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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Sun 19 Jan 2014, 16:26



This is the painting that Caravaggio was dissing with that horse's huge - er- posterior. Carracci has rather made the Blessed Virgin float like an weightless astronaut in a space shuttle flight, which is an unfortunate effect. This from Wiki:

The second is from 1600-1601 and is in the famous Cerasi Chapel of the church of Santa Maria del Popolo of Rome. Carracci competed with the major artists for this altarpiece, the prize commission for the chapel. It is however one of his less satisfactory arrangements. The Virgin awkwardly rises through a cramped crowd of apostles, levitated by half-a dozen cherubim.

The canvas was somewhat overshadowed by the two famous contemporary paintings by Caravaggio on the side walls of the chapel: the The Conversion of Saint Paul on the Road to Damascus and The Crucifixion of Saint Peter. While both painters were important in the development of Baroque art, the contrast is striking: Carracci's Virgin glows with light, but St. Paul is surrounded by menacing shadows and figures.


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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Sun 19 Jan 2014, 17:01

This was his Peter, Paul and Mary, phase then?
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 08:36

Re Caravaggio and his St Peter painting:

For a start the impression that the men performing the execution display callousness is something that is not actually present in the painting itself, but rather in the minds of the observers who claim to see it. The faces are deliberately obscured from direct view - depending on where one wants one's imagination to take one they could equally be exhibiting profound remorse as they carry out the task they have been ordered to do. This ambiguity may have been completely intentional on the artist's part. This particular commission (part of a set of paintings ordered by the same patron) was a lucrative one for the artist and was complicated by the fact that the patron in question, Tiberius Cerasi, fell dangerously ill during its commission, raising a question mark over payment not just for Caravaggio but for a handful of other artists then engaged in producing works for his several prestigious projects includeing the Cerasi Chapel. We know from the Chapel accounts that a version of the St Peter painting was rejected by Cesari's trustees, the Franciscan Order who had the running of the chapel complex, and that Caravaggio embarked on this his second attempt with Cesari mortally ill and not in a position to make any ultimate decision regarding either acceptance or payment. The artist therefore quite intelligently in my view produced a work which did not compromise his burgeoning reputation for what was then a revolutionary style later to be known as Baroque, but also crucially produced a composition which the Franciscans could not reject. Had they done so and Cesari died in the meantime (as he in fact did) then Caravaggio stood to lose the entire fee - or at least be forced to sue for payment, not an easy task against the Franciscans at that time.

Ironically, the painting that was rejected - if the one in the Hermitage is indeed it (there is debate over whether it is his or Leonella Spada's) - does indeed portray callousness in the face of the smiling workman (wearing his best hat for the occasion) hoisting the crucifix under the approving gaze of an official. Even if this painting is the work of Spada then we can still assume with relative certainty that it reflects Caravaggio's original concept - Spada was a tyro of Caravaggio who derived much by way of composition and technique from his mentor. The important point then is to recognise Caravaggio's intentional departure from the "callousness" portrayed in the original concept. Modern commentators who pretend to see it there are therefore seemingly ignorant of the painting's actual history and context or are simply projecting emotions regardless of that context onto the scene which are really not justified by the scene itself.

Re Peter and Paul at loggerheads:

We have the Pauline version of that tiff. The Saul/Paul who appears in the canonical Acts however has a falling out with John Mark but otherwise seems an über Jew in how he interprets theology. The apocryphal Acts of Paul fits the gentile-accommodating version of Paul's epistles but portrays a man whose ministry goes beyond Rome and ends inconclusively. This Paul might indeed have had a major spat with Peter but it is clear why it could not be included in the canon, Paul already having been subsumed into the myth then under construction as an important justification for the church's adoption of Rome as a power base. In short, the theological argument depicted in Paul's epistles is entirely plausible for the reasons stated even if it was invented or exaggerated afterwards. The facts surrounding the spat are not referenced by Peter in canon or apocrypha and those supplied by canonical Paul raise more questions about the other protagonists in the debate than they actually answer.

Re "blatant atheists" being low life:

Irrelevant to any discussion regarding the elements of myth, even Christian myth. However, if there is a bias in the historical analysis of this particular myth it is more likely to be exhibited by those who have invested belief in some or all of its elements beyond that which historical analysis or logic might justify. If this is what separates theists from low life then I am prepared to go as low as I can get. The direction is less important than the degree of separation from an irrationality that insinuates debasement where reasoned intelligence at least attempts to exist.
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 09:48

@nordmann wrote:
Modern commentators who pretend to see it there are therefore seemingly ignorant of the painting's actual history and context or are simply projecting emotions regardless of that context onto the scene which are really not justified by the scene itself.


Well, I pinched that idea from the Graham-Dixon biography so, if you are right (and I accept what you say about the faces being hidden), it is not my "ignorance": what I think of actually when I look at that image is the "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do" prayer of the Christ on the cross. The other no doubt irrelevant remark that comes into my head is from Julius Caesar of all things - the words spoken by Marullus to the Roman cobbler, carpenter and other commons: "You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things/O you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome."

Men not particularly cruel or deliberately callous maybe, just stupid, unthinking - unaware.

@nordmann wrote:
...but otherwise seems an über Jew in how he interprets theology.

Are you sure?

Blast, blast and blast again - have done a Minette and have just lost a great long bit of my message here - I typed out a huge chunk from the controversial book by Reza Aslan Zealot: the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. Wonder if anyone has read it? He's supposed to be a reputable scholar - lots of degrees and all, but these days that means nothing. He looks in some detail at the Paul/Peter split. Haven't time to start it all again, so will just add...

The Paul/Peter dispute was very, very important, surely? In fact it was not so much a personal "tiff" between Paul and Peter, but a very serious split between two different versions of Christianity - the Jewish one and the Greek one; the Petrine and the Pauline versions. But was it really Petrine - the real leader of the Jerusalem based "Church" was James the brother of Jesus, not Peter. James got written out of the story (myth as you would call it) later because of the need (I think??) to promote the idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary. The Jewish human Jesus whom the apostles had actually known in the flesh was very different from the mystical cosmic being of Paul's Greek world. Even the words Messiah and Christ - both meaning "anointed one" - actually suggest very, very different things. A Jewish "Petrine" Messiah or "anointed one" was not the same as a Greek "Pauline" Christ "anointed one".

But what I find odd is something I've read somewhere - that Peter is the Catholic favoured saint (with Mary, of course) while Paul is the wordy one much loved by Protestants. I always thought Peter and Paul were of equal importance to Catholics. But if we go along with your idea of a "malleable" Peter, I suppose that does make a kind of sense...

Awful, messy message, but will send it. Want to keep the discussion going.



















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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 10:27

Of course it is an important split - a seminal one without which the church could never have developed into the arm of empire it became. So important is it that this simply highlights the abject lack of reportage available today regarding its true nature. It is presented as a difference of opinion between Paul and some others - whether one accepts only canonical scripture or even includes the rest - which then surprisingly has no reported repercussions on the conduct or effectiveness of the original ministries, all of whose missionary leaders carry on creating converts at a rate of knots and building a common edifice despite this fundamental theological fissure in their organisation's foundation. Even the most die-hard literalist historical interpretation has to acknowledge that the information provided in scripture as presented to us now represents a political position arrived at much later than the events described, the gaps and discrepancies in that information therefore being as likely due to later redaction as to never actually having been set down by someone beforehand. Historical records filtered through propagandist processes (in this case over several centuries and with different agendas applying at various times) are notoriously difficult to relate to fact.
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 10:34

The über Jew might be overstating it a tad, however Saul/Paul in Acts differs only very slightly from the rest of the crew. He comes across as a bit more adventurous (his decision to hit Macedonia is reported as having been so at least) but otherwise he's doing the same as everyone else - occasional miracles, making sure there's no backsliding, and in the latter case even rebuking Jewish backsliders at one point. Not quite the splitter from orthodox Jewish theology as generally understood from his own canonical entries. And no mention of a major theological split at all - as far as I know his falling out with John Mark is over more prosaic differences regarding administration. In fact the apocryphal Acts of Paul squares more neatly with his own epistles with regard to attitude and theological standpoint, but then of course has him merely passing through Rome en route to other adventures and was therefore deemed counterproductive. Once Eusebius declared he had been beheaded in Rome that put the kybosh on adopting any other official stance.

EDIT: I'd quite forgotten the Paul and Barnabus episode in Antioch according to Acts. At this point they were telling Gentiles they could be as good as Jews should they convert with penises intact. The local pantheists (unsurprisingly) didn't seem to mind this approach. However the Jews were incensed. Paul barely got away with his life, the Antioch Jews  later catching up with him in Lystrum and inciting the locals to stone him to death. He was given up for dead but managed to recuperate enough to chance his arm again in Antioch. This time he just goes straight into attack on the state religion (obviously safer than riling the Jews) and manages another few converts on that basis. However it was then that the arrival of more orthodox Christians (at that time) advocating circumcision for those who'd already thought they'd converted brought everything to a head (pardon the pun) and had our lad called back to HQ. This appears to be the root of the great theological divide between Christianity and Judaism - Paul having opportunistically ditched elements of his own theology to gain recruits being then asked to account for himself. However in this version Peter sticks up for Paul and actually agrees that the non-Jews can leave their knives in the cupboard. No falling out at all in other words, just a little misunderstanding resolved by Peter seeing the sense in Paul's turning a blind eye to some basic Jewish precepts.

And of course none of this has ever been edited afterwards!   Smile


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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 10:43

But it's still "a lovely idea", this silly myth, as the drunken Sebastian said to the cynical Charles.

Politics and propaganda and personalities - all human nonsense, I agree; but the gentle and loving message of the Gospels has been a source of comfort and strength - and hope - to me that I will not deny (although I admit I have been wracked with doubt at times). That probably makes me banal and irrational and unintelligent  in your eyes, nordmann -  so be it. Here I stand: I can do no other, as Martin Luther didn't say.


PS You've just added a bit since I typed above. I think we are reading two quite different New Testaments. Sigh.



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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 11:24

This is Caravaggio's The Denial of Saint Peter - very nearly his last painting; he was a sick man when he  did this, injured after a fight, eyesight damaged, hands shaking: "It is a terminally raw and ragged thing - an image snatched from the pit of darkest adversity, painted by a man who could barely hold a brush."

I think it is remarkable; and of course the most eloquent figure in the picture is Peter himself, his bald head creased with lines and his face showing an expression of deep, glassy-eyed self-recrimination.

"He is the embodiment of saddened guilt, a man who knows he has done wrong and can hardly bear to confront himself." Exactly.

Can that be denied?

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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 11:36

Silly myth? Christian myth is many things but silly definitely isn't one of them. And nor have I ever inferred that to invest in its contents is banal or unintelligent. Irrational it may be at times but that in itself does not disqualify that approach.

But back to the point - the myth was designed to prosecute a philosophical package amongst other things, but of all these things it is the philosophy of altrusim that underpins everything else. Now whether one ascribes that philosophy to divine revelation transmitted via a messiah or a natural progression of existing Hellenic philosophy as it interfaced with Judaic principles and beliefs, the important thing is that it was a huge improvement on the religions it usurped both in the Jewish and in the Graeco-Romano sphere. Judaism was doomed only to appeal to people bound by a common and rather limited culture in terms of size and influence. Hellenic philosophy was doomed to co-exist with pantheistic beliefs, the only direct interface being denial of those beliefs. When it tried to engage in a theological sense it was always only very tentatively and with little or no impact on those beliefs. As a form of hybrid Graeco-Judaism Christianity was a formula which could actually take that which was considered the high points of both and transform them into a single, easily administered, eminently transmittable model for living that was both revolutionary in its intent and ultra conservative in its application once adopted by the religious. The former gave it mass appeal, the latter an appeal specific to the controllers of state. These things don't come around that often historically - they take the incidental presence of several factors outside the direct control of the originators - so from that standpoint alone Christianity deserves rigorous and enthusiastic scrutiny regarding its own origins and initial development. This includes the construction of myth, but it also includes much more relevantly the piecing together of what actually happened. Some of this has been incorporated into the myth. Most has not. That is where my intrigue springs from.

You can throw as many Caravaggios as exist into a discussion about St Peter, but they illustrate (literally) aspects of the myth, not the historical source. They are fascinating studies, and indeed the artist's life is a fascinating study in its own right. However neither bring anything to bear on historical analysis attempting to address the original PO.
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 11:55

Oh, all right.

You are so bloody eloquent it is infuriating.

But I can just see various people from Res His listening at the Sermon on the Mount - me in tears, you taking down copious notes to discuss with your intellectual mates from the Philosophy and History departments later, MM wanting to scoff, but actually being quite moved, Priscilla intent and fascinated, ID and ferval looking bored...

I don't see anything wrong with "throwing" great art into the discussion - I don't think Priscilla would object. We are all trying to discuss Peter in our own way.

I was trying to be sarcastic when I said silly.

PS Nobody mention cheesemakers, please.
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 12:25

Temp wrote:
But I can just see various people from Res His listening at the Sermon on the Mount - me in tears, you taking down copious notes to discuss with your intellectual mates from the Philosophy and History departments later...

Notes? No way, I would have been correcting him as he went along. Finding aesthetic pleasure in looking at a lily and from this assuming divine provenance for both the lily's perceived beauty and the eye of the beholder perceiving it simply means that he hadn't got to the end of Hippias Major. I would certainly have been the one pleading with him to read the whole treatise before he started issuing half-baked versions of the Socratic response to Sophism as imagined by Plato. If he could do that overnight and then we all met up on the mount again the next day to continue I'd probably waste a pencil or two. And don't get me started on the principal of inheritance as a discriminatory tool in an ethical context.

Personally I prefer the Sermon on the Plain in Luke. It's essentially the same thing at lower altitude but is much more succinct while still in keeping with Socratic principles (except for the threat at the end). Moreover it conforms much more closely with what we now call Platonic Form. When Jesus says something is then it is - Plato was clever enough not to argue or rationalise further than this point either for fear of going up his own arse. In philosophical terms this is called solidity of form. In religious terms it's called revelation. In philosophy it leads to the basis of further philosophical conjecture. In religion it leads to doctrine. However at least Jesus was stealing stuff that even when it became doctrine also invited contemplation. That in itself places him above just about any other messiah around then or in the meantime - and boy have there been a few!
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 12:41

@nordmann wrote:
Notes? No way, I would have been correcting him as he went along.


And I would have been thumping you (when not snivelling).  Smile

Seriously, interesting stuff. Will go away and mull.
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 12:55

And I would of course have turned the other cheek - just to keep the moral high ground you understand (metaphorically only, Jesus had already grabbed the actual high ground, thereby indicating messianic tendencies along with a distinct lack of scientific understanding regarding accoustics).
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 13:04

My apologies to Carracci: I think I've posted the wrong The Assumption of the Virgin (I've never been to Rome). Actually I prefer the one above (think it's in Madrid now) - this one has the Blessed Virgin looking as though she is about to execute a swallow dive:

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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 13:44

She's crowd-surfing .... only it looks as if the tide is about to go out: the two guys in the forground look decidedly worried that something that big is about to be launched in their direction.

And I wouldn't be scoffing .... I'd be far to busy chatting up the centurians or arranging for some more diabolical weather over Albion!  Wink
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 14:15

@Meles meles wrote:


And I wouldn't be scoffing .... I'd be far to busy chatting up the centurians...


This one's mine, MM.  Smile 

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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 14:23

And I would be anything but bored but I'd prefer we all met up in the pub afterwards rather than for a rerun on any mount. 
Don't imagine that my disbelief in things supernatural prevents me being enthralled by belief systems in general and Christianity in particular; I've been through the whole process - Sunday school (100% in the exam every year), Youth Fellowship, regular church goer and hat shower-offer, until I just couldn't commit to membership because I took it seriously and found it all too irrational. Add to that an atheist, anarchist step father encouraging me and who pointed me to various critiques and here I am now, intrigued but often baffled by what is genuine faith in those such as you Temp who, clear eyed and applying great intelligence, can still hold to their belief.
I must read more, I'm embarrassed at my ignorance when reading these discussions. Any suggestions?

The Marys in those Assumptions reminds me of the angels in the scraps I used to swap in the playground. And why does she have cherubs under her skirts, there's a disturbing little disembodied head floating below her in the first one?
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Mon 20 Jan 2014, 14:42

I expect it's my Irish blood, ferval.   Smile 

My husband predicted I'd become a Catholic before I was done, but I won't: I went to an Anglo-Catholic Mass once - never again. I came over all indignant and Protestant and nearly walked out when they got to all the bowing to the Virgin Mary bit.

Seriously, I can't really explain it (sorry, I know that annoys you people dreadfully). On Christmas Day a friend happened to mention that *** goes to Church, you know, adding, "She's very fond of the Book of Common Prayer and the 16th century too" - and I was immediately attacked by several people. One lady, on about her tenth glass of wine, leaned over the turkey and positively hissed at me: "A crutch. Just a crutch, that's all it is."

Maybe she's right, but, as I replied, when you finally admit your leg's broken, why not? She snorted in derision at that and we changed the subject.

Yes, I noticed the cherubs with some concern. One's got a very strange, fat little face (looks quite evil).
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Fri 24 Jan 2014, 12:34

I'm not convinced that Peter was actually in Rome, as the Catholics claim he was....

And as for the Gospels, it is interesting how the Council of Nicaea only accepted those four, and banned the others.

The banning of Arianism is another interesting part of Christian history....
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Fri 24 Jan 2014, 14:28

Tradition places St Peter's death in Rome just before or immediately after the outbreak of the Jewish Revolt and at least seven years before that war's conclusion. Roman accounts describe an influx of Jewish refugees from Judaea into the city throughout this war, and were Christians amongst their number this would of course explain them forming a cohesive community. The problem is in reconciling the timeframe of known events with those claimed - both with regard to Peter's martyrdom and the alleged pogrom against Christians after the great fire, both in the reign of Nero. It is a thorny (pardon the pun) question that is normally glossed over by those Christian historians who wish to accept these two events as based on historical fact - but just how many identifiable Christians would there have been in Rome in the decade prior to Titus's destruction of Jerusalem and the dismantling of the Judaean administration? It is difficult to think they could have been anything but an extreme minority in the population and moreover hardly distinguishable by many from Jews and/or anyone else who might deviate from pantheistic belief. Especially to an extent so obvious that they had already become not only known but actively hated by the authorities more so than any other minority knocking around at the time.

The alleged reason for Peter's martyrdom is also a little suspect to say it mildly. If Nero was going for high-profile executions to mark his tenth anniversary then there were any number of much more logical targets around at the time (Nero was never short of such candidates).
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Tue 28 Jan 2014, 08:44

That's just the problem, isn't it, nordmann?  Just because tradition says Peter was in Rome doesn't necessarily mean he actually was there, does it?  Is there any actual proof that he was in Rome?

Tradition says that those apostles flew around the world like they had frequent flyer miles...Philip in Ethiopia, Andrew in Scotland, James in Spain (before he got executed in Jerusalem!), and Thomas in India.  It seems to me that each nascent Christian movement felt the need to justify their establishment by claiming an apostle was in their city.
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Tue 28 Jan 2014, 09:10

You said it. In Peter's case it became imperative to the very integrity of the Christian power structure that he be placed there, shiv, so even more than in the other cases there is a distinct lack of historical challenge to the claim. From a purely historical point of view however it is an important question as its resolution would go a huge way towards ascertaining the development of that structure in its nascent, pre-adoption by empire, form. Something made that structure eventually attractive to the secular powers and given what else we know about Roman rule in the time of empire it is necessary to look beyond theological interpretation of events to discover what that was.

However - as with so much else concerning Christianity - this avenue of enquiry has been emphatically locked down traditionally. The relatively recent declaration, after extremely shoddy analysis (for want of a better term) of the archaeological investigation of the basilica's crypt, that the bones found are Peter's is more suggestive of a denial of historical reality than an interest in it, so it seems that in this case the tradition is alive and well.
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Fri 03 Apr 2015, 14:15

Did anyone else (besides me) watch David Suchet's "In the Steps of Saint Peter" (Part 1) this morning? I did not know that Peter grew up in Bethsaida, a place which was, according to Suchet, more Greek than Jewish.

I seem to remember a dispute between nordmann and Tim of Aclea about Saint Paul being a "Hellenized Jew". Could it be that Peter was also such a one? Suchet suggests that Simon Peter, far from being an ignorant fisherman, was actually well aware of Greek language/thought/philosophy. He may even have always had two names: Simon - from his Jewish heritage - and Petros from the Greek/pagan roots of his birthplace.

The marriage of Greek and Jewish thought fascinates me. Always thought this was Paul's doing - but perhaps not? Was Saint Peter also more Greek in his thinking than we have previously imagined?


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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Fri 03 Apr 2015, 16:24

I also watched it, Temp, and found quite a lot of it interesting. The speculation as to the meaning of 'On this rock' was new to me. Suchet, I noticed, was careful to say, "According to tradition" in various contexts but I'd have liked an acknowledgement that perhaps whole story might be so designated.

Having wakened at the crack of dawn, I also saw 'The Gospel of St. John' which preceded it on 2.
That I found rather impressively done and infinitely better than the steaming heap of ordure that was 'The Ark' which was on last week.
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Fri 03 Apr 2015, 17:43

@Temperance wrote:

I seem to remember a dispute between nordmann and Tim of Aclea about Saint Paul being a "Hellenized Jew". Could it be that Peter was also such a one? Suchet suggests that Simon Peter, far from being an ignorant fisherman, was actually well aware of Greek language/thought/philosophy. He may even have always had two names: Simon - from his Jewish heritage - and Petra from the Greek/pagan roots of his birthplace.

Maybe Temp ... didn't Simon-Peter act as the sort of go-between, between the rival early christian groups: the jewish/circumcised 'christians' led by James (James the Just, not James the Apostle), and the greek/gentile 'christians' led by Paul .... because Peter was acceptable and accepted by both parties ... and so maybe he spoke both their languages as it were?

As to whether he was really a fisherman? Well doesn't that biographical snippet appear only in two of the four canonical gospels (and we all know how many handfuls of Dead Sea salt have to be taken with them), and is not mentioned at all in any of Paul's Epistles. Maybe both he and his brother Andrew were indeed just humble fisherman ... or was that 'fact' written into the official histories (the gospels) at a later date to make it a nicer fit with Jesus' supposed, "fishers of men" comment? In much the same way as the name Peter derives from the "rock of my church" dialogue, as reported in Matthew... I thought Petros, as a man's given name, was not used in the hellenistic world ... until after St Peter, no? 

I didn't see the program so maybe I'm just repeating things ... or even (more likely) just spouting bol!µk$.
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Fri 03 Apr 2015, 19:22

Deleted - I'm not trying to do a Tim here, quoting chunks of the Bible at you: I was just interested in the significance of Caesarea Philippi - an area dedicated to Pan, the "god of desolate places" - being the place where the events of Matthew 16  took place. It was something Suchet mentioned, that's all.


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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Fri 03 Apr 2015, 20:18

I've always understood that bit of dialogue, ("hey guys ... so who'd you think is the son of God? ... Yup, well-guessed Rocky, you're dead right ... it's Me!") ... as the later Christian Church presenting Jesus as a fait àccompli son-of god. But frankly I think that bit has always sounded like Jesus acting arrogant, self-important and manipulative, just to make sure everyone knows who's da boss! Not much humility there at all. But then, who can say if 'he' even said anything remotely like that anyway?

I find trying to discuss whether Simon Peter was, or was not, a greek-speaking fisherman, a bit like trying to discuss whether Guenivere 'knew' Sir Lancelot before she married king Arthur.  There have been so many vested interests, re-writings, re-inventions ... that any vestige of 'truth' is long, long gone, and frankly the real Simon Peter is now almost as mythical as the real King Arthur (if indeed he ever existed at all) ... or the real Jesus Christ for that matter. It's interesting as an academic exercise perhaps ... but I doubt any great new 'truths' are to be found therein.
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Sat 04 Apr 2015, 06:29

When Greeks write stories the characters are Greek, even if they're nominally Jewish - quelle surprise. Always remember who wrote this stuff.

Peter makes sense only when he's made into a Roman patriarch. When he sheds all the traitor stuff - cock crowing working for Judas etc - and becomes the father of the church in Rome, then he actually makes a bid to be historically recorded, unlike the rest of his crew. He fails of course (quelle surprise again) but in failing founds a church allegedly.

The Jewish thing by then had become very much the back story. The proof is in the name change (from shim'on "he who has heard" to the Greek "Petros", "rock, dependable" and already a much bandied name by the first century). One of the first historically recorded famous "Peters" is Nero, another deity who could only be worshipped in secret at the time. And of course not for the first time in Roman history a Peter had a Peter killed by imperial decree. By such means are official legacies conferred. At least in Greek minds.
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Sun 05 Apr 2015, 18:56

Those Greeks certainly knew a thing or two about spinning a cracking yarn.

And this one certainly captured the public's imagination - that you have to admit.

Smile


PS I got it wrong about Suchet reckoning Peter knew a lot about Greek thought - in this article about his programme he says Peter was probably "illiterate". He would may well have understood Greek (market-place Greek?), but was - as far as we will ever know - an uneducated man. Illiterate and uneducated does not, of course, mean unintelligent.


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/11505783/David-Suchet-My-hunt-for-St-Peter.html


The founder of the Roman Catholic church, Peter is one of the most influential figures in the creation of Western civilisation. As such, we tend to perceive him as an unreachable, holier-than-thou character. No. He was human. That’s why I like him, because he’s one of us. I see him as an impulsive, impetuous, hard-bitten Middle Eastern man...

His character and what motivated him has always intrigued me. How did this humble, probably illiterate family man from a small fishing village in the ar**-end of the Roman Empire become the first Bishop of Rome? Why is he the most talked about figure in the New Testament aside from Jesus?
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Mon 06 Apr 2015, 17:23

I disagree with the statement that "Peter is one of the most influential figures in the creation of Western civilisation". I could have lived with "the creation of Peter is one of the most influential developments in the creation of ..." but might then have had to put in a reminder that the term "Western civilisation" transcends and extends well beyond a narrow one defined in religious terms. However the suggestion that the character of Peter has had a profound influence on the civilisation of which I am a member should at least mean that I as a member can trace some profundities back to him. I can with Jesus, and even with Paul, at least in so far as I have been encouraged to believe I should cease my tracing backwards at those pseudo-historical points. But Peter? Sorry, no.

How Hellenic was the Eastern Mediterranean at the time of these events? This is a very moot point indeed and one that both modern Christianity and modern Judaism will of course play down. However if we really want to even begin to understand how an "illiterate" from the region might still have been inculcated with Hellenic influences and philosophies one really first has to acknowledge the political and economic developments in that region in the centuries prior to his existence, as well indeed as what continued to occur in the region for several centuries afterwards. The "Romans" play a major role in the Christian story of the religion's origin but they were in political terms assuming control of a hellenised area which, it must be said, also reverted to overtly hellenic control in the form of the Byzantine Empire and which then remained so for over a half a millennium longer before the rise of Islam in the area. That's a lot of Greek, over a lot of time, coming from a lot of different angles, and crucially covering not only the period of the New Testament narrative but of those early writers whose works comprise that narrative.

To fail to acknowledge the rather obvious influence of such hegemony on all those individuals who happened to live within it (literate and illiterate alike) would be akin to dismissing - for example - British influence in terms of culture and language on those areas which fell within that country's political ambit for generations too, even though the nature, actual political power and ability to control those influences have all drastically altered in the interim.
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Tue 07 Apr 2015, 10:57

@nordmann wrote:


How Hellenic was the Eastern Mediterranean at the time of these events? This is a very moot point indeed and one that both modern Christianity and modern Judaism will of course play down.  



But why should such an interesting moot point be "played down"?

And what do you mean by "modern Christianity"? If you mean the literalists, the fundamentalists - well, yes. Such people will "play down" anything that challenges their safety. But there are others who believe in the message of the Gospels, but who do not see a discussion of the influence of Greek thought and culture on early Christianity as a threat. Quite the opposite. It was something I had never really thought about before Res His, but, having read various posts on this site, read a few bits and pieces elsewhere, googled around here and there, and talked about the subject with others who find the ideas interesting (and, it must be admitted, also argued fruitlessly with those who find such discussions an abomination), I personally can't see what all the fuss is about. Of course Christianity was influenced by Greek thought - Augustine said as much (didn't know that until recently), and many of the early fathers were Platonists.  Augustine was very heavily influenced by Plato. His De Civitate Dei has been called “the ripest fruit of the inward union of Christian and Platonic wisdom”. Augustine went so far to say in his Confessions that he thanked God that he became familiar with Plato first, because had he not, he probably would never have been able to receive the Gospel.

Dean Inge  (the "Gloomy Dean"), Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, was teaching this approach to Christianity over half a century ago: he is best known for his works on Plotinus and neoplatonic philosophy, and on Christian mysticism. He was a strong proponent of the spiritual type of religion—"that autonomous faith which rests upon experience and individual inspiration"—as opposed to one of coercive authority. He was therefore outspoken in his criticisms of the Roman Catholic Church. His thought, on the whole, represents a blending of traditional Christian theology with elements of Platonic philosophy.


What I find odd is why the early Church supressed all this honesty about Greek influence, declared Platonist Christians to he heretical, and generally squashed any further discussion. Sadly that is a tradition which continues amongst some (many?) Christians today. What are people so afraid of? A general policy of squashing is no way to teach anyone about anything, but then "teaching" was perhaps never very high on the "Christian" agenda post Constantine.

MM wrote:
There have been so many vested interests, re-writings, re-inventions ... that any vestige of 'truth' is long, long gone, and frankly the real Simon Peter is now almost as mythical as the real King Arthur (if indeed he ever existed at all) ... or the real Jesus Christ for that matter. It's interesting as an academic exercise perhaps ... but I doubt any great new 'truths' are to be found therein.



Of course "there have been so many vested interests, re-writings, re-inventions", but is that not true of most historical topics? Every generation finds its own "truth". Should we then give up the search for truth out of sheer boredom?

Right, I'm going to search for truth now with a giant can of Cuprinol, the truth being debated being: "Are posh paints worth the money, or is Cuprinol from Homebase just as good?" I'm going to paint my summerhouse in Wild Thyme. About the nearest to a wild time I'll get this week.


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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Tue 07 Apr 2015, 11:59

"Modern Christianity" as I used the term was only meant to infer current standard theological teaching on the matter of the church's early Greekness. It is of course acceptable within current theology (excluding fundamentalists who tend to make things up to suit them as they go along anyway) to acknowledge early theologians' debt to contemporary philosophies and in particular Greek ones. However acknowledgement of the same philosphies' potential influence on the religion's early leaders is not so forthcoming or at least much explored. I find this eminently understandable by the way. An emphasis on Jesus's debt to Platonic thought, or for that matter vociferous recognition of a so-called ignorant and illiterate Judaean fisherman's ready acceptance of doctrine based on essentially Greek beliefs, undermines the revelationary aspect to the initial conversions considerably. And since revelation is the buzzword, even for standard theologians, this avenue of enquiry is most definitely "played down".

By the time of Augustine of Hippo there had already been established within church tradition the presence of a thinking elite - those who for various reasons enjoyed a dispensation to theologise denied the more "ordinary" church member. And though Augustine's recorded statement of recognition of his own debt to Platonian philosophy is indeed important in the theological history of the church I am more concerned about those who went before him and who also basically owed a similar debt. If such had ever been recorded then that record is no longer generally available to be assessed, and the further back one goes the less evidence of any such record is to be found. This can of course be used to establish the hypothesis that it never existed - and indeed many people do just that, even going so far as to state the hypothesis as fact. However even a brief analysis of many of the core doctrines of faith dating back to the church's origins indicate that this cannot be as simple as all that.

I personally have always assumed that the church's tendency to denial of a continuity from existing and in fact long-established Greek philosophy with regard to nascent christianity is down to three principal reasons. As already stated acknowledgement would undermine a core revelatory quality which it is believed is sacred in its own right. But also it would equally undermine the Jewishness of the original church, which from its very early days used Jewish scripture and prophecy as a principal evidence of its own sacredness and worth. Thirdly it would in some way demean the stature of later "approved" theologians within the church who are generally credited with intellectually combining the christian "faith" with precursive philosophies but only after carefully interpreting those philosophies in a manner that suited the faith. To admit that they were only doing what the originators had also done, and in fact the originators may well have drawn completely different conclusions, would threaten the very carefully constructed precepts which pin the theology (as opposed to any philosophy) together. It is much easier to paint the originators as divinely inspired and/or simple and ignorant people and pretend that the similarities with earlier philosophies were really only discovered later by luminaries - approved luminaries of course.
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Tue 07 Apr 2015, 14:14

As ever, I'm enjoying and learning from these posts and I'm struck by the importance, in the Abrahamic faiths, of not just revelation but revelation to the the illiterate, the ignorant, the unschooled. What superb spin doctors the church (and Islam in its turn) has had, what better way to appeal to the mass of people than this downplaying of learning or status, its focus on the heart, the emotions, above the intellect and the valorisation of the common man (and woman of course) as worthy recipients of that revelation.
And of course it makes sense that Christianity took root early in Magna Graecia and the Hellenistic East if  elements of the faith resonated with some culturally familiar ideas from philosophy and mystery cults but with the USP of personal salvation.


Slightly off topic but this starts on Friday. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05ql6hf

In the first part of a major three-part series, the eminent theological historian Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch explores how Christianity has shaped western attitudes to sex, gender and sexuality throughout history. Travelling from Israel to Greece, Italy and Ireland, he begins by showing how the early Christians transformed sex from a biological necessity into a vice, from a pleasure into a sin. Even though Jesus Christ said very little about sex, Christianity soon promoted celibacy as the Christian ideal, turned sex into something dangerous and made even marriage second-best.

Set your recorder, Temp.
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Tue 07 Apr 2015, 14:23

But of course the Christian depiction of sex as a sin (or for that matter any enjoyment which is deemed superfluous to the purpose of veneration of the central deity) wasn't licked off the ground either. If MacCulloch insists this was a Christian innovation in a hitherto hedonistic world he is either being less than sincere or less than knowledgeable. In fact of all the aspects to Christianity as a new religion this has to be one of the least innovative of all, and really only stood in stark contrast to earlier beliefs where those earlier beliefs had had little or no contact with Middle Eastern and Greek philosophy at all.
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Wed 08 Apr 2015, 14:38

As an aside - this is generally regarded as one of the earliest extant pictorial representation of Peter and Paul. Isn't it exquisite?



The medallion was found in the early 20th century during archaeological excavations in the Tomb of Domitilla, in fact a large and ancient catacomb containing hundreds of Jewish and Christian burials. The characterisation of both individual men is stunningly executed - though we know the likenesses were manufactured two centuries after the lives purportedly depicted they have obviously been done by a craftsman who reckons he knows the lads very well indeed. As realistic a likeness for either subject had to wait an extremely long time in Western art before it would be matched by Renaissance craftsmen.

It's little things like this that almost excuse all the rest of the stuff religion brings with it.
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Thu 09 Apr 2015, 09:58

@nordmann wrote:
Isn't it exquisite?


Yes. Thank you for posting it: I had never seen these likenesses before. I note that the medallion is now in the Vatican - is it somewhere accessible to the public?

But why is it so stunning? What is it we recognise immediately here in this image of two characters from a "myth"?


@Meles meles wrote:


I find trying to discuss whether Simon Peter was, or was not, a greek-speaking fisherman, a bit like trying to discuss whether Guenivere 'knew' Sir Lancelot before she married king Arthur.  There have been so many vested interests, re-writings, re-inventions ... that any vestige of 'truth' is long, long gone, and frankly the real Simon Peter is now almost as mythical as the real King Arthur (if indeed he ever existed at all) ... or the real Jesus Christ for that matter. It's interesting as an academic exercise perhaps ... but I doubt any great new 'truths' are to be found therein.


But myths are very important. I said elsewhere that we - or some of us - need our myths. They say Jung and his work on myth is out-of-date, but I'm not so sure.

Is Peter an archetype then? If so, what does he represent for us?

And here's C.S. Lewis: is he now just another out-of-date academic, certainly very knowledgeable about medieval literature - courtly love and all that - opinions about which he expressed in that charming, old-fashioned Oxford way of his, but a man whose thinking on religion is of little relevance in the secular 21st century? This is a paragraph from a letter written by Lewis addressed to Arthur Greeves on the subject of "the Myth of Christianity". It is typical of Lewis: a deceptively simple statement, but actually challenging and baffling. Or is it just patronising nonsense?


Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths: i.e., the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call 'real things'.
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Thu 09 Apr 2015, 12:09

Here's a bit more nonsense from me.

The "Hanged Man" in the Tarot deck traditionally shows a man executed in the manner of Saint Peter - upside down.

Wiki tells us:

The Hanged Man's symbolism points to divinity, linking it to the Passion in Christianity, especially The Crucifixion; to the narratives of Osiris in Egyptian mythology, and Mithras in Ancient Persian mythology and Roman mythology. In all of these archetypal stories, the destruction of self brings life to humanity; on the card, these are symbolized respectively by the person of the hanged man and the living tree from which he hangs bound.

The Hanged Man is also associated with Odin, the primary god in Norse mythology. Odin hung upside down from the world-tree, Yggdrasil, for nine days to attain wisdom and thereby retrieved the runes from the Well of Wyrd, which in Norse cosmology is regarded as the source and end of all sacred mystery and knowledge. The moment he glimpsed the runes, he died, but the knowledge of them was so powerful that he immediately returned to life.




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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Thu 09 Apr 2015, 14:15

Temp wrote:
is it somewhere accessible to the public?

Yes - the Sacred Museum or the Pio Cristiano Museum if on exhibition.
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PostSubject: Re: Saint Peter   Sat 11 Apr 2015, 22:01

@Temperance wrote:
Is Peter an archetype then? If so, what does he represent for us?

And here's C.S. Lewis: is he now just another out-of-date academic, certainly very knowledgeable about medieval literature - courtly love and all that - opinions about which he expressed in that charming, old-fashioned Oxford way of his, but a man whose thinking on religion is of little relevance in the secular 21st century?

I would suggest that in Western iconography the proletarian image of St Peter (and the name Peter as an essentially proletarian name) is quite important. This differs somewhat from the Eastern tradition whereby in Greece, Serbia and Russia etc there have been several royal and princely Peters - not least Peter the Great himself. In the West, however, (with the intriguing exception of Portugal) royal and princely Peters are conspicuous by their absence or extreme rarity. And much the same goes for the aristocracy. This is why, for example, in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia the name of 'King Peter' as the eldest of the Pevensie children, along with sisters 'Queen Susan' and 'Queen Lucy' sounds so fictional to English-language readers. 'King Edmund' as a name, however, is not quite so outlandish.

P.S. re Lewis' 'charming, old-fashioned Oxford way'. Let's no forget that the Ulsterman was deeply homesick when he first came to England. He found English accents to be demonic and even the Malvern Hills of Worcestershire repelled him and were no match for the Mourne Mountains of his beloved County Down. So strong was his reaction against England that he later described it as having been an outright 'hatred'.
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