Saturday, December 06, 2008

A bit of knitting

It might be useful to bring together at this point a few of the many rich threads we've been following over the past year or so. The David story in Samuel is clearly about change -- from local tribal rule to the establishment of a nation under a king, for one.

We've talked about some parallels and differences between the Biblical narrative and Homer: Saul-David and Achilles-Odysseus.

In Plutarch we read the lives of Cato, Caesar and Alexander – all three narratives concerned central characters caught up in resisting, or bringing about, large scale changes to the state, society, and government. These stories involved relationships to power, human and divine.

· Cato – the quasi-prophet citizen who saw the inevitability of what flowed from Caesar. Critic of accumulated power. Shepherd of the common people.

· Caesar – agent who effected, but did not live to administer, the transition from Republic to Imperium. Gambler ("Toss the dice high"), strategist, huge risk taker, always calculating.

· Alexander – king who conquered and seduced kings, queens, all the powers of the known earth into the fragile harmony of the cosmos.

And in Plato we've looked at the vision of the philosopher king, whom we might at some point contrast with David, the warrior-poet king. (Something to think about: Plato intends to banish the poets, while David is Israel's chief poet.)

But the overarching story told in Samuel traces the transition from a loose confederation of tribes instructed and governed by priests, judges and perhaps prophets to the establishment of a house – a royal dynasty. What are some of the salient ways in which the basic "plot" of the Bible tale differs from those of Plutarch? The relation of human civil order to God in the Bible vs. that order vis a vis the gods of the Greeks and Romans? 

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