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Early Wisdom Note

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic On: Early Wisdom From: Bruce The question of whether certain little marks in the St Mark s Monastery Isaiah Scroll, 1QIsa(a), are or are not
    Message 1 of 7 , Nov 5, 2006
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      To: Synoptic
      On: Early Wisdom
      From: Bruce

      The question of whether certain little marks in the St Mark's Monastery
      Isaiah Scroll, 1QIsa(a), are or are not derivative from Chinese characters
      has surfaced yet again on another E-list. I am on record as saying, some
      years ago, that they look rather like it, allowing for unlettered copying of
      a perhaps already none too clear original. I can without great difficulty
      see some Mediterranean trader sitting down in a tavern at day's end and
      saying to his counterpart, perhaps a Chinese experienced trader, You been
      there, huh? And he says, Well, I know some, from up the line a bit. And the
      first guy asks, They got a funny language, I hear. And the other guy says,
      Yeah, little pictures instead of words. I know a couple of them; fella I
      know showed me. And the first guy says, all quiet like, Really? What is
      their picture for "God." And the other guy pulls over a cocktail napkin and
      says, Well, it goes sort of like this. And the first guy folds up the
      napkin, and takes it home, and it knocks around the house, and eventually
      his cousin the scribe thinks of using that picture as a sort of smiley face
      icon in the edge of his manuscript, at certain key spots.

      Or else not. But the question has interesting implications beyond the
      margins of that one scroll, and I thought that Synoptic persons might like
      to consider them. Here then, transcribed from a response to the original
      expression of doubt, is my reply to that expression of doubt.

      -----------REPEATED RESPONSE---------

      One way to test [the possibility of iconic Chinese in the Isaiah margins]
      would be to see where the suspected characters occur in terms of the Isaiah
      text, and whether they made cabalistic sense there or not. I haven't been
      able to examine the manuscript with that in mind; perhaps someone closer up,
      preferably someone who knows some Hebrew, can lend a hand.

      By itself, the probabilities would doubtless be in favor of a purely Hebrew
      solution. But I am not sure that the case should properly be considered by
      itself. There is a certain sprinkling of word and idea phenomena in the
      Mediterranean world, just about this time (shall we say, late 01c to early
      1c), all of which are curiously evocative to someone familiar with the
      socially lower edge of a slightly earlier Chinese culture. Among items which
      have been noticed over the past century are Tobit 4:15, Hillel's one-legged
      maxim, the Sermon on the Mount (Gospel of Matthew), some odd things in
      Horace (integer vitae), and what have you.

      I notice several things about these little details: (1) they are gnomic,
      they occur as bites and not as consecutive wisdom; that in fact is the whole
      point of Hillel's teaching of the Torah while the pupil stands on one foot,
      is it not? Subitism in place of slow erudition. (2) they are Godless; that
      is, they are human maxims, they are not about avoiding the wrath of the
      spirits, but about getting along in the himan world, and (3) within the
      human world, they are lateral rather than authoritative or differential.
      They teach, not respect and subordination, but the recognition of mutually
      symmetrical claims on consideration. They are, I would suggest, the ethical
      counterpart of the business deal - each side gets something that they want,
      nobody benefits at the expense or harm of the other, and the parties can
      honorably shake hands at the end of the afternoon. You want to be rich? OK,
      help the other guy to get rich also. A deal is a deal. And you want to be
      able to come back, next week or next year, and make another one, right? So
      you leave things nice.

      Also, and to me very suggestive, (4) they turn up near an entrepot. The
      Tobit story involves a journey to such an entrepot. Hillel was not for
      nothing nicknamed "The Babylonian," his learning was partly exotic in
      origin. Nor is it for nothing that Matthew, among its peers, is called the
      "Orientalizing Gospel." As for Horace, we may remember his following the
      news of the Scythians in the papers, and chiding his girlfriend of the
      moment, Leoconoe, to forget about the Babylonian astrology column in the
      same papers. Persicos odi. What I suspect is that we are here seeing little
      momentarily visible flecks, on the surface of the scanty record, of a
      subelite culture carried by trade, and shaped by trade: the commonwealth of
      those engaged in trade, and relying at every minute of their existence away
      from home on an established and constantly maintained context of mutuality,
      of symmetrical acceptance, of what the Colonies used to call "full faith and
      credit." The wisdom bites are the sententiae of full faith and credit.

      If we check back on the versions of these tidbits that turn up in the
      earlier Chinese record, what do we find? The same anomaly, the same lack of
      real fit in elite context. The Golden Rule is not approved by the Analects
      crowd on its first appearance, and on its second appearance, it turns up in
      company with some recognizably Mician sayings. Who are the Micians? They are
      the only recorded sub-elite group in that end of the world: they held some
      obvious folk beliefs and superstitions (eg, avenging ghosts), and they were
      probably closely connected with the business world of the day: the rich
      householders, the travelers between cities. The sayings in question have
      that same interpersonal symmetry, but just for that reason they are
      violently out of tune with most of the rest of what goes on in the elite
      texts in which they sometimes (briefly) turn up, which are predominantly
      subordinative and authoritarian in tone.

      The Micians, so to speak, play Hillel to the Confucians' Shammai.

      So at both ends, at least as far as I can see, these little wisdom bits are
      at home in a special egalitarian stratum of culture, closely associated with
      and shaped by the needs of long-distance trade, and therefore highly likely
      to be propagated by long-distance trade. It is no secret that by the time in
      question, Chinese silk was of economic consequence at Rome. If we work out
      the physical and fiscal consequences of that, back along the known or likely
      major trade and shipping routes, we will see (as I think) why the word
      "Babylonia" keeps turning up.

      As for the early Christians, what sort of Jews were they? Not very learned
      ones, of that you may be sure. On his one try, Jesus even gets the Ten
      Commandments a little bit wrong. (Of course later tradition makes him
      smarter than the rabbis, a Torah prodigy, but, well, you know later
      traditions; they do the same with poor hardscrabble Confucius). This however
      we can say of the early Christians: in their rough fishermen's way they knew
      the commercial lingua franca of the time (Greek, in which all the early
      Christian texts seem to have been written); they were sitting on an export
      resource and some of the disciples were going partners in exploiting it
      (dried fish was a big trade item, outward from Galilee); and another of the
      first disciples was a collector of trade tolls on the highway that ran not
      too far from the fishing piers of the Galilee shore.

      What I seem to see here is a kind of subelite soundbite wisdom, expressing a
      laterality ethic independent of any local gods, tailored to the needs of
      traders, and propagating itself by contact or secondary contact with those
      engaged in trade, whether supply (Peter and Andrew) or resale (the marts of
      Babylon). And being slightly subversive of established hierarchies at both
      ends of its ambitus: if anybody wants to read some really heartfelt
      denunciations, I can recommend the Mician tracts, or rather tirades, against
      the uneconomic Confucians with their socially wasteful ceremonials and their
      ridiculous and unprofitable text-learning. Mark was never more eloquent
      against the overelaborated purity rituals of the orthodox of his own area.

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    • goranson@duke.edu
      ... There is a certain sprinkling of word and idea phenomena in the ... The Toronto Star 4 Nov 2006 article by Neil Altman, though, states: In later scholarly
      Message 2 of 7 , Nov 6, 2006
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        Quoting E Bruce Brooks <brooks@...>:

        > To: Synoptic
        > On: Early Wisdom
        > From: Bruce
        >
        > The question of whether certain little marks in the St Mark's Monastery
        > Isaiah Scroll, 1QIsa(a), are or are not derivative from Chinese characters
        > has surfaced yet again on another E-list. I am on record as saying, some
        > years ago, that they look rather like it, allowing for unlettered copying of
        > a perhaps already none too clear original. [...big snip]
        There is a certain sprinkling of word and idea phenomena in the
        > Mediterranean world, just about this time (shall we say, late 01c to early
        > 1c), all of which are curiously evocative to someone familiar with the
        > socially lower edge of a slightly earlier Chinese culture. [...big snip]

        The Toronto Star 4 Nov 2006 article by Neil Altman, though, states:
        "In later scholarly reports, Bruce Brooks, research professor of Chinese and
        director of an international group of sinologists at the University of
        Massachusetts at Amherst, confirmed Mair's findings and other possible Chinese
        characters on some of the Dead Sea Scrolls." And Mair's findings, according to
        the article, date the text later than "late 01c to early 1c." Neil Altman
        claims that the Isaiah scroll--widely, and I think properly, accepted
        as dating
        to the second temple period--is medieval.

        best,
        Stephen Goranson
        http://www.duke.edu/~goranson
      • Joseph Weaks
        I don t have all the names down, and I m sure someone else s camera did a better job, but here s my photo of the E-listers gathering at SBL in Washington, D.C.
        Message 3 of 7 , Nov 26, 2006
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          I don't have all the names down, and I'm sure someone else's camera
          did a better job, but here's my photo of the E-listers gathering at
          SBL in Washington, D.C.

          http://www.flickr.com/photos/weaks/307202319/in/set-72157594393574329/


          --------------------------------
          Rev. Joseph A. Weaks
          Minister, Raytown Christian Church, Raytown, MO
          Ph.D. Cand., Brite Divinity School
          TCU, Ft. Worth, TX

          The Macintosh Biblioblog http://macbiblioblog.blogspot.com
          "All things Macintosh for the Bible Scholar"
        • Stephen C. Carlson
          ... Joe, Thanks for that. To fill in some of the missing names, I believe the following people are represented: Front Row, Left to Right: Frank Jacks, Gordon
          Message 4 of 7 , Nov 27, 2006
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            At 08:58 PM 11/26/2006 -0600, Joseph Weaks wrote:
            >I don't have all the names down, and I'm sure someone else's camera
            >did a better job, but here's my photo of the E-listers gathering at
            >SBL in Washington, D.C.
            >
            >http://www.flickr.com/photos/weaks/307202319/in/set-72157594393574329/

            Joe,

            Thanks for that. To fill in some of the missing names, I believe the
            following people are represented:

            Front Row, Left to Right: Frank Jacks, Gordon Raynal, Jeffrey Gibson, Stephen Carlson, Jacob Knee

            Middle Row, Left to Right: Jim Davila and ???

            Back Row, Left to Right: ???, Julian Jensen, Steve Black, Ken Olson (partial), Joe Weaks, Gail Dawson, and George Kiraz

            Somebody please help us out on the two missing names.

            Stephen Carlson
            --
            Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
            Weblog: http://www.hypotyposeis.org/weblog/
            Author of: The Gospel Hoax, http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1932792481
          • Jeffrey B. Gibson
            ... Bill Skelton Yours, Jeffrey -- Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon) 1500 W. Pratt Blvd. Chicago, Illinois e-mail jgibson000@comcast.net
            Message 5 of 7 , Nov 27, 2006
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              "Stephen C. Carlson" wrote:

              >
              > Thanks for that. To fill in some of the missing names, I believe the
              > following people are represented:
              >
              > Front Row, Left to Right: Frank Jacks, Gordon Raynal, Jeffrey Gibson, Stephen Carlson, Jacob Knee
              >
              > Middle Row, Left to Right: Jim Davila and ???

              Bill Skelton

              Yours,

              Jeffrey
              --
              Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
              1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
              Chicago, Illinois
              e-mail jgibson000@...
            • Jeffrey B. Gibson
              ... I think this is Stan Gundry, Senior Vice President and Editor-in-Chief at Zondervan Press. Or is he me, just as you are? Jeffrey -- Jeffrey B. Gibson,
              Message 6 of 7 , Nov 27, 2006
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                "Stephen C. Carlson" wrote:

                > Back Row, Left to Right: ???,

                I think this is Stan Gundry, Senior Vice President and Editor-in-Chief at Zondervan Press.

                Or is he me, just as you are?

                Jeffrey
                --
                Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
                1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
                Chicago, Illinois
                e-mail jgibson000@...
              • Weaks, Joe
                Thanks, I made the corrections. Joe Weaks ... From: Synoptic@yahoogroups.com on behalf of Jeffrey B. Gibson Sent: Mon 11/27/2006 8:47 AM To: Stephen C. Carlson
                Message 7 of 7 , Nov 27, 2006
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                  Thanks, I made the corrections.
                  Joe Weaks


                  -----Original Message-----
                  From: Synoptic@yahoogroups.com on behalf of Jeffrey B. Gibson
                  Sent: Mon 11/27/2006 8:47 AM
                  To: Stephen C. Carlson
                  Cc: Weaks, Joe; Synoptic
                  Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] E-Lister's Photo from SBL 2006



                  "Stephen C. Carlson" wrote:

                  > Back Row, Left to Right: ???,

                  I think this is Stan Gundry, Senior Vice President and Editor-in-Chief at Zondervan Press.

                  Or is he me, just as you are?

                  Jeffrey
                  --
                  Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
                  1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
                  Chicago, Illinois
                  e-mail jgibson000@...




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