- To: CGC
[I am intentionally leaving this lying around where some NT folks may see
it, but I here address my fellow Sinologists, all dozen or so of them. /
Microspecialization proceeds apace, and comparative historical understanding
withers at about the same pace; call it bpace. Close readers of the American
Historical Review will find at p933 of v110 #3 (June 2005) a proposal from
myself for a cheap and easily implemented top-down initiative (already in
place, by the way, in the Journal of Military History, and functioning very
nicely, thank you) which might go some distance toward creating or restoring
communication among people commanding different piles of historical data.
They will also find a piece of blither from a high AHA official, indicating
that nothing of the sort will ever be done along those lines. My own mail
from that letter, institutional and individual, has been zero. So much for
There remains bottom up. For instance, a table in a corner of the faculty
club (multiplied nine hundred times), or in some seminar room, dependably
disused of a Friday, where people from different corners of incipient
historical understanding might get the habit of sitting down to swap . . .
well, to swap whatever.
For no special reason, not minding my own business and thus censurably, I
was reading along recently in Christopher A Rollston (ed), The Gospels
According to Michael Goulder (Trinity 2002). At p92 or so I found myself in
the midst of what is seemingly an intractable problem in the Acts of the
Apostles (Acts 2:5), apparently a list of the nations of the world, thus:
"In 1948 Stefan Weinstock proposed another possible source for the list of
nations. Building on earlier work published by Franz Cumont and unpublished
notes by F C Burkitt, Weinstock argued that the locations mentioned in Acts
derive from astrological geography in which each sign of the zodiac was
thought to influence or control a certain geographical region. One of the
simplest and arguably earliest examples of this tradition comes from the
astrologer Paul of Alexandria, whose list reads as follows:"
"Ares . . . . Persia
Taurus . . . Babylonia
Gemini . . . Cappadocia
Cancer . . . Armenia
. . . ."
"Obviously what attracted Weinstock's eye were the numerous sites -
Persia/Parthia, Cappadocia, Asia, Egypt, Libya, Cyrene, Crete - shared by
this list and the list in Acts. According to Weinstock, both lists were
meant to convey an idea of "the whole world." Although Paul of Alexandria
wrote in the fourth century CE, long after Acts . . ."
And there, apparently, the matter rests. As far as the NT world, some
thousands rather than, as with Sinology, some dozens strong, has been
concerned. But had some such thought had been tossed out at the table
abovementioned, some not terribly snowy Friday afternoon, at any time in the
intervening 57 years, the Sinology guy over there by the window, nursing his
last Sam Adams of the day, might have responded something like this:
SINOLOGY GUY: Oh, yeah, sure; we have that too. A list of twelve
astral/terrestrial correlations. Associated with the astrological geographer
Dzou Yen, from Chi, whose career is from the late 04th to early 03rd
centuries; he finally wound up in Yen, to the north of Chi. His works if any
are lost, and the early quotations (none earlier than the middle 03c)
probably simplify a complex situation, so that the list may be wrongly
associated with him, but whoever devised it, the standard system of Chinese
astral/terrestrial associations cannot be later than 0286, since Sung, which
figures in that system, was destroyed in the following year. It probably
goes back to the terrestrial interpretation of astral omens in earlier
centuries, hard to say exactly how far, in that definite a form. Another
thing rightly or wrongly associated with Dzou Yen, but probably dating from
more or less that same period, is a grid, not square but rectangular, as I
recall (n)(n+1) where n=3, of all the nations of the earth, in which China,
rather surprisingly, occupies a peripheral position.
NT GUY: What occupies the central position?
SINOLOGY GUY: India.
NT GUY [thinking perhaps of the Thomas Christians]: Oh.
Enough, already, for something which is not happening, and which is not
going to happen. I have a lot to do, like everybody else. More than enough
to occupy my keyboard skills for as long as I am like to have them. I
dismiss it from mind herewith. But all the same, in the eyes of that ever to
be dreaded observer from Mars, what fools and farceurs, what toads and
triflers, we must all appear!
[E Bruce Brooks,
Warring States Project,
University of Massachusetts at Amherst]