Saturday, April 3, 2010

Riddle me ree: Here's one for you

Let me just warn you that I'm writing very quickly this morning.  I almost entitled this one "Jesus: the feminist rhetorical translator" (since recently I finished Tom Thatcher's important book Jesus the Riddler:  the power of ambiguity in the gospels). 

But let me start this particular post by saying that, after very careful study of Aristotle in his own Greek writings, it's become apparent to me that he was neither feminist nor rhetorical -- that is, he rather despised females and denigrated ways of knowing and of communicating that were not "logic."  Aristotle wanted translation, but only in one direction:  his.  That is, he taught his powerful elite male students - such as Alexander the Great - to conquer, even by logic and by the Greek language.

Which is all very different (and maybe ironically opposite) from an odder and later figure in our histories:  Jesus.

The problem that many of us have in writing and reading history now is that we forgo the sort of methods Jesus used for Aristotle's logic.  (but to be clear, Aristotle never intended for any of us of any less-educated, un-Greek, or fe-male species to translate his logic as ours).  One method Jesus used, which needs substantial recovering, is "the riddle."  (to be clear, Aristotle taught his students very directly against riddling.)

As mentioned earlier, I was reading Tom Thatcher's book Jesus the Riddler while re-reading Mary Daly's book Gyn/Ecology and it occurred to me for the first time:  wordplay (i.e., the sophistry that ARistotle and Plato and Plato's Socrates rails against -- the "rhetoric" and the "riddling" they so dispise) is a sort of methodology or is a set of methologies that many poets, sophists, women, and rhetoricians have used down through the years.

And there is much resistance to if not just ignorance about the cross-cultural and historical uses of wordplay.  (A respected contemporary new testament Greek scholar, such as Bill Mounce, for example, confesses he isn't familiar with Dissoi Logoi, the pluralistic sophistic reviews of what goes on in various societies who construct knowledge and being by language in radically different - sometime ambiguous - ways.)

Let me leave this post, then, because i'm nearly out of time.  Let me leave you with just a quick example of the riddling of Jesus (from Thatcher's very careful but not yet exhaustive study).  Thatcher notes how Jesus (according tot he various gospel writers translating him into playful Greek) would mark a riddle with the statement:

"Whoever has ears to hear let him or her hear"

or would ask rhetorically, "having eyes, don't you see and having ears, don't you hear?"

[οἳ ἔχουσιν ὀφθαλμοὺς τοῦ βλέπειν καὶ οὐ βλέπουσιν καὶ ὦτα ἔχουσιν τοῦ ἀκούειν καὶ οὐκ ἀκούουσιν]

Through Aristotle's (non-sophist, non-rhetorical) eyes and ears, the contemporary translator would guess and speculate and suggest it means something like:

Let this be a word to the wise 

Thatcher rather playfully says this sort of logic has the Greek phrase [ος εχει ωτα ακουειν ακουετω] "as a functional synonym for the modern maternal admonition 'Pay attention!'" (page 31).  But when one listens for Jesus as a riddler telling riddles (a kind of dialectic of wise sophistry among Jewish rabbis) then you might hear the Greek translated phrase as "functionally equivalent to 'Riddle me ree' or 'Here's one for you,' although the subject matter [in the public conversation and teaching] is obviously more significant than the pub jokes [where] we [might] introduce those phrases today" (page 40).

1 comment:

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Bruce Ware will be coming to Vancouver soon and he surely puts woman on the cross. As Christ is to God so is woman to man, and as the man is to imitate God so must the woman imitate Christ in his suffering and work. That's how I hear his preaching.