Daily Archives: 2008-04-27 15:42:46 UTC

Resurrection and Monotheism, and an odd case for uniqueness

Note 30th May: Currently updating my notes on Wright’s resurrection arguments here.

My previous post was a jotting down of some points I had found of interest in Martin West’s chapter explaining how the distance between monotheism and polytheism was very narrow indeed. It is not at all difficult to imagine how monotheism gradually evolved from polytheism.

Since I am currently perusing sections of Durham bishop N. T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God, and it is impossible to avoid noticing the sharpest contrast between styles of arguments of West and Wright. read more »

How Polytheism morphed into Monotheism: first steps

m-typesOne of the more intriguing books I read not many years ago was Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity, edited by Polymnia Athanassiadi and Michael Frede. Its opening chapter by Martin West looks at some of the earliest signs of the transformation of polytheistic religions into monotheistic thought. He begins with Greek and “Near Eastern” (sic) literature.

The essence of polytheism is that the many gods have independent existences, rarely crossing each others paths as they are respectively called on by devotees to help out with their special talents. A thief would call on a god of thieves for blessing, not the god of justice — unless or until he was himself wronged. The Homeric hero Odysseus was persecuted by the god Poseidon but regularly protected by Athena. The Bible narratives likewise point back to the time when Yahweh was among many gods with his own distinct provenance:

You have the right to take what Chemosh your god gives you, but we will take the land of all whom the Lord our God has driven out before us (Judges 11:24)

But Homer, West argues, also introduces readers to something contrary to true polytheism. The gods meet in council and subsume their individual wills to their exalted chief, Zeus. read more »

Tibet protests over China Olympics: hope for Diego Garcians by 2012?

I wish the thought didn’t sound so fanciful, but if there can be such a world-wide clout against China over Tibet at the Olympics, can the people who were forcibly deported by the UK in the 1960s and 70’s find any hope for international support in their wish to be repatriated?

Or does a Creole speaking black African Chagossian ethnicity simply not compare with the image of serene Tibetan Buddhists and Shangri-La up there in nirvana-high mountains?

Or does an atavistic enemy of Chinese barbarians evoke more visceral response than anything that could possibly be done, however “misguidedly” and “undoubtedly well-intentioned”, by a white English speaking nation?

See the contrasting images in a Spiked-Online article by Brendon O’Neill:- example …..

The UK decided they had the power and therefore the right to deport the entire population (mirroring the population deportation practices that we first see practiced among the ancient Chaldeans, Assyrians and Persians and that were thought to be the modern day preserve of the Nazis and Soviets) of Diego Garcia.

Diego Garcia was then turned into a military base cum (torture?) prison for extraordinary rendition prisoners.

Much of the population of Diego Garcia, demonstrating human propensities we normally associate with whites (and non-Chinese Tibetans), still wants to return.

After the China Olympics it might be a good idea to turn attentions to requiring the UK government to make full amends for its perpetration of what was at the Nuremberg Trials declared a crime against humanity.

Linking the women’s, demons’ and storm’s silence in Mark gospel

Rambling ruminations follow.

Mark’s gospel opens with a series of commands of Jesus compelling demons to be quiet and not to proclaim his identity: 1:25; 1:34; 3:12.

But Jesus does not have the power to hold a healed leper to silence about him: 1:44-45.

Jesus can also compel a storm to be silent: 4:39.

He can command a man he has just liberated from possession by demons to go and preach in Decapolis (5:19), and he gave his twelve disciples power over demons and the power to preach also, at least for a time (6:7-13).

Jesus had the power to heal a man who had a spirit that rendered him unable to speak or hear: 7:35.

But he did not have the power to make him or his friends silent once he was freed from that spirit: 7:36.

After the disciples proved to be repeatedly faithless and incorrigibly hard-hearted, as evidenced by their fear and incomprehension (4:40; 6:49-50; 8:17), Jesus called their leader Satan, and had the power to command them to be silent, too: 8:33; 9:9-10.

The disciples are pointedly said to have been without power over a mute spirit. Only Jesus had power to release a victim from a mute spirit: 9:17-29.

All the male disciples ended their careers having “stumbled” and failed, their fear once again demonstrating their faithlessness (14:27). That left the women. They too fearfully — that is, faithlessly — fled at the end. The young man in the tomb had no power to make them speak. (He was just as much a young man as the young man who earlier fled naked — not an angel with powers on behalf of Jesus.)

Is this where the stories of possession by mute demons have been leading us? Is what has been happening in the demon world, where Jesus has been establishing a controlling mastery over demons and the very elements of nature, being mirrored in the fates of followers and would-be followers? The demons have been silenced, and so have the incorrigibly fearful and faithless.

The spirit of fear and mute spirits can only be removed by Jesus, at least if the seed has fallen in good soil. And the women were no better soil than the men had been: that the women were looking for a corpse and worrying about a sealed tomb was to the author of the Gospel of Mark a sign of unbelief, not commendable loyalty as it was in later gospel versions (Matthew, Luke, John).

Only Jesus has the power to make the dumb speak. And Jesus has moved on, as was his habit after healing people and silencing demons, even when others were (belatedly?) looking for him — 1:37-38.

And the young man also said he would be going before his erstwhile disciples into Galilee. Should we be reminded of how twice before Jesus was passing by them. The first time they followed him (1:16; 2:14); but on a later occasion when he was passing by/as if to be going before them the disciples only “caught up” with him after mistaking him for a ghost (6:48-49). Had it not been for their fearful cries at that point they would have missed him altogether way back then. Since there is little in the narrative to suggest that the disciples improved their faith and understanding between then and Gethsemane we can fairly conclude that the final announcement that Jesus is going before the twelve disciples to Galilee will not mean they catch up with each other at all.

But there are a couple of passages where the author does not tell us how others responded to Jesus’ command to be silent: 5:43 (after healing Jairus’s daughter) and 8:26 (after healing the blind man). As with so many other passages in Mark we are left with tantalizing ambiguity. It is easy to assume that those commanded remained silent, but elsewhere the author appears to be stating a general recurring pattern when he explains that the more Jesus commanded silence the more they spoke out. I have no idea of those passages poke holes in my above interpretation of the women’s silence or if they are the answers to another question I know nothing about.