1. I just watched the “In Memoriam” part of ABC’s This Week, and I learned that Adam from Bonanza died this week. I always liked him because he was the level-headed, responsible Cartwright brother. I preferred Michael Landon more in his Little House, Highway to Heaven, and Us roles.
2. Today, I’m going to combine my write-ups on my Ancient Israelite Religion reading and that of Theodore Mullen’s Ethnic Myths and Pentateuchal Foundations.
In Ancient Israelite Religion, I read George E. Mendenhall’s “The Nature and Purpose of the Abraham Narratives.” His thesis seems to be that the Davidic monarchy took over old traditions to create a “common ancestor” story, which would unite the estranged rural and urban areas of Israel.
In Ethnic Myths and Pentateuchal Foundations, Mullen argues that Israel’s “history” was formed much later, in the exilic or (most likely, according to him) post-exilic period. The exile threatened the Jews with assimilation and religio-cultural dissolution, so Judahite groups “compiled a past” that people identifying themselves with the group would embrace (71).
The approaches of Mendenhall and Mullen are different. Mendenhall thinks that the Abraham stories reflect Early-Middle Bronze language and ideas (e.g., possession of land). Mullen, by contrast, argues against scholars who believe that the concept of Israelite tribes point to the ancient, pre-monarchical nature of certain Pentateuchal traditions, for he notes that modern anthropology has a concept of “retribalization,” which indicates that exilic writers could’ve come up with the idea of the tribes of Israel.
Mendenhall and Mullen date Pentateuchal narratives to different periods, but they agree on why they emerged: to give identity to an estranged people.
3. In Reading Between Texts, I read David Penchansky’s “Staying the Night: Intertextuality in Genesis and Judges.” On Friday, in my post, YHWH and His Asherah, Genesis 12 and 20 and the Reader, Samaritan Priestly-Line, under (2), I discussed another essay in that book, which talked about the wife-sister narratives in Genesis. My problem with that essay was that it portrayed Abraham as a selfish jerk who devalued Sarah, when the ancients may not have viewed Abraham so negatively. It’s possible that they did, but not certain.
Penchansky’s essay, however, acknowledges that there are a variety of ways to read the texts that he discusses, Genesis 19 and Judges 19. In both stories, a man offers a woman he supposedly loves to thugs who want to rape him or his guests. Penchansky states that he wants to go with the view that the man was wrong to do so, that he devalues women. But he states that the ancients may not have read the text in the same way. I don’t remember him making this point, but protecting one’s guests was important in the ancient Near East.
In this case, though, I’d say that the text stands with Penchansky. In the Judges story, the tribes of Israel disapprove of the rape and murder of the man’s concubine, since that’s why they gather against Benjamin, which was harboring the thugs. And the man who owned the concubine didn’t mention to the tribes that he handed her over to the thugs, probably because that would be embarrassing to him. In many cases, there are different ways to read a text, and a variety of possible moral judgments that one can make about its characters. For Judges 19, however, I think that the text disapproves of the man who handed over his concubine to the thugs.
4. At Latin mass this morning, we had the priest who speaks about love. He was encouraging us to spend ten minutes a day in prayer. And, if our mind wanders, we should not worry, he said. We should tell God what we’re thinking or what’s worrying us, and the distraction becomes a prayer. I like that. I don’t think prayer should just be talking about what’s on my mind from my day-to-day life, for it should also contemplate God. But, in my opinion, it’s good to approach God as if he’s loving, cares about our problems, and invites us to find strength in him.