Monday, April 13, 2015

I was Given Advice …

[1) Φιλολoγικά/Philologica : I was Given Advice …, 2) Assorted retorts: ... on Second Half of the Hovind video]

… Namely to :

  • 1) not copy dialogues from FB (given by a group member in a group I was excluded from),

  • 2) but only to write my own thoughts on my blogs.

One first remark : I did not forbid other participants to also copy the dialogue onto their blogs. I am not trying to take sole credit for a piece of essentially collective writing. I am not obliging the other participants to forego a copying in which they may add their editorial comments – if properly marked as such. But if I was so much more interested in them in copying the dialogue, perhaps it is because not just I but also they thought I had won the then and there portion at least of the debate.

Which is what makes me think I had a scoop, something for which the interest of the general public to know overrides the interest involved in anyone’s copyright. So, to answer very belatedly an implied question in that debate, no, I am not conducting an experiment on them (or was, before I was excluded from group), I am (or was) conducting an investigation about how good they were at arguing their case, and ultimately, adding debate to debate even in single questions (and not just different ones) : how good my opponents case is to argue.

Now, let me deal with the advice as advice and as complaint a bit. The procedure I was advised to avoid, like the one I was advised to do instead (while actually I am doing both) are two different procedures. I do both but on different blogs. And I answered I did so.

I also answered (ultimately, to an anonymous commenter, possibly identical to the one I had debated)that if it was in any way a fault of mine to publish what adversaries said in dialogues with me, then the publishing of Dialogues of Plato would have been a crime against the refuted Sophists. Gorgias and quite a few more would have been right to sue Socrates, if this had happened during the latter’s lifetime, and, as the case was, to sue Plato – who might in his turn reply that he was answering calumniators who by calumny had killed Socrates in what amounted to Judicial Murder. And, again on the copyright issue, Plato would have had a right to sue Xenophon for his unauthorized publishing of things he recalled Socrates had said and done, but which Socrates and, his successor at Academy, Plato, had given him no permission to publish. And so we would have need of chucking out Memorabilia too, on this principle. Our literature would become poorer by the day.

Gorgias and a few others refuted by Socrates were explicitly named. The publishing of the Dialogues was thus also a public shaming of either Gorgias or whoever else of the Sophists had been refuted and was still alive. And a public shaming (perhaps more serious from the then Greek point of view) of those of them who were already dead.

This obvious, even glaring moral fact may be the ultimate hidden reason why my Greek Professor Jerker Blomqvist (who was not my Rhetor and not even totally my Grammateus, since my Greek has rusted a lot, so let him ask of no such piety as a protégé owes or may owe his mentor from me!) considered the Dialogues as works of fiction. I say advisedly “may be” because I do not in fact recall Jerker Blomqvist ever saying in so many words that he felt non-fictitious dialogues below the moral horizon of Plato.

His arguments, or those I recall, were more aloof, namely impossibility, or supposed such, to recall exactly how words fell so long after the event (and he supposes quite a few took very many years before getting published after Apologia). He obviously felt the same about the dialogues between Jesus and the Pharisees, as recorded in the Gospels. He is a sceptic, a Pyrrhonist.

So, let me give a little excursion on how Gospel accounts could have been accurate about words spoken years earlier. Or Dialogues, for that matter. In Byzantium, very much later, you had secretaries who were ordered to take notes in sthenography of what was being said. You even had sthenographers acting as spies, listening behind curtains (like Polonius in Hamlet). Obviously, even in sthenography you have a difficulty in writing as fast as words are spoken. And probably sthenography was no way near invented back in the days of Socrates. Tironian notes had been invented by the time of Cicero, but Gospellers probably did not know them and had no training in them. I don’t know if parts of kabbalistic procedures (which Matthew would have known if genuinely OT rather than post-Christian additions to and corruptions of kabbala) may have functioned as a way of taking notes, like noting only first letter in each word (making writing three times faster, but necessitating you can dissolve the abbreviations afterwards). If so, the Disciples of Jesus may just possibly have had a kind of sthenography. But probably those of Socrates did not yet have it. And the procedure I attribute to them would not have been useless to the disciples either, even if they had sthenographic procedures.

Assume you can recall one phrase (as I can when commenting on videos) verbatim or near verbatim. This does not make you, as one alone person, capable of memorising a whole dialogue, while it is being spoken. But Socrates and Jesus had several disciples. What if they took turns? And while you have left the turn to the next note taker, you repeat the phrase a few times over, until next time it is your turn and you hear attentively, leave the turn again, and repeat again. After some little time of training, you would probably be rather good at it. After the dialogue was finished, back in seclusion with the master, whether he was Socrates or Jesus, Gamaliel or Gorgias (for I do not think Socrates invented the procedure, I think he brought it to a new use and lawyers had already used it for other purposes, like studying the opponent of one’s client), the note taking disciples take turns again, this time speaking up about what they heard. And at same time all trying to memorise whole dialogue. With the very short ones in the Gospels, certainly no problem. With the longer ones in Plato, well, they might have rearranged pieces for greater coherence. I suppose by the way the dialogue Nicodemus had with Jesus was recorded by the trained memory of Nicodemus, so this would imply that by the time the Gospel of Saint John was written, Nicodemus had probably converted. Which would in its turn imply either denial of fact or eradication of memory in Rabbinic records of him. Precisely as these also do not confirm the fact Gamaliel had disciples who Christians honour as Saints Paul and Barnabas and do not record the fact he converted himself before dying.

Back to the subject of public shaming. Only two Pharisees, neither of whom is evil, are named in Gospels, the Nicodemus I mentioned and St Joseph of Arimathea. Gamaliel, Barnabas and Saul will also be named, but later in the sequence of NT Books, in Acts. All the evil Pharisees disappear as to their persons in the group designation “the Pharisees” (synoptics) or the anachronistic designation “the Jews” (as St John called them, Sadducees, crowds, priests, levites and Herodians opposing Jesus, because when he wrote the Gospel they were already unified in the just founded Judaism, the religion essentially founded but not yet unified when Kaiaphas rejected and condemned Christ). Part of the time probably this is because losing their temper (which is charitably not recorded except when they “tried to stone” Him) they repeated each others’ words so they were extremely easy to recall in essense, but hard to attribute to one particular Pharisee, even supposing their identities known. Certainly at least part of the time one of them politely and correctly spoke up on behalf of the group with words like “rabbi, we have heard”, but Christ and His disciples put the blame of what often enough was a trap on the group and not on the polite spokesman of it. Even so, publishing these snippets of dialogue (snippets : Christ made Pharisees shut up faster than Socrates did with Sophists, it seems, and this made memorisation work rather easier) involved a public shaming of the Pharisees as a group. And of positions they in some cases may have wanted to forget (and which have been forgotten by Judaism, may one dare to hope and guess?) and in some cases clung to dearly and wanted to forget the refutation of. Nevertheless, we are all (except perhaps a few Jews, but that is anyway a mob of Pharisees) better off for the Gospels being there. And it is imperative they include not just the answers Christ gave, but also what He answered, whether it came from disciples or adversaries. Some answers might take on very different meanings if one did not know what they were an answer to.

It is odd that the man who gave me the advice I allude to in the title is from some kind of University background, and though South American, I suspect some family connection to a researcher of Science Politiques. He looks a bit like Jean-Yves Camus, and also his hysterics to me recall the latter’s hysterics about Vincent Renouard in the article I read by him.

Now, why is this odd or funny? Because, you see, University is a Medieval Concept which has two pretty obvious roots extending into its Medieval Culture from Antiquity : Christianity and thus the Gospels and Greek Philosophy, this latter specifically hailing to Plato and Aristotle and thus Socrates and the Socratic dialogues and specifically excluding as false Materialism and Pantheism the schools of Epicure and of the Stoics. If CdCC really is a University researcher in Linguistics, he would seem to be hacking at the roots of the tree he is seated in the bracnhes of. So much then for his complaint of “shaming”.

But, if he was at first taking the air not of complaining (either of shaming or of unauthorized used of words) but of giving friendly advice, and that about what kind of writing is worth reading by the general public, whether words addressed originally directly to it or words addressed originally to a specific person, let us take a look at the New Testament.

One book is written both with specific audiences in mind in a part and to the Church in general in other parts. That is the Apocalypse.

Of the remaining, all of St Paul’s Letters – 13 or 14 – are written with a specific audience either of a named man or of a See, and as to Hebrews, which some count not by him but by St Barnabas, the other disciple of Gamaliel who became Christian, this is also not to the Church in general, but to the Hebrew heritage part of it. Obviously at a time (see title!) when they were no longer nearly synonymous with the whole Church. On the other hand, the Epistles of Sts Peter, James, John, Jude are all to the Church in general. And if we go from the Gospel end of NT, three of four are simply for the Church in general, but that of St Luke, like the Acts, the follow up, is written to one Theophilus. It might be a pseudonym, like Philothea for … I thought it was the widow who founded the Visitandines, St Jane Frances de Chantal, but wikipedians have it it was rather his cousin, “Madame Marie de Charmoisy, the wife of an ambassador of the Duke of Savoy.”

Here is what Calmet, cited by Haydock has to say about verse 1 of Acts:

Ver. 1. St. Luke, who was the author of this history, alludes, in this verse, to his gospel, which he calls his first discourse. In that he informs us, not only of the actions, but also the doctrines of our Saviour. These words, to do and to teach, are the abridgment of the whole gospel: here he gives us the Acts of the Apostles, that is, an history of their travels and preaching. In the beginning of this work he speaks of all the apostles, and what they did before their dispersion. As soon as he comes to the mention of St. Paul, he takes notice of no one else, but is entirely taken up with the narrative of his actions. He addresses his book to Theophilus, which signifies a friend of God, or one who loves God, as if he intended to dedicate it to all the faithful, who believed in, and loved God. But it is more probable that this was some distinct person, well known to St. Luke, and illustrious for his birth, because he gave him the title of kratiste, most excellent. [Luke i. 3.] (Calmet)

This means, one books straddles on both sides of the distinction, 16 books are originally addressed to more or less precise individuals or groups and ten are addressed to the Church in general.

So, writing ones thoughts for no one in particular is a valid way of writing, but not the only valid one. If we go to Pagans, same story there : Cicero did not forego writing Epistulae ad Familiares, Seneca wrote ad Lucilium, Horace wrote Odes to Maecenas and to Augustus, Catullus wrote to Lesbia. And while doing so, they were obviously also keeping an eye on the general public, which was, from the start, meant to “overhear” the supposedly “private” communications.

And even in the OT, certain books if they are not letters to specific persons or places with indwellers are at least composed of such, wholly or in part: Hezechiel, Isaiah, Micheas, Ezra … and on the other hand, the diverse parts of Genesis, which are meant for all mankind, are, most of them, (excepting Moses seeing the Six Days in a vision) originally transmitted from father to son, from grandfather to grandson, as intimately as if it were private communications.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
St Hermenegildis

Hispali, in Hispania, sancti Hermenegildi Martyris, qui fuit filius Leovigildi, Regis Visigothorum Ariani; atque ob catholicae fidei confessionem conjectus in carcerem, et, cum in solemnitate Paschali Communionem ab Episcopo Ariano accipere noluisset, perfidi patris jussu securi percussus est, ac regnum caeleste pro terreno Rex et Martyr intravit.


Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

Wiki : Introduction to the Devout Life

Wiki : St. Francis de Sales

Wiki : St. Jane Frances de Chantal

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