Review of the new Beowulf.
Avery Cardinal Dulles, has written a piece about ecumenism in the new edition of First Things. It’s a good article. It’s sober, it provides a nice historical context of recent ecumenical work, and most of all it’s a realistic assessment about exactly how much (or little) agreement there really is between protestants and catholics who actually care about their own respective theologies.
The blogosphere has already picked up on the article. (Cf. Millinerd, and J. Goroncy). One thing that I noted when I read the article hasn’t been mentioned yet in the blogs (to my knowledge) so I thought I’d chirp in.
A few days ago Fordham’s medieval studies program hosted famous medievalist Katherine Tachau who delivered a fascinating lecture about the depiction of astrologers/astronomers and logicians in some illustrated paraphrases of the Bible from the early 13th century called ‘Bibles Moralisees’. Tachau’s thesis is that these elaborate texts were commisioned by conservative religious groups and given to French nobility to surreptitious combat the influence of the new pagan learning.
The texts of the Bibles Moralisees contain eight small circular pictures. Each page is concerned with one particular bible story and the last two pictures reveal the spiritualized meaning of the story. One example regarding the story of the tower of Babel. The seventh picture has a group of pagans using an astrolabe and taking measurements while the construction of the tower goes on behind them. The eighth picture has a contemporary university master conducting astronomical research in precisely the same pose. The implication: the universities, by opening their doors to pagan learning, have been tempted into vana curiositas and they will get their recompense from God for their arrogance just like the Babel tower builders.
An interesting tidbit. Abelard and Heloise named their son ‘astrolabe’. I take that to the logician’s way of striking back at the conservatives.
Another interesting tidbit–besides the scholastics, the Bibles Moralisees also often abuse the Cathars. Modern scholarship opines that the name ‘cathar’ comes from the greek ‘katharos’ = “clean, purified”. However in the Bibles Moralisees the Cathars are always pictured worshipping a small cat-shaped idol. According to Tachau this is because Alain of Lille was confused about the etymology of the name and assumed that they were called ‘cathars’ because they worshipped cats. (“Th” was pronounced as ‘t’ in medieval french just like in modern french.)
. . . sometime back in the sixties two radically different cultural icons–Woody Allen and Billy Graham, say– had sat down for a chat about the morality of premarital intercourse? What could two people like that have to say to one another?
I wonder . . .
Two more good pieces in the NYT. One by Stanley Fish on Bart Ehrman’s new book on the problem of evil. Another by Oppenheimer on Anthony Flew’s newest book. The Oppenheimer piece makes it sound like Flew had nothing to do with the writing of the book that now bears his name. If the facts are correct, then this is troubling indeed. But, with the Times, facts must be taken with a grain of salt.