Quadratus The Obscure

By far the most obscure of the Apostolic Fathers is Quadratus, of whom one Christian site [1] says the following:

“Quadratus is spoken of by Eusebius as a “man of understanding and of Apostolic faith.” And he celebrates Aristides as a man of similar character. These were the earliest apologists; both addressed their writings to Hadrian, and they were extant and valued in the churches in the time of Eusebius.

From the Apology for the Christian Religion:

Our Saviour’s works, moreover, were always present: for they were real, consisting of those who had been healed of their diseases, those who had been raised from the dead; who were not only seen whilst they were being healed and raised up, but were afterwards constantly present. Nor did they remain only during the sojourn of the Saviour on earth, but also a considerable time after His departure; and, indeed, some of them have survived even down to our own times.”

Indeed, the above fragment that was written to the emperor Hadrian is the only text that survives from that Apostolic father at all.  There are some who argue that Qudratas, like Mathetes [2], does not belong in the Apostolic Fathers at all, since it cannot be reasonably claimed that he knew any of the Apostles or was able to transmit their teaching or be a witness to them, but on those grounds few of the Apostolic Fathers would qualify as genuinely post-Apostolic.  Instead, these people would consider Quadratus among the early apologists like Justin Martyr and others.  Wherever these apologies belong, the fragment of Quadratus is certainly notable and worthwhile, and Quadratus is credited by Eusebius for convincing Hadrian to cease his persecution of Christians, so the apology must in some sense have worked for the benefit of believers, even if it did not convert him into Christian faith.

Given that Quadratus was writing during the time of Hadrian, it is especially intriguing that he mentions that some of the people resurrected through Jesus Christ were still alive and thus eyewitnesses and participants in His miracles.  Given also that this fragment is so short one wonders what exactly does he mean.  Does he mean that some of those who were healed or restored to life by Jesus Christ were still alive at the time of Hadrian or that they were still alive at the time of Quadratus’ memory.  Given that Hadrian began his reign about 117AD or so, and Jesus Christ was crucified and resurrected between 31 and 34AD, that would mean that the people involved, if they had been children, would have been between 80 and 90.  This is certainly old for the ancient world, but by no means unheard of.  Anna lived to be at least 84 and the Apostle John lived well into his 90’s given his writings while in exile in Patmos.  Whatever Quadratus means is quote plausible.

Indeed, Quadratus’ comment seems to echo that of Paul, who similarly appealed to the presence of witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8:  “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.  After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.  After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.  Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”  We can see that Paul’s statement rests on the appeal of hundreds of eyewitnesses who could corroborate his claim as to the absolute reality of resurrection, and the fact that Quadratus is able to make a similar claim indicates that the memory of Jesus’ healings and the presence of those who had been healed or raised was long evidence of that, and that these people were quick to pass along their recollections to those who wanted to hear about them, given that an obscure figure like Quadratus was aware of such things.  The fact that both Paul and Quadratus are able to point to actual witnesses and participants in the miracles of Jesus Christ is among the strongest pieces of evidence that early Christian apologists and evangelists were able to use in spreading Christianity through the ancient world, and that evidence is still mighty testimony today.  If you are making a claim that would be contested and that others would be happy to debunk, to be able to point to a large amount of witnesses who would be able to corroborate the claim is still something that is highly respected even in our own deeply cynical times.  Why else do companies seek testimonials, after all, if personal experience and personal testimony of one’s own experiences was meaningless.  The fact that such things are sought indicates that they are still valued as they clearly were in the ancient world.

Given that we only have a small fragment of his apology to the emperor Hadrian, it is hard to assess the writings of Quadratus as a whole.  It is easy to lament the fact that the rest of the work was absent, because to appeal to eyewitness and participant testimony concerning the miraculous actions of Jesus Christ surely seems a more effective appeal to ancient and modern readers than the appeals of, say, Mathetes in his epistle to Diognetus with his insulting treatment of other belief systems.  That said, it is impossible to know for certain whether this positive appeal to testimony that can corroborate the author’s claims is characteristic and representative of Quadratus’ writings as a whole without the remainder of those writings.  At any rate, whether or not the fragment of Quadratus’ apology belongs with the Apostolic Fathers or with a collection of early apologists for the Christian faith, it is certainly a worthwhile approach in apologetics, considering that variations of the same claim are still made by noted and successful apologists to this day, almost two thousand years later.  For that reason alone, if no other, we should give at least some praise to Quadratus the obscure, even if so little is now known of him or his writings.

[1] http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/quadratus.html

[2] See, for example:




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Book Review: The Animal That Drank Up Sound

The Animal That Drank Up Sound, by William Stafford, illustrated by Debra Frasier

How does one review a book like this one?  I am no stranger to reviewing books by William Stafford [1], and I have even read a children’s book that was made like this book from one of the author’s poems.  That said, this is not an easy book to review fairly.  How one takes this book will depend a great deal on what expectations one comes to this book with and what is the most important quality about a book, especially a book like this one that appears to be aimed at a young audience as well as those who would be reading the book to others.  The text of the titular poem is not the problem here, but rather the context in which that poem is presented.  Does one knock the book because of the artwork or does one give the book a pass or think well of it because one enjoys the poetry.  I personally take the latter approach with this book, but at the same time I find it necessary at least to  comment on the fact that the book is not blessed with an overabundance or beautiful art and that is a real shame.

This book, as one might imagine, is pretty straightforward in its contents.  The book begins with some acknowledgements from the poet and illustrator, contains the single titular poem divided by phrase along with some rather ordinary looking collage drawings done with paint and glue that look they could have been made by some of the book’s target reading audience, followed by some discussions by the author and illustrator about how they were inspired to create this book.  As one might imagine, the story by William Stafford about a visit to somewhere in rural Oregon where he was inspired by the eerie silence of the place is the more interesting tale.  If you come to this book looking for a beautifully drawn book for easily bored children, you are probably not going to enjoy this particular volume very much.  But if you want a simple but resonant book that features intriguing and thought provoking material that is nevertheless accessible and interesting to young readers or listeners, this book is indeed interesting.  Again, what you get out of this book will depend in large part on what you want from it.

It must be noted that “The Animal That Drank Up Sound” is a particularly resonant poem by Stafford.  Whatever its inspiration in the natural world, the poem has acquired a great deal of interest because of the political undertones of the poem.  The poem exists on at least two levels, one of them dealing with an animal whose hunger for sound but whose inability to create it from its own resources serve as an immensely destructive phenomenon and the other seeing that animal as symbolic of governments and the way that they frequently serve as parasitic elements of the peoples they are meant to serve and oppressors of those who make sound like poets and other creative people.  While I think that Stafford wisely does not choose to emphasize the political angle of this poem, it is not surprising that such a layer of meaning is easy to read in this work, especially when one knows something about Stafford’s ambivalent view towards government given his own experiences as a Conscientious Objector during World War II and his staunch opposition to militarism in general.  This is a poem that is both accessible to children and full of far deeper meanings for adults to ponder, and that makes this a worthwhile book even if its art is not particularly beautiful.

[1] See, for example:







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Book Review: A Glass Face In The Rain

A Glass Face In The Rain:  New Poems, by William Stafford

This book of poems was the last one published by a major publisher (Harper & Row) before the poet’s death in 1993, and that sense of finality gives these poems a very melancholy edge.  Those who are familiar with the writings of William Stafford [1] will know that he wrote quite a few books over the course of his life and has even been fortunate enough for people to write some books about him.  And those who think that the man perhaps wrote too much for anyone to bother reading will likely not be greatly intrigued by the way that this book is filled with a great many attempts at sending a message out into a great void of silence and hoping for someone to send a message back that they heard and appreciated it, combined with a sort of diffidence about his work being worth reading and remembered, and also with a recognition of his burden in listening to the efforts of others to communicate the burdens of their own existence to lighten the load.  This is a book that is filled with the mournful attitude of someone nearing the end of their days and looking to see if their existence mattered, and trying to unburden their own heavy hearts while there is time left to do so.

This short book of poetry is divided into five parts, given the following titles:  “A Touch On Your Sleeve,” “Things That Come,” “Revelations,” “Troubleshooting,” and “The Color That Really Is.”  Each of these parts of the book is introduced with a poem that weaves a story about Stafford’s attempts at communication with the wider world around him.  The poems themselves are often heavily reflective.  One poem, for example, looks at the author’s family and ponders what it is like to be someone who wonders about how to fix the brokenness of the world without knowing how, and another looks at his memory of not bringing his brother again to an ice hockey game in the frozen Kansas wilderness after he cries about it as a seven year old.  Other poems discuss the creeping shadows of one’s dark side or beautiful scenes of creation or humility about one’s greatness and worth in the face of a recognition of one’s folly and ridiculousness.  The poems are short, as Stafford’s writing was in general, but as might be expected, quite a few of them carry substantial weight.

It is pretty obvious what sort of audience would like this book.  If you are fond of Stafford’s poetry, and can find a volume of this book that remains from its published form in 1991, this is a book that will give you plenty more poems to be fond of from William Stafford.  This is not the sort of obvious work to introduce yourself to Stafford’s poetry–for that it would probably be best to choose one of his many compilations.  But if you already know Stafford’s characteristic interest in exploring memory, the burdens of trying to communicate across the silence of the combined awkwardness of oneself and the people one wishes to communicate with, the burdens of life that come from our childhood and reflective odes to the beauties of creation, and you appreciate and maybe even share those concerns, then this book is certainly one that will be welcome.  The author even manages to reflect some on the creation of poetry, making a couple of these poems pretty meta in their questioning whether suffering is necessary for art or what Stafford would have been like if he could have been like noted poem Wallace Stevens, and if you like Stafford as a poet you will likely appreciate those efforts as well.

[1] See, for example:







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Anti-Semitism In Ignatius Of Antioch’s Epistles

Having examined several aspects of Ignatius of Anticoh’s writings, it is worthwhile at this point to spend a bit of time looking at how he showed hostility to Jews and to the Sabbath, which was connected in his mind with Judaism and not to Jesus Christ.  Although Jesus Christ stated in the synoptic Gospels that He was the Lord of the Sabbath, very early in Hellenistic Christianity there was a strong opposition to the Sabbath even though Jesus and the apostles are all on record as having kept and approved of the Sabbath as the day God commanded for worship [1].  It is possible that Ignatius of Antioch can be among those blamed for it, although it is still a mystery how that spirit got started in the first place within Hellenistic Christianity.

We may note that Ignatius was very straightforward about his hostility to Judaism and what he viewed (rather expansively) as Jewish customs.  For example, to the Magnesians he wrote the following:  “Never allow yourselves to be led away by false teachings and antiquated and useless fables.  Nothing of any use can be got from them.  If we are still living in the practice of Judaism, it is an admission that we have failed to receive the gift of grace.  Even the lives of the divinely inspired prophets were instinct with Jesus Christ (72).”  Later on in this same letter he commented, “We have seen how former adherents of the ancient customs have since attained to a new hope; so that they have given up keeping the Sabbath, and now order their lives by the Lord’s Day instead (the Day when life first dawned for us, thanks to Him and His death.  That death, though some deny it, is the very mystery which has moved us to become believers, and endure tribulation to prove ourselves pupils of Jesus Christ, our sole Teacher) (73).”  Still later, he writes, “To profess Jesus Christ while continuing to follow Jewish customs is an absurdity.  The Christian faith does not look to Judaism, but Judaism looks to Christianity, in which every other race and tongue that confesses a belief in God has now been comprehended (73).”

Although the epistle to the Magnesians is where his harshest denunciations of Judaism and what he views as Jewish (rather than godly) customs can be found, they are not absent from his other writings as well.  For example, to the Philadelphians Ignatius writes as follows:  “All the same, if anyone should make use of them to propound Judaism to you, do not listen to him.  Better hear talk of Christianity from a man who is circumcised than of Judaism from one who is not – though in my judgment both of them alike, if they fail to preach Jesus Christ, are no more than tombstones and graves of the dead, which limit their inscriptions to the names of mere mortal men (94).”

What can be fairly said about these passages from someone who agrees that a belief in Jesus Christ and following in His example in faith is necessary for salvation but who does not see in Ignatius a fitting example of genuine faith in Jesus Christ.  In Ignatius we have an odd situation, one that has been repeated throughout the following centuries by many who profess to follow Jesus Christ.  On the one hand we have a recognition that the prophecies about Jesus Christ were included in Hebrew scriptures and an acceptance of the Gospels and Acts and other writings, but a total amnesia about Jesus Christ being Lord of the Sabbath–that was His day–or that He and the early Church openly and regularly continued to assemble on the Sabbath in their own congregations even after they were no longer welcome in synagogues.  Yet mistaken beliefs about the chronology of Jesus’ resurrection and a desire to separate themselves from Judaism and make themselves wholly distinct and impossible to confuse with Jews led those who professed Christ to deny Christ’s example and that of the Apostles as being normative for them.

As a result, a strange sort of deception became increasingly common where instead of beliefs with any whiff of paganism being unacceptable as was commanded in the Law, any observance that had a whiff of Judaism was condemned.  And so it remains in many “Christian” circles to this day.  The fact that Jesus Christ was born a perfectly observant Jew who consistently upheld God’s law from the corruptions that the Pharisees and others subjected it to was forgotten to such an extent that some people might still be shocked to hear that Jesus Christ was a Jew in His life.  Likewise, although we have numerous plain records of the Sabbathkeeping practices and doctrine of Paul, James, and others long after the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the pages of Scripture itself, as well as the unambiguous verdict of the author of Hebrews after a lengthy discussion of the rest that is to come that we will enter if we continue in our faith, this denial of the Sabbath as being connected with the faith once delivered is at best strange and at worst deeply troubling.

How then are we to deal with these things now?  From the vantage point of the present it is easy to see that Ignatius and many who followed him were deeply confused about grace.  They saw the conscientious behavior of those who took God at His word and followed what it said to be an attempt to earn salvation.  That is to say, without having any insight into the heart of a believer, they took a godly life as sign of holding to a works theology, which put them in the strange position of trying to claim that they alone were following God because they were disobedient to Him.  This schizophrenic approach may be seen as typical to the Hellenistic Christian, who is under the delusion that only by disobeying God’s commands can we show ourselves to be following Him and living in grace, and that although Jesus Christ Himself perfectly obeyed the law and served to blaze a path for us to be His siblings that our behavior and manner of living should not resemble His own in the least, and that only be being as different as possible can we show ourselves to be His brethren.  How did this delusion enter into Christianity in the first place?  It is easy to see that once this misguided view was believed that it would be followed, since it allowed Christians a chance to attack not only the perversions of Judaism that were in evidence in the first century in the Gospels and that remain in evidence today, but to attack the whole biblical standard of worship that the Jews claimed to follow and that was becoming increasingly burdensome to a group of Hellenistic “believers” who had ceased to want to be like Christ but who wanted to be seen as true Christians nonetheless.

[1] See, for example:






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Book Review: Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece From Prehistoric To Hellenistic Times, by Thomas R. Martin

When an author has roughly 200 pages to cover the entirety of Greek history from prehistoric times to the Hellenistic age [1], you get a real sense of their perspective on history as a whole and what they consider important.  Some writers try to cover a lot in a survey fashion, pointing readers to where more detailed information can be provided but seeking to give as much of the overview as possible.  Other writers have a few interests that they follow, ignoring wide swaths of history and context so that they may point out what was going on in specific areas of interest to the author and (hopefully) his or her audience.  This author is definitely the second type of writer, and this book is certainly a selective look at Greek history and by no means a terrible one, but clearly one that shows the interest of the author in specific aspects of history while not in other aspects of history that other people would be interested in.  The book is short and if you are interested in the same sorts of things as the author, it has much to commend itself.

This short book consists of ten short chapters that cover a massive scope of material.  The author begins by giving the background of ancient Greek history (1) and noting, of course, that his treatment of that history will be selective, because it could not be otherwise.  After that the author looks at the transition from early Indo-Europeans to Mycenaens, not covering a great deal about what is known, at least linguistically and culturally, about the pre-literate late culture of the area which had some words of non Indo-European origin come into the Greek (2).  After this the author rapidly covers the supposed Dark age (3) and then the archaic age of Greece (4).  After this the author spends a good deal of time focusing on matters of political history with a discussion of Greek political experiments in oligarchy, tyranny, and democracy (5), a discussion of the transition from the Persian Wars to the (first) Athenian Empire (6), and a focus on culture and society in classical Athens (7).  Then the author moves through the Peloponnesian War and its aftermath at Athens (8), a discussion of the troubled period between the Peloponessian War and the rise of Alexander of Macedon (9), and a brief discussion of the Hellenistic Age (10).

Given the rapid speed at which the author moves through Greek history, it is instructive to note what he chooses to focus on given the knowledge that the size of the work is very small.  For one, the author shows a notable interest in feminist history, which ought to please at least a few of his readers who want to know about the role of women as can best be understood or speculated throughout Greek history.  For another, the author likes to focus on Athens far more than the other areas of Greece.  Sparta is mentioned somewhat, as is Thebes to a lesser extent, but the author does not focus a great deal on the Greek world outside of its superstar cities except for some comments about the colonization of various cities and some discussions about the Ionian Greek cities who were so useful in involving the Greeks in global diplomacy.  The author shows a great interest in questions of politics as well as in military history, but there are no detailed battle studies here, but more a discussion about the relationship between the military service of the poor and rising democracy in the Greek city-states of the late Archaic and classical periods.  The author has at least read well, for even though this is an account that leaves a lot out, at least what the author talks about is generally worthwhile and often even entertaining.

[1] See, for example:









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Non-Book Review: Before & After Alexander

Before & After Alexander:  The Legend And Legacy Of Alexander The Great, by Richard A. Billows

Sometimes I go seeking out for books to review, and sometimes I am sought out to review books, and this book is definitely an example of the latter situation.  Recently the editor of H-War sought me out as a potential reviewer of this book, in large part because I had previously reviewed a book on the aftermath of the conquest of the Greek world for them and that has set me out as a bit of an expert on the history of the Hellenistic period [1].  I’m certainly fine with being considered as such, but it does make the review of this book certainly an interesting one and perhaps a more stressful one than most of my reviews will be.  As the book has not been read yet, we will leave the stress of the book to come to the side and examine what made me particularly enthusiastic to read the book even if I knew that reviewing it would be a bit stressful.

What is striking about this book, at least as far as I can tell it from my initial examination of it and its contents, is that the book focuses mostly on the context and legacy of Alexander the Great and not so much on his life and conquests itself.  To be sure, it includes a summary of that rather dramatic life, but in the main it appears that this book is most interested in looking at Macedonia before the time of Alexander, especially in the change of Macedonian fortunes that took place under the wise and powerful rule of his father Philip, and in the legacy of Greek rule over the Near East during the period of Alexander’s successors who fought over his body and over the conquests his army had made like quarreling multiple heads of the same winged leopard, with immensely destructive results for the people in those lands and for the viability of the regimes of the successors themselves who fell to a variety of empires like the Pathans, Parthians, and Romans.  At any rate, this book looks like a fun one to read and I am definitely enthusiastic about adding it to my library.

[1] See, for example:






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Martyrdom In Ignatius Of Antioch’s Epistle To The Romans

In our previous discussion of the Ignatius of Antioch’s Epistle to the Romans [1], we briefly noted that this letter standards apart from the other six letters from the author on two grounds.  For one, this letter is the only one that does not acknowledge the presiding bishop of the congregation or seek to encourage or bolster the authority of the bishop in his congregation.  This is sufficient to make this letter an unusual one in the author’s intriguing if short body of work.  However, there is another difference that deserves some extended treatment, and that is the approach of Ignatius towards martyrdom in his letter to the Romans.  Indeed, Ignatius’ view of martyrdom is so distinctive and even troubling that it is worthwhile to let Ignatius (at least in translation) do as much of the discussion of his view as possible.  When one finds troubling texts, it is best not to try to insert oneself into the interpretation of that text except as necessary and to let an author speak for themselves as much as possible to define themselves in their own words.

When we wonder what view Ignatius had about martyrdom, it is best to let him speak in his own words, and before offering up commentary on this view, I think it would be best to read what Ignatius himself has to say on the subject:

“My prayers that I might live to see your devoted community face to face have been answered; indeed, I have been granted more than I asked for, since I can now hope to greet you in the very chains of a prisoner of Jesus Christ, if His will permits me to reach my journey’s end.  So far, things have made an admirable beginning; and now all depends on whether I can reach the goal and secure my inheritance without hindrance (85).”

“For by staying silent and letting me alone, you can turn me into an intelligible uttarance of God; but if your affections are only concerned with my poor human life, then I become a mere meaningless cry once more.  This favour only I beg of you:  suffer me to be a libation poured out to God, while there is still an altar ready for me (85-86).”

“For my part, I am writing to all the churches and assuring them that I am truly in earnest about dying for God – if only you yourselves put no obstacles in the way.  I must implore you to do me no such untimely kindness; pray leave me to be a meal for the beasts, for it is they who can provide my way to God.  I am His wheat, ground fine by the lions’ teeth to be made purest bread for Christ.  Better still, incite the creatures to become a sepulchre for me; let them not leave the smallest scrap of my flesh, so that I need not be a burden to anyone after I fall asleep.  When there is no trace of my body for the world to see, then I shall truly be Jesus Christ’s disciple (86).”

“How I look forward to the real lions that have been got ready for me!  All I pray is that I may find them swift.  I am going to make overtures to them, so that, unlike some other wretches whom they have been too spiritless to touch, they shall devour me with all speed.  And if they are still reluctant, I shall use force to them.  You must forgive me, but I do know what is best for myself.  This is the first stage of my discipleship; and no power, visible or invisible, must grudge me my coming to Jesus Christ.  Fire, cross, beast-fighting, hacking and quartering, splintering of bone and mangling of limb, even the puverizing of my entire body – let every horrid and diabolical torment come upon me, provided only that I can win my way to Jesus Christ! (87)”

“Intercede for me, then, that I may have my wish; for I am not writing now as a mere man, but I am voicing the mind of God.  My suffering will be a proof of your goodwill; my rejection, a proof of your disfavor (88).”

What do we read when we see these statements?  It is hard to consider such statements as the mind of God for at least several reasons.  For one, we know from Ignatius’ writings that he was hostile to the Sabbath and this alienated him in some way from the mind of God because of his disobedience of God’s clear commandments.  For another, we do not know of martyrdom being the main or only way that someone could reach God’s kingdom.  We do know, from reading passages like Hebrews 11, that the godly often faced unjust persecution from a world that was not worthy of them throughout history, but the martyrdom was a sign of the world’s unworthiness and not strictly a sign of the worthiness of those believers.  Whether or not God chose to deliver someone from martyrdom was a matter of His decision, and there is no biblical warrant for judging that those delivered from possible martyrdom (Daniel in the lion’s den or his three friends in the fire of Nebuchadnezzar) were less godly and less righteous and less blessed for being delivered than those who suffered the extreme horrors as a result of their faith (like the martyrs during the persecution of the Seleucids).

Where, then, did Ignatius get the idea that his ticket to the front of the line in the kingdom of heaven was being martyred?  Was his death a necessary one or did he court it unnecessarily?  It is one thing to live honorably and to find death the only way that one can preserve one’s fidelity to God’s ways in the case of persecution, but generally the Bible counsels that people flee and live and worship God somewhere else and raise godly offspring and all of that.  Martyrdom is to be an option of last resort, not to be a choice made impulsively and unnecessarily, as may have been the case for Ignatius.  Having made that choice, it is little surprise that Ignatius should defend that story personally and vigorously, but the question is whether he was right to do so in the first place.  The Bible indicates, at least if we take Hebrews 11 as our model, that it is not the manner of death that is most fundamental to one’s place in God’s Kingdom but rather one’s faith and obedience in the way one lives life.  If one is not godly enough in one’s manner of living to enter into God’s kingdom, then one’s horrific death will not earn one a speedy ticket there.

After all, did not Jesus say to those who rejected His ways the following in Luke 13:26-28:  “Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’  But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.”  Did He not also say in Matthew 7:21-23:  ““Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”  Since we do not believe that Ignatius’ making a spectacle out of dying was doing the will of God and we know that his hostility to the Sabbath was contrary to God’s ways and practicing lawlessness, Ignatius’ attempt to enter the Kingdom of God by dying in imitation of Christ was in vain and was not the sort of example that we should follow ourselves. Quod erat demonstradum.

[1] See, for example:




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Book Review: The Matrix And Philosophy: Welcome To The Desert Of The Real

The Matrix And Philosophy:  Welcome To The Desert Of The Real, edited by William Irwin

As someone who is a pretty regular reader of the pop culture and philosophy series of books [1], I have in mind a certain standard of excellence or at least amusement in the series.  But every series has to start somewhere, and this book is certainly evidence that at the beginning of the series the various authors were not yet fully aware of the sort of writing that would be necessary to both bring at least some honor and glory to themselves as philosophers while simultaneously appealing to a mass audience of readers.  This book manages to fall into the uncanny valley of writing, both too wonky to appeal to widespread readers and not sufficiently glorious to benefit the c.v. of the vast majority of the writers here.  In general, what one tends to find here is rambling essays that go on for way too long and people who can’t stay on topic, as well as the usual biases in the approach of the authors and conflicting positions held by different people about the same topics of study.  Unfortunately, this book doesn’t provide much to enjoy, and its subtitle is definitely all too accurate.

The contents of this book are a bit over 250 pages divided into twenty essays that deal with only the first of the Matrix movies.  These essays are divided thematically into five “scenes.”  The first four essays look at questions of epistemology and how it is that anything can be known in the Matrix, along with some tie-ins to Socrates and other philosophers.  The second part of the book examines the desert of the real and looks at questions of metaphysics, the Matrix’s philosophy of mind, materialism, and issues of fate and free will.  The third part of the book looks at the question of ethics and religion in the Matrix, pointing out Buddhist and pluralist elements as well as the question of whether ignorance is bliss and Kantian approaches to ethics.  The fourth part of the book looks at questions of nihilism and authenticity and the problematic nature of real response to fiction and the genre complexity of the Matrix story.  The fifth and final section of the book subjects the Matrix to various types of deconstructionism, comparing the Matrix to a forgotten film released around the same time that one of the essayists prefers for its far more adventuresome and unconventional handling of sexuality, looking at a Marxian view of the Matrix, and wrestling with questions of postmodernism and perversion.

Overall, this book does not hit its mark.  Even more than usual, the authors show a great deal of bias that makes this a much less enjoyable book to read than most of the books are in the series.  For one, the book has too little of a context to deal with, as all of these essays draw their commentary on a small set of quotes and incidents in one movie.  Later books in the series would have a larger scope to deal with, which made their books less monotonous and repetitive, even if not necessarily more true.  The hype that came from the first movie was not supported by the sequels to the film, and that makes this book a bit too quick off the mark, and not of lasting enough value.  This book neither has the style nor the substance to make it a truly worthwhile volume, and it was good that the editors of the series learned some lessons from the failure of this book to make better and more enjoyable books later in the series.

[1] See, for example:






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Book Review: James Bond And Philosophy

James Bond And Philosophy:  Questions Are Forever, edited by James B. South and Jacob M. Held

As someone who has read a few books in this series of pop culture and philosophy crossovers [1], I went into it with the proper set of expectations.  This book, and the other books in the series, are generally written by slumming philosophers who are trying to get something published and perhaps help pay the bills while using pop culture as an empty vessel in which to display their own particular philosophical views.  I go into these books finding many of the pop culture elements themselves somewhat problematic in one way or another and the philosophies even more so, but I also read them in order to see how it is that people seek to put an accessible facade over their often complicated philosophical views and demonstrate that anything that can be analyzed can also be used as a trojan horse for one’s worldviews.  The philosophers in this book have worldviews that are no better or worse than contemporary philosophers as a general lot, and that is not a terribly high standard.  Questions are forever, perhaps, but the answers won’t be found here.

The contents of this book are as self-contradictory and sprawling as one would expect for a book of this nature, but at somewhat over 200 pages, it’s not a terribly long book to read at least.  Many of the titles of the articles show some clever puns on quotes from the James Bond series either in print or from the movies.  The book begins with a section on Bond, exstitentialism, and death that includes three essays that wrestle with the meaningful life and the omnipresent threat of death.  The second section looks at the man behind the number 007 with four essays on such issues as phenomenology, Nietzsche, and a view of Bond as a comic and chivalric hero.  The third section of the book contains three essays that wrestle with the relationship between James bond and issues of law and politics.  The fourth section contains three essays that look at the connection between knowledge and technology in the James Bond series, and the fifth section closes the book with two essays that examine issues of multi-culturalism, misogyny, and a kinder gentler James Bond in more recent portrayals.  The supplementary material of the book provides some information that shows that this book only covers up to Casino Real and nothing past that in terms of films, making it somewhat obsolete.

Obviously, this book is aimed at people who are both philosophically inclined and who are fans of James Bond.  I tend to have ambivalent feelings about both James Bond and philosophy and the implications of both, although I did find some aspects of these essays to be worthwhile.  For example, I was deeply intrigued by the ongoing popularity of James Bond and his retributive violence and the implications this has for views of criminals as lacking some sort of human rights as a result of their criminality.  Other essays point out that James Bond directs his violence not so much against people from other states in a narrowly Cold War fashion but against outsiders who have sought to use criminality as a protest against the injustices they see in James Bond’s England other states.  Even though this is a deeply uneven collection of essays, there is still a great deal worthy of reflection here, which means that the book is at least somewhat enjoyable despite its flaws.  If only all books on philosophy could be this thought-provoking and this aware of the ephemerality of what they were dealing with.

[1] See, for example:






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O Tinnitus (After Gerard Manley Hopkins)

O Tinnitus, buzzing in my ears–
Wretched blasted buzzing thickets–
Haunted my life for years
With a sound like chirping crickets.

Does this sound come from playing
The noble viola for too long?
Or is the sound due to laying
In bed listening to many a song?

I must say I do not know
How to get rid of this persistent sound
Or how far my ears will go
To make it hard to understand those around.

But lest it be thought that in such a place
I should only repine and whining whine,
Let it simply be said I will manly face
The buzzing in these poor, poor ears of mine.


Those of you who read this poem and are at least somewhat familiar with other poems that I have written [1] will be able to see that this poem is quite different in its somewhat rigid and even stilted rhyme scheme and sprung meter elements.  I have, for the sake of the reader and the comprehension of this poem, avoided the use of accented speech to try to force the reader a certain way, and to allow him or her to take the lines of the poem as seems most appropriate.  Such concessions to the sensibility of the reader are, alas, all too unfamiliar from the model of this poem that I drew from in a somewhat mocking way, and will likely not be appreciated by those who have not bothered to see how unfortunate a model this ode to tinnitus has.

The poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins is something that must be read to be appreciated.  Fortunately, that body of work is not a particularly large one, or else I would feel bad about urging someone to waste too much time in it.  At any rate, though, the poetry is not good.  The attentive reader may note that I made a pun (Hopkins was fond of puns, as he was of eye rhymes and tedious alliteration and eliding the relative pronoun that in his writing) on the author’s name by noting at the end of that I will manly face the buzzing of my ears.  Specifically, the last note of the poem is a reference to the last line of his poem “Cheery Beggar,” but I hope that my poetry is far less incomprehensible than that of Hopkins.  Those readers who are familiar with the model may understand.  Those who do not, I trust will understand that there is something larger afoot than merely an ode to a troublesome and frequent buzzing in my ears and leave it at that.

This particular poem may be judged as a pastiche, and hopefully not an unkind one.  Hopkins himself was known to take ridiculous lines and to mock them in a rather intriguing way and this poem may be taken as giving that treatment back to Hopkins, after a manner.  The pastiche, for those who are not aware, is an effort that takes the form of someone else’s writing and mimics it in a comic or ridiculous aim.  As a high school student I took the closing scene of Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” and turned it into an incestuous parting between two sibling-lovers.  Perhaps more daringly, I turned it in for an assessment that was sent overseas to be scored, which was in retrospect perhaps not the best of ideas, but even as a young and inexperienced writer I was quite cheeky, no doubt.  Suffice it to say that pastiche is an approach to writing that I am not unfamiliar with, and I thought it worthy to assay such a method here as well, as Hopkins’ style is so well suited to parody and imitation, although hopefully not too much of it, lest the poetry become popular merely as a meme.

Yet although the poetry of Hopkins is definitely memeworthy, without a doubt, I trust as well that at least some readers will note that there is some seriousness in the poem as well.  I did not choose tinnitus to talk about merely at random, but in fact after reading the poems of Hopkins I was lying in bed with that dreadful ringing wondering if it would keep me from falling asleep (it didn’t) or whether it would persist for a while (as it does while I write these lines even now).  If I write as a bit of a joke towards a long dead late Victorian Jesuit poet, let it be said that at least the joke hits close to home in my own concerns about my hearing and the persistent buzzing that my ears often have.  Perhaps then, as it so often is, that the joke of this poem is on me, for who else reads obscure poetry from people who are long dead and then tries to imitate their style to whine about one’s own issues?  Only such a writer as myself, I suppose.

[1] See, for example:






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