Sunday, April 22, 2012

Book Of Genesis

I finished a DVD lecture series (24 half hour lectures) on the book of Genesis last night.  It was interesting but at times quite sleep-inducing.  If I was at all sleepy it literally forced my eyes shut and my brain to sleep.  So I only watched when I was wide awake. 

Professor Rendsburg "holds the Blanche and Irving Laurie chair in Jewish History in the Department of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University.  An expert in the history of ancient Israel and the literature of the Bible, he has spent decades immersed in the study and exploration of Qumran and other ancient sites in Israel,
Egypt and Jordan."  He is also fluent in the ancient languages of the Old Testament (mostly Hebrew) and doesn't need to rely on someone else's translation.

The thing that struck me the most watching these lectures is Rendsburg's approach; at no time does he suggest that the author (he believes in a single author for  the whole book of Genesis) was in any way 'inspired by God.'  He talks about a gifted literary craftsman recording the oral/aural lore of the region.  Over and over he shows us how the author uses various literary devices (alliteration, rhyme, etc.) to tell his story.  Consequently the series never takes a position regarding the 'truth' of the stories.  He does attempt to place them in a historical time-frame, e.g. when did Abraham live, and cites the evidence for his conclusions.

The two creation stories (yes, two) are treated as just that, two stories.  Clearly allegorical in nature and not historical.  Ditto  the flood story, which he suggests was borrowed from the Epic of Gilgamesh only with a local guy as hero. He also shows us the several themes that run throughout, such as the 'second son' theme.  Isaac was Abraham's second son, Jacob was Isaac's second son, etc., and suggests some possible lessons that can be drawn from these recurrent themes. 

I tried reading Genesis last fall but threw it in about half-way through.  I now feel like I have some understanding of what the point of the damn book is, how it fits in with the rest of The Bible and the other literature of its time and place.  What still puzzles me is how so many people insist on taking everything in it as literally true when it so clearly is a literary work and not an historical one.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I'm At It Again

This was sent to the Wisconsin State Journal just minutes ago!  Not all that deep, just something I had to get off my chest.

Jonah Goldberg begins a recent column (Wednesday's WSJ), "President Obama's re-election largely hinges on his ability to play young voters for suckers--again-- ... "

Do young voters think they got 'played'?  I was a 49 year old 'sophomore' at the UW in November 2008.  Yes they were excited about a candidate who spoke their language, who saw the importance of 'green energy.'  Passé?  Hardly.  After four years of no progress 'green energy' is more of an issue than ever.  These 'kids' are going to be around for sixty more years; they aren't interested in kicking the can down the road for the next generation to solve.  They ARE the next generation.  Goldberg and Romney's only hope is that they will blame Obama for the lack of progress rather than seeing it as his opponents doing just what they promised: oppose him at every turn, for political reasons.  Sure they might turn their backs on the whole system, but don't bet on it.  I was pleasantly amazed at how engaged and perceptive they are already.  And this year there'll be four more years worth of them. 

Suckers they are not!

Monday, April 2, 2012


It has occurred to me recently that people who feel that government infringes on their liberty should think about how the 'Indians' must have felt.

Do they think, some of them anyway, 'you know what, the Indians had it about right'?  Because they didn't have much government.  Of course, they didn't need much.  Few people, lots of space, even the biggest nations were  homogeneous enough to make Hitler drool.  Who needs government in those circumstances?

But then, along came the Europeans, with their organized society and their government and their Army, infringing on the Indians' rights, in a pretty big way.  What do the Libertarians think about that?  

I'm pretty sure there's no going back, though, is there?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mad Bomber?

Well I finished the LeMay book a week ago, or so.  Pretty good read, I had very little knowledge of the man prior to this.

As you might guess, war is a central theme of the book.  I don't believe there is an official 'LeMay Doctrine,' but if there were, it would be something like, Do not go lightly into a war.  Think long and hard.  Once in, WIN!  And that means doing whatever it takes.

"Whatever it takes" might sound a bit harsh but in LeMay's view the men in charge of prosecuting the war owe it to the people of both sides (but especially his side, of course) to bring about a swift end to hostilities and get back to normal.  If this meant bombing cities then so be it.  In WWII, especially the last six months of the war against Japan, it meant exactly that.

What it would NOT mean would be 'anything goes.'  What's the difference between 'whatever it takes' and 'anything goes'?  Efficacy.  You might do some pretty horrible things, but you only do them for the positive end of shortening the war.  If it takes dropping an Atomic Bomb, or two, you do it.  (This is LeMay talking yet.)  You do NOT do things that don't promote that end, such as abusing prisoners or allowing your soldiers to 'take liberties' with the other sides' civilians or property.  LeMay wasn't actually on the policy side, he was a strategist, but he would NOT have agreed with the Bush/Cheney 'enhanced interrogation' program.  Unless he would have been convinced that the program would produce valuable information.  Which it never did, nor would he have been so deluded, in my opinion. 

The Vietnam War frustrated LeMay in a big way.  He could not see any sense in fighting a 'limited war.'  Either fight it or don't, he thought, and if you're going to fight it, go all in.  There were reasons why the U.S. wouldn't/couldn't do that, in Vietnam and that drove LeMay crazy.  Similarly I believe he would be appalled at our Afghanistan policy, or lack thereof.  'Figure out want you want to accomplish, then go about it in the most efficient manner possible.'   Anybody think we're doing that?

Next up (already on page 70):  Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present.  See you in a month.  ;  )