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 #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 # 15, Pilate’s Trial Before Jesus, Part 1

Note: This is out of sequence, but I’m putting it here because I’ve been working on it this month as part of my paper for AML’s annual meeting. I also want to use it as an introduction to the next section, which will focus on the first mention of the Pharisees, which also involves a Roman soldier. I had thought to make this a one-part digression, but, there’s too much to say for one part.

If you asked a random group of Christians who is responsible for Jesus’s death the non-reflexive answer would likely be, “The Jews.” A little reflection might yield an answer like, “The Romans crucified Jesus with some pressure from the Jewish leaders,” or, “The Romans put Jesus to death using a form of execution reserved for insurrectionists,” or like the Boy Scout troop I heard about decades ago who had a Scout-O-Rama exhibit inviting people into their booth to see who was responsible for Jesus’s death. Once inside the booth a Scout would pull back a curtain, revealing–a mirror.

But the non-reflexive answer, I’m fairly sure, would be, “The Jews.” In contrast if you asked a random group of college students who was responsible for Socrates’ death they wouldn’t automatically say, “The Greeks,” or even, “the Athenians.” They’d likely say that Sew krates came into conflict with the Athenian elders, who condemned him on a flimsy charge.

Rome would have felt good reason for concern over a preacher Continue Reading →