On Ancient Athens and the invention of the Human
As the dark side of inventing thought, the Athenians also invented deconstruction (under the name sophism), namely that one could use the infinite regress to deconstruct any institution and even the concept of truth itself. This ultimately destroyed the ability of the Athenian elite to cooperate among themselves, and resulted in Athens being defeated by Sparta.
A generation later this philosophy became fashionable among the Spartan elite, resulting in Sparta being defeated by Thebes. Then Thebes was defeated by the Macedonians, then Rome conquered the Macedonian successor states. Then the Romans got into the habit of having massive civil wars.
Eventually Christianity provided a system of morality that was not easily deconstructible, and buried sophism/deconstruction for nearly two millennia.
Le Morte D'Arthur is plenty modern. It reads like a session of a text based adventure game, or a transcript from people playing a game similar to Dungeons and Dragons. Just replace zorkmids with worship points.
What do you mean when you say that Athenians invented "25% of the compass"? I don't catch the reference.
I wouldn't use the introduction to the gospel of John as representative of the literary (or philosophical) style of the New Testament as a whole. That section is highly stylized and arguably the _least_ representative section anywhere in the New Testament. Maybe something from Luke (who wrote the largest part of the New Testament by word count)? I randomly picked Luke 7:
After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.
And then I randomly picked Book 7 of The History of the Peloponnesian War:
After refitting their ships, Gylippus and Pythen coasted along from Tarentum to Epizephyrian Locris. They now received the more correct information that Syracuse was not yet completely invested, but that it was still possible for an army arriving at Epipolae to effect an entrance; and they consulted, accordingly, whether they should keep Sicily on their right and risk sailing in by sea, or, leaving it on their left, should first sail to Himera and, taking with them the Himeraeans and any others that might agree to join them, go to Syracuse by land. Finally they determined to sail for Himera, especially as the four Athenian ships which Nicias had at length sent off, on hearing that they were at Locris, had not yet arrived at Rhegium.
Honestly, the two feel pretty similar to me. In fact, I can find sections from Acts (also written by Luke) which are almost identical:
And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort named Julius. And embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. The next day we put in at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for. And putting out to sea from there we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. And when we had sailed across the open sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy and put us on board. We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind did not allow us to go farther, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.
It is obvious, of course, that Luke was heavily influenced by the Greeks (probably moreso than any other New Testament writer). But I suspect that the Greek influence that we see in ourselves comes to us mostly through the Bible, even at today's secular remove. Furthermore, I suspect that the point in time where the West became Greek is the time of the Protestant Reformation, which is when it first became possible for ordinary people to read the Bible in their own language.
What a brilliant piece! Born and raised in Athens, and a product of a Greek system of education that put the emphasis on our ancient progenitors, I was taught by teachers who were (mostly) proud to be Hellenes. But, eventually, "modernity," and "united" Europe, caught up with us and today Hellas is a poor copy of what it used to be. Indeed, the study of our ancient progenitors has (almost) fallen by the wayside.
"Modern" Greeks ape relentlessly the garbage that passes as "civilizational progress" and do their best to sideline their 4000-year long history and traditions that have remarkably resisted the debilitating pressures of the so-called "progress." I am pessimistic about our future and wish the ancient Olympian gods would somehow put their shoulder to the Greek wheel and give us a hand in resisting the kind of "modernity" that is equivalent the the Black Plague.
Ο Ύψιστος να βάλει το χέρι του! [May the Father above give us a hand].
Point of order: The Book of Mormon claims to be written in a combination of Hebrew and Egyptian (usually understood as a form of literary Hebrew rendered in something akin to demotic Egyptian script).
It's an interesting thesis; I think its weakness lies in the fact that "literature isn't culture" (sort of the pre-modern version of "Twitter isn't the real world"). In any culture in which literacy isn't to be generally assumed AND where the production of specific texts is labor-intensive, you would expect to find that the language and ideas found in the texts isn't going to be of a piece with how people speak, think and interact on a daily basis. To the degree that manuscripts must be handwritten to be disseminated, you will probably limit yourself to epic, weighty matters, and not waste the parchment for "your momma" jokes. Given that Puritans wanted to shut down the Eliabethan theatre scene in part because of its frivolity and earthiness, I think it certainly plausible that Shakespeare didn't "invent the human" so much as bring the human on stage for the first time in a long time.
It may also not be coincidental that the two examples given of "inventing the human" are either specifically theatrical, as with Shakespeare, or from a culture which lauded and foregrounded theatre, as with the Greeks -- thus allowing a certain "theatricality" or conversational quality to inhere in the rest of the culture's literary corpus. The draw of "being human" is certainly greater if a text is meant to be performed to audience reaction rather than read in monastic silence.
Interesting theme that, to some extent, I challenge. The words 'invent' and 'discover' have a muddled meaning in our language. In the sense of 'Shakespeare inventing the Human' I see it more as Shakespeare clearly seeing the human players around him more clearly than so few others before him, as those ancient Greeks had , him bringing them to life with his art more clearly for future generations, us, to appreciate. That he identified characteristic and conceptualized aspects of always existing human traits brilliantly for us to see more clearly.
We use words to describe concepts, ideas if you will. Failure to see the concept behind or embedded in a word and one reverts to your granny problem, a bit of knowledge lost.
Re: your choice selection from John—
“Hoc” is clearly not “he” and ESV is a poor translation because vulgate John is extremely easy to read thanks to Jerome who was fluent in Latin, Greek, and Aramaic, et al.
I don’t read Koine, so perhaps Jerome made a mistake(which I doubt), but I would bet Þe ESV is just a poor translation.
The classical culture of Greece and Rome is the cradle of Western civilization. Excellent article!