Friday, December 28, 2012

The Feast Day of Reality

From the Gospel of Matthew, for the feast of the Holy Innocents, December 28.

When [the Magi] had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. Get up, he said, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him. So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son." 
When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."

One of the common contemporary* critiques of the Bible is that, unlike the uplifting sutras of Buddhism or the poetry of Rod McKuen, it is full of violence of all kinds. The Good Book is indeed also a Bloody Book. I guess that's part of the difference between spiritual and religious. As much as parts of the Bible promote or describe human life as it should be, a great deal of it portrays human life as it actually is.

The Wikipedia entry about this episode describes it, in the first sentence, as an instance of infanticide and gendercide. These, as we now know in our enlightened times, having given them special technical names, are social problems which need solving...

*Actually, it's a very old complaint. Bishop Marcion tried to edit out the whole Old Testament and a lot of the New in the 2nd century, on grounds that it wasn't very nice. Pagan Platonists back in the classical world found the Bible barbaric. To this day, the Orthodox Christians never read the Book of Revelation in church services.


Leah said...

רחל מבכה על בניה
Silly me, always read it about the Jews going into Exile and Rachel waiting at the side of the road for their return.
Btw, Herod build himself a lovely palace outside of Bethlehem, it's now called the Herodion, fascinating place, it's on the edge of the dessert and he brought more water there than Las Vegas uses in an evening. It's great to be the supreme ruler.

DrAndroSF said...

Literal meaning, yes. But, of course, even among the Rabbis, Scripture receives a host of other interpretations. Kabbalah, just one example.

Yes, old Herod was quite the builder. A rehab of the Temple, the Herodion...and didn't they recently discover the sunken stone harbor at Caesarea? The standard edifice complex.

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