In Tents #76 The Rhetoric of Baptism Narratives

The Friday before I post I usually get a note from Jonathan Langford: “You’re up for Tuesday.” Instead, Friday after work I opened up my email and saw a whole bunch of letters with the ominous subject line “Jonathan Langford.” My phone shows the first few words of each letter below the subject line, so I saw the word heartbroken in Margaret Young’s letter, which confirmed the omen. (I wondered if anyone had told my brother Dennis, then found out from my sister that Dennis was in the hospital after back surgery.) So I’ve been thinking about Jonathan off and on all weekend. On the bus Monday morning I realized I’ve probably also been waiting for someone to say, “April Fools.”

This column was a gift from Jonathan. Continue Reading →

In Tents #75 How Infancy Narratives Behave Rhetorically, Part 4

Birth is a universal experience. All living things have received or given birth, or planted seed, or witnessed birth, or helped. So if you want to write about a birth what details will you include, besides things like name, height, weight, date and time? What details will make this birth worth reading about?

To My Blossom‑Headed Boy

Andrew Jeremy née Clark
Born December 22, 1984, 9:16 a.m.
7 lbs 9 1/2 oz  20 1/4″

“One deft stroke and the head appeared,” I’d written of your birth.
“How’s that?”  I asked her.
“It’s three a.m.,” she said,
“And it’s not true; I had to push like hell
before it came.”
Continue Reading →

In Tents #74 How Infancy Narratives Behave Rhetorically, Part 3

Sometimes it can be useful to read things in a new form, format, or translation. For some reason my MP3 player treats anything after the first digit as a decimal, following the order 1, 10, 100, 101, 102, . . . 11, 110, 111, 112 . . . 2, 20, 21, und so weiter. So last year year I decided to listen to the Doctrine & Covenants in that order, and it was interesting to hear the early and late sections juxtaposed.

Later, when I got to the Tanakh I decided to listen in the Jewish order rather than the Christian. Tanakh is an acronym for Torah, Nevi’im, Ketuvim:

  • Torah (Instruction): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.
  • Nevi’im (Prophets):
    • (Former) Joshua, Judges Samuel, Kings
    • (Latter) Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel
    • (The Twelve) Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
  • Ketuvim (Writings):
    • (Poetical Books) Psalms, Proverbs, Job
    • (Five Rolls–Hamesh Megillot) Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Esther, Ecclesiastes
    • (Historical Books) Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles

According to Wikipedia the order of the Ketuvim has never been quite set, but this is the most common. Harold Bloom says in Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine  that the Ketuvim ends with Chronicles because Chronicles ends with the rebuilding of the temple and the invitation to return to the temple. Christians changed the order, elevating Daniel to a major prophet and giving Malachi the last word, because Daniel was so important to Christian eschatology and Malachi prophesied about their Lord’s forerunner. Continue Reading →

In Tents 52 This Jesus Ye Slew and Other Texts That Don’t Behave Part IV

If you ask the Duckduck to go find the phrase “corrupt and designing priests have committed many errors” the third source that comes up is from Yahoo! Answers, to the question, “Is the bible truly corrupted as the Mormons will have us believe?”

The answer voted Best Answer, from Smarty Bear, says:

The mormons believe Satan’s lie that we humans can become gods. The Bible teaches that we deserve to die for the sins we’ve committed against God, but there is still a way to heaven and that is through Jesus Christ. Despite what any moron… sorry mormon says.

If I were to respond in kind I would say any moron can see that the answer doesn’t answer the question, but answering in kind is not usually very useful. Still, the question does deserve an answer, and it raises its own question. What does the questioner mean by the word corrupted? In the world of textual scholarship the word has a specific meaning akin to #3 for the adjective corrupt on dictionary.com, “made inferior by errors or alterations, as a text.”

When I hear of a corrupt text I think of a masters thesis I came across in the University of Washington’s Suzallo library, Husbandry, which ends with a translation of Beowulf, lines 2200-2323, after Fr. Klaeber’s text. After about 27 lines, the translator, Dennis Clark, puts several colons in one line and a string of periods in several others, with a note in the margin, “here the text is corrupt” (which may be Dennis’s note or Fr. Klaeber’s).

This sense of corrupt carries no moral connotation, and if that’s the meaning of the question It’s fairly easy to demonstrate some degree of corruption in the text. For example Numbers 1:14 reads “Eliasaph the son of Deuel,” while 2:14 reads “Eliasaph the son of Reuel.” Continue Reading →