Friday, February 16, 2018

Footnote On The Mornings Post

It's interesting to consider that it was the male children who were subject to infanticide, a common practice all through the Pagan world but more often, than not, inflicted on girls.  This quote is taken from Chapter 1 of The Historical Jesus by John Dominic Crossan, it is so specific that Crossan can date it to June 18, 1 BCE:

Hilarion to his sister Alis many greetings, likewise to my lady Berous and to Apollonarion.  Know that we are even yet in Alexandria.  Do not worry if they all come back (except me) and I remain in Alexandria.  I urge and entreat you, be concerned about the child and if I should receive my wages soon, I will send them up to you.  If by chance you bear a son, if it is a boy, let it be, if it is a girl, cast it out [to die].  You have said to Aphorodiasias,  "Do not forget me."  How can I forget you?  Therefore I urge you not to worry. (Year) 29 of Caesar [Augustus] Panyi 23.  

That was a note found on a sheet of papyrus dug up in Egypt.  You can see from much more than a thousand years after the Exodus narrative, infanticide was routine and ordered in passing in a note.

The Jews were pretty close to unique in not sanctioning routine infanticide for either gender.  I've heard people going on about the non-sacrificing of Isaac and even, among some of the more informed of the uninformed, the story of Jephthah's daughter.  If I've ever heard any of them mention the common, everyday practice of infanticide in the surrounding peoples, especially the routine murder of daughters, except as in the case of such as Darwin and Haeckel who claimed that it had salubrious effects on the ever more superior survivors, it escapes my remembering it.

Crossan's scholarship is wonderfully impressive and insightful, he has had a huge effect on my thinking about Christianity even as I find his conclusions in The Historical Jesus about the teachings of Jesus, his nature and identity and even his history to be unconvincing and, in many ways, beside the point.   I sense that, in some ways, it's a dated kind of scholarship that scrupulously applies methods that reduce the texts of their meaning and in opposition to the understandings and intentions of those who wrote them.  I find his reading of the papyri dug up to be much more sympathetic than his reading of the canonical scriptures.

You could contrast the popular and mid-to high brow intelligentsia's acceptance of that with a critical reading of 19th century biology which was written under a similar if not identical understanding and intention of methods but when you apply that to Darwin and those he cited, his immediate intellectual heirs (and even his actual heirs, his sons, daughters and grandchildren) the howls of protest are something to behold.

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