Monday, November 18, 2019

In Memory

As I was searching for an appropriate musical piece to commemorate the memory of the 1989 massacre of Jesuits in El Salvador (like We Shall Overcome), I finally landed upon Bruce Springsteen's rendition of Bob Dylan's "Chimes of Freedom Flashing" sung at a concert in East Germany in 1988 (one year before the fall of the Berlin Wall). An estimated 200,000 - 300,000 East Berliners were in attendance and there were 165 curtain calls for the entire concert - highlighting these phrases in the words of the song which follow:

Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed

Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an’ forsaked

Tolling for the outcast, burnin’ constantly at stake

Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail

Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight

For the disrobed faceless forms of no position

Far between sundown’s finish an’ midnight’s broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An’ for each an’ ev’ry underdog soldier in the night
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

In the city’s melted furnace, unexpectedly we watched
With faces hidden while the walls were tightening
As the echo of the wedding bells before the blowin’ rain
Dissolved into the bells of the lightning
Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an’ forsaked
Tolling for the outcast, burnin’ constantly at stake
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder
That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze
Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder
Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind
Striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind
An’ the unpawned painter behind beyond his rightful time
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts
All down in taken-for-granted situations
Tolling for the deaf an’ blind, tolling for the mute
Tolling for the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chased an’ cheated by pursuit
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Even though a cloud’s white curtain in a far-off corner flashed
An’ the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting
Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
An’ for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Starry-eyed an’ laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an’ we watched with one last look
Spellbound an’ swallowed ’til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an’ worse
An’ for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Well, the Muses are at it again . . .

. . . as you can tell from the early hour of this (attempt at a “stream of consciousness”) entry . . . and, this, after sitting in the comfortable chair in the living room and looking out the floor to ceiling (the ceiling is one of those cathedral 22 footers) windows on the rain-washed (yes, quite a bit of rain lately [the folks from Iowa are saying that this is the rainiest it's been since the weather bureau began keeping records there in 1875 {probably one of the “climate change” cycles . . . (yes, but which one you ask? [the subject for another blog, I suppose])}]) attempt at a garden (and, so, why am I [suddenly] reminded of Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire's “Candide”? [Voltaire vs Leibnitz {Master Pangloss' “metaphysico-theologo-cosmolonigology” - to catch Voltaire's “drift” (if you get my meaning [you just have to love that Voltaire])}] on "Optimism" {Cela est bien dit, mias il faut cultiver notre jardinad infinitum . . .} not to mention John Milton and Alexander Pope]) for about one hour (after awakening at around 1:30 AM 'til around 2:30 AM . . . ).  And, then the approximately one-half hour "setup" (which is what I would like to describe to you) to get online to this blog . . . .

So, gathering the computer bag (with items from yesterday's work [printing labels and stuffing, closing, labeling, and stamping some 90+ envelopes for a Bible school Anniversary Reunion {100th year since the founding, etc.}]) and assorted items which were left on the desk (because two big [and heavy] to carry on the bus [the 8 TB backup HDD, for example]) from the lower level, and heading back upstairs to the desk in the upper level bedroom (where it is a little warmer [hot air rises and the air conditioning seems to favor the lower level {cooler air sinks}]) . . . just the mass of it all is, rather, . . . unnerving . . . .

And, all of the wires, coiling like serpentine snakes from the 7-socket Belkin surge protector (the "Python" of the group) . . . .  First, plugging in the 8 TB HDD (and attaching the 120 GB [SSD] and 60 GB [HDD] [from previous computers {which have either “bitten the dust” (“[God] told the Man:  “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from, ‘Don't eat from this tree’, the very ground is cursed because of you; getting food from the ground will be as painful as having babies is for your wife; you'll be working in pain all your life long.  The ground will sprout thorns and weeds, you'll get your food the hard way, planting and tilling and harvesting, sweating in the fields from dawn to dusk, until you return to that ground yourself, dead and buried; you started out as dirt, you'll end up dirt . . . .” Genesis 3:19 [ or been upgraded to SSDs . . . }] to it . . . ).

Next, a USB extender (as there are only three USB ports on this laptop [one of which is reserved for the USB “mouse” ‐ I often run out of room on the desktop {having 6 USB ports}]) to which I have, just now, plugged in two 2 GB PNY USB “sticks” - it's alphabet soup on the file explorer.

And, finally, the power source for the laptop (which utilizes the other plugin on the electrical wall socket closest to the desk [and, therefore, this - let it be said - “Rube Goldberg Machine”]).

And, so, this part of my day begins . . . .

But, having written all of this (and read the pdf version of William F. Bottiglia's Voltaire's Candide:  Analysis of a Classic (amongst other works [IN RE: Voltaire]), I now return to the “land of Nod” and leave you (upon awakening for the second time and completing the editing) with OK Go's “This Too Shall Pass.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Another "Headbangers Ball" . . . Me[n]tal Mayhem?

Wow, the Trumpenfüher's most recent Tweet storm is - like - raising the dead . . . .

So, how does one trace the "shadowy" figure of Stefan Halper?

Should we begin with Leslie H. Gelb's, July 7, 1983 article Reagan Aides Describe Operation to Gather Inside Data on Carter in the New York Times?

Or, the more recent exposés in the New York Times (NYT - F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims) and Washington Post (WaPo - Secret FBI source for Russian investigation met with three Trump advisers during campaign - turn off your ad blocker)?

Glenn Greenwald in a follow-up story in The Intercept to the NYT and WaPo "revelations" suggests (as if we didn't already know it) that something is fishy in D. C. - see story (and read the comments) here.

And, for even more information (in other words, "follow the money"), read Tyler Durden's story (and the comments) on ZeroHedge - also here.

Now, tell me whether or not your experience was a little like mine, in that the only thing I could think of after kludging through the readings and comments was a picture of a young mother hanging out of the broken window of a Southwest jet going 500 MPH - a real "headbanger" to be certain . . . .

More and more often now I have the feeling that Pontius Pilate had the right question - "What is truth?"

As always, ENJOY!  And, feel free to comment . . .

Saturday, May 19, 2018

"Give and Take" for the "average American"

I took the opportunity awhile ago to post a reply on The Daily Kos and received some interesting feedback to which I also responded.

It's all copied below, but my question is ‐ Would an average American understand the “give and take”?

Please feel free to comment . . . .

As we continue our journey on the way to peace, we place ourselves at a psychological disadvantage with the use of the word “protest” because it has been tainted by what President Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex.

More simple, and to the point, is the meaning of the word “protest”:  “to testify for” (infinitive) “testifying for” (gerund).  Simply ‐ the white supremacists are testifying for the supremacy of the white race (a position which was previously tested and found wanting during World War II) and in the United States such advocates will constantly be up against those continuing the “experiment” by testifying for the equality of all persons as specified in the Fourteenth Amendment to the U S Constitution.

We face a similar situation in the United States with the continued use of the word “first-strike” (in conjunction with nuclear weaponry).  There's only one nation on earth that has gone insane and actually used a nuclear weapon ‐ twice, in fact.  And, in this day and age, it looks as though a “third-strike” from the United States means that we are all out . . . .

Today while the entire U. S. society is crumbling around an archaic CIA-congressional-corporate-educational-FBI-financial-industrial-presstitute-media-medical-military-NSA-police-political-prison-Secret-Service-terrorism-expert complex (or “hero-system”), unrelated to the needs and challenges of contemporary life, we see an apparent incapability and / or lack of imagination in our people to reconstruct the society around goals of peace and social justice.  More importantly, the margin that nature has been giving to our cultural fantasy is suddenly being narrowed down drastically with the consequences that for the first time in history we, if we are to survive, have to bring down to zero the large fictional element in our hero-systems.

As Sam Keen wrote in his instructive introduction to the most recent edition of Ernest Becker's The Denial of Death:  Human Character as the Vital Lie (1997):  “[S]ome individuals are awakening from the long, dark night of tribalism, and nationalism and developing what Tillich called a transmoral conscience, an ethic that is universal rather than ethnic.  Our task for the future is exploring what it means for each individual to be a member of earth's household, a commonwealth of kindred beings.  Whether we will use our freedom to encapsulate ourselves in narrow, tribal, paranoid personalities and create more bloody Utopias or to form compassionate communities of the abandoned (cf. Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison) is still to be decided.  So long as human beings possess a measure of freedom, all hopes for the future must be stated in the subjunctive ‐ we may, we might, we could.  No prediction by any expert can tell us whether we will prosper or perish.  We may choose to increase or decrease the dominion of evil.  The script for tomorrow is not yet written.”

So, we are faced with “good” and “evil.”  And, I would suggest that we testify for “good,” so that we and our children may live.

Here is Tess' response:

What??????  What are you talking about????  I don't think the average American would think that what you've said here should prevent them from protesting - yes, protesting - when their democracy fails them.  I am proud to protest things that are patently unfair and harm others.

To which I responded:

Almost 50% of average Americans get livid at the words “protest,” and “protesters” because of its long history of negative connotation.

All I'm saying is change the word to a positive connotation that will carry that 50% away from the dark side feelings and ideas associated with that long history of negative connotation.

For example, when interviewed, and the interviewer attempts to put you in their frame of reference utilizing the word “protest” or words associated with “protest” ‐ “protesting,” “protester,” etc., say something to the effect of “This is not a ‘protest,’ we are testifying for . . . .” “I'm not protesting, I'm testifying for . . . .”

The “white supremacist” example is really a good one in that the people testifying for “white supremacy” are placed in a less powerful position (being associated, after all, with the National Socialist German Worker's Party [Nationalsozialismus] of the 1920s ‐ 1940s) and the feelings and ideas associated with the long history of negative connotation to the word “Nazi”!

Meanwhile, the people continuing the “Great American Experiment” (see, Alexis de Tocqueville’s, Democracy in America [two volumes — 1862 CE]) by testifying for the equality of all persons included in “We, the people . . .” (Declaration of Independence) and the U. S. Constitution (especially Article XIV) can bask in the long history of the positive connotations of those documents (and their impact on governments around the world).

A more recent example, when speaking to a representative of the CIA, would be the dialogue between Donovan and Hoffman around the “rule book” meme in the movie “Bridge of Spies:”


Ok, well listen, I understand attorney-client privilege.  I understand all the legal gamesmanship and I understand that that's how you make a living.  But I'm talking to you about something else ‐ the security of your country.  I'm sorry if the way I put it offends you, but we need to know what Abel is telling you.  You understand me, Donovan?  We need to know.  Don't go Boy Scout on me ‐ we don't have a rule book here.

Donovan takes a beat, sizing the man up.


You’re agent Hoffman, yeah?




German extraction?


Yeah, so?


My name is Donovan, Irish.  Both sides, mother and father . . . .  I'm Irish, you're German, but what makes us both Americans?  Just one thing, one one one.  The rule book.  We call it the Constitution.  We agree to the rules, and that's what makes us Americans, it's all that makes us Americans.  So don't tell me there's no rule book and don't nod at me like that you sonofabitch.

The man stops nodding and just looks at Donovan appraising him.

Donovan smiles and gets up from the table, gathers his things.


Do we need to worry about you?


Not if I’m left alone to do my job.

Of course, in our (more modern?) era, one must take into account recent President's estimations that the Constitution is “just a god-damned piece of paper” (to quote, President George W. Bush [though also keep in mind President Obama's executive orders, e. g., suspending habeas corpus for American citizens]) and the neo-conservative “Unitary Executive” theory (see, John Yoo) underlying the destruction of the traditional governmental “checks and balances.”

The “battle” is, indeed, for public opinion.  Begin to phrase the arguments in a way that sways public opinion to the positive side of the “city upon a hill” (if it would be considered “fair” to reference John Winthrop’s sermon [1630 CE]) . . . .

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Afghanistan - the war without end (within a war without end) . . .

Well before my pastor at the Community of St Martin became pastor there he had written a book in 1989 ‐ War Against the Poor:  Low-Intensity Conflict and Christian Faith ‐ which, again, was well before the 1991 - 1992 “One World Superpower” formulations of The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) members - Dick Cheney (then U. S. Secretary of War [euphemistically, Defense throughout), Paul Wolfowitz (then Principal Deputy Under Secretary of War for Policy), and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby (then Principal Deputy Under Secretary of War for Strategy and Resources) - in the War Department's War Planning Guidance (leaked to the New York Times in March, 1992 [see this link as well as the PNAC link above for further background]).

This history is insightful in relation to these two outtakes from the 2009 film “The International” (ostensibly about the International Bank of Credit and Commerce [IBCC]):

Off the record interview with Umberto Calvini, head of Calvini Defense Systems ‐ just before his assassination . . .

Eleanor Whitman (New York District Attorneys Office):  Mr. Calvini, we'd like to know why the IBCC, a bank, would be purchasing millions of dollars worth of missile guidance and control systems from your company

Calvini:  The IBCC has purchased billions of dollars worth of Silkworm missiles from the People's Republic of China which they have pre‐sold to clients in the Middle East contingent upon the missiles being equipped with VOLCON guidance systems.  My company's one of only two in the world which produce the VOLCON . . . .

Whitman:  But why is the bank committing so much capital and resources to the sale of these missiles?

Calvini:  It's a test.  Small arms are the only weapons used in 99 percent of the world's conflicts and no one has the capacity to manufacture them faster and cheaper than China.  What Skarssen [head of IBCC] is attempting to do is to make the IBCC the exclusive broker of Chinese small arms to the Third World.  And the missile deal is the gateway transaction.

Louis Salinger (Interpol agent):  Yeah, but billions of dollars invested simply to be a broker?  There can't be much profit for them.

Calvini:  No.  This is not about making profit from weapons sales.  It's about control.

Whitman:  Control the flow of weapons, control the conflict.

Calvini:  No.  No, no.  The IBCC is a bank.  Their objective isn't to control the conflict.  It's to control the debt that the conflict produces.  You see, the real value of a conflict . . . the true value . . . is in the debt that it creates.  You control the debt.  You control everything.  You find this upsetting, yes?  But this is the very essence of the banking industry . . . to make us all, whether we be nations or individuals . . . slaves to debt.

Interpol agent Louis Salinger's interview (Eleanor Whitman secretly listening in) with Wilhelm Wexler (IBCC Security Chief [and former Russian Stasi Colonel and Communist hardliner]):

Louis Salinger:  Skarssen [head of IBCC] and that bank [IBCC] need to answer for what they've done.  They have to be brought to justice.  You can help me do that.

Colonel Wexler:  Justice . . . is not possible.

Salinger:  Why not?

Wexler:  Because, Agent Salinger . . . your idea of justice is an illusion.  Understand the very system that you serve and protect . . . will never allow anything to happen to Skarssen or the bank.  On the contrary.  The system guarantees the IBCC's safety . . . because everyone is involved.

Salinger:  What do you mean, “everyone”?

Wexler:  Hezbollah.  CIA.  The Columbian drug cartels.  Russian organized crime.  Governments of Iran, Germany, China, your government.  Every multinational corporation, every one.  They all need banks like the IBCC . . . so that they can operate within the black and gray latitudes.  And this is why your investigative efforts . . . have either been ignored or undermined . . . and why you and I will be quietly disposed of . . . before any case against the bank ever reaches a court of law.

United States participation in the war in Afghanistan began at 9:00 PM (local time) on Sunday, October 7, 2001 (for a timeline of the "modern" wars in Afghanistan see this link [scrollable]).

I would also suggest that you read this insightful article from a little over a dozen years ago - “Afghanistan:  The War Without End” (within a war without end).

As always, ENJOY!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

No Meal, No Drink, No Bed, No Clothes, No Visitation

Institute Emeritus Professor, MIT Department of Linquistics and Philosophy, and author of Who Rules the World?, Noam Chomsky, wrote a very good background article regarding the history of the oligarchy “movement” which appeared in the Huffington Post back in 2012 entitled “Plutonomy and the Precariat”.  As, I wrote to my Senator upon her visit to Cuba in August, 2015, the fact that we are referred to as “dead peasants” in the three 2005 and 2006 Citigroup "Plutonomy" memos, well, I'm reminded of the “Five Points” and the “Dead Rabbits” in Herbert Asbury's 1928 non-fiction book The Gangs of New York:  An Informal History of the Underworld (fictionalized in Martin Scorsese's 2002 movie Gangs of New York)!  Those “Plutonomy” memos paint quite a different picture than the one that follows . . . .

“And, in His address to the House and the Senate in Joint Session, after speaking to the ‘righteous sheep’ on His right (those on His right would be the Democrats), He will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on His left (the ones on His left are the Repugnantcans), and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats!  You're good for nothing but the fires of hell.  And why?  Because ‐

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,

I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,

I was homeless and you gave me no bed,

I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,

Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

Then those ‘goats’ (on His left, the Repugnantcans) are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about?  When did we ever see You hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn't help?’

He will answer them, ‘I'm telling the solemn truth:  Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was Me ‐ you failed to do it to Me.’

Then those ‘goats’ will be herded to their eternal doom, but the ‘righteous sheep’ ‐ the true men ‐ to their eternal reward.”

Though it is difficult to choose between the Amplified “Classic” Version, The Message Version, and the J. B Phillips Version when reading Matthew 25:31-46, I'm uncertain as to how the Repugnantcans can miss the point of the story in almost any version of the New Witnessing!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Preliminary Words to Faith . . .

Over the years in various conversations around Ernest Becker's Pulitzer Prize winning book The Denial of Death:  Human Character as a Vital Lie (for an example, this “give-and-take” with a Bible camp director - my response), I've come to agree with Becker's statements regarding “a new anthropodicy”  We must have an abstract, full-field theory of human nature in order to compel agreement on a new science of human beings in society . . . .  But we cannot wait for such a theory, since it will never be “full”


We must use our reading of nature as a guide to the paradigm which will be offered up for option, but we cannot continually lean on a passive reading of nature; we must make a willful option that is at all times based on incomplete knowledge.

More problematic is Becker's third essential element of a science of human being - The science of human being is characterized by a natural fusion of fact and value.  If the heart of a science of human being in society is half empirical and half ideal, then it must merge with religion (it cannot take over the full task of religion because it is not a theodicy:  it would limit itself to the use of human powers effecting whatever they can to overcome avoidable evil.)

So, today, Easter Sunday, 2017, I finished reading a chapter (pp. 19 - 27) in a little book by Oscar Cullmann, Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead?  The Witness of the New Testament [London:  The Epworth Press, 1958] (encapsulating a lecture he delivered in Andover Chapel at Harvard University, April 26, 1955).  And I thought that it added to the on-going conversation around Becker's book.

See what you think.



NOTHING SHOWS more clearly than the contrast between the death of Socrates and that of Jesus (a contrast which was often cited, though for other purposes, by early opponents of Christianity) that the biblical view of death from the first is focused in salvation-history and so departs completely from the Greek conception. 1

In Plato's impressive description of the death of Socrates, in the Phaedo, occurs perhaps the highest and most sublime doctrine ever presented on the immortality of the soul.  What gives his argument its unexcelled value is his scientific reserve, his disclaimer of any proof having mathematical validity.  We know the arguments he offers for the immortality of the soul.  Our body is only an outer garment which, as long as we live, prevents our soul from moving freely and from living in conformity to its proper eternal essence.  It imposes upon the soul a law which is not appropriate to it.  The soul, confined within the body, belongs to [19] the eternal world.  As long as we live, our soul finds itself in a prison, that is, in a body essentially alien to it.  Death, in fact, is the great liberator.  It looses the chains, since it leads the soul out of the prison of the body and back to its eternal home.  Since body and soul are radically different from one another and belong to different worlds, the destruction of the body cannot mean the destruction of the soul, any more than a musical composition can be destroyed when the instrument is destroyed.  Although the proofs of the immortality of the soul do not have for Socrates himself the same value as the proofs of a mathematical theorem, they nevertheless attain within their own sphere the highest possible degree of validity, and make immortality so probable that it amounts to a ‘fair chance’ for man.  And when the great Socrates traced the arguments for immortality in his address to his disciples on the day of his death, he did not merely teach this doctrine:  at that moment he lived his doctrine.  He showed how we serve the freedom of the soul, even in this present life, when we occupy ourselves with the eternal truths of philosophy.  For through philosophy we penetrate into that eternal world of ideas to which the soul belongs, and we free the soul from the prison of the body.  Death does no more than complete this liberation.  Plato shows us how Socrates goes to his death in complete peace and composure.  The death of Socrates is a beautiful death.  Nothing is seen here of death's terror. Socrates cannot fear death, since indeed it sets us free from the body.  Whoever fears death [20] proves that he loves the world of the body, that he is thoroughly entangled in the world of sense.  Death is the soul's great friend.  So he teaches; and so, in wonderful harmony with his teaching, he dies ‐ this man who embodied the Greek world in its noblest form.

And now let us hear how Jesus dies.  In Gethsemane He knows that death stands before Him, just as Socrates expected death on his last day.  The Synoptic Evangelists furnish us, by and large, with a unanimous report.  Jesus begins ‘to tremble and be distressed’, writes Mark (14:33).  ‘My soul is troubled, even to death’, He says to His disciples.  2  Jesus is so thoroughly human that He shares the natural fear of death.  3  Jesus [21] is afraid, though not as a coward would be of the men who will kill Him, still less of the pain and grief which precede death.  He is afraid in the face of death itself.  Death for Him is not something divine; it is something dreadful.  Jesus does not want to be alone in this moment.  He knows, of course, that the Father stands by to help Him.  He looks to Him in this decisive moment as He has done throughout his life.  He turns to Him with all His human fear of this great enemy, death.  He is afraid of death.  It is useless to try to explain away Jesus' fear as reported by the Evangelists.  The opponents of Christianity who already in the first centuries made the contrast between the death of Socrates and the death of Jesus saw more clearly here than the exponents of Christianity.  He was really afraid.  Here is nothing of the composure of Socrates, who met death peacefully as a friend.  To be sure, Jesus already knows the task which has been given Him:  to suffer death; and He has already spoken the words:  ‘I have a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how distressed (or afraid) I am until it is accomplished’ (Luke 19:50).  Now, when God's enemy stands before Him, He cries to God, whose ommipotence He knows:  ‘All things are possible with thee; let this cup pass from me’ (Mark 14:30).  And when He concludes, ‘Yet not as I will, but as thou wilt’, this does not mean that at the last He, like Socrates, regards death as the friend, the liberator.  No, He only means this:  If this greatest of all terrors, death, must befall Me according to Thy will, then I submit to this horror.  Jesus knows that in [22] itself, because death is the enemy of God, to die means to be utterly forsaken. Therefore He cries to God; in face of this enemy of God He does not want to be alone.  He wants to remain as closely tied to God as He has been throughout His whole earthly life.  For whoever is in the hands of death is no longer in the hands of God, but in the hands of God's enemy.  At this moment, Jesus seeks the assistance, not only of God, but even of His disciples.  Again and again He interrupts His prayer and goes to His most intimate disciples, who are trying to fight off sleep in order to be awake when the men come to arrest their Master.  They try; but they do not succeed, and Jesus must wake them again and again.  Why does He want them to keep awake?  He does not want to be alone.  When the terrible enemy, death, approaches, He does not want to be forsaken even by the disciples whose human weakness He knows.  ‘Could you not watch one hour?’ (Mark 14:37).

Can there be a greater contrast than that between Socrates and Jesus?  Like Jesus, Socrates has his disciples about him on the day of his death; but he discourses serenely with them on immortality.  Jesus, a few hours before His death, trembles and begs His disciples not to leave Him alone.  The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, who, more than any other New Testament author, emphasizes the full deity (1:10) but also the full humanity of Jesus, goes still farther than the reports of the three Synoptists in his description of Jesus' fear of death. In 5:7 he writes [23] that Jesus ‘with loud cries and tears offered up prayers and supplications to Him who was able to save Him’. 4  Thus, according to the Epistle to the Hebrews, Jesus wept and cried in the face of death.  There is Socrates, calmly and composedly speaking of the immortality of the soul; here Jesus, weeping and crying.

And then the death-scene itself.  With sublime calm Socrates drinks the hemlock; but Jesus (thus says the Evangelist, Mark 15:34 ‐ we dare not gloss it over) cries: ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ And with another inarticulate cry He dies (Mark 15:37).  This is not ‘death as a friend’.  This is death in all its frightful horror.  This is really ‘the last enemy’ of God.  This is the name Paul gives it in 1 Corinthians 15:26, where the whole contrast between Greek thought and Christianity is disclosed. 5  Using different words, the author of the Johannine Apocalypse also regards death as the last enemy, when he describes how at the end death will be cast into the lake of fire (20:14).  Because it is God's enemy, it separates us from God, who is Life and the Creator of all life; Jesus, who is so closely tied to God, tied as no other man has ever been, for precisely this reason must experience death much [24] more terribly than any other man.  To be in the hands of the great enemy of God means to be forsaken by God.  In a way quite different from others, Jesus must suffer this abandonment, this separation from God, the only condition really to be feared.  Therefore He cries to God: ‘Why hast thou forsaken me?’  He is now actually in the hands of God's great enemy.

We must be grateful to the Evangelists for having glossed over nothing at this point.  Later (as early as the beginning of the second century, and probably even earlier) there were people who took offense at this ‐ people of Greek provenance.  In early Christian history we call them, Gnostics.

I have put the death of Socrates and the death of Jesus side by side.  For nothing shows better the radical difference between the Greek doctrine of the immortality of the soul and the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection.  Because Jesus underwent death in all its horror, not only in His body, but also in His soul, (‘My God, why hast thou forsaken me’), and as He is regarded by the first Christians as the Mediator of salvation, He must indeed be the very one who in His death conquers death itself.  He cannot obtain this victory by simply living on as an immortal soul, thus fundamentally not dying.  He can conquer death only by actually dying, by betaking Himself to the sphere of death, the destroyer of life, to the sphere of ‘nothingness’, of abandonment by God.  When one wishes to overcome someone else, one must enter his territory.  Whoever wants to conquer death must die; [25] he must really cease to live ‐ not simply live on as an immortal soul, but die in body and soul, lose life itself, the most precious good which God has given us.  For this reason the Evangelists, who none the less intended to present Jesus as the Son of God, have not tried to soften the terribleness of His thoroughly human death.

Furthermore, if life is to issue out of so genuine a death as this, a new divine act of creation is necessary.  And this act of creation calls back to life not just a part of the man, but the whole man ‐ all that God had created and death had annihilated.  For Socrates and Plato no new act of creation is necessary.  For the body is indeed bad and should not live on.  And that part which is to live on, the soul, does not die at all.

If we want to understand the Christian faith in the Resurrection, we must completely disregard the Greek thought that the material, the bodily, the corporeal is bad and must be destroyed, so that the death of the body would not be in any sense a destruction of the true life.  For Christian (and Jewish) thinking the death of the body is also destruction of God‐created life.  No distinction is made:  even the life of our body, is true life; death is the destruction of all life created by God.  Therefore it is death and not the body which must be conquered by the Resurrection.

Only he who apprehends with the first Christians the horror of death, who takes death seriously as death, can comprehend the Easter exultation of the primitive Christian community and understand that the whole thinking of the New Testament is governed by belief [26] in the Resurrection.  Belief in the immortality of the soul is not belief in a revolutionary event.  Immortality, in fact, is only a negative assertion:  the soul does not die, but simply lives on. Resurrection is a positive assertion:  the whole man, who has really died, is recalled to life by a new act of creation by God. Something has happened ‐ a miracle of creation!  For something has also happened previously, something fearful:  life formed by God has been destroyed.

Death in itself is not beautiful, not even the death of Jesus.  Death before Easter is really the Death's head surrounded by the odor of decay.  And the death of Jesus is as loathsome as the great painter Grünewald depicted it in the Middle Ages.

But precisely for this reason the same painter understood how to paint, along with it, in an incomparable way, the great victory, the Resurrection of Christ:  Christ in the new body, the Resurrection body.

Whoever paints a pretty death can paint no resurrection.  Whoever has not grasped the horror of death cannot join Paul in the hymn of victory:  ‘Death is swallowed up ‐ in victory!  0 death, where is thy victory?  0 death, where is thy sting?’ (1 Corinthians 15:54f). [27]

1  Material on this contrast in Ernst Benz, Der gekreuzigte Gerechte bei Plato im N. T. und in der alten Kirche  Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur.  Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaftliche Klasse, No. 12 [Verlag der Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur, 1950], pp. 46.

Click here to return to blog.

2  Despite the parallel in Jonah 4:9 which is cited by Erich Klostermann, Das Markusevangelium, 4th Edition (1971), ad loc., and Ernst Lohmeyer, Das Evangelium des Markus (1967), ad loc., I agree with Johannes Weiss, Das Markusevangelium, 3rd Edition (1917), ad loc., that the explanation:  ‘I am so sad that I prefer to die’ in this situation where Jesus knows that He is going to die (the scene is the Last Supper!) is completely unsatisfactory; moreover, Weiss' interpretation:  ‘My affliction is so great that I am sinking under the weight of it’ is supported by Mark 15:34.  Also Luke 12:50, ‘How distressed I am until the baptism (=death) takes place’, allows of no other explanation.

Click here to return to blog.

3 Old and recent commentators (Julius Wellhausen, Das Evangelium Marci, 2nd Edition [1909], ad. loc., Julius Schniewind in N.T. Deutsch [1934], ad. loc., Ernst Lohmeyer, Das Evangelium des Markus [1967], ad loc.), seek in vain to avoid this conclusion, which is supported by the strong Greek expressions for ‘tremble and shrink’, by giving explanations which do not fit the situation, in which Jesus already knows that He must suffer for the sins of His people (Last Supper).  In Luke 12:50 it is completely impossible to explain away the ‘distress’ in the face of death, and also in view of the fact that Jesus is abandoned by God on the Cross (Mark 15:34), it is not possible to explain the Gethsemane scene except through this distress at the prospect of being abandoned by God, an abandonment which will be the work of Death, God's great enemy.

Click here to return to blog.

4  The reference to Gethsemane here seems to me unmistakable.  K. Héring, L'Epitre aux Hébreux (I954), ad loc., concurs in this.

Click here to return to blog.

5  The problem is presented in entirely false perspective by Johannes Leipoldt, Der Tod bei Griechen und Juden (1942). To be sure, he correctly makes a sharp distinction between the Greek view of death and the Jewish.  But Leipoldt's efforts always to equate the Christian with the Greek and oppose it to the Jewish only become comprehensible when one notes the year in which this book was published and the series (Germanentum, Christentum und Judentum) of which it is a part.

Click here to return to blog.