Monday, August 29, 2005

all that jazz


I've probably read more carefully some of these introductory chapters because, like you, I find a lot of stuff in each sentence -- interesting stuff, interesting enough to not scan or plow by so quickly.

Quick (on the other hand) responses:

  1. The section on texts was quite interesting. Not only are we seeing the transformation from hand-written manuscripts, available only to a few elite, but also find a renaissance reconnecting scholars to ancient texts. Jerome's Latin translation of the Bible, the Vulgate, served as a unifying text for hundreds of year (to the west) with unifying assumptions. Reading original Greek and Hebrew texts created a bit of a shock for some western theologians. Remember McCulloch's earlier statement about no reformation in the Orthodox Churches? Now he writes: If there is any one explanation why the Latin West experienced a Reformation and the Greek-speaking lands to the east did not, it lies in this experience of listening to a new voice in the New Testament text. (p. 80)
  2. Printing -- obivious to any discussion of the Reformation, but I appreciate his comparing a world based on written texts versus printed texts, including how it changed the way people formed ideas and defended them.
  3. Humanism -- I appreciated his laying out what Renaissance/Reformation humanism was, distinguishing it from our contemporary use of the term, but once again, while realizing that this is a survey, I'd like to know more about this "new" form of scholarship, opposed to the former medieval systems/styles/approaches.
  4. That said, He makes Erasmus of Rotterdam (as opposed to his original name, Herasmus Gerritszoon of Gouda) as interesting as one would expect, a sort of Edmund Wilson of his day, a public intellectual and, in McCulloch's description, a major networker.
  5. Last days -- some themes continue. In 1502 came a publishing sensation: the "apocalypse Nova" (New Account of the Last Days) (p. 93). Sort of a precursor to Late, Great Planet Earth and the Left Behind series. I know that the early Church lived in a state of immediate expectation. And I knew that the first millennium had its own sense that historic, human time was ending. But here in the middle (a millennium and a half), we see friars like Savonarola in Florence preaching the terror and fear of God's judgment and last days. I gather that this was a few steps more than the "Rood and Doom" description of late medieval worship. The Catholic Church develops some nervousness about people talking about "last times."
  6. Luther -- McCulloch points out possible moments where Luther could have been "handled" better, preventing his complete break from the Catholic Church. His story is a reverse of John Henry Newman, where again, some point to situations where his leaving the Anglican Church could have been prevented. I doubt if anything would have stopped either, short of physical death.
  7. There are two Luther's in my head -- the powerful, smart, fearless monk and theologian, and then the fellow who confirmed and laid the foundation for further anti-semitism in German culture. McCulloch points to St. Augustine of Hippo, and his impact on Luther.
  8. Yes, Augustine made easy. Good surveys make one hunger for further insight or study.
  9. This excitement of an idea -- McCulloch sees Luther's thinking as the spark that changed the Church and Europe.
  10. Predestination -- like purgatory, I wish I really understood the concept of predestination. Augustine mentioned it, Luther believed it. Coming from a protestant tradition that not only rejected both concepts, but had great contempt for them, I find that I will have to learn to see these concepts anew, at least to understand them better and the power they held.
  11. Pope Leo X. This guy has come up a lot in my life lately. He was the Medici pope who supposedly said God has raised us to the papacy and we will now enjoy it. I associate him with the art and beauty, both powerful and decadent, of St. Peters. And he is in charge of the Church during this period. Maybe MacCulloch will have more about him later (I haven't peeked), but I'd like to understand him more.
  12. More history. Lord, how long has it been since I've thought about the Holy Roman Empire, the Elector states, or the Hapsburgs.


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