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Friday, February 11, 2011

Those Who Have Not Died

Having finished Plutarch's Lycurgus, I have moved on to his work about Numa Pompilius. That work opens with a discussion of another famous Roman, Romulus. The end of Romulus's time on Earth is described as follows:
It was the thirty-seventh year, counted from the foundation of Rome, when Romulus, then reigning, did, on the fifth day of the month of July, called the Caprotine Nones, offer a public sacrifice at the Goat's Marsh, in presence of the senate and people of Rome. Suddenly the sky was darkened, a thick cloud of storm and rain settled on the earth; the common people fled in affright, and were dispersed; and in this whirlwind Romulus disappeared, his body being never found either living or dead. A foul suspicion presently attached to the patricians, and rumours were current among the people as if that they, weary of kingly government, and exasperated of late by the imperious deportment of Romulus towards them, had plotted against his life and made him away, that so they might assume the authority and government into their own hands. This suspicion they sought to turn aside by decreeing divine honours to Romulus, as to one not dead but translated to a higher condition. And Proculus, a man of note, took oath that he saw Romulus caught up into heaven in his arms and vestments, and heard him, as he ascended, cry out that they should hereafter style him by the name of Quirinus.
Being the good church boy that I am, I immediately thought of Enoch, Elijah and Jesus. (This, I believe, is the only cause anyone ever has for thinking of Enoch.) Their ascensions, in order of appearance, are cited below:
When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

* * *

As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.

* * *

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
From Genesis, 2 Kings, and Luke. What to make of all this ascending directly into heaven? I noticed that both Elijah and Romulus call back to their chief disciple on the way up. Well, I don't think Romulus ascended directly into heaven. I am not convinced Plutarch thinks he ascended into heaven as Plutarch could be merely demonstrating to his readers that early Roman's held Romulus in high regard. But, even if Plutarch believes it I don't. I will leave the analysis of the other ascension stories as a exercise for the reader.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Points for Snark

James McGrath gets points for snark when he provides this as the interpretive rule employed by those who believe Jesus never lived, "All things being equal, the simplest explanation is the best one, unless a more complicated one supports mythicism." Exploring Our Matrix: Godfrey's Razor and Historicized Scripture

Although I probably was exposed to it before, for me the most important presentation of the notion that the human being Jesus of Nazareth never existed was in Steve Gibson's book A Secret of the Universe. It is a good book and Steve is a great thinker. I was underwhelmed by the notion as presented there, although this is a novel so it isn't really trying to convince people of the notion either. Since then, I think McGrath's teasing of one of his commentors sums up my take on the topic.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Travelers

While in college I read both Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance while traveling, mostly on airplanes. On both occassions I noted how it added an extra flavor to the books to read them while on an adventure myself. This morning, I listed to an episode of American Life titled Road Trip! while I was riding on a bus and had a similar feeling.

Now back to writing my brief.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Snappy Quotes from Plutarch

Plutarch's description of Lycurgus, the great Spartan lawgiver, included some neat little bits I thought I'd share. First is a tale I know I've heard applied to women other than Lacedaemon (Spartan) women.
[S]ome foreign lady . . . told [Gorgo, wife of Leonidas] that the women of Lacedaemon were the only women in the world who could rule men; "With good reason," she said, "for we are the only women who bring forth men."
Oh snap! I really feel like I've heard, "That's because Southern women are the only women who raise men." Or something like that.

It turns out the Spartan lawgiver was a communist, or at least a communalist since he obviously predated the Communist Manifesto by a few years. He not only redistributed the land, but banning precious metals he redistributed all wealth. He also required everyone to eat together. "For the rich, being obliged to go to the same table with the poor, could not make use of or enjoy their abundance, nor so much as please their vanity by looking at or displaying it." Who you eat with is a pretty big deal. See, e.g., Luke 5:27-32.

Skipping the bits where they shared wives and had their children raised separately from their families, I thought I'd quote this discussion about building projects.
Betwixt this [river and bridge], their assemblies were held, for they had no council-house or building to meet in. Lycurgus was of opinion that ornaments were so far from advantaging them in their counsels, that they were rather an hindrance, by diverting their attention from the business before them to statues and pictures, and roofs curiously fretted, the usual embellishments of such places amongst the other Greeks.
Any person who has run a capital campaign at a local church has felt some sympathy for this position.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Salt and Light

The deadline for our brief to the U.S. Supreme Court is looming large, and beginning to really cut into my blogging and leisure reading. Thus, rather than come up with thoughts of my own, I thought I'd pass along something Rev. Linda Miller gave us at Chalice yesterday. Although the author of John would later write that Jesus taught that He was the light of the world, John 8:12, the author of Matthew has Jesus putting that responsibility elsewhere.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
Matthew 5:13-14 (emphasis mine). Linda tackled the first metaphor as well in her sermon. After talking about the myriad uses of salt, including as a preservative, she admonished us as follows: You are the salt of the earth, with out you, something precious spoils. Which I processed as meaning, without the hard work of good Christians, the Gospel will become rancid and dangerous to consume.