Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Dog, Casey's Dogma, and Women Witnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus

Stephanie Louise Fisher a doctoral student of Casey, and thus is forced to be his attack dog. Deane Galbraith is also a Ph.D. student. And now that you are on the other side of your dissertation, let me remind you of Matt Groening's accurate assessment of graduate school. I can hardly blame the poor devils for being bitter and brown-nosers.
     -blogger Theophrastus commenting to me here

[Jesus these days] is automatically seen as a more or less magical figure -- a pawn, or possibly a knight or a bishop, in some religious game -- who fits only within categories of dogma and of law. Dogma is what you have to believe, whether you believe it or not. And law is what you must do, whether it is good for you or not. What we have to believe or do now, by contrast, is real life, bursting with interesting, frightening and relevant things and people.
     -Dallas Willard, an ordained SBC minister and also a professional philosopher, a professor of philosophy with a Ph.D. in it, writing here a third paragraph of the Introduction of one of his books for lay people (my emphasis)
And I just may tell you some of my πίστις stories: of falling in love, of encountering a snake on a path, of my dog getting bit twice by a beaver near the Trinity River, and of Amelia meeting Martha Stewart two weeks ago. Maybe you'll believe me now that I have a Ph.D. --- hmmmm. 
     -J. K. Gayle, sounding like he's a bit snobby on purpose, on Translation Snobs: "Saving Faith" and "Geometric Proof"

In real life, on Sunday like that day when a few Jewish women saw Jesus was raised from the dead, my dog died.  And I finished Dr. Maurice Casey's book, Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian's Account of his Life and Teaching.  I am sad.  Please don't expect this to be a full book review.

Some of my friends are telling me my dog is going to rise again or at least is going to be alive again in heaven.  Moreover, there's this evidence, from men, from real authorities, who testify as if in a court of law to what the Bible really says.  Dr. Rick Warren, an ordained SBC minister, has publicly confessed to Dr. John Piper that he believes that all dogs go to heaven, sort of:
PIPER: So the way you create an attractive heaven or future or eternity is by calling heaven a place because we're going to have new bodies, resurrected bodies. Jesus ate fish after he was resurrected, so you're taking it at least that far – resurrection of the bodies; lion will lay down with the lamb means...?

WARREN: Lion will lay down with the lamb. I don't have a problem with that.

PIPER: In heaven? They go to heaven? Animals go to heaven?

WARREN: Yea, I don't know.

PIPER: (laughs)

WARREN: That's one of those questions I'm asked more often than anything else. Will my dog go to heaven? And I say well, the lion will lay down with the lamb. (laughs)

PIPER: Somewhere.

WARREN: Somewhere.
Dr. Piper and Dr. Warren also believe, and give witness to their studied fact, that their biblical Universalism applies not only maybe to dogs, lions, and lambs but also surely to all humans who are babies or infants.  Here's Dr. Piper.  And here's the Baptist Faith and Message that Dr. Warren's SBC subscribes to, which, as Rachel Held Evans correctly puts it, "makes it implicit in its statement that people are not morally accountable until 'they are capable of moral action'."  Somewhere the Bible says that.  Somewhere.

And somewhere out in the woods near the Trinity River where our dog used to run and play so full of life, my little family on Sunday stood by this dog's body in a grave we'd dug, and each of us said something short and sweet, and specific, about our friend no longer with us.  And then I recited aloud Isaiah 65:25, in the NRSV, which my father, an SBC minister, once had paid me to memorize --
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
   the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
   but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
   on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.
"It doesn't have to be anywhere in the bible to make it true, daddy," said one of my daughters to me through her tears on our walk home.  "I know," I said wiping my own eyes.

Where I want to review Dr. Casey's book today is at that place near his big conclusions.  I'm saying Big because to get to them, you have to work through 498 pages of his "independent" "history" which he derives from many different sources, many of them tired sources, many of whom he names in his Preface before we start really counting the pages.  But on the second page (i.e., page 2), where he defines what he means by "an independent historian," Dr. Casey says, "I depend on the best work done by many other scholars, regardless of their ideological affiliation."  By then, before that Preface, we already know to whom he has dedicated his book ("to Stephanie Louise Fisher and James Crossley") and, from that Preface, why ("After a varied life and a first degree in Religious Studies at Victoria University, Wellington, Stephanie Fisher came 12,000 miles to work with me on her doctorate on the 'Q' material.  She has worked meticulously through every word of more than one draft of this version of this book, has made many helpful suggestions, and taken part in many helpful discussions.  She has also become a wonderful friend, and on several occasions it has been a great delight to have James and Stephanie together for helpful discussions and other entertainment, especially dinner with lots of champers.")  What may sound to you to like my belittling, nonetheless, should give you no right to rely on me and my opinions.  You must read the book for yourself because you can now.  A witness is no good unless you can verify what she or he says.  And yet, please feel free to believe what you believe about how I sound when telling you what I believe what I believe about the book.  I'll tell you right now that I had my own motives to read the book, probably some of the same ones that Dr. Casey had to read the Greek gospels, those canonical ones, which he doesn't much believe.  He puts the gospel of John, for example, that Greek gospel, only in his appendix, after pages 509 and 510, after his final Big Conclusions chapter, as if an appendix is exhibit A or something in a court of law.  The Greek gospels, those canonical ones, just won't go away; which ought to be fair enough since, every time I travel these days, I see Dr. Casey's book in just about every bookstore in every airport.

Around Eastertime this year, I was directed by a friend to what Deane Galbraith had posted about what Dr. Casey had written about a few Jewish women who on that Sunday so long ago saw Jesus was raised from the dead. My friend claimed he didn't have a "have a pony in the race" and noted further that, for him presumably more than for me, it "would be especially dangerous ... to post ... opinions during Holy Week." Now, I got all of that, except it was clear to me also that both of us did have certain beliefs that what Deane was saying that Dr. Casey had written was a rather important claim. Dr. Casey had built a case. My only evidence for it was what Deane said. So, eventually, after being called a Pseud, I said as much. And I pledged to read Dr. Casey's book myself to see if he still sounded as he sounded to me when I only was able to read Deane's post. And my big conclusion? Well, it's a concession, which I've already made: I have seen now for myself Dr. "Casey’s engagement with feminists and with Paul in [Dr.] Casey’s earlier parts of his book." Okay, that's not really such a big conclusion. Here's a better one: what Dr. Casey seemed to me to say, with Deane and with steph as his witnesses, he still seems to say. In fact, I no longer can doubt that Dr. Casey has built the case, like a prosecutor, against other men, who are more like attorney's for the defense, making their case:
"Defences of the historicity of the stories of the empty tomb usually depend heavily on the improbability of the first witnesses being presented as women, unless this part of the story is literally true." (page 475)
Deane, I must say, does a much better job than Dr. Casey has done in summarizing the prosecutor's case against the case for the defense.  But then Deane's also done a better job than I have (to which I'll only plead that I'm not writing a 500+ page book for you to read, which you must read for yourself, if you don't want to sound like a Pseud, or to be one either).  But, do get this:  Deane is not only a summarizer, he's also a witness for the prosecution, along with steph now, witnesses for Dr. Casey's case.
Dr. Casey's case usually depends heavily on the improbability of the Greek of the first gospels [just not the gospel of John in Dr. Casey's canon of Other Gospels in Dr. Casey's appendix] being presented as originals, unless this part of those gospels is literally truly just some dark reflection of scattered fragments of Aramaic and "Q."
I warned you not to expect a full book review.  And I should have told you that before you read my not-full book review you should read the book for yourself.  And before that you should read Plato's Menexenus, in Greek, in which his Socrates is dialoging with Plato's character Menexenus about a woman, an unlikely source for a well-written funeral oration written for a man.  What kind of teacher is this woman?  A teacher of rhetoric or a teacher of other things for men in private?  What is clear is that she is a woman, not a man, and this most impresses these men.  And after you read Plato, then read the Septuagint, also in Greek.  And especially pay attention to the Book of Jesus, which in Greek is the Book of Joshua, which also has a woman impressing men with her words.  Then read all four canonical gospels, in Greek, and see whether there's any interplay of Greek with notions of women impressing men, whether witnesses at a grave or whores in a brothel or writers of orations for a funeral.  What about "saving faith" or "geometric proof" do you get from that?  What about Joshua's anastasia?  What do the witnesses say?  And how does that sound in Greek?  And does it  have to be anywhere in the bible to make it true?

I will be happy to work out with you in comments if you like a little more of a review of Dr. Casey's big book.  The last thing I'll say, and I know I'm just leaving you a whole lot to infer, is that Dr. Casey doesn't say much at all about the Septuagint as a primary source of the Greek gospels.  In fact, about the Septuagint, Dr. Casey says next to nothing.  Let the evidence show that he only says 1 little thing.  Scratch that.  This is a book review, not a court of law, and all that is true is not necessarily in the Bible, and women who testify about important things and men who write about that even in Greek aren't always putting them in court, so who cares?  In my not-full book review, let me just say that Dr. Casey, the case builder, about the Septuagint just says 1 thing.  Only 1 thing.  Using just 1 sentence.  Not even 1 page of his 560 pages.  Not even a single paragraph or a footnote.  And that one thing he says (on page 65) is that the Septuagint has made mistakes, that it's as mistaken as some Greek translator of "Mark's aramaic" gospel was.  Please read his sentence for yourself:  "Similar mistakes occur in the Septuagint, the only surviving translation of the whole Hebrew Bible into Greek."  Now, I don't believe I'm giving you a full book review; I do nonetheless believe that of the all the mistakes that Dr. Casey himself makes in the building of his Big case that the Greek gospels are full of mistakes and in the building of his lesser case that other men are wrong to defend "the improbability of the first witnesses being presented as women," his ignoring the Septuagint - as it sounds like ignorance of the Septuagint in relation to the Greek gospels - is Dr. Casey's Big book's biggest single mistake.  Before he writes his next huge book, I'd suggest he read The Septuagint and Homeric Scholarship in Alexandria: A Study in the Narrative of the ‘Letter of Aristeas’ and Faithful Renderings: Jewish and Christian Difference and the Politics of Translation and talk with Dr. Sylvie Honigman and Dr. Naomi Seidman on the legends of the Septuagint and of Jewish Greek translation.

(Now, I'm going back to real life for a minute.  Thanks for stopping by.)


Kristen said...

"Surely, amidst other and greater mercies, I shall see my dog again." George MacDonald.

MacDonald was a Universalist, but I think he would have believed this even if he weren't. MacDonald's faith was built, more than anything else, on his trust of the Father, as informed by his remarkable relationship with his own human father. I think MacDonald was right. I, too, have lost a beloved dog-- a dog who ranked right up there with everyone I have ever called "best friend" -- and I cannot help but think God somehow preserved her for me. . .

I weep with you, Kurk. So sorry for your loss.

Suzanne said...

My dog died a few days ago too. I lay on the floor at the vets and held his head and listened to his last few breaths. He was nephesh, a living soul.

J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks Kristen. Sorry to hear that you also have lost your beloved dog! Somehow sharing the pain of loss helps, even through blogging. This particular dog of ours and I had a particular attachment. To my mother, my wife wrote: "We are all missing him - especially Kurk. Almost daily they head to the fields behind our house - to the river or lake. I joke that that is kurk's 'cave' time. He often says he's going to take the D-O-G out to talk with G-O-D. I know some heartfelt conversations have happened while walking B*** [our dog]. His last walk with him was Thursday night. He came back home and said he was really going to miss those river walks, anticipating the move [to our new neighborhood]. Friday B*** [the dog] took a turn. I prayed that God would take him, without intervention from a vet. His death was sweet. Both A*** [one of our daughters] and S*** [our son] were able to sit with him - and say good bye. We are also glad we were able to bury him in the place he loved. (Not often that all five of us are home at the same time!) We are glad he will not have to transition to a new home. This was what he knew. And I hope we see him someday. So many tears!" Now it's a peculiar silence for me, for us, without him. "Bitter," our son says to me, "and still good good, sweet memories."

Suzanne, I am so sorry your dog died too! What a sweet and bitter passing there with you on the floor at the vets. Yes, even ψυχὴν ζῶσαν, pyche zoe, a soul of life.