Journal of the Regent College Student Association Academic Symposium
Forum Papers Read at the Regent College Student Association Academic Symposium Held on March 5, 2011, at Regent College, Vancouver, BC
TABLE OF CONTENTS Environmental Ethics in the Old Testament: How does a Biblical Understanding of the Imago Dei Inform the Ethics of Human Dominion over Creation? SARAH STEELE
Wealth and Poverty: Neo-classical Economics, Amartya Sen, and Christianity FELSEN PETER BEJNAR
Tom, Dick and Harry ... In the Eyes of Gerry: The Philosophical Roots of Hopkins‟ Poetic Response to the Labourer ROD SCHELLENBERG
Justification: Current Debate and Implications An Assessment of John Piper‟s The Future of Justification and N.T. Wright‟s Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision MATTHEW THOMAS
The Use of Psalm 95 in Hebrews 3: A Deuteronomic Exhortation to Faithfulness RICKY ST-PIERRE
Words and the Word: Metaphor, Analogy and Dialogic Discourse as a Theology of Language EVA BRAUNSTEIN
Anti-Jewish or Jewish-Christian? The apocryphal Gospel of Peter‟s eschatological portrayal of Jesus‟ death DAVID ARNDT
Beautiful Rhetoric: Gregory of Nyssa in „The Beauty of the Infinite‟ JESSICA MORGUN Provided by the Regent College Student Association, 2011. All copyrights belong to the respective authors.
Dear Friends and Fellow Students, Welcome to the RCSA‟s 2011 Annual Forum. Like the Symposium that gave it birth, this publication is the fruit of many people‟s hard work and initiative. Most obviously, there are the authors who bravely and generously submitted their work for review and assessment by you, their peers. It is not an easy thing to open up our joys to others, in hope of hearing our joy echoed but also in fear of others‟ critique or disinterest. So if you enjoy or inspired by anything you read here, please remember to thank and encourage those who have shared it with you. Besides these, there are those who graciously volunteered their time and judgement, for the emotionally-taxing task of reviewing and selecting these essays from the many fine submissions received. Others helped with layout, design, and publicity. Still more laid out chairs, connected microphones, made coffee and snacks, and welcomed guests. Supporting this endeavour, there are the hundreds of students whose faithful payment of student fees has made time and facilities available to make it possible. Those same students, alongside our staff and faculty, have offered themselves as companions, as friends who can be trusted with doubts and tentative theories. The essays presented here are due in no small part to their authors‟ experience of sharing life and study, meals and questions, with friends who have made this a place of safety, encouragement, and affirmation. I hope, therefore, that while this journal brings you valuable insights and fascinating ideas, it will also speak of the year in which those of us who studied at Regent worked through these ideas in the classrooms, coffee shops, and homes of our friends. I hope it will become something you can treasure as part of your “Regent experience,” reminding you of the rich diversity and quality of learning you encountered here. Yours, &c. Ian Walden RCSA VP Academic, 2010-2011
SELECTION COMMITTEE Matthew Dempsey April French Ryan Munn Bethany Sollereder Danae Yankoski
SARAH STEELE Imaging Jesus as Dominion: How does a biblical understanding of the Imago Dei inform the ethics of Human Dominion over Creation?
Lynn White's article, The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis, began the conversation between Christianity and ecological ethics. White argued that medieval Christian anthropocentric and dualistic understandings of humanity's relationship to nature influenced modern science and technology, and permitted their limitless application, causing environmental degradation.1 White‘s accusation that Christianity was the parent of science and technology, and thus responsible for our ecological crisis, called Christians to enter the environmental ethics conversation. Since White's 1968 article much has been written on the subject. Notions of image bearing and dominion are central to the discussion. Understanding what it means for humans to be made in the image of God, in Genesis 1:26-30, illustrates how humans should execute proper dominion over the earth. In this paper I will discuss Walton's and Watts‘ exegesis of Genesis 1:26-30. Then I will discuss White's substantialist conception of the Imago Dei, which leads to tyrannical dominion of creation, as a negative example. As positive examples, I will discuss Hall's and Wright's ontological views of the Imago Dei, which lead to dominion that imitates God's servant-kinship. Lastly, I will discuss themes of image bearing and creation care in other biblical passages, concluding that Jesus, as our ultimate example of image bearing, models dominion as servant-kingship. Genesis 1:26-30 must first be understood within the literary structure of chapter one. John Walton explains that the literary structure of days 1-3 and days 4-6 parallel each other. On days 1-3 God established the functions of the cosmos, light, sky and water, and land and vegetation.2 Then on days 4-6 God created the functionaries of the cosmos, celestial bodies, birds and fish, land animals and humans and installed them in their appropriate position.3 God gave the functionaries roles to perform within the spheres, those being time, cosmic space, and terrestrial space, delineated in days 1-3.4 The literary structure of the chapter as a whole indicates
that humans were created to execute a particular function within creation. Genesis 1:26-30 describes humanity‘s intended functions. Like the other creatures installed on day six, humans are commanded to reproduce and fill the earth. Unlike the other creatures, God gives humans another function relative to the rest of creation: to rule and subdue creation. The Hebrew words used here are the verbs רדה, in verse 26, and כבׁש, in verse 28. The basic meaning of רדהis ―to have dominion, rule, or dominate.‖5 כבׁשmeans ―to subdue, bring into bondage, keep under, or force.‖ 6 Leonard Greenspoon explains that the literal meanings of these verbs are harsh, and would have been understood in light of the absolute monarchs of antiquity. He argues that this is likely due to the complex and difficult task given to humanity. 7 These words Hebrew words insinuate a hierarchal relationship of humans over the rest of non-human creation. However, in order to understand this relationship, we need to understand why ―God created human beings in his own image.‖8 The syntax of verse 26 illuminates the relationship between image bearing and dominion. In verse 26 there are two jussive clauses joined by a simple waw conjunction, ―let us create humans in our image,‖ and ―let them rule.‖ Grammatically this is a relative clause indicating purpose.9 The grammar suggests that God created humans in His image so that humans may rule. The Hebrew syntax indicates that image bearing is what enables humans to execute dominion. Thus, we must understand what it means to bear God's image in order to execute proper dominion. Rikk Watts offers an understanding of image bearing in light of ANE historical/cultural context. Watts explains that Genesis 1, in form and structure, reflects an
Ludwig Köhler, Walter Baumgartner, M. E. J. Richardson, and Johann Jakob Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994), entry for hdr. 6 Robert Laird Harris, Theological Word Book of the Old Testament, 1981, entry for vbk . 7 Leonard Greenspoon, ―From Dominion to Stewardship? The Ecology of Bible Translation‖ Journal of Religion & Society Supplement Series 3 ISSN 19418450 (2008), 162. 8 Genesis 1:27, all Bible verses are taken from the TNIV. 9 Ronald J Williams, , and John C. Beckman, Williams' Hebrew Syntax (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007), 77.
Lynn Jr. White, ―The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis,‖ in Western Man and Environmental Ethics: Attitudes Toward Nature and Technology, ed. Ian G Barbour (Reading Mass: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co, 1973), 26. 2 John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2009), 54. 3 Ibid., 71. 4 For example, the celestial bodies are installed in the cosmic space and play a role in marking time (see Walton, 63). 1
ANE cosmic-temple inauguration.10 Thus, understanding the nature of ANE temple inaugurations gives insight into the meaning of Genesis 1. Watts explains that the last object placed in an ANE temple was the idol or ―the image of the god.‖11 In Genesis 1, God places humans last in the order of functionaries installed in the temple, and makes them in his image. Watts argues that this indicates humans are to function much like an idol would, in that they represent God. Since humans are living beings, not stone or wooden objects, representing God is more than mere physical appearance. Humans are to act like God, imitating his character.12 Similarly, Walton describes image bearing as a ―godlike role‖, in which humanity serves the rest of creation as ―God's vice regent.‖13 God created humans in his image so that they could represent him to the rest of creation. Dominion is a task entrusted to humans for which humanity must mirror God's character in order to fulfill their functionary role in creation. White's article presents notions of dominion which conflict with Walton‘s and Watts‘ exegesis of Genesis 1:2630. White's differing view of dominion reflects his anthropocentric understanding of image bearing. White articulates a substantialist conception of the Imago Dei, where the image of God is a quality humans inherently posses, and renders humans like God, with no need for imitation.14 Consequently dominion becomes a human entitlement, not a human responsibility. 15 White argues that this perspective of dominion in Western Christianity established a dualism between humans and nature, where ―no item in the physical creation had any purpose save to serve man.‖16 This view resembles nominalist metaphysics which also conflicts with the exegesis above. Nominalism asserted a distinction between the natural and the supernatural which removed God from the natural world.17 On the contrary, Watts‘ interpretation embraces a thoroughly Hebraic worldview, which resists dualism, and rather establishes all meaning through the acting of God in creation.18 When nominalists removed God from creation, meaning-making fell upon the human mind.19 Instead of being part of creation, the person became its source of meaning, which led to a distinction between humans and nature.20 White‘s perspective, like nominalism, sees image bearing as an extrinsic imposition on humanity rather than an ontological reality. White's controversial article provoked a Christian response, while also creating a platform on which Christian
scholars could enter the ecological ethics conversation within their own sphere of expertise. 21 White argues that how people treat their environment depends on what they think of themselves in relation to their surroundings. Therefore, human ecology is influenced by religion, since religion shapes beliefs about nature and human destiny. 22 White argues that applying more science and technology will not solve our ecological problems.23 Rather, a viable solution must involve religion because religion shapes our ideas about the relationship between humanity and nature, which White argues needs re-interpretation by ―not only Christians but neoChristians, and post-Christians.‖24 All western society needs to assess the worldviews which govern our relationship to nature, critically reflecting on where they come from, how they shape our actions, and how our actions affect creation. Christians must engage in the ecological conversation with confidence as, in light of White‘s article, religious worldviews are not only invited but needed. Douglas John Hall and Christopher J. H. Wright are two Christian scholars who have contributed to the ecological ethics conversation, and argue for an understanding and application of dominion that is contrary to White's perspective. Hall and Wright depict an ontological understanding of the Imago Dei, making dominion a way humans image God, whose dominion is best understood as servant-kingship. Douglas Hall argues for a relational and ontological conception of Imago Dei.25 Image bearing is the essence of our human being, which is understood in connection to our human createdness for relationship, with God, one another, and nature, or our ―ontology of communion.‖26 These three relationships are not hierarchal or distinct. They are ―inextricably bound up with one another,‖ and in turn reflect the love nature of the Trinity. 27 Thus, humans were made in the God's image in order to exist in right relationship with God and his creation. Since relationship requires action, Hall argues that the image of God, though essential to who we are, is expressed as something we were created to do. It should be understood in the verbal sense of ―imaging God.‖28 The image of God gives humanity its vocation, which is to mirror God. Dominion is the expression of that vocation in relationship to nature.29 Human dominion over nature must
Rikki E Watts, ―Jesus: The First and Last Earth-Keeper,‖ in Creation & Gospel: from the Garden to the Ends of the Earth. Audio recording, Regent College, Vancouver, BC, 2001. 11 Rikki E. Watts, ―Jesus: The First and Last Earth-Keeper.‖ 12 Ibid. 13 Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One, 68. 14 Douglas John Hall, Imaging God: Dominion As Stewardship, Library of Christian stewardship (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1986), 89. 15 Ibid. 16 Lynn Jr. White, ―The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis‖, in. Western Man and Environmental Ethics; Attitudes Toward Nature and Technology, ed. Ian G Barbour (Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co, 1973) 21. 17 Michael Allen Gillespie, The Theological Origins of Modernity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 16. 18 Watts. 19 Louis K. Dupré, Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), 3. 20 Louis K. Dupré, Passage to Modernity, 3.
White's article presents an understanding of dominion that conflicts with Ancient Israelite worldviews and contemporary biblical scholarship. However, the notions of dualism and nominalism, along with deism reflected in White's conception of Christian metaphysics, have shaped much of Christian thinking since the enlightenment. These ideas have shaped modern Western thinking, and in turn Western Christianity. In addition to calling Christians to acknowledged their contribution to the environmental crisis, Whites' article indirectly challenges Christians to re-assess what shapes their theology and practice: modern thought, or a close intelligent reading of scripture? 22 Lynn Jr. White, ―The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis,‖ 24. 23 Ibid., 27. 24 Ibid., 28. 25 Hall, Imaging God, 98. 26 Ibid., 137 27 Hall, 129. 28 Ibid., 58. 29 Ibid.,104.
reflect God's loving-kindness, since God's sovereignty is a function of his love. 30 Wright also understands the Imago Dei as an ontological reality. He argues against an adjectival understanding of the Imago Dei because it does not describe a quality we possess. Wright argues that the Imago Dei is a dimension of our creation. Thus, it should be understood adverbially, describing the way God made us, and what we are. Wright argues that to be human is to be the image of God. Dominion over creation is not what the image of God is. Dominion over creation is what being made in the image of God enables us to do.31 Wright explains that the nature of the Hebrew words associated with dominion, רדהand כבׁש, are used to denote notions of kingship. Since humans must mirror God, human kingship should reflect God's kingship. Human dominion is ―a delegated form of God's own kingly authority over the whole of his creation.‖32 Therefore, human dominion over creation is intended to be an exercise of kingship that reflects God's own kingship. Wright argues that the Old Testament's model of kingship is one of mutual servanthood. This is shown in the instructions to King Rehoboam, in 1Kings 12:7, that explain, ―If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them... they will always be your servants.‖ The main duty of the king was to serve his people, care for their needs, provide justice and protection, and avoid oppression, violence and exploitation.33 A common metaphor in ancient Israel for the relationship of the king to his people was that like a shepherd to his sheep. The sheep need to follow the shepherd, but the shepherd exists to care for the sheep. Ezekiel chapter 34 is an example of this metaphor. Ezekiel denounces the past kings of Israel describing them as shepherds who had exploited their flock, showing no compassion or conscience.34 Human dominion over creation should exhibit the care and protection of a shepherd, in the same way that the Old Testament's model of kingship is servanthood.35 Servanthood as the model for the human/nature relationship is reflected throughout the Bible. The following verses show that though humans have a special role over nature, they are mutually dependent on nature, and thus must care for it. Genesis 2:15 describes humanity's function in creation using the verbs, עבדand ׁשמר. The word עבדas a verb means ―to work or serve,‖ and as a noun means ―a slave or servant.‖36 ׁשמרmeans ―to guard, keep, or watch over,‖ or ―to care for, preserve, or protect.‖ It can also mean ―to be on guard,‖ like a ―night watchman‖ or ―guard.‖37 These words express servanthood as a responsibility over creation, much like Wright's metaphor of shepherd-like dominion.
Greenspoon argues for the importance of not blurring the meanings of the two roots, as the Hebrew does not warrant it, and it limits what the words convey as they function together.38 Greenspoon argues that these words are best translated ―to work‖ and ―to care for.‖ This implies that humans must first work the land so that it is fruitful, then care for the land so that is does not revert to is earlier status.39 Greenspoon‘s translation reflects a relationship of mutual servanthood between humans and nature, as humans must work/serve the land in order for it to serve humans food. God's law shows Israel how to be his human representatives, which included laws ensuring proper care for land. The Sabbath year law in Exodus 23:12 and Leviticus 25:2-5 commands rest for the fields every seven years. Greenspoon explains that though this practice in the long term benefits humans, the ―biblical text gives value to the land as a living organism, kin to humans and animals in requiring a periodic time out.‖40 The Sabbath laws inform God's people that animals and land must rest, because even though they serve humanity they have limits in their ability to serve, and must rest for our good, indicating a mutual relationship. Hosea 4:1-3 also depicts a mutual relationship, framed in the negative. Hosea tells of the detrimental effects on creation resulting from Israel failing to reflect God's ways. Hosea says that because ―there is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgement of God in the land,‖ only the breaking of God's commands, ―the land dries up, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fist in the sea are swept away.‖ 41 This shows a direct correlation between Israel living out God's instructions and the wellbeing of non-human creation. When humans fail to represent God, creation suffers. The root describing the earth's action in Hosea 4:3, אבל, literally means ―to mourn or lament, as in grief or distress.‖42 As in verse three, אבלis often used in parallelism with words that denote waste/dryness, taking on a similar meaning: ―dries up.‖43 However, this passage can be translated literally ―the land mourns.‖44 This notion of creation mourning as a result of humanity's failure is present in the New Testament. In Romans 8:19-23, ―creation waits‖ and ―groans‖ for the restoration of the ―children of God.‖ Creation is dependent on humanity representing God, but the image bearers need redemption. Colossians 1:15 names Jesus ―the image of the invisible God.‖ Hebrews 1:3 states Jesus is ―the exact representation of God's being.‖ In light of these verses, Watts calls Jesus ―the image bearer par excellence.‖45 Humans must look to Jesus for our model of what it means to image God. Jesus' model of kingship is servanthood, most clearly depicted in Jesus washing the disciples' feet.
Ibid., 199 Christopher J. H. Wright, Old Testament Ethics for the People of God (Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-Varsity Press, 2004), 119 32 Ibid., 122. 33 Christopher J. H. Wright, Old Testament Ethics, 122. 34 Ibid., 35 Ibid., 126. 36 Ludwig, Köhler et al. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon, electronic version, entry for עבד. 37 Ibid., entry for ׁשמר.
Greenspoon. ―From Stewardship to Dominion,‖ 165. Ibid. 40 Greenspoon, 168. 41 Hosea 4:1-3 42 Köhler, entry for אבל. 43 Norman C. Habel, and Peter L. Trudinger. Exploring Ecological Hermeneutics (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2008), 58. 44 The NET, ESV, and NRSV go with this translation. 45 Watts. 38
Philippians 2:6-8 articulates this best explaining, he ―who being the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking on the very nature of a servant... he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross.‖ Jesus' life and death models God's self-giving love for humanity to image. This nature must govern our dominion over creation so that we reflect Jesus' servant-kingship. Although image bearing is not about physical appearance, there is something to say concerning how Jesus' physical body looked different in his resurrected or perfected form. John 20:15 gives the only description of the chance in his physical difference. Here Mary mistakes Jesus for the gardener. Once again we see Jesus as a servant, though this time a new and specific kind - a gardener. This small detail is interesting, in connection with Jesus' preferred name for himself, ―Son of Man,‖ or ―Son of Adam,‖ which essentially means ―human-one.‖46 Jesus is the Second Adam, and in his resurrected form he too is a gardener like the first Adam.47 Perhaps what it means to be fully human, and thus mirror God, is to look like one who tends the earth. Walton's and Watts' exegesis of Genesis 1:26-30 illustrate how being made in the image of God enables humans to perform their functionary role of dominion over the earth. Hall‘s and Wright's ontological understandings of the Imago Dei require humans to image God's dominion, best understood as servant-kingship. Hall's and Wright's relational ontological perspectives oppose White's substantialist depiction of the Imago Dei, which removes the character of God from image bearing and his immanence in creation, and leads to the dangerous dualism of humanity and nature that fuels our ecological crisis. These notions are not biblical. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible tells of a transcendent God who, out of the outpouring of his love, created a good creation. This God ―remains immanent in creation through interactions within it, and is working in a dynamic process towards its completion.‖48 The incarnation is the greatest example of God's immanence in creation. The biblical accounts of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection teach humanity how to participate in God's redemption of creation through imaging God's servant-kingship in our dominion over it. Humans who image God should not add to our ecological crisis, rather, like the resurrected Jesus, they should resemble gardeners.
Wright, Christopher J. H, Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament. Downers Grove (Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 148. 47 C. H. Spurgeon, ―Supposing Him to be the Gardener,‖ A sermon delivered onDecember 31st, 1882, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, accessed on 16 April 2010, available from: http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/1699.htm 48 Colin E. Gunton, Christ and Creation (The Didsbury lectures. Eugene, Or: Wipf and Stock, 2005), 78.
Bibliography Dupré, Louis K. Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993. Gillespie, Michael Allen. The Theological Origins of Modernity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008. Greenspoon, Leonard. From Dominion to Stewardship? The Ecology of Bible Translation. Journal of Religion & Society, Supplement Series 3 ISSN 1941-8450, p. 159 -183. Gunton, Colin E. Christ and Creation. The Didsbury lectures. Eugene, Or: Wipf and Stock, 2005. Habel, Norman C. The Earth Story in the Psalms and the Prophets. The Earth Bible, Vol. 4. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001. Habel, Norman C., and Peter L. Trudinger. Exploring Ecological Hermeneutics. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2008. Hall, Douglas John. Imaging God: Dominion As Stewardship. Library of Christian stewardship. Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1986. Harris, Robert Laird. Theological Word Book of the Old Testament. 1981. Electronic version. Köhler, Ludwig, Walter Baumgartner, M. E. J. Richardson, and Johann Jakob Stamm. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994. Electronic version. Spurgeon, C. H. ―Supposing Him to be the Gardener.‖ A sermon delivered onDecember 31st, 1882, At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. Accessed on 16 April 2010. Online: http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/1699.htm Walton, John H. The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2009. Watts, Rikki E. ―Jesus: The First and Last Earth-Keeper.‖ In Creation & Gospel: from the Garden to the Ends of the Earth. Audio recording. Regent College, Vancouver, BC, 2001. White, Lynn Jr., ―The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis.‖ In Western Man and Environmental Ethics: Attitudes Toward Nature and Technology. Ed. Barbour, Ian G Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co, 1973, Pp. 19-30. Williams, Ronald J., and John C. Beckman. Williams' Hebrew Syntax. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007. Wright, Christopher J. H. Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1995. ________. Old Testament Ethics for the People of God. Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-Varsity Press, 2004.
FELSEN PETER BEJNAR Wealth and Poverty: Neo-classical Economics, Amartya Sen, and Christianity
What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul? -Jesus the Christ
economic models of wealth and poverty, especially when work on the margins of neo-classicalism are included, are helpful descriptions/partial descriptions; however, they lack a vision of what the purpose or meaning of wealth is and they fail to call us to the koinonia which is the goal of the Christian life. Therefore, the neo-classical model cannot be the primary mode in which Christians understand poverty and wealth. Christianity relativizes wealth and poverty, suggesting that money is not a fundamental category: poverty does not render a person powerless, nor wealth render a person beyond the need of help.
Given that the modern discipline of economics was launched by a book entitled The Wealth of Nations and that Enlightenment rationality has reigned over this discipline for the subsequent 234 years, it should come as no surprise that the concept of wealth has been thoroughly dissected. In fact, one pillar in Adam Smith‘s discipline founding schema was that the ‗wealth‘ of a nation consisted in great productive capacity, and not piles of silver or gold. This essay will begin by examining how wealth and poverty are currently understood within the reigning orthodoxy of economics. This orthodoxy, neo-classical theory, aspires to be a mathematically rigorous modeling of individual choices (Microeconomics) and how those choices aggregate into national and international economies (Macroeconomics). We will trace the notion of personal wealth from its conversion into utility (and utility‘s definition in assumptions about the individual), to the Macroeconomic debate over how to solve the Global South‘s low GDP, i.e. their poverty. Before considering a Christian response to the neo-classical treatment of wealth and poverty, we will explore the Welfare economics of Indian economist Amartya Sen, who straddles the line between economic heterodoxy and orthodoxy, critiques the ―anti-ethicalism‖49 of mainstream economic thought and its reliance on a poorly conceived notion of utility, in an attempt to shift economic thought toward benefiting the world‘s poor. We will conclude by analyzing both the neoclassical perspective in light of one passage from the New Testament‘s teaching on wealth and poverty. My thesis is that—while limited—neo-classical
Neo-Classical Microeconomics: What is wealth? The neo-classical approach to wealth and poverty splits nicely into economics‘ two subdisciplines: Microeconomics and Macroeconomics. Neo-classical Microeconomics stands at the end of a long debate about what determines the value (worth, just price, etc.) of anything which can be bought or sold. Once consumer preference was secured as part of the answer to that question, Rational Choice theory emerged to model those preferences. These Microeconomic conclusions are assumed by Macroeconomists who focus exclusively on how wealth can be generated and poverty eliminated, particularly the poverty of the Global South. Alfred Marshall, whose 1890 Principles of Economics systematized contemporary economics and is the beginning of neo-classical theory, set the modern paradigm for conceptualizing the value of a good. A good‘s value is its price, specifically whatever price at which people are willing both to sell and to buy. 50
Interestingly, given the strong connection between economics and utilitarianism, an item‘s value came to be regarded as the sum of everyone‘s (both the producer‘s—quantified by a supply curve—and consumer‘s—quantified by a demand curve) evaluation of it.
Amartya Sen, On Ethics and Economics, (New York: Basil Blackwell, 1987), 31.
The assumption under the producer‘s half of this equation is simple: in the long run, goods will be sold for what its costs to produce them. Modeling the consumers‘ willingness to buy however is more complex. Rational Choice theory51 is the name for the collection of assumptions about human preference which are the basis for neo-classical demand curves, the mathematical representations of 'willingness to buy' which are more fundamental to present economic theory than any conception of how or why they model the world as well as they do. Rational Choice theory sees everyone as a ―utility maximizer‖ whose preferences are exogenous, i.e. ‗unexplained‘ input into theory, but must conform to certain mathematically precise criteria. Microeconomics and Behavior, a standard undergraduate text, lists Completeness52, More-IsBetter, Transitivity53, and Convexity54 as the criteria to which these preferences must conform to be able to model them.55 The More-Is-Better assumption formalizes the economically sacred notion of scarcity, i.e. everyone has limited resources but unlimited wants, and so in a sense is ―poor.‖ Thus, microeconomics assumes away the distinction between poverty and wealth: everyone has what they have, and they get some utility from it, but it is never enough. In addition to the assumptions regarding preferences, two conventions—which have become, perhaps illegitimately, universally accepted without question—are central to the Rational Choice model. One is the acceptance of a vacuous definition of utility: ―a measure of that which is sought to be maximized in any situation involving a choice.‖56 This definition of utility is based on most economists‘ following Lionel Robbin‘s 1935 ―categorical denial of the possibility of interpersonal comparisons,‖57 confident that ultimately one mind is inscrutable to another. Thus, one popular interpretation of utility relies solely on ―revealed preferences,‖ i.e. whatever people actually choose is what gives them the most utility.
The second is ―to view the consumer‘s choice as being one between a particular good—call it X—and an amalgam of other goods, denoted Y. This amalgam is generally called the composite good. By convention, the units of the composite good are defined so that its price is $1 per unit. This convention enables us to think of the composite good as the amount of income the consumer has left over after buying the good X.‖58 Thus, we are able—even if we cannot rigorously define utility—to measure it. It is no surprise then, that the terms ‗welfare‘ and ‗utility‘ have totally eclipsed ‗wealth‘ as the subject of microeconomics.59
Neo-classical Macroeconomics: How do we solve poverty? Adam Smith‘s axiom that the wealth of a nation is its productive capacity and not its precious metal reserves is embodied in the ubiquitous trust that Gross Domestic Product measures a country‘s economic well-being. This well-being, of course, is understood as the sum of the individual utilities of the population, and since utility can be approximated in money, these individual utilities can be summed. ―Because a society‘s ability to provide economic satisfaction for its members ultimately depends on the quantities of goods and services being produced, real GDP provides a better measure of economic well-being than nominal GDP.‖60 ―The goal of GDP is to summarize in a single number the dollar value of economic activity in a given period of time….One way to view GDP is as the total income of everyone in the economy. Another way to view GDP is as the total expenditure on the economy‟s output of goods and services.‖61 ―Gross domestic product (GDP) is the market value of all final goods and services produced within an economy in a given period of time”62
Frank, 67 credits Alfred Marshall with originating this convention. 59 However, this did not happen until the term wealth had been extended, specifically by economists, to included not just the traditional meaning, ―Prosperity consisting in abundance of possessions; „worldly goods‟, valuable possessions, esp. in great abundance: riches, affluence‖ but the subtly distinct ―A collective term for those things the abundant possession of which (by a person or a community) constitutes riches, or „wealth‟ in the popular sense.‖ The OED goes on to note, ―There has been much controversy among economists as to the precise extent of meaning in which the term should be used.‖ Oxford English Dictionary, ―Wealth.‖ 60 N. Gregory Mankiw, Macroeconomics, 5th ed. (New York: Worth Publishers, 2003), 22. 61 Ibid., 16. 62 Ibid., 18-19.
Also called, ―theory of rational consumer choice,‖ etc. Robert Frank, Microeconomics and Behavior. 6th ed. (Madison, WI: McGraw Hill Irwin, 2006), 62. 52 Individuals always know if they prefer one option to the other, or if they are indifferent between them. 53 As in mathematics, a preference for A over B and B over C, implies a preference for A over C. 54 i.e. people prefer a mix of goods. The term refers to the shape of a curve comparing preference for the two items. 55 This list is longer than some, e.g. Wikipedia neglects to mention More-Is-Better or Convexity, but suggests that some models may include perfect information and reasoning ability. ―Rational choice theory,‖ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rational_choice_theory. 56 The New Oxford American Dictionary, ―Utility.‖ 57 Kenneth Arrow et al., Handbook of Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 1 (New York: Elsevier, 2002), 6. 51
Despite rising pressure from Institutional economists63 to explain the prosperity of Western Countries, Neo-classical macroeconomics focuses on identifying ways that markets need the guiding hand of government or need to be left alone in order to maximize GDP, the basic measure of economic welfare of a society. 64 Poverty and inequality—which is consistently discussed with poverty and when poverty is conceived of as relative to society‘s wealth and not as absolute measure of whether basic needs are satisfied, is taken to be the broader category of which poverty is a special case—are assumed to be solvable, within wealthy societies, by government action. In fact, Part X of book The Political Economy of Inequality is simply entitled ―Responses to Inequality: The Welfare State.‖65 Thus, the majority of economic thought on poverty examines ‗under-developed‘ economies. Robert Solow‘s Growth model provides the background assumptions for these Neo-classical treatments of global poverty. This model assumes that the (a) productivity of each worker, which determines (b) the economy‘s output ( =income), which in turn determines (c) consumption, is based on the amount of capital per worker.66 Thus, the basic prescription for impoverished nations is capital accumulation.67 Obviously reality is more complex than the Solow Growth model, and development economics has emerged to offer explanations for why the Third World has remained poor despite capital inflows. Even as different economists offer different categorizations of the explanations (and solutions), a number of common concepts reappear. However, as development economists Paul Collier and William Easterly stress, despite more than half a century of trying to explain and fix world poverty, the West still doesn‘t know how to solve poverty practically, as evidenced by poverty‘s continued existence.
Common economic concepts used to explain global poverty include: bad institutions (especially government),68 various kinds of geography,69 inept aid, and unfair terms of trade given by the West.70 However, despite relative agreement on the kinds of disadvantages poor countries face, there is sometimes caustic disagreement among advocates of the Right, Left, and Center. For example, Collier‘s Centrist The Bottom Billion clearly juxtaposes the two ends of the spectrum even as he castigates both: ―The left needs to move on from selfflagellation and idealized notions of developing nations…. The international institutions are not part of a conspiracy against poor countries; they represent beleaguered efforts to help….At present the clarion call for the left is Jeffery Sach‘s book The End of Poverty. Much as I agree with Sach‘s passionate call for aid, aid alone will not solve the problems of the bottom billion—we need to use a wider range of policies…. The right needs to move on from the notion of aid as part of the problem…It has to disabuse itself of the belief that growth is something that is always there for the taking…It has to face up to the fact that these countries are stuck, that competing with China and India is going to be difficult… At present the clarion call for the right is economist William Easterly‘s book The White Man‟s Burden. Easterly is right to mock the delusions of the aid lobby. But just as Sachs exaggerated the payoff of aid, Easterly exaggerates the downside and again neglects the scope for other policies. We are not as impotent and ignorant as Easterly seems to think.‖71 In summary, neo-classical Microeconomics says that the goal of economic life, wealth if you will, is ever
Who are focused on detailing how various economic and cultural institutions and customs effect economic production and distribution. 64 This is unsurprising given that modern macroeconomics is generally thought to begin with J. M. Keynes‘ work The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money which examines the market failures behind the Great Depression and what government could do about them. 65 Frank Ackerman et al. eds. (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2000), xvi. N.B. No other solutions are offered despite the plural in the title. 66 Mankiw, Chapters 7 and 8. 67 Jeffery Sachs suggests that with insufficient supplies of any of six different types of capital (Business, Human, Knowledge, Infrastructure, Natural, and Public Institutions) nations are stuck in the ―poverty trap‖ of being unable to save (not having enough even for consumption) and therefore accumulate capital. The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. (New York: The Penguin Press, 2005).
But also cultural norms, corruption, etc. William Easterly, The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good, Fifth Printing. (Penguin Press HC, The, 2006). 69 e.g. the ‗natural resource trap,‘ landlocked with bad neighbors, malaria in the tropics, mountains or other transportation barriers. 70 Joseph E. Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003) sees the International Financial Institutions, esp. the IMF, as extremely biased toward the West, e.g. giving credit on bad terms. Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It (Oxford University Press, USA, 2008) notes hasty transitions to independence and arbitrary colonial borders. Easterly cites unreasonable universalizing of economics policy, and nonaccountable aid. 71 Collier, 191.
increasing utility/welfare, measured in the dollars needed to buy the goods and services, whose consumption provides said utility. Macroeconomics reifies this into GDP, which if sufficient can be redistributed by government to eliminate poverty, and if insufficient must be built up by increasing a country‘s capital stock and economic efficiency. However, not only are the exact steps toward increased GDP for poor county‘s subject to disagreement, but so is the degree to which we can identify those steps and therefore make poverty alleviating macro level prescriptions.
Optimality is social a goal with can command universal assent. As a Cambridge trained economist, Sen certainly appreciates the ability of market exchanges to improve welfare; as he explains the ‗Fundamental Theorem of Welfare Economics‘ and how it uses Pareto Optimality to justify the neo-classical belief in the goodness of free markets, he notes both the limited scope of this theory and its power to explain the real benefits which free markets provide: One important proposition in this small territory is the so-called ‗Fundamental Theorem of Welfare Economics‘, which relates the results of market equilibrium under perfect competition with Pareto optimality. It shows that under certain conditions (in particular, no ‗externality‘. i.e. no interdependences that are external to the market), every perfectly competitive equilibrium is Pareto optimal, and with some other conditions (in particular no economies of large scale), every Pareto optimal social state is also a perfectly competitive equilibrium, with respect to some set of prices (and for some initial distribution of people‘s endowments). This is a remarkably elegant result, and one that also gives deep insights into the nature of the working of the price mechanism, explaining the mutually advantageous nature of trade, production and consumption geared to the pursuit of self interest.75
‘Ethical’ Welfare Economics: What is poverty? The subdiscipline of Welfare economics is the ―critical scrutiny of the performance of actual and/or imagined economic systems, as well as … the critique, design and implementation of alternative economic policies,‖72 and this is done by determining the degree of ―well-being‖/utility of the members of society under each alternative. In general, Welfare economists use the tools of Microeconomics as they search for the socially optimal—maximum prosperity and minimum poverty—arrangement of economic affairs. Deeply concerned with human flourishing, particularly for the poorest, Amartya Sen laments how the substantive/ethical nature of this subdiscipline has been excluded from mainstream economics for the last seventy years.73 Sen argues an ―anti-ethicalism‖ has caused ―interpersonal comparisons of utility [to be] eschewed‖ and that the remaining Welfare economics ―has been put into an arbitrarily narrow box‖.74 This box is Pareto Optimality. First introduced by late 19th century Italian Economist Vilfredo Pareto, Pareto Optimality or Efficiency is that state of economics distribution in which no one can be made better without someone being made worse off; presumably it comes at the end of a long process of exchanges whereby society moves to states where one or more people are better off than they were before and no one is made worse off. Since everyone has, by definition, either the same or higher utility, no one can rationally object to moving toward a more Pareto Optimal state, and Pareto
Sen, unlike neo-classicalism however, is not content to stop there. He caricatures neo-classical economists as hiding behind the Fundamental Theorem of Welfare economics and saying ―Even if our assumptions are overly demanding and unrealistic, look what we‘ve proved. We don‘t need to argue about ethics, we have rigorous results.‖76 Out of his refusal to exclude ethical content from economics, Sen, despite seeing its power to describe the world, ultimately rejects utility as the appropriate evaluation of well-being. ―It is fair to say that formal economics has not been very interested in the plurality of
Arrow, 1. ―The position of welfare economics in modern economic theory has been a rather precarious one. In classical political economy there was no sharp boundaries drawn between welfare economic analysis and other types of economic investigation. But as suspicion of the use of ethics in economics has grown, welfare economics has appeared to be increasingly dubious. It has been put into an arbitrarily narrow box separated from the rest of economics.‖ Sen, On Ethics and Economics, 29. 74 Ibid., 31, 29. 73
Ibid., 35. Sen seems to see this as an unfortunate result of bad philosophy. At least one internet commentator, sees a less honest agenda: Welfare economics embraced formalism with ethics excluded by assumption ―because the profession of economics, especially after 1970, did not want to talk about distribution, but did want to make the best possible case against state intervention in the economy.‖ John J Emerson, ―Amartya Sen: Rationality and Freedom‖ http://www.idiocentrism.com/sen.htm accessed March 11, 2010. 76
focus in judging a person‘s states and interests. In fact, often enough the very richness of the subject matter has been seen as an embarrassment. There is a powerful tradition in economic analysis that tries to eschew the distinctions and make do with one simple measure of a person‘s interest and its fulfillment. That measure is often called ‗utility‘. The term utility does, of course, have meanings of its own, defined by utilitarians. It was used quite rigorously by utilitarian economists such as Edgeworth, Marshall, Pigou, Ramsey and Robertson. This took the form of seeing utility as satisfaction or happiness (in line with classical utilitarianism), or as desire-fulfillment (in line with much of modern utilitarianism). But in much of modern economics ‗utility‘ serves other purposes too, standing in for whatever the person maximizes (or can be seen as maximizing) [revealed preference], or simply for the person‘s well-being or advantage no matter how that is judged. This loose usage has had a confounding influence on economic analysis. Mathematical exactness of formulation has proceeded hand in hand with remarkable inexactness of content.‖ (his italics)77
human welfare. While Sen admits that there is no guarantee that all third parties will rank capacities similarly, a reasonable dialog regarding them, unlike utility preferences, is possible. Sen himself does not argue for a particular evaluation of capacities but suggests that for a significant number of capacities ―the valuation problem, may well be trivial,‖79 e.g. everyone can agree that being fed is better than starving. ―But in other cases,‖ he admits, ―there will be conflicts, and the issue of valuation may be quite a substantial one.‖80 In practice, contra to neo-classical economists‘ sensibilities regarding interpersonal comparisons, Sen‘s work has not been endlessly held up in debates regarding the ranking of capacities. No less efficient organization than the UN has adopted a version of capacity measure in the Human Development Index of its annual Human Development Report.81 Towards a Christian Vision of Wealth and Poverty So far we have seen how neo-classical economics defines the value of everything (and implicitly wealth, which is, in common sense terms, a large sum of value) in terms of utility which is understood thorough the technically elegant but philosophically poor Rational Choice framework; utility is then mostly silently converted into monetary terms, which leads to a focus on GDP at the national and international level. While poverty for individuals in rich countries is dismissed as more of a political and social than economic problem, economists are still trenchantly debating what to do about the low GDP of the Global South, especially Africa. We went on to note how Amartya Sen‘s concern for the poor drove him from the amorality of Rational Choice utility and propelled him to develop economic measures which attempt to be more holistic than GDP. Neo-classical economics has tended to be either much maligned or uncritically accepted within Christian circles. However, with Sen, we can see that such a polarized response is not necessary. He is a Noble prize winning economist, who nevertheless challenges some of economics‘ most dearly held assumptions. It remains to be seen, however, if his concerns will be part of a welcome paradigm shift or will become merely one of a number of other challenges to be more or less fully be assimilated into the neo-classical program.
―The real problem lies, partly, in trying to transfer the established and defended concern with ‗utility‘ in the traditional sense to a similar – unestablished and undefended – with the newly-defined ‗utility‘. Further, there is a serious difficulty in giving several distinct meanings to utility at the same time, and thereby making the implicit empirical assumption that they all would in reality coincide with each other.‖78 In Commodities and Capabilities, Sen outlines a method for quantifying a person‘s wellbeing not based on utility. He suggests comparisons of (i) ―functionings,‖ i.e. person‘s state of being and doing (e.g. buying sufficient food or not; employed, unemployed) or (ii) ―capacities,‖ i.e. the sets of functionings (states of life) that are available for a person to choose (e.g. whether they can buy food if they choose, what kinds of jobs are available). These functionings and capacities are to be evaluated by a ―third party,‖ as to which are more important to
Ibid., 30. Ibid. 81 ―Human Development Index,‖ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Development_Index.
Amartya Sen, Commodities and Capabilities, (USA: Oxford University Press, 1999), 2-3. 78 Ibid., 3.
How then should Christians understand wealth and poverty? As many evangelicals have pointed out in response to a perceived misconception, the Bible is full of references to poverty—and to God‘s concern for the poor. It will of course be impossible to adequately address this wealth of material. Therefore, after a few analytical comments, we will examine Paul‘s financial appeal in 2 Corinthian 8. The neo-classical theory‘s conception of value as the intersection between what sellers and buyers think a particular good is worth in terms of utility expressed in dollars does indeed accurately describes part of how things are valuable to us, and understanding the logic behind it, which so many economists find utterly compelling and so many noneconomists reject as foolish, can indeed lead us to making better decisions and more fully understanding the decisions of others. Economic education trains one to ask what is the incentive of someone choosing a particular action. It takes as its starting point the idea that everyone is able to make choices and that whatever choice they make has a logic behind it—at least to them. This is congruous with the traditional Christian understanding of offering to others what we desire for ourselves (an assumption of rationality) and the notion that behind every sin is a particular good which is sought in a perverted way. However, this measure of truth in economics in no way excuses the myopia wherein so many economists see only individuals making autonomous choices, which cannot be rationally critiqued by anyone. The discipline is justly pilloried for an unjustified and unnecessary abdication from ethical concerns via the overly restrictive Rational Choice anthropology. As one internet commentator wisely puts it:
include the wisdom regarding the importance of incentives and limits to the satisfaction of competing preferences captured in neo-classical economics,83 it must also include the realities of ignorance, incontinence, ambivalence, and sin. Theoretical changes are insufficient. Second Corinthians 8:1-15, here quoted in full, challenges the neo-classical paradigm by relativising monetary wealth. Paul calls for mutual sharing between rich and poor as the fundamental way they should relate: We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part (koinonia) in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written,
The fact that justice is not part of the subject matter of economics means that people who use economics as their main window on reality will behave randomly or indifferently with regard to justice, but rationally with regard to self-interest, and in general will tend to be unjust. I do not regard this as a hypothetical or theoretical problem, but as an actual one.82 As Christians, we must insist that justice—which recognizes the distinction between needs and wants, as Paul assumes below--is a legitimate topic for economic discussion. Furthermore, while a comprehensive theological anthropology must
In addition to economic wisdom, a theological anthropology must accommodate the truths in every social science. For example, the anthropological insight that while everyone is within a tradition, we wants to see themselves as free to make choices and to believe the choices we make are good ones. Thanks to Jessica Binger for this bit of wisdom.
John J Emerson, ―Amartya Sen: Rationality and Freedom‖ http://www.idiocentrism.com/sen.htm accessed March 11, 2010. 82
Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. (2 Corinthians 8:1-15, ESV) Paul calls for a sharing of different kinds of resources around the global church. There are more ways of being wealthy than having money in order to maximize your utility. This biblical vision of material wealth as a means—to bless others for deepening bounds of love—not an end in and of itself, gives hope that those without wealth can have meaningful lives. The poor are not rendered impotent, nor are the wealthy able to dismiss the poor. Paul sees how different parts of Christ‘s body can embody His sacrifice for one another. While koinonia is a sharing of physical means (Common Ownership, Acts 2:42), it is also a sharing of spiritual means (Eucharist, 1 Cor. 10:16). The church in Jerusalem sent out the message of the Gospel, and the Greek churches can now offer material help. As important as arguments concerning whether private property is Christian or what level of redistribution constitutes justice are, the fundamental lesson here is that money is not the point, sharing, fellowship, relationship, koinonia is. As Shane Claiborne, of New Monasticism fame, said in a chapel address to Wheaton College, ―It‘s not that most Christians don‘t care about the poor. Its that most Christians don‘t know anyone who is poor.‖ As we grabble with our wealth—so vast in historical terms—and our poverty—so existential for graduate students and professional ministers, we can use the tools of neoclassical economics, but we must be careful to remember that they cannot capture the whole truth of what it means to be rich or poor.
Bibliography Ackerman, Frank et al. eds. The Political Economy of Inequality (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2000). Arrow, Kenneth et al., Handbook of Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 1. New York: Elsevier, 2002, Collier, Paul. The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It. Oxford University Press, USA, 2008. Bomiley, Geoffrey W., ed. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Abridged in One Volume. Accordance electronic ed., version 1.7. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985. Easterly, William. The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good. Fifth Printing. Penguin Press, 2006. Emerson, John J. â€•Amartya Sen: Rationality and Freedomâ€– http://www.idiocentrism.com/sen.htm accessed March 11, 2010. Frank, Robert.. Microeconomics and Behavior. 6th ed. Madison, WI: McGraw Hill Irwin, 2006. Mankiw, N. Gregory. Macroeconomics. 5th ed. (New York: Worth Publishers, 2003). Sachs, Jeffery. The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. New York: The Penguin Press, 2005. Sen, Amartya. Commodities and Capabilities. USA: Oxford University Press, 1999. Idem. On Ethics and Economics. New York: Basil Blackwell, 1987. Sowell, Thomas. A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles. New York: Basic Books, 1987. Stiglitz, Joseph. Globalization and Its Discontents. New York: W.W. Norton, 2003.
ROD SCHELLENBERG Tom, Dick and Harry … in the eyes of Gerry: The Philosophical Roots of Hopkins‟ Poetic Response to the Labourer
―Work? I love work. I could watch it all day!‖
introspective ―terrible sonnets‖ of the previous few years. Notwithstanding, these poems offer some of Hopkins‘ most powerful and moving poetic depictions of other people, successfully achieving Hopkins‘ stated desire for ―Harry Ploughman‖ to be ―a vivid figure before the mind‘s eye; if he is not that the sonnet fails.‖87 Furthermore, as we learn from Hopkins‘ ―crib‖ for ―Tom‘s Garland‖ (written to alleviate the interpretive struggles of his friends Robert Bridges and Richard Dixon), these poems seek to express Hopkins‘ response to a very particular political context.88 What may seem incongruous, however, is that Hopkins‘ political response, a response in blatant opposition to the political position of the majority of his Catholic brothers in Ireland at the time, does not seem to emerge from sensitive observation of his environment (in this case, the situation of the Irish people around him), as does, for example, his response to industrialization in ―Ribblesdale‖. This incongruity, rather than being attributable to personal loyalties or biographical limitations,89 should be seen as a product of the poetic ―environment‖ shaped by Hopkins‘ Newmanian-Scotist philosophical framework. In fact, this poetic environment, which fosters the carefully observant, theologically rich, ―Christ-in-the-particular‖ character of Hopkins‘ powerful and innovative poetry, limits Hopkins‘ ability to ―see through‖ the eyes of Tom, Dick and Harry, and shapes his politically-conservative, and seemingly distant and unempathetic, response to their reality.
- Anonymous comedian Workers need poetry more than bread. They need that their life should be a poem. They need some light from eternity. Religion alone can be the source of such poetry. ... [Yet], no poetry concerning the people is authentic if fatigue does not figure in it, and the hunger and thirst which come from fatigue. - Simone Weil84
Bold and experimental, visceral and vivid, full-to-bursting in complexity, ―Harry Ploughman‖ and ―Tom‘s Garland‖, products of Gerard Manley Hopkins last years in Dublin, are often overlooked by anthologizing editors and disparaged by puzzled commentators. Careful attention, however, shows these to be treasures of the Hopkins corpus, mature poetic ventures into new subject territory: the place of the labourer. Written during his 1887 summer holidays in the Irish countryside north of Dublin,85 these poems, however, seem to lack the situated particularity (―I caught this morning‖; ―My aspens dear‖; ―This darksome burn‖) characteristic of Hopkins‘ earlier poetry. The distinctively English (and cliché) characters (―Tom‖, ―Dick‖, and ―Harry‖)86 mark these as poems of memory rather than observation, poems in continuity with the
Letter to Robert Bridges 6 November 1887 in Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins to Robert Bridges, ed. Claude Colleer Abbot (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1935), 265. 88 Letter to Bridges 10 Februrary 1888 in Hopkins, Letters to Bridges, 272-74. 89 ―... [W]hen his poetry deals with humans, the total effect can seem forced and artificial, even when the language is strongly individual. ... Hopkins lacked large areas of human experience ... and the vocabulary to deal with them.‖ - White, Hopkins in Ireland, 147.
Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, ed. Thomas R. Nevin, trans. Arthur Willis (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997), 234, 236. 85 ―[A]t Loyola House, Dromore, County Down, eighty-six miles from Dublin, on the Belfast road ... [which] housed a community of about thirty Jesuits‖ - Norman White, Hopkins in Ireland (Dublin: University College of Dublin Press, 2002), 144. 86 Also, Tom is described as a ―Navvy‖, a distinctively British labourer. See White, Hopkins in Ireland, 155.
A close reading of these two poems will lead into an examination of Hopkins‘ Newmanian-Scotist philosophical framework; but, first, it will be important to consider the context of these poems: politically, personally, and poetically. Arriving in Dublin in the 1880s, Hopkins found himself at the epicentre of the dominant political issue in Britain: Irish Home Rule. 90 As a Catholic Jesuit priest in Ireland, Hopkins found himself caught between his deep loyalty to England91 and the sympathies of his Catholic brothers who were supporting Irish independence. Hopkins‘ most extensive ruminations on Irish politics are found in a letter to his (English) friend Baillie written February 20, 1887, from which it is necessary to quote at length:
constitution was made: absolute monarchy with strong forces at command alone could deal with it, and that miserably. Things will not mend: if they would mend now they would have mended before. ... Be assured of this, that the mass of the Irish people own no allegiance to any existing law or government. And yet they are not a worthless people; they have many true and winning virtues. But their virtues do not promote civil order and it has become impossible to govern them. Cost what it may, what wise man would try or wish to govern a people that own no duty to any law he can enforce? It is a hopeless task: they must have Home Rule with all that it may cost both them and us. You would say so if you lived here. Gladstone is a traitor. But still they must have Home Rule.92
There remains a word about Home Rule and so on. In general I am sure we agree on this as on most matters, but particular conclusions vary with particular facts. Home Rule of itself is a blow for England and will do no good to Ireland. But it is better than worse things. You would understand that if you lived in Ireland. ... [T]he country is in a peaceful rebellion, if you can understand what that is, and the rebellion is becoming more serious. ... The Irish had and have deep wrongs to complain of in the past and wrongs and abuses to amend which are still felt in the present. But the strange and alarming thing is that the removal of and the wish to remove these has not conciliated them, it has inflamed them. For these steps have done nothing to give them ... the object of their undying desire and now of their flaming passion. That is what they call Nationhood. The passion for it is of its nature insatiable and Home Rule will not satisfy it; it will be a disappointment too like the rest; but it will have some good effects and it will deliver England from the strain of an odious and impossible task, the task of attempting to govern a people who own no principle of civil allegiance (only religious, and that one is now strained), not only not to the existing government, in which they share, but to none at all; and of enforcing a law which the people wish to set at nought and to defeat. For such a complexion of things no
Central to Hopkins‘ concession of Home Rule is what he perceives in the Irish people as an unwillingness to submit to civil order. On January 1, 1888, Hopkins laments his association with this rebellious cause: All moral good, all man‘s being good, lies in two things—in being right, being in the right, and in doing right; in being on the right side, on the side of good, and on that side of doing good. Neither of these will do by itself. Doing good but on the wrong side, promoting a bad cause, is rather doing wrong. ... The Irish think it enough to be Catholics or on the right side and that it is no matter what they say and do to advance it; practically so, but what they think is that all they and their leaders do to advance the right side is and must be right. ... meantime the Catholic Church in Ireland and the Irish Province in it and our College in that are greatly given over to a partly unlawful cause, promoted by partly unlawful means, and against my will my pains, laborious and distasteful, like prisoners made to serve the enemies‘ gunners, go to help on this cause.93 Lament, however, does not lead Hopkins to rebel against the Catholic/Jesuit hierarchy, modelling his faith in the greater benefit of submission to good order.
Norman White observes, ―Everything in Ireland is politics, and they affected Hopkins in just about everything he did there.‖ Norman White, "Towards a Hopkins Biography for 1887", Hopkins Quarterly, 14 (1987): 74. 91 For evidence of this, see Hopkins‘ late poem fragment, ―What shall I do for the land that bred me‖. 90
Gerard Manley Hopkins, Further Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins, ed. Claude Colleer Abbott (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), 281-3. 93 Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Sermons and Devotional Writings of Gerard Manley Hopkins, ed. Christopher Devlin (London: Oxford University Press, 1959), 261-2.
Amidst this contemporary chaos, Hopkins is, himself, wearied with his task of teaching Greek to undergraduates at University College in Dublin. Reflecting often on his own physical weakness—a weakness which would soon find culmination/relief in his death—it is not surprising that Hopkins finds himself attracted to the physical strength of others.94 Physically weak, Hopkins had no shortage of vivacity when it came to the arts. His early journals are filled with detailed reflections on his visits to the London galleries. Particularly relevant is Hopkins‘ oft-expressed admiration for the work of British painter Frederick Walker.95 After seeing Walker‘s The Harbour of Refuge in 1873, Hopkins reflects:
There is a perennial nobleness, and even sacredness, in Work. Were he never so benighted, forgetful of his high calling, there is always hope in a man that actually and earnestly works: in Idleness alone is there perpetual despair. ... Consider how, even in the meanest sorts of Labour, the whole soul of a man is composed into a kind of real harmony, the instant he sets himself to work! Doubt, Desire, sorrow, Remorse, Indignation, Despair itself, all these like helldogs lie beleaguering the soul of the poor dayworker, as of every man: but he bends himself with free valour against his task, and all these are stilled. ... The man is now a man.100
The young man mowing was a great stroke, a figure quite made up of dew and grace and strong fire: the sweep of the scythe and swing and sway of the whole body even to the rising of the one foot on tiptoes while the other was flung forward was as if such a thing had never been painted before, so fresh and so very strong.96
Given the context of Hopkins‘ own personal despair,101 it is not surprising to see an attraction toward the healing attributes of work in these poems. Hopkins‘ literary interest, particularly in contemporary English novels, provides a further important poetical context. Hopkins declaims, in November 1887, that the ―great success‖ of nineteenth-century English literature is ―wordpainting‖102—an admiration informing his desire for ―Harry Ploughman‖ to be a ―vivid figure before the mind‘s eye.‖ 103 In his letters, Hopkins draws out two further artistic accomplishments in these poems. First, he emphasizes the ―very heavily loaded sprung rhythm‖ and ―‗robustious‘‖, ―bluster‖ing sound which demands ―emphatic recitation‖,104 drawing attention to his deliberate (―very highly studied‖) metrical experimentation and its impact on ―normal‖ syntax. Not necessarily assured of the success of his syntactical innovations (―perhaps it will strike you as intolerably violent and artificial‖) these two poems need to be read in the context of a poet who is passionate about artistic innovation. Second, he draws attention to his experimentation with the sonnet form: introducing short, inserted ―burden-lines‖, which provide a ―chorus-like‖ voice, 105 and adding codas.106
Hopkins‘ admiration for Walker‘s artistic portrayal of the seemingly opposed traits of grace and masculine strength can be seen behind Harry‘s ―Churlsgrace‖. More overtly in the background of ―Harry Ploughman‖ may be Walker‘s The Plough, a reproduction of which he saw in 1886, which he describes as ―a divine work‖.97 Norman White suggests that another painting, Ford Maddox Brown‘s Work, seen by Hopkins in 1865 (at which time Hopkins copied out Brown‘s accompanying sonnet), provides the intellectual context of ―Harry‖ and ―Tom‖.98 Situated in Hampstead, only a few minutes‘ walk from where the Hopkins family lived, Brown‘s painting joins an ongoing nineteenth century discussion on work with which Hopkins would have been familiar—perhaps reflected best in these reflections of Thomas Carlyle:99
Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present, quoted in White, Hopkins in Ireland, 153. 101 Articulated in the ―Terrible Sonnets‖, most famously in ―Carrion Comfort‖. 102 Letter to Bridges 6 November 1887 in Hopkins, Letters to Bridges, 267. Interestingly, in the same passage, Hopkins compares his poetic style to Dryden, whom he calls the ―most masculine of our poets‖. 103 See the discussion in White, Hopkins in Ireland, 145-7. 104 Letter to Dixon 22 December 1887 in Hopkins, Correspondence [with] Dixon, 153. See also letter to Bridges 11 October 1887 in Hopkins, Letters to Bridges, 263. 105 Hopkins, a teacher of Greek literature, expresses enthusiastic admiration for the ―manly‖ tenderness of Aeschylus, the Greek tragedian who made the most extensive use of the chorus, in a letter to Bridges 30 July 1887 in Hopkins, Letters to Bridges, 256.
See also his admiration of male strength in ―Felix Randall‖. See Graham Storey, "The Two Sonnets of 1887: Mannerism Successful and Unsuccessful", Hopkins Quarterly, 15 (1989): 158. 96 Journal entry from 18 December 1873 in Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Journals and Papers of Gerard Manley Hopkins, ed. Humphry House and Storey Graham (London: Oxford University Press, 1959), 240. 97 Letter to Dixon 30 June 1886 in Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Correspondence of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Richard Watson Dixon, ed. Claude Colleer Abbot (London: Oxford University Press, 1935), 134. 98 White, Hopkins in Ireland, 149ff. 99 Appropriately, Carlyle appears as an observer on the right side of Brown‘s painting. 94 95
Successful or not, these poems ought to be viewed as bold artistic ventures by a mature artist. Finally, it is important to note that in the immediate context of these densely-argued poems that Hopkins resolves: ―to prefix short prose arguments to some of [his] pieces.‖107 He reasons as follows: Plainly if it is possible to express a subtle and recondite thought on a subtle and recondite subject in a subtle and recondite way and with great felicity and perfection, in the end, something must be sacrificed, with so trying a task, in the process, and this may be the being once, nay perhaps even the being without explanation at all, intelligible. Neither, in the same light, does it seem to be to me a real objection (though this one I hope not to lay myself open to) that the argument should be even longer than the piece; for the merit of the work may lie for one thing in its terseness. It is like a mate which may be given, one way only, in three moves; otherwise, various ways, in many. 108 A few months later, Hopkins‘ does ―lay himself open‖ with his lengthy ―crib‖ for ―Tom‘s Garland‖, an explanation which draws attention to the success (or failure?) of the poem‘s ―terseness.‖ With these poems, Hopkins seeks to stretch the traditional sonnet form to encompass a sophisticated path of argumentation. Thus, it is in this context of artistic experimentation amidst personal weakness and tumultuous politics that the poems themselves ought to be heard.
In this context, Hopkins asks Bridges about the ―proper‖ form of codas. See Hopkins, Letters to Bridges, 263ff. 107 Inspired, perhaps, by the habit of visual artists to offer an accompanying written explanation (e.g., Brown‘s explanation of Work). 108 Letter to Bridges 6 November 1887 in Hopkins, Letters to Bridges, 265-6. 106
Harry Ploughman Hard as hurdle arms, with a broth of goldish flue Breathed round; the rack of ribs; the scooped flank; lank Rope-over thigh; knee-nave; and barrelled shank Head and foot, shoulder and shank By a grey eye's heed steered well, one crew, fall to; Stand at stress. Each limb's barrowy brawn, his thew That onewhere curded, onewhere sucked or sank Soared or sank , Though as a beechbole firm, finds his, as at a roll-call, rank And features, in flesh, what deed he each must do His sinew-service where do. He leans to it, Harry bends, look. Back, elbow, and liquid waist In him, all equal to the wallowing o' the plough. 'S cheek crimsons; curls Wag or crossbridle, in a wind lifted, windlaced Wind-lilylocks-laced; Churlsgrace, too, child of Amansstrength, how it hangs or hurls Them broad in bluff hide his frowning feet lashed! raced With, along them, cragiron under and cold furls With-a-fountain's shining-shot furls.
paused momentarily to ―stand at stress‖.110 Hopkins recognizes here that frozen strength is only hypothetical; it remains potentiality. Thus, Hopkins reflects on how Harry‘s strength (―barrowy brawn‖, ―thew‖) must have interacted with the muddy ground as he walked out into the field: in one place reshaping the earth (―curded‖); in another, alternately pulling out from ground‘s grasp with audible resistance (―sucked‖) and penetrating into the earth (―sank‖). Hopkins reflects on this alternating interaction in the burden line, introducing an image (―soaring‖) reminiscent of the language of ―The Windhover‖ (―soaring‖)—an image which will return in the sestet. With this language of motion, the reader may be prone to forget the stillness of the poem; lest we forget, Hopkins emphasizes Harry‘s current (―sunken‖) position of still, towering strength (―Though as a beechbole firm‖) waiting (―as at a roll call‖) for each member to be assigned its ―rank‖ where it can ―feature‖111 through physical action (―in flesh‖) its particular ―deed‖ which will contribute to the accomplishing of the specific assigned task. Gone are the haphazard (―onewhere‖) actions of walking out into the field; soon, each will be
Hopkins begins his ―wordpainting‖ with a detailed, paused description of his subject, beginning with Harry‘s arms—the metonymic representation of his strength—describing them as ―Hard as hurdle‖ reflecting both the strength brought out by twisting willow sticks together and the appearance of the intertwined, sinewy muscles exposed by Henry‘s ―willowy‖ (later, ―lank‖) frame. Before continuing down Harry‘s body, Hopkins deliberately draws attention to Harry‘s blonde arm hair, and how it sets him off from the rest of the wordpainting, reminiscent of the ―goldish‖ aura surrounding the holy subject in religious iconography: Harry, the saint of strength, or, perhaps, sacramentally, Strength Himself. Not wanting to ―pull back the curtain‖ too soon, Hopkins returns to his earthy imagery, describing Harry using animal-like terms (is he describing Harry or the horse?): ―rack of ribs‖, ―scooped flank‖, ―barrelled shank‖. While nave may refer to the ―knee-cap‖, Norman White suggests that Hopkins is more likely using a dialect word that reinforces the strength of Harry‘s legs. 109 Hopkins then envelops his description with his first burden line: ―Head and foot, shoulder and shank‖. Hopkins begins to weave together Harry‘s strong parts into ―one crew‖, ―steered‖ by his ―eye‖, ready for the command to ―fall to‖ the task at hand,
Perhaps waiting to be ―instressed‖ – see ―The Wreck of the Deutschland,‖ st. 5, l. 7. See the discussion on ―stress‖ in Bernadette Waterman Ward, World as Word: Philosophical Theology in Gerard Manley Hopkins (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2002), 116. 111 For ―feature‖ used in this verbal sense, cf. ―On the Portrait of Two Beautiful Young People,‖ l. 10 110
Norman White, "Harry Ploughman's Muscles", Hopkins Quarterly, 2 (1975): 30.
performing its ―sinew service‖ exactly where it ought (―where do‖). With a sudden jerk, Hopkins transforms Harry from paused potentiality into pure, unified action. He ―leans‖ to his task;112 he ―bends‖ in submission; what was ―beechbole firm‖ has melted (―liquid‖) into action. Where the octave draws attention to the solid muscular parts of the body, here Hopkins notices the moveable joints (―back‖, ―elbow‖, ―waist‖). All of Harry ―quails‖ (―gives way‖), ―wallowing‖ (―devoting himself entirely‖)113 to the task of ploughing the field.114 In the midst of this exertion, Hopkins, perhaps surprisingly, notices Harry‘s head: his face flushed from the effort, and his ―curls‖ tossed about by the wind. The return to hair (cf. ―goldish flue‖), depicting the blonde hair of Harry‘s head as ―lilylocks‖, 115 draws attention to the beauty, the holiness, the purity found in Harry‘s humble submission to his task. Significantly, it is the wind (an outside force) which plaits Harry‘s hair into a delicate beauty (―windlaced‖), transfiguring him amidst his menial task into ―what in God‘s eye he is— / Christ‖.116 In fact, ―all his goings‖ are now ―graces‖.117 His humble (―Churl‖) nature is no barrier to the presence of grace—in this case, it is his very ―mansstrength‖ which births his unique and particular ―grace‖. His strength enables his feet to escape the sucking clutches of the mud and dance along the top of the soil, alternating between airborne pauses (―hangs‖) and violent, rapid action (―hurls‖). Curiously, Hopkins pauses to notice Harry‘s boots, the ―lashed‖ protection offered to his focused, ―frowning‖ feet (reflecting the wrinkles in his boots, transferred to his feet) as they perform their ―sinewservice‖ of ―racing‖ ―along‖ the ―furls‖.118 Harry-inaction has a significant effect upon the earth; rather than merely reshaping the earth into formless ―curds‖, Harry‘s ploughing allows the earth‘s glory to burst forth like a ―fountain‖.119 Just as Harry‘s
locks are laced into beauty by the wind, so the field‘s previously hidden glory is unearthed by Harry‘s wellordered strength and, more importantly, his Christlike submission to the task.120
Cf. Christ who ―leans forth‖ in ―Soldier,‖ l. 10. Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary, ―Wallow,‖ http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wallow [accessed November 1, 2010]. 114 Note that ploughing has been an image of Christian commitment throughout Christian history, originating in Jesus‘ words: ―No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God‖ (Luke 9:62). 115 Cf. the ―storm-flakes‖ transformed into ―lily showers‖ in ―The Wreck of the Deutschland,‖ st. 21, l. 8. 116 ―As Kingfishers Catch Fire,‖ ll. 11-12. 117 ―As Kingfishers Catch Fire,‖ l. 10. 118 In a letter to Baillie (20 February 1887), Hopkins observes: ―Ferrule—I have heard this pronounced (by an Irishman) furl. This wd. be a fresh accommodation, for a ferrule (on a stick) does furl the wood‖ -Hopkins, Further Letters, 280. 119 Fifteen years prior (8 September 1873), Hopkins notes in his journal: ―I talked to Br. Duffy ploughing: he told me the names of the cross, side-plate, muzzle, regulator, and short chain. He talked 112 113
of something spraying out, meaning splaying out and of combing the ground‖ - Hopkins, Journals and Papers, 237. According to Norman Mackenzie, Hopkins did once try his hand at ploughing see Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Poetical Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins, ed. Norman H. Mackenzie (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), 481. 120 Note the similarities here (as noted elsewhere) to ―The Windhover‖: ―sheer plod makes plough down sillion / Shine‖. Cf. also Hopkins‘ reflection on the offering of the whole body/self in ―Morning, Midday, and Evening Sacrifice‖.
Tom’s Garland upon the Unemployed Tom—garlanded with squat and surly steel Tom; then Tom‘s fallowbootfellow piles pick By him and rips out rockfire homeforth—sturdy Dick; Tom Heart-at-ease, Tom Navvy: he is all for his meal Sure, ‘s bed now. Low be it: lustily he his low lot (feel That ne‘er need hunger, Tom; Tom seldom sick, Seldomer heartsore; that treads through, prickproof, thick Thousands of thorns, thoughts) swings though. Commonweal Little I reck ho! lacklevel in, if all had bread: What! Country is honour enough in all us—lordly head, With heaven‘s lights high hung round, or, mother-ground That mammocks, mighty foot. But no way sped, Nor mind nor mainstrength; gold go garlanded With, perilous, O nó; nor yet plod safe shod sound; Undenizened, beyond bound Of earth‘s glory, earth‘s ease, all; no one, nowhere, In wide the world‘s weal; rare gold, bold steel, bare In both; care, but share care— This, by Despair, bred Hangdog dull; by Rage, Manwolf; worse; and their packs infest the age. ―Tom‘s Garland‖, in a sense, picks up where ―Harry Ploughman‖ leaves off: observing boots. Armouring a lowly but valuable body part, Tom‘s boots ―garland‖ his feet with ―squat and surly steel‖: the hobnails or caulks of his boots. In his explanation of this poem, Hopkins explains that he is seeking to build a metaphor for the ―well ordered human society‖, following ―Plato and Hobbes and everybody‖ in comparing it to ―one man‖.121 Tom and Dick, the feet of society, are protected by the gift they receive from society (their ―garland‖): freedom from care. Reminiscent of how Harry‘s labour, by tearing the earth with a plough, exposed the glory of earth, here Dick‘s hobnails, on his carefree walk home, strike sparks from the ground (―rips out rockfire homeforth‖). Abandoning external descriptions, Hopkins attempts to enter Tom‘s inner ―Heart-at-ease‖ reality, his simple, ―low‖ existence which he can, with an easy, ―light-hearted‖ motion, ―swing‖ over his shoulder. Hopkins explains this further with the parenthetical comment of the next lines: Harry ―ne‘er need hunger‖; he is ―seldom sick, / Seldomer heartsore‖; he ―treads‖ ―prickproof‖ through any worries (―thoughts‖). For the poet of the
―Terrible Sonnets‖, such an existence would be a prize indeed. Hopkins marks the turn (―Commonweal‖) with an abrupt shift of voice. Hopkins‘ strained syntax in the next four lines makes it difficult to know identify the speaker: a Conservative pundit,122 Tom, Hopkins? Fortunately, Hopkins‘ crib makes clear his intention: if all receive the basic benefits (e.g. ―bread‖) of the Commonwealth, why should one be concerned if there is a ―lack‖ of ―level‖ (i.e., equality)? In society, as in the body (e.g., Harry), there is a division of tasks/roles, between the ―head‖ located amidst the spiritual/mental realities (―heaven‘s lights‖) and the ―foot‖ ―mammocking‖ (i.e., ―tear into fragments; mangle‖)123 ―motherground‖. After outlining this (Conservative/medieval) ―ideal‖ state,124 Hopkins introduces a third, objecting voice (―But nő‖) who
White, Hopkins in Ireland, 154. Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary, ―Mammock,‖ http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mammock [accessed November 1, 2010]. 124 Hopkins‘ reflects further on society in ―De Regno Christi‖ in Hopkins, Sermons and Devotional Writings, 160-68. Hopkins‘ personal compassion, however, comes out in his ―red‖ letter (2 August 1871) where he explicitly sympathizes with Socialist ideas - see Hopkins, Letters to Bridges, 27-28. 123
From Hopkins‘ explanation in Letters to Bridges, 272-74.
observes that there are some (the ―unemployed‖)125 who are excluded from the ―Commonweal‖, receiving neither ―perilous‖ ―gold‖ nor ―sound‖ footwear (later, ―rare gold‖ nor ―bold steel‖). Cast out of society (―Undenizened‖), this group finds itself ―bare / In both‖ ―glory‖ and ―ease‖, sharing only ―cares‖. In the final coda, Hopkins observes the practical implications of this exclusion: desperation and rage.126 While Hopkins does display an apparent empathy for the plight of the ―unemployed‖, his explanation of the poem reveals an Oxford-bred naivety when he suggests that Socialism emerges from this state (as if out of envy) and not from the actual hardships of the many working poor. To caricaturize the life of the labourer, especially in the context of colonized Ireland, as ―earth‟s ease‖ speaks loudly of Hopkins‘ own place of privilege with ―heaven‘s lights high hung round‖. More troubling, perhaps, is Hopkins‘ portrayal of (illiterate) Tom‘s unthinking approach to life (―treads through ... thoughts‖) and Harry‘s primarily bestial ―sinewservice‖, both of which leave the reader questioning Tom, Dick and Harry‘s full humanity. If human glory is found in humans being ―Earth‘s eye‖ / ―beholder‖,127 why does Hopkins withhold this rational task from these men forced into a life of monotonous, physically grinding (blinding?) labour? What limits Hopkins‘ ability to ―see through‖ the eyes of the other towards an improved material existence? A close look at Hopkins‘ NewmanianScotist philosophical framework will help answer these questions, showing that the poetic environment which emerges from this framework shapes his artistically powerful, politically conservative, poetcentric response. As Benadette Waterman Ward draws out, Hopkins early fell under the influence of the aesthetic theories of John Ruskin who ―rejoiced in the very stones of the earth proclaiming the glory of God.‖128 Ruskin‘s world-embracing aesthetic encouraged Hopkins to boldly confront what may not be immediately attractive or beautiful, whether it be the destruction of the storm in The Wreck of the Deutschland, or the mundane ―plod‖ of Harry across the muddy field, accepting (by faith) that truth is ultimately good. Combined with his later, fullydeveloped ―sacramental‖ theology, Hopkins comes to a place where he sees the incarnate Christ‘s presence
in all things, particularly the unpleasant, painful, sacrificial.129 Hopkins‘ understanding of ―seeing‖ comes from the perspectivist epistemology of John Henry Newman. Not denying the reality of the world, Newman nevertheless accepted a Kantian distance from real things.130 As Ward summarizes, Newman‘s idea is uncannily simple. ... [M]any possible apprehensions are proper to a single entity. ... [E]verything real has latent in itself an endless store of real apprehensions that people may learn to know ... Of any reality, we can know only a few aspects. An encounter with the world is an encounter with mystery. 131 In this, Hopkins finds an epistemological grounding for his notion of ―inscape‖, which, when combined with John Duns Scotus‘ Aristotelian emphasis on the individual,132 leads Hopkins to conclude that multiple true ―inscapes‖ are possible.133 The poetic environment which emerges from this situates the poet firmly in the position of observer of an ―objectified‖ reality of ―individuals‖. From this epistemic distance emerges Hopkins‘ greatest poetic achievements in which he observes (―beholds‖/―speaks‖) the beauty (i.e., Christ‘s presence) in particular animals (e.g., skylark, windhover, kingfisher), specific landscapes (e.g., ―Ribblesdale‖, ―Binsey Poplars‖, ―God‘s Grandeur‖, 129
See Ibid., 93. ―[I]n what sense have we a discernment of His creatures, of the individual beings which surround us? The evidence which we have of their presence lies in the phenomena which address our senses, and our warrant for taking these for evidence is our instinctive certitude that they are evidence. By the law of our nature we associate those sensible phenomena or impressions with certain units, individuals, substances, whatever they are to be called, which are outside and out of the reach of sense, and we picture them to ourselves in those phenomena. The phenomena are as is [sic] pictures; but at the same time they give us no exact measure or character of the unknown things beyond them;—for who will say there is any uniformity between the impressions which two of us would respectively have of some third thing, supposing one of us had only the sense of touch and the other only the sense of hearing? Therefore, when we speak of our having a picture of the things which are perceived through the senses, we mean a certain representation, true as far as it goes, but not adequate‖ -John Henry Newman, An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent, ed. I. T. Ker (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985), 71-2. 131 Ward, World as Word, 113. 132 I.e., as opposed to seeing the foundation of being in ―universal‖ Platonic forms. For Scotus, ―the whole aim of being itself is directed toward the existence of individuals‖ - J. R. Cresswell, "Duns Scotus on the Common Nature," in John Duns Scotus, 1265-2965, ed. John K. Ryan and Bernardine M. Bonansea (Washington, D. C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1965), 132. 133 Note that Scotus would heartily reject the Kantian skepticism underlying Newman‘s epistemology. 130
Apparently, unemployment throughout the British Isles had been ―savagely bad in 1886‖ - see Storey, "Two Sonnets," 163. 126 Which, Hopkins explains, ―is the origin of Loafers, Tramps … Socialists and other pests of society‖ - Hopkins, Letters to Bridges, 274. 127 ―Ribblesdale,‖ l. 9; ―Hurrahing in Harvest,‖ ll. 11-12. 128 Ward, World as Word, 75.
―The Starlight Night‖), individual people (e.g., ―Felix Randall‖, ―Harry Ploughman‖) and, ultimately, himself (i.e., in the ―Terrible Sonnets‖). This poetic environment, however, results in a poet-centrism in Hopkins‘ poetry; it is Hopkins‟ perception of the ―inscape‖ that matters, that guides the poem.134 Thus, in ―Harry Ploughman‖ and ―Tom‘s Garland‖, Hopkins perceives their submission, their ―ease‖ as a distant observer; Harry and Tom are not given space to express their perception of their reality. In the case of unspeaking, unperceiving nature, Hopkins‘ poetic voice elevates the tongueless, giving word to the wordless, in some way ―selving‖ these beings, and ultimately bringing praise to the Creator. However, when the object of Hopkins‘ poetry is another human, Hopkins‘ poetic voice has the opposite effect: suppressing the voice of another ―beholder‖, imposing his own voice instead, and ultimately, ―unselving‖ Tom, Dick, and Harry as perceiving individuals, as ―full‖ humans.135 Although Hopkins‘ Newmanian-Scotist epistemology creates a poetic distance which limits his ability to ―see through‖ the eyes of another, what he does perceive in Tom, Dick and Harry he admires—an admiration/―assent‖ rooted in his philosophical framework. For Hopkins (as for Newman), perception demands a moral response: once we fully grasp the ―inscape‖ of something, recognizing the presence of Christ, then we ought to ―instress‖ that reality, to say ―yes‖ to what ―is‖.136 This, in itself, supports a conservative response; if, as Ward suggests, Hopkins wished to affirm that ―our experience is good,‖137 then what impetus is there to work for change? However, Hopkins‘ response of affirmation to the labour of Tom, Dick and Harry, should not be seen as mere passive acceptance, but an arms-wide embrace that flows from his Scotist starting points. Duns Scotus famously emphasized the supreme place of the human will. From this emerges his analysis of the human condition. What needs correcting is not external to the individual; rather, the misguided will needs to be restored to the sole proper object of its love: God. If this is the fundamental
problem, then the best, most loving, most just, thing I can do for another is to help him/her redirect his/her will toward God. According to Scotus, ―if I love God perfectly, then I love him to be loved by all‖ 138 and this, Scotus claims, is justice: From this it is clear how the habit of charity is one, because it does not refer to a plurality of objects, but regards as its primary object God alone insofar as he is good and is the first good. Secondarily, it wills that God be loved by anyone whose love is perfect and directed to loving him as he is in himself, for this is what perfect and orderly love of God means. And in so loving, I love both myself and my neighbour out of charity, viz., by willing that both of us love God in himself. And this is something that is simply good and an act of justice. Thus the first object of charity is only God in himself; all the others, however, are certain intermediate objects.139 When this is combined with the Scotist assumption that all that exists has been created by a loving God‘s free decision (including what may be painful or difficult), Hopkins‘ can only admire what he perceives as Tom, Dick and Harry‘s humble acceptance of and submission to their God-given reality as labourers (i.e., to ―Christ‖ in their labour). Through his poetry, he seeks to give voice to his good will toward these men (i.e., ―by willing that both [he and the labourers] love God in himself‖), and, in doing so, he understands his poetry as doing justice, as loving his neighbour.140 Thus, Hopkins‘ bold poetic experiments, ―Harry Ploughman‖ and ―Tom‘s Garland‖, ought to be read as poetic responses emerging from his Newmanian-Scotist philosophical framework. Hopkins, who found himself chaffing against his own grinding reality as a professor of classical languages, perceived in Tom, Dick and Harry an admirable Christ-like response of submission to their place as labourers—the best possible response to God‘s loving hand. At the same time, Hopkins remains a distant, unempathetic observer, unable to ―see through‖ the eyes of the other and unwilling to grant Tom, Dick and Harry (and the nameless ―Unemployed‖) full ―selves‖ as perceivers. And so, Hopkins‘ praise of submission in others slides towards the oppressive; locating, for example, the ―solution‖ for ―unemployment‖ in the restoration of
A significant exception here is the nun‘s perception of Christ in the storm in ―The Wreck of the Deutschland‖. Interestingly, it appears to be one of the only poems of Hopkins‘ where a character speaks. 135 See also ―Cheery Beggar‖ for a similar example of Hopkins‘ naïve perspectivism which seems to conclude: ―I perceive this beggar as happy; thus, he must be happy.‖ 136 See Ward, World as Word, 115, 200. 137 Ward, World as Word, 130. ―Behind Hopkins‘ account one can detect a sensitivity to goodness as a transcendental attribute of being. Each thing ‗how great or small soever‖ has a goodness of its own in accordance with that being indoors each one dwells. ... The intrinsic goodness of a thing, which is coextensive with its being, is its final cause‖ (225). 134
John Duns Scotus, Duns Scotus on the Will and Morality, ed. William A. Frank, trans. Alan B. Wolter (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1997), 291. 139 Ibid., 289. 140 See Ward, World as Word, 257.
labourers to their proper (i.e., non-metaphorically ―lowest‖) place at the bottom of a rigid hierarchy. Hopkins, by nature a sensitive and compassionate person, is led by his theo-philosophical assumptions to a rather distant, dis-carnate response to the acknowledged hardships of the (in his case, Irish) labourers of his times. Recognizing Christ in the ―least of these‖, Hopkins offers what he understands as the best: praise for their submissive, Christ-like wills—a state of being leading to eternal, heavenly consolation. Yet, this begs the question: will the Christ in Tom, Dick and Harry recognize Hopkins‘ ―cup of poetic praise‖ as the appropriate response to those who, in their hunger, desire ―something to eat‖, who, in their thirst, long for ―something to drink‖, who, imprisoned, look for a visitor?141
See Matthew 25:31-46.
Bibliography Alderson, David. Mansex Fine: Religion, manliness and imperialism in nineteenth-century British culture. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998. Cresswell, J. R. "Duns Scotus on the Common Nature." In John Duns Scotus, 1265-2965, edited by John K. Ryan and Bernardine M. Bonansea, 122-132. Washington, D. C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1965. Duns Scotus, John. Duns Scotus on the Will and Morality. Edited by William A. Frank. Translated by Alan B. Wolter. Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1997. Hopkins, Gerard Manley. Further Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Edited by Claude Colleer Abbott. London: Oxford University Press, 1956. —. The Correspondence of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Richard Watson Dixon. Edited by Claude Colleer Abbot. London: Oxford University Press, 1935. —. The Journals and Papers of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Edited by Humphry House and Storey Graham. London: Oxford University Press, 1959. —. The Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins to Robert Bridges. Edited by Claude Colleer Abbot. London: Oxford University Press, 1935. —. The Major Works. Rev. Edited by Catherine Phillips. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. —. The Poetical Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Edited by Norman H. Mackenzie. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990. —. The Sermons and Devotional Writings of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Edited by Christopher Devlin. London: Oxford University Press, 1959. MacKenzie, Norman H. A Reader's Guide to Gerard Manley Hopkins. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1981. Newman, John Henry. An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent. Edited by I. T. Ker. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985. Storey, Graham. "The Two Sonnets of 1887: Mannerism Successful and Unsuccessful." Hopkins Quarterly 15 (1989): 155163. Ward, Bernadette Waterman. World as Word: Philosophical Theology in Gerard Manley Hopkins. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2002. Weil, Simone. Gravity and Grace. Edited by Thomas R. Nevin. Translated by Arthur Willis. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997. White, Norman. "Harry Ploughman's Muscles." Hopkins Quarterly 2 (1975): 29-31. —. Hopkins in Ireland. Dublin: University College of Dublin Press, 2002. —. "Towards a Hopkins Biography for 1887." Hopkins Quarterly 14 (1987): 65-75.
MATTHEW THOMAS Justification: Current Debate and Implications An Assessment of John Piper‟s The Future of Justification and N.T. Wright‟s Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision
―Justification,‖ according to Martin Luther, is ―the chief article of the whole Christian doctrine,‖ and ―if [it] falls, everything falls.‖142 Given the centrality ascribed to justification in the Protestant tradition, it has been a matter of great interest that two leading Protestant theologians, John Piper and N.T. Wright, have renewed debate on the subject in recent years. This debate, while holding implications across nearly all spheres of Christian theology, can be broadly conceived as focusing on Paul‘s understanding of the biblical context of justification, the meaning and significance of justification itself, and the role that faith and works play in appropriating justification. John Piper rightly lays down the terms of the debate, asserting that ―Scripture, not tradition, is decisive‖ 143 and that ―the final court of appeal is the context of [the] author‘s own argument.‖144 However, when one examines the entirety of Paul‘s arguments in the context of the broader narrative of Scripture, it appears that N.T. Wright‘s understanding of justification ultimately makes fuller sense of the biblical witness than that of John Piper. Considering the massive scope of this debate (in contrast with the humble scope afforded by the present analysis), this paper will focus primarily on John Piper‘s The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright and N.T. Wright‘s subsequent Justification: God‟s Plan and Paul‟s Vision, with particular emphasis given to relevant passages from Romans. Piper, whose views are representative of the Reformed tradition, wrote The Future of Justification in 2007 in response to numerous assertions by Wright which struck him as inconsistent with historic Protestant readings of Scripture, not least with regards to the doctrine of the imputation of Christ‘s righteousness. N.T. Wright, who until recently served as the Anglican Bishop of Durham and whose views are generally identified with the diverse ―New
Perspective on Paul‖, wrote Justification: God‟s Plan and Paul‟s Vision in 2009 to respond to Piper‘s criticisms and re-state his understanding of justification as it relates to Paul‘s broader vision. This analysis will summarize the positions of Piper and Wright with regards to the context, meaning, and appropriation of justification, with each section followed by an assessment alongside the biblical passages in question. The Context of Justification Both N.T. Wright and John Piper agree that justification is, in some sense, the answer to a problem set forth in Scripture. For Piper, the context for justification is the universal sinfulness of each individual human being, and, in light of God‘s righteousness, the need for a corresponding righteousness to avert the just anger of God. Piper here stands firmly within the Reformed tradition,145 asserting Romans 3:9-20 to be ―a statement about our moral condition‖ which concludes that every individual—Jew or Gentile—is guilty and accountable before God.146 By Piper‘s exegesis, Paul‘s primary metaphorical context is a law-court in which ―the charge against every member of the human race‖ is that ―none of us is righteous, not even one.‖147 Justification, then, will provide an answer to the question of how individuals can escape God‘s wrath. According to N.T. Wright, the narrative of the Old Testament provides the proper context for understanding justification, with particular emphasis given to passages from Genesis, Deuteronomy and Daniel. The common theme running through these passages is covenant, evoking the promise made to Abraham—and later thrown into question by Israel‘s unfaithfulness—that all nations would be blessed 145
Piper here echoes the view put forth by John Calvin in Institutes of the Christian Religion that ―the third chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is nothing but a description of original sin.‖ John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Revised. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008), 153. 146 Piper, The Future of Justification, 77. 147 Ibid., 165.
Herbert Bouman, ―The Doctrine of Justification in the Lutheran Confessions,‖ Concordia Theological Monthly XXVI, no. 11 (November 1955): 1. 143 John Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2007), 132. 144 Ibid., 61. 142
through his seed.148 As Wright summarizes, ―many first-century Jews thought of themselves as living in a continuing narrative stretching from earliest times, through ancient prophecies, and on towards a climactic moment of deliverance which might come at any moment.‖149 For Wright, this narrative is the proper context for understanding Paul‘s framework in passages such as Romans 3, rather than what he calls a sixteenth-century Protestant narrative which says ―‗all humans are sinful and will go to hell; maybe God will be gracious and let us go to heaven instead and dwell with him; how will that come about?‘‖150 Instead, Wright‘s reading sets forth the following context for justification: God covenanted to create a worldwide family and bless all nations through Abraham‘s seed, and Israel as a whole was unfaithful to this covenant; how, then, will God fulfill his promises to Abraham and bring blessing to the world through Israel? Given the substantially dissimilar narratives adopted by Piper and Wright, it is instructive to give further analysis to the Romans 3 passage which both theologians draw upon. What should one make of Paul‘s Old Testament quotations in 3:10-18 which Piper takes to be an indictment of each individual human being? A careful reading of the chapter yields two primary observations: first, if we are to read Paul in the context of his own argument, we should recognize that his assertion in 3:3 is that some of Israel was unfaithful (ἠπίζηηζαν ηινες) rather than each individual Israelite; as Wright comments, Paul ―is not here demonstrating that all Jews are sinful,‖ but rather by being collectively sinful as a nation, she is ―like the other nations‖ and unable to fulfill her calling.151 Second, notwithstanding David‘s broad lyrical brushstrokes (―no one is good, not even one‖), nearly every passage cited by Paul in Romans 3:1018 (including the aforementioned Psalm) contrasts the stated evil-doers with those whom the Scripture characterizes as being ―righteous‖ within the very same chapter, with no corresponding suggestions that they are to be understood hypothetically rather than as real people. It stands that if we believe Paul knew his Scriptures well and took their authority seriously,
it would seem curious for him to be making a point which is flatly contradicted by the very passages he is quoting! Rather, it seems that the presence of ―the righteous‖ in these passages gives weight to Wright‘s argument that Paul here is not making a point about humanity and Israel individualistically, but as a broadly conceived whole.152 These observations make it difficult to conclude that Piper‘s exegesis fully approximates Paul‘s context for justification. The Old Testament does not seem to be principally telling a story about how every individual human being is a sinner and therefore destined for condemnation, but rather one about a covenanted people who, by and large, have been unfaithful to the task they been entrusted with (Rom. 3:2-3, 23), and who nonetheless hope for the day when the promises made to their forefathers will somehow be brought to fruition. This is the Godgiven scriptural framework Paul has inherited, and as Wright contends, when we read Paul‘s arguments in the context of these Scriptures we find that they fit perfectly within it. The Meaning and Significance of Justification Justification, for both Piper and Wright, is conceived as the revelation of ―God‘s righteousness‖ (δικαιοζύνη Θεοῦ) in Jesus by which people are ―justified‖. This, however, is where the similarities largely end. Piper defines ―God‘s righteousness‖ as ―God‘s unswerving commitment to preserve the honor of his name and display his glory,‖ 153 which he derives from passages such as Isaiah 48:9-11 and Ezekiel 36:20-23. With every individual lacking moral righteousness and therefore being guilty before God, God ―puts Christ forward to vindicate his righteousness, that is, to show that he does not take lightly the scorning of his glory.‖154 Piper asserts that by faith, Christ‘s righteousness is imputed to the individuals, with justification—―counting the defendant as morally righteous though he in himself is not‖—as the result.155 For Piper, this is ―perhaps most strikingly found‖ in Romans 4:3-8, where by translating the verb λογίζομαι as ―imputes‖ in 4:5, he reads that the faith of the ungodly ―is imputed as righteousness.‖156 As Piper summarizes, ―God removed his judicial wrath from us, and imputed the obedience of his Son to us, and counted us as righteous in Christ, and forgave all our sins because
In Genesis 12, God promises Abram that ―in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed‖ (12:3 ESV), which he affirms by covenant in chapter 15; Deuteronomy 27-29 describe the curses that Israel will incur for unfaithfulness to the covenant, with chapter 30 promising a time of covenant renewal once the curses have passed; Daniel 9 communicates how long the exiled nation must endure these covenant curses before the time of renewal, which, according to Josephus, Jews contemporary with Paul calculated to be ending in their own day. 149 N. T. Wright, Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision (London: SPCK Publishing, 2009), 41. 150 Ibid. 151 Wright, Justification, 170.
This does not mean that Paul does not fully understand the pervasiveness of sin under Adam; rather, this is a question of the exact point being made in Romans 3, with the contextual evidence favoring Wright‘s exegesis. 153 Piper, The Future of Justification, 66. 154 Ibid., 67. 155 Ibid., 78. 156 Ibid., 168.
he had punished them in the death of Jesus.‖157 Justification thus provides a means to avoid God‘s anger and forms the basis for soteriology: the ―salvation of personal eternal life.‖158 While maintaining the same general framework that ―justification‖ comes as a result of ―God‘s righteousness,‖ Wright diverges from Piper‘s exegesis as to the meaning and significance of these terms. Wright defines the revelation of δικαιοζύνη Θεοῦ as God‘s ―covenant faithfulness‖ to the promises made to Israel throughout the Old Testament. By sending a faithful Israelite as Israel‘s representative, God condemns sin in the flesh once and for all, bears his people‘s curse and ends their exile (Deut. 27-29, Isa. 53, Dan. 9), ushering in the age of covenant renewal promised by Deuteronomy 30 in which the Holy Spirit is poured out upon all people (Joel 2). Those who have faith are reckoned to be righteous, referring not to a moral quality but a status, which Wright argues—based on Paul‘s translation of ―covenant‖ from Genesis 17:11 as ―righteousness‖ in Romans 4:11—denotes right standing within the covenant people, which is declared in the present and reaffirmed at the final judgement based on the outworking of this faith in one‘s life.159 Justification, then, is God‘s act of declaring all who share Abraham‘s faith—Jew and Gentile—to be within the covenant as his people. This forms the foundation for both ecclesiology and soteriology: to be justified is to be a part of the people of God, the instrument through which—rather than simply for which—his salvation is brought to bear upon all of creation.160 By way of analysis, it is helpful to begin by assessing the respective definitions given to δικαιοζύνη Θεοῦ (―God‘s righteousness‖) and λογίζομαι (―imputes‖). By defining God‘s righteousness as his commitment to his own glory, Piper admits he is going against the trend of ―thinking of God‘s righteousness mainly as God‘s covenant faithfulness,‖ which ―has become the scholar‘s new tradition in the past forty years‖161; indeed, Wright agrees that he is ―not aware of any
other scholar, old perspective, new perspective, Catholic, Reformed, Evangelical, anyone‖ who uses Piper‘s definition.162 In further support of his own view, Wright cites J.I. Packer‘s teaching that God‘s Old Testament vindication is called his ―righteousness‖ because ―it is an act of faithfulness to his covenant promises to them.‖163 It seems reasonable to conclude that while God‘s upholding his own glory is certainly biblical and is related to God‘s righteousness, the better definition is likely the simpler one; by fulfilling what he promised throughout Scripture, God shows his righteousness by doing what he said he would do.164 What, then, of Piper‘s use of λογίζομαι to support his claim about imputed righteousness? A cursory word study will leave one puzzled. The authoritative Bauer lexicon defines the word primarily as ―to determine by mathematical process; reckon, calculate‖ and secondarily as ―to evaluate, consider, [and] be of the opinion,‖ with no mention made of ―impute.‖165 Piper himself cites no evidence for his translation, and Wright presses here: ―If ‗imputed righteousness‘ is so utterly central… isn‘t it strange that Paul never actually came out and said it?‖166 Without strong evidence to the contrary, it seems most responsible to translate the text as the evidence suggests it would have been understood at the time so as to not undermine the authority of Scripture. As Wright comments, to do otherwise would mean ―that there is something the text really does want to tell us which we are muzzling, denying, not allowing to come out.‖167 By contrast, Wright‘s exegesis accounts for Paul‘s word usage and affirms the full scriptural story, in which the numerous promises made to seed of Abraham have finally come true.168
The Appropriation of Justification: Faith and Works of the Law Piper and Wright are in agreement that justification comes about by ―faith‖, which Paul places in antithesis with what he calls ―works of the law‖. But what do these terms mean? While Piper
Ibid., 185. Ibid., 85. 159 Piper here protests that Wright is substituting justification by faith for justification by works. Wright‘s response is that he did not write Romans 2 and 14, much less 2 Cor. 5:10, Gal. 5:19-21 and Eph. 6:8; Paul did. Wright insists that ―unless we are absolutely forced to deny it, we should assume that when Paul appears to be laying down first principles about God‘s future judgement, he truly is laying down first principles about God‘s future judgement.‖ Wright, Justification, 159. 160 This analysis lacks the space which a fair analysis of ζωηηρία (salvation) in the New Testament would merit; suffice to say that the full connotations of healing and rescuing are often missed by modern ears. 161 Piper, The Future of Justification, 163.
Wright, Justification, 46. Ibid., 48. 164 Though a broader word study on δικαιοζύνη is beyond the present scope, it should be said full meaning of this word as both ―righteousness‖ and ―justice‖ only seems to make this conclusion more likely; God is just because he sticks to his word. 165 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2001), 597, 598. 166 Wright, Justification, 30. 167 Ibid., 136. 168 Piper additionally infers the doctrine of imputed righteousness from 1 Cor. 1:30 and 2 Cor. 5:21, which Wright convincingly accounts for within this narrative framework; see Wright, Justification, 130-144.
does not define faith in the course of his book, he does call it ―the purely receiving act of the soul‖ which ―looks away from the self‖ and ―rests on Jesus.‖169 With regards to works of the law, Piper claims that ―Paul has in view the ‗boasting of the successful moralist‘,‖ whom he believes would have been exemplified by a Pharisee.170 By this reading, Paul is setting up a familiar Protestant contrast between faith and works, with faith alone being the factor which appropriates justification and leads to eternal life. Wright counters that faith can be properly understood by Paul‘s use of the Greek word πίζηις— which means both faith and faithfulness—and asserts that Paul did not recognize the ―hard-and-fast distinction between those two as we normally suppose.‖171 Such πίζηις is exemplified by the two primary Old Testament texts Paul draws out to begin Romans, Habakkuk 2:4 and Genesis 15:6; according to Wright, this ―faithful obedience‖ constitutes the badge which ―has all along… been the thing that God requires from his people, the ‗Israel‘ who are the middle term in his single plan.‖172 Paul then places this faith in antithesis with works of the law, which are not ―a ladder of good works up which one might climb to earn the status of ‗righteousness‘,‖ but rather those badges of Jewish ethnic identity which separate Jews from Gentiles (specifically circumcision, observance of special days and dietary laws). 173 Since God‘s promises repeatedly stated that the climax of Israel‘s covenant would mean blessing for all nations, Paul is emphatic that πίζηις like that of Abraham, rather than ethnic identity badges, appropriates justification into the people of God. Here as elsewhere, the most helpful criteria for assessment are those laid out by Piper: the context of Paul‘s own argument and the broader authority of Scripture. Piper accuses Wright of creating ambiguity between the nature of faith and works with his ―apparent conflation of ‗faith,‘ on the one hand, and ‗faithfulness‘…on the other.‖174 One must recognize, however, that at this point Piper‘s contention is not actually with Wright; rather, it is with the language that God, in his providence, ordained for Scripture to be written in. If Piper at any point intends to translate πίζηις as ―faith alone‖ in a manner that separates it from faithfulness, he is imposing definitions upon Paul which neither he, nor any of his original hearers, would have understood him to be communicating,
which will not be a fruitful endeavor if we intend to take the authority of Scripture seriously. Wright‘s case for using the lexically-attested meaning of πίζηις is bolstered by Paul‘s framing of Romans (1:5 and 16:26) with an inclusio which states his mission as being for ὑπακοὴν πίζηεως (translated as ―faithful obedience‖ or ―obedience of faith‖); the explicit linkage of these two terms makes it yet more difficult to conclude that Paul intended faithfulness left out of the equation. Finally, perhaps the strongest argument in Wright‘s favor comes from the very Old Testament passage which Paul cites as the thesis for his argument: ―The righteous shall live by faith‖ (Hab. 2:4). The Hebrew word used here for ―faith‖ (אֱמּונָה, emunah) is translated by the NASB as ―faithfulness‖ 25 times; it is rendered ―faith‖ only once.175 Again, if we take the authority of Paul‘s Scriptures seriously, it is extremely difficult to conclude with Piper that Paul means to separate faithfulness from his conception of faith. What then of works of the law? Again, turning to the context of Paul‘s argument is fruitful. After insisting upon God‘s inclusion of both Jews and Gentiles at the end of Romans 3, Paul illustrates this truth in Romans 4 by the example of Abraham, whose status of ―righteous‖ is given because of his faith rather than a work of the law, namely circumcision. But what is the primary function of circumcision? If Paul had intended to give an example of self-help moralism or some good work, surely he could have conceived of numerous examples which all ethnicities could identify with (keeping your vows, honoring your parents, etc). Rather, circumcision in Paul‘s context would have been primarily understood as the central defining characteristic which ethnically separated Jewish men from Gentile men, and Paul‘s use of Abraham at this point in the argument emphatically drives home that ethnic separation was not the basis for acceptance in God‘s people. 176 These questions strike to the fundamental issue of why Romans was written. It is commonly accepted that Paul‘s historical occasion was the reentry of the Jews into predominantly-Gentile churches after they had been expelled from Rome under Claudius in 49-54 AD. In this context, Wright‘s exegesis fits like a glove: Jews, who had traditionally segregated themselves from Gentiles with zeal, are now coming back into the churches, and both parties need to be reminded that πίζηις —
―Strong's Numbers,‖ Strong's Hebrew Dictionary: 530. emunah, December 10, 2010, http://strongsnumbers.com/hebrew/530.htm. 176 It should be noted that while the view of circumcision as ―moralism‖ is suspect, the matter gets demonstrably worse in regards to ―self-help‖; by this exegesis, we shall find infants circumcising themselves on the eighth day!
Piper, The Future of Justification, 184, 147, 86. Ibid., 147. 171 Wright, Justification, 231. 172 Ibid., 184. 173 Ibid., 204. 174 Piper, The Future of Justification, 130. 170
not ethnic background—forms the basis for how God has reconstituted them as his people in Jesus. Conclusion By way of conclusion, it is profitable to explore how two theologians of such high caliber have come to such dissimilar understandings of justification. One may venture that clues lie in Piper‘s concluding critiques of Wright in The Future of Justification. According to Piper, Wright‘s perspective ultimately seems to be more in line with the Catholic understanding of justification than that of the sixteenth-century Reformers, and he fears that ―[Wright‘s] view will be co-opted as confirmation of the Catholic way.‖177 Regardless of one‘s opinion about this claim, it should be imminently clear that this assertion is neither here nor there in regards to the criteria Piper himself affirms as decisive, namely, the authority of Scripture and the context of Paul‘s own arguments. While Piper never consciously abandons these premises, it is not without irony that in seeking to defend the Reformers, Piper‘s arguments consistently revert to citing historic Protestant tradition, with a whole chapter being devoted to tackling such sixteenth-century concerns as The Augsburg Confession and The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, which we can safely assume Paul to have been unaware of. Conversely, by following the premises established by the Reformers and attempting to see justification through first-century eyes, Wright produces an exegesis which not only illuminates Paul‘s arguments, but also shows the entire narrative of his Scriptures reaching—in Christ—their inconceivably grand fulfillment. It is with this vision of justification in mind that one cannot help but to joyfully exclaim the words of Paul, that indeed, ―all the promises of God find their ‗Yes!‘ in him.‖ (2 Cor. 1:20).
Piper, The Future of Justification, 183.
Bibliography Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2001. Bouman, Herbert. ―The Doctrine of Justification in the Lutheran Confessions.‖ Concordia Theological Monthly XXVI, no. 11 (November 1955): 19. Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Revised. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008. Piper, John. The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2007. ―Strong's Numbers.‖ Strong's Hebrew Dictionary: 530. emunah, December 10, 2010. http://strongsnumbers.com/hebrew/530.htm. Wright, N. T. Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision. London: SPCK Publishing, 2009.
RICKY ST-PIERRE The Use of Psalm 95 in Hebrews 3: A Deuteronomic Exhortation to Faithfulness
Introduction The early Christian homily known as PROS EBRAIOUS is a fascinating document. It is ―the longest sustained argument in the New Testament‖ demonstrating the supremacy of Christ as the high priest of a new covenant.178 Addressed to a community which has been subject to persecution for its commitment to the Messiah (Heb. 10:32-35), it is a ―word of exhortation‖ (13:22) to a discouraged assembly of believers to remain steadfast in their faith. 179 The address is replete with OT references which play a fundamental role in developing the rich symbolism of the author‘s message.180 It is the contention of this study that the author of Hebrews, appropriating Psalm 95:7c-11 in Hebrews 3:7c-11, makes paradigmatic use of the failure of Israel in the post-exodus wilderness to present his hearers with a ‗Deuteronomic‘ choice: obedience or rebellion.181 The paper will begin with a literary outline of Hebrews in order to place the Psalm 95-citation within its NT context. Subsequently, the study will examine the psalm‘s original context in the Hebrew Psalter and demonstrate that, through an innerbiblical exegesis, the psalmist composed an exhortation deeply influenced by Deuteronomic language and motifs. Following a discussion of related interpretive traditions within the broader canonical and extra-canonical literature of Judaism, the paper will conclude with a consideration of the author of Hebrews‘ ‗Deuteronomic‘ use of Psalm 95.
Hebrews Hebrews has long been considered one of the most impressive literary works of the NT.182 Although scholars may be in agreement regarding this first-century homily‘s literary quality, they have not reached a consensus regarding its structure.183 This study adopts the following general structure:184 Introduction: God has spoken to us by his Son (1:1-4) Exposition: The Son as Superior to the Angels (1:5-2:18) Exhortations to faithfulness (3:1-4:13) Exposition: The Son as Superior High Priest (4:14-10:25) Exhortations to Faithfulness (10:26-12:29) Final Instructions (13:1-19) Conclusion: Bear my word of exhortation (13:20-25)
The author‘s general mode of argumentation throughout the homily is to alternate back and forth between exposition and exhortation.185 The inherent logic behind Hebrews‘ message is the midrashic principle of ( קל וחומדqal wahomer) in which ―what is applied in a less important case will certainly apply in a more important case.‖186 Thus, the writer opens his address by comparing how God had previously spoken through prophets, but now he has spoken through his Son (1:1), and in the midst of his exposition of Jesus as superior to the angels, he warns his audience (2:1-3a):
Harold W. Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Philadelphia, PA.: Fortress Press, 1989), 1. 183 For an extensive discussion on the various approaches to the structure of Hebrews, see George H. Guthrie, The Structure of Hebrews: A Text-Linguistic Analysis (New York, NY.: E.J. Brill, 1994), 3-41. For a more recent survey see Peter T. O‘Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 2010), 2234. 184 This is a very broad structure, based largely on A. Vanhoye‘s influential literary analysis. See Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (New York, NY.: Doubleday, 1997), 690. 185 George H. Guthrie, Hebrews (Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 1998), 27. 186 Richard E. Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period. 2nd ed. Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 1998), 20. Johnson notes that this midrashic logic is also found in, and probably derives from, Hellenistic rhetoric under the guise of a minores ad maius. Johnson, Hebrews, 31.
Johnson, Luke T. Hebrews: A Commentary (Louisville, KY.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), 31. 179 All Biblical quotes are taken from the ESV, unless otherwise stated. 180 Guthrie counts thirty-seven quotations, forty allusions, and nineteen summaries of OT material in Hebrews. George H. Guthrie, ―Hebrews,‖ in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, eds. G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Academic, 2007), 919. 181 This paper refers to ‗Deuteronomic‘ as pertaining to the canonical text of Deuteronomy, and does not mean to imply any significance relating to the ‗Deuteronomistic‘ character of the Former Prophets or the redactional work of the ‗Deuteronomist‘. David Allen, ―More Than Just Numbers: Deuteronomic Influence in Hebrews 3:7-4:11,‖ Tyndale Bulletin 58 (2007): 131.
author‘s exhortation to faithfulness. 187 This study is concerned with examining the warning of the initial citation of Psalm 95:7c-11 in Hebrews 3:7c-11 along with its application by the author immediately following after (3:12-19). Here the author develops the consequences of faithless disobedience as experienced by Israel‘s forefathers in the wilderness and applies the warning of the psalm to his contemporary audience.188 Filling out the immediate context of the Psalm 95 citation in Heb. 3:7 is a section of the exhortation in which the author of Hebrews seeks to assure his audience that they are heirs to the promise of God‘s rest.189 Hebrews 4:1-13 consists of a tripartite encouragement – in which Psalm 95 plays a central role, being cited another three times – for the author‘s audience to strive to enter that rest.190 Taken as a whole, the entire exhortation found in Heb. 3:14:13 lays the foundation for the sustained argument of the homily, that Jesus is the faithful high-priest of a new and better covenant, which the author develops in his central expositional passage (4:14-10:25). It also foreshadows the final exhortation to faithfulness, the well-known ―hall of faith‖ of chapters eleven and twelve, before the address draws to its conclusion.191
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? After establishing that the Son is superior to the angels (1:4-14), the author carries on his exposition – in the second chapter – by demonstrating that Christ became lower than the angels (2:7) to bring salvation to the descendants of Abraham, his brothers and sisters (2:10-18). In doing so, Jesus became ―a merciful and faithful high priest… to make propitiation for the sins of the people‖ (2:17). Having made his initial exposition of Christ, the one who is ―the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (1:3),‖ the author turns to an exhortation to his audience based on what he has just presented to them. The following section (Heb. 3:1-4:13), the immediate context of the Psalm 95 citation, functions as an extended exhortation to faithfulness which is based upon the fidelity of Christ previously demonstrated by the author (2:17). The exhortation can be structured as follows:
Psalm 95 and its Old Testament Context Psalm 95 is part of a collection of psalms commonly known as YHWH-kingship psalms in the first half of the fourth book of the Psalter.192 The psalms in this grouping share a common motif of royal imagery in which YHWH is exalted as King of Israel and over all of creation. While Israel is repeatedly acclaimed as the special people of YHWH in these psalms, YHWH is praised for his salvation which extends to ―all the ends of the earth‖ (Ps.98:3) and the nations are also consistently invited to set aside their false gods and join Israel in worship in Jerusalem. The context of Psalm 95 in the Hebrew Psalter is one where YHWH‘s universal reign over
Jesus as the supreme example of faithfulness (3:1-6) The wilderness generation: an example of faithlessness (3:7-11) An exhortation not to follow those who fell in the wilderness (3:12-19) The promise of rest for those who remain faithful (4:1-13)
Hebrews 3:1-6 develops upon the theme of Jesus‘ faithfulness by comparing Christ to Moses. The author tells his audience to ―consider Jesus… who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful‖ (3:2). In doing so, the author sets up a contrast between the theme of faithfulness and the anti-theme of faithlessness which the citation of Psalm 95 introduces: Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, ―Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test, and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‗They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.‘ As I swore in my wrath, ‗They shall not enter my rest.‘‖
With the final three repetitions of Ps 95 the author shifts in 4:113 to developing his concept of ―entering God‘s rest,‖ which falls outside of the purview of this study. 188 O‘Brien, Hebrews, 140. 189 Lane, Hebrews 1-8, 97. 190 Mitchell, Hebrews, 101-102. 191 Harold W. Attridge, ―The Psalms in Hebrews,‖ in The Psalms in the New Testament, ed. Steve Moyise and Maarten J.J. Menken (New York, N.Y.: T&T Clark, 2004), 205. 192 I identify the YHWH-malak psalms as consisting of Pss. 93 100 with Pss. 95 and 100 forming ‗call to worship‘ frame around a core-group of kingship psalms (Ps 96-99). For a discussion of the editing of the fourth Book of the Psalter see Gerald H. Wilson, ―Shaping the Psalter: A Consideration of Editorial Linkage in the Book of Psalms,‖ in The Shape and Shaping of the Psalter, ed. Clinton McCann (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1993), 75-76.
The psalm is cited in part a total of five times (Heb. 3:7c-11,15; 4:3, 5, 7) within the context of the
all nations is repeatedly emphasized, and all peoples are called to respond to his invitation.193 There is a widespread consensus among scholars that Psalm 95 divides into two sections. 194 The first part of the Psalm (95:1-7b) consists of a call to worship which celebrates with thanksgiving the kingship of YHWH as creator. ―Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving,‖ (Ps 95:2) states the Psalmist. ―For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all Gods‖ (95:3). The second part, the one cited in Hebrews 3:7c-11, shifts from the praise of YHWH to a prophetic challenge for the ―people of his pasture‖ (95:7b) to hear his voice and not harden their hearts like their ancestors who went ―astray in their hearts‖ (95:10). The strong contrast between these two sections has often lead traditional critics to think of Psalm 95 as two distinct poems which were collated together.195 Scholarship of the past century, however, has consistently argued for the psalm‘s unity.196 The setting of Psalm 95, broadly speaking, is usually identified as a liturgical-festal context where the psalm calls the community – ―Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!‖ (95:6) – to worship.197 Defining a more specific Sitz im Leben is an issue fraught with difficulties, since a more precise setting depends largely upon whether the psalm has a pre- or postexilic provenance.198 In the past few decades there
has been an increasing acknowledgement among scholars of the intertextuality of the Hebrew Bible, including the Psalter.199 This growing awareness of inner-biblical exegesis has led recent scholarship to shed some light on the dating of Psalm 95. Two particular studies have argued that Psalm 95 borrows material from Psalm 100, a pre-exilic composition, to meet the needs of a devastated post-exilic community.200 Regardless of its origins, by the time of the NT era, the psalm was widely used as a preamble in synagogue services and thus would most likely have been familiar to Jewish-Christians.201 Another recent development in the research on Psalm 95, which will be of particular interest for our consideration of Hebrews 3-4, has been the widespread acknowledgement of a Deuteronomic influence in its shaping. Recent attention has been drawn to the dialectic nature of Psalm 95, with its two sections, in which a contrast between blessing and cursing echoes the hortatory method exhibited throughout the book of Deuteronomy.202 The psalm clearly expresses a Deuteronomic perspective in that, God‘s acceptance of his people depends largely upon their response to him: ―For forty years I loathed that generation and said, ―They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways. Therefore I swore in my wrath, ‗They shall not enter my rest.‘‖ (95:10-11).203 It has been proposed, in fact, based on the covenantal language of 95:7 and the wilderness setting of 95:8-11, that Psalm 95 consisted of an enthronement psalm which was recited in an annual liturgy as part of a rehearsal of the Sinai covenant in a formal renewal ceremony.204 The Psalm has been described as a ―DeuteronomisticDeuteronomistically influenced call to decide for obedience to YHWH.‖ 205 The most significant proof in favour of this assessment is the psalm‘s characteristically Deuternomomic use of the word
It is striking to note, therefore, that Psalm 95 makes no mention of the other nations, but is specifically addressed to Israel as ―the people of his pasture, and the flock of his hand.‖ Robert C., ―The Kingship of Yahweh Psalms,‖ in Reading Communities, Reading Scripture: Essays in Honor of Daniel Patte, eds. Gary A. Philips and Nicole Wilkinson Duran (Harrisburg, PN.: Trinity Press International, 2002), 266-67. 194 Marvin E. Tate, Psalms 51-100 (Waco, TX.: Word Books, 1990), 498. More recently, Hossfeld has argued for a tripartite division with vv.6-7b consisting of a transitory ―covenant formula.‖ Frank-Lothar Hossfeld and Erich Zenger, Psalms 2: A Commentary on Psalms 51-100 (Minneapolis, MN.: Fortress Press, 2005), 461. 195 Wellhausen, for example, argued that ―There is no link between the two halves of the Psalm. Probably there is no real connection between them, for the exhortation, vv.8-11, accords poorly with the exultation of vv. 1-7.‖ Julius Wellhausen, The Book of Psalms (New York, NY.: Dodd, Mead, 1989), 202. 196 Peter Enns argues that a creation/re-creation theme within the entirety of the poem best explains the form of Psalm 95. Peter Enns, ―Creation and Re-Creation: Psalm 95 and Its Interpretation in Hebrews 3:1-4:13,‖ Westminster Theological Journal 55 (1993): 256. For arguments based on the lexical and thematic links between the two sections see also Hossfeld and Zenger, Psalms 2, 460; Tate, Psalms, 498. 197 Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150: A Commentary, trans. Hilton C. Oswald. (Minneapolis, MN.: Augsburg Fortress, 1989), 246. 21 Erhard S. Gerstenberger, followed by Tate, has argued that it is best to read Psalm 95, in its current form, in a post-exilic ―congregational worship outside Jerusalem and its temple.‖ Erhard S. Gerstenberger, Psalms, Part 2, and Lamentations (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 2001), 185; Tate, Psalms, 500.
The seminal work which has drawn attention to this phenomenon is Michael Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel (New York, NY.: Oxford University Press, 1985). 200 W.M. Schniedewind, ―Are We His People or Not?: Biblical Interpretation During Crisis,‖ Biblica 76 (1995): 540-550; W. Dennis Tucker, Jr., ―Psalm 95: Text, Context, and Intertext,‖ Biblica 81 (2000): 533-541. 201 Simon Kistemaker, The Psalm Citations in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Amsterdam: Wed. G. van Soest, 1961), 35. 202 David Allen, ―More Than Just Numbers: Deuteronomic Influence in Hebrews 3:7-4:11,‖ Tyndale Bulletin 58 (2007): 129149. 203 Schniedewind, “Are we his People or Not,‖ 547. 204 This argument is based on dating the psalm as pre-exilic. Sigmund Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel‟s Worship, trans. D.R. Ap-Thomas (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 2004) 156-159. 205 Hossfeld and Zenger, Psalms 2, 461.
היום.206 In both Psalm 95 and Deuteronomy the term ―today‖ serves the function of linking the past with the present and expresses a sense of urgency in adhering to the message.207 In examining the intertextuality of Psalm 95, it has also been argued that the Psalmist not only combined pre-existent material from Psalm 100 with a Meribah-Massah tradition, but also with a Deuteronomic source. The swearing of God‘s oath, ―They shall not enter my rest,‖ (95:11) comes from Deuteronomy 12:6.208 As a whole the Psalm‘s view is that Israel‘s greatest danger is its own disobedience –its rejection of the ways of YHWH – which reproduces an understanding which is thoroughly Deuteronomic.209 The reliance of Psalm 95 upon Deuteronomy for its understanding of the events of the wilderness generation places the psalm within a long tradition of inner-biblical interpretation by Jewish writers.
In a similar vein, some writings of the Second Temple period recount the rebellion of the people with the purpose of positively portraying Israel‘s leaders.211 Josephus, for example writes ―But as for Moses himself, while the multitude were irritated and bitterly set against him, he cheerfully relied upon God…‖ (Ant. 3:11; cf. 3:33,296). Philo, writing about the wilderness generation (Decalogue 2-17), refers to ―God‘s pedagogical purposes,‖ listing four lessons learned from the forty years of wandering in the desert.212 In the Apocrypha, Sirach recounts the people‘s refusal to enter the land in order to draw attention to the bravery of Phinehas, Joshua, and Caleb (Sir. 45:23; 46:1-10). Pseudo-Philo, in his firstcentury (A.D.) rewriting of the Bible – Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum (L.A.B.) – draws attention to a series of revolts by Israel after the exodus, but unlike his eponym, he ascribes no pedagogical function to the incidents. In fact, when he recounts the forbiddance of Moses from entering the land, Pseudo-Philo describes God‘s reasoning as such:
Psalm 95 and Jewish Literature: The Example of the Wilderness Generation Although Psalm 95 is not itself explicitly referenced in the broader Jewish literature, the events to which it refers – the rebellion at Kadesh described in Numbers 14 – is said to have ―left an indelible mark in a broad spectrum of sources.‖210 Like the author of Hebrews, Jewish writers consistently made paradigmatic usage of the wilderness generation referenced in Psalm 95. In fact, the account of Israel‘s wilderness forefathers has been used in a variety of ways and for a variety of different purposes. The first recitations of Israel‘s rebellion in the desert are made by Moses (Deut. 1:26) to call the people to obedience as a prologue to covenant. Joshua, and later Ezra and Nehemiah, recall the history of Israel for a similar purpose (Josh. 24:1-15; Neh. 9:8-23). Some biblical texts such as Jeremiah 2:2b-3a (see also Hos. 2:14-15), however, portray the days in the desert not in rebellious terms, but as a time of intimacy with God:
…But thou shall not enter therein [into the land] in this age, lest thou see the graven images whereby this people will be deceived and led out of the way (L.A.B. 19:7).213 Moses is here described as receiving a gesture of mercy from God, that of being spared from seeing Israel‘s future apostasy, instead of receiving punishment for disobedience. There are also a series of instances within Jewish literature where the choices of the wilderness generation, as in Hebrews, serve as a negative example . Unlike Jeremiah and Hosea, the prophet Ezekiel repeatedly criticizes the forefathers of Israel for their repeated disobedience and challenges his generation: ―Will you defile yourselves after the manner of your fathers and go whoring after their detestable things?‖ (Ezek. 20:30). Some Psalms, Ps. 95 evidently included, follow a similar line. Psalm 77, for example, contrasts God‘s faithful character with Israel‘s constant rebellion: ―How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert!‖ (Ps. 78:40; see also Ps. 105:6-33). The extra-canonical Apocalypse of Ezra (1st c. A.D.), in trying to make sense of the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, also gives a negative
―I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the Lord.‖
Both of Moses‘ speeches in Deut. 2:18 and 26:3 begin with היום. See Tucker for further lexical connections between Ps 95 and Deut. Tucker, ―Psalm 95,‖ 538. 207 Tate, Psalms 51-100, 502. See also Allen, ―More than Just Numbers,‖ 138. 208 Tucker draws attention to the fact that the phrase אל־מנוחoccurs only in Ps 95:11 and Deut. 12:9. Tucker, ―Psalm 95,‖ 540. 209 Allen, ―More than Just Numbers,‖ 136. 210 Lane, Hebrews 1-8, 85. 206
Johnson, Hebrews, 120. 1) The Israelites avoided the corrupting pride of city life. 2) They would be purified from the licentiousness of city life. 3) In the desert they had the opportunity to practice the law. 4) They learned that it was God, and not humans who gave them the law. Ibid. 213 Quoted from M.R. James‘ translation of the Old Latin version. Pseudo-Philo, The Biblical Antiquities of Philo, trans. M.R. James (New York, NY.: KTAV Publishing House, 1971), 128. 212
resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you‖ (Acts 7:51). According to Stephen, just as their ancestors resisted God and persecuted the prophets, so too have his contemporaries now betrayed Jesus, ―the Righteous One‖ (Acts 7:52). Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, also makes clear paradigmatic use of the Israelites in the wilderness. Concerning them he says, ―with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness‖ (1 Cor. 10:5). Paul goes on to explain that many of that generation were destroyed for having tested Christ, but that ―these things happened to them as an example [for us], but they were written down for our instruction…‖ (1 Cor. 10:11). Paul and Luke, in line with Psalm 95 – and a series of Jewish writers – saw the wilderness generation as an obvious paradigm of how not to respond to God and sought to draw lessons from their ancestors‘ mistakes in order to exhort their contemporaries to ―not desire evil as they did‖ (1 Cor. 10:6). Hebrews 3-4, with its exposition of Psalm 95, stands in a well-established tradition of ―inner-biblical exegesis and inner-Jewish critique, when it rereads the story of the wilderness and uses it for hortatory purposes in the present.‖218
assessment of the wilderness generation, stating: ―Our fathers… received the law of life, which they kept not, even as you also after them have transgressed it‖ (4 Ezra 14:29-30). 214 An interesting parallel development to Hebrews 3:1-4:13 is the Qumran document called the Damascus Covenant (CD). Here the sectarian composition describes the Israelites at Kadesh having refused to listen to the voice of ‗their Maker‘ and spurned his wrath, and thus: By [God‘s anger] the first covenant members incurred guilt and were delivered to the sword – because they had forsaken the covenant of God and chosen what they wanted and been drawn after the stubbornness of their heart to do each one as he wanted. But with those who adhered to the commandments of God… God established his covenant with Israel. (CD 3: 10-13).215 The document describes how the covenant made with Noah, and passed on to Isaac and Jacob (CD 3:4), failed and was replaced with a new covenant. Thus, the writer contrasts an earlier covenant which failed due to the wilderness generation and the ―stubbornness of their heart,‖ and a new, eternal covenant with those who obeyed.216 The parallels between this first-century (B.C.E.) sectarian text and Psalm 95 –along with its exposition in Hebrews 3-4 – are evident.217 In both texts, the wilderness generation is seen as example of what not to do; namely, not to be lead astray by a wrong disposition of the ‗heart‘ towards God. Closer similarities between Psalm 95/Hebrews3-4 can, not surprisingly, be found in the New Testament. In Acts 7, Stephen‘s extensive speech consists of a retelling of the history of Israel, especially of Moses and his (and thus God‘s) rejection by the people: ―Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt‖ (Acts 7:39). Stephen makes an example of the ancestors of Israel in order to reprimand his own generation: ―You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always
Hebrews use of Psalm 95 Before shifting from his positive example of Christ‘s faithfulness to the negative example of the wilderness generation, the author of Hebrews establishes that ―Christ is faithful over God‘s house‖ which he identifies as his audience; ―we are indeed God‘s house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope‖ (3:6b). Having implied a warning with this conditional statement, the author then develops it by introducing his citation of Psalm 95 which closely follows the LXX (Ps 94:7-11). While the LXX itself makes a few interpretive amendments to the MT, the text of Hebrews 3:7-11 exhibits two significant changes that diverge from both.219 First, the author of Hebrews inserts the particle διο (‗therefore‘) in Heb. 3:10 (ηεζζεράκονηα ἐηη διό προζώχθιζα ηῃ γενεᾳ ηαύηῃ καὶ ειπον ἀεὶ πλανωνηαι ηῃ καρδίᾳ) which significantly alters the meaning of the verse. Whereas in the LXX the ‗forty years‘ is associated with God‘s anger (ηεζζεράκονηα ἐηη διό προζώχθιζα ηῃ γενεᾳ ἐκείνῃ καὶ εἰπα ἀεὶ
Pseudo-Philo‘s L.A.B. is argued to be one of the sources for 4 Ezra, but it seems that the apocalypse takes a different view here of the wilderness generation. Michael E. Stone, ed., Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period: Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Qumran Sectarian Writings, Philo, Josephus (Asen: Van Gorcum, 1984), 413. 215 Quoted from Philip R. Davies‘s translation. Philip R. Davies, The Damascus Covenant: An Interpretation of the “Damascus Document” (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1983), 239. 216 One would assume that the author considered the Qumran community inheritors of this new covenant. Johnson, Hebrews, 121. 217 For the dating of CD see Stone, Jewish Writings, 490.
Johnson, Hebrews, 122. The LXX has four noteworthy variations from the Masoretic Text : 1)In v.7b ―ἐὰν‖ (‗if‘) expresses a condition (―if you hear…‖) whereas the Hebrew ― ‖אםexpresses a wish (―if only you would hear…‖). 2) In v.8a The LXX replaces the generic singular לבב (‗heart‘) with the plural καρδίας. 3)In v.8b, the LXX translates the place names ―Massah‖ and ―Meribah‖ to ―rebellion‖ (παραπικραζμῳ) and ―testing‖ (πειραζμοσ) rather than transliterating them. 4) In v.10, while the Hebrew reads עם חּעי (―the people go astray‖) the Greek reads ἀεὶ πλανωνηαι (―they always go astray‖). O‘Brien, Hebrews, 141. 219
as it is called ‗today.‘‖224 In Psalm 95 the term functions as the pivotal point between the psalms two sections of thanksgiving and exhortation.225 In Deuteronomy, ζήμερον is rare in the law, however it plays a prominent role in Moses‘ speeches (Deut. 4:25-28; 30:15-20; 31:16-18,26-29). The writer of Deuteronomy uses the word ―today‖ to ―transfer his audience typologically back to the Mosaic era‖ in order to exhort Israel to an ―obedient response (now) to YHWH‘s prior covenantal action.‖226 This typological connection between past, present and future actions which Deuteronomy makes is analogously applied in Psalm 95, and eventually in Hebrews.227 In Deuteronomy, the people of God had a choice to make as they were on the threshold of entering into the land of Canaan; in Psalm 95 they faced a similar challenge of return to Israel after the exile; in Hebrews, the author calls his audience to enter into God‘s rest by choosing to persevere in their faith. In all three writings, the current generation stands in continuity with its forefathers and faces the same choice of responding to God‘s prior actions.
πλανωνηαι ηῃ καρδίᾳ), the insertion of ―therefore‖ in Hebrews 3:10 alters the punctuation so that the ‗forty years‘ refers back to the time when the wilderness generation tested God and saw his works. Thus, Hebrews 3:9-10 is commonly translated ―… where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked…‖, whereas the LXX version of Ps 95:9-10 (Ps 94:9-10) is rendered ―… your fathers put me to the test… though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation…‖. For the author of Hebrews, therefore, the period of wandering in the wilderness was not a time of wrath and punishment for Israel, but a time in which the people saw God‘s works. God‘s anger is explained as the result of that generations‘ improper response to his gracious acts. The second significant alteration which Hebrews makes from the LXX is the replacement of the demonstrative ἐκείνη(‗that‘) with ηαύηῃ (‗this‘). Here, the author is seeking to emphasize to his audience that the Psalmist‘s original exhortation to his post-exilic audience, to not follow the example of Israel in the desert, still applies in their postmessianic day. 220 Having appropriated the Psalmist‘s warning for his current audience, the author of Hebrews then transitions from the citation to expound its implications. It is through his interpretation of Psalm 95 that the author‘s ‗Deuteronomic‘ understanding of his source becomes evident. In the verses following the citation of Ps 95:7-11, the author takes up an exhortation based upon the Psalm‘s language.221 Heb. 3:12-19 is framed by an inclusio formed with the words βλέπω and ἀπιζηία.222 Central to the author‘s admonition against unbelief is his Deuteronomic treatment of the key term ζήμερον.223 Heb. 3:13 states that the homily‘s hearers are to ―exhort one another every day, as long
Conclusion This study has demonstrated that the author of Hebrews, in composing his exhortation in Hebrews 3-4 based on Psalm 95:7-11, was heir to a longstanding interpretive tradition within JudaeoChristian literature. Juxtaposing the example of Christ‘s faithfulness with the past faithlessness of Israel, the author sought to exhort his audience to persevere in the face of persecution and to not be tempted to renounce its commitment to Christ. Using a psalm heavily influenced by the language and thought of Deuteronomy, the passage presents a simple choice. Just as God‘s people, under Moses, needed to choose to either obey in faith or rebel in stubbornness of heart, so now God‘s house, under the Son who is superior even to the angels, must decide. Following the Psalmist, the author of Hebrews saw the wilderness generation of Israel‘s as a negative example of a failure to respond to God‘s grace.
The immediacy of Hebrews‘ exhortation is further emphasized by the author in subsequent verses with you repeated use of ζήμερον in the verses that follow. 221 For a discussion of the many similarities between Hebrews 3-4 and parallel rabbinic and Essene documents see David Flusser, ― ‗Today if You Will Listen to His Voice‘: Creative Jewish Exegesis in Hebrews 3-4,‖ in Creative Biblical Exegesis: Christian and Jewish Hermeneutics Through the Centuries, ed. Benjamin Uffenheimer and Hennin Graf Reventlow, 55-62. 222 In Heb. 3:12 the writer warns, using the imperative βλέπεηε, against having an ―evil, unbelieving heart‖ (καρδία πονηρὰ ἀπιζηίας), while in 3:19 he concludes by stating that ―we see‖ (βλέπομεν) that the wilderness generation did not enter into God‘s rest because of ―unbelief‖ (ἀπιζηίαν). Although the word apistia is commonly translated as ―unbelief‖ in popular translations (see NASB, ESV, NKJV, TNIV), commentators regularly question such a rendering. Johnson, along with Attridge, suggests ―faithlessness‖, while DeSilva argues for ―untrustworthiness‖ as a term within the sphere of patronage. Johnson, Hebrews, 177; Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 42; DeSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude, 144. 223 Allen, ―More Than Just Numbers,‖ 139. 220
The term is emphasized again in 3:15 when Hebrews takes up Psalm 95 for a second time, this time quoting Ps 95:7b-8a, ―As it is said, ―Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion‖ 225 Hossfeld and Zenger, Psalms 2 , 461. 226 Allen, ―More Than Just Numbers,‖ 139. 227 Simon J. Devries, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Time and History in the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 1975), 165
Bibliography Allen, David. ―More Than Just Numbers: Deuteronomic Influence in Hebrews 3:7-4:11.‖ Tyndale Bulletin 58 (2007): 129-149. Attridge, Harold W. ―The Psalms in Hebrews.‖ In The Psalms in the New Testament, edited by Steve Moyise and Maarten J.J. Menken, 197-212. New York, NY.: T&T Clark, 2004. ---- The Epistle to the Hebrews. Edited by Helmut Koester. Philadelphia, PA.: Fortress Press, 1989. Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to the New Testament. New York, NY.: Doubleday, 1997. Culley, Robert C. ―The Kingship of Yahweh Psalms.‖ In Reading Communities, Reading Scripture: Essays in Honor of Daniel Patte, edited by Gary A. Phillips and Nicole Wilkinson Duran, 258-270. Harrisburg PN.: Trinity Press International, 2002. Davies, Philip R. The Damascus Covenant: An Interpretation of the “Damascus Document.” Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1983. DeSilva, David A. Perseverance in Gratitude: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Epistle “to the Hebrews.” Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 2000. DeVries, Simon J. Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Time and History in the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 1975. Enns, Peter. ―Creation and Re-Creation: Psalm 95 and Its Interpretation in Hebrews 3:1-4:13.‖ Westminster Theological Journal 55 (1993): 255-280. Fishbane, Michael. Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel. New York, NY.: Oxford University Press, 1985. Flusser, David. ―‗Today If you Will Listen to This Voice‘: Creative Exegesis in Hebrews 3-4.‖ In Creative Biblical Exegesis: Christian and Jewish Hermeneutics Through the Centuries, edited by Benjamin Uffenheimer and Henning Graf Reventlow, 55-62. Sheffield: JSOT, 1988. Gerstenberger, Erhard. Psalms, part 2, and Lamentations. Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 2001. Guthrie, George H. ―Hebrews.‖ In Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson, 919-995. Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Academic, 2007. ---- Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 1998. ---- The Structure of Hebrews: A Text-Linguistic Analysis. New York, NY.: E.J. Brill, 1994. Hossfeld, Frank-Lothar, and Erich Zenger. Psalms 2: A Commentary on Psalms 51-100. Minneapolis, Mn: Fortress Press, 2005. Johnson, Luke T. Hebrews: A Commentary. Louisville, KY.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006. Kistemaker, Simon. The Psalm Citations in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Amsterdam: Wed. G. van Soest, 1961. Kraus, Hans-Joachim. Psalms 60-150: A Commentary. Translated by Hilton C. Oswald. Minneapolis, MN.: Augsburg Fortress, 1989. Lane, William L. Hebrews 1-8. Dallas, TX.: Word Books, 1991.
Longenecker, Richard E. Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period. 2nd ed. Vancouver, Regent College Publishing, 1998. Mitchell, Alan C. Hebrews. Edited by Daniel J. Harrington. Collegeville, MN.: Liturgical Press, 2007 Mowinckel, Sigmund. The Psalms in Israel‟s Worship. Translated by D.R. Ap-Thomas. Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 2004. O‘Brien, Peter T. The Letter to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 2010. Pseudo-Philo, The Biblical Antiquities of Philo. Translated by M.R. James. New York, NY.: KTAV Publishing House, 1971. Schniedewind, W.M. ―Are We His People or Not?: Biblical Interpretation During Crisis.‖ Biblica 76 (1995): 540550. Tate, Marvin E. Psalms 51-100. Waco, TX.: Word Books, 1990. Tucker, Dennis. ―Psalm 95: Text, Context, and Intertext.‖ Biblica 81 (2000): 533-541. Wellhausen, Julius. The Book of Psalms. New York, NY.: Dodd, Mead, 1898. Wilson, Gerald H. ―Shaping the Psalter: A Consideration of Editorial Linkage in the Book of Psalms.‖ In The Shape and Shaping of the Psalter, edited by J. Clinton McCann, 72-82. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1993.
EVA BRAUNSTEIN Words and the Word: Metaphor, Analogy and Dialogic Discourse as a Theology of Language
―Thou art also…a figurative, a metaphorical God too; A God in whose words there is such a height of figures, such voyages, such peregrinations to fetch remote and precious metaphors, such extensions, such spreadings, such Curtaines of Allegories, such third Heavens of Hyperboles, so harmonious eloquutions…O, what words but thine, can expresse the inexpressible texture, and composition of thy word‖.228
the disciplines of both science and theology. Additionally, the multiplicity of reference born out of poetic language exposes the way in which words themselves possess a sacramental character by manifesting more than what appears to be immediately present, often by means of sensory evocation. As sacraments mediate the presence of things greater than themselves through the liturgical means of sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste, so words, and poetic words in particular, mediate meaning to us beyond their phonological characteristics. In later sections, the socially determined dimension of sign-making and language use will be explored. Avoiding the Scylla of the ‗necessity‘ view of reference and the Charybdis of an arbitrary semantic theory, I will argue for the contingency of word meaning as the sensible middle way forward in semantic theory. The age old debate, beginning as early as Plato and Aristotle, about the natural versus conventional status of signs, has been polarized between a medieval ‗magical‘ view of reference wherein words are thought to be intrinsically connected to the objects they denote (‗cat‘ being the only way to speak of a furry four-legged creature, making ‗gato‘, the word for cat in Spanish, incorrect or silly) and the postmodern view of reference which has deconstructed meaning altogether in its reduction to the whimsical play of signs. A view of the contingency of meaning, wherein social convention generates word definition and styles of discourse, acknowledges the context-specific nature of language while maintaining its capacity to accurately represent reality. The contingency of language betrays the way in which reference is bound up in communities and traditions, such that meaning is fluid without being arbitrary, and truth-depicting without being rigidly deterministic about the one-to-one correspondence of word and thing. The sacramental nature of language, mitigating against the reduction of language either to deconstructed discourse, to technical speech or to propaganda, is our first subject of examination.
John Donne‘s exclamation of the figurative texture of Christian Scripture and its fundamentally literary nature cuts across much of the preoccupation in modern hermeneutics with propositional content. God is a metaphorical God, and this form of discourse is taken by Donne to be uniquely chosen as the best mode of communication for divine revelation. While the concerns of this paper extend beyond biblical hermeneutics, Donne‘s reflection on the richly figurative tenor of biblical text, rather than its straightforward, unambiguous, scientific disclosure of propositional truth, captures the general spirit of my endeavors here. The nature of nondiscursive, poetic language and what has been termed its ‗polysemy‘ or its ‗surplus of meaning‘, wherein single words have multivalent functions that evoke whole sets of associations rather than single referents, seems to hold a unique power for several reasons. Analogical and metaphorical forms of discourse offer a way forward in articulating a theology of language that redeems the dominant forms of discourse in the modern and postmodern world. Metaphor, it will be argued, is built into our conceptual framework as human thinkers and can be understood as the basis for human consciousness. Metaphor is also uniquely useful for what Janet Soskice has termed ‗reality depiction‘, the disclosure of truth about the world, in 228
John Donne, Sermons, VI. Quoted in Lewalski, Protestant Poetics and the Seventeenth-Century Religious Lyric. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 85.
unintelligent. While the transcendent view of signs applies to language use more generally, it is poetry in particular, with its use of metaphor and sensory evocation that ―signifies more than it says, that creates more than its signs, yet does so, like liturgy, through image, sound, and time, in language that takes the hearer beyond each of those elements‖.232 It is the signifying and revealing capacity of language, its status as a mediator of meaning, which is where language has its being. Gadamer‘s analogy between the relationship of thought and speech and the relationship of the members of the Trinity exemplifies this point well. Words do not seek to be anything besides the manifestations of things beyond themselves. Their existence is ‗consubstantial‘ with the concepts they denote.233 In a related vein, Walker Percy explains the symbolic, incarnating nature of words from an epistemological view, noting the way in which words make present and known that which would be absent without them. Describing Helen Keller‘s famous linguistic breakthrough, in connecting the word ‗water‘ with the wet, clear substance on her hand, Percy observes that this pairing
Poetic Discourse as Presence: Words as Sacraments What solution can we pose to the effects of deconstructed, propagandized discourse? How can we rescue meaning from the throes of technopoly, scientific abstraction, and the arbitrary play of signs? The great challenge of deconstruction and propaganda is the way in which absence is taken to be the normative state of affairs in ontology and in language. This nihilism can be redressed profoundly by a consideration of words as sacraments, as that which manifests more than is immediately present. Language, particularly of the poetic kind, can be thought of as sacramental in virtue of its sensorial evocation, in virtue of its manifestation of presence, and in virtue of its participation in or resemblance to its referent while still remaining infinitely distant from the object it denotes. Regina Schwartz points out the way in which poetic language is especially evocative of the five senses in its calling forth of ―images and sounds, indeed, an entire sensory reservoir‖.229 Because of this, ―poetry is especially suited to the surplus of meaning‖, a fact which the synaesthesia, or ―the blurring of sensory distinctions‖ that ―marks the ‗spiritual senses‘ for apprehending God in the mystical tradition‖ makes particularly apparent.230 Much as the liturgy uses material, sensory means (the positioning of bodies in standing and sitting, incense, music, etc) to heighten our awareness of sacred mysteries and bring us into communion with the otherness of God, poetic language operates on our senses to bear witness to transcendent reality. In the most straightforward sense, words can be thought of as signs insofar as they fulfill the definition put forth by Jacques Maritain: ―a sign is that which renders present to knowledge something other than itself‖.231 Indeed, words render present, in a sense, their objects of denotation, not simply their syntactical, semantic, semiotic, or phonological characteristics. For example, the letters ‗d-o-g‘ evoke more than two consonant sounds and a vowel. To English speakers they evoke a sense of a four legged furry creatures who barks. The chief function of words is to point beyond themselves, not to reflect back upon or remain fixated on their visual or aural attributes. ‗The curve of that S is so very sharp‘! ‗The sound of that A is so very nasal‘! If these preoccupations constituted the extent of a subject‘s interest, we would consider them confused or
―is unique and unprecedented in the causal nexus of significatory meaning…the two terms, it is clear, are related in some sense of identification, yet not a real identity. To express it in modern semiotical language, the water is conceived through the vehicle of the symbol. In scholastic language, the symbol has the peculiar property of containing within itself…in another mode of existence, that which is symbolized. Helen knows the water through and by means of the symbol‖. 234 That water can be conceived through this noncausal ‗vehicle‘ of the symbol ‗w-a-t-e-r‘, and that this is accomplished in virtue of the fact that the 232
Schwartz, 7. Gadamer comes to the conclusion that ―The mystery of the Trinity is mirrored in the miracle of language insofar as the word that is true, because it says what the thing is, is nothing by itself and does not seek to be anything…it has its being in its revealing….the human relationship between thought and speech corresponds, despite its imperfections, to the divine relationship of the Trinity. The inner mental word is just as consubstantial with thought as is God the Son with God the Father‖. 233 Hans-Georg Gadamer. Truth And Method. (New York: Continuum Publishing Company, 2000), 421.While the full implications of this dense onto-theological claim cannot be exhausted in this cursory examination, the sacramental character of language in its revelatory power comes through in this passage. The liturgical power of language, upon reflection, indeed seems as miraculous as the mystery of the Trinity. 234 Walker Percy. The Message in the Bottle: How Queer Man is, How Queer Language Is, and What One Has to Do With the Other. (New York: Picador, 1975), 261. 233
Regina Schwartz. Sacramental Poetics at the Dawn of Secularism: When God Left the World. (Stanford : Stanford University Press, 2008), 6. 230 Schwartz, 6. 231 Quoted in Schwartz, 4.
symbol ‗contains within itself‘ the mode of existence of the symbolized object, seems, indeed, like a sacramental phenomenon. We require mediation at the conceptual level, not just in order to apprehend God, but to apprehend the world around us. As Percy so aptly puts it ―since we do not know being directly…we must sidle up to it; and at the symbolobject level, we can only do this by laying something of comparable ontological status alongside…‗the philosopher must go through phantasm to reach being‘‖.235 That thing we lay alongside, the phantasm through which we pass to reach being, is most often of the linguistic sort, and as Schwartz would have it, is specifically of the poetic sort. The capacity to transmit something new through this phantasm can only be appreciated if sacramental poetics is seen not as ―any sign-making‖, but as that which ―entails a radical understanding of signifying, one that points beyond the life and presence of the artist, to manifest a new world‖.236 The signs of sacramental poetics are ―empowered to be effective‖ insofar as they change the hearer and, if not granting him eternity, at least do ―manifest a world‖.237 However, Gadamer‘s distinction between a sign and a copy complicates a view of words as sacraments. In his view, a sign bares no resemblance to its referent. Its being, its ontological essence, has no relation to what it means, to where it points. A sign, according to Gadamer, is univocal rather than analogous.
socially determined sense rather than in an ontologically substantive sense. There is nothing ontologically preventing ‗c-h-i-e-n‘ from also denoting a four legged creature, as it does in French. The sign subsists in something else, namely its relation to the actual animal for which it stands. However, Gadamer‘s definition of a copy sounds somewhat like the way sacramental poetic language functions. Unlike a sign, which does not resemble its referent, a copy possesses a ―resemblance that lies within itself. It does not acquire the function of pointing or representing from the subject who takes it as a sign but from its own content. It is not a mere sign‖.239 Insofar as poetic language, particularly onomatopoeia, does in fact mimic its referent in certain attributes, it seems that it is indeed more than a mere sign. While poetic language does not exactly allow subjects to ‗take it as a sign‘ based on its own content (insofar as poetic language is, like all language, socially determined), it does seem to meet the criterion of manifesting presence. In a copy, ―the thing copied is itself represented, caught, and made present. That is why it can be judged by the standard of resemblance—i.e., by the extent to which it makes present in itself what is not present‖.240 This view of words as mediating presence could function powerfully as an antidote to deconstructed, technopolized modern discourse. In addition to Gadamer‘s helpful definitional categories for words as sacraments, in distinguishing signs from copies, Calvin also makes way for a participatory, sacramental view of language. While he would maintain, contra the Catholic insistence on Real Presence, that Jesus‘s utterance ―This is my body‖ is a figurative rather than literal statement, Calvin leaves room for a participatory model of symbols in which they are not utterly divorced from the realities they represent. Barbara Lewalski cites this key passage from The Institutes regarding biblical symbolic language:
―all visible content of its own is reduced to the minimum necessary to assist its pointing function. The more univocally a sign-thing signifies, the more the sign is a pure sign— i.e., it is exhausted in the co-ordination…here a sign-being subsists only in something else…In this case the sign acquires a meaning as a sign only in relation to the subject who takes it as a sign…it is still an immediate entity…and only on the basis of its own immediate being is it at the same time something referential, ideal. The difference between what it is and what it means is absolute‖.238
―For though the symbol differs in essence from the thing signified (in that the latter is spiritual and heavenly, while the former is physical and visible), still, because it not only symbolizes the thing that it has been consecrated to represent as a bare and empty token, but also truly exhibits it, why may its name not rightly belong to the thing? Humanly devised symbols, being images of things absent rather than marks of things present…are still sometimes graced with the titles of those things. Similarly, with much
In some sense, this definition of a sign sounds like an appropriate definition to apply to words. A word is ultimately still a lexical, syntactical entity whose being really is exhausted in its relation to the thing it denotes. While ‗d-o-g‘ in a sense relates to a four legged furry creature, it does so in a 235
Percy, 263. Schwartz, 7. 237 Ibid. 238 Gadamer, 413. 236
greater reason, those things ordained by God borrow the names of those things of which they always bear a definite…signification, and have the reality joined with them‖.241
equivocity to the extreme of univocity, failing to differentiate between divine and human knowledge. This failure resulted in ‗the eclipse of mystery‘ such that ―truth had been reduced to the autonomous claims of a universally shared rationality‖. 244 An ominous precursor to the positivism and scientistic reductionism of the twentieth century, ―the new rationalist dialectics‖ of neo-Thomism ―maintained that truth meant complete, rational comprehension of propositional statements‖ to be mastered and exploited, rather than conceiving of truth as ―participation in divine mystery‖. 245 As a response to this technocratic trajectory, theologians of the twentieth century such as Boulliard argued that the doctrine of the analogy of truth (related to the famous analogy of being) avoided the problems of both equivocity and univocity. The benefits of an analogical model is as follows: ―If one and the same revealed truth is expressed in different systems (Augustinian, Thomist, Suarézian, etc.), the various notions that one uses to translate it are neither ‗equivocal‘ (or else one would no longer speak of the same thing), nor ‗univocal‘ (otherwise all the systems would be identical), but ‗analogous‘, that is to say that they express the same reality in a different way.‖246 Analogous speech thus avoids the pitfalls of Scholasticism, technopoly, and propaganda. Paul Ricoeur elucidates the connection between the concepts of the analogy of being and the analogy of truth and clarifies the metaphysical system upon which the possibility of analogy is premised. ―Analogy functions at the level of names and predicates, and it belongs to the conceptual order‖, but that which makes analogy possible is participation, the ―communication of being…Participation through deficient resemblance [rather than direct resemblance] implies no common form that is possessed unequally…the diminished image ensures an imperfect and inadequate representation of the divine exemplar, half-way between fusion in a single form and radical heterogeneity‖.247 The ‗deficient resemblance‘ of analogical thinking avoids both idolatrous fusion with the divine and an impersonal account of God that exhibits ‗radical heterogeneity‘. However it is not ―resemblance of copy to model‖ which makes the analogy of truth, as well as the analogy of being, possible. Rather, both are possible due to a certain kind of causality which is ―the communication of an act‖. However this act is ―at once what the effect has
Here Calvin articulates a position of referential semantics, in which words have fixed objects of reference, bearing ‗definite‘ rather than contextually sensitive significations, which aligns him with medieval linguistic theory. Richard Waswo characterizes the medieval view, epitomized by Dante, as one which holds that whatever is found in man‘s mind must be found or be realizable in actuality, because ―nature is perfect and man is the most perfect thing in it‖. Due to the correspondence between epistemology and ontology assumed, words have fixed signification because they correspond to a fixed external reality rather than to the mutable contexts of varying language communities.242 Despite this resemblance to medieval semantics, Calvin‘s position is markedly non-Catholic in its denoting a distinction between the ‗essence‘ of the symbol and the essence of the ‗thing signified‘, and in asserting that ‗humanly devised symbols‘, words, act as mere placeholders marking an absence rather than a presence (the very antithesis of Pre-reformation Eucharistic theology). But despite Calvin‘s radical dichotomizing of spiritual and physical realities, he argues that names in fact have the ‗reality‘ of what they signify ‗joined to them‘, such that ―by showing the symbol the thing itself is also shown‖.243 Thus signs are imbued themselves with the sacramentality of their referents. Analogous Discourse: Truth as Sacramental Participation The ‗devaluation of the word‘ into a mechanism of propaganda and technical, univocal speech, as lamented by critics like Jacques Ellul and Terry Eagleton, has resulted from what Regina Schwartz and Hans Boersma identify as a loss of sacramentalism. Hans Boersma locates the modern loss of sacramentalism less in the shift away from transubstantiation than does Schwartz. He identifies it in the unravelling of an intricate ‗sacramental symbolism‘ of the pre-modern era wrought by neoThomists who jumped from the extreme of 241
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Quoted in Barbara K. Lewalski,. Protestant Poetics and the SeventeenthCentury Religious Lyric. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 77-78. 242 Richard Waswo. Language and Meaning in the Renaissance. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), 48. (Martha Colish takes issue with the monolithic portrayal of medieval linguistics in Waswo, however there is limited space to discuss Waswo‘s potentially dubious historical interpretation). 243 Calvin. Quoted in Lewalski, 78.
Hans Boersma. Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry. (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 2011), 4. 245 Ibid, 4. 246 Henri Bouillard, ―Notions conciliaires et analogie de la vérité‖. Quoted in Boersma, 10. 247 Ricoeur. Rule of Metaphor, 274.
in common with the cause and by reason of which the effect is not identical to the cause. It is creative causality, therefore, that establishes between beings and God the bond of participation that makes the relation by analogy ontologically possible‖. 248 Thus it is participation that not only requires analogical theological discourse (over and against equivocal or univocal discourse) but that makes such discourse possible in the first place. Just as analogy helps avoid the two extremes of idolatry and heterogeneity, so poetry offers a unique set of relations between dichotomous pairs. ―Poetry…sketches a ‗tensional‘ conception of truth for thought…tensional between subject and predicate, between literal interpretation and metaphorical interpretation, between identity and difference. Then these are gathered in the theory of split reference. They come to completion finally in the paradox of the copula, where being-as signifies being and not being‖.249 This paradoxical signification, where ‗is‘ consists more of the kind of relation between two concepts in a simile than of a relation of straightforward identity, is what preserves theological discourse from either idolatry or an overemphasis on God‘s otherness. The upshot of all of this talk about sacramentalism and analogy is that the question of how we handle language (and the implications of the kind of handling we choose) is posed rather seriously, especially to those concerned to depict reality with faithful accuracy. If there actually is a ‗―real presence‖ of divine affirmations in our human representations, then a change in Eucharistic theology, that is, a movement away from the ‗discourse of transubstantiation‘, or even a change in the language used to express Trinitarian doctrine, such as a movement away from the Greek differentiation of ―nature‖ (ousia) and ―person‖ (hypostasis), evokes the question of whether the relation of these expressions to ―eternal divine affirmation‖ has also changed.250 Because proper methodology for theological discourse is still an open question, the bottom line from this discussion of sacramentalism and the relation of language use to Eucharistic theology is that ―sacramental participation of human discourse in God‘s own truth means that human language is sacred and must be treated with the utmost care that it deserves‖. 251 The preservation of metaphor and analogy in discourse may be one way to treat language with care, and to mitigate against the univocity of modern discourse.
Human Consciousness and the Origin of Metaphor Over and against views of metaphor which only see it as ―a neutral or ornamental aspect of speech‖, Soskice argues that ―in almost all areas of abstract thought…the very frames within which we work are given by metaphors which function in structuring not only what sort of answers we get, but what kind of questions we ask‖.252 Metaphors impose a structure on our discourse, a hermeneutic lens on our observations which can radically alter our understanding of the ideas present in the metaphorical comparison. Soskice gives an apt example of the consequences of the claim that ―metaphors become not only part of our language but also part of the way in which we interpret our world‖ in noting that ―one who sees the political unit as a ‗body politic‘ may have a different procedure than one who regards it as a ‗ship of state‘, for if the nation is a body and the monarch its head, if one cuts off its head the body will die, whereas on a ship of state mutiny against an incompetent captain is not only possible but obligatory‖.253 The way in which we conceive of, say ‗argument as war‘ (retreat from the line of fire, indefensible claims, attacking weak points, using argumentative strategy etc) or ‗words as containers‘, spatial metaphors, demonstrate the extent to which metaphorical language is inescapable, as well as culturally particular. In a fairly phenomenological take on semantics, Lakoff and Johnson argue that ―the meaning of a sentence is given in terms of a conceptual structure‖ which is always ―metaphorical in nature‖ and is ―grounded in physical and cultural experience…Meaning, therefore, is never disembodied or objective and is always grounded in the acquisition and use of a conceptual system‖. 254 This straightforward instance of the power of metaphor to generate concepts makes tangible what can at times seem obtuse in Owen Barfield‘s thesis about etymology in the history and development of human consciousness. Barfield argues that the literal language we now have evolved out of what was originally a totally figurative semiotic system, wherein all words were ‗vehicles‘ with ‗tenors‘, or layers of nuanced meanings. Any literalness our language now has is ‗achieved‘ rather than given, which accounts for why metaphor may be so deeply embedded in our conceptual systems. ―The vast majority of words by which we today denote the objects of the outer world have at some stage in their history been vehicles with a tenor, and, if that is so, it
Ibid, 276. Ibid, 313. 250 Boersma, 10. 251 Ibid, 11.
Janet Martin Soskice. Metaphor and Religious Language. (New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 1987), 63. 253 Soskice, 62. 254 Johnson and Lakoff, 196-197.
follows…that they began life as vehicles with a tenor. They too can only have achieved a literalness with which they were not born‖.255 Emerson makes a similar argument, stating, with some modernist presumption, that in virtue of the ―radical correspondence between visible things and human thoughts, savages, who have only what is necessary, converse in figures. As we go back in history, language becomes more picturesque, until its infancy, when it is all poetry; or all spiritual facts are represented by natural symbols‖.256 Emerson and Barfield agree that the origin of language is poetic and figurative. This fact, however, does not entail the right to intellectual elitism toward ages past. Rather, it suggests man‘s fundamental engagement with the world is not of the univocal, scientific sort which we so often presume as the normative ideal. It is only in the wake of positivism that metaphor has been relegated to a position of so little authority. While the modern scientific mind views metaphor with suspicion, as a thing that obfuscates rather than mediates meaning, Barfield argues that it was originally the way in which to most directly manifest the world around us. That is, ―Mythology is the ghost of concrete meaning. Connections between discrete phenomena, connections which are now apprehended as metaphor, were once perceived as immediate realities‖.257 The discrete phenomena of, for example, a boat and a system of governance were seen to be more immediately related in the origin of human consciousness. Furthermore, the act of symbolization, of figurative representation, is a prerequisite for human understanding in the first place. As Barfield puts it, ―discovery, consciousness itself, and symbolization go hand-in-hand‖.258 Walker Percy similarly sees symbolization, particularly of the comparative, figurative kind, as the basis for human knowledge. He writes, ―The semioticist…imagines naively that I know what this is and then give it a label, whereas the truth is…that I cannot know anything at all unless I symbolize it. We can only conceive being, sidle up to it by laying something else alongside. We approach it not directly but by pairing, by apposing symbol and thing‖.259 Metaphor is one mechanism by which we can lay something alongside something else to discern what it is. Along with Barfield and Percy, Regina Schwartz argues that the ‗sign-making‘ of poetic language is part of man‘s nature, as far back
as records of human history go. ―Paleolithic man was a sacramental animal…this creature juxtaposed marks on surfaces [that] had not merely utile, but significance, intent; that is to say a ‗re-presenting‘ a ‗showing again under other forms‘ an ‗effective recalling‘ of something [that] was intended‖.260 The ‗re-presenting‘ of two discrete concepts in a common metaphorical frame constitutes the basis of our knowing. What can guarantee that the correspondence between the terms of comparison in a metaphor and the objects they purport to represent? Barfield argues that there is something of a ‗givenness‘ in nature which produces the relation between the terms paired in metaphors. Words appear from the start as vehicles with tenors, which relate objects to each other in nuanced but mimetic ways. As Barfield writes, ―If the word on its very first appearance was already a vehicle with a tenor, then the given affinity which I suggested between the concept of wind and the concept of spirit must have been ‗given‘ in the nature of things and not by some kind of friction in the machinery of language‖.261 In addition to this givenness of comparative terms, where ‗wind‘ and ‗spirit‘ do seem to exhibit a natural resemblance, it is man‘s empathetic experience of the world that generates metaphorical connections between discrete phenomena. Barfield quotes Bruno Snell‘s observation that ―man could never have come to experience a rock anthropomorphically if he had not also experienced himself ‗petromorphically‘.262 Imaginative engagement with the world, a sort of changing of places, produces the figurative language we find to be so ubiquitous and foundational. The givenness of the relation between metaphorical terms and man‘s empathetic engagement with his environment constitute a sort of feed back loop, a phenomenological account of word meaning. Barfield says ―the mind is not, as Coleridge put it, ‗a lazy onlooker‘ on an external world but itself a structural component of the world it contemplates‖.263 If we accept that the origin of 260
David Jones. Quoted in Regina Schwartz, 4. Barfield, Rediscovery, 47. Interestingly, the ‗friction‘ present in an un-oiled ‗machine‘ is already a metaphor in his explanation. Such metaphorical embeddedness will appear throughout the paper. 262 Ibid. 263 Ibid. Barfield goes on to argue that scientific discovery and discovery of the self as a user of language are co-occuring and consubstantial. ―To renounce the heterogeneity of observed from observer involves, if it is taken seriously, abandoning the whole ‗onlooker‘ stance, upon which both the pursuit of science and modern language-use in general are based; it means advancing awareness of another relation altogether between mind and matter…. the mind cannot refer to a natural object without at the same time referring to its own activity. And this in turn would require an equally unforced awareness not only that scientific 261
Owen Barfield. The Rediscovery of Meaning and Other Essays. (San Rafael: The Barfield Press, 1977), 46. 256 Emerson, Quoted in Barfield, Owen. Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1964), 92. 257 Barfield, Poetic Diction, 92. 258 Barfield, Rediscovery, 44. 259 Percy, 72.
acknowledging its inadequacy as description‖.267 Inadequacy of description does not eclipse referentiality but qualifies it. Soskice goes on to say that ―the language used to account for [experiences of believers] is metaphorical and qualified, it stands within a tradition of use and is theory-laden, yet in so far as it is grounded on experience, it is referential, and…that to which it refers is God‖.268 Empirical verification allows metaphorical language to be referential.
language is metaphorical, and that the origin of language is connected both to the structure of the human mind and the structure of the external world, it follows that metaphor usage itself is closely tied to the nature of human consciousness. Metaphor and Reality Depiction In addition to metaphor being foundational for human concept formation and language development, it is also uniquely useful for ‗reality depiction‘ in both science and theology. The ―figurative ‗speaking about‘ that generates new perspectives‖, that is ―concerned with expanding descriptive powers‖ is a feature unique to metaphor, not present in literal, straightforward speech.264 It is in fact the ambiguity of reference that makes metaphor essential for reality depiction. As Soskice puts it, ―senses of terms are important not so much for determining reference as for guiding access. It is because senses [culturally determined meanings, etymologies, etc] are important but not fully definitive‖ that metaphor is so useful in reality depiction.265 Without giving an exhaustive description of a phenomenon (in science, the motion of subatomic particles, or in theology, the nature of the trinity, for example), metaphors provide ―networks of partially denoting terms‖, and depict relations as well as entities.266 The capacity of metaphorical predicates to denote ―candidates for real existence‖ without requiring that the referent be fully contained in their signifiers makes metaphor ideal for science and theology in particular, whose paradigms are frequently shifting and whose data require a good deal of abstraction to conceptualize. Metaphor, like analogy, allows the theologian and the scientist alike to call their language genuinely referential without making claim to definitive, exhaustive, monolithic knowledge. The theist ―can reasonably take his talk of God, bound as it is within a wheel of images, as being reality depiciting, while at the same time
Tradition and the Contingency of Meaning: Critical Realism as Formal and Social In addition to being marked by a suspicion of non-univocal, ambiguous, or metaphorical language, modernity has also been marked by a suspicion toward tradition as a valid foundation for knowledge. However, upon closer examination it becomes clear that tradition and its bestowal of ‗tacit knowledge‘269 is the way in which we receive not just theological content (for example, church doctrine), but scientific content (for example, biological taxonomy) and language use as well. The focus in this section will be upon this tacit knowledge in the realm of semantics and semiotics and it‘s relation to a critical realist perspective on meaning and interpretation. The context-relative, socially determined aspect of word meaning involved in the critical realist perspective is exemplified by reflection upon the fact that something as basic as taxonomy or biological classification could have been delineated based on different criteria. Soskice gives us the ―classic example‖ of fish and whales; ―originally whales were classified as fish, but subsequent study of their mammalian structure resulted in their being reclassified as ‗non-fish‘. We can conceive, however, that a reclassification might have taken place along different lines for different purposes, say, if our main focus of interest was animal locomotion‖.270 Thus creatures currently classified as fish would be reclassified as ‗non-fish‘. While cases of biological categorizations lend themselves to unusually simple definitional formulations and exhibit less polysemy than, say, political or poetic terms, they serve to highlight both the contingency and the tradition-dependent nature of meaning and reference. Indeed, ―the way in which we divide up the world is not the only way this might adequately be done, nor need the realist aim for such exclusiveness‖.271 Rather, our taxonomy of the world
discovery is always a discovery about language, but also that it is always a discovery about the self which uses language‖. Rediscovery, 158. 264 Soskice, 66. 265 Ibid, 132. Ricoeur takes quite a different approach to the relation between ‗ordinary‘ and scientific language, arguing that scientific language is trans-contextual and not polysemic. ―Communication is not the aim of scientific language…the meaning is contextually neutral, or, if you prefer, insensible to the context because the main purpose of this language is that the meaning remain the same all through the arguments. This continual sameness in the meaning is secured by the one-to-one relation between name and sense and by the indifference to the context. Thus, I should say that the aim of scientific language is not communication, but argumentation‖. The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur: An Anthology of His Work. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1978), 129. 266 Ibid, 133.
Ibid, 141. Ibid, 159. 269 Michael Polanyi‘s term. 270 Ibid, 131. 271 Ibid. 268
―is the way guided by the cumulative access of the investigating community to important causal features of the world‖.272 The context of enquiry itself will affect how we decide to isolate ‗kinds‘ which, rather than a threat to realism, is simply a fact about engagement with and transmission of accumulated knowledge about the world. Soskice identifies experience and community as the central features of critical realism in language theory. Reference is ultimately grounded in the experience of those around us modeling language use to us and thus, without being empiricist (that is, entailing that reference is fixed by unrevisable description) critical realism is an empirical theory. Additionally, acknowledging the essential role of community in reference allows us to see that ―each speaker is a member of a particular community of interest, which provides the context for his referential claims. A great part of our referential activity depends on what Putnam has called a ‗division of linguistic labor‘, that is, we rely on authoritative members of our community to ground referring expressions‖.273 It is not up to the autonomous individual to generate the basis of their referring expressions; we take it as fairly straightforward that in the case of linguistic norms, tradition, the body of knowledge in community, is the measure of veracity. This tradition is not monolithic, but context-sensitive.274 Perhaps this discussion on the importance of tradition in language use, a less contentious claim, will lend credence to the view that tradition in theological and socio-political contexts may also hold vast reservoirs of insight. Appreciating the ubiquity of tradition-dependent theories of knowledge may also assist in demystifying the supposed ultimate objectivity of scientific enquiry by highlighting the contingent, communally-determined features of the discipline.
Conclusion Articulating a coherent, synthesized account of language that captures its dialogic nature, its sacramental participation, its metaphorical etymology, its social history, and its adherence to formal linguistic rules, while also including in the account its limited capacity as only an analogous form of truth depiction constitutes, is, to say the least, a formidable challenge. However, it is hoped that this cursory examination of these myriad issues will open into further conversation about the nature of language and interpretation, particularly with regard to scientific and theological methodology, as well as in regard to the field of hermeneutics. Poetic language contains a vast reservoir of explanatory possibilities, and this fact offers a promising way forward in interdisciplinary studies. It also provides a middle way between the propositional, positivist rationality of modernity and the nihilist tendencies of postmodernity. As such, both the academy and the church could benefit greatly from a renewed appreciation of its power.
Ibid. Ibid, 149. 274 Interestingly, Hans-Georg Gadamer seems to disagree that word meaning is sensitive to context, which is surprising given his broader hermeneutic endeavor to accept that we‘re entrenched in our historical moment with regard to texts. He seems to hold a medieval, essentialist view of language wherein ―a word has a mysterious connection with what it ―images‖; it belongs to its being…it is not just that mimesis has a certain share in creating language…a word is not a sign that one selects, nor is it a sign that one makes or gives to another; it is not an existent thing that one picks up and gives an ideality of meaning in order to make another being visible through it…rather, the ideality of the meaning lies in the word itself. It is meaningful already‖. Truth And Method. 416417. It is hard to know whether to read him as arguing for nature over convention, where words have eternally fixed referents, or whether he is simply arguing that once generated, social, conventional meanings remain fixed. 273
DAVID ARNDT Anti-Jewish or Jewish-Christian? The apocryphal Gospel of Peter‟s eschatological portrayal of Jesus‟ death canonical gospels, and a consensus has never been reached. Most believe that the Gospel of Peter is dependent on all four canonical gospels, and dates to sometime in the second century. 278 With the advent of form criticism, however, others such as Jürgen Denker279 and Helmut Koester280 argued that the Gospel of Peter represents an independent gospel that in some ways exhibits more primitive features. John Dominic Crossan, in his important 1988 book The Cross That Spoke,281 argued at great length that the Gospel of Peter made use of an earlier account of the passion and resurrection. Dubbed the Cross Gospel, this source account, according to Crossan, is earlier than the canonical gospels and was in turn used by them as a source. Most scholars have not agreed with Crossan‘s bold theory, but it has generated much scholarly discussion, and helped spark my interest in the Gospel of Peter. My paper will not be examining the relationship between the Gospel of Peter and the canonical gospels, but will focus on the Gospel of Peter‘s theology. My argument is that this gospel uses
Introduction In the winter season of 1886/1887, the French Archaeological Mission in Cairo discovered a codex of manuscripts in a grave in the ancient cemetery at Akhmîm in Upper Egypt. Among the manuscripts was a Greek fragment of what most scholars identified as the Gospel of Peter. This late sixth century275 manuscript was the first known fragment of the apocryphal gospel; before this find, all we had were mentions of this gospel in the Church Fathers. The most important of these concerns the church in Rhossos in Syria at the end of the second century. Some in their community were using the Gospel of Peter, but when Serapion, the bishop of Antioch, carefully read the gospel he decided that most of it was ―in accordance with the true teaching of the Saviour, but that some things were added‖ (Eusebius, HE 6.12).276 After the discovery at the end of the nineteenth century, however, scholars could examine the contents of the Gospel of Peter for themselves. The Akhmîm fragment is to date the only fragment of the Gospel of Peter of any significant length, comprising 60 verses. It begins abruptly in the middle of Jesus‘ trial before Pilate (1:1), narrates Jesus‘ mockery and crucifixion (3:6-6:22), his burial (6:23-24), and a unique account of Jesus‘ actual resurrection, complete with angels, heads that reach up to the sky, and what seems to be a walking and talking cross (9:35-10:42). The fragment concludes with an account of the women‘s visit to the empty tomb (12:50-13:57), and what seems to be beginning of an account of the risen Jesus‘ appearance on the Sea of Galilee that is unfortunately cut short in mid-sentence (14:60).277 Scholars have spent a great deal of energy discussing how the Gospel of Peter relates to the
See e.g. Raymond E. Brown, ―The Gospel of Peter and canonical gospel priority,‖ New Testament Studies 33, no. 3 (July 1987): 321-343. The Gospel of Peter‘s dependence on the canonical gospels is also maintained in Léon Vaganay, L'Évangile de Pierre, 2nd ed. (Paris: Lecoffre, J. Gabalda, 1930); Foster, Peter. 279 Jürgen Denker, Die theologiegeschichtliche Stellung des Petrusevangeliums: ein Beitrag zur Fruhgeschichte des Doketismus (Europäische Hochschulschriften 23:36; Bern: Herbert Lang, 1975). Cf. the summaries of Denker‘s work in Helmut Koester, ―Apocryphal and canonical gospels,‖ Harvard Theological Review 73, no. 1-2 (January 1980): 126-27; Eric Junod, review of J. Denker, Die theologiegeschichtliche Stellung des Petrusevangeliums, Revue d'histoire et de philosophie religieuses 57, no. 3 (1977): 381-382; Pierre Prigent, review of J. Denker, Die theologiegeschichtliche Stellung des Petrusevangeliums, Theologische Zeitschrift 32, no. 4 (July 1976): 236-237. 280 Helmut Koester, ―Apocryphal and canonical gospels,‖ Harvard Theological Review 73, no. 1 (January 1980): 105-130; idem, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development (London: SCM Press, 1990), 216-40. 281 John Dominic Crossan, The Cross That Spoke: The Origins of the Passion Narrative (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988; repr., Eugene, Or.: Wipf and Stock, 2008). See also Crossan‘s later popular presentation of his argument in John Dominic Crossan, Who Killed Jesus?: Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995). 278
Peter van Minnen, ―The Akhmîm Gospel of Peter,‖ in Evangelium nach Petrus, ed. Thomas J. Kraus and Tobias Nicklas (Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur 158; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2007), 54. 276 Translation from Paul Foster, The Gospel of Peter: Introduction, Critical Edition and Commentary (Texts and Editions for New Testament Study 4; Boston; Leiden: Brill Academic, 2010), 106. 277 Verses in the Gospel of Peter are conventionally numbered successively across the 14 mini-chapters, e.g. 2:5 leads directly into 3:6. 275
their leaders and preventing them.286 Simon Claude Mimouni likewise maintains that the Gospel of Peter‘s so-called ―anti-Judaism‖ is in reality reflective of a conflict between Christians of Jewish origin and nonChristian Jews. 287 I will not seek to settle the question of whether the Gospel of Peter is anti-Semitic, but the issue should not rule out the use of Jewish categories by the apocryphal gospel.
apocalyptic symbolism and scriptural allusions to invest the events of Jesus‘ death with their theological meaning,282 drawing on categories from Jewish eschatology. Jesus‘ death is thereby presented as an eschatological event, in which Jesus‘ suffering participates in Israel‘s tribulation. Alleged anti-Semitism in the Gospel of Peter One important potential objection to such an application of Jewish eschatological categories is the widely held view that the Gospel of Peter is antiSemitic. At the beginning of our fragment, presumably just after Pilate has washed his hands at Jesus‘ trial, we read that Herod and his judges refused to wash their hands (1:1). It is then the Jewish king Herod, not the Gentile Pilate, who takes charge of the crucifixion (1:2), and the Jewish crowd rather than the Roman soldiers who carry out Jesus‘ crucifixion (cf. 2:5; 6:23; 7:25). In the crucifixion scene, when the Jews offer gall and vinegar to Jesus to drink, it is best understood as a poison meant to hasten Jesus‘ death (5:16), and we are told, ―they fulfilled everything, and completed their sins upon their heads‖ (5:17).283 But even if these elements are best interpreted as signs of an anti-Semitic attitude, it would be a mistake to rule out the possible influence of Jewish categories of thought. This was recognized by the Catholic cardinal Jean Daniélou, an influential theologian and Patristics scholar, who classified the Gospel of Peter as a Jewish Christian document. He could do so because his definition of ―Jewish Christianity‖ was not based on ethnicity or law observance, but on a mode of discourse—one that made use of ―apocalyptic symbolism in presenting the events of the life of Christ with a view to bringing out their theological import.‖284 The use of a Jewish Christian mode of discourse, noted Daniélou, is not incompatible with anti-Semitism.285 Moreover, some critics have questioned whether or to what extent the Gospel of Peter is even anti-Jewish. John Dominic Crossan has argued that a split develops in the narrative between the Jewish people and their leaders. The Jewish people, Crossan argues, repent of their sin (7:25). The Jewish leaders want to keep Jesus‘ resurrection secret because they fear that ―the Jews‖ will stone them if they find out (11:48)—that is, the Jewish people are ready to believe in Jesus, but
The crucifixion scene Let us now look at part of the Gospel of Peter‘s crucifixion scene in more detail: [5:15] Now it was noon, and darkness covered all Judea. And they were anxious and distressed lest the sun had already set, since he was still alive; for it is written for them that the sun must not set on one who has been put to death. [5:16] And one of them said, ―Give him gall mixed with vinegar to drink.‖ And having mixed it they gave him to drink. [5:17] And they fulfilled everything, and completed their sins upon their heads. [5:18] And many were going about with lamps, supposing that is was night, and they stumbled. [5:19] And the Lord cried out, saying, ―My power, O power, you have abandoned me!‖ And having spoken, he was taken up. [5:20] And at the same hour the veil of the temple of Jerusalem was torn in two. [6:21] And then they drew the nails from the hands of the Lord and laid him on the ground. And the whole earth was shaken, and there was a great fear. [6:22] Then the sun shone, and it was found to be the ninth hour. … [7:25] Then the Jews and the elders and the priests, knowing what evil they had done to themselves, began to lament and say, ―Woe for our sins! The judgment has drawn near, even the end of Jerusalem!‖
There are several features of this scene that serve to characterize Jesus‘ crucifixion as an eschatological event. The first is the darkness at noon in 5:15. While darkness has a variety of symbolic meanings in the ancient world—for instance, it accompanies the deaths of great men, or can convey judgment or mourning288—an argument can be made that the detail here has eschatological connotations. The darkness at noon, like the parallel in the Synoptic gospels (Mt 27:45; Mk 15:33; Lk 23:44), alludes to Amos 8:9, ―On that day, says the Lord GOD, I will make the sun go 286
Crossan, Cross That Spoke, 396-97. Cf. idem, The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately After the Execution of Jesus (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998), 493-98. See also Tobias Nicklas, ―Die 'Juden' im Petrusevangelium (PCair 10759): Ein Testfall,‖ New Testament Studies 47, no. 2 (April 2001): 220-21. 287 Simon Claude Mimouni, ―L'"Évangile selon Pierre",‖ in Les fragments évangéliques judéo-chrétiens "apocryphisés": recherches et perspectives, Cahiers de la Revue biblique 66 (Paris: J. Gabalda, 2006), 65, 67. 288 See Dale C. Allison, Jr., The End of the Ages Has Come: An Early Interpretation of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), 27-29.
This is the view of ―apocalyptic‖ taken in N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), 280-86. 283 Translations of the Gospel of Peter throughout this paper are my own. 284 Jean Daniélou, A History of Early Christian Doctrine before the Council of Nicea. I. The Theology of Jewish Christianity, trans. John A. Baker, (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1964; repr., 1978), 21. 285 Ibid., 20. 282
the opening of the way to God for humanity293 or the Gentiles,294 or negative interpretations such as the end of the temple system295 or the impending destruction of the temple.296 But, as Dale Allison writes, whichever of these interpretations is correct, we are still dealing with ―the end of the temple or the end of that for which it stands.‖297 This is significant, he argues, because, ―Several Jewish texts composed before 70 a.d. announce that the old temple will not continue into the new age. God will instead build a new temple.‖298 These texts include 1 Enoch 90:28-29; 11Q19 XXIX, 8-10; 4Q174 I, 1-3.299 With the torn veil in Mk 15:38, Allison writes, ―an eschatological event is moved into the passion narrative,‖ just as with the darkness at noon.300 This argument applies just as much, if not more so, to the rending of the veil in the Gospel of Peter. The meaning of the rent veil in Gos. Pet. 5:20 can be more clearly seen by considering the reaction of the Jews in 7:25: ―Woe for our sins! The judgment has drawn near, even the end of Jerusalem!‖ This verse is best seen as a reaction to the signs accompanying Jesus‘ crucifixion. And it is particularly the rending of the temple veil, interpreted as a sign of the temple‘s coming destruction, that is by far the best candidate for explaining the reaction in 7:25—darkness (5:15) and earthquakes (6:21) have too broad a range of meaning to suggest the coming destruction of Jerusalem. The articular form in 7:25, ἡ κρίζις (―the judgment‖), suggests a particular judgment—the eschatological judgment of the Day of the Lord. This is coupled with ―the end of Jerusalem,‖ and since the fate of Jerusalem and its temple go hand in hand, this fits perfectly with the interpretation of the rent veil in terms of the eschatological end of the temple. Moving on, Gos. Pet. 6:21 says, ―And then they drew the nails from the hands of the Lord and laid him on the ground. And the whole earth was shaken, and there was a great fear.‖ The earthquake likely
down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight.‖289 In context, Amos speaks of the Day of the Lord, the day when YHWH would come in judgment (cf. Am 5:18-20; 8:3, 9, 13). Am 8:1-2 speaks of the coming ―end,‖ and Gos. Pet. 7:25 similarly speaks of the coming ―end of Jerusalem.‖ In Am 8:10 there is mourning as for an only son, and the Gospel of Peter narrates the death of the Son of God (cf. Gos. Pet. 3:7, 9; 11:45, 46). Amos describes earthquakes (8:8; 9:1, 5),290 as does the Gos. Pet. 6:21. This suggests an awareness of the wider context of Amos 8:9, and that the allusion to that verse is meant to evoke the impending judgment of the Day of the Lord. Dale Allison made as similar argument in relation to the darkening of the sun in Mark,291 and the argument holds just as well for the Gospel of Peter. The darkness at noon arguably also ties into the tradition of an eschatological time of tribulation and suffering that many Jews expected to come before God‘s intervention on the Day of the Lord. This period of tribulation, also known as the ―Messianic Woes,‖ is described in a number of Jewish apocalyptic texts ranging from the second century BCE to the second century CE and beyond, including the books of Daniel, 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra, and 2 Baruch. This intensifying period of distress would witness earthquakes, famines, wars, interfamilial strife and moral decline; Mark 13 presents Jesus as predicting these same things.292 If, then, the darkening of the sun in Gos. Pet. 5:15 portends the imminent Day of the Lord, then the implication is that the preceding eschatological tribulation is now coming upon the world. In the Gospel of Peter, the darkness is prominent and envelops the whole remainder of the crucifixion scene. This, we can suggest, means that the whole crucifixion is painted in the same colors as the eschatological tribulation, in which Jesus suffers the martyrdom of the righteous in the midst of uncontrolled wickedness. Another sign attending Jesus‘ crucifixion is the rending of the veil in 5:20. Its meaning in the Gospel of Peter has received little attention, but various interpretations have been offered for the torn veil in the Synoptic accounts (Mt 27:51; Mk 15:38; Lk 23:45). These include positive interpretations such as
Vincent Taylor, The Gospel According to St. Mark: The Greek Text with Introd., Notes, and Indexes, 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan and Co., 1977), 596. 294 Morna D. Hooker, The Gospel According to St. Mark (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993), 378. 295 C. S. Mann, Mark: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (Anchor Bible 27; Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, 1986), 653. 296 E.g. Craig A. Evans, Mark 8:27-16:20, (Word Biblical Commentary 34B; Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), 509; Raymond E. Brown, The Death of the Messiah: From Gethsemane to the Grave: A Commentary on the Passion Narratives in the Four Gospels, 1st ed. (New York: Doubleday, 1994), 1099-1102. 297 Allison, End of the Ages, 31. 298 Ibid., 32. 299 Allison further cites Jub. 1:27; Tob 13:16-18; 14:5; Sib. Or. 5.414-33; Tg. Isa. on 53:5; Midr. Ps. on 90:17; Mek. on Ex 15:17 (End of the Ages, 32). 300 Ibid., in discussing Mk 15:38.
Biblical quotations throughout this paper are from the NRSV translation. 290 Gary V. Smith, Amos: A Commentary (Library of Biblical Interpretation; Grand Rapids, Mich: Regency Reference Library, 1989), 255, 267, 269. 291 Allison, End of the Ages, 26-30. 292 For discussion of the eschatological tribulation, see esp. Allison, End of the Ages, 5-25; Brant Pitre, Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile: Restoration Eschatology and the Origin of the Atonement (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 41-130.
connotes impending judgment, in view of the fear elicited by the earthquake, and the fact that it accompanies the deposition of Jesus‘ body by those who have killed him. Related to this, the verse may also be meant to evoke the language of a theophany.301 In the OT and later Jewish literature, earthquakes are often associated with YHWH‘s presence in a divine theophany, sometimes involving the shaking of the earth, the heavens, and the whole creation (e.g. Isa 13:10, 13; Joel 2:10; cf. Mk 13:24-25).302 In Gos. Pet. 6:21, the whole earth shakes, and this occurs in the midst of a cosmic disturbance in which the sun is darkened. In addition, it is not said that the people per se were afraid, but that ―there was a great fear,‖ suggesting that the creation itself participates in this fear.303 If the earthquake and fear, then, are meant to connote a divine theophany, this should likely be interpreted as a portent of God‘s coming—a coming that would involve the judgment of the wicked on the Day of the Lord. Finally, we can return to the strange detail in 5:18, ―And many were going about with lamps, supposing that is was night, and they stumbled.‖ Here scholars have usually seen an allusion to Isa 59:10,304
coming to bring judgment on the wicked and salvation for the righteous. (15b) The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. (16) He saw that there was no one, and was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm brought him victory, and his righteousness upheld him. (17) He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in fury as in a mantle.
The key thing to observe is that the later pattern in Jewish eschatology, in which the eschatological time of distress and tribulation precedes the coming of YHWH on the Day of the Lord, aligns very closely with the pattern in Isa 59, with its bleak depiction of wickedness (59:1-15a) followed by YHWH‘s coming in judgment (59:15b-20). And a number of later Jewish and Christian texts seem to have read the chapter with the same eschatological pattern in mind. George Nickelsburg notes a number of resonances between the historical situations of Isa 56-66 and texts such as the book of Daniel describing the Antiochean persecutions of the second century BCE. 305 And Daniel‘s description of this period of persecution is an important source for Jewish beliefs about the eschatological tribulation. Later, both 1 Th 5:8 and Eph 6:10-20 draw on the description of God‘s armor in Isa 59:17, in both cases employing imagery of darkness and light (1 Th 5:4-5; Eph 6:12) in contexts that are thoroughly eschatological in orientation.306 This suggests, especially in the case of Ephesians, that the author would have readily seen Isa 59:1-15a as describing the eschatological tribulation. Around 100 ce, the book of 4 Ezra, in a passage describing the eschatological tribulation, says that ―the portion of truth shall be hidden‖307 (5:1), a motif that would recur in later rabbinic descriptions of the ―messianic woes‖ and that derives from Isa 59:15a.308 b. Sanh. 98a quotes from Isa 59:16, 19, 20 in discussing how God
We grope like the blind along a wall, groping like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among the vigorous as though we were dead.
But scholars have generally paid little attention to the context in Isaiah in interpreting this verse. The section comprising Isa 59:1-15a paints an increasingly bleak picture of wickedness—the wicked plot injustice (v. 3), they hatch adders‘ eggs (v. 5), ―Their feet run to evil, and they rush to shed innocent blood‖ (v. 7), and ―whoever turns from evil is despoiled‖ (v. 15a). But this is immediately followed in vv. 15b-20 by YHWH‘s 301
This was suggested by Maria Grazia Mara, Évangile de Pierre: Introduction, texte critique, traduction, commentaire et index (Sources Chrétiennes 201; Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 1973; repr., Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 2006), 142. 302 Richard Bauckham, ―The eschatological earthquake in the Apocalypse of John,‖ Novum testamentum 19, no. 3 (July 1977): 225. 303 Cf. Foster, Peter, 340. 304 E.g. J. Armitage Robinson, ―The Gospel according to Peter,‖ in The Gospel According to Peter, and the Revelation of Peter: Two Lectures on the Newly Recovered Fragments, Together with the Greek Texts, by J. Armitage Robinson and Montague Rhodes James (London: C. J. Clay, 1892), 20 n. 1; Henry Barclay Swete, ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΝ ΚΑΤΑ ΠΕΤΡΟΝ: The Akhmîm Fragment of the Apocryphal Gospel of St Peter (London: Macmillan, 1893), 19; Vaganay, Pierre, 97, 247; Mara, Pierre, 126; Crossan, Cross That Spoke, 219-20; Thomas Hieke, ―Das Petrusevangelium vom Alten Testament her gelesen: gewinnbringende Lektüre eines nichtkanonischen Textes vom christlichen Kanon her,‖ in Evangelium nach Petrus, ed. Thomas J. Kraus and Tobias Nicklas (Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur 158; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2007), 102-103.
George W. E. Nickelsburg, Resurrection, Immortality, and Eternal Life in Intertesamental Judaism and Early Christianity (Expanded ed.; Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2007), 32-34. 306 Cf. Andrew T. Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet: Studies in the Role of the Heavenly Dimension in Paul's Thought with Special Reference to His Eschatology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 166; cf. also Clinton E. Arnold, Ephesians, Power and Magic: The Concept of Power in Ephesians in Light of Its Historical Setting (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 113-15. 307 Translation from Michael E. Stone, Fourth Ezra: A Commentary on the Book of Fourth Ezra, ed. Frank Moore Cross (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990), 106. 308 Ibid., 109. Stone cites m. Sota. 9:15; b. Sanh. 97a; Tosefta Derek Eres 1; Midr. Haggadol on Gen 41:1.
Israel.‖313 Some sort of interpretation along these lines is probably correct, and an appreciation for the eschatological connotations of the Gospel of Peter‘s apocalyptic imagery can round out this picture: Jesus not only suffers in solidarity with the suffering righteous of Israel‘s past, but undergoes the darkest hour of Israel‘s eschatological tribulation. In conclusion, the Gospel of Peter uses what Daniélou called a ―Jewish-Christian‖ mode of discourse, using apocalyptic symbolism and scriptural allusions to present Jesus‘ death as an eschatological event, portraying Jesus‘ passion as though he himself were enduring Israel‘s tribulation. We have not been able to examine the Gospel of Peter‘s account of Jesus‘ resurrection, but we would find that that account, too, has multiple resonances with Jewish eschatology. This portrait can hopefully not only contribute to future scholarly investigation of the formation and development of the passion narratives, but also shed light on the development of antiSemitism in the early church. While the dominant position in scholarship has been that the Gospel of Peter is anti-Semitic, the recognition of characteristically Jewish modes of theological expression should require a re-evaluation or nuancing of this issue. The Gospel of Peter may help us to better understand the process of development from inner-Jewish conflict to later Christian anti-Semitism. Hopefully this can also help foster understanding and goodwill between Jews and Christians today.
will intervene in the eschatological period of distress. What these texts and others show is a way of reading Isa 59 that properly understands its eschatological context and, with good probability, understands Isa 59:1-15a as describing the tribulation of the latter days. When Gos. Pet. 5:18, then, alludes to the stumbling in the darkness in Isa 59:10, a good case can be made that part of what this is intended to convey is that the hours surrounding Jesus‘ death are in some way part of or involved in the eschatological time of trial. Such a connotation would fit perfectly with the argument we made above that the darkness is not only a portent of the coming Day of the Lord, but serves to characterize Jesus‘ crucifixion as though it were the time or tribulation. In addition, blindness imagery is used metaphorically in Isa 59:10 to convey the lack of understanding brought about by Israel‘s disobedience.309 The stumbling and the failure to see in Gos. Pet. 5:18 is probably also best understood as using its imagery in the same way, and the connotations of moral wickedness then arguably help to evoke the moral decline often associated with the eschatological tribulation. Concluding remarks The approach we have taken to understanding the theology of the Gospel of Peter, I think, resonates with the approach taken by John Dominic Crossan. Crossan lays out how the Gospel of Peter (or more specifically its hypothesized earlier source) draws on Old Testament passages as it depicts Jesus‘ suffering: Jesus is spat upon, struck on the cheeks, and scourged (3:9) like the servant in Isa 50:6; he suffers in silence (4:10) like the servant in Isa 53:7; his garments are divided (4:12) and he lets out his death cry (5:19) like the suffering righteous one in Ps 22:1, 18.310 But nowhere do we find explicit claims of scriptural fulfillment (e.g. ―This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet‖311). Instead we see only implicit scriptural allusions, and we find them in almost every verse of the passion account.312 What this means, argues Crossan, is that Jesus is not portrayed as the one who uniquely and individually fulfills prophecies of a suffering righteous one. Rather, it means that Jesus suffers in solidarity with all the persecuted righteous ones of Israel‘s past, with all those who found in the twenty-second psalm an expression of their suffering. As Crossan writes, it means that ―Jesus did not suffer and die alone but consummated in his pain the ancient passion of 309
See Rikki E. Watts, Isaiah's New Exodus and Mark (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1997), 243-47. 310 Crossan, Cross That Spoke, 141-43, 158, 174-75, 191-92, 22022. 311 Mt 13:35. 312 Crossan, Cross That Spoke, 386-87.
JESSICA MORGUN Beautiful Rhetoric: Gregory of Nyssa in The Beauty of the Infinite
In an image-saturated, materialistic culture such as our own, it becomes difficult - even morally questionable - to speak of beauty. Beauty is ambiguous; it can deceive, it ignites desire, and, though it might give us pleasure for a time, it doesn‘t last. So it would seem from these accusations that beauty would be a most inappropriate topic for theological scholarship. If we were to ignore centuries of Christian thought, beauty could be cast to the side (as she has been in contemporary art and philosophy), but thankfully there are those shaped by the Great Tradition who can remind us why we should speak of beauty. David Bentley Hart is one such theologian. In his book The Beauty of the Infinite, Hart challenges philosophers and theologians alike by presenting the reader with two opposing stories: the story of the world according to Nietzsche, and the story of the world according to the Christian evangel. According to Nietzsche, the world is a place where all rhetoric is essentially a power play, and only the strongest and most coercive meta-narrative wins. But the Christian story is different: truth is recognized by its persuasive beauty and its rhetoric is peace. In defending his thesis, Hart calls upon a number of theologians, but his language and his theological framework appear to be fundamentally shaped by Gregory of Nyssa‘s understanding of the infinite beauty of God. It is therefore the purpose of this paper to investigate how closely Hart follows Gregory‘s own, highly integrated, thinking on the subject of beauty. I will argue that both Nyssa and Hart identify beauty as the basis for humanity‘s ascent to the Divine, though Hart, in The Beauty of the Infinite, appears to lack Gregory‘s concrete emphasis upon the practice of virtue as the way by which we encounter and participate in the beauty of the Triune God.
aesthetic. What makes Gregory fascinating for Hart (and others) is that beauty plays a central role in the entire theological project. By contrast, in Protestant theology beauty as a category has been often segregated (or omitted) from the good and the truth, so much so that modern readers of the Bible do not often intuit the aesthetic sense of goodness and glory. For Gregory, beauty did not stand on its own, but was associated with the good, as in the Bible where kalo/ß means both ―good‖ and ―beautiful.‖ Gregory articulated this aesthetic sense found in scripture by way of Platonic language and categories, but not without some significant tampering. According to Plato, the Good stood above the Ideas as a first principle, which in turn granted existence to the sense-perceptible world, giving the sensual beauty of the world the role of ―conduit‖ to elevate one‘s thoughts beyond earthly beauty and allowing one to contemplate the Good. Plotinus further elaborated on Plato by identifying the Good with the One, but he did not identify Good with Beauty, as Aristotle did in the supreme nouvß. 314 Gregory, working within the structure of Platonism, concluded that Goodness and Beauty could only identified with the Triune God. And since God is infinite (another of Gregory‘s innovations), his goodness and beauty are also infinite. Language, therefore, cannot encapsulate formless and uncreated beauty, just as language is equally limited regarding God‘s being or essence. 315 The Trinity, simple and complete its uncreated beauty and goodness, is the source of all being. It is, therefore, only out of love and fullness of joy that creation is brought into being. Creation is not a necessity to God, as if he might be found lacking in anything, but is rather an outpouring of divine love. Because of the ―overflowing‖ or gratuitous nature of creation‘s origins, all creation
Beauty in Gregory of Nyssa Beauty is so highly integrated in Gregory of Nyssa‘s theology that it is difficult to isolate it from other concepts such as desire, virtue, and anagogy (that is, the shift from earthly things to the things of heaven). As such, it becomes critical to identify Gregory‘s distinctive interpretation of beauty in order to trace his influence upon Hart‘s own theological
Ilaria Ramelli, "Good/Beauty," in The Brill Dictionary of Gregory of Nyssa (Leiden: Brill, 2009), 356. 315 Paulos Mar Gregorios, Cosmic Man: The Divine Presence: The Theology of St. Gregory of Nyssa (Ca 330 to 395 A.D.) (New York: Paragon, 1988), 115.
participates in Divine goodness and beauty. 316 We are not to understand beauty in Gregory of Nyssa‘s theology of creation as a Platonic emanation of the Good; it is rather a reflection of God‘s glory in diastemic terms. God‘s infinite beauty is expressed through creation in the dimensions of time and space. This is indicated in On the Soul and Resurrection through the words of Macrina: ―For Creation declares the maker of the heavens, as the prophet says, telling the glory of the Lord with unutterable words. Look at the harmony of everything, the heavens and the wonders beneath the earth, the element‘s so different from each other, woven together through some ineffable relationship for the same purpose.‖ 317 The transitions and intervals indicative of creation, as the creation/creator ontological divide suggests, express the beauty of the creator, just as the inner world of the artist might be given shape in the limited, twodimensional media of paint and canvas. The goodness and beauty of creation as a whole is certainly an important aspect of Gregory‘s theology, but it humanity‘s ability to reflect the beauty of the Divine image that Gregory of Nyssa was particularly interested in. Humanity, and in particular the human soul, is the most intricate and lovingly made of all of creation and, despite the negative effects of sin, remains the pinnacle of created reality by its image-bearing quality. Gregory‘s understanding of anthropology, particularly in its aesthetic dimensions, is best approached by way of his Christology - yet another example of how deeply integrated Gregory‘s thoughts on beauty are. Christ is ―the restorer of our broken nature.‖318 Aesthetically, the incarnation and resurrection result in a reinstatement of true beauty and goodness in humanity: the beauty of the infinite clothed himself in earthly form so that humanity might not only encounter the uncreated God, but be raised up with Christ as the beautiful divine image and be clothed in his divinity. Therefore Christ is both the gift of revelation319, the ―true light‖320 and the salvation of humanity as he restores original beauty reflected in the image of the divine. The goodness and beauty of God is fully displayed in Christ‘s observable activities here on
earth as he becomes the template for his followers in the virtuous life. Christ‘s revelation includes the scriptures because Christ, the eternal word, has ultimately fulfilled them. Christ‘s fulfillment of the law and the prophets awards scripture its allegorical quality and allows for spiritual interpretation. Gregory speaks of the Bible as a painting where the words (or ―obvious‖ meaning of scripture) are represented as the colors, and the spiritual meaning is represented by the forms one is led to contemplate: ―And the form that is expressed by these words is that state of integrity and blessedness, union with God, the banishment of all evil, and the assimilation of the truly good and beautiful.‖321 One cannot help but see the similarity between Gregory‘s anagogical move in exegesis and his similarly anagogical readings of nature.322 Though God is infinitely beyond our ability to understand or explain through language, the ultimate beauty of God might be encountered by anagogy in these particulars.323 Anagogy, as Gregory understood, represents a necessary movement. Beauty is beautiful because it is attractive, because it is worthy of love. One should not ―love‖ creation, or any other advent of earthly particular beauty in and of itself, but should rather love the truly beautiful.324 Beauty in Gregory must not only be understood as merely ―perceivable‖ (by either corporeal or spiritual senses), but also as inciting desire, eros, or erotic love. The infinite ascent of the soul through a desirous participation in the beauty and goodness of God, or epektasis, is where such encounters should lead. The anagogical move away from earthly things is, according to Gregory, virtue. Ascending in virtue can thereby be described as an aesthetic process, driven by desire for the truly beautiful and good. The supreme example of this ascent in virtue is Moses, whose soul, …Rises ever higher and will always make its flight yet higher – by its desire of the 321
Gregory of Nyssa, "Commentary on the Canticle," in From Glory to Glory: Texts from Gregory of Nyssa's Mystical Writings, ed. S.J. Herbert Musurillo(Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2001), 152. 322 Gregory of Nyssa, ed. The Easter Sermons of Gregory of Nyssa: Translation and Commentary: Proceedings of the Fourth International Colloquium on Gregory of Nyssa; Cambridge, England: 11-15 September, 1978, ed. Andreas Spira and Christoph Klock, Patristic Monograph Series, vol. 9 (Cambridge, Mass: Philadelphia Patristic Foundation, 1981), 1617. 323 A helpful resource for understanding ―particular‖ beauty as it relates to goodness, especially in a current philosophical climate that is resistant to aesthetics, is Elaine Scarry, On Beauty and Being Just (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999). 324 Gregory of Nyssa, "On Virginity," in Saint Gregory of Nyssa: Ascetical Works, The Fathers of the Church (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1999), 39.
Mateo-Seco, "Creation," in The Brill Dictionary of Gregory of Nyssa, 185. 317 Gregory of Nyssa, "On the Soul and Resurrection," in Saint Gregory of Nyssa: Ascetical Works, The Fathers of the Church (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1999), 203. 318 Gregory of Nyssa, "The Life of Moses," The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1978), 111. 319 David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003), 236. 320 Nyssa, "The Life of Moses,‖ 59.
heavenly things straining ahead for what is still to come, as the Apostle says. Made to desire and not to abandon the transcendent height by the things already attained it makes its way upward without ceasing, ever through its prior accomplishments renewing its intensity for the flight. Activity directed toward virtue causes its capacity to grow through exertion; this kind of activity alone does not slacken its intensity by the effort, but increases it.325
accordance with the different impressions of its free will.‖329 For Gregory, desire (ejpiqmia), or longing, can lead to either virtue or sin. If one desires the beauty of God, the soul reflects this same beauty. But if one desires the beauty of earthly things only, things that are passing away and ever changing, the soul becomes muddled, reflecting a poor image that has been disfigured by sin. And though God will one day be ―all, and in all‖, the soul freely chooses whether to reflect the beauty of the image or the distortion of sin. It would indeed be difficult to argue that Gregory‘s universalism in any way prevents him from exhorting the Christian to a virtuous life here on earth:
Divinization (or salvation) is the eventual recovery of the beautiful image of God accomplished through Christ in his recapitulation of all humanity. Attaining virtue and the recovery of the image are part of the same process.326 This is what Gregory means when he speaks of the human soul becoming a mirror that reflects the glorious image of God: ―…So it is that the soul that has been purified by the Word and has put off all sin, receives within itself the circular form of the Sun and shines now with this reflected light.‖327 By the ascending in virtue, and by loving God‘s beauty above earthly things (the act of which is virtue), Gregory identifies virtue with the indescribable beauty of God in On Virginity: … In the seeking of the beautiful, the person who is superficial in his thought, when he sees something in which fantasy is mixed with some beauty, will think that thing itself is beautiful because of its own nature, his attention being attracted to it because of pleasure, and he will be concerned with nothing beyond this. But the man who has purified the eye of his soul is able to look at such things and forget the matter in which the beauty is encased, and he uses what he sees as a kind of basis for his contemplation of intelligible beauty. By a participation in this beauty, the other beautiful things come into being and are identified… The goal of true virginity and zeal for incorruptibility is the ability to see God, for the chief and first and only beautiful and good and pure is the God of all….328
For He, Who will have all men to be saved, and come to knowledge of truth (I Tim. 2.4), shows us in this book the most perfect and glorious path of salvation, I mean, by way of love. For some are saved by fear, as for example, when we break off from sin because we have our eyes on the threatened punishment of Hell. There are others, too who live lives of virtue because of the rewards promised to the good; and those possess their goal not by charity but by hope in reward. But he who runs in spirit to reach perfection, casts out fear. For it is the attitude of a slave, who does not stay with his master out of love and simply does not run away for fear he will be beaten. The truly virtuous man even despises rewards, lest he give the impression that he esteems the gift more than the giver. He loves with his whole heart and soul and strength (Deut 6.5) not the creatures that come from God but Him Who is the source of all good.330 The desire for God over earthly things is the ―most glorious path.‖ By participating in the virtues one can attain a ―taste‖ for beauty, desiring to experience more of God‘s beauty just as Moses‘ encounter with God in the burning bush did not satiate his desire to see the Lord, but increased it.331 From this brief summary, it can be concluded that beauty in the thought of Gregory of Nyssa cannot be understood apart from other important themes such as desire, anagogy, and for the purposes of this paper, virtue. It is also important to identify that, for Gregory, truth is ‗anagogically‘ aesthetic; our knowledge of truth and our
Drawing toward God by way of virtue is, however, not a passive process. The ability of the soul to reflect the image of God originates in its mutability and in free will: ―…Human nature is very much like a mirror in its ability to change in
Nyssa, "The Life of Moses,‖ 113. Mateo-Seco, "Virtue," in The Brill Dictionary of Gregory of Nyssa, 784. 327 Nyssa, "Commentary on the Canticle,‖ 171. 328 Nyssa, "On Virginity,‖ 38-42. (Emphasis added). 325 326
Nyssa, "Commentary on the Canticle,‖ 171. Ibid., 153. (Emphasis added) 331 Nyssa, "The Life of Moses,‖ 115. 329 330
mind.‖338 A visible example of this aesthetic is what Hart calls ―Abstract Expressionism,‖ which intuits a formless sublime that can only vaguely point to arcane or personal meanings.339 Beyond its radical apophatism, the Sublime does not call one to any kind of morality or any such good or beautiful mode of life. Rather, by alienating material existence from spiritual significance, the Sublime makes everything equally meaningless. Hart counters the aesthetic of the Sublime with the aesthetic of Gregory of Nyssa, for whom the beauty of the Triune God (the ―unrepresentable‖ in this respect) is made tangible in creation and the incarnation. Creation as the outpouring of Divine joy functions as the music of the infinite; its diastemic transitions and intervals become a divine ―counterpoint‖ from which Hart makes the erudite observation that Bach was the greatest theologian.340 The separate lines of melody one notices in Bach‘s counterpoint are conformed peacefully (redeeming the dissonances) to the divine theme without losing their particular beauty. Hart eloquently describes the resultant polyphony, incorporating innumerous variations on the theme, as a beautiful symphony giving praise and glory to the infinite God. Like Gregory of Nyssa, Hart also emphasizes that the beauty of the infinite is supremely encountered in Christ, who, by his incarnation, life, death and resurrection, restores the beauty of humanity. It is no wonder that, when Hart briefly draws examples from the visual arts, it is the icon (gleaned from Jean Luc Marion‘s The Crossing of the Visible) that most clearly represents the Christian aesthetic. The ―transfigured‖ humanity pictured in the icon is not an ―emanation‖ of God‘s beauty, nor is it a purely material object. It is rather, as John of Damascus argued, an incarnate image contingent upon the incarnation of Christ. The eye of the viewer does just look upon the surface of the icon. The icon functions as an invitation to gaze upon true beauty and allows viewer to be gazed upon, to be perceived as beautiful. ―The icon is an instance of an infinite regard that is also openly seen – that acts and reveals itself – within the finite; the icon is an aesthetic instance that is also still infinite; its glory saturates the visible without ceasing to be the gaze
participation in God is only grasped through our love and desire for him, urging us onward from ―glory to glory.‖ The Beauty of the Infinite The primary argument of The Beauty of the Infinite, as mentioned in the introduction, is a defense of Christian rhetoric in a climate of postmodernism (in particular, Nietzsche‘s contribution to postmodernism) where ―truth‖ is essentially a ―lie socially agreed upon,‖ accepted and implemented by force through a ―violence of rhetoric.‖332 Nietzsche has inarguably shaped the public sphere where speaking of religion, truth, or objectivity has significantly (and often rightly) been challenged by post-colonialism, feminist critique, and literary theory. What emerges from this philosophical landscape is what Hart calls ―the marketplace,‖ where Christianity exists as one story among many. But unlike the laws of marketplace, which thrive upon abstracted and darkly Platonic ―systems of exchange,‖ where ―the enrichment of the person can occur only under the form of subjective choices made from a field of morally indifferent options,‖333 the Christian evangel does not rely upon exchanges of power, but is peacefully persuasive because it is beautiful. From this standpoint - and from the perspective of one of Hart‘s other great influences, Hans Urs Von Balthasar334 - the origin of the Christian evangel (and, indeed, of all theological language) is the beauty and glory of God. 335 However, one is faced with some significant challenges when the word ―beauty‖ is re-introduced into our theological vocabulary. In place of the beauty of God, which is essentially bound to goodness and truth, the competing postmodern aesthetic has posited the Sublime.336 The sublime is the nonrepresentable - that which cannot be incarnate. It is truth that is not known, and is subsequently divorced from all beauty and goodness as our experience of such is fundamentally tied to sense-perception.337 The Sublime, according to Hart, could be identified with the infinite ―Other,‖ God‘s absence as in Derrida, or non-being as in Heidegger. ―The true Sublime resides nowhere in the things of sensibility (which can only suggest it) but only in the
Ibid., 45. Ibid., 278-279. Hart‘s brief and pointed critique of Abstract Expressionism has overstated the similarities between the sublime in art and the sublime of philosophy. Such critiques generally overlooked the value of materiality and ―surface‖ (in this case, the materiality of paint) central to Abstract Expressionism. For further reading and debate regarding Abstract Expressionism and sacramental ontology see Daniel A. Siedell, God in the Gallery: A Christian Embrace of Modern Art (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008). 340 Ibid., 282.
William Placher, "God's Beauty," Christian Century 121, no. 18 (2004). 42. 333 Hart, The Beauty of the Inifinite, 432. 334 Hart make a point of drawing attention to the ordering of Balthasar‘s three-part Systematic, which reverses the order of Kant‘s Critiques, placing aesthetics, in The Glory of the Lord first instead of last. 335 Ibid.,16. 336 Ibid., 44. 337 Ibid.
that both comprehends us and draws us into itself.‖341 The parallels with Gregory of Nyssa are obvious; not only does Christ‘s incarnation allow us to gaze upon the beauty of the Infinite God, but we are also ―taken up‖ and divinized as he restores our beauty. The anagogical move from the material object of the icon to Divine beauty is at the same time paralleled the ascent of the viewer who is made beautiful by participating in the vision of God. Bach‘s counterpoint and the icon can serve as key metaphors through which Hart communicates Gregory of Nyssa‘s understanding of beauty, but it is finally ―the martyr‖ that fulfills the peacefulness and beauty of Christian rhetoric Hart seeks to describe in his conclusion. The martyr, in Hart‘s description, understands that truth cannot be proven because God‘s infinite beauty cannot be fully grasped. This idea is counteracted with what Hart calls the ―apologist,‖ who mistakenly believes the Christian story can be proven, and as such wields violence in order to win converts.342 But the martyr takes on the form of Christ: ―Christian thought finds itself drawn over into the place of the crucified, addressing the nations from this place as the only place where peace is known, seeking to imitate Christ‘s renunciation of violence. Christian theology (in the broadest sense) must, because of what its particular story is, have the form of martyrdom, witness, and peace offer that has already suffered rejection and must be prepared for rejection as a consequence.‖343 Just as Gregory of Nyssa uses the language of taking off and putting on clothing to describe mirroring the image of Christ through the practice of virtue, Hart has imagined martyrdom, the supreme form of Christian rhetoric, as putting on the form of Christ himself. One can certainly observe the great influence Gregory of Nyssa has had upon David Bentley Hart, but there are aspects of Gregory‘s unique vision of beauty that seem to missing in The Beauty of the Infinite. Of particular interest is Hart‘s apparent silence on virtue. The word itself, as Gregory would have understood it, is simply absent. Before jumping to a conclusion too quickly, perhaps it should be considered that ―rhetoric‖ in Hart‘s address rephrases Gregory‘s notion of virtue. Surely the peaceful rhetoric Hart describes is not primarily ‗language‘ as such, but also the life and action of the church and individuals. In Hart‘s chapter on salvation, where he describes the church speaking the ―beautiful rhetoric‖ of the Christian evangel,344 and in the conclusion, where he addresses the martyr as taking on ―the form of Christ‖, it becomes clear that
Christian rhetoric is indeed embodied (or enacted in both physical and spiritual practices) and does take on some anagogical attributes, though his difficult prose might sometimes disguise the connection between lived action and the beauty that draws us to Christ. Christ‘s beauty encountered in the virtuous life, or the life of a martyr, is in fact the most persuasive rhetoric because it is a beauty that can be seen. This is the core of Hart‘s argument in The Beauty of the Infinite; just because virtue is not mentioned by name does not mean that it is complettely absent. Hart‘s rhetoric and Gregory‘s virtue do, however, have significant differences. James K. A. Smith has identified a certain weakness in Hart‘s aesthetic, perhaps related to his understanding of anagogical rhetoric, in his written response to The Beauty of the Infinite where he suggests that Hart‘s emphasis upon the ―objective‖ beauty of the Christian story fails to adequately account for a loss of perception as a result of sin. 345 In this regard, Hart seems to suggest that beauty can be recognized ―in spite of desire.‖346 So if Christ‘s beauty is indeed non-coercive, how is it that all will find it attractive? Furthermore, how are we attracted to beauty? How are our desires formed? 347 Smith submits the following quotation from The Beauty of Infinite to illustrate his point: … Desire must be cultivated; the beautiful does not always immediately commend itself to every taste; Christ‘s beauty, like that of Isaiah‘s suffering servant, is not expressed in vacuous comeliness or shadowless glamour, but calls for a love that is charitable, that is not dismayed by distance or mystery, and that can repent of its failure to see; this is to acquire what Augustine calls a taste for the beauty of God (Sililoquia 1.3-14). Once this taste is learned, divine beauty, as Gregory of Nyssa says, inflames desire. And as Augustine also remarks, it is what one loves – what one desires – that determines to what city one belongs (Enarrationes in Psalmos 2.64.2).348 According to Smith, though Hart suggests that desire is cultivated, he never reveals exactly what this cultivation might entail. Smith goes even further to say that a ―seeing‖ that is not redeemed would not only fail to recognize any true beauty, but would see 345
Ibid., 17-18. Ibid., 17. 347 James K. A. Smith, "Questions About the Perception of Christian Truth," New Blackfriars 88, no. 1017 (2007). 590. 348 Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite, 20.
Ibid., 239. 342 Ibid., 441. 343 Ibid. 344 Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite, 338.
ugliness as beauty (which would effectively become a wholly different mode of seeing), in contrast to the ―redeemed‖ eyes that are able to perceive the true beauty of God: The givenness of God‘s beauty in creation is ―objective‖ in the sense that it is true of the object of perception; that is, it is true that ―since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly there to be seen‖ (Rom 1:21). Thus beauty is not as ―indomitable‖ as it might be suggested, precisely because it can be obfuscated, suppressed and ignored by those who lack the (renewed) perceptual capacities to see it as such. This undercuts any possibility of an aesthetic natural theology… that would replace a cognitive natural theology Hart rejects.349
(or even reject) earthly beauty. Desire for beauty, according to Gregory, must cease to desire things of this world. The freedom to respond to God‘s beauty and the universal implications of Gregory of Nyssa‘s theological anthropology are held in a frustrating tension in Gregory‘s thought that is perhaps not as explicit in The Beauty of the Infinite. Hart insists that all seeing participates in God‘s own vision because, as Gregory would agree, sin is privation only; it cannot, in the end, ultimately hinder humanity‘s freedom to respond to God‘s (universally?) attractive Beauty. Gregory of Nyssa never fails to stress the importance of virtue as that free ability to perceive and respond to the beauty of God. This ability, the ability to see God‘s beauty beyond earthly beauty, is formed by ascetic practice. In Gregory‘s anthropology the choice between a distorted or blurred vision and a vision for God‘s beauty is more pointed, more urgent, and ultimately, more demanding. For Hart, earthly beauty objectively attracts humanity to the beauty of God, without a necessary rejection of earthly life. The difference seems slight, but the universal implications of The Beauty of the Infinite are actually an important departure from Gregory of Nyssa‘s otherworldly aesthetic. As James K. A. Smith indicates, it is disappointing that Hart does not expand more upon the beauty of the Christian evangel as a formative (not just attractive) force. By positing the word ―rhetoric‖ in place of ―virtue‖, the reader can be misled to believe that rhetoric is primarily cognitive, rather than the observable actions and behaviors through which one participates in the Divine Life. Furthermore, Hart‘s own rhetoric seems contradictory at times. His dismissive attitude toward those who disagree with him counteracts his often moving and eloquent prose praising the rhetoric of the martyr. But for all his rhetorical flare, Hart‘s understanding of God‘s beauty as objectively attractive might seem, especially when considered in the light of Gregory of Nyssa‘s ascetic aesthetic, too easy. For Gregory, earthly beauty is not salvific in and of itself. Hart, like many post-modern readers of Gregory, tends to sanitize the Cappadocian‘s ―otherworldliness,‖ overlooking his strong assertions that virtue is the act of ultimately rejecting earthly things and, in effect, does away with Gregory‘s highly nuanced universalism that can, despite it‘s otherworldliness, place the formative power of God‘s beauty at the center of life and practice. But one can certainly sympathize, even affirm, Hart‘s reluctance to adopt such a strong dualism. The Beauty of the Infinite embodies both the rewards and the difficulties of adopting Gregory of Nyssa‘s aesthetic.
Hart‘s response to Smith is suggestive to why he did not touch upon the ―cultivation of taste‖ more frequently. He states, I might have placed more emphasis on the actual practical nature of the cultivation in any soul of a ‗taste for the divine beauty,‘… I still however cannot assent the claim that, in distinguishing between a fallen and redeemed vision, I should be speaking not of different degrees of seeing, but of different kinds of seeing…. I believe that all seeing participates – even if only very remotely – in God‘s own vision of and delight in his own essence, in the mystery of the Trinitarian life. Total depravity of the mind would be the total non-existence of reason in the mind, an inability to see anything at all.350 What becomes evident in this conversation is a fundamental difference regarding the fallen state of humanity and the nature of free will. Smith, strongly influenced by Augustine, would prefer that Hart concede that sinful humanity is so disfigured that without God‘s gracious initiative, the ability to perceive even the slightest advent of beauty would be beyond human capacity. Hart on the other hand, in his attempts to adopt at least something of Gregory of Nyssa‘s universalism and emphasis upon human freedom, is convinced that humanity has the ability to freely respond to God‘s beauty, albeit in a limited capacity. But for Gregory of Nyssa, human freedom, expressed most truly in its participation in the Divine life by way of virtue, is the freedom to pass through Smith, ―Questions About the Perception of Christian Truth,‖ 592. 350 David Bentley Hart, "Response to James K. A. Smith, Lois Malcolm and Gerard Loughlin," New Blackfriars 88, no. 1017 (2007), 613. 349
The aesthetic sense of Godâ€˜s glory and goodness, the beauty and attraction of the Christian evangel, and the aesthetic perception of a lived rhetoric, are, at the end of the day, values worth reclaiming. One will not find any long digressions praising the beauty of virginity in The Beauty of the Infinite, nor will one find Hart exhorting his readers to a life of asceticism. What one will find is a well integrated and welldemonstrated theological aesthetic, very much akin to Gregory of Nyssa, but very much directed to the post-modern reader.
Gregorios, Paulos Mar. Cosmic Man: The Divine Presence: The Theology of St. Gregory of Nyssa (Ca 330 to 395 A.D.). New York: Paragon, 1988. Hart, David Bentley. The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003. ________. "Response to James K. A. Smith, Lois Malcolm and Gerard Loughlin." New Blackfriars 88, no. 1017 (2007): 610-23. Mateo-Seco, Lucas Francisco, and Giulio Maspero, ed. The Brill Dictionary of Gregory of Nyssa. Leiden: Brill, 2009. Nyssa, Gregory of. "The Life of Moses." New York: Paulist Press, 1978. ________. "On the Soul and Resurrection." In Saint Gregory of Nyssa: Ascetical Works, 58. Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1999. ________. "On Virginity." In Saint Gregory of Nyssa: Ascetical Works, 58. Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1999. ________. "Commentary on the Canticle." In From Glory to Glory: Texts from Gregory of Nyssa's Mystical Writings, edited by S.J. Herbert Musurillo. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2001. ________, The Easter Sermons of Gregory of Nyssa: Translation and Commentary: Proceedings of the Fourth International Colloquium on Gregory of Nyssa; Cambridge, England: 11-15 September, 1978. Edited by Andreas Spira and Christoph Klock. Vol. 9, Patristic Monograph Series. Cambridge, Mass: Philadelphia Patristic Foundation, 1981. Placher, William. "God's Beauty." Christian Century 121, no. 18 (2004): 42-45. Scarry, Elaine. On Beauty and Being Just. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999. Siedell, Daniel A. God in the Gallery: A Christian Embrace of Modern Art. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008. Smith, James K. A. "Questions About the Perception of Christian Truth." New Blackfriars 88, no. 1017 (2007): 58593.
Published on Jan 4, 2011
Papers read at the annual Regent College Student Association Academic Symposium. Held on March 5, 2011, at Regent College, Vancouver, BC