Hans Blumenberg: The Paradox of Jesus’ Last Words

Joe Paul Kroll completed his PhD thesis, A Human End to History? Hans Blumenberg, Karl Löwith and Carl Schmitt on Secularization and Modernity, in 2010 at Princeton University.

A great deal has been written, not least in these pages, of the ‘monstrous phrase’, known also as der ungeheure Spruch: the Latin motto preceding the fourth book of Goethe’s Dichtung und Wahrheit, nemo contra deum nisi deus ipse.

Carl Schmitt, in Politische Theologie II, attributes a Christological meaning to this saying, tracing its roots to a fragment by the dramatist J.M.R. Lenz, in which a girl invokes the image of Christ against an overbearing, God-like father with the words: “Gott gegen Gott!” Schmitt interprets this as the revolt of the Son against the Father, of the redeemer God against the creator God.

Blumenberg appears to share Schmitt’s conviction that the source would reveal the meaning, his contention being that the phrase Goethe himself was the originator of the Spruch and its meaning a polytheistic one. A monotheistic reading would not, however, just be at odds with all that Goethe believed (and all he did not). To imagine a deity divided against itself, Blumenberg argues, would be to imagine a scenario of eternal futility. Blumenberg understood Goethe as having alluded to the existence of a plurality of gods in a state of rivalry, with none being in a position to make an absolute claim on man. This, to Blumenberg, was the whole point of the mythical mode of thought as a means of keeping the absolutism of reality at bay.

The conflict between the self-preservation of God and the self-preservation or self-assertion of man is the guiding theme of Blumenberg’s interpretation of Christian theology in the form of a work on myth. The ungeheure Spruch was, as Blumenberg wrote in Arbeit am Mythos, “the basic formula of myth in all its figurations”, and thus of the need to keep overbearing forces at a distance.

Monotheism, however, precludes the parity of forces which the Goethean reading of nemo contra deum nisi deus ipse presupposes. Schmitt’s interpretation, Blumenberg suggests, was in any case at odds with a Christian orthodoxy which had sought to banish the “dualistic temptation” in the Trinity, without ever being wholly successful, for the Son could not but appear as, to some extent, the rival of the Father and the advocate of man in his fallen state.

In the short text translated below, Blumenberg adds a new dimension to the Schmittian, i.e. Christological, interpretation of the apophthegm, turning his gaze on the moment at which the relationship between the Father and the Son seems to be at its most desperate: the Crucifixion. The origins of the text are unclear – it appears not to have been published during Blumenberg’s lifetime, whilst its thematic preoccupations seem to place it squarely in the context of Matthäuspassion (1988). Its conclusion, if one were to take it as Blumenberg’s last word on the ungeheure Spruch, would seem to contradict his rebuttal of any attempts at endowing it with a Christological significance. On closer inspection, one might conclude that what Blumenberg is really doing is to underscore the sheer heresy of pitting Father and Son against each other. But leaving aside the problems of drawing such inferences from unpublished texts, it should be remembered that Blumenberg’s original interpretation was based on what he thought Goethe meant by the motto. In this short piece, it figures (subtly rephrased, moreover: nihil instead of nemo) simply as a phrase (mis-)remembered – though remembered, no doubt, by Blumenberg himself, in the context of his debate with Carl Schmitt.

* * * * *

Hans Blumenberg: The Paradox of Jesus’ Last Words

In uttering, as recorded by Mark and Matthew, his words of abandonment by God – this: Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani –, the dying Jesus quotes the beginning of the 22nd Psalm. There is no point in searching questions as to why Jesus should have quoted rather than spontaneously exclaiming his own lines of despair – he was saturated with knowledge of the scriptures or, at any rate, his evangelists were.

The unbelieving reader of scripture – or the listener to Bach’s St. Matthew Passion – is left untroubled by the quotation. It is worth having a quotation at the ready for those unknown and unforeseeable moments when the right words fail one.

It is a different matter for the faithful, reading these words as rendered by the evangelist or the passionist. To him, it will evoke not only this dying moment of his savior, but also the origin of this last word in the same Bible, in the other testament of which it may be found. The word of God here, the word of God there – this is the ever-invoked identity of the God of both testaments as well as of the two articles of the creed. It is the achievement inherited from the overcoming of gnosticism.

Yet Jesus’ last word is an accusation made against ‘his’ God for having forsaken him. Whatever else this may mean, it certainly does not mean that the word of God should have escaped or been withdrawn from him. In God’s own words, he accuses him of disloyalty – and with this accusation adds to the words of the same God and the same, one revelation.

The composer of the St. Matthew Passion does not leave his listeners in the lurch. All he is doing is to prepare them for the pain of the extreme exacerbation of their savior’s suffering and dying, for the realism of an actual dying. The quotation is not, as the diligence of the evangelists would otherwise have it, introduced with the phrase As it is written in the prophets or That the word might be fulfilled. Whoever is nonetheless unable to forget the quotation from the psalmist will also notice an undertone by which Jesus not only addresses himself to his God, but also against him. This already in omitting, just this once, the filial Abba. To use God’s words against God – that gives the faithful an unexpected flavor of Goethe’s ‘monstrous phrase’: Nihil contra deum nisi deus ipse – Only a God against a God.

Source: Hans Blumenberg, Goethe zum Beispiel. In Verbindung mit Manfred Sommer herausgegeben vom Hans Blumenberg-Archiv. Frankfurt am Main: Insel, 1999, p. 88. Translated by Joe Paul Kroll.

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6 Responses to Hans Blumenberg: The Paradox of Jesus’ Last Words

  1. Izzy says:

    Any scholars care to weigh in on the fact that the “last words” are actually not found in Psalms? There the word is “azavtani”, not “sabachthani”…

  2. Beulah says:

    There is nothing contradictory in Jesus’ remarks on the cross; he was not accusing the Father of having abandoned him, but, rather, teaching even in his dying moments, as his words hearken directly to Psalm 22 (written a full thousand years earlier), which is a prophetic account of the crucifixion: http://www.themoorings.org/apologetics/prophecy/Crucifixion/Ps22.html

  3. Joe says:

    In reply to both comments: 1) Izzy: This is a pretty fraught topic, since there doesn’t even seem to be a consensus on whether Jesus is supposed to have spoken Hebrew or Aramaic. I can’t weigh in on this and have to leave the question open. 2) Beulah: You assume both the historicity of Jesus’ last words and the prophetic character of the Psalms (with regard to a very particular event), both of which are statements of faith to which one either does or doesn’t subscribe. Blumenberg is fully aware of the reference but finds it to be ambiguous or, if you prefer, incompletely executed, leaving a flaw by which a hidden meaning may be exposed.

  4. Beulah says:

    Hi, Joe. I don’t “assume” the historicity of Jesus’ last words, since the New Testament contains first-hand witness accounts; Mark is the young man (spoken of in third person) who is an eyewitness to Jesus’ last days (Mark 14:51), and John the Gospel writer gives a first-hand account of the actions of the crucifixion (John 19:17-37), including the sign placed on the cross, Jesus’ words, “I thirst,” and Jesus’ very last words, “It is finished.” (He does not include the reference to Psalm 22 –Matthew and Mark do that.) Unlike “cunningly derived fables” (by which Paul meant other religions which can produce no scrap of evidence to validate them or which provide no eyewitness testimony), the New Testament is a record which meets the strictest standards of scrutiny, in terms of the credibility of the eyewitnesses.

    For example, nowhere is the bias against the textual integrity of the Judeo-Christian canonical scriptures more evident than when comparisons are made of the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments against those of other ancient-yet-secular materials. The number of available extant copies of the scriptures far exceeds the writings of many classical authors of antiquity, and the period spanning their estimated date of origin and the earliest certifiable copies is markedly shorter than those of their secular counterparts. Despite the fact that the sampling of extant manuscripts for classical literature is far lesser than the scriptures, and the number of centuries which separate their attributed authors from the oldest known copies is far greater, secular literature continues to enjoy an unrivaled assumption as to its authenticity. Christian scholar F.F. Bruce offers some startling statistics to underscore this bias:

    “The textual advantage of the New Testament documents over all other ancient manuscripts is that, in no other case is the interval of time between date of authorship and date of earliest extant manuscripts so short. Furthermore, the number of extant manuscripts is far greater for the New Testament than for any other classical work. For other ancient works, manuscript attestation is poor in comparison. For example, we have, of the seven surviving plays of Sophocles, four manuscripts that are of any value, the earliest being written in the eleventh century, 1400 years after the poet’s death. For Plato, we have eleven manuscripts, the earliest being written about 1250 years after his death. The History of Thucydides has eight manuscripts, the earliest being from the tenth century, 1300 years after his death, and Herodotus also has eight manuscripts, the earliest being from the tenth century, again 1300 years after his death. Yet there is no classical scholar who will doubt the authenticity of these works, despite the paucity of extant manuscripts and despite the gap of over 1,000 years between the time of authorship and the time the earliest extant manuscript was written. Yet, in addition to the examples of the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament documents that have been mentioned, we have the Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri, containing eleven papyrus codices, three of which contain most of the New Testament writings. The first contains the four Gospels and Acts and was copied between A.D. 200 and 250, the second contains the letters of Paul and Hebrews and was copied at about the same time, and the third, which includes the book of Revelation, was copied about 50 years later.”

    FYI: “There are in existence over 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, as well as 8,000 manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate and 1,000 of other early versions. Some of the best and most important of the Greek New Testament go back to about A.D. 350. Two important manuscripts are the Codex Vaticanus in the Vatican Library in Rome and the Codex Sinaiticus in the British Museum. From the four hundreds A.D., we have the Codex Alexandrinus in the British Museum, and from a hundred years later, the Codex Bezae in the Cambridge University library, which contains the Gospels and Acts in both Greek and Latin.” (Christian Evidences I, Richard M. Riss, Global Resource Ministries International)

    Even more remarkably in favor of the textual integrity of the Judeo-Christian scriptures is the high degree of accuracy represented in the multitude of documents being consonant with each other, despite the manuscripts being separated by great regional divides and numerous centuries. Of the Old Testament canon in particular, Riss offers:“The accuracy of these manuscripts has been corroborated not only by their faithfulness to the Septuagint (a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek done during the third and second centuries B.C.) and the Vulgate (a translation into Latin completed by Jerome in A.D. 405), but by their striking faithfulness to the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls (copied between 130 B.C. and A.D. 70) consist of 40,000 fragments. Five hundred books have been reconstructed from them, one hundred of which are from the Old Testament in Hebrew. The only book of the Old Testament not represented is the book of Esther. Included is a complete manuscript of the Hebrew text of the book of Isaiah copied in 125 B.C., which is almost identical to the Masoretic text of A.D. 916 (the Leningrad Codex of the prophets), indicating the unusual accuracy of the Masoretes as copyists over the period of one thousand years.”

    The textual integrity (not to be confused with the spiritual truth which is believed it proclaims) of the New Testament books, however, is determined by its comparison to the greater repository of information available about the later historical periods which they involve, as the events and cultural aspects of the Roman Empire—intact during Jesus of Nazareth’s lifetime and during the period in which the newer canonical texts were written—are well documented, with a dearth of artifacts, edifices, and documents available for scrutiny which paint very well the picture of the Christian church’s early eras; against such items the biblical accounts are tested and tried, by which the consonance of the canonical texts pass with flying colors:

    “The accuracy of the present-day Greek version of the New Testament has resulted from the comparison of thousands of manuscripts by textual critics who have been able to separate them into families on the basis of certain variations that each manuscript family has in common. The principles of textual criticism enable scholars to determine which versions of the text are predecessors of the others, thereby coming close to the original reading. While there are many variant readings in the documents of the New Testament, the vast majority of them are of very minor significance, and, according to A. T. Robertson, affect a ‘thousandth part of the text.’ This minuscule portion of the text does not affect any aspect of Christian doctrine.”
    Thus the New Testament has not failed to pass scrutiny of its textual integrity, as the breadth of materials in support of its transitive accuracy demonstrates; those minute variances which reputedly have no bearing on doctrinal orthodoxy may be attributed to human fallibility (or design), which eventually may be “sussed out” by reason of the extensive comparisons. It would seem that the incredulity with which the scriptures are perceived by many continues to crumble as the material evidence continues to mount in the Bible’s favor. Frederic C. Kenyon, a former curator of the canonical manuscripts in the prestigious collection of the British Museum, had written: “But besides confirming the. . .authenticity of the canonical books, the new evidence tends to confirm the general integrity of the text as it has come down to us. . . The interval then between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.”

    I will give an example of the uncanny historical accuracy of Luke. From Riss, as the canonical texts often document the particulars and existence of their antithetical or counterpart societies, thus providing a cross-reference index for determining the historical accuracy of the pagan societies with which they had been in contact: “The trustworthiness of the Bible’s historical statements has been corroborated again and again both through archaeological discoveries and through close correlation of the Bible’s content with other independent ancient sources. A comprehensive study of this topic would be far beyond the scope of these lectures, but for the purpose of illustration, it will be possible to examine briefly the accuracy of Luke as a historian. Luke, the friend and companion of Paul, is the author of the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, which may be two parts of one continuous historical work. Luke mentions three emperors by name: Augustus (Luke 2:1), Tiberius (Luke 3:1), and Claudius (Acts 18:2 and Acts 11:28). The birth of Jesus is fixed in the reign of the emperor Augustus, when Herod the Great was king of Judaea, and Quirinius governor of Syria (Luke 1:5, 2:2). Luke dates by a series of synchronisms in the Greek historical manner the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry (Luke 3:12), just as the Greek historian Thucydides dates the formal outbreak of the Peloponnesian War in his History, book II.

    Luke accurately names the Roman governors Quirinius, Pilate, Sergius, Paullus, Gallio, Felix, and Festus, Herod the Great and a few of his descendants, including Herod Antipas the tetrarch of Galilee, the vassal-kings Herod Agrippa I and II, Berenice and Drusilla, Jewish priests such as Annas, Caiaphas, and Ananias, and Gamaliel, the great Rabbi and Pharisaic leader. An author relating his story to the wider context of world history must be careful, because he affords the reader abundant opportunities to test the degree of his accuracy. Not only does Luke take this risk, but he stands the test admirably […] Now, all these evidences of accuracy are not accidental. A man whose accuracy can be demonstrated in matters where we are able to test it is likely to be accurate even where the means for testing him are not available. Accuracy is a habit of mind, and we know from happy (or unhappy) experience that some people are habitually accurate just as others can be depended upon to be inaccurate. Luke’s record entitles him to be regarded as a writer of habitual accuracy.”

    F.F. Bruce marvels at the historical accuracy of Luke, of which Bruce had written: “One of the most remarkable tokens of his accuracy is his sure familiarity with the proper titles of all the notable persons who are mentioned in his pages. This was by no means such an easy feat in his days as it is in ours, when it is so simple to consult convenient books of reference. The accuracy of Luke’s use of the various titles in the Roman Empire has been compared to the easy and confident way in which an Oxford man in ordinary conversation will refer to the Heads of Oxford colleges by their proper titles–the Provost of Oriel, the Master of Balliol, the Rector of Exeter, the President of Magdalen, and so on. A non-Oxonian like the present writer never feels quite at home with the multiplicity of these Oxford titles. But Luke had a further difficulty in that the titles sometimes did not remain the same for any great length of time; a province might pass from senatorial government to administration by a direct representative of the emperor, and would then be governed no longer by a proconsul but by an imperial legate (legatus pro proetore). Among the many supposed mistakes of Luke that have since been vindicated was the mention in Luke 3:1 of Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene in the fifteenth year of Tiberius (A.D. 27- 28). The only Lysanias of Abilene otherwise known from ancient history was a king who was executed by the order of Mark Antony in 34 B.C. We now have archaeological evidence of a later Lysanias who had the status of tetrarch. An inscription recording the dedication of a temple reads, ‘For the salvation of the Lords Imperial and their whole household, by Nymphaeus, a freedman of Lysanias the tetrarch.’ The reference to “Lords Imperial,” which was a joint title given only to the emperor Tiberius and his mother Livia, the widow of Augustus, establishes the date of the inscription to between A.D. 14 and 29, the years of Tiberius’ accession and Livia’s death, respectively.”

    As divine inspiration is man working with God, so to speak, the Bible’s claims for its veracity are bound up with the deity of which they speak; if the numerous human agents are to be believed in their historical and prophetic accounts, why, then, should they categorically be accused of falsification in their other claims, including firsthand knowledge of and interaction with the divine? If one applies the tendency to accuracy as demonstrated in the writings of Luke, then it seems illogical to discredit the claims made in the scriptures about their divine origin, for to do so would require an application of selective credibility—i.e., if these men were tremendously accurate in their written accounts of historical battles and prophetic events which have already come to pass, why would they provide false testimony as to the manner by which said accounts were written? What gain could there be had in making such claims, were they untrue witnesses? Riss provides an extremely important contrast between the mythmakers of preliterate societies and the authors of the New Testament (an argument which applies with equal measure to the Old Testament prophets):

    “One characteristic that separates the New Testament accounts from most accounts of legend or mythology is that the skepticism of the people is portrayed in detail and emphasis is placed upon belief. The fact that these writers should be concerned with belief at all is quite interesting, for it is minimal, if not nonexistent, in most accounts of legend or mythology. The emphasis upon belief is an indication that the New Testament authors were totally convinced that they were writing completely valid historical accounts. If they did not believe what they were writing, then they were lying with the specific purpose of deception, fully conscious of what they were doing, in a malicious attempt to manipulate the people of their day.” (Riss)

    The authors of the scriptures suffered considerably for their willingness and commitment to speak and record the divine instructions and judgments; the scripture writers had no designs to manipulate the people of their respective days, thus there would be no incentive for falsifying their testimonials. The Old Testament prophets were ostracized, exiled, imprisoned (Jer 32:2), placed in dungeons (Jer 37:16), placed in public stocks (Jer 20:22), tossed into slime pits and left to die (Jer 38:6), mocked and defamed, and lived under constant threat of bodily harm and death (Jer 26:28); even Moses and Aaron had reason to fear the disgruntled multitude in the desert, who murmured against them continuously. If anything, there had been greater safety and commerce for these men had said authors disavowed that they were acting per direct command or influence of the Israelite God. What, then, could have been their motive in making such claims about divine inspiration and interaction, since it could not have been to secure for themselves and their posterity status, power, or wealth, instead earning them scorn, ridicule, derision, alienation, torture, and ultimately death? Can they all have been madmen? Individuals seriously deluded into believing that their encounters with the divine were more than imaginative encounters not subject to cross-examination by others? Or did they, as the scriptures attest, truly interact with and obey the Israelite God, including recording His dictums?

    It is a preposterous supposition to argue that the lot of them were crazy, for the astounding levels of consonance and clarity evidenced in the scriptures taken in their entirety (which spans centuries) cannot be the product of madmen, who could not so entirely agree with each other in a collective state of delusion; the sanitariums may be filled with madmen who think they are Napoleon Bonaparte, but, in their deluded states, they don’t agree to each assume his identity for a particular stage of his existence, so as to avoid confusion. If one is not ready to concede, therefore, that the men who had recorded the scriptures were not a pack of imbeciles and liars, then one must be prepared to devise an alternate hypothesis which enables critics to separate the wheat from the chaff, the truth-tellers from the mythmakers, the nutjobs from the divinely-inspired writers—and this is a feat which skeptics of the supernatural neither have done nor can do. If persons who claim to be divinely inspired or commanded prove true in the accounts they record, there is sufficient ground to afford them the benefit of the doubt as to the reasons they provide as to why and how they have recorded such accounts.

    Biblical narratives contain emphatic affirmations for the accounts and persons which they describe; the authors of the New Testament especially appealed to others as being eyewitnesses to the events that they proclaimed. ( See, e.g., Lk 1:1-4; Jn 19:35; Acts 1:22, 2:22, 2:32, 3:15, 4:19-20, 4:33, 5:32, 10:39, 13:30-31, and 26:26; 1 Cor. 15:3-8; 1 Jn 1:1-3; and 2 Pet 1:16. ) And this was, perhaps, an added necessity, due to their need to convince the Israelites that the prophecies which had foretold of the coming of the Messiah (the first advent) had come to pass, due to the incredulity of the masses, who could not understand the proverbial writing on the wall , even though they could see it. Biblical testimonies, therefore, pertained to contemporary events, not ancestral interactions, which means that the biblical narratives were subject to much greater scrutiny in determining falsehood than the myths of pagan societies, since the intended audiences were still very much alive and in memory of the events which the scriptures describe; were it not the case, substantial objections would have been raised by the community of believers in a position to challenge the veracity alleged by the authors: Had Jeremiah falsely prophesized, his contemporaries and immediate successors would have denounced the veracity of his texts. (This excludes, of course, the false prophets which had been initially adversarial to him, for even they would necessarily grant concession upon fulfillment of his prophecies.)

    A. T. Olmstead, in speaking of the eyewitness testimony given by John concerning Lazarus being raised from the dead (N.T.), writes: “Of one thing we may be sure: the appearances cannot be reckoned as mere literary devices. Not only do they betray their primitive character, they do not hesitate to relate to their discredit the doubts of their church leaders, written down and circulated while those leaders were yet living and able if they wished to refute them.” Subsequent practitioners of the Christian faith bear paid special attention to preserving the integrity of the eyewitness accounts which had been shared with them by the apostles and initial disciples. Turning to the Old Testament, it is apparent that each of the canonical authors is accepted as being resolutely authoritative and authentic by subsequent authors, so that the cumulative body of writings emerges which manifests the consonance lacking in the mythology of preliterate, pagan societies, a phenomenon which Riss identifies as well: “Not only do all of the Scriptures carry with them the claim to be describing events that have really taken place, but the Biblical authors believed that whatever had previously been recorded in Scripture had actually happened. For example, the book of Joshua presupposes that the events recorded in the Pentateuch had actually occurred. The Bible consistently builds upon the historicity of previously recorded events and is intelligible only if these prior events really happened.”

    this continual insistence on the part of the authors having already demonstrated uncanny prophetic and historical accuracy as to the participation and directives of a supreme, supernatural being creates a significant conundrum for skeptics which are compelled to concede the accuracy demonstrated by the mortal authors of these sacred texts; they are left with only two unreasonable choices in light of such growing evidence in support of the Bible’s claims for itself: (1) the canonical authors were truthful about everything except the divine aspect inherent to their writing; or (2) the canonical authors were sane when having written about everything except the divine aspect to their writing. Admittedly, neither scenario is very plausible, for madness does not invite selectivity, and falsity is too readily exposed in prophecy and by the sciences. Again, hearkening to the rules of legal evidence, the critics who scoff at the possibility of a supernatural element to the Judeo-Christian scriptures are beset with the obligation to counter effectively the Bible’s claims for itself. Riss best sums up the contradictory contentions:

    “If we accept the Bible’s claim to historical accuracy but reject its claim to be, in its entirety, the very words of God, we are still beset with very serious difficulties. If we accept as accurate the events recorded in the Bible, then we are forced to accept its claim to be the very words of God, because many of those events are descriptions of the very process by which God inspired the Scriptures. The very principle which forces us to accept all of the events recorded in the Bible as historically accurate also forces us to accept the Biblical doctrine of inspiration. As we have seen, we cannot escape the historicity, even of the miracles recorded in the Bible. They are too closely woven into the fabric of history. Yet this is as true for the miracle of Biblical inspiration as it is for everything else recorded in the Bible. If we reject the Bible’s claim to be the written record of the words of God, there is too much left for us to explain for which there is no adequate explanation, other than that which is given to us in the Scriptures themselves. For those of us who have seriously pondered this question, it is evident that is would take far greater faith to reject the Biblical claims than to accept them. Too may difficult questions arise if we do not take the Bible at face value. Too much is left unanswered. If we do not accept the Biblical view of its own origin, we must come up with an alternative explanation as to the origin of the Bible. Such an explanation would have to take into account the fact that all of the authors of the Bible claimed this divine inspiration, not only for themselves, but for all of the Biblical authors who had written before them. Could they perhaps have been lying, or might they have been deceived? […]It is certainly impossible to accept the Scriptures as authoritative for some purposes, but then to reject the claims of those Scriptures concerning themselves. If the Scriptures are suspect in their repeated claims for themselves, then on what basis can it be said that they have integrity on any other matter?”

    But they DO demonstrate remarkable and singular integrity, made manifest by various measures—which, in court, would be regarded as the establishment of a witness’ credibility. If, therefore, one is faced with the option of accepting or refuting the scriptures wholly (for one cannot accept as fact the existence of events, individuals, and cultures which archeology, geology, and mathematics attest, whilst at the same time denying the veracity of the biblical witnesses having established said events, individuals, and cultures’ existences), then it seems far more LOGICAL to accept the Bible’s claims for itself as being the authentic Word of God, and not merely as a matter of taking what is says on faith, or, rather, “assuming the historicity” of its contents. (Please don’t assume that I assume anything–wink!)

    As for the second “accusation” made against me, that I believe in the prophetic nature of Psalm 22, well, now, the test of prophecy’s accuracy is its historical fulfillment, isn’t it? If the N.T. eyewitness accounts are true, and they correspond perfectly with that which is specified in the O.T. relevant psalm (which is dated 1,000 years earlier, per all serious biblical scholars), then I would say that I am not “assuming” the prophetic nature of a thousand-year antecedent which has come to fruition in accordance with that which it specifically foretold.

    Food for thought, and not mere blind faith, Joe. BTW, my PhD dissertation pertains to biblical allusions in the work of Poe, and my second M.A. (in art history of non-western civilizations, i.e., Asian, Oceanic, African, Native American, Pre-Columbian, Middle Eastern, etc.) was roughly 300 pages on Native American religious systems; there is no other sacred text which can meet scrutiny of Judeo-Christian Scripture, in terms of three important factors by which they should be gauged: (1) proof of divine authorship; (2) historical accuracy; and (3) fulfillment of prophecy. I’ve spent roughly 25 years studying this stuff on which to base my positions, thus, assuredly, nothing is assumed without careful attention to archeology, philology, cultural anthropology, geography, and geology in the mix.

    P.S. I just finished re-reading Goethe’s “Faust” (I prefer Marlowe’s) and his “Sorrows of Young Werther” (I prefer “Sorrows” to “Sufferings” because it works better with the underlying Christological theme of the text); does anybody else recall that Goethe’s “Werther” is the first book which Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein Monster” reads?

  5. Joe says:

    Hi Beulah, you’ll have to excuse me for starting by pointing out that a comment that length can achieve little except to bamboozle the weary, in this case: me. I won’t reply at length or in detail because you know as well as I do that there exists a long tradition of biblical criticism and exegesis that takes a very different view of pretty much every piece of evidence you adduce – most of it coming from theologians who were and are anything but raving atheists. You don’t hold with it, because you either prefer or are indeed convinced by the apologetic, literalist tradition you espouse. (Excuse any possible misrepresentation here, but you see what I’m getting at.) So we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. Sorry if that sounds like a cop-out, and all the more so should I come across as patronizing or dismissive, but I don’t see this going anywhere else.

    • Beulah says:

      Ha! No offense taken, and I hardly can accuse anyone who reads works of the caliber you discuss as “copping out”. We’ll agree to disagree, and I’ll simply continue to enjoy your posts.

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