Wednesday, September 05, 2007

De Mortuis Nisi Bonum?

The Greeks probably had a phrase for it, too, but the earliest one of which your scribe is aware is the Latin tag, "De mortuis nil nisi bonum." Which means, of course, if you can't say anything good about the obnoxious creep who died last week, don't say anything at all.

Now, your scribe has never been one to subscribe to this theory. In his view, the truth remains the truth, both pre- and post-mortem. Are we to refrain from calling Hitler a ruthless genocidal maniac just because he's dead? Puleeeze.

And what about the Roman Catholic church vilifying Judas Iscariot as a traitor, or calling Mary Magdalene a whore? As to Judas, his kiss was a crucial link (pun intended) in Christ's passion and death. Many books have been written in both ancient and modern times to suggest that Judas' act was - and was meant to be - part of the plan that Jesus himself formulated as he "set his face towards Jerusalem" in the final stage of his life.

As for Mary M, legends of her possible liason with Jesus are as old as, if not older than, the Gospels themselves. Better and more serious writers than Dan Brown have explored what to many is a likelihood that their relationship was in fact a marriage, and that they had a son together. Why the early Catholic church deemed these stories to be heretical is beyond your scribe's understanding; and he is fairly certain that if Jesus were to return to earth today he might want to do some more ecclesiastical house-cleaning such as that which he carried out in the Temple a few days before his death. After all, every single element of the Christian religion as we know it was formulated by human beings, anywhere from decades to centuries after his death.

Mark's Gospel, the earliest, dates from about 70 AD; the books of the Bible were only codified for the first time at the Third Council of Carthage in 397 (which included the Gospel of Judas, by the way), and officially set in stone by the Catholics at the Council of Trent in 1546. For Lutherans, the books known as James, Jude, Hebrews, and Revelation were all (and still are) considered extra-canonical.

The point here (and yes, gentle and patient reader, there is one) is that the Christian religion is a man-made artifact (no women, of course, were allowed to have anything to do with the process, which is why Moses' sister Miriam and Mary Magdalene were suppressed by the Judaeo-Christian "authorities" of earlier times). As such, it is by definition imperfect, and subject to ongoing debate and revision.

Where were we? Ah, yes - Mary Magdalene, who, far from being a whore, was in fact a very central figure in Jesus' life. And if indeed they did parent together, and the ancient genealogies are correct, that would make them your scribe's 44th great-grandparents. Which would probably go a long way towards explaining his simple-minded devotion to the truth, which not infrequently tends to earn him the opprobrium of the ungodly hereabouts.

Today's post was prompted by a full-page ad in The New York Times, page A19, taken out by The Helmsley Organization. It caught your scribe's eye for several reasons, not the least of which was that it was indeed a full-pager, and a right-hand page to boot. Then there was the very odd orthography: Each And Every Single Word Begins With A Capital Letter. What this says about the current state of corporate literacy, dear reader, your scribe will leave to you to determine.

But it was the penultimate paragraph that really grabbed the scribal eyeballs:

She Was Deeply Loved By Her Family, Friends, Colleagues, And Employees

Gee...that's not what your scribe remembers hearing and reading about Leona. If anything, he was led to believe the opposite was the truth, at least as far as the underlings were concerned.

So here we are, dear reader: just because Leona Helmsley is dead, should we no longer tell the truth about her? Or even worse, publish a palpable untruth?

Your scribe could not let this particular piece of world-class hypocrisy pass by without comment. No doubt he will be thoroughly castigated by the Nisi Bonum crowd, which is particularly strong here in good ol' Greenwich, where the local rag, aka the Yellowwich Time, works overtime to avoid publishing the home truths that might otherwise make this into a better and more honest community. But hey - the truth is still the truth, and it needs to be told. Veritas, it says on your scribe's college beer mug. And it's probably written in the scribal DNA as well.


Blogger Vicki said...

It never ceases to amaze me how people's thoughts change once someone is dead. I've known several who really hated their family member, talking badly about them, and being quite rude. Yet once that person died they became almost enamored with them so to speak. All they say is how much they miss them, how much they love, and what a great person they were.

To me that's just plain odd. Now, there isn't a mean bone in my body (as the saying goes) but I'm not going to be a hypocrite to or about anyone. No, Vicki is not perfect and would never claim to be. I just can’t see not liking someone when they are living, breathing the same air, and then deciding they are the best thing since sliced bread once that air is no longer sucked into their lungs. (Sorry, that was a very long sentence) :)

Oh, and guess what I heard on the radio this morning. Miss Leona’s brother is very upset over Trouble receiving all that money. He has announced he will not take care of the dog.

But wait, it gets better. Apparently the housekeeper now says that the dog has bitten her and has hired an attorney (a very expensive one according to the news) and will now sue the dog.

Just thought I’d share that bit of info with you in case you hadn’t heard it yet.

Truly, it’s time for Erica to take over the world. :)

September 05, 2007 8:59 PM  
Blogger Erica Ridley said...

There was a gospel according to Judas? (Or should I say, A Gospel According To Judas? *g)

I had no idea!!

September 06, 2007 10:11 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Ah, this is the way to start the day! With comments from two of my faves!

Vicki, I'm glad that you, too, are not a hypocrite. And no, I hadn't heard the news about the brother refusing custody. What a hoot! Is poor little rich girl Trouble to become an orphan at the tender age of eight?

And how funny about the housekeeper! Guess she wasn't one of those who "deeply loved" the Helmsley experience. ;-)

Erica, my love, your theological education is sorely lacking! Let me recommend Elaine Pagels' new book, "Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity" (Viking, 2007). Pagels has also written on the Gospel of Thomas (the doubting Thomas, of course) and the Gnostic Gospels; her co-author of the Judas book, Karen King, has also written on the Gospel of Mary of Magdela (my 44th great-grammy).

Also recommended is anything by Phyllis Tribble, my erstwhile colleague at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. Phyllis is the one who told me about the Jewish patriarchs attempting to erase Moses' sister Miriam from the record (they failed), and that one of the writers of Genesis was most likely a woman. Phyllis would not have been popular at the Third Council of Carthage, or the Council of Trent; she would probably have taken the Christian patriarchs soundly to task for their attempts to shape the Christian religion in their own misogynist image.

These things are important for a future world dominator to know, since part of bringing back the Golden Age is to rectify the centuries of prejudice and injustice that have brought us to our present pass. So start with Pagels, King, and Tribble; and when you take over, let me suggest you form a Council of the Wise, to include not only them, but Vicki and me, too, of course! :-)

September 06, 2007 10:47 AM  
Blogger Erica Ridley said...

*off to do a new search on the inter-library loan website...*

September 11, 2007 9:18 AM  
Blogger Vicki said...

I love to read what you post and miss them. Are they coming back soon?

September 14, 2007 1:53 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Hi, Vicki - of course! There just hasn't been that much to write about recently: the town has lost yet another major lawsuit, and will probably throw good money after bad by appealing it; the usual incompetence of town government and officials; i.e., same old, same old. But I will try to do better for you in the near future.

September 14, 2007 2:22 PM  
Blogger Vicki said...

No pressures...just always love reading your post. :)

September 14, 2007 4:29 PM  

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