Tuesday, May 15, 2018

On "The Men and Women Like Him" by Amber Sparks (1772 words) ****

In "The Men and Women Like Him" the secret to time travel has been found. However, going back into the past would destroy the space-time continuum, so it's forbidden. This doesn't stop people from sneaking in to try to fix things and save lives. It is the job of another set of characters, called cleaners, to go back in time and stop these "do-gooders." Potentially a story about ethics, it remains too short to be anything more than a novel idea, but I suppose Sparks's goal here is more emotional--how restoring bad for "greater good" hurts. Read the story here at Guernica.

On "The 'Hellenization' of Judaea in the First Century after Christ" by Martin Hengel ***

This short follow-up to Hengel's earlier book on Judaism and Hellenism treads familiar ground but also provides a few new tidbits of information that relate directly to the New Testament--and Christianity.

As in the other book, Hengel discusses the importance of the Greek language and education, particularly to attaining social class. In the end, Hengel comes to the conclusion that what is "Greek" and what is "Jewish" is not easily separated. Indeed, as Hengel writes, "Not only Christianity but also rabbinic Judaism, which is different in so many other ways, basically rests on a synthesis."

Monday, May 14, 2018

On "Unmanageable" by Lucia Berlin (6 minutes) ****

The perils of a drunk (mother) are the subject of this story--how to get a drink so one can function and then get the kids off to school, all this before most liquor stores are open for the day. Listen to the story here at Soundcloud.

On "Judaism and Hellenism" by Martin Hengel ***

This technical book goes to great lengths to discuss just how Greek civilization affected Jewish culture and beliefs in the centuries before Rome's advance.

Hengel discusses how Greek culture impacted Jewish society before it even became an empire--largely through Greek mercenaries. Then he notes how Jewish mercenaries also brought into Jewish culture Greek ideas.

Then there was the language, which became essential to know if you were to be one of the upper class, as it became the lingua franca of the day.

Finally, there was education, which affected Jewish studies as well, even in ways in which Jewish thinkers tried to resist Greek influence. That resistance--the strength of it--was one effect. But even in that resistance, sometimes Greek ideas snuck in, in the form, for example, of formal education or in the idea that anyone could ascend to be a teacher through study and knowledge (as opposed to inherited familial limitations).

A large portion of the book devotes itself to how Greek thought affected Jewish writing. The author takes the position that Ecclesiastes, as well as some other wisdom books, was written after Greece took hold of the Promised Land and then traces the parallels in Greek philosophy to those books. I found this material less intriguing and, at times, ponderous. But the first half of the book provides a lot of information that I found very useful.