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  • Meryl McLeod

    You may well think this inappropriate but I can’t help thinking you a bit prescient in the conclusion of this piece (Notes on Genesis (vii)). My last letter to the Editors had a para pointing out the hospitality that Middle Eastern (=Islamic?) societies take pride in exercising, even the poorest family unstintingly willing to share their food and shelter with the unexpected visitor; and that this offered an unflattering contrast to the kind of reception we, the wealthy, offer to them, the poor and persecuted, the ‘boat arrivals’, the ‘illegals’. However I dropped it in the interests of brevity etc. and now I think it will be the basis of the next letter. Maybe. Or there will be a new idiocy to protest about. (But am I taking this too far: does Sodom’s wickedness equate with Australia’s lack of compassion, and insensitive treatment?)
    I’m interested in the connections you are able to make between Biblical text and curent issues as well as theological topics.

  • I believe this form of self-consciousness is definitely a good thing! If we didn’t allow for such small “self indulgences”, I doubt humanity’s notion of art and culture would be around for much longer. The creation and appreciation of art is a “self indulgence” that helps define our species. 😉

    Cheers – Vasilios

  • John – I’ve enjoyed reading the “Notes on Genesis” series immensely. Thanks for putting this material up on your blog – Helen and I hope the series continues to expand.

    Regarding – Notes on Genesis (ix): Prior to reading your post, I was aware that the three Monotheistic religions interpreted the story of Abraham’s two sons differently, but I wasn’t sure why. Thanks for providing a succinct summary of their points of view.

    Cheers – Vasilios

  • Thank you for your comments, Vasilios. Yes, the creativity that produces art and our ability to appreciate it are some of the defining characteristics of being human, like the capacity for laughter! But perhaps there’s a risk of becoming interested in one’s feelings at the expense of the world out there; it would be terrible if a kind of self-indulgence of the emotions were to run riot.

  • Meryl McLeod

    This is rather puzzling – not sure if the problem is Paul being misguided or the correct interpretation (yours).
    I looked up the New English Bible to see what difference that made. To start with, Paul doesn’t say Abraham’s having 2 sons is of allegorical significance, but that ‘This is an allegory.’Which sounds more deliberate. Then that the covenant representing slavery comes from Mt. Sinai… ‘a mountain in Arabia and it represents the Jerusalem of today, for she and her children are in slavery’. This sounds rather arbitrary – why should a mountain in Arabia stand for Jerusalem in chains?

    Paul proceeds to say that the descendants of Ishmael persecuted those of Isaac, then and now. And then that the latter must get rid of the former, for ‘the son of the slave shall not share the inheritance with the free woman’s son… our mother is the free woman. Christ set us free, to be free men. Stand firm, then, and refuse to be tied to the yoke of slavery again.’ In other words, the Jews were in fact slaves, in the past if not now. And if not now, it is because the promise of the heavenly spiritual home takes precedence over the harsh reality of their ‘natural’ home – which comes about, Paul says, because ‘Christ set us free’.

    • Thank you for your comments, Meryl. It would take a fair while to respond adequately. But in brief: my rendering of Gal 4:24 was a paraphrase of the version in the Orthodox Study Bible, which I generally follow, as being closer to the original than the New English Bible; I didn’t quote it directly here because it oddly avoids the word ‘allegorical’, a form of which is present in the Greek. I think a mountain in Arabia can stand for Jerusalem in chains because the mountain St Paul has in mind is Sinai, where the Law that he believes enslaves the Jews was delivered to Moses (he develops this theme in the following passage.) Persecution answers to the Apostle’s own experience: from being a Jew persecuting Christians he became a Christian persecuted by Jews (Acts 23:12f is astonishing.) Enslavement to the law has ended for ‘Christ set us free;’ as He said, ‘the truth shall set you free,’ and He is the Truth.
      I hope these comments, made on a screen which allows me to read only six lines at once, make some sense!

  • Thanks for continuing the ‘Genesis Series’ John.

  • 60s fan

    Interesting comments – but try Googling “Beatles vs Beach Boys” and you will probably get as many hits as “Who killed JFK?”; one of the great debates of rock/pop music. (You might also get as a result “Beatles vs Justin Bieber” – a concept so immense it is hard to imagine!)

  • Hi John – you may be right about the bad parenting – but Genesis seems to have a regular thing for younger sons and daughters supplanting their elder siblings: Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, Leah and Rachel, Joseph and his brothers, Moses and Aaron.

  • Sorry, hit post before I got to the end – which is that it seems to follow a folk tradition – it’s always the youngest son who kills the dragon, Cinderella who is belle of the ball.

    • Thank you, Marion. I should have remembered Moses and Aaron! Yes, there is a kind of folk tradition operating here, and I’m interested in whether the kind of subversion involved in such stories does not merely give voice to the aspirations of the children, younger siblings and oppressed communities among whom they have been relished, but may be in some way embedded in a Judeo-Christian view of a deep realitiy in which the first shall come last, etc. This touches on the concerns of Liberation Theology.

  • Well said John! Your observations of`Lady Gaga’ are sadly spot on. I read that she grew up listening to Cindy Lauper- shame her unique style of `girl power’ didn’t rub off on LG!

  • Thank you, Eleni! Perhaps the Spice Girls are another example of a girl power movement that may take more than it gives.

  • Hans Sachs

    John. As a late-comer to the site I should like to link a comment on this entry to your July thoughts on the evident decline of the western novel. I should not be surprised if this decline is due in part to the preoccupation with cleverness, Susan Sontag identifies, in my view correctly. As someone once said, and I forget who, that if you can read and enjoy novelists such as Dickens, Tolstoy, Austen, Greene et. al., yet can’t take Patrick White, then the fault probably lies with Patrick. Today there seem to be many “literary” novelists, whose work attracts high praise, but to the ordinary educated reader holds no interest.

  • Thank you for your comment, Hans. I agree, and the decline in White’s reputation since he died, while that of the others you mention remains high, backs up your point.

  • Hi John – questions of land are always fraught, and presumably the promises in Genesis were reported retrospectively. But in Genesis, the Hebrews acquire land both by conquest AND by purchase – Abraham’s purchase at Hebron to bury his wife – and I find this rather curious, almost a tautology. It seems almost like the difference between a shared land title, with other peoples (who we know WERE living in Canaan, and continued to do so) and an exclusive title over Hebron – which still has a particular place in Israeli settler politics, too.

  • Thank you, Marion. At the moment I’m removed from the resources I’d like to look into, but you’re right, it’s almost as if purchases are made that other parts of the Pentateuch suggest were not necessary, and it would be interesting to speculate just what lies behind such tensions in the narrative.

  • John, that suggests that Douglas Adams was really on to something when he said the answer was 42!

  • Unfortunately PD James couldn’t put Mr Darcy behind her either. She has just published Death Comes to Pemberley – Denny is the corpse, Wickham the apparent murderer – and I have it say, it is truly dreadful. On the other hand, for anyone to publish a new book at the age of 91 is a triumph, so shall forgive her!

  • Marcus Harmes

    This is a very interesting review of Sydney Anglicanism – I enjoy attending worship at St Andrew’s Cathedral, and in terms of the dignity of the service and the excellence of the music, it actually seems to match the descriptions of what Muriel Porter is lamenting as lost to the diocese.

  • Paul Crook

    Many thanks John for your kind review. I would just like to add for sceptics about the feasibility of trans-oceanic travel in earlier times, and especially on ships and voyages of indigenous peoples across the Pacific, that they might like to consult the work of Alice Beck Kehoe in this field. She has written much on this, but it is conveniently summarised in her delightful short book for general readers Controversies in Archaeology (2008). There is a balanced chapter on the Diffusion versus Independent Invention Controversy in chapter 7. She is also very enlightening when discussing the problems female archaeologists putting unfashionable views within the profession faced in the US (inspired by personal experience).

  • Thank you, Paul. It will be very interesting to read her work.

  • Meryl McLeod

    I saw a long review of this in last weekend’s Age; it promises to be a fascinating read, especially from someone with his background and lived experience. According to this reviewer, it was Belize he moved to in 2007 – but a move to almost any Third World country would be as valid. (Tho’ Ecuador gives another perspective (see current G. Weekly)). As to Bageant himself, of whom I’ve never heard (not surprising), his conclusions seem remarkable to me only because of his being almost a lone voice; how many thousands of other writers and commentators are living out their lives in the USA without being drawn to think as he does. Blinkers, anyone?

  • John, I know they are big and black, but I think you give ravens / crows / Corvids a bad name unnecessarily! They are very intelligent birds – Australian crows can flip over cane toads to eat them without getting poisoned, and New Caledonian ones make tools. I think it’s probably pretty intelligent to get a reputation for being inedible, too!

  • All true, Marion. But when I see a cockatoo, a bird of similar size the screech of which is no more pleasing than the call of the crow, my heart warms in a way no Corvid has ever caused it to.

  • Meryl McLeod

    I look forward to catching up with this title. An earlier book, ‘Birdsong’, I thought excellent, and have kept it thinking of re-reading it. I was interested in your mention of Dickens, and the resolved ending, in mind. However I remember the earlier book as being centred on the First World War and its traumatic effect on those involved. I found it very moving.

  • Helen

    Congratulations on this milestone John!

  • Thank you, Helen!

  • Meryl McLeod

    Perusing this leaned comment, I was unexpectedly brought to a halt by the sentence about the desired spiritual state resulting from ‘the transition from the passions and sin to ‘the natural realm of virtue’. While not disputing the assertion of virtue being the natural realm, I am questioning the linking of the passions and sin, and the implication that virtue is to be held apart from the passions. Surely the passions are God-given – and perhaps, if only in part, necessary to the practice of virtue? Admittedly, there are passions which are undesirable – but is perfection (i.e. absolute virtue) to be passionless? Or is it simply a matter of how one defines passions?

  • Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Meryl. Yes, I think it is a matter of definition. Christopher Cook sees passions as any appetites or impulses that violently dominate the soul, not only sexual ones, which he terms ‘hostile pleasures’ (see posting of 30 September.) According to the editors of the English version of the Philokalia, ‘[m]any Greek Fathers regard the passions as something intrinsically evil, a “disease” of the soul…Other Greek Fathers, however, look on the passions as impulses originally placed in man by God, and so fundamentally good, although at present distorted by sin.’ Hence Keselopoulos can refer to St Gregory’s teaching on ‘the unnatural state of the passions and sin’; the second word is important!

  • Meryl McLeod

    Interesting comments on these prominent composers
    Listening to ‘The Rhythm Divine’ at the weekend I heard the name Eric Whittaker for the first time. He’s an American who has been strongly influenced by the Anglican choral tradition, and certainly the pieces played, with not very good reception, would encourage me to listen more intently to his works. Do you know of him?

  • mike level

    Magnificent items from you, man. I have take into account your stuff previous to and you’re just too great. I really like what you’ve acquired here, really like what you are stating and the best way wherein you say it. You are making it entertaining and you continue to take care of to stay it sensible. I can not wait to read far more from you. That is really a terrific web site.

  • Meryl McLeod

    The State Library in Melbourne pays homage to the B.M., of course, with a beautiful round reading room. I’m not sure how it compares in size, but with the long overdue and very successful refurbishment of the surrounding galleries it gives one’s visit, for whatever purpose, a sense of reverence, authority and elegance to the research and creativity it fosters and supports.

  • John,

    Thank you for acknowledging the important part grandmothers play in the theological life of the Church. Without the experiential example of my own maternal grandmother, my life would not have developed a spiritual focus.

    I’d also like to add, that “the knowing rather than the knowledge” (of God) is much harder to master than most Western Christians realise – the revelation often occurs in His timeframe not ours, which can be very frustrating for the dedicated adherent. That said, as someone born into Eastern Orthodoxy but living in the West, I do savour the Western challenge of trying to imagine what God is, even though I know that rational modelling will always fall short in its attempt to capture the Infinite. 😉

    Thanks again for this post,

  • Meryl McLeod

    I wonder if a fragment I heard on a recent ABC theology or philosophy programme has some relevance to your mention of the importance of the role of older members of a family. The speaker asserted the different understanding of the concept of ‘virtue’ in past centuries, when it seems to have resided in the actual practice of devotion rather than in living one’s life on a moral basis. I am hesitant about offering this contribution and am ready to admit error. However it caught my attention, if briefly, at the time. I will try to find the source of the discussion.

  • Thank you for your comment, Meryl.

  • Eric Fried

    “Shame” is not the word that I would use to describe the emotions I feel on the matter of the sorry state of indigenous people in Australia. The word suggests either past indifference to their plight or a deliberate choosing of wrong options. I see no evidence of this, at least not in recent years.

    “Despair” and “helplessness” are the two words that do come to mind. There was no lack of good intentions. Sadly, these were used to pave the road to hell.

  • Thank you, Eric. Perhaps one could appropriately feel a sense of shame at being the member of a society that in its earlier days displayed indifference or knowingly chose wrong options. But yes, despair and hopelessness certainly fit the bill.

  • In regard to Eric’s comment- guilt isn’t inherited, but property is.

    Have a fabulous trip John – I hope to catch up for lunch when you get back.

  • Thank you, Marion!

  • Thanks, John. I also find Bob Katter fascinating, and hard not to warm to. Just one point – it’s Fischer, not Fisher.

  • Once a teacher, always a teacher…..

  • Eric Fried

    Yes, there is something endearing about Bob. An agrarian socialist and, I fear, the last of the Mohicans.

  • It’s interesting how some of Byzantium’s foods continued to be made and enjoyed by the local Ottoman/Asia Minor population long after the empire died.

    I didn’t recognise your reference to konditon or kondyton at first, but when you described the proportions, there was no mistaking a drink my great grandmother (from Bursa, Turkey) used to mix when I was a child. She would add 3 parts of red wine (port), one part honey and some crushed chilli. She also referred to it as hon-thdo-ton or con-thdo-ton which is obviously a lingistic corruption of konditon which you reference.

    Most of the family just thought she was mad and had invented the drink. It’s comforting to know that what I witnessed as a child, was the perpetuation of a little piece of culture/history via my great grandmother’s drinking habits. 🙂 Thanks for bringing this age old recipe to light via your blog and Andrew Dalby’s writing.

  • 60s fan

    Your figures on the proportion of Orthodox inhabitiants of C seem strange – 1 in a million? That would suggest there were 10 to 15 in 1995 – surely too low.

  • John,

    Maybe you or one of your learned friends could help with a question. Way back in high-school, I remember being presented with two opposing scientific/philosophical approaches to matter. One described dividing material objects until you reached an indivisible level. i.e. Democritus’ Atoms (as your posting highlights), the other believed that matter could be divided into infinitely smaller and smaller pieces. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the proponent of the second approach – was it the ancient Greek philosopher Zeno?

    My science teacher, who presented this material, highlighted that Democritus approach won out (in the end) and set us on the path to “Enlightenment”. Unfortunately, we never did touch on the non-tangible reality that your posting describes – I suppose my teacher was limited in regards to how far he could explore philosophy in a science class. If someone could confirm that Zeno was the first to propose the notion of infinite divisions, it would solve a decades old mental lapse, that has continued to drive me crazy! 🙂

    Any help would be appreciated,
    Regards Vasilios.

  • Perhaps some learned reader will be able to solve this irritating mystery.

  • John,
    This is more to my liking.
    In the Lord’s prayer, the common use is, I think, “deliver us from EVIL”, thus the neuter option. I would be tempted to argue that by analogy, the same may apply to Apostles’ Creed. However, the Hebrew version reads:
    im-khi ha-tzi-lei-nu
    but deliver us
    min ha-ra
    from the evil one
    It sort of makes sense since the Jews of that period relied more on Greek than on Latin. In any case, I sincerely hope that this is not going to lead to another schism.

  • Thanks for finally talking about > Historians of Russia: John Lawrence | The Online Home Of John Moorhead < Loved it!

  • Elroy

    You write entrancing reviews and posts – most evocative – but does the reader assume that all events occurred in June 2015? Perhaps a date, either specific or broad, may provide some helpful context.

  • Thank you, Elroy. Hmm, this event took place in April….I’m afraid there is a bit of a lag!

  • Elroy

    Never be afraid. We all lag from time to time!

  • Natasha

    It seems not unlikely that the ambiguity was intended as an esoteric tool for those who may seek a deeper meaning

  • Natasha


  • Natasha

    Of course, a quick reading by a woman knows exactly what it means

  • Natasha

    Good, because what it contains is well worth reading

  • One point of history of science is that it shows – both in the past and in the present – that science has never been value-free but has been culturally and socially conditioned. This is true even of near-hard science such as biometrics, as shown is studies of the issue of “mental deficiency” c.1890-1950. Cultural values always intruded, even when it was statistics that were being analysed. We can expect this to continue in vital discourses such as genetic engineering, gene manipulation, “designer babies” and so on. One problem is that biological scientists – indeed scientists in general – are rarely knowledgeable about the history of their own discipline. Perhaps history of science should be compulsory for them. And also Ethics?

  • Elroy

    It’s worth a mention that this concert was the opening concert, in Brisbane, of the choir’s current Musica Viva tour. The two works by Einojuhani Rautavaara were the highlight for me. Let’s not forget that this varied program included an interesting and specially commissioned work by the Australian composer, Joseph Twist. The concert was enchanting and there was an energetic buzz to be heard as the audience departed, well satisfied with the night’s musical fare.

  • Elroy

    Piers Lane is a wonderful pianist – ever so inspiring!

  • Elroy

    The food here is indeed delicious!

  • Natasha Ryan

    Try the Nocturnes instead. Designed no doubt to suit the more reflective state of mind conducive to nocturnal dreaming

  • Excellent advice, which I shall follow!

  • Elroy

    Hmm – I have been here a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed the fine food and excellent service and ambience. This restaurant is recommended to all. You will not be disappointed!

  • Peter

    Not that long ago, Ahmet’s was fined $25,000 by the BCC food inspectors for handling of unsafe food, lack of cleanliness, pests and animals in the kitchen ( cockroaches, rats). I don’t know if standards have improved since 2015, the year of the prosecution.

  • Hi John recently heard a recording of the above from the Queensland Conservatorium of music . Wife & I absolutely loved it! Has it been recorded to a hard copy if so where can we get it? Thanking you in anticipation . Graeme

  • Can anyone help in this matter?

  • A learned reader of this blog has sent the following, via email:

    The first link is to a U-tube video PL (that one) playing ‘Variations on a Nocturne by Chopin’. The second is to his website, but when I looked at the discography I did not see Chopin recordings – though he may have recorded the piano concerti (not sure where I saw a reference to that).

  • Drona Acharya

    Actually Indian foods are a little bit different, sometimes it may be hold the amazing Indian culture

  • Elroy

    It’s good to see you back, John, and to read your reviews which are ever scintillating, even titivating.
    Your avid reader, Elroy

  • Hollie

    This is a topic close to my heart cheers. Thanks

  • Thanks very nice bloɡ!

  • michael stewart

    I think I told you this before, but Kipling wrote Jungle Book in Dummerston Vermont the small farming community I grew up in. Here is a link:

  • Thanks, Mike. It’s odd that a book packed with so much circumstantial data about India was written so far away!

  • Elroy

    I did enjoy reading your comments – always so elegantly phrased. On the whole I agree with you. I too enjoyed this book and was rather dismayed by the quantity of alcohol consumed. I was touched by many moments of sensitivity – saving drowning butterflies, for instance. While I was very impressed by the depth and complexity of most of the author’s reading matter, I did not feel that this sufficiently flowed into the substance of the book; and so I felt a tinge of disappointment.