Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Stark's Heir Splitting

Having retired to Religion at the Margins (RLM) to lick his wounds has evidently not cured Thom Stark of his JPHOCD. Although I am not mentioned directly, his latest essay there—an extended critique of Ernst Herzfeld – is clearly intended as a salve for the injuries Stark received at my hands of late (see other posts here, and at the Forge) on the “Son of Man” (SoM) title.

The bad news for Stark is that while Herzfeld indeed inspired my thesis concerning the SoM, his points are no longer necessary to it. In the next E-Block, I will be releasing the results of a survey of the hundreds of uses of enosh/enash in the OT, in which I find that indeed, Herzfeld’s understand of the word to refer to heirs to a throne, or persons of high station, is correct, and Stark’s “generic human being” reading (which he borrows uncritically from others) is merely farcical. While most of the uses of the word are equivocal, there are a fair number where Herzfeld’s reading (which I will hereafter term the “successor” meaning) is the only possible option, while none can exclusively be associated with the “generic” meaning.

Thus if Stark had in mind (as he no doubt did) to undermine my case by attacking Herzfeld, he wasted a great deal of time. As it is, he did anyway. Most of the analysis, as it turns out, has very little to do with anything I used Herzfeld for. Of some amusement is that Stark is compelled to begin his essay by admitting that “Herzfeld’s argument has had some continuing influence on scholarship over the decades.” Note that this is in contrast to his initial reply to me, in which he scoffed at Herzfeld’s work as “outdated”. After I found a couple of recent scholars who used his work, that claim quietly disappeared into Stark’s proto-retirement, as did his whole response. Now Stark has found many other authors who have cited Herzfeld, and naturally – as usual – he does not bother to admit his earlier error.

In any event, while Stark professes to offer a “sustained critical analysis” of Herzfeld on the SoM, we will skip all of it that has nothing to do with the single argument we used from him. This is not to say that Stark’s analysis is sound; it may be, but given his propensity towards incompetence in both scholarship and thought, we doubt that it is.

It takes a little while (Stark’s analysis totals 16 pages) before we get to anything that even touches upon our argument. Much space is spent on Herzfeld’s dating of Daniel; I have my own arguments on the matter, and did not need Herzfeld’s input. When we finally get to something relevant, it turns out to be a false dichotomy. The question is asked, in a subtitle, “Heir or Subordinate?”

Beg pardon? I had no idea these were mutually exclusive options. Stark should have asked himself whether anyone on my side thinks that the SoM is or is not subordinate to anyone. I say that yes, of course he is – to YHWH. This is in line with Trinitarian/Wisdom theology, in which Jesus is ontologically equal to the Father (thus, the SoM shares the honor of YHWH) but functionally subordinate to the Father as well (eg, he takes orders from the Father). I would not have used the parallel Herzfeld did to Darius and Xerxes; obviously, as mere humans, they would never provide a suitable analogy to a divine being and its hypostasis. In any event, Stark claims:

The problem with this argument should be plain enough: Darius relinquished his throne to Xerxes; the same cannot be said of Yahweh. Yahweh does not relinquish his throne to an heir; rather, Yahweh assigns sovereignty to a subordinate.

Yes, and – what? That’s fine with me, and fine with Trinitarian theology. I also do not maintain that the throne assumed by the SoM is actually YHWH’s throne, and I agree that the SoM “does not succeed Yahweh, but reigns alongside Yahweh, yet subordinate to him.” In this light, what I see is indeed comparable to what Paul reports in 1 Cor. 15:24: Christ reigns now, at the Father’s behest, but when his job is done, he’ll turn it all back over to the Father. This is a temporary grant – and I presume of the SoM’s Dan. 7 enthronement no differently.

Thus I agree that Jesus/SoM is not “heir” in the sense of succession (where the first party is permanently deposed). Rather, he is “heir” in the sense that responsibility has been passed on to him, even if for a time. Of course, no human analogy could ever work here, since it would not be possible for God to simply abdicate and retire. To that extent, the analogy to Darius and Xerxes could never work. The wonder here is that Stark thinks any of this has any bearing on a word I have said. (Either that, or the wounds inflicted on him by my use of Herzfeld are such that he now feels compelled to jump up and down on that worthy’s grave. But we digress.)

Thus we can skip further points which, eg, use the Ba’al cycle to prove this same point I never disagree with (I actually see Dan. 7 as a sort of “better than you” intended to mock and parody such accounts as the Ba’al cycle), and further attempt to argue that the SoM is not a replacement for YHWH. No one here ever said otherwise, and apparently, sound Trinitarianism isn’t taught at the Emmanuel School of Religion. We return to the text where “Linguistic Arguments” are addressed, and here, we seek something on the order of a detailed analysis showing that uses of enash/enosh are 1) NOT compatible with the “successor” meaning and/or are 2) ONLY compatible with a “generic” meaning. Unfortunately, Stark is not up to the rigor of this sort of critical argumentation; we are assured that the word is “frequently” used in a generic sense, but we are not given an actual quote of the texts in which this is said to be the case, much less an analysis. Citations are offered bare and are apparently merely lifted uncritically from Fitzmyer’s Lukan commentary, where they are also not quoted. It is thus clear that Stark has done no serious research here to determine answer critical questions about the meaning of enash/enosh, or to rebut our points about its meaning. (I will endeavor to produce the quotes at a later date and perform the analysis that Stark here lacks.)

Further on, we need not engage responses to Herzfeld on Arabic, Late Persian, and other uses. Aside from some points regarding Old Babylonian, I did not consider these useful or persuasive in my own reading of Herzfeld; the time Stark spent on this treading on Herzfeld’s grave, he should have spent providing actual quotes and analysis of the Aramaic usages.

Additionally, since I have now confirmed my thesis completely apart from Herzfeld, with a depth analysis of OT uses, it does not matter at all if Herzfeld’s case based on other languages, regarding the linguistic origins of enosh/enash, is not built well enough for Stark’s tastes. However, we will engage a few relevant points even so, those we consider strongest.

(Before that, it is useful to point out [as we have before] that Stark’s appeals to alleged “synonymous parallelisms” [in Psalm 8.4 and 144.3, and so on] is a repeat of an error for which we tagged him in the earlier discussion: Assuming that parallelism in structure automatically indicates parallelism in semantic content. )

It is said:

[Herzfeld] notes that at times in Akkadian, the heir to the throne is referred to as mār šarri (“king’s son”), or mār šarri rabū (“great son-of-the-king”), as a stand in for apal šarri (“king’s heir”). Herzfeld concludes, “Both elements of bar enāšh have beside their general a more intense meaning which together gives ‘heir of a privileged class,’ or ‘of the royal house,’ not ‘individual of genus homo.’”

The rather strained answer that is given is (Hebrew characters removed):

But problematic for Herzfeld’s argument is that Dan 7.13 reads “son of man”, not “son of the king”. We note that Herzfeld has not established that Hebrew or Aramaic enash ever takes the special meaning “royalty.”

That’s not quite the argument, though. It takes that special meaning when the “father” of the “son” is royalty. If the “father” is a first class citizen, then semantically, it acquires the meaning of “son of a first class citizen”. Broadly, enosh/enash would thus be said to broadly connote certain upper classes of people; just as the English word “royalty” can connote a king, queen, prince, or princess – which one exactly being determined by further context. Here, since we have a scene in Dan. 7 with an enthronement, it stands to reason that enash semantically connotes a king – and the only king present is YHWH. Of course, one might invent some excuse such as, “the SoM was meant to be referred there to King Dork of Moab, not King YHWH” but that would be a hard argument to substantiate apart from special pleading.

Said, however, to be “ultimately devastating for Herzfeld’s thesis” is the lack of a definite article for bar enash – in essence, a “the” to make it a titular construction. In short, it is not to be read as “the son of man” but rather as “[one] like a son of man”.

By now you may be wondering what the point here is. The answer is that there isn’t one. Neither I nor Herzfeld need for it to read “THE son of man”. “[One] like a son of man” is just fine. We do not need to have this be “a reference to a specific heir,” because as noted above, there aren’t any more viable candidates for who is the heir of whom.

Additionally, my own thesis has no problem with the figure of Dan. 7 being “construed as an anthropomorphic being.” At this time and stage, the incarnation of Jesus is far in the future; he possesses no human body. We also hardly envision YHWH offering or sitting upon a hard, literal throne, seat cushions and all. In such a wonderland, dreamlike scenario as Daniel’s vision, we very much expect such a figure to be said to be “like” an heir to royalty in the human sense. As we note in the comparison to Darius and Xerxes, there is no adequate human analogue to this situation in the divine world.

That said, an heir to a throne – an enash on earth – would of course be in human form the same way it would be if enash meant “generic human being.” The telling point here is that someone on the way to be honored with a seat on a throne is not going to appear to be some sort of “generic human being,” after the manner of the computer-morphed image of Betty Crocker composed of the synthesis of the likenesses of many women. Rather, one who assumes a throne – in this society where honor and appearance was especially important – will look, and dress the part as suitable. It makes far more sense, then, for “[one] like a son of man” to reflect the idea that the SoM came as one dressed for his royal coronation, carrying himself regally. To suppose that the point was to say, “some guy came to the throne who looked like Joe Shmoe” is to miss the point – and make a farce of the social mores in effect.

In the end, while Stark may (or may not) have found some weaknesses in Herzfeld, he has done nothing to rebut our own case, which used the data more selectively and critically. If he does wish to do better, he will need first of all to understand the argument better: Again, no one says that the SoM “replaces” or “succeeds” the high god in any permanent sense; and we agree that Jesus is a second, and (functionally) subordinate power in heaven.

However, given Stark’s record, it does not appear he will ever graduate away from the fundamentalist mindset he once wore like a badge. Old fundamentalists never die – they just change hats and ride off into solid walls in the other direction.


Added 12/2/2010 in response to comments by Stark on his Facebook page:

.... he says I am in error about synonymous parallelism. But note that I pointed out that Herzfeld himself acknowledges that 'nsh is parallel with 'dm in the texts cited and is synonymous (Herzfeld uses the word synonymous)....

That's nice. It's still the same mistake in logic regardless of whether Stark himself did it or he borrowed the error from Herzfeld. But I know from several instances how poor a reader Stark is, so I'll retain doubts that he's fully and accurately representing and understanding Herzfeld's case. I did read Herzfeld quite a few years ago, but even if Stark is right in his representation re the Psalms passages, it remains that Herzfeld doesn't maintain a "generic" meaning for the critical Daniel passages -- and that my survey of enash shows that it can't mean only "generic human being."

Re my point that someone on the way to be honored with a seat on a throne is not going to appear to be some sort of "generic human being" it is said:

I don't think he gets the point. The point is that the figure comes in the appearance of a human being (as contrasted with the beasts, who are not anthropomorphic). Why wouldn't someone being honored with a throne look like a human? This makes no sense.

I get the point very well and I am not saying, as Stark supposes, that "generic human being" means "pauper" (which is not the word I used, so that Stark is, as usual, erecting straw arguments and misrepresenting positions). Rather, I am saying that a description of a mere human being (Joe Shmoe) approaching a throne completely ignores the stratified nature of this social setting. Everyday human beings didn't get to approach or sit on thrones. Enash as a regal human captures the proper essence of someone worthy approaching the throne. Enash as a mere human doesn't, and would not at all suit the honor component of the situation.

Another point: he says that Herzfeld's thesis allows for the son of man to be indefinite and "one like" a son of man. Actually, Herzfeld explicitly denies that the figure is anthropomorphic, but does so, as I point out, because he ignores the kaph (as/like).

That's nice. That's a point I diverge from Herzfeld on, if Stark is accurate here, which is why I said "my own thesis". I did not say "Herzfeld's thesis" so Stark is once again misrepresenting a position. ("Like" by the way does not demand an anthropomorphism by itself, which is the point Stark is missing in what I say.)

Finally, I never wore fundamentalism as a badge. I was a fundamentalist for only a brief period, and it didn't take.

A badge worn briefly is still a badge.
Either way it is clear that Stark has never gotten rid of fundamentalist ways of thinking.

No comments:

Post a Comment