1. For my write-up on Phyllis Schlafly’s Power of the Positive Woman, I’ll post my favorite quotes from today’s reading:
Page 58: Men may like to watch a beautiful woman like Greta Garbo in the movies, but she is not the type of woman men marry or stay married to. Men choose and love the cheerful over the beautiful and the wealthy. Miss Garbo never married.
Page 61: Some women start a new career in the paid-employment world when their children are grown. It is never too late. James Michener, one of the most successful writers of our time, published his first book when he was forty years old. So did I.
Page 67, on Agatha Christie: How could this plain, small, shy Englishwoman create the ideas and develop the talent that made her the wealthiest writer in the world? She said she thought up the plots of her mysteries while she was washing the dishes!
Speaking of shy people who make a difference, here’s what H.I. Marrou (in A History of Education in Antiquity) says about the fourth century philosopher Isocrates (page 85):
He too had a sense of political vocation, but his was stifled [by] his weak voice, his lack of assurance and a kind of neurotic shyness which has been described as agoraphobia.
Yet, Isocrates taught small classes and mentored people who became politicians.
2. On page 73 of Josephus’s Interpretation of the Bible, Louis Feldman discusses rabbinic treatments of David’s adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, Uriah. Rabbis try to make David look good. One view is that David required his soldiers to divorce their wives before going out to battle, so Bathsheba wasn’t Uriah’s wife when David slept with her. Another is that David only thought of committing adultery with Bathsheba but didn’t actually do it, and still another is that Uriah deserved to die because he didn’t obey David’s “order to go home to his wife.” Those who acknowledge that David sinned stress his wholehearted repentance. But Josephus said that David did a bad deed. Feldman asks why Josephus takes this approach, when he often omits embarrassing Bible stories from his history. Feldman states, “The reason may be that since Josephus himself was descended from the Hasmonean kings rather than from the line of David, he downgraded David because of the latter’s importance for Christianity as the ancestor of the messiah, and that, in general, he was eager not to antagonize the Romans with talk of a messianic king.”
3. In Psalms III: 101-150, Mitchell Dahood states that Isaiah 43:2-3 refers to the Exodus in the past. Many translations do not render this passage in the past tense. The RSV has “When you pass through the waters I will be with you” and “I give Egypt as your ransom.” But Dahood says it should be understood to mean “When you passed through the waters I was with you” and “I gave Egypt as your ransom.” The passage uses the imperfect, which is often future, but Dahood claims that it can be a past tense in biblical poetry. But I wonder how Dahood addresses Isaiah 43:3, which states that God also gives Ethiopia and Seba for Israel. What do Ethiopia and Seba have to do with the Exodus?
4. In Assembly of the Gods, Theodore Mullen says that Daniel 7 echoes the Canaanite myth of El and Baal. In Daniel 7, there’s an elderly Ancient of Days, and one like the Son of Man who comes to him to receive dominion. According to Mullen, the Ancient of Days resembles the chief Canaanite god El, who gives dominion of the cosmos to a younger god, Baal. Also, Baal defeats the chaotic Yam, sea, and, in Daniel 7, there are ferocious beasts in the sea representing the Gentiles who bring chaos to God’s people.
I want to make an intertextual reading that juxtaposes the Canaanite myth, Daniel 7, and Christians interpretations I have heard. N.T. Wright once made the point that the Son of Man in Daniel 7 isn’t coming to earth, but he’s going up to the Ancient of Days. If I’m not mistaken, Wright held that the New Testament authors believed the Son of Man went up to the Ancient of Days after his resurrection, so, for them, Daniel 7 is about Jesus’ ascension of heaven, not the Second Coming. Did Jesus receive authority at his resurrection? There are New Testament passages to that effect (Acts 2:34-26; 5:31). But Baal got dominion after he had defeated chaos. Was this the case with Jesus, when he ascended to heaven to receive dominion? Perhaps, in the sense that Jesus through his death and resurrection has defeated death and the power of sin over those who believe in him. Yet, even Baal’s defeat of Yam didn’t mean the end of conflict with chaos, for other gods had to battle Yam’s relative, River. And so the kingdom of God is already and not yet.
Something else I learned was that El made decisions in a tent that was close to rivers. So maybe the notion that God dwells in a Tabernacle wasn’t a uniquely Israelite idea.
5. I’m writing this post late tonight because I was watching Rocky I-III (while reading, of course!). These movies are addictive, like Star Wars. When I first saw Rocky, I was disappointed because the judges declared Rocky’s boxing foe, the champion Apollo Creed, to be the winner. I was accustomed to endings in which the hero won. Also, there wasn’t really a villain in Rocky, for Apollo Creed was a good guy who loved his family and encouraged kids to stay in school. So Rocky wasn’t like most movies I’d seen. But this time around, I actually appreciated it. Rocky was an underdog whom many considered a bum, and, while he technically didn’t defeat Apollo, he went through all fifteen rounds, which was quite an accomplishment. He had perseverance.