Thursday, December 15, 2011

NYT solves Biblical mystery!

The authorship of the New Testament's Epistle to the Hebrews has long been a mystery.  Beyond the obvious fact, from its content, that it was written by a Hebrew, it was hard to attribute securely. Now the NYT has solved it. Who said the Grey Lady was doomed?

Buried within a biobituary piece we discover that Hebrews' oft-quoted phrase (referencing Abraham's mysterious visitors in Genesis 18) in 13.2

Continue to offer hospitality to strangers,
for thereby some have entertained angels unawares

was actually written by William Butler Yeats! Who knew that Yeats was a Jew? To say nothing of, a time traveller.

HT to GetReligion, which follows the Fourth Estate's constant and invincible ignorance about religion.

Russian iconographer Andrei Rublev's 15th century version of the Hospitality of Abraham,
allegorized by Christians into a revelation of the Holy Trinity.
I have a copy of it in my entrance hallway.

 While I'm at it. Two liberal religious memes that irk me: that Christianity "stole" the Old Testament from the Jews and that it is "anti-Semitic" to read the Old Testaments --or even to call it that-- as prefiguring Christ. Christianity began as an utterly Jewish project. The New Testament was written by Jews (with the possible exception of St Luke) . Hebrews is a classic example of one of them re-reading his Scriptures as a prefigurement. And as for the "stealing" part, I quote to this earlier post.

And while I'm at it, let me once more smack the highminded and uninformed who accuse Christianity of "appropriating" the Hebrew scriptures. The first Christians were all Jews and the Jewish scriptures were imposed, if you want to be adolescent about it, on the first Gentile converts.  Saint Paul's battle was to liberate Gentile converts from the burdens of accepting the whole Mosaic Law in order to accept Christ. They were all "Jews for Jesus." The first Church Council was about precisely this. That Council continued, in a way, Jesus' own freedom in re-interpreting a holy text while leaving the words on the sacred page. (Rabbi's are not untalented about this either!)

The only serious challenge to the Old-plus-New Testament Bible came from a second-century bishop, Marcion, who found the Jewish writings and their complicated God incompatible with his view of Jesus as purely good and benevolent. He not only rejected the whole Old Testament but reduced the New to St Paul's letters and a single Gospel, a shorter St Luke. It didn't fly.

But if Christianity had, like Islam, asserted its own holy book uniquely and rejected its predecessor, the world would be a quite different place
, I think, and Christianity a very very different religion. Alternative history speculation to follow at some other time.


Anonymous said...

The Grey Lady fact checker must have been thinking of Yeats' »Stuff falls apart, but hospitality continues to hold; Merry guests are loosed upon the world.«

Same reality in metaphysical poet George Herbert:
»Quick-eyed Cashier, observing me grow slack
From my first stepping to the till.
Lean'd nearer to me, sweetly asking,
"Can I super-size thee?"«

Robert Hagedorn said...

Challenge yourself. Google First Scandal.

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