Friday, March 5, 2010

Phyllis Schlafly’s Positive Woman 5, Threatened and Threatening Infant, Date of Psalm 132, Ea Thinks the Flood Was Too Drastic, Hellenistic Education

1. In my reading of The Power of the Positive Woman today, Phyllis Schlafly was arguing that the Equal Rights Amendment would strike down state laws requiring a husband to support his wife. According to Mrs. Schlafly, the ERA would demand that laws be gender-neutral, and in the process it would eliminate the legal protections and privileges that women possess.

Mrs. Schlafly discussed the attempts of various legislators to make such laws gender-neutral. She didn’t care for their proposals because they would require women to work outside of the home, could allow a husband to sit at home and watch television all day while the wife goes out to work, and could open the door for men to shirk their responsibilities to their family. Mrs. Schlafly also said that requiring women to work outside of the home would be a bad prospect in a time of high unemployment, since it would add more people competing for work.

I’m not sure if these sorts of laws still exist. This article that I found seems to indicate that they do. But what about families in which the husband stays home and does the housework, while the wife goes out to work? I know of such families! Is the husband breaking the law? Or is it unlikely that the authorities would clamp down on him because at least someone in the family is bringing home the bacon? Plus, the law may only take effect in specific situations when a wife sues her husband and demands that he support her. If a family is content with its situation, then the law is probably not brought into it.

I remember watching Phyllis Schlafly on C-Span, and a caller asked her what she thought of a situation in which a man stayed home and did the housework, while the woman went out to work. Mrs. Schlafly first replied that he didn’t need her permission to do that, then she said that it’s an all right arrangement, if the family can make it work.

2. My reading today of Louis Feldman’s Josephus’s Interpretation of the Bible was pretty interesting. Feldman was talking about how Josephus tries to make various biblical characters into heroes, of the sort that you find in Greco-Roman literature. Josephus’ version of the baby Moses story is that an Egyptian scribe predicted “that there would be born to the Israelites a child who would some day abase the sovereignty of the Egyptians (Ant. 2.205)” (87). That’s why the Pharaoh tried to have the Hebrew baby boys killed. If you’ve ever wondered where the Ten Commandments got the idea of everyone expecting a “deliverer,” it’s probably from this passage in Josephus!

The theme is that a baby is predicted to overthrow the king, leading the king to seek to expose or kill the infant in an attempt to safeguard his own power. And it’s common in Greco-Roman literature, appearing in stories about Zeus, Oedipus, Romulus, Herodotus’ story of Cyrus, etc. Actually, the Josephus story may have influenced the Gospel of Matthew’s infancy narrative, in which Herod fears the newborn Messiah and seeks to kill all of the children under two years of age to preserve his throne. (But, for those who believe in the story’s historicity, life can imitate art!)

3. In my reading today of Psalms III: 101-150, Mitchell Dahood says that Psalm 132 relates to David bringing the ark to Jerusalem from the house of Obed-edom the Gittite, a story which we find in II Samuel 6. It was part of that procession, Dahood apparently argues. And Psalm 132:8 asks God to arise to his resting place, he and his ark. Yet, Dahood acknowledges the existence of another view, one that dates the Psalm to the time of Solomon, since II Chronicles 6:41 features Solomon dedicating the newly-built temple and asking God to rise to his resting place, he and his ark. Maybe those who argue such are saying that Solomon said this as the ark was being brought into the temple. I don’t know. But, even though Dahood mentions the view that dates Psalm 132 to the time of Solomon, he doesn’t really engage it, for he just says that “it is more natural to assume that he is still describing David’s transfer of the ark to Mount Zion” (245). On previous pages, he offers more support for his position, noting possible parallels between Psalm 132 and II Samuel 6 (e.g., in geography, terminology, concepts, etc.).

4. In Theodore Mullen’s Assembly of the Gods, I read on page 227 that, in Epic of Gilgamesh XI, the council of the gods decreed that Utnapishtim (a Noah sort of figure, who survives a flood by means of an ark) would have eternal life. Moreover, he’s actually said to be in the assembly of the gods, which may indicate that he’s not just a Noah-like figure, but an Enoch-like one as well. I checked the passage see to see why the gods gave Utnapishtim eternal life, and I couldn’t find a rationale. But I appreciated this statement by Ea to Enlil, the god who wanted to destroy all of humanity in the flood. Ea warned Utnapishtim about the coming flood and saved his life, and Enlil was upset with Ea because of that. The following is Stephanie Dalley’s translation, but I’ve inserted punctuation:

Ea made his voice heard and spoke. He said to the warrior Elil, “You are the sage of the gods, warrior, So how, O how, could you fail to consult, and impose the flood? Punish the sinner for his sin, punish the criminal for his crime, but ease off, let work not cease; be patient…Instead of your imposing a flood, let a lion come up and diminish the people. Instead of your imposing a flood, let a wolf come up and diminish the people. Instead of your imposing a flood, let famine be imposed and lessen the land. Instead of your imposing the flood, let Erra rise up and savage the people. I did not disclose the secret of the great gods, I just showed Atrahasis[/Utnapishtim] a dream, and thus he heard the secret of the gods.”

Enlil then touches Utnapishtim and makes him immortal, like the gods. He probably does so because he feels guilty after sending the flood. But Ea’s statement reminded me of a variety of things: God’s promise not to send another flood in Genesis 8-9, the tension in the Bible over punishing the innocent with the guilty versus punishing the guilty alone, Beamstalk’s comment under Ken Pulliam’s post, Grasping at Straws Part Eight–Evangelicals Defend Genocide, about how God could have gotten rid of the Canaanites using less drastic means than genocide. His comment was as follows:

I have never understood why it took genocide. God is supposedly all powerful, so couldn’t he just cut their fertility to zero. No babies are tortured and killed, no loss of his chosen people in battle, take over is peaceful and without incident. Instead the only way God can think of is by murder, which he just outlawed his people from doing.

The thing is, some of the solutions that Ea was proposing to Enlil (animals, famine, etc.) could have killed innocent people. But they weren’t as drastic as a flood!

5. On pages 102-103 of H.I. Marrou’s A History of Education in Antiquity, I read things about education in the Hellenistic Age that my professor wrote on the board a few times. So I should probably take note! Here’s how education back then worked:

Ages 0-7: the child stays at home and is “looked after by the womenfolk…”

Ages 7-14: school, the “equivalent of our primary-school education.”

Ages 14-18: “the equivalent of our secondary school education…”

Ages 18-20: the ephebia, which was a place of civic and military training. There was sporting education, but also study of rhetoric, philosophy, and medicine.

In privileged places, there was a “crowning-point of the whole system, establishments like the Museum, where the most highly qualified men of the day engaged in research, and gathered young disciples around them to form genuine institutes of higher learning.”

Only “the favoured few—those with enough money, as well as enough brains”—completed this entire process. The “great majority” only went through the elementary courses. Education was the privilege of the free man, but some young slaves were admitted. Girls went to primary and secondary schools too, and they sometimes went on to the palestra and the gymnasium.

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