The word 'critical" has three meanings which are dangerous, important, and disapproving. The purpose of this blog is to examine important or over-looked cultural, political, artistic, or historical issues of our time. Also, this blog is intended to be educational.
1.What the world needs
is more geniuses with humanity; there are so few of us left. - Oscar Levant
Oscar Levant(1912-1972) was a Jewish-American pianist,
composer, author, comedian, and actor. He was as famous for his music and hiswit on the radio, in movies and on
television. As an actor, he
appeared in some movies likeRhapsody in Blue(1945),The Barkleys of Broadway(1949) andAn American in Paris(1951) where he was able to play original songs as well
as to deliver wise-cracks toGene Kelly. He had his own television show for three years
starting in 1958.
composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.- Aristotle
Where knowledge is a duty, ignorance is
a crime. - Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine(1737-1809) was anEnglish-Americanpolitical activist, author, political theorist and
revolutionary. As the author of two highly influential pamphlets at the start
of theAmerican Revolution, he inspired theAmerican
patriotsin 1776 to declare independence
from Britain.His ideas reflected
the attitudes and the rhetoric of the Age of Enlightenment human rights.He has been called "acorset-makerby trade, a
journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination". He was an activist in both the
American and French Revolutions and his most famous works are the pamphlets Common Sense (1776) and The
Rights of Man (1791). He was a Deist and because he often ridiculed
Christianity, only six people attended his funeral.
4. One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar. - Helen Keller
religion is whatever he is most interested in.- J. M. Barrie
Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet,OM(1860 -1937) was a Scottishauthoranddramatist, best
remembered today as the creator ofPeter Pan. The
child of a family of small-town weavers, he was educated in Scotland. He moved
to London, where he developed a career as a novelist and playwright. There he
met theLlewelyn Davies boyswho inspired him in writing about a
baby boy who has magical adventures in Kensington Garden . He was the
author of the play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, a story about this ageless boy and
an ordinary girl named Wendy who have adventures in the fantasy setting ofNeverland.He
unofficially adopted the Davies boys following the deaths of their parents. Before
his death, Barrie gave the rights to the Peter Pan works to London's Great Ormond Street Hospital which continues to benefit from them.
9. Good authors, too, who once knew better words
Now only use four-letter words
Writing prose -
Anything goes. - Cole Porter
Porter(1891-1964) was an American composer and songwriter. Born to a wealthy
family inIndiana, he
defied the wishes of his domineering grandfather and took up music as a
profession. He went to Yale, was classically trained, and he was drawn towardsmusical theatre.
After a slow start, he began to achieve success in the 1920s, and by the 1930s
he was one of the major songwriters for theBroadwaymusical stage. Unlike many successful
Broadway composers, Porter wrote the lyrics as well as the music for his songs.
After a serious horseback riding accident in 1937, Porter was left disabled and
in constant pain, but he continued to work. In 1948, he created his most
successfulmusical,Kiss Me, Kate, for which he won his first Tony Award for Best Musical. Porter's other musicals include Anything Goes,Can-CanandSilk Stockings. His songs include Night and Day,I Get a Kick Out of You, and I've Got You Under My Skin.
10. Think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you
worthy, directs your course. - Khalil
Khalil Gibran(Arabic name:Gibran Khalil Gibran;1883-1931) was a Lebanese artist, poet, and
writer. Born inLebanon(then part ofOttoman Mount Lebanon), as a young man he immigrated with
his family to the United States, where he studied art and began his literary
career, writing in both English andArabic. His romantic style was at the heart
of a renaissance in modern prose-poetry Arabic
literature. He is chiefly known in the English-speaking world for his 1923 bookThe Prophet, an early example ofinspirational fictionwhich is a series of philosophical
essays written in poetic English prose. The book sold well despite a cool
critical reception, gaining popularity in the 1930s and again especially in the1960s counter-culture movement.Gibran is the third best-selling poet
of all time, behindShakespeareandLao-Tzu.
His code breaking
prowess helped the Allies outfox the Nazis, his theories laid the foundation
for the computer age, and his work on artificial intelligence still informs the
debate over whether machines can think. But Alan Turing was gay, and 1950s
Britain punished the mathematician's sexuality with a criminal conviction,
intrusive surveillance and hormone treatment meant to extinguish his sex drive.
Now, nearly half a century after the war hero's suicide, Queen Elizabeth II has
finally granted Turing a pardon.
Turing was an exceptional man with a brilliant mind, Justice Secretary
Chris Grayling said in a prepared statement released on December 24, 2013.
Describing Turing's treatment as unjust, Grayling said the code breaker deserves to be remembered and recognized for
his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science. The
pardon has been a long time coming.
contributions to science spanned several disciplines, but he's perhaps best
remembered as the architect of the effort to crack the Enigma code, the cipher
used by Nazi Germany to secure its military communications. Turing's
groundbreaking work combined with the effort of cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park
near Oxford and the capture of several Nazi code books gave the Allies the edge
across half the globe, helping them defeat the Italians in the Mediterranean,
beat back the Germans in Africa and escape enemy submarines in the Atlantic. It could be argued and it has been argued
that he shortened the war, and that possibly without him the Allies might not
have won the war, said David Leavitt, the author of a book on Turing's life
and work. That's highly speculative, but
I don't think his contribution can be underestimated. It was immense.
Even before the war,
Turing was formulating ideas that would underpin modern computing, ideas which
matured into a fascination with artificial intelligence and the notion that
machines would someday challenge the minds of man. When the war ended, Turing
went to work programming some of the world's first computers, drawing up, among
other things, one of the earliest chess games.
Turing made no secret
of his sexuality, and being gay could easily lead to prosecution in post-war
Britain. In 1952, Turing was convicted of "gross indecency" over his
relationship with another man, and he was stripped of his security clearance,
subjected to monitoring by British authorities, and forced to take estrogen to
neutralize his sex drive, a process described by some as chemical castration.
S. Barry Cooper, a University of Leeds mathematician who has written about
Turing's work, said future generations would struggle to understand the code
breaker's treatment. You take one of your
greatest scientists, and you invade his body with hormones, he said in a
telephone interview. It was a national
Depressed and angry,
Turing committed suicide in 1954.
Turing's legacy was
long obscured by secrecy. Even his mother
wasn't allowed to know what he'd done, Cooper said. But as his contribution
to the war effort was gradually declassified, and personal computers began to
deliver on Turing's promise of "universal machines," the injustice of
his conviction became ever more glaring. Former British Prime Minister Gordon
Brown issued an apology for Turing's treatment in 2009, but campaigners kept
pressing for a formal pardon. One of them, British lawmaker Iain Stewart, told
The Associated Press he was delighted with the news that one had finally been
granted. He helped preserve our liberty,
Steward said in a telephone interview. "We owed it to him in recognition of
what he did for the country and indeed the free world that his name should be
is a person who has been canonized (declared a saint) by the Catholic Church.
This is normally considered to be an infallible decree of the Pope. While most
saints are canonized, a number are recognized as saints despite having not been
canonized. All of the Old Testament prophets fall in to
this category. Throughout history, many saints have become traditionally viewed
as patron saints of various illnesses, people, and places. This is a list of
the most unusual patronages held by a saint.
St. Fiacre, thePatron Saint of Sexually Transmitted Disease
Fiacre was raised in an Irish monastery, which in the 7th century were great
repositories of learning, including the use of healing herbs, a skill studied
by Fiacre. His knowledge and holiness caused followers to flock to him, which
destroyed the holy isolation he sought. Fleeing to France, he established a
hermitage in a cave near a spring, and was given land for his hermitage by St.
Faro of Meaux, who was bishop at the time. Saint Fiacre is also the patron
saint of gardeners and taxi drivers.
St. Gertrude of Nivelles, thePatron saint of the fear of mice (suriphobia)
Gertrude was the daughter of St. Ida and
became devoted to religious life from an early age, and turned down a noble
marriage to pursue the religious life. On the advice of Saint Amand of
Maastricht, Ida built a double monastery at Nivelles where both she and her
daughter retired. Gertrude became abbess about age 20. She was known for her
hospitality to pilgrims and aid to Irish missionary monks. In 656, Gertrude
resigned her office in favor of her niece, St. Wilfetrudis, and spent the rest
of her days studying Scripture and doing penance.
St. Scholastica, thePatron Saint of Convulsive Children
Scholastica, sister of St. Benedict, consecrated her life to God from her
earliest youth. After her brother went to Monte Cassino, where he established
his famous monastery, she took up her abode in the neighborhood at Plombariola,
where she founded and governed a monastery of nuns, about five miles from that
of St. Benedict, who, it appears, also directed his sister and her nuns. She
died about the year 543, and St. Benedict followed her soon after.
Saint Hubert of Liege, the Patron Saint of Mad Dogs,
and also Rabies, Furriers and Trappers
Hubert was passionately devoted to hunting. While hunting a stag on a Good
Friday morning, he received a vision of a crucifix between its antlers. When
his wife died soon after this incident, Hubert renounced all his worldly
positions, titles and wealth, handed his patrimony, and the care of his son, to
his brother, and studied for the priesthood. He was highly revered in the
Middle Ages, there were several military orders named in his honor. His
association with the hunt led to his patronage of furriers and trappers, and
against rabies and the bad behavior in dogs, primarily hunting dogs.
St Monica, thePatron Saint of Alcoholics
Monica was the mother of St. Augustine whose writings about her are the primary
source of our information. A Christian from birth, she was given in marriage to
a bad-tempered, pagan named Patricius. She prayed constantly for the conversion
of her husband (who converted on his death bed), and of her son (who converted
after a wild life). She was also a reformed alcoholic- hence, her patronage of
St Dominic Savio, the Patron Saint of Juvenile Delinquents
Dominic Savio was one of ten children of a blacksmith and seamstress. He was a protégé
of Saint John Bosco and an altar boy at age 5. At 12 he entered the Oratory
School preparatory to becoming a priest. He was well-liked and pious, but his
health forced him to give up his dream of the priesthood. He died at age 15.
His dying words were, What beautiful
things I see!
St. Isidore of SevillePatron Saint of Computer
Users and the Internet
Isidore was the Archbishop of Seville (ca. 601) succeeding his brother to the position.
He was a teacher, founder, and reformer. He was a prolific writer whose works
include a dictionary, an encyclopedia, a history of Goths, and a history of the
world beginning with creation. He completed the Mozarabic liturgy which is
still in use in Toledo, Spain, and presided at the Second Council of Seville,
and the Fourth Council of Toledo. He also introduced the works of Aristotle to
Spain. He was proclaimed the patron saint of computer users and the Internet in
St. Brendan the Navigator, thePatron Saint of Whales
Brendan was born in Ireland. He was ordained in 512 and built monastic cells at
Ardfert, Shankeel, Aleth, Plouaret, Inchquin Island, and Annaghdown. The legend
which lead to his patronage of whales is as follows: Brendan and his brothers
figure in Brendan’s Voyage, a tale of monks travelling the high seas of the
Atlantic, evangelizing to the islands, possibly reaching the Americas in the
6th century. At one point they stop on a small island, celebrate Easter Mass,
light a fire and then learned the island is an enormous whale!
St. Rene Goupil, the Patron Saint of Anesthesiologists
Rene Goupil studied medicine and in 1639, he offered to work as a medic for the
Jesuit missionaries in America. He was a missionary to the Huron Indians of
Canada, working as a donné, a layman who worked without pay. He worked in a
hospital in Quebec in 1640 and was assistant to St. Isaac Jogues on his
missionary travels. He was captured and tortured by the Iroquois Indians,
enemies of the Hurons, for making the sign of the cross over a child’s head.
While they were in captivity, Father Isaac received Rene into the Jesuits as a
religious brother. He is the first North American martyr and his death by
tomahawk in the head led to his patronage of people who work with or receive
St Polycarp, the Patron Saint of those who
suffer from Dysentery
Polycarp was an associate of , converted by, and disciple of St. John, the
Apostle. He was also a friend of Saint Ignatius of Antioch. He fought against
Gnosticism and became the Bishop of Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey). He was a
revered Christian leader during the first half of the second century. The Asia
Minor churches recognized Polycarp’s leadership and chose him to be
representative to Pope Anicetus on the question of the date of the Easter
celebration. Only one of the many letters written by Polycarp has survived, the
one he wrote to the Church of Philippi, Macedonia. At 86, Polycarp was to be
burned alive in a stadium in Smyrna, but because the flames did not harm him,
he was finally killed by a dagger and his body burned. Polycarp’s martyrdom are
the earliest preserved reliable account of a Christian martyr’s death.
Australia, it is illegal to change a light bulb
unless you use alicensed electrician. It is also illegal to walk on the right hand side of a
footpath and to sell cigarettes to a minor even though in that country they can
In Cambodia, water guns may not be used during New Year’s celebrations.
In Canada, it is illegal for comic
books to depict illegal acts.
In Denmark, it is illegal to charge for
water unless it is accompanied by another item such as a lemon. And, if a horse drawn carriage tries to pass a
car and the horse becomes uneasy, it is illegal for the owner of the car to not
pull over, and if necessary, to cover the car.
In Finland, it is illegal to not pay a
television tax whether you own a TV or not.
In France, it is illegal to name a pig
Napoleon or to kiss on a railway train. It is also illegal to takephotosof police officers or police vehicles even if they are just in the background.
In Greece, all electronic games are
In Italy, it is illegal for a man to wear a skirt in public.
Israel, the raising of Rotweillerdogs, picking your nose on
the Sabbath, or riding a bicycle
without a license is illegal.
In Ireland, it is illegal to pretend or use of any type of witchcraft,
sorcery, enchantment, or pretend knowledge in any occult, craft or science.
In Mexico, it is illegal for clergymen to wear their religious garb in
In Morocco, it is illegal to have a
companion whopossesses narcotics even if you are
unaware of it.
The Netherlands, prostitution is legal but prostitutes must pay a business tax.
It is also not illegal to buy, sell or use marijuana.
Norway, it is illegal to spay a female cat or dog. Also, prostitution is legal, but it is illegal to use
the services of a prostitute.
Singapore, selling gum, walking around your house naked, peeing in an elevator
and pornography are all illegal. It is also illegal to be a homosexual and to live in
South Africa, it is
illegal for young people wearingbathing suits to
sit less than
Swaziland, it is illegal for women to wear pants. It is also illegal for young girls to shake
hands with men.
Switzerland, it is
illegal to wash your car, mow your lawn or hang out your clothes to dry on a
Sunday. It is also illegal for a man to stand while urinating or to flush a
toilet after 10-pm.
where prostitution is legal, it is illegal to use the services of a prostitute.
It is also illegal to paint the outside of your house without government
Thailand, it is against the law to leave your house without wearing
underwear. It is also illegal to step on
any of the nation's currency.
In the United Kingdom, it is illegal for a woman to be
topless in public except as a clerk in atropical fish store. It is also illegal to have anal sex. But,it is
perfectly legal to shoot a Scotsman with a bow and arrow except on a Sunday.
In Zimbabwe, it is illegal to make obscene or offensive gestures at a passing state
high cholesterol a growing health problem, cholesterol itself gets a bad rap.
Our bodies actually make cholesterol and need it to produce cell membranes and
sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone. But if the body produces too much
cholesterol, it can be a serious risk for heart disease. There may be a lot you
don’t know about cholesterol.
The human body has a built-in cholesterol factory. It’s
called your liver. The body needs cholesterol to function properly, but
your liver can make all the cholesterol you need, even if you consume no
dietary cholesterol at all. Problems start when you eat too much saturated fat
and your body makes too much of the LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol, which can then
turn into the plaque that lines (and eventually clogs) your arteries. “The body
turns over more cholesterol than you eat,” said cardiologist Gerald Berenson,
MD, a clinical professor of medicine in the cardiology section at the Tulane
University School of Medicine in New Orleans. “When it can’t be handled
properly, then it does damage.”
fuels your sex drive. That’s no myth. You have cholesterol to
thank for making the sex hormones testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. You
wouldn’t want to live without it! In fact, you couldn’t live without it, as
cholesterol is also a vital component of cell membranes. Think of it as one of
your body’s building blocks and it also plays a role in digestion by helping
your liver make the acids needed to digest fat.
women have naturally high cholesterol levels. During pregnancy, a woman’s total
cholesterol and LDL cholesterol reach high levels. This is an important part of
making a baby, so it’s not a concern unless cholesterol remains high after
giving birth, said Marla Mendelson, MD, medical director of the Center for
Women's Cardiovascular Health at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
According to research published in the Journal of Brain Development comparing imaging tests of
babies born early to those born on time, the good form of cholesterol, HDL or
high-density lipoprotein, appears to play a leading role in helping babies form
healthy brains. Other research shows that breast milk, which is naturally rich
in cholesterol, may offer heart health security later in life. Studies have
found that breastfed babies may have lower cholesterol levels as adults,
reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
formula has added cholesterol. To better mimic breast milk, baby
formula includes a variety of vitamins, minerals, and, yes, fats, some of which
contain cholesterol. Some studies, however, show that the more important
additions to formula are the fatty acids in breast milk, like DHA. However,
there are currently no government guidelines for how much should be added.
can have high cholesterol. If you thought high cholesterol could
only be a problem for middle-aged adults, you’re wrong. Even children's
cholesterol can reach unhealthy levels.
The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends cholesterol screening at
about 9 years of age for all children. “What is hard to believe is that people
have heart disease risk factors in childhood 40 years before they have a heart
attack,” noted Dr. Berenson, principal investigator of the Bogalusa Heart
Study, a community-based study that has tracked the development of heart
disease risk factors from elementary school years into middle adulthood.
with a healthy diet, proper weight, and exercise, children who have a family
history of early fatal heart attacks (meaning before age 40) may benefit from
cholesterol and blood pressure medication to appropriately manage high
cholesterol and other risk factors, Berenson says.
average American has a cholesterol level that’s already borderline high. According
to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average
cholesterol level among adult Americans is 200 mg/dL, considered borderline
high by the by the American Heart Association (AHA). It’s an alarming
statistic, but the idea that everyone should strive for the same number is a
cholesterol myth. Everyone is different, so talk so to your doctor about
setting your goal cholesterol levels.
cholesterol guidelines from the AHA recommend statin therapy, a medication
that lowers cholesterol levels in the blood for 4 groups of people: patients
who have heart disease, patients who have LDL cholesterol levels at 190 mg/dL
or higher, patients who are between 40 and 75 years old and have type 2
diabetes, and, people between ages 40 and 75 who have a high risk of heart
can see cholesterol in your eyes. White rims around the cornea of the
eyes are a sign of cholesterol buildup, though they don’t necessarily indicate
a heart problem. However, visible fatty lumps of cholesterol under the
skin on the eyelids (known as xanthelasma) may predict future heart issues,
according to a study published in the British journal BMJ. Researchers looked at 12,745 adults in Denmark and
found a strong link between these lumps and heart disease or a heart attack
five years later.
looks a lot like fat. Though we tend to think of high blood
cholesterol as just a number from a blood test, Berenson said that when
cholesterol lines your arteries, these deposits tend to be yellow with a white
covering, much like fat.
may protect your skin. Early skin treatment research indicates
that cholesterol added as an ingredient in moisturizers could help protect skin
from UV damage. Other lipid, or fatty, ingredients don't provide the same protection,
according to research published in theJournal
of Dermatological Science.
your friends needs a cholesterol check. The National Cholesterol Education
Program recommends cholesterol screenings every five years after age 20. About
one in four people have never had a cholesterol check. Chances are one of your
friends, or you, needs to schedule one.
David is one of the most prominent figures of the Bible,
a person whose life and lineage shaped both Judaism and Christianity in crucial
ways. So when I discovered a new book called The Historical David: TheReal Life of an Invented Hero, I was fascinated by the story it tells of the historical
David, especially because its author, Old Testament professor Joel Baden, makes some intriguing arguments about David that are
simultaneously illuminating and provocative.
was curious to discover more about how Dr. Baden became interested in David and
why he makes some of the more surprising claims in the book - like his
argument that perhaps Solomon was not David's son. I also wanted to know how
his findings affected him as a scholar and person of faith. What follows is an
in-depth interview with Dr. Baden about these topics:
Question:Early on in the book, you talk about learning a song about David
in Hebrew school as a child. Would you say that this was the moment that
sparked your interest in David, or is it more of something that developed over
would say that the song marks the moment that sparked my consciousness about
David - the first time I can remember knowing that there was such a person, and
at the same time realizing that he must have been pretty special to have a song
about him. In many ways, the memory of that song symbolizes for me the way that
lots of people tend to think about David: as someone who is remembered as a
glorious and great king, but without too much of the rest of the story attached
Question: The goal of your book is to uncover details about the historical
David, who you argue has a number of different characteristics from how David
is described in the Bible. What is
your goal in doing this?
are a few goals. One is plain historical curiosity: how much can we know about
the hero of the Hebrew Bible? Beyond the mere recovery of
the past, however, I think that recognizing the difference between the
historical David and the biblical or legendary David is important on its own
terms. It helps us understand how stories shape our view of history; how the
telling of the past, in all its various forms, changes the past. When we try to
access history through a particular lens, in this case, the lens of the
pro-David Hebrew Bible, we are getting a colored view. How and why the biblical
authors have chosen the palette they use is a question that helps us understand
both the historical David and the nature of the Bible as a book.
Question: Along those same lines, one of the things that you tell the reader
is that "the Bible is not
objective history"(chapter 8). This may come as something of a surprise to
many readers. How do you as a biblical scholar know that the Bible doesn't provide an objective
account, and how do you reconcile your viewpoint with the perspective of other
people who feel certain that it does?
entire idea of objective history, as we think of it today, is a very recent
intellectual phenomenon. We can't really expect ancient writings to conform to
modern-day standards of historiography. The Bible is, and always has
been, theology and I imagine that most people will recognize that theology and
history are not one and the same. The Bible makes all sorts of narrative
moves that would never be permissible in an objective account of history: the
revelation of characters' internal thoughts, the description of private
dialogues, the plain statement that certain figures are good or evil -- and, of
course, the regular intervention of God or divine messengers. It's not just
that all of these elements are present in the text; it's that every one of
them, in the David story at least, is used for the same purpose, which is to
glorify David at the expense of his rivals. We can see both the means and the
motive, and that's usually enough to convict.
Question: At a number of points in your book, you describe that the Bible
takes an event that may have or likely did occur in history and then reframes
it so that David is painted in a more positive light than he would have been
otherwise. Can you give some examples of this, and why do you think this choice
was important to the biblical authors?
The book begins with a relatively
little-known episode from the Bible, in which David, having run away from King
Saul, is in the wilderness with a band of malcontents and social outcasts. Upon
encountering a rich man named Nabal, David runs a classic protection racket,
demanding payment for having not harmed Nabal's shepherds. When Nabal doesn't
pay up, David comes to his house to kill him. This much the Bible admits. Now
by the end of the biblical story, Nabal is dead, David has Nabal's property,
and David even has Nabal's wife, Abigail, as his own wife. If you were asked to
fill in the blanks as to what happened, it would be hard not to pin Nabal's
death on David, at least to some degree. But the Bible - using almost every
narrative trick I just described - tells us that David actually didn't harm
Nabal, even swore not to hurt him; it turns out that God killed Nabal, out of
the blue. Given how much the Bible is willing to admit here,
even things that don't look great for David, it's reasonable to suspect that
there is some undeniable truth behind the story. But the conclusion is pretty
difficult to swallow as the Bible tells it. Now why would the biblical
authors try to exculpate David like this? Most of the David story is an attempt
to put a positive public face on David's rise to power. It's spin, just like we
know it today. The biblical authors are David's PR guys, and it's their job to
take a bad situation and make it look not quite so bad for their boss. Question: One of the most intriguing
arguments that caught my attention in the book was one you make about David,
Bathsheba, and their son Solomon. The Bible
says that Solomon was David's child, but you suggest that maybe he wasn't. How
come you make this claim, and how do you think it's a significant finding for
people of faith?
argument that Solomon was probably not David's son, but was actually the child
of Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, is a complicated one. In its simplest terms: as
far as I can see, it's the only way to explain why the biblical text about
David and Bathsheba and the birth of Solomon is as convoluted and confusing as
it is. The argument is made in full in the book, of course. As for its
significance, I think it's pretty huge. If Solomon wasn't David's son, then the
entire notion of the Davidic dynasty is out the window. None of David's
descendants ever sat on the throne of Israel; it's a Solomonic dynasty, not a
Davidic one. Although the ramifications of this play out in a number of ways,
it's most significant for the messianic expectations of both Judaism and
Christianity. The messiah is supposed to be a descendant of David- the gospel
of Matthew begins with Jesus' lineage, stretching back through David, and Jews
still pray for the coming of the "son of David."
Question: The David you describe is much more fallible than the David we see
described in the Bible. You explain throughout the book that if we look at
historical evidence, then we learn that David was actually a great leader in a
number of ways, but like any human, he also had his faults: He was
disrespectful to his subjects, so driven by his vision of the monarchy that he
would stop at nothing to achieve it, and he was responsible for a large number
of murders. You even go so far as to say that David "was considered guilty
of horrific crimes" (260). So if all of this is true, and if your thesis
is true that the David of the Bible isn't the same as the David of history, then
what is gained by this knowledge? Especially, what is gained for people of
faith who hold David in high regard?
is an obvious challenge in reconciling the possibility that David was something
like the ancient equivalent of a third-world dictator and the high esteem in
which David is held in both Judaism and Christianity. It's my conviction that
this is a good sort of challenge. I'm invested in the project of clarifying the
distance between the past and the present, between history and story, between
what we might know and what we believe. That is to say, I think that the image
of David maintained by people of faith is not really affected by the reality of
the historical David, because what is important in the legend of David is not
his reality but the values that have been attached to him. Cultures attach
ideals to their founding figures, ideals that have less to do with the
historical figures themselves and everything to do with what the culture holds
dear. Those ideals and values can, and do, change over time, and that's a good
thing -- it's called progress. So when we look back at the historical David and
are troubled, that's an indication that we have chosen a different path for
ourselves as a culture -- we can see our own values represented in the gap between
the historical David and our image of David. And that, in turn, gives us
warrant to think about what we choose to believe, and why we are not beholden
to the morals and ethics of a three-thousand-year-old Near Eastern despot. How
we understand David, and through him ourselves, is not predetermined by
history, we are capable of, and indeed have been for three thousand years,
telling the story in our own way.
Question: You describe yourself as both a biblical scholar and someone with
Jewish roots. I imagine that would both make this project incredibly rewarding
and incredibly challenging. So what were the greatest challenges you
encountered? And what have been the greatest rewards?
challenge, as is almost always the case in biblical studies, is mostly the constant
uphill battle against thousands of years of people reading the Bible
in certain ways. Generation upon generation of readers have taken the Bible
to mean something, and even those of us who are trained to look at it from
another angle are still often subconsciously replicating the interpretations
and readings of the past. So the biggest hurdle to jump in almost all aspects
of biblical scholarship is recognizing where we are assuming something that in
fact needs further investigation. In this book, for example, I began writing it
with the belief that the relationship between David and Jonathan was an
important aspect of David's rise to power. It was only after I had been working
on the book for quite some time that I finally realized how I was simply rehearsing
the traditional story. Only then was I able to understand how the David and
Jonathan story was working to situate David as the semi-rightful heir to Saul and
how it was almost entirely untrue as it's told in the biblical text. And that's
where the greatest rewards are to be found, also. I came to realize that truly
honoring the biblical text means not simply taking it at face value, but rather
trying hard to understand what it is trying to communicate, how it
communicates, and why its authors wrote as they did. There is so much depth to
the Bible, as there is to all great literature, and I felt like I was really
doing justice to the artistry and intention of the biblical authors when I
could uncover their motivations and their literary techniques.
Ms. Tumminio is a
theology scholar, writer, author and an Anglican Episcopal priest.