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July 6, 2006

The Holy of Holies

I'm writing, just now, of that stunning moment when Pompey, the Roman general, forces his way into the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and enters the Holy of Holies -- Yahweh's own sanctuary, a room that only one person, the high priest, was allowed to visit on only one day of the year, Yom Kippur.

And what does Pompey find?

It is empty.

Some of what the Jews contributed to the development of religion is apparent in this moment. But you could also build an anti-religion upon it.

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at July 6, 2006 9:04 PM


These Jews! Is nothing sacred?

Posted by: Richard Blumberg at July 7, 2006 7:57 AM

As to what Pompey found and your saying "It was Empty" ... what does that mean to you, Mitch?

Posted by: Bonnie Kim at July 7, 2006 5:53 PM

what Pompey found means a lot to me...that's what I've been writing for my book...means the Jews have found a more abstract, more tangible God, of course...but also means the Arc of the Covenant, which was supposed to be in that room, had conveniently gone missing...and there is the nothing versus something divide that I've written about in a couple of entries (to which the links in this entry lead).

Posted by: Anonymous at July 7, 2006 11:24 PM

annonymous above is me. and I meant to write "less tangible."

Posted by: mitch at July 7, 2006 11:33 PM

What I was trying to ask, but not so very clearly...
Mitch, if Pompey had in fact found the Ark of the Covenant, if Pompey had within the confines of the Holy of Holies had an historically recorded 'encounter with God', or if Pompey had been unsuccessful in his overtaking Jerusalem, would any of those features to his life and campaigns affected your own belief system concerning God, god, or -god?

I guess it is not fair to ask you questions, given this is your blog and to serve your goals. But if you would consider telling me how much the history of Pompey's claims shape your present worldview, I would care to learn from that.

Posted by: Bonnie Kim at July 8, 2006 1:05 AM

First, I want to say that it never happens. the Ark (and your spelling seems correct) of the Covenant is never found. God isn't reliably seen. the End of Days never arrives. And given the overwhelming evidence in favor of a naturalistic view of the universe, I guess it would take a pretty large and unavoidable miracle (not just someone dreaming something that, guess what, comes true --with us being asked to forget all the things dreamed that fail to come true) for me to grow interested in a supernatural view.
Second, I guess the point I was trying to get at in the entry on God's love was whether we can logically conceive of some sort of deity. Could omnipotence and omnipresence have some sort of logical consistency? How might this deity handle the problem of "flaws"? What could God's love really mean. My suspicion -- some others who share my lack of faith disagree -- is that there is not a logic (forgetting for a moment a physics) into which a god could squeeze.
What if Pompey had heard a deep, indignant voice when he entered the Holy of Holies? What if he had been struck dead by a bolt of lightning? What if I see a sled being pulled by reindeers race across the winter sky? I perceive wishes and hopes in these "what if"s. I perceive a rejection of what for me is the hugely more interesting matter of "what is." I perceive a primitive science fiction. Not much else.

Posted by: mitch at July 8, 2006 7:25 PM

I understand your perceptions Mitch. And am not without the same, but a deeply ingrained faith gives me not only the scale of reason and logic, but a scale of faith. Some would call that cognitive dissonance, I know.
For me, I call it essential ...
Thank you for taking the time to share what you have, and I do enjoy your well-organized and thought provoking discourses.
In fact, I like rading you better than Stephen Hawkings and Richard Dawkins put together! LOL

Posted by: Bonnie Kim at July 8, 2006 9:28 PM

The idea that the Jews had found a 'more abstract, less tangible' god extremely important in many ways (see, e.g., Moses Maimonides, 12th.c, 'Guide to the Perplexed' re: interpretive structures for reading sacred texts).

Perhaps this is too heretical, but isn't there some evidence that the Ark didn't really exist tangibly, in the material world? (an OT parallel to Jesus's 'kingdom' in the NT) ? the prompt here is thinking about a short story by V. Woolf ('The Mark on the Wall') which is about what happens when imagination is delimited by 'fact' -- the narrator's rich speculations of what may be on the wall are collapsed when a visitor points out that it is: 'x'. All imagination stops there, frozen.

In my twisted optimistic analogy, if the priest is allowed entrance to the Law only one day a year, on Yom Kippur (sounding like a Kafka novel), and confronts the abstration of god as the Jews have *imagined* him, not represented by a tangible, material 'x', does this not leave open so much more possibility? At the very least, it means that no Romans can barge in and hijack/commit sacrilege to their holiest artefacts. Maybe, it's the positive side of Dostoevsky's comment in 'Bros. K', too: without material representation (no graven images, not even an actual Ark?) of god, everything is permitted --which means you need the priests to come up with prescribed reading practices, to limit what some might imagine ?

Posted by: JM at July 8, 2006 11:02 PM

thanks, JM, for some very pretty ideas...on the limitlessness of emptiness. I will have to find away to include them in my discussion of this pregnant moment.

Posted by: mitch at July 9, 2006 7:45 PM

Hi there.
in this post you sad something about ' social development of religion '.
Could you please help me to find some references about this matter?
I want to know how develop religion especially from perspective of modernization theory.
My E-MAIL is:
Thank you in advance

Posted by: reza at September 9, 2006 12:58 PM

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