Saturday, November 03, 2007

The cure for the common Old Testament: reading Greek and Roman plays and poetry

I recently wrote a post against Christianity where I referred to the Old Testament as "semi-retarded" and "idiotic", with the New Testament only being good because of the Greek philosophy it had in it. I deleted that post. But the next time you hear some good 'ole fundamentalist preacher intoning on TV and get pissed off go to either your local library or the biggest library near you and find some Greek plays and Roman poetry. You'll see what a joke Biblical literature is when you see how much better the stuff coming out of Greece and Rome at the same time is. They've been at it for centuries, trying to translate the Old Testament, but it still comes off stylistically as being a sort of retarded cousin that you don't want your friends to know about compared to what people think of conventionally as literature. The poetry of the Romans, on the other hand, sounds fresh and clean. Here's some poetry by Horace, written in the decades before the birth of Christ:

"It was night with the shine of the moon amid the smaller stars shining,
And no night could be clearer,
When you (but you schemed then already to cheat the Immortals)
You swore to me, traitress,
And tighter around me your sensuous arms were clinging
Than ivy to ilex"

Part of a poem called "Epode XV"

That's over two thousand years old.

Here's an ever better example: Elegie II parts A and B by Propertius, written around the birth of Christ, give or take a decade:

"She is gone whom I loved so long, my girl that I loved so dear;
Stolen, my friend! and you can tell me not even to shed a tear?

No known hatred is bitter, compared with a lover's woe:
Slit my throat, and you'll find me a less implacable foe!

How can I bea to behold her in alien arms recline,
Now called mine no longer, who used to be known as mine?

"Everything goes in cycles";--I know what you're thinking of--
"You conquer and then you are conquered: the spin of the wheel of love"

"Many a mighty leader, a puissant ruler, is dead:
"Thebes is a thing of the past, and the glory of Troy is fled..."

---Ah, but what presents I gave her, what poems I wrote her of old!
Yet never she said "I love you." She is iron: hard and cold..

And now I can see my madness, how deep my folly appears
To have borne such a house, such a woman, through all these reckless years...
Also around two thousand years old.

Then on the other hand you have Jehovah thundering to the Israelites like some drunken, stupid, abusive father about having them obey him for no good reason.

I take the Romans and the Greeks any day, and the Buddhist Sutras and the Hindu Bhagavad-Gita over the embarrassment called the Old Testament (and parts of the New as well).

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