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Jack Graham

Jack Graham wrote about Doctor Who and Marxism, often at the same time. These days he co-hosts the I Don't Speak German podcast with Daniel Harper.Support Jack on Patreon.

10 Comments

  1. John G Wood
    December 3, 2015 @ 6:21 am

    I love the way the various strands of this essay link together. Nice.

    Reply

  2. Laurence Price
    December 3, 2015 @ 10:26 am

    This is rather beautiful. Just two observations:

    The whole idea of a “literal” interpretation of Genesis- as in a univocal, Enlightenment, it-all-happened-like-this-exactly-in-this-order interpretation is rather wonderfully exploded from the very start of the book. There’s not only one creation story- there are two entirely separate creation narratives that have probably arisen from entirely different sources and been glued together: one with humanity created last after the other animals, and the other created first. In that respect, the “literal” truth of Genesis has to be etymologically just that- the truth in the letters, which inherently contain their own paradoxes and self-contradictions and play.

    Going on, you mention Bronowski’s wonderful point from Ascent of Man that the Old Testament is the narrative of a ex-nomadic people looking back on their past. But have you come across the idea that there’s also a huge amount of latent class struggle from a slightly later period of history in the narrative? After Jerusalem was captured by the Babylonians In 587 BC a large chunk of the perceived upper and middle classes- the priests, the civil servants, those with lots of money- were deported from Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside, and sent to Babylon.The manual labourers, the farmers and the poor were left behind. And may well have been those the exiled middle classes, simultaneously dispossessed and racked with guilt at their survival, that put together a large chunk of the Bible as we know it in exile.

    The interesting bit is when the priestly “middle” classes start to drift back over the next century or so, and the class prejudices that come out when they do return. Sometimes it seems like the narrative is written to convince themselves that they are the truly virtuous believers, and the ordinary people who had been left behind to get on with their lives under the invaders were somehow inferior… So hence there’s a huge amount of invective about not mingling with foreigners in the old testament; it’s the voice of the sharp-elbowed middle classes who felt they kept themselves pure during the Babylonian exile.

    Reply

  3. Joseph
    December 3, 2015 @ 11:10 am

    I feel that at the time of broadcast, a hive race that seeks to ‘leap’ technological development and become fully technological ‘in a generation’ would have struck the audience mostly as a reference to Soviet (and specifically Stalinist) Russia – the ‘in a generation’ especially, as that was a part of the goal of the planned economy – to replicate and absorb all that is powerful and good about the capitalist states in a communist one.

    Reply

  4. 5tephe
    December 3, 2015 @ 6:35 pm

    I love this essay, Jack. It could almost be your statement of position, or theoretical framework. I just know there is a Latin phrase of some sort lurking out there that I’m not using …

    I disagree with (parts of) it from an anthropological or sociological standpoint, and with the sheer amount of teleology present in the narrative. But as a piece of cultural analysis mapping to a philosophical framework, it brilliant. So brilliant that it out-shines any semi-scientific squabbles that I might have with it.

    Bravo, sir!

    Reply

    • Laurence Price
      December 4, 2015 @ 7:04 am

      5tephe commented on “the sheer amount of teleology present in the narrative”…

      You say that like it’s a bad thing 🙂

      I think teleology is something we could with rather more of in political debates, which are stuck in a sort of barren consequentialism. Less “what sort of immediate effect will this have on the balance sheet” and more “what sort of community should we be?”

      Reply

  5. Alex
    December 3, 2015 @ 6:40 pm

    I think Genesis may be more deliberately engaging with the rise of hierarchical systems than you give it credit for. Joseph is depicted as buying up the peasant’s land during a famine, basically setting him up as the mythic founder of autocracy. And just in case we get any ideas that this is a glorious bit of nation-building, we next see his descendants caught up in the system of forced labour he instituted. Biblical law is also really concerned about offsetting the accumulation of capital which the rise of the near-eastern city states facilitated. You can see the Hebrew Bible not only as a record of these changes, but an attempt to mitigate and condemn its abuses (how successfully it does this is obviously a matter of debate)

    Reply

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    December 17, 2015 @ 11:53 am

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