on Saturday, 17 June 2023 at 11.00 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Richard Tuset Anglo Catholicism: Historical re-enactment society or a potent force for contemporary evangelism
Sam Maginnis Church Times Clergy need a stipend that alleviates hardship
“Rising inflation has left many clerics struggling to cover household bills and other essentials”
“This understanding remains central to this day, many Anglo Catholics for example are unable to accept the ordination of women, not necessarily because they don’t think women can be priests, but because the wider catholic church has not (yet) accepted this understanding of the priesthood.” And here for me is the problem in a nutshell. If you can only follow obediently behind the Roman Catholic Church you might as well follow Cardinal Newman and join it. If you believe that women priests are possible and a blessing then you should take the lead and inspire the Roman Catholic and Orthodox… Read more »
Anglo-Catholic assertions that the Church of England is part of the One Holy Catholic Church – as opposed to being one of many Protestant sects – has surely been undermined by what was regarded as the unilateral decision to ordain women. Ecumenical hopes for Unity with Rome and Orthodoxy were decided to be less important than having women clergy . Whatever the rights and wrongs of female clergy, I fear their existence has rendered the term “Anglo-Catholic” to be an oxymoron.
I define myself as an Anglo Catholic or more accurately as a Liberal Catholic because of my religious beliefs and the ceremonial style of worship that I like. I am proud of my section of the Church of England and proud that we have women priests and bishops, proud of married clergy and proud that we are making progress towards the acceptance of our lesbian, gay and trans sisters and brothers in Christ. I believe the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches are in serious error in not following our lead. Hopefully they will observe the God given and inspiring leadership… Read more »
Indeed. Anyway the world was reminded a few weeks ago that the CofE is a Protestant Reformed religion. I don’t know how the proper Catholic bishops in attendance could bear to be there. Seems to me that the CofE catholic revival was (it’s over now) merely nostalgic and romantic sentimentality for an age that never was. Look at the illustrations in Pugin’s “Contrasts”. Don’t get me wrong, I like a bit of colourful tat in the hope that it lifts people of a certain mindset (like me) to the Lord but, as the Canons say, it is of no doctrinal… Read more »
The claim of the Church of England is asserted in Canon A1
A 1 Of the Church of EnglandThe Church of England, established according to the laws of this realm under the [King]’s Majesty, belongs to the true and apostolic Church of Christ; and, as our duty to the said Church of England requires, we do constitute and ordain that no member thereof shall be at liberty to maintain or hold the contrary.
The word “Catholic” seems to be missing.
The declaration of assent (Canon C15) is made by ministers as follows (no such declaration is required of lay members of the church. The Baptismal creed is the Apostles Creed): PREFACE The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic… Read more »
Anglicans repeat the Nicene Creed every time they worship “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”
When my former assistant curate was training at Queen’s Birmingham, he was the only one in his class, so he told me, whose church used any creed week by week.
It wasn’t needed. There was never any thought that it would be anything but Catholic
I’m sure all the ministers attached to HTB and its satellites are happy to regard themselves as Catholics!
Thank you, David! It’s ironic that some Anglicans oppose having Anglican female priests on the grounds that the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t ordain women, when the Roman Catholics don’t accept the validity of the orders of any of our priests. Since they don’t think our male clergy are true priests, why should we worry what they think of women like me?
Not forgetting the very active movement in the Roman Catholic church itself towards women’s ordination and active lay involvement in decision making.
Indeed. When I was ordained priest in 1994, a Catholic Prioress walked in the procession and sat in the chancel with the robed Anglican clergy. A number of my Catholic friends attended, and some even asked me to celebrate the Eucharist for them on Corpus Christi. I was happy to do so, and it was a very moving occasion.
A quarter of a century ago, when my wife presided at the Eucharist for the first time, Catholic ladies from the Council of Churches were first to the communion rail.
As someone who lives on less than half of the stipend, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Sam Maginnis’ arguments. I suspect there are many parishioners who feel the same. At the same time, this inflationary bubble has been particularly harsh on those on lower incomes as the effective rate in essentials like electricity, gas and food is much higher than the headline inflation rate. It is hard to adjust when inflation hits essentials hardest – and that includes ministers on stipends. For that reason there are very strong grounds to make additional payments possibly a thousand or… Read more »
I think we should remind ourselves that not all us struggle to buy the essentials. The bosses of our top 100 companies awarded themselves an AVERAGE 33 percent pay rise last year on top of already very large salaries. I have absolutely no doubt what Jesus thinks about that, we just have to read the Gospels. So I wonder what the conservative evangelical churches within the Square Mile have to say about this ? Have I missed something? I thought scripture was not just about sexual morality ?
I heartily agree.
It’s not just conservative evangelicals though. I don’t think many branches of the Church of England are strong on the issue of wealth.
Southwark Diocese is currently advertising a vacancy for Lay or Ordained. For lay candidates the salary is stated is £42,840 per annum. That’s above the average London salary. Clergy feel poor, but that’s just because of the way they’re remunerated.
And also because we generally have to heat large vicarages, and pay for carpets, curtains, and flooring every time we move. In both my incumbencies, I also had to supply fixtures and fittings like curtain rails, towel rails, toilet roll holders, etc. Also, if our parish isn’t a wealthy one, we may not be able to claim all our expenses.
In addition to a stipend that allows the clergy to cover expenses and support a family, shouldn’t the stipend be sufficient to attract young men and women who are thinking of ministry as a career? Of course ministry is a vocation, but the reality is that a young priest needs to know that he or she can look after a family.
Lay people also have to pay for carpets, curtains, etc when they move, of course – but they usually get to choose the house they move to. An old vicarage with big rooms and large windows can cost thousands in flooring and window dressing.
That’s so privileged but I don’t think you even see it; however, you have highlighted that it would make sense for the diocese to provide carpet and curtains and replace them when badly worn, with a security deposit for damages as is usual in commercial residential lets.
Of course a lot of people don’t get to choose – they have to take whatever social housing they’re offered, or rental accommodation they can afford. That’s what I did before I was ordained. But they are unlikely to be housed in a vast house with 12 ft ceilings, 5 family sized bedrooms, and 3 15-20 ft reception rooms. That’s what runs up the cost so much. I could fit the whole downstairs of my current home within the main bedroom of my last vicarage.
During the term of our last rector, who said he did not require a home of that size (in part because his wife got a house as part of her employment at a local college), my parish made living in the rectory (our term for a vicarage) a part of the payment for our groundskeeper and custodian, who lived there with his family.
Your predecessors removed the toilet roll holders?
Yes, and other fixtures and fittings. At least I suppose they did, because there were none when I arrived.
I think at the root of this is how the Church of England generally, the Anglican Communion or even the Anglo Catholic movement understand the Word Catholic? To illustrate this let me tell you a story I heard. The Late Father Roland Walls, the Founder of my former Monastic Community at Roslin, was once invited to lead the pre-Haddington Pilgrimage Night Vigil by the late Earl of Lauderdale, Patrick Maitland. He was picked up from his Monastery early evening and en-route they picked up an Altar Server from Old St Paul’s dressed to the nines in Cassock and Cloak. On… Read more »
I am sure you are right about the problem agreeing on a definition of Catholic but then is Anglo-Catholic a subset of Catholic or something slightly different?
Anglo Catholic, Old Catholic and Roman Catholic are subsets of Catholic. To say you are an Anglo Catholic is to deny the right of the Roman Catholic Church to claim the exclusive use of the term Catholic. Roman Catholics are not the only Catholics. The Church of England is Catholic and Reformed.
I found Richard Tuset’s article interesting, and was hoping to find out how he felt Anglo Catholics were more than a Historical Re-enactment Society. He refers to Anglo Catholicism’s ‘foundational thesis of holiness, catholic apostolic succession, incarnational theology and societal reform’ but what mainstream christian denomination would not also claim these foundations, albeit with a slightly different emphasis on each element?
What intellectual basis is there to distinguish Anglo Catholics from others?
I believe there is an agreed practice in ARCIC gatherings. Even the printed creeds in the BCP (TEC) toggle between ‘Catholic’ (Rite I) and ‘catholic’ (Rite II) in the Creed (one can of course believe in ‘One, Holy, C/catholic Church’ and leave aside just how it is now constituted). And then there is the internal Anglican (not RC) discussion about the denominative ‘Protestant’ and its applicability. Would that Father Roland’s breezy response sailed a 1000 ships, but I fear the issue is a bit more complicated inside Anglican terrain.
I wonder whether Richard Tuset isn’t being a little London centric when he argues that anglo catholic parishes are not in working class areas. It is not my experience growing up in what was Wakefield Diocese or at College in Derby where anglo catholic churches served in very working class areas. I think of St. Lukes in Derby. In Wakefield you could catch a bus in Wakefield bus station and travel to Huddersfield and every church you passed on the journey had six on the high altar , and I am talking of old mining villages like Horbury Bridge, Middlestown,… Read more »
And equally true of the Diocese of Sheffield.Anglo Catholic parishes pretty much found on Council Estates and mining villages.There are some exceptions but lack any presence in affluent areas
The longer read from Richard Tuset is well worth it. The incredulity regarding the supernatural Tuset references via Clark is certainly all pervasive. It may be found in the church. We can live with that. However, I think there is always the possibility of distancing a viable sacramental life from strict rationality. Recently I went to brush up on the biographical details of A.R. Vidler. I did so after re-reading his appended note to J.N. Sanders’, The Meaning of the New Testament, in Soundings, which Vidler had edited. The last line of an entry about Vidler reads: “His old friend… Read more »
2nd para, second sentence, that should read: catholicism is elusive…like my elusive flawless comment. lol.
“Incredulity regarding the supernatural” is one issue. But isn’t a bigger issue an incredulity regarding the historical. It seems to me that strong argument have been made that the Old Testament history from Abraham through the Exodus, Moses and David is a created narrative of great spiritual and psychological depth but with a problematic relation to actual history. Rather than a record of what actually happened, it is a polemic written from the point of view of one group of religious leaders in 5th/6th Century Judah. There are arguments that such characters as Abraham and Moses never existed, or if… Read more »
History, historical consciousness, historiography are each important issues with regard to the NT. A few weeks ago I preached for the festival of Pentecost. The NT readings were Acts 2: 1-21 and John 20:19-23, two interpretations of the same ‘event’ some scholars have argued. Now while it did not impinge upon my sermon directly, I don’t believe much if any of what is described in those readings actually happened from an historical perspective. Re: Alec Vidler whom I referenced above,”In a Pentecost sermon Vidler once stated that ‘we were not to suppose that on the day of Pentecost the apostles… Read more »
I always faithfully read Rod’s comments and try very hard, but being a bear of very little brain, I have to admit that 90% of the time I havn’t the foggiest what he’s on about!
Both ouch and lol! If you cut and paste a sample from some of the things I’m on about, I’d be happy to try and clarify. Notwithstanding, a sincere thanks for the constructive tip.
That makes two of us – the bear of very little brain part I mean. I claim the relationship with Pooh quite frequently.
Thanks Rod, I am aware that such nuanced discussions about historiography exist within Christian academia. My complaint is that, with honourable exceptions such as yourself, who are willing to preach on such matters, the discussions nearly always remain in academia, and congregations remain almost infantilised in their approach to scripture. So it is no surprise that many people struggle to regard Christian discourse with respect.
Adding to my last. Picking up on your reference to the post modern mind set, how do we develop a Christian faith that treats scriptural texts openly with a post modern suspicion, yet still finds room for faith.
I’ve been thinking over your question for the past couple of hours. It finally occurred to me that the heart of the question may lie in the relationship between faith (the word faith appears twice) and suspicion ( the question suggests a particular kind of suspicion). A discussion along those lines could go in any number of directions. It is important to distinguish, as any number of people have done, between faith and belief. The distinction facilitates an ability to engage in constructive suspicion –suspicion of one’s context, one’s current understanding, one’s current beliefs, a text, and so forth. It… Read more »
As a longtime teacher, it will also happen that people find ‘critical theory’ highly dubious on its face (it is after all very speculative — this verse written in the 5th century to address this or that speculative audience; about which there is considerable internal scholarly debate amongst trained ‘experts’). Not because they are sure of the relationship between text and ostensive reference (so called fundamentalism) but because they just judge the scholarship hard to verify and too hypothetical. Not without reason, critical theory has the same displacing effect as allegory, its sworn enemy. It becomes ‘bigger’ that the text… Read more »
Notwithstanding 50 years of sifting from a variety of competing and often evolving hermeneutical proposals, my interest is in fundamental questions that are within the ‘scope of practice’ of preachers and teachers of religion. A preacher is confronted with texts. A preacher is confronted with a congregation the members of which represent a wide variety of influences that impact their reception of a text. Influences range from personal trauma with religion to thoughtful skepticism about religion to true believers to everything across the board. As Lonergan noted, at some point one has to decide for one’s self what to make… Read more »
I know your position and your fascination with BL. Wiki is shorthand for ‘go see what the traffic is’. Occom’s razer. 5000 theories for dating texts, etc. Your account of how scripture is used by God has also been sufficiently expressed. It is so discontinuous with the Church’s long history of interpretation as to call into question–not scripture qua scripture–but the Church itself as the vehicle of God’s ongoing life in His Body. You will be untouched by all of this. Please feel no need to reply. I do not want any further lessons on how BL solves all our… Read more »
In the past working with conflicted situations in the church, I noted that there are problem solvers and problem makers. Neo-orthodoxy often lapses into the latter category of problem maker. This is evidenced in much of the conflict in the church internationally. The neo-orthodox have a view, and one is to listen to it. Hearing others is not always their strong suit. It can be a challenge for any of us. I’ve been a member of the Church for almost seventy years (first R.C, and then Anglican) ). My goal for the church that I love, but find so infuriating,… Read more »
I agree that we are speaking of different world views. One views the past as constitutive and the other adopts a Whig view of history. Hearing others is impaired in both directions.
This is like the movie Groundhog Day. Where I come from, telling someone where you stand is considered a virtue. I have done so. Thanks for the back and forth.
Not sure what that means, but you are welcome.
Thanks Rod. I have had to reach across the Atlantic to find someone who seems to share, almost exactly, my own concerns and questions, and my diagnosis of how to go forward as a preacher and teacher when faced with those concerns. The beauty of the internet, and of Thinking Anglicans, is that such a reaching is possible. Thanks for the time you take to respond to my sometimes imperfectly thought through musings. Ref your anecdote. I could be, and in fact have, been, that student, over twenty years ago. But for me, the essay title was “In what sense… Read more »
A couple of concise pieces by writers, randomly, that I have found very helpful. From The Rev. Canon Laverne Jacobs, who is indigenous, Ojibwe, from Walpole Island First Nation: “In Aboriginal communities Bible reading evokes personal experience that is also a form of revelation.” And, “Although Indigenous peoples who have embraced the Christian faith regard the bible as the word of God, in my opinion the bible is not their primary source of revelation. Rather, the bible evokes other revelatory experiences from the community’s or person’s spiritual journey”. (Longing For God: Anglicans Talk about Revelation, nature, Culture and Authority. The… Read more »
Thank you for the quotes from Laverne Jacobs, which confirm that personal (and thus collective) spiritual experience is not mutually exclusive of giving credence to scripture. I sometimes wonder whether those who swear by the Bible alone have had personal spiritual experience that they can believe in. I do not say this as a criticism of such people (although they tend to criticise me and my faith without investigation) but rather as an attempt at compassion: to believe in a God that one has only read about — or worse, been instructed about, especially in hellfire terms — must be… Read more »
Canon Jacobs, whom I’ve never met, contributed a set of essays to a resource published by The Anglican Church of Canada with viewpoints across the theological spectrum. The publication ( 20 years ago) explored for a general audience many of the issues discussed here with regard to the use and interpretation of Scripture. (The bibliographic info is in one of my replies to Simon Dawson). Jacobs, an Elder, worked at First Nations concerns for both Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada. His essays in that volume contain actual stories about the sometimes difficult interactions between present… Read more »
Re your Pentecost sermon – F.C Burkitt made the interesting suggestion (in his Christian Beginnings, 1924) that the appearance to 500 witnesses mentioned by St Paul in 1 Corinthians 15.6 refers to the event described in Acts 2. I’ve never come across this suggestion anywhere else.
You know I came by that suggestion somewhere at some point. I can’t for the life of me remember where. Burkitt does not ring a bell, maybe I saw it in a footnote some where. Don’t know.
You could possibly have just taken the lid off it! You’d have to undo a tremendous amount of Christian teaching which is based on the belief that the OT characters were real, and the stories, give or take the fact they tell one particular slant on the incidents, really happened, to achieve your goal. And I can’t see most of the Christians I mix with taking it on board. Most of them treat it seriously, but generally factually, and wouldn’t dismiss the people as mythical. I’ve wondered some times about the validity of some of those tales, to be honest.… Read more »
Thanks for your response, John, you make some interesting points. It used to be the case, before about 1900, that the entire Bible was seen as reasonably accurate history, including the Eden story and Noah. Things changed however and after some controversy it became acceptable to regard those early stories as myth, with “proper history” starting with Abraham. But it seems that things stalled there and have not moved on. Modern academic discourse challenging the historicity of the Patriarchs or the Moses story is simply not discussed outside academia. This matters. The debate on how LGBTQ teachings are affected by… Read more »
“Why is Christianity in the West falling off a cliff? Could it be that so many people with a modern education are unable to accept the current mainstream Christian approach to Scripture, and so they walk away from Christianity.” Absolutely, and your whole analysis has it, down to a t. Too many Christians are operating on a paradigm about scriptural authority that was ‘sellable’ and credible at the time of the Reformation, but subverts respect in the Bible today in the case of many sincere truthseekers. I think people are afraid to say, perhaps the Bible was written with sincerity by… Read more »
Thank you Simon. I’ve said before, I read this site for information and understanding, so this kind of input’s a great help. It pulls together various bits I’ve picked up in reading over the years and, just lately, begins make coherent sense of a lot of them. (Interesting that you say scholars decided ‘proper history’ began with Abraham, which view I’d reached quite independently by myself.) Generally speaking, yes, I take the Biblical narrative as substantially true and factual; all the teaching and culture in which I’ve grown as a Christian has been built around that basic assumption. Yet I’m… Read more »
A great commentary. Regarding your observation that the Hebrew Scriptures narratives from Abraham through the Exodus may be a polemic from the viewpoint of one group of religious leaders in 5th/6th Century BCE Judah, I’m no Biblical scholar, and I understand that the JEPD (which should be YEPD, in my humble opinion) theory of the creation of the Torah/Five Books of Moses has been superseded, but even my rather uninformed (from a textual analysis viewpoint) level of reading those books can’t help but notice that the priests constantly have their say. As an example, I was at my synagogue on… Read more »
Thanks for your encouragement, sometimes I feel I am fighting a lonely battle here. As for resources. Hans Barstad – History and the Hebrew Bible gives a good overview of the various schools of thought. Barstad argues that Israel Finkelstein is the leader of the middle ground school – the Hebrew Scriptures are neither fully history (Albright), nor fully fiction (Thompson), but a created narrative combining myth, legend, memory and (heavily spun) actual history; a narrative created to reflect the religious perspective of the Judah leaders in 5th Century post conquest Judah. Finkelstein (Director on Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv… Read more »
There are tombs of Abraham at Hebron and King David in Jerusalem. Of course as a mere C of E layman I have no basis for knowing their authenticity. When I visited Israel we were unable to go to Hebron, being told that it was ‘too dangerous’, but in Jerusalem King David’s tomb is accessible, and I was able to photograph it.
Thank you, I will certainly look up those resources.
If I may take the liberty to also reply to your comment, and The Hebrew Bible is not my field, but a book I’ve found very helpful is: Reconstructing Old Testament Theology: After the Collapse of History. Augsburg Fortress, 2005. He has a chapter in there, From Jewish Tradition to Biblical Theology: The Tanakh as a Source for Jewish Theology and Practice.
The Late Leo G Perdue was professor of Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School. I’ve attached his wiki entry in the link.
Thank you, also. I will check them out.
I believe that The Lord, through the saving grace of Jesus, will resurrect me to an eternal life in His Kingdom. That’s a miracle beyond the miraculous. If I believe that, why should I struggle with any of the other lesser supernatural claims of Christianity? If I trust my very existence to Jesus and His Father, why should I not have the much less demanding trust that the Bible is reliable?
Kate, I have absolute respect for your way of being a Christian, and the integrity with which you follow your path. But I do think it is possible to ask whether other paths exist which might work for a different mindset, especially a post modern mindset. We are all different.
I just don’t see how it is possible to believe in a supernatural resurrection but then struggle with anything else in the Bible which is supernatural or seemingly contradicted by science.
The resurrection is (for now) a single, one-off event that if it occurred as described is entirely compatible with the world as we observe it today. Contrast with the accounts of creation in Genesis and the associated timescales from then to now and we are required to believe that the entire observable universe, and everything we know about paleontology, geology, chemistry, biology et al must be a carefully constructed lie to make the world and the universe, and humanity itself, appear far older than it actually is. And God is not a liar. He will not lie in what he… Read more »
I absolutely agree. The Resurrection event – however supernatural, and I truly believe it was – does not disrupt the history of the world, its geology, the existence of the dinosaurs, timelines, cosmological facts dating our universe at over 12 billion years old, the evolution of the human species from earlier primates, from which all humans are descended etc etc. As you say, the resurrection of Jesus Christ – should we believe in it, and I do – is compatible. Yes, it’s supernatural. But then, many people who believe in God would say, well God IS supernatural… there IS a… Read more »
Regarding miracles, I turn again to one of my favorite secular works–Inherit the Wind:
In a child’s power to master the multiplication table there is more sanctity than in all your shouted “Amens!” “Holy Holies!” and “Hosannahs!” An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral. And the advance of man’s knowledge is more of a miracle than any sticks turned to snakes, or the parting of the waters!
I don’t know about other parts of the globe, but in the USA, too many people refer to the Roman Catholic Church as “the Catholic Church” and Roman Catholic believers as “Catholic believers” as if the only universal church is the one whose leader is in Rome. From “official” statements I’ve read from either the American conference of Roman Catholic bishops, or from various bureaucracies in the Roman Catholic Curia, it is clear that the Roman Catholic Church considers itself the one true Christian church, while saying nice things about some of the Eastern Orthodox churches (who somehow still haven’t… Read more »
Peter writes ‘in the USA … people refer to the Roman Catholic Church as “the Catholic Church”’. Also in Ireland. On ecumenical baptism certificates the blurb on the back lists the bodies that accept each other’s baptisms, and the RCC in England and Wales is referred to as Roman Catholic, but the Irish as simply Catholic. I can’t remember how the RCC in Scotland is designated. It’s all institutional vanity for the benefit of those with a proud look and high stomach. I will not suffer them.
As a (rather unwilling) confirmation trainee, I remember asking our vicar why we said, in the creed, that we believed in the holy catholic church, when we were actually Protestants. He replied that the word really means ‘universal’, and that it embraced all persuations and expressions of Christ’s body on earth, not just one particular group. I’ve been quite happy with that explanation ever since. Just out of curiosity, how much authority do the 39 Articles actually have? One, I know says that ‘the bishop of Rome has no authority within the Church of England’ (or something like that), but… Read more »
The big issue with the stipend is that it is paid by Dioceses, many of whom are running out of money, and covid has wiped 10-20% off their income from parishes, possibly more. In the meantime the Church Commissioners have grown the funds of the national church by £2bn over and above inflation in the last 10 years. The CofE has the resources, they just aren’t held by the bodies who pay the clergy.
That’s true but dioceses seem to pay a lot of staff other than clergy.
In regard to the discussion about the historical reliability of the Scriptures, it is my understanding that the vast majority of modern Biblical scholars in academic circles agree that nothing in the Bible was written in its final, current form until many years after the events described–and that includes the Gospels and the Letters. Even Jewish Talmudic experts will tell you the Pentateuch was composed in the post-Babylonian exile period, based on oral traditions. The later prophets and histories were likewise written after that time and consist of attempts to set down the oral legends and histories of a disparate… Read more »
Excellent comment, Pat. I think that post-Talmudic Jewish sages treated the Torah/Pentateuch as a text that could be analyzed for meaning beyond “This is God’s Word. Period.” The Jewish sage Rashi, for example, wrote a commentary in which he postulated that the kosher laws were devised for health and food safety reasons, which is still a popular theory as to how they came into being. Another theory being that the leaders of the exilic community in Babylon devised the laws as a way of keeping the exilic community intact, and thus avoiding disappearance like the Biblical-era nation of Israel after… Read more »
“many years” is, I think, doing a lot of heavy lifting, particularly with regard to some of the epistles. There is a huge difference between the hundreds of years that separate the writing of Genesis from the events it purports to record, and the 20 ish years from the Resurrection to the first epistles, well within living memory.
Again, as I was taught, the earliest Gospel, Mark, was written something like 70 years after the Resurrection…at the very edge of the average lifetime of the period.
Most scholars believe that Mark’s Gospel was written close to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, though some still believe in an earlier date, so 35 years after the Resurrection plus or minus a year or two.
That’s a very 21st century way of looking at things based on a belief that there is a truthful past based scientific analysis. But it’s not the only way of seeing things. John 1:14 talks of the Word becoming flesh. John 1:1 is even more explicit saying that the Word and God are one and the same. So an alternative possible view is that the true past isn’t revealed by scientific analysis but by the Word. I think the idea that the past is some sort of objective fact is a very modern belief. The older view of the past… Read more »
“a very 21st century way of looking at things based on a belief that there is a truthful past based scientific analysis…The older view of the past is that the past is what a culture ‘remembers’ ” I like those sentiments. Even those of us who are interested in documented historical hypotheses need to remember that they are hopefully on the way to a truthful understanding but not necessarily unassailable objective ‘truth’. In the decades following World War 2, there were a number of histories compiled about the war, battles, generals, strategies, new war time technology, political decision making and so… Read more »
I think the same could be said in longer historical contexts about how advances in knowledge lead to re-evaluation of what is fact. Take ‘The Matter of Britain’ and the myths constructed around Arthur, as an iconic ‘hero’ figure in our islands… no doubt many people through the middle ages and even beyond believed the stories has somehow been retrieved and preserved (a bit like the claims of James MacPherson and the poems of Ossian in Scotland)… and as long as there were not contradictory proofs and evidences, that was kind of fine because it was understandable to a degree.… Read more »
Arthurian legends are certainly not my bailiwick. However, I have enjoyed the occasional tale as reader. One I have especially enjoyed, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated into modern English of course. On more familiar ground with regard to religion, myth and ritual are interlocking, a pas de deux. Ritual, including the sacramental life of the church, can help us retain the power and meaning of the mythos in the positive sense of the term, act as a hedge against an impoverished literalism.
I am enjoying your posts here Susannah, I think we are in the same ballpark, especially around Geoffrey of Monmouth. I think he is a useful analogy. But before that, one quick diversion into oral and written history. Geoffrey (c. 1095 – c. 1155) wrote a history of the Kings of Britain which was once regarded as reliable history but is now considered historically suspect. In his history Geoffrey wrote a lot about King Arthur, and he described how the wizard Merlin brought the stones of Stonehenge from the West to be placed in their present position on Salisbury Plain. This would appear… Read more »
Funnily enough, I was going to quote those words of Rod’s. Nobody denies there are really profound insights in the Old Testament, and a lot of that is not bare literal fact, but visionary intuition, use of image, use of myth… communication at the level of that myth, opening up imagination. Some of the images in the Isaiah texts – about water in the wilderness (and so many other images) – speak of spiritual encounters and the ‘watering’/flourishing of the stony human heart. The fundamental ‘baptismal’ imagery for death/burial/being held by God/resurrection to new life and restoration…. as we see… Read more »
The older view of the past is that the past is what a culture ‘remembers’. Beautifully put Kate, and something our culture war warriors might bear in mind when they accuse others of ‘rewriting history’. History being constantly rewritten, first by the victors….
The same basic point made by Yale’s Sterling Professor Hans Frei, in The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative (Yale Press, 1974). At issue is the word ‘history’ and its modern transference into ‘facticity’ and ‘historicism.’ He taught a brilliant seminar ‘The History of History.’ A decade ago there was a good deal of discussion over the distinction between ‘Geshichte’ and ‘Historie.’ The fact that anglophones don’t have such a distinction (instead ‘history’ and ‘myth’) shows the dominance of the natural sciences and the devolution of ‘history’ into ‘historicism’ (cf ‘scientism’), an over-weaning focus on ‘facticity’ and ‘ostensive reference.’ ‘When did Moses… Read more »
‘no one suggests the apostles and evangelists were “taking notes”’ — in Nikos Kazantzakis’s book “The Last Temptation of Christ”, Matthew is doing exactly that, writing his account almost as a nightly diary. I believe the book might even have been filmed – perhaps you have heard of it or even seen it!
It was indeed, to some considerable controversy, by Scorsese in 1988. Unusually, it received nominations for both the Academy Awards and Golden Raspberry Awards. Scorsese recently met Francis and suggested that he would make another biopic on the same subject, presumably to ‘atone’ for the first.
Interestingly, I saw the film as part of a discussion group at my former Episcopal parish on Staten Island, NY, led by the rector. He found the film to be nowhere near as blasphemous as many Roman Catholics and fundamentalists did. He spoke of it as being an interesting look at the humanity of Jesus, saying (and I’m paraphrasing from memory here), “If Jesus was fully human as well as fully divine, it must be admitted that he had the same physical and psychological desires of any healthy adult man. To deny that he might have found the women among… Read more »
Which does rather seem to deny the reality and humanity of asexual individuals. Some people don’t experience sexual attraction, and there’s no indication that they’re necessarily not “healthy”.
Yes there was some ironic understatemt (shall we say?) in my comment! I well remember the controversy and have never seen the film, though read the book many years later.
I meant no serious Biblical scholar has suggested it (and, yes, I am familiar with the filmed version of Kazantzakis work). Anyway, scholars all agree the Matthew Gospel is largely based on Mark’s, with additions and amendments aimed at “Matthew’s” Jewish audience.
I know you meant that, and my comment was a bit tounge-in-cheek, but your comment reminded me of the absurdity (to me) of that view of Matthew. Anyway I guess I am old enough to realize that all such theories are provisional, and that the certainty of scholar is extremely lower than the certainty of daily life. Not all that long ago JEDP was pretty much univerally recognized by scholars as the way the Pentateuch had been written. Certainty is not to be had, only plausibility.
Perhaps the whole construct and intention of a numinous God is to leave us with degrees of uncertainty… and limits to our knowing… because when certainty is lost what we’re left with is love and trust… sometimes we only just cling on, and yet in the end I think it’s the stronger thing (stronger than watertight certainties, I mean)… when between us and God is a cloud of unknowing… and in the face of doubt, a relationship… of trust, of givenness, and love… some where more blessed than Thomas, after all.
I have never read the book nor seen the movie, but my understanding is, as Jesus of Nazareth is dying on the cross, he imagines (or hallucinates?) how his life might have been different — before rejecting that right before he dies. I hope that’s not too simplistic a description of the book. I remember the controversy, which I always found puzzling. To echo Pat O’Neil’s paraphrase of a church rector, and the rector and myself can’t possibly be the only two people who have thought this way, if Jesus of Nazareth was truly fully human as well as fully… Read more »
Personally I went a bit beyond your “if Jesus of Nazareth was truly fully human as well as fully divine, he might very well have had sexual thoughts”, and wondered at the cruelty of a church that seemed entirely comfortable with Jesus being human enough to suffer the physical agony of the passion, yet entirely uncomfortable with the idea of Jesus being human enough to have sexual urges.
I think we also tend to forget that God invented sex and its tender delight, in the way we are made – not only for reproductive purposes, but as people made in the image of God, with capacity for delight and desire, as means of expressing tenderness and devotion towards others. While God may not need physical sex for reproductive purposes, God may know physical and emotional desire for the loveliness God sees in people. Physical expression of tenderness and the rapture of desire, it seems to me, may be an aspect of God. People who experience spiritual ecstasy have… Read more »