The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #74: JEPD

General Introduction
– What song is in David’s heart?
– Good Monday
– When does Spring Break start?
– Listener feedback

Moses in the Desert
– God’s three names
– What tense is God’s I in?
– Self-definition, inscrutability
– Ground of being
– The past and the future
– The Tetragram
– Jewish humor and the Hebrew Bible

The Historical-Critical Method
– Starting with close reading
– Classical philology
– The witness of the Divine Name
– Wellhausen’s conscience
– Our exposure to JEPD

The Conservative Reaction
– The global scope of The Fundamentals
– Mocking Canadians
– How fair is The Fundamentals?
– What offends Fundamentalists?
– Why R.A. Torrey is not a hillbilly

The Liberal Approach
– How Higher Criticism conceives of freedom
– Anti-authority
– Uber-Protestantism
Sapere Aude!

JEPD and the Middle Ages
– Grubbs can find nothing
– Was Spinoza the first?
– A brief history of the names of God in Medieval theology

The Liberal Mono-Voice
– Other Guilty Parties
– Poisoning the Well
– Ehrman’s logical leaps
– Why historicity and argument matter
– The Club on the Straw Man

Our Advice
– David Grubbs talks Beowulf
– What does inspiration mean?
– A reasonable disagreement
– Rethinking the method of transmission
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Friedman, Richard Elliott. Who Wrote the Bible? New York: HarperOne, 1987.

Kant, Immanuel. An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment? New York: Penguin, 2010.

McDowell, Josh. More Evidence That Demands a Verdict. New York: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1975.

Torrey, R.A. and A.C. Dixon. The Fundamentals. Ada, MI: Revell, 1994. 4 volumes.

Weaver, Richard. Language Is Sermonic. Baton Rouge: Lousiana State UP, 1985.

Wellhausen, Julius. Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel. Seattle: Bibliolife, 2009.

7 thoughts on “The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #74: JEPD

  1. Hello. I believe someone stated in this episode that in the time Exodus was written, puns were not necessarily supposed to be humorous. Aristotle links puns with rhetoric, but they do continue to be funny. Is there a source you can point me to to show that they weren’t always meant as, at least in part, a joke?

  2. Good question, Jonas. I think that my own lack of clarity here (I really don’t have a good answer) has to do with overlapping fields of function. In other words, since I tend to think of puns as exclusively jokes, and since calling a phenomenon a joke, at least in my imagination, severely diminishes other functions, I have a hard time imagining things that are “in part” jokes. I’ll have to go back to Aristotle’s rhetoric (my copy is in my office, and I’m home for the weekend) to see whether he links the topical power of a pun to its humor.

  3. “Pun” certainly does have connotations of humor currently and historically; however, the ancients and medievals would also employ “word play” that looks (to us) like puns, as a legitimate tool for linguistic investigation (among other things), but without humorous connotations. Unfortunately, I don’t have a convenient word to designate a pun-without-humor. (Though some might say that’s all of them. Zing!)

    The instance I alluded to in the episode (but did not unpack) was Isidore of Seville’s _Etymologies_. Isidore will frequently use morphological similarities between words, often between languages, to create a “lexical link,” which then permits him to explain one word in terms of the other. An example: Greek “theos” (god) is similar to Greek “phobos” (fear), so that means a god is “one who should be feared.” Again, this is common: Isidore isn’t unique.

    (Also, it’s not really a terrible method: modern etymology and philology does the same sort of thing, but with better awareness of “family” relationships of languages and the ways definitions shift with time.)

    Isidore is helpful in thinking about this practice, though, because he does it methodically and openly. However, these sorts of “etymologies” could become common knowledge, and therefore the basis for more allusive usage. Based on the “etymology” cited above, a medieval theologian or preacher might say, “Jesus is God (theos), therefore we should fear (phobos) Him.” In some cases, this allusive usage can sound like punning for humor, when it’s actually trying for a more serious effect.

    An example of this is the (relatively) familiar passage from Bede’s _History_, in which Gregory the Great uses “word-play” to announce (prophecy?) the Roman mission to the Anglo-Saxons of Britain:

    … Nor is the account of St. Gregory, which has been handed down to us by the tradition of our ancestors, to be passed by in silence, in relation to his motives for taking such interest in the salvation of our nation. It is reported, that some merchants, having just arrived at Rome on a certain day, exposed many things for sale in the marketplace, and abundance of people resorted thither to buy: Gregory himself went with the rest, and, among other things, some boys were set to sale, their bodies white, their countenances beautiful, and their hair very fine. Having viewed them, he asked, as is said, from what country or nation they were brought? and was told, from the island of Britain, whose inhabitants were of such personal appearance. He again inquired whether those islanders were Christians, or still involved in the errors of paganism? and was informed that they were pagans. Then fetching a deep sigh from the bottom of his heart, “Alas! what pity,” said he, “that the author of darkness is possessed of men of such fair countenances; and that being remarkable for such graceful aspects, their minds should be void of inward grace.” He therefore again asked, what was the name of that nation? and was answered, that they were called Angles. “Right,” said he, for they have an Angelic face, and it becomes such to be co-heirs with the Angels in heaven. What is the name,” proceeded he, “of the province from which they are brought?” It was replied, that the natives of that province were called Deiri. “Truly are they De ira,” said he, “withdrawn from wrath, and called to the mercy of Christ. How is the king of that province called?” They told him his name was Ælla: and he, alluding to the name, said, “Hallelujah, the praise of God the Creator must be sung in those parts.” (Book 2)

    To modern ears, this can sound a bit corny, but I don’t think the Gregory in this story is trying to be funny. The audience is meant to appreciate the cleverness of his quadrilingual punning (English, Greek, Latin, and Hebrew), of course; but Gregory is also implicitly claiming that a Christian future (company with angels, deliverance from divine wrath, and worship of the true Creator) is embedded in the very names associated with the English people as a sort of etymological destiny — by DEFINITION, the English will be Christian. The audience is meant to see in Gregory, not a comedian, but an enlightened exegete of the inner significance of words, drawing spirit from letter.

  4. Thank you both for your responses. My question was prompted out of curiosity about Leviticus. In reading Mary Dougas’s Leviticus as Literature, I realized that this ancient text had more puns than a play by Shakespeare. The puns made me like Leviticus more, but I still thought it was a bit strange. So the idea of a pun without humor, and its possibilities in that text, intrigues me.

  5. “Josh McDowell”?! Geez, Louise: everytime I tell myself I’m done with eavesdropping on you Poindexters, you mutter something that brings me back to the neighboring table. (BTW, I listen to your podcast while housecleaning.)

    1. Wow. Revenge of the Nerds reference. Anyway, I don’t even remember when and why McDowell came up in that episode, but I did enjoy recording it. And I’m glad you came back to the neighboring table.

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