Saturday, December 02, 2006

Everlasting Masterpiece....

.......Which is what I think needs to be said again about The Everlasting Man. This post is the culmination of a little mini-adventure of mine that spanned the week.

On Monday, I was indulging one of my hobbies, looking around at a local library's sellout rack. I spend alot of time waiting in lines for different things, and I have a bit of down time during the day between client meetings. Im always looking for things to read during this time, and at the library sale, I found a collection of essays of Seneca. For $.25, of course I bought it.

On Tuesday, I was looking for something in my "book closet", when I ran across one of my beat up copies of The Everlasting Man. I took a few moments to page through it, looking for my favorites. Having just gotten into Seneca, I found the following ELM quote meaningful;

"First, a man reading the Gospel sayings would not find platitudes. If he had read even in the most respectful spirit the majority of ancient philosophers and of modem moralists, he would appreciate the unique importance of saying that he did not find platitudes. It is more than can be said even of Plato. It is much more than can be said of Epictetus or 'Seneca or Marcus Aurelius or Apollonius of Tyana. And it is immeasurably more than can be said of most of the agnostic moralists and the preachers of the ethical societies; with their songs of service and their religion of brotherhood. The moral of most moralists, ancient and modern, has been one solid and polished cataract of platitudes flowing forever and ever. That would certainly not be the impression of the imaginary independent outsider studying the New Testament. " The Riddles of the Gospel

This is true, and much like CS Lewis wrote, that the good-guy sage Jesus just cannot be found in scripture. The message is far more engaging.

On Wednesday, I found an interesting footnote in the Seneca collection, "The legend of Seneca's acquaintance and correspondence with St. Paul, and the possibility of his having been directly influenced by Christian teaching, are discussed in CT Crutwell's A History of Roman Literature (Griffen, 1877)

Hmm, interesting.... During my free time on Thursday and Friday, I dug around looking to see if this work was in the public domain....

And there we find:

Chapter II --"The problem is by no means so simple as it appears. It involves twoseparate questions: first, a historical one which has only an antiquarianinterest, Did the philosopher know the Apostle? secondly, a more importantone for the history of religious thought, Do Seneca's writings containmatter which could have come from no source but the teaching of the firstChristians.As regards the first question, the arguments on both sides are asfollows:--On the one hand, Gallio, who saw Paul at Corinth, was Seneca'sbrother, and Burrus, the captain of the praetorian cohort, before whom hewas brought at Rome, was Seneca's most intimate friend. What so likely asthat these men should have introduced their prisoner to one whose chiefobject was to find out truth? Again, there is a well authenticated tradition that Acte, once the concubine of Nero, [24] and the only personwho was found to bury him, was a convert to the Christian faith; and ifconverted, who so likely to have been her converter as the great Apostle?Moreover, in the Epistle to the Philippians, St. Paul salutes "them thatare of Caesar's household," and it is thought that Seneca may here bespecially intended.."

Admittedly, this is hardly conclusive, but it is something I had never heard of before. I think coupling this with the ideas of The Everlasting Man does something that is very unpopular in our day. Christ, St. Paul, and others seem to inhabit a "Bibleland" not much different from Valhalla or the Elysian Fields. GKC's point in ELM reminds us that these figures and bound to a time and a place, and inhabit the same world we live in. I thought it very interesting that the Apostles brushed so closely with the figures of late antiquity.


Billiam said...

It would be unpopular as it crumbles the aetheist's belief that Jesus was a fictional character, despite historical and archeological evidence to the contrary. They would resist any threat to their world view. BTW, I enjoy your blog. I enjoy anything that helps me to learn more. Thankyou.

Jon said...

You can't fool me. "billiam" is of course an alias. It can easily be seen from your picture that your real name is Gilbert!