Archive for the ‘History’ Category

The U.S. Constitutional Experiment


(Cross Examined) – Bob Seidensticker, Lex Lata:

The historical record dispels the notion that the U.S. legal and political infrastructure rose atop a predominantly biblical foundation. Even the modern English vocabulary of law and government has its intellectual and etymological beginnings among the heathens. …

Richard S. Russell:

The likelihood that America is a Christian nation
is directly proportional to the number of occurrences
of the words “Jesus,” “Christ,” “God,” “Bible,” and “Christianity”
in the US Constitution.

crossexamined polytheistic-pedigreeU.S. Constitution

Anglo-American Legal Heritage


(Cross Examined) – Bob Seidensticker, Lex Lata:

Legal scholars and historians of the early Middle Ages discern the nativity of English law in the kingdoms founded by pagan Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Frisians (Anglo-Saxons, for short) who invaded or migrated to Great Britain from what is now Denmark and northern Germany and the Netherlands in the fifth to seventh centuries CE.

The substance of the English legal tradition was formed in the main from a stock of Teutonic customs, with some additions of matter, and considerable additions or modification of form received from the Roman system; and both the Germanic and Romanic elements have been constituted and reinforced at different times and from different sources. …

crossexamined system-of-lawLady Justice on dome of Old Bailey

Rereading Literature and History


(Vridar) – Tim Widowfield:

I stumbled onto Thomas Thompson’s The Mythic Past completely by accident while wandering around a bookstore somewhere in Atlanta.

Thompson asked questions I had never considered. … One simple question — “How do we know?” — began to gnaw at me, the way a steady drip wears away stone. For me, Thompson more than anyone else gave me permission (so to speak) to ask even more dangerous questions. However, it took me longer to get up to speed with Philip R. Davies. (See Neil’s tribute to the late, great scholar here.)

For example, I had started In Search of ‘Ancient Israel’ but never finished it until this past summer.

Davies understood and made it abundantly clear that scholars in biblical studies continually and often quite deliberately blur the lines between literary, social, and historical constructs. He correctly identified “ancient Israel” as a literary construct masquerading as a historical model. …

vridar thoughts-on-philip-r-daviesBooks by Thomas L. Thompson and Philip R. Davies

The Birth of Freethought


(Patheos::Daylight Atheism) – James A. Haught:

The war between science and religion began in Ancient Greece. More than two millennia ago, the Greek peninsula was the first known place where a few intelligent thinkers sought natural explanations for phenomena instead of swallowing supernatural ones. …

daylightatheism birth-of-freethoughtEpicurus

Boudica the Warrior Queen


(Aeon Essays) – Caitlin C. Gillespie:

In the 1st century CE, Boudica, warrior queen of the Iceni people, led an army of 100,000 to victory against the mighty Roman Empire. So complete were Boudica’s triumphs that Rome was in danger of losing control of her province. Riding high on a war chariot, daughters behind her, she led her Britons in a vengeful fight for freedom. But what did freedom mean for an Iron Age queen and her people, and what were its limitations under empire? …

aeon boudicaCaitlin C. Gillespie: Boudica: how a widowed queen became a rebellious woman warrior

Goodreads: Caitlin C. Gillespie: Boudica

Mechanizing Proof


(FTB stderr) – Marcus Ranum:

Donald MacKenzie’s Mechanizing Proof: Computing, Risk, and Trust is a good companion-piece to Olav Lysne’s The Huawei and Snowden Questions; taken together they provide a grim view of computer security, and all of the implications of the software-driven world we are finding ourselves in. When I first read them, last year, I wandered around like Private Hudson in ALIENS, “Game over man! This is some really pretty shit we’re in.” There are three questions regarding software:

  1. Why it is so bad?
  2. Why it is so good?
  3. Given that writing security or reliability-critical software is manifestly harder than writing plain old “just make it work” applications, and plain old software is pretty bad, how can we make security/reliability-critical software good enough to rely on it?

stderr mechanizing-proof

Books by Olav Lysne and Donald Angus MacKenzie

The Plan All Along


(FTB stderr) – Marcus Ranum:

All of this nonsense about a two-state solution has been known to be nonsense since the late 1930s. Enter, emergent conspiracy: I am not saying that there’s a big secret play-book that each successive ultra-conservative Israeli politician gets read into, it’s that that’s the direction Israel has been going all along, and you don’t get to be an Israeli politician if you’re not aligned with that ultimate goal. Which means, to the extent that Israel is a democracy at all, the majority has been pushing in that direction all along. All this hand-wringing about “why can’t we have peace?” can be answered by the Indigenous Peoples who used to own the United States: they got pushed back, pushed back, slaughtered when they stood up, and crushed when they knelt. Either way, slaughter or crushing, there was never any intent to have a “two state solution” in the territory the US occupies, either. There was never a secret book passed down from president to president that has a line-item saying that “our strategy is ethnic cleansing” but it wasn’t necessary: you didn’t get that job unless you were aligned with the general thrust of US politics, which was and always has been ethnic cleansing. Israel’s the same deal. And everyone knew that back when the British were in the middle of fucking up the break-apart of the Ottoman Empire. The British felt that Palestine was a pain in the neck, and the Zionists were getting awfully annoying and it was time for them to step out of the way and let the stronger party win. …

stderr the-plan-all-along

Occupied Palestine

Dating Old Testament Writings


(Vridar) – Neil Godfrey:

I have been posting insights from Russell Gmirkin’s Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible (archived here) in which he argues that both many core and peripheral features of the text of the Hebrew Bible bear closer similarities to Classical Greek writings and practices than to what we find in ancient Mesopotamian and Levantine culture. Gmirkin’s hypothesis is that the authors of the biblical texts shared the wider intellectual ethos of the Hellenistic era with its interest in exploring ideal constitutional and legal systems. The Great Library at Alexandria, Egypt, was a repository of these ideas and resources that Judean scribes were known to access as freely as any other scholar of the day.

Another scholar who has argued for a Hellenistic provenance of the Biblical literature is Niels Peter Lemche, although his proposals have pointed Mesopotamia and Syria as possible centres where Judean scribes were exposed to Greek ideas and writings rather than Egypt. No doubt Judeans were exposed to Greek culture throughout the Middle East but Russell Gmirkin focuses on the Alexandrian library because we know that specific Greek texts (e.g. Plato’s Laws, Aristotle’s Politics) that contain some striking echoes in the Biblical literature were housed there and we further know that Judean scribes worked there.

In this post I thought it worthwhile addressing some of the context to Gmirkin’s book by reference to a chapter by Lemche from 2001, “How Does One Date an Expression of Mental History? The Old Testament and Hellenism” in Did Moses Speak Attic? Jewish Historiography and Scripture in the Hellenistic Period edited by Lester L. Grabbe, pp. 200-224. …

vridar date-the-old

Books by Grabbe, Gmirkin

The 1619 Project


(FTB) – Mano Singham:

The New York Times magazine of Sunday, August 18, 2019 put out a 100-page special issue called The 1619 Project that takes the 400th anniversary of that arrival to look at the deep and wide legacy of slavery in the US, the impact it has had on so many areas of our lives. It shows how many of the ills of the US can be traced back to the racism that sought to make sure that even after slavery was officially abolished, black people were viewed as inferior beings and thus should be and were deliberately deprived of the things that white people felt only they were entitled to. …

There is a lot that I learned from the document and I will discuss a few of the pieces in the days to come but would recommend everyone read the full issue of the magazine that can be found without a subscription here. …

singham the-1619-project

The 1619 Project

James Baldwin


(FTB stderr) – Marcus Ranum:

If you haven’t seen I Am Not Your Negro, yet, I highly recommend it. I’m not a huge fan of Samuel L. Jackson, who I used to think was overrated (and there was that whole Mace Windu thing) but his narration in this documentary is incredible.

I often feel there is nothing I can add to what Howard Zinn says, and that goes doubly so for James Baldwin, so I’ll just leave this lie. …

stderr 2019/08/31 james-baldwin

I Am Not Your Negro, 2016 film