all great Western epics. That fact is undeniable to anyone reading the text. To suggest, however, that merely being the stereotypical Western ideal of a hero makes a character positive is to assume a universal truth that Milton is pointedly showing to be false. Milton portrays him as the adversary to a powerful and, by Satan's account, tyrannical God.

...[Satan was] aspiring
To set himself in glory above his peers,
He trusted to have equalled the Most High,
If he opposed, and with ambitious aim
Against the throne and monarchy of God,
Raised impious war in Heaven and battle proud,
With vain attempt. (Paradise Lost Book I, 38-44)

Satan fights the valiant fight against this Oppressor and yet ultimately loses to Him. Some might argue that Satan knew all along that he could not win---but he fought and that is heroic. The reader might say so, at least. Milton, it seems, had another idea of heroism in mind though he never outwardly defines it. What, then, is it?

Milton defines heroism negatively by contrasting it with what it is not. It is not, as Satan repeatedly reveals in Paradise Lost, physical valor or military adventure. The very fact that Satan is given some traditional heroic attributes reveals Milton's dissatisfaction with the heroic tradition of the epic. (Schiffhorst 70)

Milton, rather than accepting standard interpretations of the heroic figure, chooses to reinvent the ideal by first showing the flaws in the older ideal, hence he chose to portray the hero, Satan, in a traditionally villainous role---that is, working against God. Milton creates for his audience a character who is at once someone we want to appreciate as heroic and valorous and someone we desperately want to see lose. For Milton, it appears that a hero is not that which has been described in Western literature for centuries, but rather someone who would defy that stereotype for God. Milton, repeatedly throughout the text, explains his reasoning in this. This is evident, for instance, in his punishment to Adam when God proclaims that "Because [Adam] hast hearkened to the voice of [his] wife, / And eaten of the tree, concerning which / [God] charged [him], saying, Thou shalt not eat thereof," Adam was punished. Adam, in choosing to be with his wife was acting as heroic as Satan ever had, but he was reminded of his duty to God first. Likewise, Satan is acting constantly in opposition to God, when, if he were to be a Miltonic hero, he would follow God regardless of heroic inclinations. Satan acts as God's adversary and by virtue of that fact he is not a hero but rather the Satan of Old and New Testament fame used in Paradise Lost to represent the theological heroic ideal by opposition.

The character of Satan also works within the poem to achieve a politically metaphorical objective. Before discussing this Miltonic objective, it is important to be familiar with the socio-historical environment out of which Milton is coming. Milton existed in a time of civil war and internal strife in England. In essence, there was a strong movement away from English governmental loyalty towards personal freedom. The Anglicans (the official church of England) sought to impose their doctrine onto other sects such as the Puritans (of which Milton was a member) and the government itself sought to impose its authority onto the lives of its citizenry farther than many of the citizenry wished. Nobles and Kings were impeached and in some cases killed. Religious wars began cropping up, such as the first and second Bishops' Wars in 1639 and 1640. Ireland rebelled against England in 1641. English civil war began in 1642. Nowhere was safe from this unrest. Marston Moor, Newbury, Naseby, and even Oxford and London were torn apart by warfare. Milton chose sides. He wrote his anti-prelatical pamphlets in 1641-1642, shortly after the Bishops' wars, as answer to propaganda literature from the opposing side in those wars. Later, Milton would go a step further. He took an interest not only in the ecclesiastical in-fighting but in the political wars as well. His works Defensio pro Populo Anglicano and Defensio Secunda, his first and second defense of the English people, published in 1651 and 1654 respectively, defended the drastic actions of his fellow revolutionaries---specifically in the regicide of King Charles I. Clearly, Milton saw himself as a revolutionary fighting against an oppressive ruler. Thirteen years later, in 1667, Paradise Lost was published detailing a Satan figure in much the same position as Milton himself. Free will became the paramount ideal that Satan represented. It could be argued that the free will being expressed in the story is a theological concept rather than a political one, but since it is Milton's political problems which help drive the creation of Paradise Lost, it is more likely that this free will is a refutation of royal and Anglican ecclesiastical authority more than a continuation of the ages old Augustine/Palagius theological free will debate.

The groundwork for Satan as representative of the struggle for free will is laid in his opening speech.

And what I should be, all but less than he
Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reigh secure; and, in my choice,
To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell... (Paradise Lost Book I, 257-262)

Satan uses such words as "free" and "choice" in the face of a God who is described here as being in charge, not because of His divine glory, but because of His divine might ("...Thunder hath made [Him] great....") G. Rostrevor Hamilton, in his work Hero or Fool: A Study of Milton's Satan, addresses the issue of free will in heaven and why Satan rebelled against God.

...we may question whether the angels ought to be quite so completely happy as they are. They are not allowed to forget the merciless doom that awaits them if they fail in the test of prompt obedience. (Hamilton 36)

How bold and ironic that Milton, a Puritanical devotee, chose to represent the Puritanical movement with its own mythology's worst villain! And yet he did. Satan is no more or less a revolutionary than Milton himself. In fact, it is Satan's character who so poignantly expresses that which Milton would have wanted the world to know of himself against the powers-that-be.

...What though the field be lost?
All is not lost--the unconquerable will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield
And what is else not to be overcome?
That glory never shall his wrath or might
Extort from me. (Paradise Lost Book I, 105-111)

So too does Milton express this self-same sentiment in his political pamphlets. Milton and Satan are not so different in this respect. Satan is purposefully represented as the more tangible, the more real, of the spiritual hosts. He is whom we are to identify with. Hamilton states, "[h]e wins our admiration the more firmly because he is intimately real, while the inhabitants of Heaven are remote and strange" (Hamilton 39). And it is he who preaches freedom. In his speech to the assembled fallen angels in hell, he talks of God and the punishment he dealt them.

This place our dungeon, not our safe retreat
Beyond his potent arm, to live exempt
From Heaven's high jurisdiction, in new league
Banded against his throne, but to remain
In strictest bondage, though thus far removed,
Under th' inevitable curb, reserved
His captive multitude. For he, to be sure,
In height or depth, still first and last will reign
Sole king, and of his kingdom lose no part
By our revolt, but over Hell extend
His empire, and with iron sceptre rule
Us here, as with his golden those in Heaven.
What sit we then projecting peace and war?
War hath determined us and foiled with loss
Irreparable; terms of peace yet none
Vouchsafed or sought; for what peace will be given
To us enslaved, but custody severe,
And stripes and arbitrary punishment
Inflicted? (Paradise Lost, Book II, 317-335)

Again certain words stand out. "Dungeon", "bondage", "captive", "rule", and "enslaved" all seem addressable to Satan's issue of freedom and free will. This pattern of diction can be followed throughout the text. Satan is Milton's ultimate rebel and that fact shapes Milton's portrayal of him.

One cannot, however, escape the inherent problems there. If Milton were trying to show Satan as an anti-hero, in some ways he would be working against his own cause. Yet it is apparent that by placing Satan in the exact same position that he and the other revolutionaries were in, he must've intended to justify his own position. Satan's character may have been able to accomplish both goals well. Truly Satan was an anti-hero. Milton may well have been in the camp of Satan the rebel, but not of Satan the rebel against God. That he could not abide and the story bears that out. John M. Steadman in his work Moral Fiction in Milton and Spenser, writes:

Milton's poem cannot be reduced to a single epic stereotype or generic formula. On the contrary, within the framework of the neoclassical tradition it comprehends a wide range of other literary traditions. (Steadman 147)

Satan is not meant to be understood in only one way. Milton deliberately, it appears, portrays several different and sometimes incompatible Satans. He includes patterns of Hebrew understandings of heroism and Greek understandings of free will with the ideals and struggles of his own rebellious time. Whenever we may think we've begun to understand Satan, we are stopped by his own inconsistencies. We are forced to consider every aspect of him. As Hamilton put it:

...Satan in imagination differs from Satan in idea. In the abstract we may conceive him, whether actual or symbolic, as wholly evil, the negation of all good, but, when we try to imagine him, it will not be surprising if all kinds of elements---foolish, virtuous, heroic, human---begin to enter in. (Hamilton 8)

He is a contridiction. His own demeanor, in places, alters even the heroic qualities we wish to prescribe him.

Satan's heroic qualities are enhanced by this strain of something approaching tenderness in his character. We see it again when he is moved towards pity, and even love, by the first sight of Adam and Eve in their unsuspecting happiness, and once more when, on the very point of tempting Eve, he is disarmed for a while by her innocence. His courage and will-power are not the expression of a nature irrevocably hardened or incapable of gentle emotion. (Hamilton 25)

So finally we ask again "Who is this Satan?" the answer is that he is all these things. He is as multifaceted as the understandings of him in the real world. He is both hero and villain. He is both a pitier of the non-free and pitiable for his lack of freedom. He is both Milton and Milton's nemesis. To limit him to a specific, single definition would not only be a bane to Satan himself, but to Milton who preached a gospel of freedom through him.

Work's Cited


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The Jewish Messiah - The Development And Evolution Of The Messianic Figure In The Old Testament

Abstract:
Concerning the imagery and myth of the messianic figure in Jewish listerature. Useful if you want to learn more about the Christ's signifigance in Jewish mythology.

Paper:
Modern Christianity, if it hopes to understand its own ideology and theology, must develop a working understanding of its own Judaic background, and central to that background is the concept of the messiah and his eminent coming. However, it is disheartening to note that the messianic role in Hebraic culture has been analyzed, conceptualized, understood, and misunderstood to such a degree that the reinvention of the messianic figure as a cosmological one has been all but accepted as proper and correct by many modern Christians. This idea of a cosmological messiah, though, does not seem to be based solidly on Old Testament theology, but rather on modern interpretations thereof. An exploration of the fundamental origin of the messianic figure as portrayed in the Old Testament and a tracing of the development of the cultural role of that concept as it changed to suit the changing needs of the Judaic community needs to be initiated in order to glean an understanding of the basis for Christian faith: the messiah as personified in Jesus Christ.

Before an analysis of the cultural role of the messiah can properly begin, the term messiah must be understood. The expression comes from the Hebraic word Mashiah which can be loosely translated as "anointed one." This can be gathered from both a philological study of the ancient Hebrew language and, barring that, by reading John 1:41 which prosaically discusses exactly what the word means. A messianic figure, then, is a person who has been anointed within the context of the Judaic faith. According to most accounts in the bible this involved a ritual where, among other things, oil is spread over the individual. The messianic figures identified in the Old Testament also seemed to share one other common trait---they had an aspect of importance and meaning; that is, they all had a role to play for the Jewish people. The messianic figure was not only an anointed individual, but also an individual with a purpose to the people of God. The question then becomes, what purpose, or cultural role, did the messianic figure play?

In the beginning, the kings of the ancient Near East were anointed as a matter of standard practice. In the book of Judges, verses 9:8, and 9:15, the bland commonality associated with the anointing of a king becomes evident. This anointing was considered the norm and thus was not treated as special. 1 Samuel 10:1, where Samuel pours the oil over the head of Saul and thereby "The Lord [anoints him] ruler over His people Israel," is a further illustration of this standardized anointing of the king of a people. Here, though, this anointing has begun to take a significance beyond simple rulership. Samuel explains to Saul that he has a purpose for the people of Israel. He is to "save them from the hand of their enemies all around . . . This shall be the sign to [Saul] that the Lord has anointed [him] ruler." Later David was anointed as ruler in much the same manner (2 Samuel 2:4 and 2 Samuel 5:3). At this time, however, kings were not the only persons anointed. Exodus 29:7 gives an account of Aaron, a priest, being anointed and 1 Kings 19:16 gives an additional account of Elisha the prophet being anointed. There are instances where non-kings were anointed throughout the Old Testament and the ramifications of this will be discussed later, but nonetheless, earlier on, the anointing, though practiced with some leeway as to the recipient, was primarily a ceremony associated with the rulership of Israel. As this anointing ritual became more and more popular, the ruler of Israel became known as "the Lord's anointed," as is evident in 1 Samuel 16:6 and 24:6. Eventually the term "the anointed one" became standard when referring to the king. As of yet, however, the bible did not use the word Mashiah---or Messiah---to refer to a particular person, instead it was only used adjectivally to further designate an individual or group of individuals.

During the reign of King David, a message came from the oracle of Nathan which established the house of David as the de facto ruler to the people of God (2 Samuel 7:16). This was a dramatically momentous event in the role of the anointing ritual. Psalms 2:6-9 further pronounces the divine authority of the House of David as follows:

'I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.'
I will tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to me, 'You are my son; today I have begotten you.
Ask of me and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron,
and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.' (Psalms 2:6-9)

As explained in this passage, the king of Israel, and thus the descendants of King David, seemed to have a particularly special place in the religion of that people. He was thereafter, it appears, a "son" of Yahweh which would grant him a significance beyond mere kingship by might and give him a divine authority.

Though it was not apparent at the onset of this tradition, this laid the foundation for the later and more matured concept of the messianic hope. There had already been a messianic hope of sorts in that the anointed persons were linked to the hope of Israel. Genesis 49:10 talks of a ruler who will come and command "the obedience of the people." Already the Old Testament began to portend the eminent coming of a great ruler. Numbers 24:17 further explains that a "scepter" (a common symbol of rulership) "shall rise out of Israel; It shall crush the borderlands of Moab, and the territories of all the Shethites." This earlier concept of messianic hope appeared to take shape as a result of the people of Israel's desire for a victory over Moab and Edom. Interestingly, this prophecy later became a reality under King David as explained in 2 Samuel 8:2 and 8:3-14. This early messianic hope was still a dynastic messianism, meaning that it was tied to the King of the Israelites, and later to the descendants of David (Psalms 89:4, 89:17, 132:10, 132:17). The messianic hope as portrayed in the Old Testament always reflected the cultural needs of the people of Israel. Until the visions of the prophet Isaiah focused the messianic image and its purpose to one main cause, the messianic hope was constantly revamped as the need arose to accomplish a specific and daunting task. Overall, this messiah was a political leader who would bring power and dignity to the Israelites and coalesce these people into a single nation under God. This coalescence would become more vital after the Diaspora when the Judaic people were split into various groups.

It was Isaiah who turned this dynastic and indistinct (in purpose) messianic idea into a true messianic hope for an ideal king with a specific task; a task which would not change as cultural needs did. There would still be messiahs and these messiahs would fulfill the immediate needs of the Israelites, but thereafter there would be the expectation of another messiah who would be special in every way. Isaiah 9:2-7 describes this new messiah as one who will lift the "yoke of [the Israelites'] burden"; who will break the "rod of their oppressor"; and who will "establish and uphold" a kingdom "with justice and with righteousness . . . forevermore." This messiah, envisioned by Isaiah, would possess the qualities and traits which the Israelites considered great; "wisdom and understanding", "council and might", and a "knowledge and fear of the Lord." Additionally, the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament) attaches "piety" to this list of attributes. The qualities of this messiah are detailed in the book of Isaiah 11:1-9. This new conceptualization of a more prominent messiah is reverberated in several passages, including Isaiah 55:3-5, Jeremiah 23:1-8 (especially 5-6), Micah 5:2-6, Hosea 3:5, Amos 9:11-15, and many others.

This is still a dynastic messianism as evidenced by the prophesies of the oracle of Nathan to David (see 1 Chronicles 17:10-14), but this kingly messiah soon became more intimate, more humbled. In Zechariah 9:9, this messiah is depicted unassumingly riding on a young donkey---quite unbecoming of the grand messiah and future king of the Israelites. He was not the militant warrior king but a messenger of peace with divine authority. This sparked another transformation in the image of the messianic ideal. The messianic references in the book of the prophet, Isaiah, and others are not contradicted but reexamined through this new lens of peace. Examples of this reinterpretation can be found in Psalms. Exegesis of the scriptures provides a much different picture when viewed from this new perspective. The eminent messiah was still looked on as the great hope of the people of Israel, and he was still believed to be a king with all the qualities appertaining thereunto, but he was also a peaceful messenger of God with all the glory associated therewith. He was a bringer of hope and mercy, not war. This concept paved the way for the basis of New Testament belief.

As the idea of the Davidic messiah took shape, so too did other messianic parallel ideas come into being. Beginning with a more liberal exercising of the messianic title, the book of Habakkuk, verse 3:13, suggests that the anointed was either a king or possibly the nation under that king. The text is notably ambiguous on this point. Psalms 2:2 and 28:8 are both a great deal clearer in naming the people of Israel to be the anointed. Other examples of this liberal usage of the messianic title include its use on the gentile king Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1), on a prophet (Isaiah 61:1), and apparently on the founding fathers of the faith such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Psalms 105:15). Exodus 30:22-33 describes the making of a sacred anointing oil and its subsequent use to anoint not only the priest Aaron but, even more unusually, objects, so that they might be anointed as a king (or in this case a priest) would be. The anointing was performed on the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant, an altar of burnt offering, and other items in this text. This liberal usage of the messianic title began the application of the anointing as a way of consecrating not kings, but the high priests of Israel. The tale of the anointing of Aaron is retold in Leviticus 8:12 and again in Psalms 133:2. Since this priestly anointing takes place after the captivity of Israel, the idea of a king is nearly moot. The high priests rose in social power to become the default rulers of the Judaic people. After the captivity and subsequent exile, the Israelites had no king. As a semblance of order was regained, the Judaic people began to look back, reminiscently, to the age of Davidic messianism for their hope. Until this, however, the hope of Israel, that Israel would be delivered from its enemies and attain a position of respect and power in the world, lay with their faith, and thus their temple worship. Whereas the kingly messiah is defined as being of the lineage of David, the priestly messiah is linked to the dynasty of Aaron.

These two main parallel developments, that of the kingly and the priestly messiah, continue to evolve separately until much later when scripture links them together through the "sons of oil", Zerubbabel and Joshua. Zechariah 6:9-15 establishes Zerubbabel as the political king over Israel and its kingly messiah (as evidenced by the reference to the branch which signifies messianism throughout the bible) and also establishes Joshua as high priest of the people with a messianic authority of his own. Here, for the first time, it appears that the vague role and purpose of the messianic figure as detailed differently throughout the Old Testament becomes focused as through a lens. This view of a double-messiah is similar, it appears, to the views of the Essenes at Qumran who also expected both a priestly and royal messiah (The Manual of Discipline ix:9, The Zadokite Document vi:10, vii:21, and others). Though Zechariah 6:9-15 seems to be intended for both "sons of oil", the people of Israel seem to latch onto Zerubbabel as the fulfillment of the prophesies of messianic hope. The remainder of the book of Zechariah is ripe with references to events that would fulfill the prophesy. The restoration of Israel, the destruction of Israel's enemies, and other such discussions indicate a preoccupation with the eminent coming, or current arrival, of the Lord's messiah.

Other themes associated with, but not directly related to, the messianic figure were being developed concurrently. The medium of the deliverance of the Israelites was not always a messianic one. Sometimes the direct intervention of God is suggested, as in Isaiah 40:3-5, Isaiah 34-35, and many other scriptural passages in the book of Isaiah. Other times, there is another mediator of salvation, separate from the Davidic messiah, referred to as a "servant" of Yahweh in whom the "spirit" of the Lord is placed. Though there are great similarities between this and the Davidic or even priestly messiah, there is no evidence to suggest that they are the same individual. In fact it could be argued that this "servant" is a reference to the nation of Israel as a whole, and not an individual as the scripture states. Though the true nature and identity of this Servant is in question, there can be no doubt that he does possess certain attributes that had previously been reserved for the messiah. Daniel 7:13-14 introduces yet another character into the eschatological fray. "One like a human being" (or according to the Aramaic version, "one like a son of man") would come from heaven and establish a Kingdom of God in place of the kingdoms of earth at the end of days, and his dominion, according to the text, shall be everlasting. Here again, a figure, who is not the messiah described elsewhere, has come into the story and usurped some of the authority of the messianic figure who, as explained in other scriptures, was meant to rule over the people of Israel in an equally everlasting kingdom at the end of days. Other figures with messianic qualities show themselves in some of the apocryphal literature. Ethiopian Enoch, for instance, portrays an individual who appears to be the fruit of some messianic prophesies, but this figure does not possess all the attributes of the one prophesied. The Enochian figure is not to suffer as the other messianic ideals are foretold to do. Also, interestingly, the figure mentioned in Enoch shares the title "elect" with the Servant of the Lord discussed earlier (Isaiah 40:3-5, etc . . .). 2 Esdras 7:28-29 deviates from the standard by emphasizing a messiah who is superhuman. This messiah portends the end of everything as it is currently known and heralds the coming of a new order which will rise from the ashes of the old. Of course in this new order the Judaic people are no longer oppressed. This messianic figure, again, does not have any direct relationship to the Davidic or priestly messiah mentioned elsewhere. He does possess similar characteristics and duties, but there is no indication that they are one and the same.

Several messianic concepts arose throughout the Old Testament to combat specific socio-political ills which plagued the Israelites. These messiahs took many forms. The messiah described by the prophet Isaiah was a human one (Isaiah 9:2-7). He was a man who would suffer and die for the rest of his people (Isaiah 53:3-12). The book of Daniel discusses a superhuman who would fulfill the needs that the messiah, in other books, was foretold to fulfill (Daniel 7:13-14). This figure, some would say, may have been an angel of the Lord come to rescue the Lord's people. The book of Zechariah describes a dual messianism with both a priestly and a kingly messiah ruling side-by-side in God's name and with His grace (Zechariah 6:9-15). No matter what form the messiah took, his main function was to alleviate the Jews from the problems facing them at any given point in their history. Primarily, this task involved the deliverance of the Israelites from their captors, whoever those captors may have been (Isaiah 9:2-7). This desire for deliverance was the fundamental driving force behind the development and evolution of the messianic figure in the Old Testament.

So then it seems that the messianic figure of Old Testament revelation and theology was principally a political figure and not a cosmological one. There is only one reference to a cosmological figure with messianic qualities in the standard Old Testament books (Daniel 7:13). The figure presented there, however, does not seem to be the messiah as envisioned by Isaiah or the other prophets, but instead is a heavenly figure who is fulfilling messianic duties. The messiah talked about and hoped for by the Old Testament is first and foremost a human one---a man who would , through the anointing, be possessed of the full grace of the divine spirit (Isaiah 11:1-9).

A basic timeline of the evolution of the messianic figure can be constructed through a thorough examination of the scriptures. In the earliest parts of the bible, the Lord, Himself, was the primary intervener on behalf of the Israelites. Later, there was a shift to a kingly succession of messiahs. These kings are all anointed and it is explained that they have a part to play in God's plan which will raise the nation of Israel to a higher status. Through the captivity and subsequent exile of the Israelites, the idea of a messiah through kingly succession was stamped out. Here the obligation of the messianic duties, that of propagating and building a strong nation of Israel, fell to its own people. Eventually, the messianic focus shifted to the priests of the people who began to have some authority over them. During the post-exilic period, when people had fond memories of the monarchy, the idea of a kingly messiah was brought back to the forefront of theological thought. This time, however, the coming of a messiah greater than any other was prophesied. This grand messiah would be from the line of King David. This new messianic figure was different from all others before him in that he was to be imbued with the fullness of the divine spirit and was to be an emissary, in the flesh, to the people of the world from the Judaic god, Yahweh. This messiah would resolve the problems of the nation of Israel permanently by establishing a kingdom of God on earth which everyone, by virtue of its existence, would be forced to respect, revere, and apparently join. This new messiah was to be different in many ways. Among them, he was to demonstrate the qualities of both king and priest. This began to account for the idea of the messiah as the path of atonement for the Israelites. At times, this messiah was thought to be two separate individuals, and other times he was thought of as a single being with the qualities of both.

The idea of the messiah was altered to suit the periodic social needs of the Judaic people many times throughout the Old Testament, making it quite difficult for scholars to define a single messianic concept. There has been the concept of a priestly messiah, a heavenly servant of Yahweh, and a son of man. Throughout all these permutations, the kingly messiah has been the glue trying to hold them together as one concept. There is no canonical evidence to suggest that the people of Israel tried to focus this blurred image. It seemed impossible to do so until Jesus came into being. He fulfilled all messianic expectations to a degree which the Judaic people could not have imagined. He acted as a focus of these concepts by being a spiritual leader (the priestly messiah), the Son of God (the servant of Yahweh), the self-proclaimed Son of Man, and beyond all that, the King of the Jews. Jesus, the central figure of Christian faith, untangled the competing lines of messianic imagery and defined, for the Christian faith, what was meant by these prophesies and the messianic hope. Jesus' life was, according to the Christian faith, the consummation of Old Testament prophesy. He was not a cosmological figure, but a human one who suffered and died for His, and our, faith. "All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet" (Matthew 1:22).

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The Book of Enoch

Just spent an evening discussing the relevance of the Book of Enoch to Christianity with Chris, a friend of Bryan's. He's dead wrong, but I understand why he came to the conclusions he did. I wrote a paper about the Dead Sea Scrolls in college. Perhaps that will answer some questions.


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The Dead Sea Scrolls - In Search of a Christian Heritage

Abstract:
Concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls and their relationship to Christianity. Not my most academic work, this paper fits the assignment given and offers some useful tidbits.

Paper:
As I stood at the check out line at the grocery store the other day, my friend and I spotted an article in the Weekly World News titled "Did Jesus Write the Dead Sea Scrolls?" This sparked an interesting discussion in which she informed me that several members of our congregation had been concerned that they should be familiarizing themselves with these "Dead Sea Scrolls" since they seemed to unlock some hidden Christian secrets. Certainly I can understand this notion, since every check-out-line newspaper seems intent upon drawing a connection between Christianity and these scrolls. Even the Discovery Channel has joined the fray with its own mini-series in which certain academic individuals were heard to claim such things as "Jesus inspired and/or founded the Qumran community (the community which apparently wrote the scrolls)." For these reasons, I have decided to address the issue here so as to stem the flow of wild speculation and hopefully give each of you a clearer understanding of the relationship of the Dead Sea Scrolls to Christendom.

To begin I should discuss briefly what the Dead Sea Scrolls are and what they are not. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of writings found near Qumran at a site in which archeological evidence suggests there existed a community of Hebrew people. Many scholars believe that the Hebrews living there were of the Essene sect of Judaism. That is to say, they were a monastic group living an ascetic life of purity in the cliffs of the Qumran area. The Essenes chose this way of life because of a conscious decision on their part to break away from the temple and the wickedness that they associated with the more social lifestyles of other Jewish sects. While at the Qumran site, it is believed by many scholars, they wrote and stored the texts that we would later call the Dead Sea Scrolls. Those texts can be divided into three primary categories: biblical, pseudopigrapha, and sectarian (Barnstone, 201).

The biblical scrolls are those that were found to be early copies of books found in the Old Testament. Among the fragments recovered from the various Qumran caves, archeologists have found pieces of every book in the Old Testament except for Ester. The pseudopigraphical texts consist of Jewish writing not found in the Old Testament such as Enoch and the Genesis Apocryphon. The last genre of writings found, the sectarian texts, are those works which detail the rules and dictates of the Qumran community. Examples of this include the Manual of Discipline and the Zadokite Document---both of which give written accounts of the rules and mores of the residents of the community. All told, nearly ten full scrolls have been discovered in the caves as well as thousands of scroll fragments (c.f., Barnstone, 201).

Now that you've been given a crash course in Dead Sea Scroll lore, it may help to try to understand why so many people relate these documents to Christianity. Are there any real and direct correlations between the two? Some would say yes---though for varying reasons. Some of these people would claim that Jesus was an Essene himself or at least closely tied to the Essene sect. They cite prove such as theological similarities between the two. Both renounced the worldly aspects of life and both seemed to hold what the temple had become as an anathema to the Jewish faith. Both, it might seem, emphasized the corruption of the world in general. But upon closer examination of the information, fundamental differences begin to show themselves. Jesus, by all accounts in the New Testament, did not live an ascetic lifestyle, not did he entirely renounce the world. Jesus ate healthily and enjoyed his wine as well. He seems to have purposefully sought out persons of a worldly nature to accompany him (tax collectors, "harlots", etc...). Perhaps the most fundamental way in which the writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Jesus differ is in their approach to dealing with the anathema of the world. The Qumran people clearly sought to distance themselves from it physically and spiritually. They moved to the desert away from the temptations of society to set up an exclusive community of like-minded individuals who would support the ascetic way of life for which they were striving. Spiritually they distanced themselves through theology that set them apart from the non-followers:

All who do not lift a hand against his holy statutes and his righteous judgements and his true testimonies; who are instructed in the former judgements with which the men of the community were judged; who give ear to the voice of a teacher of righteousness and do not reject the statutes of righteousness when they hear them---they shall rejoice and be glad, and their hearts shall be strong, and they shall prevail over all the sons or the world, and God will forgive them, and they shall see his salvation, because they have taken refuge in his holy name. (The Damascus Document, 230-231)

Whereas the Qumran community thought of their relationship to the sinners of the world as a war (c.f., The War of the Sons of Light With the Sons of Darkness, 235ff.), Jesus preached that it was a mission. Christians were told to reach these people with the message of communal salvation as opposed to retreating from them to work on personal salvation. The analogy of the circle of witness might be an appropriate way to demonstrate the difference. In Christianity, the faith community is in a continuous cycle that moves from a proclamation of the Holy Spirit to the shared fellowship of the community as manifest through worship and praise. At that point it also moves to an external sharing through missionary witnessing to those not in the faith which keeps the faith from becoming exclusive. From there it moves to guidance and training and to further inspiration or edification and finally back to the proclamation of the Holy Spirit. This circle of witness is at the heart of Christian self-understanding. Not so with the Qumran community! Their self-identity is rooted not in their relationship to external communities but rather to the internal community (to the exclusion of others). This is a strong difference which betrays Jesus as a man who's beliefs, at heart, do not mesh with those of the writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls---that is the Essenes, if we are to accept popular scholarly opinion.

There are other scholars, seeking to synchronize Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls, who would point to the strong messianic imagery found in many of the documents as proof of their "Christianhood". In fact, one could hardly argue the basic premise here. There is a strong interest in the messiah and messianic salvation in the Qumran literature that we've recovered. The Manual of Discipline (ix:9), The Zadokite Document (vi:10, vii:21) and other references talk about a messianic savior. Phrases like the "Son of Man" are used (The Manual of Discipline, 222), purposefully evoking Messianic imagery. While most Christians (myself included) find these Jewish messianic texts fascinating, we must not forget to take two evaluative factors into account when examining their relationship to Christianity.

First, for the most part, the Qumran authors did not possess the same understanding of the messiah that the Christian community has come to accept. Rather than a single messianic figure, they envisioned a dual messiah. In the Qumran tradition, it seems common to refer to two separate messiahs---a priestly one and a kingly one. Take a look at the following passage for an example of this:

...but they shall be judged by the first judgements which the men of the community began to be disciplined, until there shall come a prophet and the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel. (The Manual of Discipline, 218)

Here the author is making mention of a messiah to fulfill the priestly duties from the line of Aaron of the Old Testament and a messiah to rule, as a king, the nation of Israel. Whatever differences Christians may have between each other, we do share the common understanding of the messiah as manifest in one person---Jesus Christ. The Qumran community did not share this view.

The second point to consider when evaluating the messianic imagery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is that this is not an anomaly in Jewish history. The Old Testament and Apocrypha are ripe with references to an imminent Messiah (Genesis 49:10, Numbers 24:17, Isaiah 9:2-7, Isaiah 11:1-9, Isaiah 55:3-5, Jeremiah 23:1-8 [especially 5-6], Micah 5:2-6, Hosea 3:5, Amos 9:11-15, Zechariah 9:9, Daniel 7:13-14, 2 Esdras 7:28-29 and many other passages) and so references to a messiah in the Judaic Qumran literature is not exceptional. The Jewish community generally believed in a messianic figure to come---the Qumran community was not alone in this. It is, in fact, this messianic expectation which gave Christian faith the ability to exist. Without that Jewish background, Christianity would've been an anomaly at best and non-existent at worse. Yet it is important to note that Neither the Old Testament nor any of the recovered Qumran texts, however, make any explicit reference to Jesus as such---no matter what you may have read in a previous issue of the National Inquirer.

That point brings me to the final question to be asked. Are there any legitimate ties between Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls? The answer is yes. They are a valuable piece of Jewish history. That is enough of a reason for any Christian to want to study them. Jesus was a Jew. His followers were Jewish. A great many of the people to whom he preached were Jewish. It is invaluable for us, as Christians, to come to grips with our own Jewish religious heritage. We did not spring from nothingness. We are the result of an ancient Jewish faith. So were the Qumran people. Were they Christian? No, but they were as Jewish as Jesus was. If we are ever fully to understand our own Christianity we must understand the Judaism which we came from. Much like modern Christianity is divided into denominations and sects, ancient Judaism was too. Also like modern Christianity they were not just aware of their differences, they were acutely aware of their similarities. They all had a Jewish identity. To an extent, so do we. The Qumran authors, be they Essene or otherwise, are as much a part of our past as the Pharisees, the Sadduccees, or the Zealots. All have helped to brings Judaism and Christianity to the point that it's at now. To ignore the Jewish side of our heritage is to know only in part. To embrace and try to understand our Jewishness is to begin to know fully. What better goal to have as Christians than that?


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