Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Preaching the Lectionary Jan 13: 9-3.30pm Mercer School of Theology Garden City

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Preaching the Lectionary: Lent, Holy Week, and Easter

09:00 AM - 03:30 PM

The Mercer School of Theology
65 Fourth Street
Garden City , US-NY , 11530
Professor Deirdre Good will offer preaching insights on the lectionary spanning Lent, Holy Week and Easter.

This joint Lutheran-Episcopal seminar is intended to refresh preachers. Professor Good will offer exegetical highlights on selected lectionary passages for Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. Participants will interact with each other and Professor Good in guided conversations about what they are drawn to preach on in the selected passages and why. The day will begin and conclude with worship.

The cost is $50; lunch is included.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Yes, the Pope did issue "a blistering critique" to the Curia

Did the Pope issue a "blistering critique" of the Curia? Yes says RNS writer Josephine McKenna. But Dawn Eden of "Get Religion" doesn't think so. She cites a read of the Papal statement in Zenit and another by Rocco Palmo who notes that the Pope began by a call for forgiveness and concludes with a statement that the critique could be aimed at all Catholics.

You be the judge. We need the Italian text from the Vatican first. Here is the English version also from the Vatican.

The text addresses: "Cari fratelli..." that is "Dear Brothers" hence intended for the Curia not for all Catholics although of course the papal address has been widely read. "Fratelli, brothers" i.e. Cardinals is repeated at the conclusion. I thus disagree with Rocco Palmo's reading: the admonition is addressed to the immediate audience.

An opening paragraph states that the Curia is called to improve to fully realize its mission. Yet like every human body it is exposed to "malattie, al malfunzionamento, all'infermita." This is rendered as "sickness, malfunction and infirmity" in the Vatican English version. But the Italian uses stronger language: "disease, malfunction and infirmity." In fact where the Italian word repeats the word "disease" as in "Curial diseases, malattie curiale," and "diseases more frequent in the life of the Curia," the English translation consistently prefers the less forceful "Curial illnesses" or "ailments."

Since the body of the address identifies the 15 spiritual conditions, it is important to know how to designate the Italian "malatia or malattie." The English text uses "ailment" or "illness" except in four cases: Spiritual Alzheimer's disease; the disease of indifference, accumulation, worldly profit and exhibitionism. The Italian uses the same word all the way through. My judgement is that the English has weakened the Italian.

The English translation omits considerable text. Here is the the first disease:
The first is “the sickness of considering oneself 'immortal', 'immune' or 'indispensable', neglecting the necessary and habitual controls. A Curia that is not self-critical, that does not stay up-to-date, that does not seek to better itself, is an ailing body. … It is the sickness of the rich fool who thinks he will live for all eternity, and of those who transform themselves into masters and believe themselves superior to others, rather than at their service”.

But the Italian is more detailed and contains descriptions and even diagnoses of pathologies:

1. La malattia del sentirsi “immortale”, “immune” o addirittura “indispensabile”, trascurando i necessari e abituali controlli. Una Curia che non si autocritica, che non si aggiorna, che non cerca di migliorarsi è un corpo infermo. Un’ordinaria visita ai cimiteri ci potrebbe aiutare a vedere i nomi di tante persone, delle quale alcuni forse pensavano di essere immortali, immuni e indispensabili! È la malattia del ricco stolto del Vangelo che pensava di vivere eternamente (cfrLc 12,13-21), e anche di coloro che si trasformano in padroni e si sentono superiori a tutti e non al servizio di tutti. Essa deriva spesso dalla patologia del potere, dal “complesso degli Eletti”, dal narcisismo che guarda appassionatamente la propria immagine e non vede l’immagine di Dio impressa sul volto degli altri, specialmente dei più deboli e bisognosi[8]. L’antidoto a questa epidemia è la grazia di sentirci peccatori e di dire con tutto il cuore: «Siamo servi inutili. Abbiamo fatto quanto dovevamo fare» (Lc 17,10).

The missing text could be rendered into English thus: It is the disease of those who become masters and who feel superior and not at the service of all. It often stems from the pathology of power, the "complex of the Chosen," the narcissism that looks passionately at its own image and does not see the image of God stamped on the face of others, especially the weak and needy. The antidote to this epidemic is to feel as sinners and say with all the heart, "We are unprofitable servants, we did what we had to do" (Luke 17:10).

The English translation of Curial disease #3 omits the connection of Christians to the humility, selflessness, detachment and generosity as seen the mind of Christ in the description of Philippians 2.

Narcissism is something about which Pope Francis has had a good deal to say. In 2013 in an interview he spoke of it:

However, as we said, Jesus told us that love for one's neighbor is equal to what we have for ourselves. So what many call narcissism is recognized as valid, positive, to the same extent as the other. We've talked a lot about this aspect.

"I don't like the word narcissism", the Pope said, "it indicates an excessive love for oneself and this is not good, it can produce serious damage not only to the soul of those affected but also in relationship with others, with the society in which one lives. The real trouble is that those most affected by this  -  which is actually a kind of mental disorder  -  are people who have a lot of power. Often bosses are narcissists".

Many church leaders have been."You know what I think about this? Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy."

On another occasion Pope Francis described narcissism as an "ecclesiastical sickness:"

"The theologian who is satisfied with his complete and conclusive thought is mediocre. A good theologian and philosopher is open, or incomplete in thought, always open to the ‘maius’ of God and of the truth, always in development. And the theologian who does not pray or does not adore God ends up sinking into the most repugnant narcissism. And this is an ecclesiastical sickness. Narcissism in theologians and in thinkers is harmful and repugnant.”

It is clear that Pope Francis has given much thought to the ecclesiastical disease of narcissism. It is clear that the Italian text describing diseases in several cases contains more details than the official English text and in the first disease a diagnosis of narcissism. To omit this element of his address is to miss the continuity and development of his thought.

Vatican insiders think the Pope's address was unique. Cardinal Lajolo, the former Vatican governor and foreign minister expresses surprise and says

To be honest, nothing like this has ever happened before'. 'It is the first time this has happened; never before had a Pope set us in the Curia a series of pathologies that we must examine ourselves on.' 
All along, says the cardinal who has been head of some of the most important offices of the Holy See for many years,  'the exchange of Christmas wishes has been a customary occasion, that follows a usual pattern'.

Lajolo points out that for the first time the Pope asks the Curia to examine itself on a number of issues.

In the Pope's address to the Curia we are indeed seeing a strongly worded diagnosis, and critique calling for healing. The force of the Pope's address can be seen in a "tepid reaction" of the assembled Curia in this video from France 24 at 56-59 seconds here.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Judaism and Jesus

On Point with Amy-Jill Levine and James Carroll on the topic of Judaism and Jesus

Along the way Amy-Jill Levine talks about her new book mentioned below and comes up with provocative titles for parables/stories like that of the Good Samaritan: "the Good Rapist," for example.

James Carroll, scholar in residence at Suffolk University. Author of the new book “Christ Actually: The Song of God for the Secular Age.” Also author of “Constantine’s Sword,” “Toward a New Catholic Church” and “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” among others. Columnist at the Boston Globe.
Amy-Jill Levine, professor of the New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School. Author of “Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi.” Also author of “The Misunderstood Jew.”

Saturday, October 04, 2014

On Shadows & Realities in Education: Plato's Republic Book 7

    Socrates] And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened: Behold! human beings living in an underground den, which has a mouth open toward the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette-players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.
    [Glaucon] I see.
    And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent.
    You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.
    Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave?
    True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?
    And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the shadows?
    Yes, he said.
    And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?
    Very true.
    And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow?
    No question, he replied.
    To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.

Alexander the Great ISAW October 8 2014-January 4th 2015

5 East 84th St.
New York, NY 10028

Saturday, July 19, 2014

UCL: Centre for Editing Lives and Letters: Archaeology of Reading

News from the UCL Centre for Editing Lives and Letters is that they have received a grant from the Mellen Foundation to explore the archaeology of reading through the marginalia or annotations of early printed materials. Through this uncatalogued data we get access to a history of reading.

In partnership with the Johns Hopkins University’s Sheridan Libraries and the Princeton University Library, the project builds upon several decades of humanistic research that has focused upon the printing revolution of the sixteenth century, and the widespread practice by active readers of leaving often dense, interpretive manuscript annotations in the margins, and between the lines, of the books they read. This diverse evidence of annotation provides a considerable range of unique and largely untapped research materials, which reveal that readers—much as users of the internet today—adapted quickly to the technology of print: interacting intimately, dynamically, socially, and even virtually with texts.
The history of reading remains a rich area for research, as scholars seek to better understand these reading habits and strategies, though it has remained a particularly daunting task when conducted in a purely analogue context, particularly with books that literally contain thousands of notes.

Alison Flood in the Guardian notes that the project will start with the works of Gabriel Harvey.

In his copy of Livy's history of Rome, the Elizabethan scholar Gabriel Harvey paused to write a note in the margin about how he read the text in the company of Philip Sidney, and how the two had "scrutinis[ed it] so far as we could from all points of view, applying a political analysis, just before his embassy to the emperor Rudolf II".

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On translating IOUDAIOS

Adele Reinhartz writes a piece on "The Vanishing Jews of Antiquity" in Marginalia for the LA Times Book Review (6/24).

She raises questions about the way in which many scholars now render IOUDAIOI as "Judeans." Where formerly scholars including those who translated the Bible once rendered ioudaios/ioudaioi as “Jew/Jews,” since 2007, now these terms are rendered “Judaean/Judaeans.” The argument of scholars like Steve Mason is that the category “Judaean” is a more precise and ethical because in the first place it corresponds to the complex meaning of ioudaios in ancient sources and second, that is counteracts the anti-Semitism historically associated with some of these Greek texts, particularly the New Testament.  

The latter is forcefully argued by Danker in the entry for Ioudaios in A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BDAG) third edition (478a-b):

“Incalculable harm has been caused by simply glossing ioudaios with “Jew,”  for many readers or auditors of Bible translations do not practice the historical judgement necessary to distinguish between circumstances and events of ancient time and contemporary ethnic religious social realities, with the result that anti-Judaism in the modern sense of the term is needlessly fostered through biblical texts.”

Prof Reinhardt’s then focuses on the rendering of the term in the gospel of John.  She says, “despite some neutral or even positive occurrences, the Ioudaioi figure most prominently as the opponents of Jesus, who’s lying and murderous conspiracy to have crucified demonstrates that they are children of the devil (John 8:44).”  And she notes that “the potent association between these figures and the devil remains deeply embedded in anti-Semitic discourse to this day.”

Rendering Ioudaioi by “Judeans” is a way of making adherents to the laws of Moses in the Hellenistic world e.g. Jews in the gospel of John invisible. And it exonerates the author of the gospel of John from any role in the history of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism.

She argues that “the term Jew is more precise because it signals the complex type of identity that the ancient sources associate with the Greek term and also because it allows Judaean to retain its primary meaning as a geographical designation useful when discussing the inhabitants or topography of Judaea.”   That term is more ethical “because it acknowledges the Jewish connection to this period of history and these ancient texts and because it opens up the necessity of confronting the role of the New Testament in the history of anti-Semiticism.” 

Let the debate continue!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Mellon Lectures 2014

2014 Mellon Lectures recorded here
Anthony Grafton, Princeton University. In this six-part lecture series entitled Past Belief: Visions of Early Christianity in Renaissance and Reformation Europe, Anthony Grafton focuses on the efforts of artists and scholars to recreate the early history of Christianity in a period of crisis in the church from the 15th to the 17th century. In this sixth lecture, entitled “Constantine and Conversion: The Roles of the First Christian Emperor,” originally delivered at the National Gallery of Art on May 11, 2014, Professor Grafton argues that in their retelling of the dramatic and exemplary life of Constantine, scholars and artists forged new forensic, historical, and multidisciplinary approaches. They used philological and antiquarian evidence to unpack a layered and incoherent body of evidence that exposed the apocryphal legends of what has been called an “inherited conglomerate.” Protestant and Catholic writers concurred in their assessment that Constantine’s reign marked a radical transformation of art and religion and was thus a historical moment of great consequence—yet one or two began to see Constantine in less dramatic terms, as the human, political figure that he was. The erudition and imagination of these scholars and artists in the early modern period produced sophisticated and acute views of the early church, from which we can still profit today.