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 62 How Prophets Behave Rhetorically, or Don’t Part II

Think back to that marvelous moment when your seminary teacher introduced you to the various groups in 1st-Century Palestine–that cartoon of the Zealot carrying a picket sign reading Render Unto Caesar, and that mnemonic comment about the difference between the Pharisees, who believed in the resurrection, and the Sadducees, who did not. And that’s why they were sad you see.

OK, it’s a cheesy joke as I told my Sunday School class, but for more than 40 years it’s been an easy way to tell the difference between the Pharisees and Sadducees.

What my seminary teacher didn’t say however, and what the New Testament doesn’t tell us, is why the Sadducees were sad. You see, I didn’t find that out till I was standing on the platform at the Draper FrontRunner sation waiting for the midday train (only once an hour at that time of day) last week listening to Thomas Madden’s second lecture in “From Jesus to Christianity.” Madden says at 9:50 that the Pharisees valued all sacred writings as well as oral traditions. Since Daniel and others mention the afterlife the idea of resurrection has scriptural support.

At 10:49 Madden states the Saduccees’ opinion on the question. They did not accept anything after the writings of Moses as scripture, and since the Books of Moses don’t mention a resurrection it’s not a binding doctrine.

How interesting, here I’ve been exploring the consequences of closed versus open canon in my column, and I come across something that tells me the debate between the two goes right back to the time of Jesus and before.

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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, “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 →