Avril at Romsey

… and Lancefield and Riddells Creek and Mount Macedon

A quote for Alex

Reading God & Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now by John Dominic Crossan and I came across this description of an image of Jesus in Istanbul’s Church of St. Savior (now a museum):

Mosiac from Istanbul\'s Church of St. Savior

As you pass from outer to inner narthex, the doorway is crowned with a magnificent mosaic of Christ Pantokrator … As in all such Eastern Icons, frescoes or mosaics of Christ, his right hand is raised in an authoritative teaching gesture, with his fingers separated into a twosome and a threesome to command Christian faith in the two natures of Christ and the three persons of the Trinity. As usual, he holds a book in his left hand. But he is not reading the book – it is not even open, but securely closed and tightly clasped.

Christ does not read the Bible, the New Testament or the Gospel. He is the norm of the Bible, the criterion of the New Testament, the incarnation of the Gospel. That is how we Christians decide between a violent and nonviolent God in the Bible, New Testament, or Gospel. The person, not the book, and the life, not the text, are decisive and constitutive for us.

Alex, I’m pretty sure I already know what your response to this will be …

Advertisements

May 20, 2008 - Posted by | Ministry, Slightly Higher Culture

9 Comments »

  1. Really? I’m not sure what my response is. My first thought was that Jesus looks either pissed off or constipated…

    And yes, the obvious free hit of Jesus keeping the book tightly shut is hanging in the breeze, and yes, the vast majority of what we know about the person is IN the book, so using him to interpret it is silly.

    And I know what Avril will say- that the hermeneutic key allows this. Which, for me, is a fancy way of making stuff up as you go along. Not that there is anything wrong with that- it at least involves some reliance on human thought rather than outsourcing philosophy to the stars.

    But I’ll bet- whether guy or book or key, NOTHING will explain away this sort of outrage:

    Comment by Alex | May 20, 2008 | Reply

  2. “the vast majority of what we know about the person is IN the book, so using him to interpret it is silly.” Yes, that’s what I knew you’d say. I just wanted to show you that I’m not alone in my: “The person, not the book, and the life, not the text, are decisive and constitutive for us.” I’m not some lone, crazy not-really-Christian. I’m part of the mainstream!

    I clicked on the link and I’ve got to say that with all the wrong in the world I’m not too outraged by Father/Daughter purity balls. In fact, I like the idea of fathers spending more time with their daughters, and the statement by one father: “If I’m holding them to such high standards, you can be sure I won’t be cheating on their mother.” Hooray for someone who recognises that to hold their children to standards that they don’t live up to themselves would by hypocrisy! I still think safe sex should be taught and that fathers aren’t in charge of their daughters purity, daughters not being their property, but comparing this story with the father/daughter incest case that came out of Austria – not too outraged.

    Comment by Avril | May 20, 2008 | Reply

  3. Few quick points:

    -I never thought you were outside the Christian mainstream. Neither were the crusades, at the time. That ain’t an argument. And I’m happy to say I disagree with the Christian mainstream on may, many things.

    – As I said, the hermeneutic key is inherently illogical. But as this is religion, that is hardly fatal. And it is infinitely preferable to have a method of “interpreting” the bible which allows you to carefully ignore all the unpalatable bits than to apply it wholesale; rather than

    -Fathers promising to “cover” their daughters? The event is a commitment by fathers to control their sex lives; and to undermine their daughter’s autonomy and freedom.

    -Yes, Austria is worse. Doesn’t make it right…

    Comment by Alex | May 20, 2008 | Reply

  4. Hi Alex,

    “the vast majority of what we know about the person is IN the book, so using him to interpret it is silly.”

    V the 1983 two part mini-series was great. V – the final battle was great until half way through when it lost it. It just wasn’t “V” anymore.

    “The Sting” was terrific, “The Sting II” made in 1983 was terrible, it lost the spirit of “The Sting”.

    “Star Wars – Episode One” was a real stinker, nothing like the 1977, 1980 and 1983 Star Wars movies.

    Star Trek the Next Generation was great by seasons 5, 6 and 7. Watch season one and it just hasn’t got it.

    The West Wing season five just didn’t cut it. The main writer had left and the show floundered, but by season 6 and 7 the magic was back again. The West Wing had returned.

    In all these examples (maybe too many, it’s getting late) part of the movies or TV shows are used to judge and interpret the whole. In a similar way Jesus is used to interpret the bible.

    Or, to quote Dennis Denuto, “It’s the vibe.”

    Comment by Paul | May 23, 2008 | Reply

  5. Interesting, Paul. Totally agree re the West Wing- post Sorkin was never as good. Not so sure about the Bible. Though I like anything which treats fantasy and Christianity in similar terms,

    I’d first distinguish between a cultural artifact like the shows mentioned, and a system of belief which imposes rules and obligations on the follower. Though it is late here also, and essays beckon…

    On the wider point, though: correct me if I’ve misunderstood you Avril, but the way I understood your argument is that Jesus the person is the key to understanding and interpreting the Bible as a whole. Even the stuff before him. And we interpret the WHOLE thing based on the bits of it which describe him.

    I can understand that if you love Jesus’ stuff, you could argue that it enhances the spiritual value of the total Bible- according to Paul’s analogy, Jesus is episode three and Leviticus is Jar Jar Binks. And Michael A Stackpole’s series is part of the apocrypha, but I digress… Yes, if Jesus’ teachings float your boat, your opinion of the bible will doubtless increase. But surely if you think “Suffer not a man to lie with a man” is obscene, your opinion of the whole decreases.

    Regardless of how good episode 3 is, it doesn’t allow us to turn around and re-interpret episode 1 and claim that Hayden Prettyboy can act, or that the trade federation aren’t portrayed in a racist and insulting fashion. No matter how good Jesus is, if he comes from a tradition and forms part of a whole which includes germicidal, misogynist, evil teachings the whole must be evaluated AS A WHOLE. Star wars as an overall universe is lessened by the latest nonsense. And a fortiori here, where (unlike star wars) Jesus came along later to form part of a pre-existing tradition.

    In fact, I would argue that the bigger the disparity between good and bad elements of a whole, the more likely fans of the good bits are (or should be) to reject the bad stuff.

    You can’t take one fabulous walking shot from season three and claim the west wing is all good. Or that the whole thing is that scene.

    And until Christians come together and declare leviticus wrong, jesus right and the old testament non-canonical, it will be weakened and in danger of manipulation by the intolerant and the hate-filled.

    And the castle is good from start to finish. Hence it’s awesome. And Denuto’s argument, remember, was ridiculous.

    Comment by Alex | May 23, 2008 | Reply

  6. Episode four not three. Aargh! Soap! Mouth! Now that’s blasphemy!

    Comment by Alex | May 23, 2008 | Reply

  7. “In fact, I would argue that the bigger the disparity between good and bad elements of a whole, the more likely fans of the good bits are (or should be) to reject the bad stuff.”

    But that’s exactly what the Jesus-as-hermeneutic-key is all about. Interpret the bad bits through the lens of the good bits and say, “Well, stoning men caught having sex together just doesn’t make sense in the light of the Sermon on the Mount – I reject it”. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to reverse it and say, “Leviticus is full of crap (or things relevant to that particular community which needed to breed to survive), therefore I must reject the Sermon on the Mount”.

    “And until Christians come together and declare leviticus wrong, jesus right and the old testament non-canonical, it will be weakened and in danger of manipulation by the intolerant and the hate-filled.”

    There was an early Christian heresy that said just that – that the loving Father of Jesus couldn’t be the same God as the tribal God of Israel. But it is a heresy. There is so much in the Hebrew Scriptures that I’m not willing to lose. Jesus’ concern for Justice draws on the prophets; the “love your neighbour” was already central to parts of the Hebrew Scriptures; there are the wonders of the Psalms; the commitment ceremony between Ruth and Naomi often quoted at weddings; the creation story with its vision of what a good creation looks like – got to keep the Hebrew Scriptures.

    How are you coping with people by-passing my posts and arguing with you directly on this blog? If you don’t like it I’ll shut them down and say everyone is only to talk to me.

    Comment by Avril | May 23, 2008 | Reply

  8. No no, I love an argument (as you may have noticed). And this is much more fun than the four essays I should be writing…. I hope you haven’t been censoring people…

    Are the Hebrew scriptures really all or nothing? There’s plenty that has been discarded into the fanfic of Christianity, the apocrypha…Couldn’t we juggle that a bit?

    And are they REALLY worth it? Really worth the Falwell’s and Hagee’s of this world? Worth the homophobia, the misogyny, the hatred that they are used to justify?

    There is some brilliant, awe-inspiring language in the old testament. But I stand by my contention that the bad bits taint the whole thing.

    Perhaps we need a new prophet? Has anyone read “the parafaith war?”

    Comment by Alex | May 24, 2008 | Reply

  9. Back to the original post . . . I thought to myself, Jesus couldn’t have read the ‘New Testament’ because it hadn’t been written yet. Der. But then neither did the codex exist, as depicted. I guess I’m confusing the pre-Easter and post-Easter Jesus.
    Speaking of Jesus scholarship, have you read Marcus Borg’s Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time? He says a lot about how Jesus’ teaching is counter-cultural, alternative wisdom, counter to — for the most part — the conventional wisdom of the Hebrew Scriptures.

    Comment by Olivia | May 25, 2008 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: