The Lesson of the Widow’s Mites (Mark 12:42-44; Luke 21:1-4) is a moment in the Gospels that, for all its simplicity, is difficult to interpret. While Jesus and his followers are resting in the Temple precincts, a widow comes and contributes two small coins to the Treasury (these coins were the least valuable then in circulation). Jesus tells his followers that because she has given away all the money that remained to her, she has given more than any other person, no matter how wealthy.
An affecting scene, certainly, but then the problems start to pile up. How does Jesus know that these were the last coins she possessed? What of the ironic parallel to Leviticus 12:8, which commands new mothers to sacrifice two turtledoves in thanks to God? And, above all, what of the story’s effect on women? Does it make sense for them to surrender their last worldly goods, especially if they are widows and, if young, as likely as not with children?
What has been left out in this story is the central element of Jesus’s teaching about poverty–his followers must give up all their money if they are to follow him. Complete trust is necessary if one is to enter the Kingdom of God. From this perspective, in exchange for giving up a pittance, the woman is gaining God’s salvation–and the protection available to her as a member of Jesus’s community.
Here, then, is the episode in the KJV, followed by my reconstruction:
And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
42And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
43And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
44For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
A widow appeared and added two insignificant coins to the Treasury. Jesus called his disciples and said, “In truth I say, this woman has given more than all those who have contributed to the Treasury. And because she has given all she had, all her wealth, she has entered the Kingdom of God.” And the woman became one of Jesus’s followers.
Image: The Poor Widow’s Offering; Frederick Goodall; WikiCmns; Public Domain.
It’s been a while since I’ve shared the pleasures of Ms. Roby’s blog: here is a autumn-brownie bite of her writing… RT
Even with the variety of topics I discuss, it seems to me that the Rag Tree at times needs a little livening up…So, with a tip of the hat to life on the other side of the Great Equation… RT
I have been reading Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, which is quite amusing. I fell in love with the following passages:
Mrs Smiling’s second interest was her collection of brassieres, and her search for the perfect one. She was said to have the largest and finest collection of this type of underwear in the world. It was hoped that on her death it would be left to the nation. She was an expert on cut, fit, colour, construction, and proper use of brassieres, and her friends has learnt that they could interest or calm her, even in moments of extreme emotion, by saying the following words: ‘I saw a brassiere today, Mary, that would have interested you…’ (p3)
Mrs Smiling’s character was firm and her tastes civilized. Her system of dealing with human nature when it insisted on forcing its coarseness upon her way of life was short and effective…
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It’s been a while since I’ve posted about the status of my translation/version of The Epic of Gilgamesh. It’s been something of a struggle, since I’ve moved back into my old apartment space & am blogging via the local library/computer lab. The good news is I’m getting better at beating the 45-minute time limit (& at using the generous access to 10-minute increment extensions). The status of the tablets is as follows:
1) Tablets I & II: Finished and copyrighted (2004).
2) Tablet III: In almost complete second draft since 2005. Utu’s speech to Gilgamesh near the tablet’s beginning needs to be completed, and a general brushing up of the language is advisable. Tablet III may also end up being the longest tablet in my version, so some cutting (or perhaps breaking the tablet in two) may be required to get it over the top.
3) Tablets IV & V: These may end up being the most frustrating tablets, because my second drafts disappeared when my hard-drive got chewed by a monster virus back at the end of ’08. The good news is that no work is lost, and I’m making good process at reconstructing the lost materials. Tablet IV has the additional problem of being the most repetitive tablet, making research and close attention to each section critical. But the good news is that in the last few days, Tab 4 has made excellent progress. More research to be done, for sure, but I’m feeling like the worst of the reconstruction may be over…
Tablet VI: In first draft, but the first half of the draft just flowed right out of me, and I’m getting a better sense of how to handle the remainder of the text.
Tablets VII-VIII: Ah, the death tablets, which contain the account of Enkidu’s death and Gilgamesh’s mourning for him. I thought Tab 7 was finished back in the spring, but have reworked it substantially to include rhymes and improve the tablet’s cohesion. Tab 8 is nearly done, with some work on the poetics of the list of funeral goods all that remains unfinished.
Tablets IX and X. Gilgamesh’s search for eternal life. I finished a 100-line excerpt from Tab 9 for my chapbook, Amassunu, back in 2010; the rest of these tablets is in first draft (though I’ve begun working with Siduri’s episode at the start of Tab 10–a strange and mystical representation of the goddess.
Tablets XIa & XIb. The Sumerian Flood. Actually, there’s only one tablet, but I’ve broken it in two to fill out the story of the Flood and Gilgamesh’s return to Uruk. In first draft, but I’ve begun playing with the poetics of the Flood story–the emotional climax of the epic and a passage that will surely require everything I can throw at it, including the poetic kitchen sink. I reach some unusual conclusions about the Quest for Eternal Life and what happens to Gilgamesh at the end. Stay tuned to this bat-channel to find out more…. 😉
Photo: Cylinder Seal and Impression. WikiCmns. Src: Jastrow. Public Domain.
At first glance, the birth-order of Jacob’s sons, the Twelve Patriarchs, might not seem important to deciphering the mysteries of the Elohist and the evolution of the Bible. After all, the Bible gives a clear account of the births, setting the stage for the struggle between Joseph and his brothers. But what if Genesis preserves a listing of the births that reports Joseph wasn’t the next-to-last son (and that Benjamin wasn’t Jacob’s youngest)? In fact it does, in Chapter 46, a passage that Richard Friedman attributes to the P author. And what if not one, but two other birth-orders can be discerned–the J birth-order (in Chapter 49) and the original E birth-order (a product of RT’s readings of Genesis and Exodus. And btw, what if Joseph had a second wife? RT thinks he might have–but that’s a topic for a later B&ZR posting). Could it have been that the birth-order (and everything else to do with the 12 Patriarchs) was a matter of burning religious and political concern to the E, J, and P authors? And just what was the P story of the births (a lost account implied by the survival of his list of the births)? Pesky questions to be sure, but perhaps worth pursuing. Anyway, here are the birth lists:
A. The “E” Birth-Order
Leah’s Older Sons
Leah’s Younger Sons
Born in Egypt
B. The “J” Birth Order
Bilhah’s First Son
Bilhah’s Second Son
C. The “P” Birth-Order
Notice the place where the lists match: Reuben and Simeon are the first two sons in every list. And the same sons are attributed to the same mothers throughout. Why were Reuben and Simeon so important? RT
Painting: Jacob and Rachel; Joseph Tissot; WikiCmns; Public Domain.
Say what you will–it’s unbelievably violent, incredibly beautiful, a man’s man’s tale, a window onto the origins of English poetry and culture–more than other work of literature, Beowulf has defined writing in English. Its meter evolved into the folk meters used in everything from advertising to hymnals; its worldview helped define the way that the Bible and Christianity were adapted into English writing and thought. Though this is no tale for children, Beowulf haunts our language community’s earliest and most profound imaginings. We are all children in its presence.
Here then is an early modern (Francis Gummere’s 1910) translation into English of the epic’s opening (not my favorite, by any means; I recommend the versions by Seamus Heaney and Howell Chickering). Winter is coming; enjoy the fierceness of the Old English masterpiece:
LO, praise of the prowess of people-kings
of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped,
we have heard, and what honor the athelings won!
Oft Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes,
from many a tribe, the mead-bench tore,
awing the earls. Since erst he lay
friendless, a foundling, fate repaid him:
for he waxed under welkin, in wealth he throve,
till before him the folk, both far and near,
who house by the whale-path, heard his mandate,
gave him gifts: a good king he!
To him an heir was afterward born,
a son in his halls, whom heaven sent
to favor the folk, feeling their woe
that erst they had lacked an earl for leader
so long a while; the Lord endowed him,
the Wielder of Wonder, with world’s renown.
Famed was this Beowulf: far flew the boast of him,
son of Scyld, in the Scandian lands.
So becomes it a youth to quit him well
with his father’s friends, by fee and gift,
that to aid him, aged, in after days,
come warriors willing, should war draw nigh,
liegemen loyal: by lauded deeds
shall an earl have honor in every clan.
Photo: First Page of the Beowulf Manuscript; WikiCmns; Src, Kip Wheeler’s Homepage; Public Domain.
Here are the letterforms for the other best-known modern shorthand system, Pitman Shorthand. Basing his work on Samuel Taylor’s shorthand (the first to be used throughout the English-speaking world), Sir Issac Pitman, who published his invention in 1837, created a shorthand that uses related letterforms to represent related sounds (the first to do so). For instance, voiced sounds are represented by thick strokes; unvoiced sounds by lighter strokes. Similarly, consonants shaped at the same place of articulation are all pointed in the same direction. In short (pardon the pun), Pitman’s system is phonetic and featural.
People writing shorthand can easily achieve speeds of 60-100 words per minute… a skill useful–even in today’s computerized world–for taking notes (or if you’re trying to finish the first draft of your novel ;))
Logograms (Short Forms)
Charts: WikiCmns; Author: Xanthoxyl; CC 3.0 Unported.