Monday, January 31, 2011

Obesiance to Lord Xerox

Today’s apostate is named “Dawn” and her comment is:

My "other" is that I started researching the origins of the stories of the Bible and found they came from bastardized versions of older religions. If a rapper borrows another artist's lyrics, it's called sampling and looked down upon. If stories are borrowed it's called the Bible.

Um, hold on a sec -- in the time of the Bible, such borrowing wasn’t looked down upon, and that’s precisely where Dawn goes marvelously and astoundingly wrong.

As I have noted in several contexts: Malina and Rohrbaugh in their Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels specifically discuss the example of Mary’s ‘Magnificat’ prayer as they explain:
To be able to quote the [Old Testament] tradition from memory, to apply it in creative or appropriate ways to the situation of daily living, not only brings honor to the speaker but lends authority to his words as well. The song of Zechariah, the so-called Benedictus, in Luke 1:68–79 is an example. It is stitched together from phrases of Psalms 41, 111, 132, 105, 106, and Micah 7. The ability to create such a mosaic implied extensive, detailed knowledge of the tradition and brought great honor to the speaker able to pull it off.

Of course, one reason rappers don’t consider this sort of thing honorable is because the guy who does the “sampling” is making money from the process. The Biblical writers weren’t. The financial aspect presumes a modern notion of intellectual property rights which didn’t adhere in the ancient world, especially when it came to religious texts (since the “owner” was God anyway, not the prophet!).
In other instances, borrowing was done as a form of one-upsmanship. The classic example I use is from my article on Mithra:

Mithraic scholars, you see, do not hold a candle for the thesis that Christianity borrowed anything philosophically from Mithraism, and they do not see any evidence of such borrowing, with one major exception: "The only domain in which we can ascertain in detail the extent to which Christianity imitated Mithraism is that of art." [MS.508n]

We are talking here not of apostolic Christianity, note well, but of Christianity in the third and fourth centuries, which, in an effort to prove that their faith was the superior one, embarked on an advertising campaign reminiscent of our soft drink wars. Mithra was depicted slaying the bull while riding its back; the church did a lookalike scene with Samson killing a lion. Mithra sent arrows into a rock to bring forth water; the church changed that into Moses getting water from the rock at Horeb. (Hmm, did the Jews copy that one?)

Think of how popular Pokemon is, and then think of the church as the one doing the Digimon ripoff -- although one can't really bellow about borrowing in this case, for this happened in an age when art usually was imitative -- it was a sort of one-upsmanship designed as a competition, and the church was not the only one doing it. Furthermore, it didn't involve an exchange or theft of ideology.

I can’t say much more than this without Dawn giving out specifics. But it speaks badly enough of her awareness that this was the sort of thing that started her down Apostasy Road. It’s one of the most ignorant, gullible and pathetic reasons to have doubts – and that’s putting it nicely.

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