Thursday, May 14, 2015

Morning links

I don't often read many of the 100+ blogs that I follow but there are a few posts this morning that I will draw your attention to.

James McGrath reviews Tony Burke, ed., Ancient Gospel or Modern Forgery? The Secret Gospel of Mark in Debate: Proceedings from the 2011 York University Christian Apocrypha Symposium. The full review is rather good, very thorough in summarizing the state of the conflict over this text.
The volume illustrates the difficulties involved in drawing conclusions about the authenticity of Secret Mark. If I had read only the papers that call it a forgery, I would be certain they were right. If I had read only the others, it would baffle me how anyone can still think it is a forgery. Reading both, I think that the case for authenticity is significantly stronger.
Perhaps it is that the release of my own book, Seen from the Street, after 10 years sitting on the shelf makes me see the explanations that people offer in scholarship and science as insufficient to the mystery that is our lives. I don't know if the Morton Smith fragments are a hoax. I doubt it. Crossan, (Birth of Christianity 1998) and Funk (The Complete Gospels 1992) give them some serious citation. There is no shadow of controversy in these books from the 1990s, yet they too deal only with scholarship, not with experience. I had forgotten how the Secret Gospel may have influenced my writing, not for its content as scholarly, but that it referred to my own knowledge gathered independently of the act of reading.

From the science of OUP comes a post on the importance of testosterone.
Humans have developed unique ways of regulating the primal actions of testosterone. Ethics, laws, social and religious prohibitions – all have been developed to control what it does. These controls have not been devised by the parts of the brain on which testosterone acts, but by more recently evolved areas, responsible for the amazing inventiveness and flexibility of human behaviour. The two domains work together, sometimes in synchrony, at other times in opposition.
One could of course put the whole ignorant knowledge base of experience down to accident (not necessarily from fast cars). This is the intent of blind evolution. It should not surprise us that the human can consider both accident and purpose in its imaging of life.

And Tim Bulkeley reposts an old post of his on covering the feet as a Biblical euphemism. wash-your-hairy-feet-or-sometimes-a-foot-is-just-a-foot/. Yes sometimes a foot is just a foot, but not in the passages he cites.

For me the modesty of the angels is a pointer to the love of God. All could be 'explained' of course, but explanation will not do as a substitute for knowledge.


  1. I am prepared to agree that "foot" (I'm less convinced by "feet") may be a euphemism in some passages. But I think there is a need for evidence in each case and not an easy assumption. The euphemistic usage seems to me much less common than most people seem to assume. In the Ruth passage I suspect the author has had the possible euphemism in mind, and therefore used the plural form to provide an obstacle to too easy a reading as euphemism - compare the other almost euphemisms in the chapter which do not quite work

  2. Yes - I wouldn't mind the evidence of a native speaker from the period - so much is uncertain. I agree that foot, feet, etc are most of the time just plain old dusty body parts. The phrase covering the feet as used in 1 Samuel 24, להסך את־רגליו, is a euphemism for relieving himself, as we say today. That is not what the angels were doing! ובשׁתים יכסה רגליו, not the same verb - though sounding similar. In Ruth the verb is גלה. This passage does not require any interpretation but tenderness and responsibility - and the full acceptance of the one who is different, the Moabite. It is remarkable that such a story gets into the Canon. It shows that the universal unity among us is greater than the parochialism we so easily know.

  3. Though, what evidence is there that "covering the feet" means peeing, might it not be defecating? (I'm thinking of the way people outside on a journey or working with flocks or in a field might squat and use their robes to "cover their feet" quite literally as they relieved themselves. That is I still have to be convinced that the usual euphemism is foot = male member. That "cover the feet" can = "going to the bathroom" I agree. But foot = penis leaves me unconvinced.