Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The myth of Abrahamic authori-tay

""""The story of Abraham has bequeathed a moral legacy in which we have been taught not to question the authority of "fathers," even though, in the process, we betray children. Contemporary realities illustrate the ways in which the sacrifice and betrayal of children has been institutionalized. One can point to the dreadful conditions in which most children in the world are living. Children are abused at the hands of their parents, most frequently fathers or their surrogates, and by priests—the very "fathers" who stand in for God and whose mission it is to protect children. One can also include war and point out that "children" are sent off to fight old men's battles and that the U.S. military budget vastly exceeds that of welfare. The recent welfare debate itself shows how the "fathers" (of state) exercised their power to determine the fate of a whole generation of children.

The story of Abraham is not causative in any direct sense. But because it exemplifies and legitimates a hierarchical structure of authority, a specific form of family, definitions of gender, and the value of obedience that are simultaneously the fountainhead of faith and the bedrock of society, it has created an environment that has made it seem sacrilegious to question these issues.

In Genesis 22:16 -18, as Abraham takes the knife to slay his son, God through his angel calls out:

Because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: . . . I will bless thee, and . . . I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand . . . upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

Like that knife eternally poised in mid-air, several questions should be held in our minds. Why is the willingness to sacrifice the child the model of faith? What is the function of obedience? Why so little attention to the betrayal of the child? Whose voice counts? Like another sacrificed by his father, did Abraham's son cry out at the critical moment: "Father, father, why hast thou forsaken me?" Why have we eulogized their submission?

In order to stem the tide of sacrifice—of the hopes, trust, health, and lives of children—we need a revolution in values. We need a new moral vision, a new myth to live by—one that will change the course of history as profoundly as did the Abraham story. I cannot provide such a myth; no one person can do that. Myths are collective enterprises; they emerge from people's experiences of the discrepancies between their personal lives and the myths with which they try to make sense of those lives. Yet myths, like scientific theory, do not emerge de novo; they are always constructed out of old ones. My task is a critical one, but criticism is not my only goal. By illuminating the assumptions built into the Abraham myth, we can better go about the task of reconstruction.""""

Well-stated, Miss Delaney.


jh said...

reconstruction from what??

i take issue with the description of priests as having a mission to protect children...what a farce..what a joke

the numbers associated with catholic priest abuse are in actuallity paltry minimal compared to domestic abuse...compared in the greater population it is about .1% of all sexual abuse

the mission of priests is to protect the sacred ritual
it is not to step in to the family as it were and replace the mother

the biggest atrocity against children these days is women thinking they have something better to do...this is the big betrayal

the abraham/isaac story did not set in motion a practice or a paradigm of child abuse...rather the story is meant to counter the prevalance of child sacrifice in the culture surrounding the formation of the people of god

the story tells us in effect -- there shall be no child sacrifice among you this is how you shall be different for the other people this is one of the ways in which you will be known as the people of healthy jewish and i would contend then in the healthiest of christian families the child is held up to god with a sense of honoring...this is what is meant to happen

we could argue along with rene girard that a certain amount of scapegoating happens anyway and it happens to children too
but it doesn't follow that the existence of this story somehow perpetuates or even contributes to the shameful reality of child abuse

more hurt has been hoisted on children in the name of "enlightenment" than any religious principle has cultivated

women kill more children than anyone
and they shirk their inherent responsibility to be good healthy mothers all the time these days

leave the fathers alone girls
point to thyselves
your wombs are a devastation

taking up careers in postmodernist blither blather

women are responsible for all the problems in the world today..the men are in a state of constant innanity trying to manage the havoc wreaked by their sisters

it's not a myth that we need it's a lucid recognition that the antidote to human violence has appeared and is here...if only they had eyes to see and ears to hear


J said...

Grazi for comment, jh.

Miss Delaney may be verging on pathos here--or extrapolating a bit much--but I believe she says something meaningful about the patriarchal aspect of the Abraham myth (if not...obedience to authority and dogma as a whole).

She might have been more accurate by saying clergymen as a whole, rather than priests. And in some circumstances, you may be correct--sexual abuse may have been exaggerated. Perhaps even false accusations have been made (though I imagine some ...clergymen get away with it as well). But reading of the nightmarish events in Ireland, or those deaf students---I can hardly believe all of that was invented, jh. It's fairly serious. There have been quite a few abuse cases in SoCal as well.Mahoney was pretty reluctant to say or do anything until pressured.

Her point on the Abe-myth as "the fountainhead of faith and the bedrock of society" doesn't seem that off the mark either--indeed, that was why I linked to this essay, to stress the fundamental irrationalism of the Abraham myth, which relates to the dangers of excessive or blind faith and zealous obedience, to dogma rather than, say, the rationality of the tradition of the greeks and romans or western science (or "public reason," in Jefferson's terms).

Of course it's a very ancient tale--we have no way of confirming the facts of the story, or of checking whether an Ibrahim actually existed; a fortiori we cannot know that he...or any so-called prophet heard a voice in the wilderness (how does one know --assuming he existed-- that Abe. was not....a David Koresh or Manson, or Joseph Smith sort of quack?, so forth). Irregardless, monotheists take this myth of irrational obedience as the bedrock of their code, really.

I don't completely buy your feminist bashing, either--it sounds even a bit Old Testament like, ese. You may be correct that women do more harm than the media would have us believe (Oprah the Oppressor!), but it's not harm as in...the US Military-bombing-Fallujah- sort of harm, or Wall Street financiers, or Wally-mart corporation ripping off workers and consumers, jh. Prisons are full of violent males of all races. Violent women criminals are quite rare.

While Im not a big fan of say Nancy Pelosi, she hasn't created nearly the hysteria that Glenn Beck or Limbaugh rants have, whatsoever. That's harm. Logically speaking you may have a point that the story itself does not result in abuse but Miss Delaney said as much--it's not "causative", ie, not in itself a crime. But it does symbolize a certain type of dangerous and or possibly criminal thinking.

jh said...

let's do the math
approx 5 million abortions a year
since 1960 worldwide average 50 years
that's a chunk of human flesh
now i do think it possible to argue that women have bought into the male desire for dominance for the control of nature and they're doing it willy nilly just to please the men and they don't really know it well maybe that's true

i have often wondered why freud chose the whole greek structure....he missed something there's something much more vital much more visceral much more real in the bible stuff

it is impossible to read the abraham story in a disconnected way from the rest of the narrative there's some interesting and important things going on there but the image of a death wielding child killer is not one of these images...that scene in fact is the image par exellence for the genetic preference for the strong male child which probably at one time made all the difference in the world for the jews made them the great powerhorse people that they are intellects and musicians galore...the home is depicted as a place of loving nurturing vitality for boys nd young men a place of learning and a place of bet is that in 98% of the cases this was the case

one must also tell teh srah and rebecca and rachel stories these stories are marvelous antidotes to the presumption of male power...the overall ideal in the bible if you exclude some of the prophets (now no really they were humble too) is that of the humble intelligent wise man not the fearful despot...the downfall of the kings of israel was over this very issue i mean they were trying to find a way to install wise learned kings but they kept getting these idiots sothe tradition of wisdom fell to the poets and the prophets...they were trying to get away from the concept of a deified king...david is prototype of a very human honest response to how screwed up the illusions of power really are

gender lenses bend history out of whack

anyone who thinks knows the story is deeper than that
and it behooves them or should to narrate the story more and more in its fullness not in its 21st century schizoid commentated hash

my point is not whether or not sexual abuse happened or that it was covered up it was more that there was a deliberate bashing of the church going on...i'm convinced that peopel were dealing with the issues as well as they could an someone said well take this here the press line and it was like molotov city and they knew as a form of iconoclasm did all that do any good...i would say no

jh said...

priests used to sort of expect 10 or 15 % discount at restaurants etc no more o no no more...there is this hysterical vaginistic need to castrate the father going on in our time

it is fomented more by enlightenment presumptions about a mechanized universe than by people who keep biblical narratives alive

the very monster is the cult of rationalism greek thought un processed by thomas aquinas (so many people just skip right over thomas) and that whole revival of enlightenment schmeitenment crapola

they've gotten close to harnessing nature
but it's been bloody o lord my god it has been bloody

to some extent you could argue that the cleverness of the enlightment has brought us to the point we are at today...i can't imagine what it would have been like had the ethical constraints of biblical narrative not been at work in the minds of some people

i'm convinced the streets are full of women who need to be imprisoned it's out of control pal it's whackocracy crazy people everywhere

if the march of rationalism teaches us anything it's that the boys just didn't get the bible lessons they didn't listen long enough to the stories they all thought it was about something else about greatness about power

the father stories in the bible are largely about the natural humiliations that go along with being a normal guy in a tough world

take solomon

the covenant biblical narrative line has it's holes has it's difficulties has it's embarrassments but the social critiques of the 21st century don't seem to come close to what these are
it invites a much deeper reading of the texts

the fathers and mothers of reason are killing us
the fathers and mothers of faith are doing everything they can to counter the movement

powerful men sending children to doom in war is a failing of women and men alike

women it would seem abuse children in the home at the same rate as men

women are every bit as capable of evil and wickedness just ask flannery o'connor

if the pope is a sort of abraham i'm glad to have him as my father
he's a great teacher he's a great piano player he's a man engaged in the fullness of cultural exchange and he's reaching out to other fathers of the world in the name of peace

mizz delaney it would appear would do well to read scripture as a prayer text not as a social paradigm text

as would everyone

irrational obedience is a weakness and there have been popes in history who fostered it...but ours is not and never has been a system of blind obedience the expectation is that study and thinking will bring the mind to enlightenment with prayer and ones understanding of the world of authority of necessity etc all these things then take on an ethical dimension one that has been effectively smothered by humanist postivist presuppositions it is true

the world needs wise protective strong fathers
and it needs women who can re-understand the importance of radical devoted love in the home

too many women babbling these days more of them should just shut up

i can say that here can't i??





J said...

Ah the A-word. That's another discussion (though perhaps tangentially related). Miss Delaney doesn't really concern herself with abortion, though I imagine she' ( I, at least in terms of adult women in first trimester for emergencies of various sorts--late term may pose some difficulties)

Delaney claims the Abraham myth embodies corrupt and/or irrational patriarchal authority--in that regard, I agree with her (and go farther--the Abe-myth forms the Ur-text of monotheism--ie, Abrahamic religions; ie I reverse Kierkegaard's "credo"-- indeed, Schoepenhauer had some inkling of the absurdity of the Torah--not to say the historical inaccuracies (though AS also opposed the virulent anti-semites of his time, and...throughout history, just as much as he denounced Christian crusaders, slavers, or muslim jihad...).

Moreover, the Old Testament law has little to do with the Justicia of the greeks and romans (...Im not sure Socrates has to be filtered via Aquinas. perhaps it's vice versa. And Soc.Plato/Ari et al probably knew more geometry). Leviticus upholds Lex Talionus. Of course there were corrupt pagans, so forth--hints of authoritarianism in Aristotle, etc. But the good of western tradition flows out of the greeks and romans, yo se pienso--whether in terms of philosophy, science, law, society--it's just that most Mericans were been raised in a WASP, puritanical society and don't understand that.

You would rather have been in courts with some wise solons read in Aristotle, Cicero, Justinian etc, rather than theocrats quoting the Bible...or Koran.

Comparing the athenians to the nomadic herdsmen of the Old Testament (or New, really)--that's about like comparing the LA Philaharmonic to fiddle players at a Sacto talent night. The jews owe their very existence to the ptolemaic Greeks, who allowed them to collect the semitic myths into the LXX, the earliest record of the OT we have (a point...monotheists--christians, jews and muslims--routinely overlook). The masoretic text--which was mainly Aramaic in the DSS, not hebrew-- was pieced together much later FROM the LXX. Even Israelis admit as much--the early semitic myths were fluid, not a unified narrative. I suspect Abe. like other Genesis tales (at least until Moises, hardly different than Egyptian myth) descends from babylonian sources which have little or nothing to do with "judaism" per se.

Another issue--I think many christians, jews and muslims demand a historical continuity which simply does not exist. Locke discussed this in his attack on the Divine right of Kings. Monotheists insist they descend from Adam (or Abraham/Ibrahim) when that can hardly be established whatsoever--those are very ancient tales; they were ancient when the LXX was assembled. Even in roman times, scribes doubted the accuracy of the jewish tales (ie Tacitus)---. There is NO apostolic succession traceable throughout the Old Testament. T. to some degree, but even then sketchy (at least until Constantine implements Catholic-Co via his Caesarian fist).

jh said...

from the christian or judeo christian point of view i can hardly beleive that i read a statement like..{they} demand a historical continuity that just does not exist...the point of rehearsing and reciting the narratives and resating scripture throughout the year and cultivating the best possible minds to interpret and re-interpret scripture both in historical context and in light of the the historical continuity is there - even if you want to sick to the process of scriptural translation - that in itself is a long process of historical and textual continuity - as catholics we claim to teach what the first christians taught and we claim to cultivate what is important in the very light of those who have written and spoken before..there is a constant evocation of the tradition from the apostles down to the very day of today ( i think of fr. david tracy and all he has written) even get a glimpse of talmudic and modern day rabbinic study is to becoem aware of an assiduous effort to NOT FORGET and the commitment to a systematic constant retrieval of knowledge and judgement connected to real names real living theological intellects ...weaving the threads of historical continuity was and is everything for the religious jews

had the jews of alexandria not popularized the hebrew texts for the cross pollenation of cultures in 3rd and 2nd century BCE there would've been little to complain about -- a purely hebraic tradition continued as well and during the diaspora afer 70AD there was an agreement to schlepp the greek texts and go back and insist upon the hebrew - had there never been a greek text the jews would have sustained the hebrew texts meticulously donw through every generation -- and why??

even the efforts to eradicate the jews was not strong enough to defeat the long and arduous effort to maintain an identity quite difficult for the nonreligious soul to comprehend

the gender critique from girls is over there is nothing they can comprehend that will result in their further enlightenment it is all sound and fury...if they want to save the world they should turn their critical efforts upon themselves quit whining and reclaim the wisdom they tossed out when they were all getting liberated

the more important statement which sums up the awareness coming to us from abraham is "my father was a wandering aramean" and the inevitable tension between nomadic and sedentary ways of life

loretta lynn had it right
"stand by your man"

c'mon girls get with it

J said...

Seminarian Im not yet my readings lead me to believe that there was not a unified old testament narrative--a collection of semitic stories existed, but much was left out or altered by the LXX scribes (and the assembling of the book went on for decades...). The language issue presents some interesting challenges as well---hebrew was not really a language with a grammar and so forth until 4-5 AD; it was oral tradition, etc. There are a few ancient inscriptions that look vaguely hebrew, but also might be read as phoenician (the Canaan tongue) or aramaic, etc.

By 3rd and 2nd century BCE as you say there was a semitic community of sorts-- various tribes, or groups of people in the "holy land" who underwent hellenization. The greek language became the vernacular (ie koine as you probably are aware)----even for the "jews". Greeks and later romans took jew/semitic/egyptian wives, so forth. Latin was already codified by what, 500 BCE as well. There was probably a jewish temple in Jerusalem and so forth, but from Alex. on the entire area was essentially hellenic (and Egypt, south to Ethiopia aka Punt), and then latinized when the Caesars took control.

People living around the coast around the time of Christ spoke koine greek. That was the traders' tongue more or less. JC and the apostles, assuming they had any education at all, and were not just hillbillies would have known greek, probably latin-- aramaic was the street speak (and really the official semitic script--ie, the peshittas). St Augustine says nearly as much--that the New T. was greek in origin (ie. Jerome mades a few fibs). Many of the greek words in New T. had no semitic equivalent. There was no hebrew lexicon! The aramaic WAS the language of the few "jewish" priests.

And I didn't say the semitic myths were meaningless, but there was a collection of stories--some very ancient legends, pre-egyptian (ie Abraham aka Avram). With Moses, one might say the jews begin---yet even then many inconsistencies and large gaps of time may be noted. Spinoza-- not my favorite thinker, but interesting--claimed they were mostly exaggerated fables, often taken from eygptians. Metaphorically significant perhaps, but not history as Herodotus is history. Spin. held a similar view of the New T. He grants that JC and the Apostles existed but does not agree to the miraculous aspects of the New T. (or old).

J said...

Also check these out (that is, assuming your dogma-o-meter can handle it):


Tacitus on jews

That said, Im not an atheist, jh, though I oppose fundamentalist zealots, whether christian, jew, muslim, or ..darwinian-masonic chandala sorts.

jh said...

the influence of primitive and natural religion on the formation of narrative in the bible is hardly new...even the jews would acknowledge their mutual inheritance of stories from people they didn't trust...this was mapped out in detailed fashion in the 19th century by protestant historical critics and may be the crowning achievement of licencing a form of atheism but it has also served to embolden and excite people of faith

spinoza is an interesting case a very interesting case he was never condemned by the clergy he counted a few jesuits amongst his friends they supped and drank shots together
he the lens grinder was the first real public voice to ask an important critical question: are we presuming to understand moses' authorship of TORAH or can it be understood that moses is a character in this story and authorship lies elsewhere?? - this was a big moment and though it had repercussion in the vatican a lot of intellectuals got on the bandwagon and cheered the idea and thus historical critical scientific study of scripture ensued - and i would hold that that is a good thing - yet the reality lies with us and we must acknowledge that these folks had the wherewithall to preserve some amazing stories - with all too human narratives and dialogues

the atheists of our day provide yet another chapter of interesting debate - and i think they should be applauded on that front - they throw a big question into the midst mix

enlightenment humanism in all its transformations is but a spoiled and rebellious bastard child of the church...and they all end up wanting the same thing

the church has never despaired at the power of the religious imagination -- hollywood has tried to create something to compare but has offered only the refuse of quircky abstraction
however one cannot doubt the magnetic power of hollywood production - pictures sell - where'd they get that idea

pictures and stories

myth o criticism mytheth the point

spinoza was also the dude who opened up a discussion within jewish beitotim that jesus is in effect "one of us" - some famous exchanges between he and a jesuit if you ever come across a copy of that book let me know -- anyway he acquired the christian name benedict a direct translation of baruch

the rest is history


J said...

--Spinoza devoted himself to Descartes, studied latin, and the new sciences, etc. and was rather skeptical of dogma--both jew and christian. He does not accept the miraculous aspects of OT or NT. In regard to Aristotle and scholasticism, he granted only "causa efficiens" right?-- he sounds like a mechanist usually, Hobbesian ...Deus sive natur . Interesting thinker but I don't get the sense he was overly religious (tho he did retain the perfidious "perfection"), and was condemned by christians and jews, was he not.

--we must acknowledge that these folks had the wherewithall to preserve some amazing stories - with all too human narratives and dialogues

Yes, as metaphor, I sort of agree, but they're a bit aged, are they not. And the miraculous elements are often hard to accept, especially OT (ie Job sounds nearly realistic, until the Almighty appears on high and offers his correctio.).

The Psalms are sort of buzzy--actually one of the authentic parts of the OT, IMHE, not just moral or legalistic chants, but.....wartime prayers. You get the sense of horrible battlefields and carnage. Dantean.

The New T. also has fantastic elements. One might respect then Beatitudes, but then...Paul's moralistic epistles, and the Book of Rev.--actually the Book of Rev. fascinates me. I suspect it was penned during plague time, or --was it a corrupt emperor, Nero, or one of those pendejos with a whorish consort, etc. Yet I do not consider scripture ...inerrant. Conditioned by too many humanists, I guess.

When time allows, I read Dante's Inferno at times for phunn --the italiano close to espanñol, mas o menos. Scum goes to hell, Jh. That's the metaphorical power of catholic tradition (even if....only a "possible world" and not quite verifiable), as Pound realized. Recall Caiaphas. Not to say the halls of the heroes and macho-men, Ulysses and Diomedes (a rather Schwarzeneggerian sort of thug-zombie).

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