Yah Saves

Isaiah’s name contains a form of the verb yasha, “save,” like the names Joshua and Jesus. Isaiah means “Yah saves.” Isaiah’s name is a clue to one of the key themes of the book. Again and again, Isaiah repeats the ringing declaration that Yahweh is Savior, and each time he is expounding on the meaning of his own name. *12:2: When Judah is saved, Judah will sing: God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid; for Master… Read more

Toying With Time

Armen Avanessian’s Present Tense: A Poetics is an intricate, illuminating study of the uses of tenses in fiction, and the changes in the uses of the past and present tense in the novels of high modernists. Käte Hamburger’s work sets the terms for Avanaessian’s discussion. On Hamburger’s account, the past tense in fiction is never really a past tense. Fiction “presentizes” the past tense, using it as a mark of “entry into a timeless present of fiction” (17). Tenses don’t have… Read more

Sell It With A Song

Nicholas Cook (Music: A Very Short Introduction) observes that “Advertisers use music to communicate meanings that would take too long to put into words, or that would carry no conviction in them.” To illustrate, he cites a 1992 Prudential commercial that begins with a young man listening to music and dreamily tapping his toe, moves forward in time to show the same young man playing in a band, and ends with a scene of the man, now older, playing requests for… Read more

The Coming of the King

On the fourth Sunday of Advent, 1511, a Dominican friar, Antonio de Montesinos, preached a sermon to the Spanish colonists in the main church of Santo Domingo. Bartolome de Las Casas was in the congregation that day, and the rest, as the say, is history. Here’s the central portion of that sermon: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness. In order to make your sins known to you I have mounted this pulpit, I who am the… Read more

Paradoxes of Equality

In Local Justice, Jon Elster discusses various principles that guide the allocation of resources in local settings. One of the common principles is “absolute equality,” which he thinks is defensible on various grounds: “Even when there is no consensus that equality is inherently fair, it is often the only focal point for the resolution of conflicts. The debate over the suffrage illustrates this proposition. Given the competing claims to superiority of various social groups (the rich, the educated, the well-born,… Read more

Philosophy On Trial

Speech exists that we may “lovingly create names,” writes Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (In the Cross of Reality, 149). “Speaking is always courting” (149). Courtrooms exist for those times when speech falters. In a courtroom, speech turns from courtship to dispute and this setting changes the character of speech: “In a debate, the parties who think they are right must be so precise with each word that even the most mistrustful opponent cannot cast doubt on it. . . . It is… Read more

Coriolanus and Christ

Jay Zysk’s Shadow and Substance is a recent contribution to a growing literature linking early modern theology with early modern drama. Zysk focuses on the ways Reformation disputes about the Eucharist play into plays, how Eucharistic semiotics shapes understandings of bodies and signs, flesh and spirit, letter and figure, words and deeds (28-52). Early in the book, he tackles Coriolanus, worked out by comparison with passion plays like Christ Crucified. He doesn’t suggest that Coriolanus is a Christ figure, but explores… Read more

Faith, Love, Marriage

For Luther, faith isn’t mere assent to truth, nor even confidence and trust in a distant savior. As David Fink puts it, “Faith . . . becomes the unitive force,” or, in Luther’s words, it “takes hold of Christ and has Him present, enclosing Him as the ring encloses a gem” (Reformation Readings of Paul, 46). Still, Luther insisted, faith isn’t the same as love, but rather precedes it: “Because you have taken hold of Christ by faith, through whom you… Read more

Jerome’s Perspective on Paul

In his analysis of Luther’s treatment of Galatians (in Reformation Readings of Paul), David Fink gives a brief overview of pre-Reformation interpretations of the letter. Jerome said that the letter “is concerned especially with establishing the ‘cessation of the old Law and the introduction of the new Law.'” Jerome sees the relation as one of promise and fulfillment, “whereby the fullness of evangelical grace renders obsolete the burdens of Jewish custom” (34). In contrast to Romans, which addresses Jews who… Read more

The True and the Made

Vico’s claim that verum et factum convertuntur, “the true and the made are convertible,” has been taken as a sign of the foundational atheism of modernity. Benedict XVI sees Vico’s claim as a secularization, a turn from the uncreated truth that is God to constructed human things. As Robert Miner insists (Vico: Genealogist of Modernity), this is certainly not Vico’s own perspective. The convertibility of truth and the made is a theological claim. Miner writes, “After linking truth and making… Read more

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