Footnote 34 – John Fabian Witt, Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History (New York: The Free Press/Simon and Schuster, 2013), p. 213.

Lincoln on Emancipation, the Bible, and God’s Will

Lincoln gave voice to his thinking on the subject in September [1862] when a church delegation from Chicago came to the White House to present a memorial endorsing emancipation… He told the delegates that religious men regularly approached him with advice. They were invariably “certain that they represent the divine will.” But they came with radically opposing views (“the most opposite opinions and advice”), and not all of them could be right. It might even be that all of them were wrong.

And there was the nub of the problem. How could one learn God’s will, and if one could not, how could one make the grave decision…? “If I can learn what it is I will do it!” Lincoln said. But God’s justice was inscrutable. “These are not,” he reminded his memorialists, “the days of miracles.” There would be no “direct revelation.” …Confederate troops were no doubt “expecting God to favor their side” just as Union men thought that God would favor theirs….

But the Chicago Christians replied with a much older idea…Unbeknownst to them, their reply followed the course Lincoln’s own thinking had been taking over the previous weeks. Moral uncertainty, they observed, could not excuse paralysis. “Good men,” they conceded, “differed in their opinions.” But “the truth was somewhere,” and men could not merely set one opinion against another and throw up their hands. The moral leader had to act, had to bring “facts, principles, and arguments” to bear and come to a conclusion as to what justice required

…[W]hen the interview closed, it was clear that Lincoln and his Chicago petitioners were not so far apart after all. “Do not misunderstand me because I have mentioned these objections,” Lincoln told them. “Whatever shall appear to be God’s will I will do.”

34 John Fabian Witt, Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History (New York: The Free Press/Simon and Schuster, 2013), p. 213.

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Footnote 33 – Robert H. Gundry, Jesus The Word According to John the Sectarian: A Paleofundamentalist Manifesto (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), pp. 73–74.

“[T]he sense of embattlement with the world is rapidly evaporating among many evangelicals, especially evangelical elites, among them those who belong to the “knowledge industry.” In the last half century they have enjoyed increasing success in the world of biblical and theological scholarship. They reacted against the separatism of the fundamentalist forebears, who precisely in their separation from the world knew they had a sure word from God for the world.… with the consequent whetting of our appetite for academic, political, and broadly cultural power and influence are coming the dangers of accommodation, of dulling the sharp edges of the gospel, of blurring the distinction between believers and the world, of softening—or not issuing at all—the warning that God’s wrath abides on unbelievers (John 3:36), in short, of only whispering the word instead of shouting him, speaking him boldly, as the Word himself did.”

Robert H. Gundry, Jesus The Word According to John the Sectarian: A Paleofundamentalist Manifesto for Contemporary Evangelicalism, Especially its Elites, in North America (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), pp. 73–74; cited in Steve Wolfgang, “Good News of Victory,” in The Gospel in the Old Testament, Ed. Daniel W. Petty (Temple Terrace, FL: Florida College Press, 2003), p.202, LOGOS edition.

Footnote 32 – Bob Greene, Duty: A Father, His Son, And The Man Who Won The War. HarperCollins, 2000, 2009. Kindle Edition, pp. 13-15.

Bob Greene’s book about his father’s death reports conversations he had with Paul Tibbetts, who lived in retirement not far from the Green family home in Columbus, OH. For those who might not know, Paul Warfield Tibbets, Jr. (February 23, 1915 – November 1, 2007), was a brigadier general in the United States Air Force, best known as the pilot of the Enola Gay – named for his mother – the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb in the history of warfare. That bomb, code named “Little Boy,” was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in August 1945.

Any child of “Greatest Generation” parents, especially those of us who are losing or have lost them, can surely relate to Greene’s reflection on this Memorial Day. Today I am remembering James H. Wolfgang (August 13, 1922 – March 20, 2015), whose one and only “European trip” was via Omaha Beach in 1944, and for whom Memorial Day was always very meaningful.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

“Do people know my name?” Tibbets asked. He was repeating the question I had just asked him. A soft, private look crossed his face.

“They don’t need to know my name,” he said. The deed he had carried out was one of the most famous the world has ever known; it will be talked about in terms of fear and awe forever. He, though, even here in the town where he lived, was not as famous as the local television weatherman.

“People knowing my name isn’t important at all,” he said. “It’s more important—it was more important then, and it’s more important now—that they know the name of my airplane. And that they understand the history of what happened. “Although sometimes I think that no one really understands the history.”

And so we started to talk. Neither of us knew it that day, but it would be the first of many conversations—about the war, about the men and women who lived through it, about their lives, and the lives of their sons and daughters: the lives of those of us who came after them, who inherited the world that they saved for us.

As I sat with Tibbets that first day—thinking of my father in his bed just a few miles away—it occurred to me that Eisenhower was dead, Patton was dead, Marshall was dead, MacArthur was dead. And here was Tibbets, telling me in the first person the story of how the great and terrible war came to an end.

… gradually the stories would expand in context, would begin to explain to me certain things not just about this man, but about the generation of men and women who are leaving us now every day.

It is a wrenching thing, to watch them go. As the men and women of the World War II generation die, it is for their children the most intensely personal experience imaginable—and at the same time a sweeping and historic one, being witnessed by tens of millions of sons and daughters, sons and daughters who feel helpless to stop the inevitable.

For me, as my father, day by day, slipped away, the over-whelming feeling was that a safety net was being removed—a safety net that had been there since the day I was born, a safety net I was often blithely unaware of. That’s what the best safety nets do—they allow you to forget they’re there. No generation has ever given its children a sturdier and more reliable safety net than the one our parents’ generation gave to us.

The common experience that wove the net was their war. And as I began to listen to Tibbets—to hear his stories, later to question him about the America that preceded and followed the war from which his stories came—I realized anew that so many of us only now, only at the very end, are beginning to truly know our fathers and mothers. It was as if constructing that safety net for their children was their full-time job, and that finally, as they leave us, we are beginning to understand the forces that made them the way they were.

Tibbets began to speak, and as I listened I thought I could hear a rustle of something behind the words—I thought I could hear the whisper of a generation saying goodbye to its children.

Footnote 31 — William Deresciewicz, “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League”

Footnote 31 — William Deresciewicz, “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League: A Better Education – and a Better Life – Lies Elsewhere” — The New Republic, August 4, 2014, pp. 24-29

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118747/ivy-league-schools-are-overrated-send-your-kids-elsewhere

Deresciewicz, who left the Yale University faculty in 2008 to write full-time, has produced a number of provocative articles laying bare the oft-hidden skeletons in the closets of academia. Here are some excerpts from his latest installment, from the current issue of The New Republic. Notice this paragraph in particular:

“Religious colleges—even obscure, regional schools that no one has ever heard of on the coasts—often do a much better job in that respect. What an indictment of the Ivy League and its peers: that colleges four levels down on the academic totem pole, enrolling students whose SAT scores are hundreds of points lower than theirs, deliver a better education, in the highest sense of the word.”

“Super People,” the writer James Atlas has called them—the stereotypical ultra-high-achieving elite college students of today. A double major, a sport, a musical instrument, a couple of foreign languages, service work in distant corners of the globe, a few hobbies thrown in for good measure: They have mastered them all, and with a serene self-assurance that leaves adults and peers alike in awe. A friend who teaches at a top university once asked her class to memorize 30 lines of the eighteenth-century poet Alexander Pope. Nearly every single kid got every single line correct. It was a thing of wonder, she said, like watching thoroughbreds circle a track.

These enviable youngsters appear to be the winners in the race we have made of childhood. But the reality is very different, as I have witnessed in many of my own students and heard from the hundreds of young people whom I have spoken with on campuses or who have written to me over the last few years. Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.

When I speak of elite education, I mean prestigious institutions like Harvard or Stanford or Williams as well as the larger universe of second-tier selective schools, but I also mean everything that leads up to and away from them—the private and affluent public high schools; the ever-growing industry of tutors and consultants and test-prep courses; the admissions process itself, squatting like a dragon at the entrance to adulthood; the brand-name graduate schools and employment opportunities that come after the B.A.; and the parents and communities, largely upper-middle class, who push their children into the maw of this machine. In short, our entire system of elite education.

I should say that this subject is very personal for me. Like so many kids today, I went off to college like a sleepwalker. You chose the most prestigious place that let you in; up ahead were vaguely understood objectives: status, wealth—“success.” What it meant to actually get an education and why you might want one—all this was off the table. It was only after 24 years in the Ivy League—college and a Ph.D. at Columbia, ten years on the faculty at Yale—that I started to think about what this system does to kids and how they can escape from it, what it does to our society and how we can dismantle it.
……………….
I taught many wonderful young people during my years in the Ivy League—bright, thoughtful, creative kids whom it was a pleasure to talk with and learn from. But most of them seemed content to color within the lines that their education had marked out for them. Very few were passionate about ideas. Very few saw college as part of a larger project of intellectual discovery and development. Everyone dressed as if they were ready to be interviewed at a moment’s notice.

Look beneath the façade of seamless well-adjustment, and what you often find are toxic levels of fear, anxiety, and depression, of emptiness and aimlessness and isolation. A large-scale survey of college freshmen recently found that self-reports of emotional well-being have fallen to their lowest level in the study’s 25-year history.

So extreme are the admission standards now that kids who manage to get into elite colleges have, by definition, never experienced anything but success. The prospect of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them. The cost of falling short, even temporarily, becomes not merely practical, but existential. The result is a violent aversion to risk. You have no margin for error, so you avoid the possibility that you will ever make an error. Once, a student at Pomona told me that she’d love to have a chance to think about the things she’s studying, only she doesn’t have the time. I asked her if she had ever considered not trying to get an A in every class. She looked at me as if I had made an indecent suggestion.

There are exceptions, kids who insist, against all odds, on trying to get a real education. But their experience tends to make them feel like freaks. One student told me that a friend of hers had left Yale because she found the school “stifling to the parts of yourself that you’d call a soul.”
…………
The first thing that college is for is to teach you to think. That doesn’t simply mean developing the mental skills particular to individual disciplines. College is an opportunity to stand outside the world for a few years, between the orthodoxy of your family and the exigencies of career, and contemplate things from a distance.

Learning how to think is only the beginning, though. There’s something in particular you need to think about: building a self. The notion may sound strange. “We’ve taught them,” David Foster Wallace once said, “that a self is something you just have.” But it is only through the act of establishing communication between the mind and the heart, the mind and experience, that you become an individual, a unique being—a soul. The job of college is to assist you to begin to do that. Books, ideas, works of art and thought, the pressure of the minds around you that are looking for their own answers in their own ways.

College is not the only chance to learn to think, but it is the best. One thing is certain: If you haven’t started by the time you finish your B.A., there’s little likelihood you’ll do it later. That is why an undergraduate experience devoted exclusively to career preparation is four years largely wasted.

Elite schools like to boast that they teach their students how to think, but all they mean is that they train them in the analytic and rhetorical skills that are necessary for success in business and the professions. Everything is technocratic—the development of expertise—and everything is ultimately justified in technocratic terms.

Religious colleges—even obscure, regional schools that no one has ever heard of on the coasts—often do a much better job in that respect. What an indictment of the Ivy League and its peers: that colleges four levels down on the academic totem pole, enrolling students whose SAT scores are hundreds of points lower than theirs, deliver a better education, in the highest sense of the word.
……..
Visit any elite campus across our great nation, and you can thrill to the heart-warming spectacle of the children of white businesspeople and professionals studying and playing alongside the children of black, Asian, and Latino businesspeople and professionals. Kids at schools like Stanford think that their environment is diverse if one comes from Missouri and another from Pakistan, or if one plays the cello and the other lacrosse. Never mind that all of their parents are doctors or bankers.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few exceptions, but that is all they are. In fact, the group that is most disadvantaged by our current admissions policies are working-class and rural whites, who are hardly present on selective campuses at all. The only way to think these places are diverse is if that’s all you’ve ever seen.

Let’s not kid ourselves: The college admissions game is not primarily about the lower and middle classes seeking to rise, or even about the upper-middle class attempting to maintain its position. It is about determining the exact hierarchy of status within the upper-middle class itself. In the affluent suburbs and well-heeled urban enclaves where this game is principally played, it is not about whether you go to an elite school.
It’s about which one you go to. It is Penn versus Tufts, not Penn versus Penn State. It doesn’t matter that a bright young person can go to Ohio State, become a doctor, settle in Dayton, and make a very good living. Such an outcome is simply too horrible to contemplate.

This system is exacerbating inequality, retarding social mobility, perpetuating privilege, and creating an elite that is isolated from the society that it’s supposed to lead. The numbers are undeniable.
……..
The major reason for the trend is clear. Not increasing tuition, though that is a factor, but the ever-growing cost of manufacturing children who are fit to compete in the college admissions game. The more hurdles there are, the more expensive it is to catapult your kid across them. Wealthy families start buying their children’s way into elite colleges almost from the moment they are born: music lessons, sports equipment, foreign travel (“enrichment” programs, to use the all-too-perfect term)—most important, of course, private-school tuition or the costs of living in a place with top-tier public schools. The SAT is supposed to measure aptitude, but what it actually measures is parental income, which it tracks quite closely. Today, fewer than half of high-scoring students from low-income families even enroll at four-year schools.

The problem isn’t that there aren’t more qualified lower-income kids from which to choose. Elite private colleges will never allow their students’ economic profile to mirror that of society as a whole. They can’t afford to—they need a critical mass of full payers and they need to tend to their donor base—and it’s not even clear that they’d want to.

And so it is hardly a coincidence that income inequality is higher than it has been since before the Great Depression, or that social mobility is lower in the United States than in almost every other developed country. Elite colleges are not just powerless to reverse the movement toward a more unequal society; their policies actively promote it.
……..
I used to think that we needed to create a world where every child had an equal chance to get to the Ivy League. I’ve come to see that what we really need is to create one where you don’t have to go to the Ivy League, or any private college, to get a first-rate education.

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118747/ivy-league-schools-are-overrated-send-your-kids-elsewhere

Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League: The nation’s top colleges are turning our kids into zombies

(Print edition cover subtitle: “A better education – and a better life – lies elsewhere”)

Print edition article title: “I Saw the Best Minds of My Generation Destroyed By the Ivy League: Against the Tyranny of Elite Education”

Footnote 30 — Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

Footnote 30  —  Rick Atkinson, The Guns At Last Light: War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (The Liberation Trilogy, Volume 3).  New York: Henry Holt and Co.. 2013, pp. 23-24 (Kindle Edition Locations 573-609).

The “stuff” of war: Excerpts from Rick Atkinson’s Liberation Trilogy:

“The loading of invasion vessels bound for the Far Shore had begun on May 4 and intensified as the month wore away. Seven thousand kinds of combat necessities had to reach the Norman beaches in the first four hours, from surgical scissors to bazooka rockets, followed by tens of thousands of tons in the days following. Responsibility for embarkation fell to three military bureaucracies with acronyms evocative of the Marx Brothers: MOVCO, TURCO, and EMBARCO. Merchant marine captains sequestered in a London basement near Selfridges department store prepared loading plans with the blueprints of deck and cargo spaces spread on huge tables; wooden blocks scaled to every jeep, howitzer, and shipping container were pushed around like chess pieces to ensure a fit. Soldiers in their camps laid out full-sized deck replicas on the ground and practiced wheeling trucks and guns in and out.

“In twenty-two British ports, stevedores slung pallets and cargo nets into holds and onto decks, loading radios from Pennsylvania, grease from Texas, rifles from Massachusetts. For OVERLORD, the U.S. Army had accumulated 301,000 vehicles, 1,800 train locomotives, 20,000 rail cars, 2.6 million small arms, 2,700 artillery pieces, 300,000 telephone poles, and 7 million tons of gasoline, oil, and lubricants. SHAEF had calculated daily combat consumption, from fuel to bullets to chewing gum, at 41.298 pounds per soldier. Sixty million K rations, enough to feed the invaders for a month, were packed in 500-ton bales. Huge U.S. Army railcars known as war flats hauled tanks and bulldozers to the docks, while mountains of ammunition were stacked on car ferries requisitioned from Boston, New York, and Baltimore. The photographer Robert Capa, who would land with the second wave at Omaha Beach, watched as the “giant toys ” were hoisted aboard…

“Armed guards from ten cartography depots escorted 3,000 tons of maps for D-Day alone, the first of 210 million maps that would be distributed in Europe, most of them printed in five colors. Also into the holds went 280,000 hydrographic charts; town plats for the likes of Cherbourg and St.-Lô; many of the one million aerial photos of German defenses, snapped from reconnaissance planes flying at twenty-five feet; and watercolors depicting the view that landing-craft coxswains would have of their beaches. Copies of a French atlas pinpointed monuments and cultural treasures, with an attached order from Eisenhower calling for “restraint and discipline” in wreaking havoc.

“The U.S. First Army battle plan for OVERLORD contained more words than Gone with the Wind. For the 1st Infantry Division alone, Field Order No. 35 had fifteen annexes and eighteen appendices, including a reminder to “drive on right side of road.” Thick sheaves of code words began with the Pink List, valid from H-hour to two A.M. on D + 1, when the Blue List would succeed it. Should the Blue List be compromised, the White List would be used, but only if the word “swallow” was broadcast on the radio. A soldier could only sigh.

“Day after night after day, war matériel cascaded onto the wharves and quays, a catalogue Homeric in magnitude and variety: radio crystals by the thousands, carrier pigeons by the hundreds, one hundred Silver Stars and three hundred Purple Hearts—dubbed “the German marksmanship medal”— for each major general to award as warranted, and ten thousand “Hagensen packs,” canvas bags sewn by sailmakers in lofts across England and stuffed with plastic explosive. A company contracted to deliver ten thousand metal crosses had missed its deadline; instead, Graves Registration units would improvise with wooden markers. Cotton mattress covers used as shrouds had been purchased on the basis of one for every 375 man-days in France, a formula that proved far too optimistic. In July, with supplies dwindling, quartermasters would be forced to ship another fifty thousand.

“Four hospital ships made ready, “snowy white … with many bright new red crosses painted on the hull and painted flat on the boat deck,” the reporter Martha Gellhorn noted. Each LST also would carry at least two physicians and twenty Navy corpsmen to evacuate casualties, with operating rooms built on the open tank decks— a “cold, dirty trap,” in one officer’s estimation— and steam tables used to heat twenty-gallon sterilization cans. All told, OVERLORD would muster 8,000 doctors, 600,000 doses of penicillin, fifty tons of sulfa, and 800,000 pints of plasma meticulously segregated by black and white donors. Sixteen hundred pallets weighing half a ton each and designed to be dragged across the beaches were packed with enough medical supplies to last a fortnight.

 

Footnote 29 — Alistair Cooke, America: A Personal History (1973)

Footnote 29 — Alistair Cooke, America: A Personal History (New York: Basic Books, 1973)

Since I first heard it decades ago, I have been intrigued by the unique perspective, colorfully describing aspects of the American Revolution by Alistair Cooke, BBC and British newspaper correspondent (and, later, host of Masterpiece Theatre). Cooke came to the USA in 1932 on a fellowship to Yale after graduating Cambridge, married a descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson, became an American citizen on 1 December 1941, and stayed, for the most part, from the Great Depression until his death in 2005.  Cooke toured the US by automobile many times seeking stories to explain to British subjects the enigmatic behaviors of their American cousins, attempting to bridge the chasm described in George Bernard Shaw’s memorable depiction (later borrowed famously by Sir Winston Churchill) of the British and Americans as “one people separated by a common language.”  Cooke’s 13-part television series, The Americans (1973), was accompanied by a book, from which the following passage is excerpted.

“We should not forget that for quite a time the rebels thought of themselves as Englishmen abused, and in many engagements felt an uncomfortable sympathy for the Englishmen sent over to fight them.  In Ridgefield, Connecticut, there is a plaque sunk in the wall of a cemetery.  It says:  ‘In defense of American independence at the Battle of Ridgefield, April 27th, 1777, died Eight Patriots who were laid in this ground, Companioned by Sixteen British  soldiers, Living, their enemies, Dying, their guests.’

“The British arrived as a professional army expecting, with companies of German mercenaries, to fight European set battles. Not enough of them had learned, at first or second hand, the lessons of the French and Indian Wars.  The Americans were at once too shrewd and too untrained to oblige them with an old world war. First of all, as John Adams said, the colonial population divided up into one third that took to arms, one third that was either openly or secretly loyal to the British, and one third that didn’t give a damn – not the best recipe for a disciplined national army.  

      “So against the army of British regulars there stood – besides some French volunteers, immensely valuable as professionals at the start – mainly a large, improvised force of farmers, mechanics, tradesmen, parsons, lawyers, grocers, hunters, trappers, con men, thieves, and hoodlums. ‘Never,’ their sorrowing commander was to lament when the going was bad, ‘such a rabble dignified by the name of army.’  How could they hold off for six years, much less defeat, one of the crack armies of Europe?

     “For one thing, there was weaponry.  The British army for the most part used smooth-bore muskets that allowed a lateral error of three feet at a hundred yards range.  The British infantryman was not trained to pick off single targets; he stood shoulder to shoulder with his fellows and they sprayed, shall we say, in the general direction of the enemy!  The Americans had smooth-bore muskets too, but as the war moved into the interior the British came up against the frontiersmen, who did not use guns for sport.  Their very existence depended on shooting their food on the wing and saving their families by picking off Indians in night raids. They needed a weapon that was light and accurate, and found it in the Pennsylvania flintlock, developed for them by German settlers in Pennsylvania who doubled the length of the barrel and grooved it make the bullet spin and stay on line…

        “At long range, this weapon did bloody damage to shoulder-to-shoulder infantry.  A Pennsylvania Tory who had seen it at work wrote a letter to a London newspaper offering rather chill advice: ‘This province has raised a thousand riflemen, the worst of whom will put a rifle ball in man’s head at a hundred and fifty or two hundred yards.  Therefore, advise your officers who shall hereafter come out to America to settle their affairs in England before their departure.’  This reputation for sharpshooting was magnified in England into a witch’s curse, and there were some lively desertions among men drafted for service in the Colonies.  It is, on the whole, and all-too-true American myth:  that legendary reputation for spotting the bull’s eye which began with the embattled farmers and was sustained down through the next century and a half by Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickok, Annie Oakley, and Sergeant York…

     “A British commander sent home a short report that was read in the House of Commons.  The gist of it was: ‘The Americans will not stand and fight.” They were jack-in-the-box guerillas who would fight like devils for a day and a night and then go home and harvest their crops on the weekend.  They would return, not always in any discernible formation, and after a swift onslaught vanish into the country by night, and then again at some unpredictable time come whizzing in like hornets.  What baffled and eventually broke the British was what broke the Roman armies in their late campaigns against the barbarians, and for so long frustrated the Americans in Vietnam. …. [A]s William Pitt sadly commented, looking at his drawn lines on an alien wilderness: ‘You cannot conquer a map.’

Footnote 28 — Reading Biblical Narrative – Jan P. Fokkelman

Footnote 28 — Jan P. Fokkelman, Reading Biblical Narrative: An Introductory Guide (Westminster John Knox Press, 2000; trans. Ineke Smit), pp. 21-22.

“As the meaning of a text is only realized through the mediation of the reader, our responsibility for its meaning is greater than the text’s own.  Moreover, this meaning is realized in the here and now; we confer meaning around the year 2000, not in 800 or 500 BCE. This may seem obvious, but it needs to be stated clearly.  The effect of bestowing meaning on one’s own readings and interpretations has hardly, if at all, been taken into account by established Bible scholarship (the so-called historical-critical school), which assumes its own attitude to be self-evident. This approach sets out to ‘understand the Bible texts within the framework of their own time,’ according to the slogan characteristic of these scholars. This attitude conveys a totally different message: the text comes from far away, dates from a long time ago, and is rooted in a radically different culture.  Thus, there is a three-fold alienation which has discouraged many Bible readers, students of theology, and future preachers.

“It is true that the text of the Bible comes from the Near East, that it is almost 2000 to 3000 years old, and that it originated in a culture which differed greatly from ours, both materially and spiritually. These differences should not be underestimated; yet these distances are only half-truths, and if you treat them as unshakeable axioms they will quietly turn into lies and optical illusions. There is a greater, more important truth, which is that these texts are well-written.  IF they are then so fortunate as to meet a good listener, they will come into their own without having to be pushed into the compartments ‘far away,’ ‘long ago’ and ‘very different.’ As products of a deliberate and meticulous designing intelligence they have been crafted to speak for themselves, provided there is a competent reader listening closely.

“It is only natural that the Bible text should have quickly freed itself from its origin.  The current rather infelicitous phrase is that the text has been decontextualized: maker, audience, and context have long been lost.  Of course, the writers knew that this was to be the fate of their stories, laws and poems – assuming for the moment that they were not born yesterday. Reading the Bible ‘within the setting of its own time?’ A lofty goal, but in the first place this is a perilous enterprise since the setting is not there any more – it was lost about two thousand years ago. Secondly, it is hardly a viable undertaking, as we are not Israelites. The publication of a text implies that its umbilical cord has been cut; from then on, it is on its own.  Now, good texts can indeed manage alone, as from the beginning they have been designed to outlive their birth and original context by a long way.  The writer knows that he cannot always accompany his text to provide explanations, clear up misunderstandings, etc. He has to let go of his product completely; he should leave it to his poem or story to take care of itself on its own.  So he decides to provide is text with the devices, signals, and shapes with which it can withstand the onslaught of time and guide the reading activities of the loyal listener.”