The literal Bible

Bill sees a metaphor:

The “mark of the beast on the hand an forehead” just means submission and acknowledgement of lordship. It clearly does not mean a physical mark, Jesus was clear on this when he condemned the Pharisees for wearing scripture as their frontlets while not following it. Reference Exodus 13:9 and 13:16, and Deuteronomy 11:18, and the related verses. This “mark of the beast” crap is what happens when Christians divorce their Scripture from it’s Jewish roots – they can’t understand it.

Of course, this sounds remarkably like those pre-1948 Biblical interpreters who had a panoply of explanations for the supposedly metaphorical nation of Israel in Revelations. Now, Bill could be right, of course, but to say that it “clearly does not mean a physical mark” is a serious exaggeration.

Given that there is now an implantable technology that appears increasingly likely to be used for buying and selling and the US government’s increasing tendency to govern all financial transations, his metaphorical argument is on shakier ground than it has been in 2000 years.

The hallmark of a prophecy is one that accurately predicts the future, after all.

Q is for queer (and I don’t mean gay)

Experts in source-criticism now know that The Lord of the Rings is a redaction of sources ranging from the Red Book of Westmarch (W) to Elvish Chronicles (E) to Gondorian records (G) to orally transmitted tales of the Rohirrim (R). The conflicting ethnic, social and religious groups which preserved these stories all had their own agendas, as did the “Tolkien” (T) and “Peter Jackson” (PJ) redactors, who are often in conflict with each other as well but whose conflicting accounts of the same events reveals a great deal about the political and religious situations which helped to form our popular notions about Middle Earth and the so-called “War of the Ring.”. Into this mix are also thrown a great deal of folk materials about a supposed magic “ring” and some obscure figures named “Frodo” and “Sam”. In all likelihood, these latter figures are totems meant to personify the popularity of Aragorn with the rural classes.

Because The Lord of the Rings is a composite of sources, we may be quite certain that “Tolkien” (if he ever existed) did not “write” this work in the conventional sense, but that it was assembled over a long period of time by someone else of the same name. We know this because a work of the range, depth, and detail of The Lord of the Rings is far beyond the capacity of any modern expert in source-criticism to ever imagine creating themselves.

The tension between source materials and the various redactors is evident in several cases. T is heavily dependent upon Gondorian records and clearly elevates the claims of the Aragorn monarchy over the House of Denethor. From this it is obvious that the real “War of the Ring” was a dynastic struggle between these two clans for supremacy in Gondor. The G source, which plays such a prominent role in the T-redacted account of Aragorn, is significantly downplayed by the PJ redactor in favor of E versions. In the T account, Aragorn is portrayed as a stainless saint, utterly sure of his claims to the throne and so self-possessed that he never doubts for a moment his right to seize power. Likewise, in the T account, the Rohirrim are conveniently portrayed as willing allies and vassals to the Aragorn monarchy, living in perfect harmony with the Master Race of Numenoreans who rule Gondor.

Yet even the T redactor cannot eliminate from the R source the towering Amazon figure of Eowyn, who is recorded as taking up arms the moment the previous king of Rohan, Theoden, is dead. Clearly we are looking at a heavily reworked coup d’etat attempt by the princess of the Rohirrim against Aragorn’s supremacy. Yet this hard kernel of historical fact is cleverly sublimated under folk materials (apparently legends of the obscure figure of “Meriadoc”). Instead of the historical account of her attempt on Aragorn’s throne as it originally stood in R, she is instead depicted as engaging in battle with a mythical “Lord of the Nazgul” (apparently a figure from W sources) and shown fighting on Aragorn’s side. This attempt to sublimate Eowyn does not convince the trained eye of the source-criticism expert, who astutely notes that Eowyn is wounded in battle at the same moment Denethor dies. Obviously, Eowyn and Denethor were in league against Aragorn but were defeated by the latter’s partisans simultaneously.

I’ve read this before, but after seeing a link on The Corner, I couldn’t resist. This is simply beautiful; a nearly perfect taunt. I don’t know if there’s ever been anything so completely and utterly ridiculous as the circular argument that insists parts of the Bible are unreliable because they conflict with Q. Now, the document Q does not exist, but is theorized to perhaps have existed, and is therefore considered to be more reliable than documents we know for certain to exist and can actually examine.

Got that?

On wine

Farmer Tom engages in mild pharasaics:

I content that alcoholic drink is not necessary for the Christian walk, may be harmful to the Christian walk and should be avoided.

True, true, false. Anything can be harmful to the Christian walk, from alcohol to zebras. Sure, you or I may be able to look at a zebra without lust in our hearts, but pity the poor brother equiphile.

The good farmer’s points are quite familiar to me, as a Southern Baptist, and they are wildly, even ludicrously unconvincing. First, dealing with the etymology, new wine is not grape juice. It is an alcholic beverage that should never be kept in the back of a car when driving over a mountain pass; had I kept in mind the saying about not putting new wine in old skins, the back of our car might not have smelled of yeast for a year.

Second, only a teetotaller could buy into anything as silly as the idea that Jesus turned the water into grape juice. There is no such thing as quality when it comes to grape juice, but anyone who has ever been to a wedding has drunk the cheap merlots and cabernets that are served to the masses. The wedding guests were likely surprised because Jesus gave them something velvety and smooth, with a mellow, full-body flavor that contrasted greatly with the bitter and tannin-heavy inferior stuff that preceded it.

I’ve drunk everything from Night Train to Italian wines so good they don’t even think of exporting them and I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Jesus Christ was not only a wine drinker, but was a bit of an oenophile to boot. When even the teetotaller’s Scriptural references are nonsensical, it should be quite obvious that this is one of the many examples of Man using the Bible as a mirror instead of as a guide.

As for the weaker brother argument, I would neither serve wine to an alcoholic nor drink it in front of someone I knew was struggling to control it. But you can make a better Scriptural case that to spurn wine is to spurn Jesus Christ than to argue that Christianity is incompatible with drinking alchohol in moderation.