Saturday, August 27, 2016

Penington on the liturgical year

"it is not the different practices from one another that breaks the peace and unity, but the judging of one another because of different practices.  He that keeps not a day, may unite in the same Spirit, in the same life, in the same love with him that keeps a day; and he who keeps a day, may unite in heart and soul with the same Spirit and life in him who keeps not a day; but he that judgeth the other because of either of these, errs from the Spirit, from the love, from the life, and so breaks the bond of unity.  And he that draws another to any practice, before the life in his own particular lead him; doth, as much as in him lies, destroy the soul of that person. . . .  And oh! how sweet and pleasant is it to the truly spiritual eye, to see several sorts of believers, several forms of Christians in the school of Christ, every one learning their own lesson, performing their own peculiar service, and knowing, owning, and loving one another in their several places, and different performances to their Master, to whom they are to give an account, and not to quarrel with one another about their different practices!"

     Isaac Penington the Younger, "About the authority and government Christ excluded out of his church; which occasioneth somewhat concerning the true church government," in An examination of the grounds or causes which are said to induce the court of Boston, in New-England, to make that order or law of banishment, upon pain of death, against the Quakers (1660), in The works of the long-mournful and sorely-distressed Isaac Penington, vol. 1, 3rd edition (London:  James Phillips, 1784 [1681]), 443-444.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

"expertise is only expertise about power."

     John Milbank, Theology and social theory:  beyond secular reason, 2nd ed. (Malden, MA:  Blackwell Publishing, 2006), 442.  "the basis of this consensus is not agreement about either 'the goal' or 'the way' [(439.2 ff.)], but merely a deferral to 'expert' opinion.  And expertise is only expertise about power."

The sweetness of the Gospel lies mostly in pronouns

Digital Puritan
"The nature of this dowtye diuynite is to stande moche in the declynynge of pronownes".

     John Bayle, A mysterye of inyquyte contayned within the heretycall genealogye of Ponce Pantolabus, is here both dysclosed & confuted by Iohan Bale . . . (Geneua [i.e. Antwerp]:  Mycheal Woode [i.e. A. Goinus], 1545), 49.  See EEBO.  The pronoun is in this case "hoc", and the context, more controversial than pastoral.

"There is great diuinitie, saith Luther, in Pronouns: a great Emphasis in nobis and noster, as Bullinger & Caluin note."

     John Boys, An exposition of the dominical epistles and gospels used in our English liturgie throughout the whole yeare together with a reason why the church did chuse the same . . . ; the winter part from the first Aduentuall Sunday to Lent (1610), 20.  See EEBO.

"because there is (as Luther saith) great Diuinitie in pronounes, I will first examine the pronoune My: my soule, my spirit, my Sauiour."

     John Boys, An exposition of the principal Scriptures vsed in our English liturgie together with a reason why the church did chuse the same (London:  Felix Kyngston, 1610), 51.  See EEBO.

"and herein lies the sweetness of faith:  in that we believe not Christ only to be a Saviour, and righteousness, but my Saviour and my righteousness; and therefore Luther affirmed, that the sweetness of Christianity lay in pronouns; when a man can say, My Lord, and my god, and my Jesus.  I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me, Gal. ii. 20."

"his relations are made ours, and our relations are made his interchangeably.  No wonder if Luther tell us, That the best divinity lay in pronouns, for as there is no comfort in heaven without God, and no comfort in God without a Father, so neither is there comfort in Father, heaven, or God, without ours, to give us a property in them all[.]  O the blessed news that Christ tells Mary, and that Mary tells us!  I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God, Oh!  what dull hearts have we that are not affected with this blessed news?"

     Isaac Ambrose, Looking unto Jesus:  a view of the everlasting gospel; or, the soul's eyeing of Jesus II.ii.5 ("Of believing in Jesus in that respect") and IV/4.i.5 ("Of Christ's apparition to Mary Magdalene") (Belfast:  James McGee, 1763 [1658]):  52 and 354.  My thanks to Dr. Tom Schwanda, of Wheaton College, for pointing out that this reference to the Gospel pronouns (in general) appears in Ambrose before Flavel, below.

1681:  "Propriety is the sweetest part of any excellency, therefore Luther was wont to say, That the sweetness of the Gospel lay mostly in Pronouns, as me, my, thy, &c. who loved [me] and gave himself for me, Gal. 2.20.  Christ Jesus [my] Lord, Phil. 3.18.  So Matt. 9.2.  Son be of good cheer [thy] sins are forgiven:  take away Propriety, and you deflower the very Gospel of its beauty and deliciousness. . . ."

     Many thanks to my colleague Greg Morrison, of Wheaton College, for inquiring into the source of the sentence "The sweetness of the Gospel lies mostly in pronouns."  Though I had not encountered it before, I find it quite lovely.

     As for Luther himself, here's what I've found (without benefit of the digital edition of the Weimarer Ausgabe) so far:

1535 (1531):  Commentary on Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians at Gal 1:4, trans. of 1575 (New York:  Robert Carter, 1848), 48-49 =WA 40.1, p. 85, ll. 27 ff.:  “weigh diligently every word of Paul, and especially mark well this pronoun [(pronomen)], our; for the effect altogether consisteth in the well applying of pronouns [(pronomina)], which we find very often in the Scriptures, wherein also there is ever some vehemency and power.  Thou wilt easily say and believe that Christ the Son of God was given for the sins of Peter, of Paul, and of other saints, whom we account to have been worthy of this grace; but it is a very hard thing that thou which judgest thyself uworthy of this grace, shouldest from thy heart say and believe, that Christ was given for thine invincible, infinite, and horrible sins.  Therefore, generally, and without the pronoun [(pronomine)], it is an easy matter to magnify and amplify the benefit of Christ, namely, that Christ was given for sins, but for other men’s sins, which are worthy.  But when it cometh to the putting to of this pronoun [(pronomen)] our, there our weak nature and reason starteth back, and dare not come nigh unto God, nor promise to herself that so great a treasure shall be freely given unto her, and therefore she will not have to do with God, except first she be pure and without si; wherefore, although she read or hear this sentence, ‘Which gave himself for our sins,’ or such-like, yet doth she not apply this pronoun [(pronomen)] (our) unto herself, but unto others, which are worthy and holy; and as for herself, she will tarry till she be made worthy by her own works" (note that the WA gives two versions, and that the 1531 version running along the top uses forms of the Latin word "pronomen" as well).

1542:  Copy of Luther's interpretation of Rom 8:31b inscribed (probably by Georg Rörer) onto a scrap of paper glued onto a page of a manuscript of the Widerrufs vom Fegefeuer in Luther's own hand, Lutherhalle, Wittenberg (WA 48, no. 273, on pp. 203-204):

Si deus pro nobis, Quis contra nos?

     Wenn wir das Pronomen, Nos, und Nobis wol kundtenn decliniren und verstehen, So wurden wir das Nomen deus, auch wol coniugirn, und aus dem, Nomen, ein verbum Machen, das hies, deus dixit, Et dictus est          da wurde die Prepositio, Contra, zu allen schanden werden, und endlich Ein infra nos draus werden, wie es doch geschehen wird und mus.  Amen.

M L d


Si deus pro nobis, Quis contra nos?

     If we the pronoun nos/nobis could well decline and comprehend, so would we the noun deus also well conjugate, and out of th[is], [the] noun, make a verbum [(verb, i.e. Verb)], that is, deus dixit, Et dictus est [(God has spoken, And has been spoken)].  [And] thus would the Prepositio [(preposition)] Contra for all become infamous, and finally An infra nos [(A beneath us)] come out of that, as, of course, will and must take place.  So be it.

D[r.] M[artin] L[uther]

I.e. the pronoun nos/nobis is to be "declined" (i.e. comprehended) in such a way as to "conjugate" and transform the noun Deus into the perfect passive verb/Word (VerbumDeus dictus est, God has been spoken.  In this way we parse out, by reference to the Incarnation of the Word, the implications of the "God is for us", and allow the Lord to put all things under our feet, as, indeed, the immediately following verses of Rom 8 imply.  Cf. WA46, p. 549, ll. 35-37:  "'Die zwo Person sind also unterschieden:  der Vater ist, der da spricht, und die ander Person der Son, so gesprochen wird [(The two Person[s] are therefore distinguished:  the Father is [he] who there speaks, and the other Person, the Son, [he who] thus is spoken)].'"

     Pronomen (the Latin neuter) would (for future reference, should I come within reach of the Weimarer Ausgabe in digital form) be declined, I'm assuming, as follows:  pronomen (also the vocative singular), pronominis, pronomini, pronomen, pronomine; pronomina (also the vocative plural), pronominum, pronominibus, pronomina, pronominibus.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"you will find much more labouring amongst the woods than you ever will amongst books."

"aliquid amplius invenies in silvis quam in libris."
     St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Epistola 106 ad Magistrum Henricum Murdac,  Sämtliche Werke lateinisch/deutsch 2, ed. Gerhard B. Winkler (Innsbruck:  Tyrolia-Verlag, 1992), 772 (770-774 even).  =Sancti Bernardi opera 3 (1963) or 7 (1974).  English from The letters of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, trans. Bruno Scott James (Cistercian Publications, 1998 [1953]), 156 (155-156), in which this appears as Letter 107.
     As to the nefariously illegitimate uses to which this seems likely to be put, see the note on pp. 1104-1105 of Sämtliche Werke lateinisch/deutsch 2:
When Bernard invites Murdac into the monastic life, he has the latter's position [(dessen Situation)] as teacher in mind, and sets before him a [form of] learning [(Wissen)] that is other than that which one gets from books:  'amplius invenies in silvis quam in libris.'  It may seem that here a mystical view of nature emerges, namely, the recognition that [nature (sie)] has the capacity to prompt thoughts that lead to God:  'Ligna et lapides docebunt te.'  Clearly this is an awareness of another kind than that of theology ('quod a magistris audire non possis') and of the Bible itself, an awareness that arises [(sich regt)] and becomes living in the enchanted stillness of the forest.  Perhaps[, however,] Bernard meant [(wollte)] by this not quite that precisely, even if he didn't exclude it either.  Perhaps the stillness of the forest is [a] symbol for that inner stillness in which the soul discovers its likeness to God.  Perhaps he understood thereunder also a [form of] learning [(Wissen)] that is wisdom above all, i.e. the experience of God, [and] therefore the desire for God and [for a] perfect [form of] learning [(Wissen)] about him.  See on this theme E. Gilson, "Sub umbris arborum," Medieval studies 14 (1952):  149-151.  These words made also an impression upon Petrarch, who took them up in De vita solitaria II.3.14, where he laments having never had this experience.  Rancé, too, took them up in turn, as a way of demonstrating (but of course unjustly) that Bernard had never studied books.  'Car pour l’étude, il ne s’y est jamais appliqué comme il l’a avoué lui-même' (Réponse au traité des études monastiques, Paris 1692, 31).
Translation and underscoring mine.
     If I had to guess, I, too, would be inclined to look for a more or less figurative sense for "woods" (perhaps those bordering "the open pastures of the Gospels' rather than those on 'the mountain sides" from which Christ has "leapt"), and assume that by "words" Bernard meant something more like the bare text of “the Prophets” as read by “Jewish hacks".  Or something like that.
     Thanks to Lugene Schemper for introducing me to this one.

Monday, August 22, 2016

"Brothers, be on your guard: the Devil is very crafty, but Christ is the wisdom of God."

Wikimedia Commons
"frater, cauti estote; multum astutus est diabolus; sed Christus dei sapientia est."

     Augustine, Letter 64 to Quintianus, FC 12 (1951), trans. Sister Wilfrid Parsons, 312 =CSEL 34.1 (1895), ed. Al. Goldbacher, 232.  Why "frater" is in the singular, but "cauti" and "estote" are in the plural, I do not know.  But though CSEL 34.1 offers no variant readings, PL 33, col. 234 has "Fratres" (the less difficult reading).

Sunday, August 21, 2016


     "About that time he [(Cyprian)] wrote a letter to his friend Donatus.  'Donatus,'—he said, in effect—,'this is a cheerful world indeed as I see it from my fair garden, under the shadow of my vines.  But if I could ascend some high mountain, and look out over the wide lands, you know very well what I should see:  brigands on the highways, pirates on the seas, armies fighting, cities burning, in the amphitheaters men murdered to please applauding crowds, selfishness and cruelty and misery and despair under all roofs.  It is a bad world, Donatus, an incredibly bad world.  But I have discovered in the midst of it a company of quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret.  They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any of the pleasures of our sinful life.  They are despised and persecuted, but they care not:  they are masters of their souls.  They have overcome the world.  These people, Donatus, are the Christians,—and I am one of them.'"

     George Hodges, Saints and heroes to the end of the Middle Ages (New York:  H. Holt and company, 1911), 6-7.
     Cyprian does speak of the beauties of his garden and the manifold evils of the world.  But as "he said, in effect" indicates, Hodges was here at best paraphrasing, but more precisely only drastically condensing Cyprian's Ad Donatum (c. 246) in his own words.  What is more, Hodges seems to have made up the last five sentences, as it would be difficult to find anything quite like them in the original.  More to the point, I have yet to turn up a form of the word "Christianus" in pp. 3-16 of CSEL 3.1 (1868), though the word occurs in each of its forms, both singular and plural, elsewhere in that same volume.  Nor, it seems (though I have not searched the Library of Latin Texts), does "sum" appear.  Clearly this should be attributed to Hodges.
     Some drop the definite article:  "These people, Donatus, are Christians".

Milbank on "Christianity and coercion"

     "The only finally tolerable, and non-sinful punishment, for Christians, must be the self-punishment inherent in sin.  When a person commits an evil act, he cuts himself off from social peace, and this nearly always means that he is visited with social anger.  But the aim should be to reduce this anger to a calm fury against the sin, and to offer the sinner nothing but good will, so bringing him to the point of realizing that his isolation is self-imposed.  This instance of real punishment is also the instance of its immediate cancellation.  However, in a line of symbolic economy quite different to that of Moberly [(cf. p. 427.3)], the practice of forgiveness involves also a practice of restitution and of 'compensatory offering'.  Wrongs must be put right, either by rectification and restoration, or, where this is not possible, by other acts and signs which sufficiently show that we now will again a harmony with our fellow human beings.
     "The Church, while recognizing the tragic necessity of 'alien', external punishment, should also seek to be an asylum, a house of refuge from its operations, a social space where a different, forgiving and restitutionary practice is pursued.  This practice should be 'atoning', in that we acknowledge that an individual's sin is never his alone, that its endurance harms us all, and therefore its cancellation is also the responsibility of all.  Here we do echo God [(cf. p. 427.3)], not in punishing, but in suffering, for the duration of the saeculum, the consequences of sin, beyond [penultimately legitimate] considerations of desert and non-desert. . . .
     "The Church, in order to be the Church, must seek to extend the sphere of social aesthetic harmony — 'within' the State where this is possible, but of a state committed by its very nature only to the formal goals of dominium, little is to be hoped.  A measure of resignation to the necessity of this dominium can also not be avoided.  But with, and beyond Augustine, we should recognize the tragic character of this resignation:  violence as such delivers no dialectical benefits, of itself encourages only further violence, and . . . can only be 'beneficial' when the good motives of those resorting to it are recognized and recuperated by a defaulter coming to his senses.  The positive content of benefit flows only in the quite different series of purely positive acts, including, decisively for us, the active enduring of unmerited suffering — a series that knows of its own impulses only conviviality, and seeks to escape, forever, the mesmerizing lures of tragic aporia."

     John Milbank, Theology and social theory:  beyond secular reason, 2nd ed. (Malden, MA:  Blackwell Publishing, 2006), 428-429 ("Christianity and coercion"), underscoring and insertions mine.  The importance of this for me is that, given the overarching thesis of Theology and social theory, I didn't expect anything like it.