Clearly, a more in-depth dialogue between the interpretation of the archaeological remains and the modern, scientific interpretation of the biblical text is required. Bluntly put, even if a sackful of Philistine foreskins were found in an early Iron Age Judahite site, this does not prove that the story of David occurred, as described in the book of Samuel or that all the stories described in this book are true!
- Aren M. Maeir, Review of Avraham Faust, The Archaeology of Israelites Society in Iron Age II (Eisenbrauns, 2012), Review of Biblical Literature, September 2013
Indeed. And have a read of Aren’s whole review of Avraham Faust, which is a significant and weighty response. Aren wears a “velvet fist” in his review, being both broadly appreciative and deeply critical of Faust’s work.
(I admit, though, that I felt a little uncomfortable at Aren’s juxtaposition of the words “bluntly” and “foreskins” in that quote. For as LXX Joshua 5:2 makes clear, circumcision – of the living, at least – should always be carried out with a very sharp knife.)
h/t: Aren Maeir, “Something Interesting That Was Just Published“, The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog, 1 October 2013
The Gospel of Mark 6:38-44 relates the account of Jesus’s multiplication of the loaves and fish:
And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.”
When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”
Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.
Recently the President of Venezuela, Según Maduro, pushed for schools to multiply, “just like Christ multiplied the fishes”, but accidentally said “just like Christ multiplied the penises”. That’s easier to do in Spanish than in English, though:
In commenting on plans to expand and improve access to education, Maduro made allusion to the Biblical miracle of the seven loaves and fish, but misspoke: instead of the Spanish word for fishes (“peces“), the Venezuelan president said “penes“, meaning “penises“.
Dressed in an Adidas track suit in the bright red, blue and yellow colors of the Venezuelan flag, Maduro told the audience, “We need to go in school by school, student by student, high school by high school, community by community, get in there, multiply ourselves, just like Christ multiplied the penises - “, realizing his mistake, he paused to correct himself, ” – pardon me, the fishes and the loaves. Pardon the expression. Just like Christ multiplied the loaves and the fish.”
- “Nicolas Maduro Verbal Gaffe: Venezuelan President Pushes For Schools To Multiply ‘Just Like Christ Multiplied The Penises’”, Latin Times, 28 August 2013
But the misquoting of Jesus continues, this week. Here’s how the Gospel of Luke 14:12-14 quotes Jesus: “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” But this week some members of the Republican Party in the U.S. accidentally misquoted Jesus’s words, here, as “Fuck the poor”.
David and Goliath Story as Rhetorical Device to Legitimize Violence by Powerful or Militant “Victims”
In “David, Goliath, and the Black Panthers: The Paradox of the Oppressed Militant in the Rhetoric of Self-Defense” (Journal of Communication Inquiry 37 no. 1 (2013): 5-25), Amanda Davis Gatchet and Dana L. Cloud argue that the reference to the David and Goliath story, when used as shorthand for the defeat of a powerful opponent by a weaker party,
is a rhetorical resource that serves two functions for both mainstream political and social movement discourse. First, it potentially legitimizes the use of violence in a social conflict by figuring political collectives as aggrieved victims. Second, it crafts a paradoxical collective persona: that of an oppressed militant (in the case of social movements) or a mighty victim (in the case of hegemonic powers), an agent who is at once both powerful and oppressed. (5)
The authors examine the rhetorical use of elements shared with the David and Goliath story by the Black Panther Party for Self-Defence (BPP) and also by the media in their portrayals of the BPP. They draw some conclusions for contemporary politics:
In contrast to rhetorics justifying hegemonic violence (e.g., in the War on Terror), social movement actors lay claim to the identity of the oppressed in terms of their particular counterhegemonic position in a socioeconomic order: that of the oppressed militant. The rhetoric of the U.S. War on Terror, on the other hand, framed the George W. Bush administration’s violence in terms of the mighty victim, despite the marked asymmetry of power relations between the United States and its targets. The difference may explain why (in an ideological not intentional sense) mass media and politicians more often than not framed the Panthers in discrediting ways. Explanations of sociopolitical phenomena in terms of system and structure are not commonsense or natural frames within which to interpret violence in liberal capitalist society, but critics should recognize their reasonable-ness…. Only the actors already in power maintain the prerogative of system blindness. (18-19)
As it is the tenth anniversary of Edward Said’s death, here is a part of his last major speech, which should resonate with the article by Gatchet and Cloud:
The US has, at the very least, asserted its strategic dominance over the center of the world’s largest known energy reserves from the Gulf to the Caspian Sea. And it plans to reshape the area by pacifying threats to its dominance in countries like Syria, Iran, and some of the Gulf emirates.
To threaten war with such belligerence and such a wasteful deployment of military resources is an abuse of human tolerance and human values….
… my point here is to assert the universal applicability of human rights to those unfortunate people — given that since World War II, there has grown up an impressive, even formidable, world-wide consensus that each individual or collectivity, no matter his or her color, ethnicity, religion, or culture, is to be protected from such horrific practices as starvation, torture, forced transfer of population, discrimination on the basis of religion or ethnos, humiliation, extra-judicial political assassinations, land expropriations and all manner of similar cruel and unusual punishment.
I want to affirm also that no power, no matter how special or how developed or how strong or how urgent its claims of past victimization, is exempt from accusation and judgment if that government practices such things.
“The Use of the David and Goliath narrative in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict“, Remnant of Giants, 23 February 2013
“Israelite David versus Palestinian Goliath? Imagined Community and Israeli Missile-Defence Systems“, Remnant of Giants, 14 November 2012
In a recent article, Benjamin D. Utter argues that “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” has incorporated a number of elements from the story of David found in the book of Samuel. In the first place, there are a number of general shared themes and motifs between the story of David and Arthurian romances:
Scholars have not overlooked the similarities between the Book of Samuel and the story of Arthur. Both concern legendary monarchs for whom there is little other historical evidence, and present intriguing problems in terms of generic status, cobining national myth, folklore, priestly propaganda, monstrous challengers, and political history. R.A. Shoaf refers to Arthur as he appears in the Alliterative Morte as “Britain’s David,” and it is generally acknowledged that almost any medieval tale involving giants owes at least something to Goliath and his young challenger. Beowulf, for example, seems to bear the influence of the David story: Andy Orchard tallies “no fewer than twelve … points of overlap” between “Beowulf’s fight with Grendel and David’s encounter with Goliath”. (127)
Utter goes on to note the “striking ways in which the poem’s action corresponds to or at least appears to be inflected by the David story” (129). For example, just as Goliath is an intimidating “six cubits and a span” (I Samuel 17:14), the Green Knight is a “half giant at least” (2099-2102). Or again, just as Goliath taunts the Israelites with their supposed inadequacy, the Green Knight taunts the Arthur’s knights, calling them “bot berdles chylder” (mere beardless children) (208).
To read the remainder of Utter’s comparison of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” with the David story, see Benjamin D. Utter, “Gawain and Goliath: Davidic Parallels and the Problem of Penance in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight“, Comitatus: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 44 (2013): 121-55.
See also: R.A. Shoaf, “The Alliterative ‘Morte Arthure’: The Story of Britain’s David“, The Journal of English and German Philology 81.2 (1982): 204-226; Andy Orchard, A Critical Companion to “Beowulf” (Cambridge, 2005): 142, 143-45.
In “Caravaggio Four Centuries Later: Psychoanalytic Portraits of Ambivalence and Ambiguity” (Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 61 no. 2 (2013): 311-332), Nathan M. Szajnberg offers a psychoanalytic interpretation of aspects of Caravaggio’s work.
Of Caravaggio’s “David with the Head of Goliath” (1609-10), Szajnberg writes:
We can compare this to Bernini’s David sculpture: victorious, muscular, and fiercely, angrily expressive – a look of fiero – he swipes his blade through. But Caravaggio, now in his early forties, running from justice for years, portrays something more complex. Yes, it is his face on the severed skull of Goliath. Even in death, Caravaggio/Goliath’s upper face shows “corrugator action,” – which Darwin called the muscle of difficulty – seen also in pain, anger, fear, and sadness. His lower face shows his mouth agape.
We can treat this picture like a dream in which the artist (or the dreamer) can parcel himself into several characters, as Freud (1900) and Erikson (1954) have taught us. Then, to the degree that this David is Caravaggio’s David, the young shepherd’s face shows no fiero, no anger, no joy: he looks, head tilted, slightly downward to his left, toward the dangling head held by his almost soft grasp. He shows remarkable calm, but with a tone of sadness or remorse or pity in the brows of the victor’s face. That is, Caravaggio in his penultimate work somberly metes out justice (David) and is met with justice (Goliath).
… Caravaggio transgressed contemporary norms to expand the range of emotions that could be represented and to show the interplay of emotions in intense moments of human experience. He openly portrayed what psychoanalysts consider the fuller range of inner reality, including our ambivalences, thereby revealing our inner lives on the surface of the canvas. (324-25)
In “Did David Bring a Gun to a Knife Fight? Literary and Historical Considerations in Interpreting David’s Victory over Goliath” (Expository Times, 30 April 2013), Benjamin J.M. Johnson considers whether the famous narrative should be interpreted as a story of faith, in which a shepherd boy uses a humble sling to defeat a great warrior, or a story of cunning, in which David’s actions are the equivalent of “taking a gun to a knife fight”.
Bringing a gun to a knife fight? Like the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
What was Benjamin Johnson’s conclusion? The David and Goliath narrative is more like Star Wars than Raiders of the Lost Ark:
It seems we are best off seeing David’s victory over Goliath as something that was possible … but not very likely. To interpret David’s victory over Goliath as due primarily on David’s reliance on Yhwh seems a very good reading of the evidence. If we are to seek a modern analogy we should not look to Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court or Spielberg’s The Raiders of the Lost Ark. Perhaps a better modern analogy to David’s victory over Goliath is Luke Skywalker’s victory over the Death Star in George Lucas’s Star Wars. While it may be physically possible for a proton torpedo to penetrate a small thermal exhaust port on the Death Star, it is highly unlikely and the viewer knows the real secret to Luke’s success. Similarly, while it may be physically possible for David to take down the well-armored Goliath with a sling, it is highly unlikely and the reader knows the real secret to David’s success. In short, just as the force was with Luke, Yhwh was with David.
- Benjamin J.M. Johnson, “Did David Bring a Gun to a Knife Fight? Literary and Historical Considerations in Interpreting David’s Victory over Goliath“, Expository Times, 30 April 2013, p. 8.
h/t: Aren Maeir, “And if already on the topic of new studies on Goliath…“, The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog, 22 September 2013