May 14, 2007

GOSPEL TRUTH and more (or less)

Caption: Jesus had some harsh words for goats in the gospels. Far be it from me to disagree.

El Cabrero has been slogging slowly through the New Testament gospels in Greek, thanks mostly to the English translation underneath each line. I think I'm on chapter 4 of Mark now.

I've probably spent more time reading and thinking about the gospels than all the other parts of the Bible combined. I think they're interesting both for their subject matter and for trying to figure out how they came to be written.

Scholars often view New Testament sources to be like layers of rock, with some belonging to older strata than others. Most believe that Mark was the earliest and date it to around 70, 40 years after the death of Jesus. It's the shortest and least theologically developed. It has no birth narrative and the earliest copies of it don't even include the resurrection.

Matthew and Luke, whoever they were, composed their gospels within 20 or so years of Mark and used it as a source, incorporating it pretty much whole into their own. Still, they had no qualms about making changes in the Markan version to suit their purposes. Because Matthew, Mark, and Luke are so similar, they are often called the "synoptic" gospels, which kind of means "the same eye" in Greek.

Matthew and Luke contain a lot more of Jesus' sayings than Mark, many of which appear in both. It is widely believed that they relied on a lost collection of Jesus' sayings called Q from "quelle," the German word for source. They each had unique material of their own as well.

The Fourth Gospel, commonly known as John, is totally different and probably of later origin than the others. In the earlier synoptic gospels, Jesus doesn't talk about himself and refuses to give signs. In John, that's about all he does.

Although these four were the only ones to make it into the canon of the New Testament when it was finally settled by the Church in the 4th century, there were plenty of other contenders, many of which have been lost.

Most of the gospels that didn't make it to the varsity team were cut for obvious reasons. Some were pretty loopy. But I have a special soft spot for one that didn't make it: the Gospel of Thomas, which I think at least deserves another look.

It oughta fill up a week's worth of blogging anyhow. Now, on to some sordid contemporary matters.

BAD DAY FOR MASSEY. Here's a (non) shocker from the AP this weekend:

Federal prosecutors allege that Massey Energy Co. and its subsidiaries have illegally poured pollutants into West Virginia and Kentucky waterways about 4,633 times within the past six years — roughly 69,071 days’ worth of violations of the U.S. Clean Water Act.

Actually, it kind of is a shocker that the industry-friendly Bush administration is actually doing anything about it.

MSHA TO REVIEW ITSELF. And that's not all. As Ken Ward reports in today's Gazette, MSHA is starting to take a harder look at itself and is preparing to release reviews of its own actions. To be fair, it looks like MSHA head Richard Stickler is taking mine safety very seriously. This is a welcome contrast to earlier Bush appointees.

EXTENDED DUTY. Time Magazine has an interesting item about what it really means to the people involved when military tours of duty are extended.

ETYMOLOGICAL TIDBIT: in the ancient language of Proto Indo-European, which was the parent of many languages from Europe to India, the word "daughter" originally meant "little milker," presumably of cows and goats. They probably knew a thing or two about goat ropes. El Cabrero is learning to milk goats, but his grown daughter isn't much help...



Mary Rayme said...

Thanks El Cabrero. I had never read the book of Thomas before. There are some strange and unusual kinds of statements there.

I love your blog, and the pics of your critters. Keep up the good work!

p.s.-I blog, too, though it's mostly about art. Sometimes I through in a WV story to see if anyone is paying attention.

El Cabrero said...

Nice blog--thanks for sending it and for your comment! I'll start checking it regularly (I'm pretty ignorant on the subject).

Thomas is a trip isn't it? It's like meeting someone you kind of know but kind of don't...

Claude Scales said...

The head of MHSA is named Stickler? That seems too good to be true.

I read Elaine Pagels' book on Thomas a couple of years ago. Very interesting. I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts.

El Cabrero said...

It is a coincidence. A lot of us weren't too happy when he was nominated but he seems to take his job seriously.

Pagels is a good one. I just finished her one on the Gospel of Judas.


Hollowdweller said...

But remember from Proverbs 27

23 Know well the condition of your flocks,
and give attention to your herds,
24 for riches do not last forever;
and does a crown endure to all generations?
25 When the grass is gone and the new growth appears
and the vegetation of the mountains is gathered,
26 the lambs will provide your clothing,
and the goats the price of a field.
27 There will be enough goats' milk for your food,
for the food of your household
and maintenance for your girls.

Of course Price Of the Field was the Risslers Herd name.

Never been much for Nubians but Dutchess was a fine doe

El Cabrero said...

Based on personal experience, I'd say Jesus' negative comments about goats had to be based on Alpines...