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The Temple Veil

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  • brooks@asianlan.umass.edu
    To: GPG Cc: Synoptic, Crosstalk, WSW On: The Temple Veil From: Bruce Arthur Waley, in his review of a biography of the Persianist Anquetil-Duperron, notes that
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 14, 2010
      To: GPG
      Cc: Synoptic, Crosstalk, WSW
      On: The Temple Veil
      From: Bruce

      Arthur Waley, in his review of a biography of the Persianist
      Anquetil-Duperron, notes that despite the war then in progress between
      England and France, some civilities still obtained in the world of
      learning. It is 1761. Anquetil is in England, his luggage has been
      impounded, and then comes the order that he and other Frenchmen will
      be repatriated to France. "It seemed as though Anquetil would
      inevitably be forced to go with them, but he was determined not to
      leave England till he had been to Oxford and seen for himself whether
      there were (as had often been stated) Zoroastrian MSS there in ancient
      Persian. In the nick of time a letter from the French King's
      librarian, appealing for Anquetil's release and the restoration of his
      effects, reached Mr Stanley at the Admiralty. What civilized days
      those were! It was in the middle of a war, but Anquetil was at once
      released, told he could go to Oxford if he pleased and could have his
      luggage restored to him . . ."

      Not utterly less civilized were the days through which Waley (who
      wrote this in 1952) had himself just lived. Thus Ernst Lohmeyer, in
      the Foreword to his book Lord of the Temple: "In the winter of the
      year 1939 I was invited by the Theological Faculty of Uppsala to give
      a series of lectures there. I was on active service in Poland when the
      invitation reached me, but in spite of all the difficulties I was
      able, thanks to the helpfulness of the academic, military, and
      diplomatic authorities, to accept the invitation, and to deliver the
      lectures in Uppsala and again in Lund." The lectures were published as
      a book, written out at the request of the Swedes, as Lohmeyer says,
      "in my intervals of leave," and published in 1942.

      The place from which Lohmeyer was briefly released to go to Uppsala
      was not just any old place, it was the place where the European
      version of WW2 was just beginning (the Asian version had been in
      progress since 7 July 1937): the greatest slaughter of men known up to
      that time.


      We [of GPG] were recently discussing the Veil of the Temple, which
      according to Mark was rent at the moment of Jesus's death on the
      cross. Against some other suggestions, including one put forward by
      the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, I had proposed that it meant
      the desacralization of the Temple, and thus the end of the Temple cult.

      Thus Lohmeyer, p52: "Among all these signs of the end of the world one
      predominates: "And the curtain of the Temple was torn in two, from top
      to bottom," or as the Gospel of the Hebrews has it, "the lintel
      carrying the cornerstone of the Temple broke." These two things
      undoubtedly have the same meaning - Jesus' end is also the end of the
      Temple . . . We have reached the end of Mark's Gospel . . ."

      This last is a remarkable statement. It can be read as an affirmation
      that Mark's Gospel effectively ends at Mk 15:38. This of course is
      exactly where Adela Yarbro Collins ends it, in the reconstruction of
      the original Passion Narrative at the end of her recent commentary,
      and it is also exactly where I had ended it, in a reconstruction of
      the entire text completed a year earlier. The core narrative of Mark,
      not only as intuited by Lohmeyer, but also as signaled by the signs of
      interpolation and extension in the text itself, did indeed end with
      that statement. The Book of Mark closed at that point, and the message
      of 15:38 is the last thing that its writer originally had to say about
      the meaning of the life and death of Jesus.

      Lohmeyer returns to this in a later lecture, now a chapter, where he
      notes the evidence of other texts, that Jesus's opposition to the
      sacrificial cult was remembered by the early Christians. He cites
      Burkitt's 1924 book Christian Beginnings (what civilized days those
      were), and goes on to note that legends about Jacob the Lord's Brother
      in Hegesippus also show him substituting prayer for sacrifice, and
      that Acts shows Peter preaching in the Temple precincts precisely at
      the hour of sacrifice, but wholly ignoring the sacrifice which was
      presumably proceeding inside. "We know that the later Nazarenes
      rejected all sacrifices, and in the so-called Gospel of the Ebionites
      we read the apocryphal saying attributed to the Lord and already
      quoted: "I am come to destroy all sacrifice." . . . It seems [we are
      now on p113] that the earliest Christian community - or at least
      sections of it - did reject Jewish cult ordinances as their Master had
      done, and that they did so while still acknowledging the Torah, which
      was after all for Jesus also the way to life."

      And again: "The most profound explanation of the attitude of early
      Christianity is contained in the tradition concerning Jesus' death:
      "And the Curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom [Mk
      15:38], . . . "

      Well, not quite all of them, and indeed, not quite all the Torah. On
      these details there is more to be said. I have said part of it
      elsewhere, and will not repeat it here. But the belief on which
      Lohmeyer here puts his unerring finger is what I have called Alpha
      Christianity: People are saved by their deeds, and by their repentance
      for the less happy of their deeds, not by any sacrifice, including (as
      the Gospel of John would have it, and he gets it by moving the day of
      Jesus's death around, against the perfectly explicit testimony of his
      senior colleague Mark) the death of Jesus himself.

      Needless to say, the theologians of the later Jesus movement - or [in
      Lohmeyer's words] at least some of them - were not content to let it
      rest there. They were too imbued with the weight of other parts of
      Jewish tradition, and they made of Jesus's death itself a sacrifice of
      atonement, not to mention still other and less Jewish symbolic things.
      In Matthew the full Torah is even restored, a body of rules which
      Jesus had taken pains to trim to its ethical half, eliminating the
      ritual piety half (including food rules and Sabbath rules) as later
      and damaging and fraudulent additions. This was not exactly an
      innovation, but it was a revolution. It is this view of Torah which
      distinguishes Jesus from the Matthean idea of him. The early Jesus,
      the Jesus of the Alpha Christians, is something different; something
      with which the Temple cult cannot be reconciled.

      In this understanding of the ways of Heaven and Earth, there would
      still be salvation for Jews, but not through the killing of men or
      animals; rather, along the lines laid down by the later prophets.
      "What doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do justly, to love
      mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8). Or as Mark has
      Jesus saying, the great commandment is to love God, and love thy
      neighbor as thyself. This is the Shema, the simple and fulfillable
      rule of life already familiar to Jews, and radical only when its
      implications are carried out in the Temple precincts. Adds the
      interlocutor approvingly, "You are right, Teacher, you have truly said
      that he is one . . . and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much
      more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices" (Hosea 6:6), Says
      the original Markan Jesus in response: "You are not far from the
      Kingdom of God" (Mk 12:34).


      Thus the Law of Love, as some early Christian documents call it, a law
      which in its turn was capable of being abused, as the Alpha Christian
      teachers of the post-Crucifixion period unwearyingly point out (see
      the Epistle of James, the Epistle of Jude, neither of which has
      anything to do with the reactionary interpretation of Jesus's death).
      It is not an invention of later heretics; it is the original message
      of Jesus.

      Just thought I would mention that.

      THE DAY

      Today is Valentine's Day. It also stands in the current calendar as
      Chinese New Year, but this is true only in the cult sense of the lunar
      cycle, a tradition of misguided sacrifices offered to the moon by the
      various ancient Chinese ruling groups. That is a way of death. The way
      of life, astronomically speaking, is to sow your seed by the sun,
      which alone coordinates with the weather average sufficiently well to
      give you and your children a chance of surviving, by your own efforts
      and the fruitfulness of the soil, beyond the current year. The Mencian
      school, in the invented but thus popular dialogue in MC 1A7, records
      the King of Chi as taking pity on an ox being led to sacrifice, and
      orders it to be released. In answer to the question of the priest, if
      they are then to give up the consecration ceremony (of a bell, no
      more), the King says no, use a sheep instead. True pity would be to
      let all the sacrifices go, and the Chinese ruling class here misses
      one more chance to work out the implications of its better impulses,
      and join the human race.

      The true beginning of the year, meaning the true beginning of spring,
      occurred some days ago, on 5 February. This is not the day when there
      is no more snow (O ye Mid-Atlantic persons of little faith and less
      insight), it is the day when you are first closer to the midpoint of
      spring (the equinox) than you are to the midpoint of winter (the
      solstice). Swedish persons - not just those of Uppsala and Lund, but
      all of them - are very clear about the middle of summer; it is a
      festival with them, and little wonder. All they and anyone else need
      to do is to extrapolate to the rest of the year, and the calendar
      holds no more mysteries, or at any rate, no more fatal mysteries, and
      all future mistakes are benign.

      Heaven and Earth are not kind (DDJ 5); they treat the people as straw
      dogs (sacrificial simulacra), but at least they do so on a regular
      basis - regular by the sun. That kind of unkindness one can, on
      average, and with a little effort at sowing and reaping, work around.

      Best wishes of the day, and the season, to all the group. May
      fruitfulness attend your work.


      [E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst]
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