Thursday, May 26, 2011

"Failure to Deliver" by Elizabeth Castelli

Barnard College's indefatigable Elizabeth Castelli has written up a thoughtful comparison of Harold Camping's and the John Jay Report's failures in the Revealer:
Last week, two things did not happen. The Rapture did not take place on May 21, 2011, despite the fervent prognostications of a retired engineer-turned-Christian broadcaster and biblical numerologist. Meanwhile, the sex abuse scandal that has mired the Catholic Church in litigation and shame for nearly three decades was not resolved nor even really explained, despite the earnest efforts of the number-crunching social scientists at the John Jay College for Criminal Justice, City University of New York. The coincidence of these two non-happenings was more than a matter of the calendar.

Read the rest of it here.

Susan Jacoby also talks about the John Jay report's failures on the Washington Post online.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Seeing God in (Late) Antique Judaism

I am participating in a conference at Union Theological Seminary this Thursday on "See the God." I am speaking on ancient, with an emphasis on late ancient Judaism. Here is a talk-teaser:

There is an uncritical assumption that often circulates in scholarship and popular belief that Judaism is a religion of hearing to the exclusion or ignoring of seeing. This assumption operates by pointing to Jewish aniconism and reducing Jewish encounters with the divine to the Deuteronomistic emphasis on audition. Did not God say that humans could not see God—or literally God’s face—and live (Exod. 33:20)? Nonetheless, this reductive maneuver ignores the rich ambivalences of the Bible and later Jewish views concerning whether and how one can see God and live. Some follow Exod. 33:20 and categorically claim its impossibility. In this case, numerous intermediary figures fill the ocular gap, allowing appearances of aspects of God—like God’s Memra, Shekhinah, Glory, or even God’s tefillin or phylacteries—or angels. Others, however, think a full and direct vision is possible for the especially righteous and humble. A few would claim that even the unrighteous can glimpse God, but they are those who see God and do not live. Some limit this visual ability to the righteous of the distant past, as a special dispensation for Moses or Enoch; others see these past figures as models to emulate and also achieve such a vision. This paper will illustrate these vistas of optic possibilities by investigating the denial, acceptance, occurrence, and accomplishment of divine visions in biblical narrative, prophecy, and apocalypses; how these biblical visionary stories were retold and interpreted in the Targumim and Midrashim; and the instructions to ascend to and gaze upon God on his chariot throne and participate in the heavenly liturgies and live in the Hekhalot literature.

Hope to see you there if you are in NY!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Afterlife and Beetlejuice addition to the last post (in which one person's heaven is another's hell), in this the afterlife is very individualized:

It's all very personal!

Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! oh no!