Well, there is significant scholarship, reinforced by a pretty clear statement by Eliot himself, that the notes are something of a put on, in answer to the publisher's need to make it bigger for publication. Not that much of it isn't correct. So either way, your comment is applicable.
I accept all of your analysis, basically because my knowledge is pretty primary. I am certainly accepting of many different forms of after life, eg. inferno, purgatorio, and even limbo (although I believe that one is itself in limbo, if you get my drift).
If the idea of resurrection is primarily Christian but includes a few centuries BC, then how does one indicate that those centuries are included. Saying Christian or New Testament would I suspect make a lot of people think the old or Hebrew Testament is deliberately excluded, when in fact its sources are to some extent pre-Christian. Cf the Sadduces' overt denial of the resurrection. What prompted their denial?
Being an amateur in this area I am more than happy to be corrected.
Eliot was a serious student of Christian scholarship, so a highly knowledgeable participant's contributions are really appreciated here.
Jerome Walsh <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
I hope I did not imply that Eliot's notes should not be taken seriously! They are certainly an important witness to what he thought. What they are not, is a witness to the best of current biblical scholarship.
My comment was intended only to nuance the words "in their Biblical context." In the popular understanding of their Biblical context (which, in Eliot's time, would probably have been the common understanding even among biblical scholars, except at the cutting edge of biblical scholarship
), the statement is true. In the current scholarly understanding of their
biblical context, it is not.
Could the passage be later than the sixth-century prophet? Yes, of course. We have no written copies of the book called "Ezekiel" from before the first or second century BC, so we cannot rule out the theoretical possibility of a gloss. However, there is no evidence at all to support such a conjecture, and much evidence against it. (I think I'm supposed to say here, "consult the commentaries for further information"!)
It is true that a belief in life after death was not unknown in the ancient world (the pyramids are a pretty imposing demonstration of that). There is no evidence I'm aware of, however, to suggest that Israel had a shred of such a belief before the second century. And, just to inject a theological technicality, "resurrection" is not a synonym for "life after death." It is one form that belief in personal existence beyond death takes, but not the only
form. Ancient Egypt certainly did not believe in "resurrection." It did believe, in differing ways and at differing epochs, in "life after death" for one, or some, or many, or (perhaps sometimes) all, of its people.
What term would be more accurate than "biblical"? Perhaps "Christian," or "New Testament," since a belief in "resurrection" is generally thought to be essential to Christian belief as formulated in the New Testament. (Though there are no few Christian theologians who would prefer metaphors other than "resurrection" for afterlife.)
Perhaps your implication is that the passage involved is too recent to have been Ezeckiel's. Fine.
If the word "Biblical" is too broad, what would be a more precise word?
P <[log in to unmask]
Perhaps more evidence that Eliot's notes are not to be taken too seriously. In fact the Ez. passage explains itself as being analogical.
Still the image of bones coming back to life does suggest that the possibility of resurrection was not unheard of in Ez.'s time.
Jerome Walsh <[log in to unmask]
That is the common, but unhistorical, reading of the "dry bones," and may well have been Eliot's take on the "dry bones" passage (Ezek 37:1-14). Christian exegesis, starting from the Christian belief in life after death, almost inevitably reads the whole Old Testament as if that idea were present throughout. Historically, however, it is not; it seems to make its first appearance in Israelite/Jewish thought in the second century BC (Ezekiel lived four centuries earlier). Ezekiel's "dry bones" is a reference to the Israelites exiled in Babylon, and their "resurrection" is his anticipation of the eventual restoration
of an Israelite polity after the "death" of the Babylonian Exile.
In their Biblical context they are connected with resurrection. See Eliot's notes.
Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]
I wonder if the image of 'dry bones' in Eliot's poetry has been explicated enough. It seems like a state of sublimation reached after the dross of 'personality' has been shed and a state is reached which is, to use a phrase from the Bhagavad Gita, 'beyond the gunas', i.e. beyond the qualities we associate with the earthly self. It is an arrival at a state of impersonality, if you like. The process of sublimation and the accruing state are described at some length in section II of 'Ash-Wednesday'. Here's a link to the poem: