Skip to main content

Politics and Theology in 1st Century Israel


Cartoon from here
According to Josephus, the Sadducees believed in free will. Just as I am inclined to think that Josephus’ description of the Pharisaic blend of free will and fate is a depoliticized code for their balance between waiting for Israel’s god to act and being ready to act on his behalf if necessary, so I am inclined to think that the Sadducean belief in free will has little to do with abstract philosophy and a great deal to do with the politics of power: Israel’s god will help those who help themselves. This is a comfortable doctrine for those in power, who maintain themselves there by taking whatever measures seem necessary, just as its mirror image, belief that divine action can only be awaited, not hastened, is a consoling doctrine for those out of power, who see no hope of regaining it by their own efforts.

NT Wright NTPG p211

Which is funny because I would have thought it was the other way round, that conservatives (i.e. those who rather like the staus quo) would be more inclined to assert that the way things are is a matter of unavoidable fate, whereas those who desire to challenge it, radicals, are more likely to emphasise the importance of taking action according to free will rather than the current social norms.  Of course both free will and fate are almost impossible to hold to in absolute terms for any one.  But I think Wright is totally right (no pun intended) that theology and politics tend to actually be the same thing just presented in more or less pious language depending upon the perceived audience.  Which is why you cannot take religion out of politics, and vice versa, all political discourse is inherently theology, and vice versa.

Comments

  1. I think that NT Wright is correct. Conservatives want to give the impression that things are a matter of unavoidable fate, while at the same time taking every action to ensure that nothing will upset the(ir) apple cart. Those social norms have to be "robustly maintained" - they won't just happen by themselves.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

That one time Jesus got the Bible wrong

It's so typical isn't it? You are preaching all day long, training your disciples, sparring with the Pharisees, encouraging the poor and down trodden, healing the sick and casting out demons, all day, day after day, and even when you go up a mountain to get a rest the crowds hunt you down and follow you up, and then the one time you get a bit muddled up with some of the details of a biblical text . . . that is the one they write down in the first gospel - verbatim. At least Matthew and Luke had the good sense to do some editing. But Mark, he always had his eye on giving the public the "historical Jesus" whoever that is supposed to be . . . warts and all. Thanks a lot Mark!

Some think I made the mistake on purpose, just to show the Pharisees up.

For some there is no mistake worth mentioning, only a slightly ambiguous turn of phrase.

Others think I am doing something tricky with Abiathar's name, getting him to figuratively stand in for the priesthood.

It really has…

Thor Ragnarok and Parihaka: Postcolonial Apocalypse

Thor: Ragnarok is a riot of colour, sound, violence, humour, sci-fi and fantasy. As a piece of entertainment it is the best Marvel has produced so far. As in many of Taika Waititi's films the plot often seems secondary to the humour and a number of quirky moments seemed only to serve for a quick giggle. I left the theatre overwhelmed by the sensory experience, but ultimately unimpressed by any deeper meaning.

It wasn't until the second morning after my trip to the movies that I woke to the realisation that the movie could function as a profound postcolonial metaphor (I do some of my best thinking while alseep, also it can take me a while for the penny to drop). Unfortunately a quick google showed me that I was neither the first, nor the second to have this thought.

[Spoiler Alert!]

It's easy to miss with all the other stuff going on but Thor undergoes a postcolonial awakening during the film as he slowly realises that his beloved Asgard and its dominion of the nine realms …

Dale Martin does Mark

Dale Martin is an important and frequently controversial NT scholar. Those of us who can't make it to Yale to hear him teach can access some of his lectures, in fact his entire introduction to the NT course, through the magic of the internet.

Here he is holding forth on Mark . . .