We deny to claim "any Superiority to ourself
to defyne, decyde, or determyn any Article or Poynt
of the Christian Fayth and Relligion,
or to chang any Ancient Ceremony of the Church
from the Forme before received and observed
by the Catholick and Apostolick Church."

Norman Simplicity

Norman Simplicity
Click image for original | © Vitrearum (Allan Barton)

Monday, July 6, 2015

Sitz im Leben

The contemporary inability to read stems from (a) not reading much at all, (b) not reading a variety of differing genres, and (c) a fundamental inability to understand that life has not always measured itself by contemporary standards (or, that the world has not always been the way it is now).

I am going to try and teach biblical sources again this fall. (The first time was a disaster; the second? Not so much.) But, of course, our first stumbling block: lub.

From Vridar (my emphases):

A very influential 1963 article by William Moran, “The Ancient Near Eastern Background of the Love of God in Deuteronomy” (CBQ 25.1 1963 pp. 77-87) is important for Avalos’s argument. I quote sections from that article directly:

Love in Deuteronomy is a love that can be commanded. It is also a love intimately related to fear and reverence. Above all, it is a love which must be expressed in loyalty, in service, and in unqualified obedience to the demands of the Law. For to love God is, in answer to a unique claim (6:4), to be loyal to him (11:1, 22; 30:20), to walk in his ways (10:12.; 11:22; 19:9; 30:16), to keep his commandments (10:12; 11:1,22; 19:9), to do them (11:22; 19:9), to heed them or his voice (11:13; 30:16), to serve him (10:12.; 11:1,13). It is, in brief, a love defined by and pledged in the covenant — a covenantal love.

Moran pointed towards implications this has for the teachings of Jesus in the gospels:

If . . . the old sovereign-vassal terminology of love is as relevant as we think it is, then what a history lies behind the Christian test of true agape — “If you love me, keep my commandments”!

I have also tracked down another important article for Avalos, “The Personal is Political: Covenental and Affectionate Love [‘AHEB, ‘AHABA] in the Hebrew Bible” by Susan Ackerman, (Vetus Testamentus, 52, 4 (Oct 2002). pp. 437-458). Building on Moran’s insights, Ackerman concludes that the Hebrew Bible’s words for “love” (both verb and noun forms, and that are translated by the Greek “agape” — the form of love that supposedly indicates the higher form of spiritual or godly love in the New Testament) virtually always point to an unequal power relationship. Love is primarily what the superior gives to the inferior. Example: Jacob loves Rachel but Rachel is nowhere said to love Jacob, and this is true of most male-female relationships. Parents love children, but children are not said to love parents. The exception in the Book of Jeremiah is where the people love various gods, yet this is understood to be a satirical reversal of the norm, a mockery of the inversion of what the power relationships should be.

Avalos concurs to a point but raises a question. Moran had shown that it was normally the inferior party that owed love to the superior in a covenant partnership. So why does the Hebrew Bible speak so regularly of the dominant party, not the lesser, doing the “loving”? Avalos answers:

I believe that this puzzle can be solved if we add one more element to this hierarchical and political view of love. The element is individual privileging. Love functions as a manner to express status differences in which a superior party selects an object of love, who can only return gratitude, affection and service in return. Inferior parties cannot or do not select their superiors, masters or parents.

The idea that the superior party selects the inferior one is repeatedly found in the Hebrew Bible, as in Deut. 7:6. . . . This selection can be acknowledged as simply arbitrary: ‘As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”‘ (Rom. 9:13). (p. 41)

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