Monthly Archives: February 2012

Interesting Article on “Fear” in Ancient Greek

Here’s a quote:

By now we have seen that the primal emotion of collective fear, as conveyed by the word ekplēxis, transcends other emotions in the realm of theatrical performance. . . . This transcendent emotion of primal fear is the primary emotion of ancient Greek theater, and the emotions of sorrow and anger and hate and love and even of happiness are all secondary to it.

Gregory Nagy, “The Subjectivity of Fear as Reflected in Ancient Greek Wording,” Dialogues 5 (2010): 29–45.

(HT: rogueclassicism)

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Greek Wednesday: Structural Elements in Greek Tragedy, pt. 3

[This guide is adapted from Donald J. Mastronarde, Euripides: Medea (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 74-75. All links in citations point to Perseus.]

Note: This is part three in a series. See parts one and two.

Normally, the lyric portions of tragedies — particularly, choral songs — are written in antistrophic composition. In antistrophic composition, stanzas are grouped in pairs. The two stanzas in the pair have the same metrical pattern, but the form of each pair is unique. The first stanza of the pair is called the strophe, and the second stanza, with a metrical pattern corresponding to the first, is called the antistrophe.

The number of pairs may vary, but in mature tragedy, the majority of choral songs have two or three pairs. For instance, in Euripides’ Medea, the stasimons each have two such pairs:

Χορός
Strophe:
410 ἄνω ποταμῶν ἱερῶν χωροῦσι παγαί,
καὶ δίκα καὶ πάντα πάλιν στρέφεται·
ἀνδράσι μὲν δόλιαι βουλαί, θεῶν δ’
οὐκέτι πίστις ἄραρεν.
415 τὰν δ’ ἐμὰν εὔκλειαν ἔχειν βιοτὰν στρέψουσι φᾶμαι·
ἔρχεται τιμὰ γυναικείῳ γένει·
οὐκέτι δυσκέλαδος
420 φάμα γυναῖκας ἕξει.

Antistrophe:
μοῦσαι δὲ παλαιγενέων λήξουσ’ ἀοιδῶν
τὰν ἐμὰν ὑμνεῦσαι ἀπιστοσύναν.
οὐ γὰρ ἐν ἁμετέρᾳ γνώμᾳ λύρας
425 ὤπασε θέσπιν ἀοιδὰν
Φοῖβος ἁγήτωρ μελέων· ἐπεὶ ἀντάχησ’ ἂν ὕμνον
ἀρσένων γέννᾳ. μακρὸς δ’ αἰὼν ἔχει
πολλὰ μὲν ἁμετέραν
430 ἀνδρῶν τε μοῖραν εἰπεῖν.

Strophe:
σὺ δ’ ἐκ μὲν οἴκων πατρίων ἔπλευσας
μαινομένᾳ κραδίᾳ διδύμους ὁρίσασα Πόν-
435 του πέτρας· ἐπὶ δὲ ξένᾳ
ναίεις χθονί, τᾶς ἀνάν-
δρου κοίτας ὀλέσασα λέκτρον,
τάλαινα, φυγὰς δὲ χώ-
438b ρας ἄτιμος ἐλαύνῃ.

Antistrophe:
βέβακε δ’ ὅρκων χάρις, οὐδ’ ἔτ’ αἰδὼς
440 Ἑλλάδι τᾷ μεγάλᾳ μένει, αἰθερία δ’ ἀνέ-
πτα. σοὶ δ’ οὔτε πατρὸς δόμοι,
δύστανε, μεθορμίσα-
σθαι μόχθων πάρα, σῶν τε λέκτρων
ἄλλα βασίλεια κρείσ-
445 σων δόμοισιν ἐπέστα.

(Euripides, Medea 410-445)

Usually, the antistrophe follows immediately after the strophe, but a short stanza called a mesode occasionally intervenes (an innovation by Aeschylus, which Euripides takes up in his late plays; source):

Χορός
Strophe:
800 οἵ τ’ ἔσω δωμάτων
πλουτογαθῆ μυχὸν νομίζετε,
κλῦτε, σύμφρονες θεοί·
ἄγετε τῶν πάλαι πεπραγμένων
λύσασθ’ αἷμα προσφάτοις δίκαις.
805 γέρων φόνος μηκέτ’ ἐν δόμοις τέκοι.

Mesode:
τὸ δὲ καλῶς κτίμενον ὦ μέγα ναίων
στόμιον, εὖ δὸς ἀνιδεῖν δόμον ἀνδρός,
καί νιν ἐλευθερίας
λαμπρὸν ἰδεῖν φιλίοις
810 ὄμμασιν δνοφερᾶς καλύπτρας.

Antistrophe:
ξυλλάβοι δ’ ἐνδίκως
παῖς ὁ Μαίας, ἐπεὶ φορώτατος
πρᾶξιν οὐρίαν θέλων·
815 πολλὰ δ’ ἄλλα φανεῖ χρηίζων κρυπτά.
ἄσκοπον δ’ ἔπος λέγων
νύκτα πρό τ’ ὀμμάτων σκότον φέρει,
καθ’ ἡμέραν δ’ οὐδὲν ἐμφανέστερος.

(Aeschylus, Libation Bearers 800-818)

Or the response may be at considerable distance:

Χορός
ἄιες ὤ, ἔκλυες ὤ,
ἀνήκουστα τᾶς
τυράννου πάθεα μέλεα θρεομένας;
ὀλοίμαν ἔγωγε πρὶν σᾶν, φίλα,
365 κατανύσαι φρενῶν. ἰώ μοι, φεῦ φεῦ·
ὦ τάλαινα τῶνδ’ ἀλγέων·
ὦ πόνοι τρέφοντες βροτούς.
ὄλωλας, ἐξέφηνας ἐς φάος κακά.
τίς σε παναμέριος ὅδε χρόνος μένει;
370 τελευτάσεταί τι καινὸν δόμοις.
ἄσημα δ’ οὐκέτ’ ἐστὶν οἷ φθίνει τύχα
Κύπριδος, ὦ τάλαινα παῖ Κρησία.
. . .
Τροφός
τάλανες ὦ κακοτυχεῖς
γυναικῶν πότμοι.
τίν’ ἢ νῦν τέχναν ἔχομεν ἢ λόγον
670 σφαλεῖσαι κάθαμμα λύειν λόγου;
ἐτύχομεν δίκας. ἰὼ γᾶ καὶ φῶς·
πᾷ ποτ’ ἐξαλύξω τύχας;
πῶς δὲ πῆμα κρύψω, φίλαι;
675 τίς ἂν θεῶν ἀρωγὸς ἢ τίς ἂν βροτῶν
πάρεδρος ἢ ξυνεργὸς ἀδίκων ἔργων
φανείη; τὸ γὰρ παρ’ ἡμῖν πάθος
πέραν δυσεκπέρατον ἔρχεται βίου.
κακοτυχεστάτα γυναικῶν ἐγώ.

(Euripides, Hippolytus 362-372, 669-679)

Sometimes, a choral ode will end with an additional stanza that is not part of a pair; this unpaired stanza is called an epode:

Χορός
205 ἰαχὰν ἄιον πολύστονον
γόων, λιγυρὰ δ’ ἄχεα μογερὰ
βοᾷ τὸν ἐν λέχει προδόταν κακόνυμφον·
θεοκλυτεῖ δ’ ἄδικα
παθοῦσα τὰν Ζηνὸς ὁρ-
κίαν Θέμιν, ἅ νιν ἔβασεν
210 Ἑλλάδ’ ἐς ἀντίπορον
δι’ ἅλα νύχιον ἐφ’ ἁλμυρὰν
Πόντου κλῇδ’ ἀπέρατον.

(Euripides, Medea 205-12)

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40 Questions About the End Times

Kregel’s giving away a $25 gift card in support of 40 Questions About the End Times by Eckhard J. Schnabel. Here’s a link to the Facebook contest.

I’d be interested in perusing this book, if for no other reason than to find out how Schnabel approaches the issue. I often find that books that address eschatology tend to follow one of two paths: 1) A literalistic reading of the texts that turns into a roadmap to what will happen to whom, and when; 2) A reactionary response to the view in path (1), which is usually just as unhelpful. There are exceptions to this rule, though, and I would hope Schnabel’s book is one of them.

Here’s the blurb:

Description:
Even-handed, biblical, and broadly accessible answers to the most frequently asked questions abut the return of Christ

This newest contribution to the 40 Questions series continues the tradition of excellent research presented in accessible language and clear writing. Designed for both students and general readers, this resource helps them make sense of one of the Bible’s most difficult topics.

Schnabel, a professor at a leading seminary and the author of several major works, looks at the future of the world, the church, and Israel; the return of Jesus; and the millennium and the final judgment. He answers questions related to the rapture, the 144,000, the identity of the two witnesses, Armageddon, how to interpret Revelation, heaven and hell, and so forth.

The result is an even-handed treatment that avoids sensationalism and a “newspaper headline” approach to prophecy, that is, interpreting prophecy according to current events. Rather, Schnabel carefully studies the biblical text in light of its first-century context and draws biblically-based conclusions.

Here’s hoping it’s as even-handed as they say.

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An Apology for Mark’s Gospel?

I was reading the series “Was the Apostle Peter a Source for Mark’s Gospel?” over at Earliest Christianity (parts 1, 2, 3) this morning. In part 1, Tim quotes the oft-repeated refrain from Eusebius (quoting Papias, who quotes John the Apostle) about Mark’s authorship of the gospel attributed to him:

“And the elder [i.e. John?] used to say this: ‘Mark, having become Peter’s interpreter, wrote down accurately everything he remembered, though not in order, of the things either said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, followed Peter, who adapted his teachings as needed but had no intention of giving and ordered account of the Lord’s sayings. Consequently Mark did nothing wrong in writing down some things as he remembered them, for he made it his one concern not to omit anything that he heard or to make any false statement in them.’” (Eusebius, Church History 3.39; translation of Michael W. Holmes)

It seems to me that John was making an apology for Mark’s gospel. Notice several implicit charges that this passage answers:

  • The events of Jesus’ life in Mark’s gospel are out of order: “Mark . . . wrote down accurately everything he remembered, though not in order, of the things either said or done by Christ.”
  • Mark was not an apostle, so his gospel is not authoritative: “he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, followed Peter”
  • Mark’s gospel doesn’t include enough on Jesus’ teachings: “Mark . . . followed Peter, who adapted his teachings as needed but had no intention of giving and ordered account of the Lord’s sayings.”

“Consequently,” John concludes, “Mark did nothing wrong in writing down some things as he remembered them, for he made it his one concern not to omit anything that he heard or to make any false statement in them.” In other words, don’t cast blame on Mark for the shape of his gospel; he was just following Peter! In fact, John asserts, far from being an untrustworthy source of teaching about Jesus, Mark’s gospel is actually an accurate and authoritative collection of Peter’s apostolic teaching.

The implications of all this, of course, are very interesting. First, it would mean that in the late apostolic era, Mark’s gospel was at least a little controversial for its scope and subject matter (mostly the Passion, rather than Jesus’ teachings). It also explains why later authors (like those of Matthew, Luke, and John) saw fit to expand on Mark, because they were unsatisfied with the scope of that gospel.

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The Intermediate State in the New Testament: Introduction

Note: This post is the introduction to a series that will unfold here over the next week or two, taken from a paper I wrote last semester (Fall 2011).

Since the earliest days of the Church, Christians have tried to gather information from the New Testament (NT) about the intermediate state between death and the eschaton. What, however, does the NT teach about this subject? To provide an answer to this question, I will first place the NT pareschatologies* within their broader Jewish context, then I will survey each NT author’s writings in chronological order, in order to discover what exactly they teach about an intermediate state. I conclude with the argument that the NT does not, in fact, provide a uniform picture of the intermediate state; instead, each author speculated about the intermediate state based on his sources, background, and situation, writing as he saw fit.

——————————

* I am indebted to John Hick, Death and Eternal Life (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), 22 for this term. We should distinguish between eschatology (the last things) and pareschatology (the next-to-last things—the state between death and the eschaton).

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Greek Wednesday: Structural Elements in Greek Tragedy, pt. 2

[This guide is adapted from Donald J. Mastronarde, Euripides: Medea (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 74-75. All links in citations point to Perseus.]

Note: This is part two in a series. Part one is here.

Iambic trimeter is the main meter of dialogue. In addition, some plays use trochaic tetrameter as a “by-form” (74) of dialogue. Trochaic tetrameter was used frequently in early tragedy, then were used infrequently in mature tragedy, and then saw a revival in many of the plays from Euripides’ last decade. The tetrameter is more dance-like and is potentially less serious than iambic verse, and it often accompanies more agitated action or emotion than iambic verse.

Early trochaic tetrameter: Continue reading

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“Ecumenism is the Devil’s Game”

“I agree that ecuminicism [sic] is the devil’s game…”
(From a comment on this blog post.)

Such a sentiment flies in the face of how Christians are to treat each other. The Bible clearly says that God’s followers should love each other and have unity among them:

How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the LORD bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.

(Psalm 133)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. . . . We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

(1 John 4:7-12, 19-21)

To declare that ecumenism, which may be succinctly defined as “inter-denominational humility, charity, and love,” is “the devil’s game” is to profoundly misunderstand the nature of Christian teaching. Doctrine is not a weapon to be wielded against others, nor is it barbed wire for setting up division within the Church.

To take the the Bible seriously — to believe truly that it is “good and pleasant . . . when God’s people live together in unity,” that “there the LORD bestows his blessing, / even life forevermore,” and that “whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” — means that efforts to unite God’s universal church (i.e., ecumenism) must be received not with hate, but with joy.

So, is ecumenism the devil’s game? No. In fact, it is quite the opposite — it is a movement of the Spirit to unite God’s church after two millennia of division.

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Greek Wednesday: Structural Elements in Greek Tragedy, pt. 1

[My apologies for the belated Greek Wednesday. This guide is adapted from Donald J. Mastronarde, Euripides: Medea (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 74-75. All links in citations point to Perseus.]

Note: This is part one in a series. Part two is here.

“The alternation of song and speech was basic to the genre of tragedy from its inception” (74). The contrast between sung lyric meters and spoken meters largely parallels the contrast between the chorus and the actors, though crossover sometimes does occur. For instance, though the chorus usually sings, members of the chorus may, at times, speak; likewise, though actors usually speak, they may, at times, sing.

The head of the chorus (the koryphaios) speaks in iambic trimeters, sometimes in short dialogue with an actor: Continue reading

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My Troubles with Heresy and Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy and heresy are interesting things.

Over the past year or so, I’ve come to believe that the limits of true Christianity are often inscrutable. That is, I’m willing to count not only the orthodox as true believers, but also many heretics, as well. I’m finding that this position is becoming increasingly hard to hold without some measure of doublethink. On the one side of things, the weight of church tradition stands firmly on the side of a sharp distinction between heresy and orthodoxy, with only the orthodox being counted as true believers. But on the other hand, the weight of church history stands firmly on the side of pluralism, because if only the orthodox are true believers, then no one is a true believer.

On the one hand, church tradition. Ever since Justin Martyr’s denunciation of Marcion in the second century, extending all the way to contemporary culture warriors, the church has had a strong tradition of heresy-hunting. This view makes sense for two reasons. First, in order for an ethnos (a “people,” which is the way the early Christians saw themselves — as a race) to be a true ethnos — that is, for all the members of the ethnos to share common practices — ethnic boundary markers must be in place. It must be very clear who is and who is not part of the Christian people. By necessity, that entails defining what is right practice (orthodoxy) and wrong practice (heterodoxy/heresy) and setting those up as religio-ethnic distinctives. Second, this view is the most scientific. According to the scientific method, a hypothesis is either right or wrong — there is no “maybe” in a rigorous description of how the world works. Likewise, since God is knowable and has revealed himself objectively, it is possible to determine exactly what modes of worship and service he finds acceptable and which he finds unacceptable. Therefore, we may distinguish very easily between right and wrong worship.

On the other hand, church history. Since 1054 CE, every Christian has been a heretic. (1054, of course, was when the Great Schism took place, with the Eastern and Western churches excommunicating each other.) To an Eastern Orthodox Christian, Roman Catholics and Protestants are heretics. To Catholics, Protestants and the Orthodox are heretics. To Protestants, Catholics and the Orthodox are heretics. Each subgroup of Christianity has claimed to be the only right way to worship God. The problem, of course, is that each side uses the same text (the Bible) to support their views, and each side is deeply convinced of their own superiority over the others. So, among the Christian churches, it is impossible to distinguish between right and wrong worship.

Thus, the two sides rage inside me. It is intensely difficult to believe, based on church tradition, that there is a distinction between acceptable and unacceptable worship, while also believing, based on church history, that it is impossible to know what that distinction is.

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Redaction Criticism and Wikipedia

I’ve been thinking about redaction criticism lately. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about the folly of assuming that a book of the Bible was composed by a single author simply because it has traditionally been attributed to a single author. For instance, the Pentateuch was most probably edited from several source documents over the course of a few centuries, rather than being written all at once by Moses (with Joshua adding a tag at the end). It is also highly likely that 1 and 2 Corinthians have at least a couple interpolations, from marginal notes being copied into the text. Interestingly, the sample problems are being explored in Homer scholarship, too — whether the Iliad and the Odyssey were written by Homer (who may not even have existed) or were composed over the course of a long period of time and only later attributed to Homer.

(As a sidebar, I do wonder if conservative Christians during the early 1900s rejected historical criticism not for the methodology so much as for the results, which they saw as an attack on their faith, and, rather than thinking through  the evidence, shooed it away and declared it anathema. But that’s another post for another day.)

Let’s take a contemporary example of redaction and interpolation: Wikipedia. We all know that no one single person is “the author” of Wikipedia. However, let’s imagine a time, maybe 1000 years in the future, where the original Wikipedia was lost to the ravages of the Internet, but someone had the foresight (or luck) to preserve a print copy of some of Wikipedia’s entries, which was then, through some miracle of history, meticulously copied and transmitted for 1000 years. Over the course of a millennium, a tradition has cropped up regarding Wikipedia, assigning a single author to each of the articles.

By this time, a group of Wikipedia scholars has cropped up. However, because the only remaining evidence of Wikipedia is the collection of articles, which have no authorship attached, but which also show clear signs of multiple authors, there is a lively debate in this niche of scholarship about Wikipedia’s authorship. On the one side, some scholars claim that, because each article is a unified source, each article must have been written by a single person. On the other side, other scholars claim that they have determined, through redaction and linguistic criticism, that the articles were, in fact, written by several people over the course of time. (Thankfully, scanners and photocopiers kept the number of textual variants to a minimum!)

We all know, of course, how silly it is to assert that a given Wikipedia article, especially one of the featured articles, has been written by a single author. But, assuming all we had was the text of major Wikipedia articles, would it be any more valid to say that Wikipedia articles are the work of a single author? Of course not.

The implications of this Wikipedia principle are, I would hope, very clear. In the case of a text like the Pentateuch, or the Iliad and the Odyssey, or even our hypothetical Wikipedia, multiple authorship is infinitely more likely than single authorship. It is invalid to perpetuate a tradition in the face of contrary evidence.

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