Wednesday, August 26, 2009

George Buchanan Gray on the Depths of Ignorance

It seems my posts lately have been more concerned with what we don't or can't know more than what we know. That's the life of an antiquarian! Because of this, while I was reading through George Buchanan Gray's very lucid Sacrifice in the Old Testament, I was struck by the following sentence:

Yet it is important to determine, if not the extent of our knowledge, the depth of our ignorance, that what knowledge is possible may be the more clearly and vividly apprehended. (p. 211)

I find that, even though Gray cannot always give an answer, he asks great questions and discusses them with great clarity. When I find myself disagreeing with him, it is usually not because the question is poor, but, to the contrary, because we have made so many more discoveries since his book was published in 1925 in terms of material remains and textual discoveries. Yet those discoveries should teach us not just new things about what we know, but how partial are knowledge truly is and remains, because it continues to depend so much upon such chance fragments.

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