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TSE  June 2003

TSE June 2003

Subject:

Re: OT: Eden

From:

Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Fri, 27 Jun 2003 18:31:59 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (152 lines)

According to Rosemary Radford Reuther, "the origins of the Sumerian
stories go back to the third and perhaps fourth millennia B. C. . . .  The
Babylonian story in its present form was probably written about 1900 B. C,
although it is itself a revision of earlier materal going back to Sumerian
times."  And the "Hebrew story [of creation] was written by male priestly
writers about 500 B. C. . . ."--so, much later.

Would not the meaning of "knowing Jesus" and hence "following after" him
depend precisely on how one defined him?  And so one might see Jesus
as a human who represents how we are all the [children] of god and to
"follow" would be something other than to believe in Christ's divinity.
That is, is it not simply circular to say that to be a Christian is to know
that Jesus is divine and so to believe in his divinity because that is to be
Christian?

I have no stake in the answer; I'm just curious about the seeming
circularity that depends on having an answer in advance.
Nancy








Date sent:              Fri, 27 Jun 2003 17:45:51 -0400
Send reply to:          "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
From:                   William Gray <[log in to unmask]>
Subject:                Re: OT: Eden
To:                     [log in to unmask]

Nancy,
    I have responded to your questions below.

>>> [log in to unmask] 06/27/03 05:09PM >>>
>If by "Eden" you mean the story of paradise in Genesis, then the Bible
is
our source of the idea.  But that is by definition.

*Exactly what I meant.

>If you mean the idea of paradise, there are many versions of the
story.
There was a Sumerian paradise called Dilmun; the Greeks imagined a
paradise before Pandora opened the box; there is a paradise in Islamic
theology. I'm sure a theologian could identify many more.

*I would be most interested to see if any of these stories is known to
precede the Genesis account. Just out of curiosity. Just as an aside, even
in the Bible the ideas of paradise and Eden are separate -- in fact, there
is no mention of paradise until any chance of living in Eden has passed
away. And it is described in terms far different than Eden was.

>On another comment, I would be interested in what you think are the
limits
of the word "Christianity" and what versions of it you would not
include.  It
is possible to think the term not broad enough.  I have only read the
review so far, but that seems to be a conclusion of Elaine Pagels' book on
The Gospel of Thomas.

*The word "Christian" first surfaced in Antioch (Acts 11:26), during
the period of the early church, and like so many other terms, it was
first applied to the group, and later adopted. As you no doubt know, the
word means something like "little Christ" and refers to one who is a
follower of Christ. This is the point at which definitions diverge.
Glancing at the American Heritage Dictionary (which is not authoritative,
but the closest at hand), I find these definitions: 1. Professing belief
in Jesus as Christ or following the religion based on the life and
teachings of Jesus. 3. Manifesting the qualities or spirit of Jesus. 5.
Showing a loving concern for others; humane

These are fairly typical of those claiming the title today. #5 is
obviously the broadest and demonstrates a shallow understanding of
Christ, but could work as a definition to some degree. #3 and #1 are
widely used, but there is a great difference of opinion on what exactly
the qualities and teachings of Jesus were and are. I am not meaning to
avoid the question at all in what I am trying to say, so if my meaning is
still unclear after this post, I would have no problem clarifying again.
But the essence of "Christianity" is knowing Jesus _as_ Christ (not just
about Him; this is a rather profound knowledge) and following after Him
(not just after a pattern set down by Him; I would differ from the AHD on
their wording here). I am confident that there are Christians in many of
these groups: Lutherans, Baptists, Episcopalians, Anglicans, Catholics,
Presbyterians, and so on. Sometimes it may be in spite of a particular
church affiliation that one follows Christ, at times it may be as a result
of the particular church. The key is whether the person is actually a
follower of Christ Himself or just a follower of a religion. These
thoughts can be clarified by a reading of most any book of the Bible,
especially the Gospel of John or John's first letter. Even after years of
studying Eliot, I'm not sure how to place him in regards to Christianity.

>Certainly one might consider in what way Eliot's specific and rather
rigid
notions of Christianity affected his work but also how his much
broader
knowledge of, say, Eastern religion and comparative religion also did.

*Indeed, which many others have done. I hope to find a slice in the
effects of Christianity where I might contribute to a better
understanding of Eliot's poetry.
Thanks for your interest! I hope my explanations have not been too
tedious. This is a subject in which I have more than a fascination.

Best wishes,
Will Gray


Date sent:              Fri, 27 Jun 2003 14:15:03 -0400
Send reply to:          "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum."
<[log in to unmask]>
From:                   William Gray <[log in to unmask]>
Subject:                OT: Eden
To:                     [log in to unmask]

Carrol,
   Just a couple of comments on your post:

>>> [log in to unmask] 06/27/03 12:23PM >>> The principle of Eden is
leisure without blame. That was Tolstoi's definition of it. But it
also
happens, essentially, to be the very realistic definition offered by
the
anthropologist Marshall Sahlins who established that the
hunter-gatherer
societies were the "first affluent societies," where people spent 4-5
hours a day working, often in a way hard to distinguish from playing

*According to the Bible (our source for understanding Eden, after
all),
the principle of Eden was far from leisure. Adam was given work by God
almost immediately after his creation (cf. Genesis 2:19). It was clear to
both Adam and Eve that the reason God created them was to manage His
creation under Him (cf. Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:15). What changed as a
result of the Fall/the Curse was not the addition of work but the fact
that work would now involve sweat and difficulty.

Actually, Milton...(Of course his recognition is
in part distorted by Christianity, which poisons everything it
touches.)

*This comment adds little, if anything, to our discussion. If you
would
like to talk sometime off-list, I would love to help clear up your
misunderstanding here about Christianity, an unfortunately broad label. I
don't mind hearing religious positions, if they are relevant to the
discussion and sufficiently grounded. I had just hoped we could discuss
Christianity's relevance to Eliot's poetry without degenerating. Thanks!

Cheers,
Will Gray

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