Creatura : Creator :: Map : Territory

According to the invaluable Online Etymology Dictionary, the English word “map” is derived from:

… Medieval Latin mappa mundi “map of the world;” first element from Latin mappa “napkin, cloth” (on which maps were drawn), “tablecloth, signal-cloth, flag,” said by Quintilian to be of Punic [i.e., Tyrian] origin (compare Talmudic Hebrew mappa, contraction of Mishnaic menaphah “a fluttering banner, streaming cloth”) + Latin mundi “of the world,” from mundus “universe, world” (see mundane).

Now this is interesting, because while the Old Testament refers to the firmament of the cosmos with the word raqiaà, meaning literally “extent” – apparently a merely abstract geometrical idea – it is described variously in scripture as like a crystalline tent or canopy (Isaiah 40:22, Ezekiel 1:22), or a scroll (Isaiah 34:4; Revelation 6:14). I.e., an expanse of fabric such as are used as a substrate for maps.

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Keepers of Our Elder Brothers

Is it fair to characterize the Jews of today as the elder brothers of the Christians, as recent Papal dicta would suggest? The question arose in the commentary on Bonald’s recent post on Judeo-Islamic universalism. I hadn’t ever considered it one way or another, but the comments got me wondering. I still don’t think that the answer matters much (although I may of course be missing something), but as so often happens once one begins to think a little about a little thing, one discovers all sorts of connections.

What follows began as a quick comment in that thread, which grew in the writing as unsuspected and fruitful associations revealed themselves. It came to me first as a single sentence, almost the moment I asked myself the question, “Are the Jews our elder brothers, after all?” It had always seemed to me that they are – which was why I had never thought about it.

The answer: “Yes, certainly: the Jews are elder brothers to us, just as the elder brothers of Joseph were to him.”

Now, when it first bubbled up to the surface, this statement seemed to come out of nowhere, completely unsupported. It rang true, but for reasons I could not begin to see. So I began to ruminate upon it, in the process gradually discovering why the thought had arrived.

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The Name of the Word

In the comments on my post about the epithet Jesus so often used to refer to himself, Son of Man, some readers expressed surprise and concern at the notion to which I there referred in passing that God the Son, YHWH, was to be distinguished from God the Father, El Elyon, God Most High, Deus in excelsis. I noted that their difference is not of being, but of person: thus a reference to any Person of God would be a reference to God.

Readers worried nonetheless that the differentiation might be an innovation of recent liberal scholars of the Bible – of, that is to say, latter-day Gnostics – or even of mine. It is not. On the contrary, it has been with us from the very beginning, not just of the Church, but of Israel.

By coincidence, I last night came across a passage from one of the Fathers of the Church, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, that substantiates this claim. In explaining why the early Church differentiated between YHWH and El Elyon, and providing the Scriptural basis for the notion, he shows that it was considered orthodox by the bishops of the first centuries of the Church.

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Son of Man

Jesus refers to himself often as the Son of Man (using the definite article). This title had always confused me. I thought that what distinguishes him from me and you – each of us likewise a child of men (note the indefinite article) – is that he is the son of God, and that this unique status formed the basis on which his ministry, his crucifixion, his Atonement for our sins, and so our redemption and salvation, all rested.

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The Liberal Ratchet & the Insatiable Maw of Moloch

The sacrificial victim consecrated to the god of any cult must always be pure, clean, unblemished, the first, best fruits of the harvest. Nothing less will do; anything less would be unworthy, an insult. This is why the firstborn was sacrificed, or the king, or children, or virgins, or captured enemy soldiers who, like an innocent animal, were not sullied by any of the sins of their captors.

In ancient Judah, two goats were needed for the most important sacrifice of the year, on the Day of Atonement, because one of them had to take all the sins of the people to itself and be driven out of the City – this was the scapegoat – to cleanse the City and her people in preparation for the rite, so as to prevent any pollution of the sacrifice of the other pure and unblemished goat. As the goat sacrificed to YHWH had to be ritually clean, so did all the ministers of the sacrifice: the people themselves, the priests, and the High Priest. So before the sacrifice of the goat to YHWH, the sins of the people had to be laid upon the scapegoat, and he driven beyond the firmament of the City’s pale to the desert waste where demons had sway over chaos and desolation. In practice, the scapegoat was driven over a cliff of Mount Azazel, the high place in the Judean desert that was the house and temple of the demon Azazel and his coterie (as Olympos was the mountain house of Zeus, and Zion the mountain house of Melchizedek, the Mighty Righteous – YHWH).[1]

The scapegoat was a sacrifice “for Azazel.” If the scapegoat had not assumed the sins of the people, then they themselves would have been “for Azazel” – for, no man can serve two masters. The ritually impure are doomed to be given to Azazel at the Last Judgement. These are they who have not by then been washed of their sins in the blood of the Lamb.

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A Girardian Commentary on John the Baptist

For those who take an interest, Angel Millar has published my essay on Gustave Flaubert’s “Herodias,” a tale of John the Baptist, and one of the Three Tales (1877), at his People of Shambhala website.  We think of Flaubert as the consummate social novelist (Madame Bovary [1856] and A Sentimental Education [1869]), but he was also, despite not being much of a believer, a powerful religious thinker (Salammbo [1862] and The Temptation of Saint Anthony [1874]).

The essay is also a meditation on the function of the Holy Spirit.  Here is the link: http://peopleofshambhala.com/herodias-of-flaubert/

The essay explores additional themes such as the relation of mimesis and crisis and the relation of text and conscience.

Theosis

What is it like to live the life everlasting that is promised to Christians? The question has arisen in the last few days both over at View from the Right, where Lawrence Auster is contemplating his own incipient death with awesome magnanimity and serenity, and at Charlton’s Miscellany. Both Charlton and Auster make important points. I had reactions to both posts, so I figure it makes most sense to consolidate them here.

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The uniquely anti-modern religion

We’re always being told that Christians need to find a way to “embrace the modern world” or find our “own way to be modern”.  The quick reply, of course, is that one should not embrace evil and vulgarity just because they happen to be popular right now.  If something in modernity is good, let it argue itself on its merits.  This reply can be addressed to anyone, but for Christians the stakes are particularly high.

Before this year, my impression was that all religions were eroded by modernity, with Judaism being hardest hit, then Christianity, then Islam, but all of them facing the same grim fate if liberalism is not overturned.  I’d been hearing reports (e.g. the one linked by Kristor a while back) for some time that Orthodox Judaism is actually thriving in the modern world, but it took a long time for this (to me) counterintuitive fact to sink in.  In fact, it seems that Christianity is, among the world religions, uniquely maladapted to modernity; it’s response more resembles that of tribal animism.  Both liberal and conservative Christianity are in manifest decline over all the former lands of Christendom.  Meanwhile, Islam inspires its youth in ways Christianity can’t even fathom.  Liberal and Orthodox Judaism are both succeeding by their own measures (e.g. worldly accomplishment and retaining the next generation, respectively).  Hindus never feel the need to explain why their pantheon of gods and fantastic mythology is consistent with modern science and history.  Neither Hindus nor Muslims feel the need to judge their own historical behavior against liberal norms.  It’s as if everyone knows who modernity is aimed at.  Conservative Jews who want to separate themselves from modern corruptions don’t have to reject the core modern narrative of heroic oppressed minorities versus the evil and stupid white Christians.  Indeed, they can embrace it with zeal.  (I hope most of them don’t, but the point is that when they do it just means despising another group, not their own selves and ancestors.)  They can insist to hostile outsiders that by embracing their heritage, they are defying all those anti-semitic, medieval-minded Christians in the red states, and are thus being supremely modern.  The core of modernity is hatred for Christianity.  Other groups can be modern “in their own way”, because this just means they can hate Christians in their own way.  Christians don’t have that option.

Thus, this article is interesting, but it gets things exactly backwards.  It argues that because modernity grew out of Christianity, Islam will be able to smoothly modernize to the extent that it is similar to Christianity.  The truth is the reverse.  Religions are able to smoothly accept modernity (i.e. contemporary anti-Christian bigotry) to the extent that they can differentiate themselves from Christianity.  Islam’s modernization problems come from that faith’s similarity to ours.

The Providence of Apostasy

OK, this is going to be tough for all you Christians and Jews out there. Gird your loins, and get ready to hear what YHWH says about child sacrifice among the Israelites:

Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live; And I polluted them in their own [sacrificial] gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire [of the Furnace of the Belly of Moloch] all that openeth the womb [i.e., all their first born children], that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the LORD.

– Ezekiel 20:25-26

Yeow! Right? YHWH himself gives the errant Israelites the statutes by which they err. He makes it so that it seems right to them to sacrifice their firstborn children. What is up with this? I mean, the massacre of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15) doesn’t come anywhere close to this. I don’t know of any more difficult text in the Bible. How are we to reconcile this with the Love of God, the Goodness of God?

The dire problem we apprehend when we first encounter this verse is a vestige of our wish that God might accommodate our errors. But he can’t do this, and also remain himself. It’s tough. But in the final analysis, we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Shall we unpack this?

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