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Monday, June 16, 2003

Almost cannibalism.

I rarely read a book review with my hand over my mouth, but Dale Peterson's Eating Apes is guaranteed to make you squirm. ("Almost Cannibalism," David Quammen, New York Times Book Review 6.15.03, reg req'd)

Gnostic or doubter?

Frank Kermode writes an excellent review of Elaine Pagels's new book, Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas:

The novelty of ''Beyond Belief'' lies, I think, in the polite confrontation Pagels arranges between John and Thomas. She maintains that the fourth Gospel itself plays what might be called (though she does not put it like this) a political game. The disciple Thomas speaks only in John's Gospel, and he is rather coolly presented, said not to have been present with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them after the Resurrection, and condemned for all time to be the one who doubted. On the other hand we are allowed to assume that John was ''the disciple whom Jesus loved'' — a privileged and authoritative confidant. (Pagels points out that John puts Peter down in a similar way: the ''beloved disciple'' beat him in the race to be first to the empty tomb.)
The dissident voices of Nag Hammadi, silent for centuries, uttered much that was understandably thought dangerous. Some denied the physical resurrection; all suggested a Christian way of life foreign to all that has remained familiar. An interesting exercise in ''counterfactual'' history would be to guess how different the future of Europe might have been if the Gospel that was added to those of Mark, Matthew and Luke had been not John's but Thomas's. ("Another Gospel Truth," New York Times Book Review 6.15.03, reg req'd)

That would be interesting. (Alfred North Whitehead indulged a similar bit of counterfactual history when he wondered how Europe might have developed if Revelation had been replaced with Pericles' speech to the Athenians! Now there's something to chew on.) Incidentally, my own hagiography of Thomas (as portrayed by John!) is here.

Forget Galileo.

Isaac Newton is the real giant of the scientific revolution. Biography by James Gleick; review by Owen Gingerich. ("Do Sit Under the Apple Tree," New York Times Book Review 6.15.03, reg req'd)

Nathaniel Hawthorne, babysitter.

"He does put me almost beside my propriety, never quitting me, and continually thrusting in his word between the clauses of every sentence of all my reading, and smashing every attempt at reflection into a thousand fragments." Ah, parenting! ("Hawthorne and Son," New York Times Magazine 6.15.03, reg req'd)

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 16 June 2003 at 5:57 PM

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