Saturday, August 16, 2008

Catching Up

Sorry I've been gone so long (sounds like a Dylan song). I've been moving across 3 states and doing all the things that that entails, as well as organizing some classes for the fall. I hope to check in a little bit more often into the blogosphere.

There have been a lot of interesting things going on out there. Some of the most interesting are these:

A new Zincirli inscription. Of all the recent discoveries, this one looks like the most interesting. I look forward to Pardee's presentation in Boston. Save me a seat.

A new seal.

More discussion on the Vision of Gabriel — more than I have time to summarize. However, I gather that the crux of Israel Knohl's philological argument is reading a certain word in line 80 as ‏חאיה, and understanding it as the Qal imperative of the root ‏חיי, translated "live!" But we would not normally expect aleph to serve as a mater lectionis for a reduced or zero vowel, which is what we would expect in the first syllable. It seems pretty far-fetched to me. You have one scholar arguing on the basis of a disputed reading for a philologically unlikely verb found in an inscription of questionable provenance. I think Christianity is safe.

On the non-philological front, Adam Gopnik has written a very good article on G. K. Chesterton in The New Yorker. Unfortunately only the abstract is available on-line. There are any number of things I might take issue with Gopnik here, but in one case I think he is (regrettably) dead right, and that is the issue of Chesterton's anti-Semitism. I don't think any objective reader, even one who loves GKC (as I do), could deny that he was anti-Semitic. This doesn't mar every one of his books (here I disagree with Gopnik), and the great ones, like Orthodoxy, are free of it. But no one can read, say, The New Jerusalem, without being saddened by the vile things he occasionally uttered. For this reason, a defense such as this one at Ignatius Press Insight, is misconceived.


Cb said...

Ed, good to have you back on the blog! As you know I am also a Chesterton fan although I have not read The New Jerusalem. So I want to ask a more nuanced question of your reading and hope it doesn't sound like an apology. If the charge of anti-Semitism sticks then so be it.

My question is do you believe that Chesterton was truly against the Jews or is it possible that he is reflecting the reigning cultural discomfort and disdain? This is not to justify it in any way, rather I often wonder about the distinction because I believe there is one. Those who are truly anti-Semitic actively used their power (intellectually, politically and physically) to bring harm to Jews, physically or otherwise. Did Chesterton actively argue such a position, which may well be the case, I have read much of what he wrote but not everything, or is he rather reflecting the general tenor of the day and community that he was in?

Ed said...

Well, in my judgment Chesterton actively used his influence to solve what he and many others called "the Jewish problem." He actually welcomed Zionism because it had the potential of ridding Europe of all its Jews; those who remained, he said, should be limited to certain geographical enclaves and caused to wear distinctive oriental dress. Cf. the last chapter in "The New Jerusalem," as well as many scattered remarks about Jewish money, greed, duplicity, and physical homeliness.

This is not genocide, but it is ugly. No doubt GKC was a child of his time, but a kinder view of Judaism was also possible in his time.

Cb said...

Thanks Ed. I trust your reading, I will read it myself, but in that case this is, sadly, anti-Semitism.