Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Where else but Harvard Divinity School?

We've got this great professor at HDS named Jon Levenson who's Professor of Jewish Studies...I've never had him in class, but if what follows is any indication I can't wait to take a class with him.

One of my dormmates has compiled a list of Levenson-isms from the past year.

I share them with you...it's kinda long, but I think you'll enjoy!

To the Protestants I say: If midrash is not open to you, and if historical criticism is not open to you. . . you have a problem.

"Shit, it was Leah!"--Not the most eloquent English, to be reading in church

God will punish you, not me. Or reward you, depending on God’s view on text criticism

What class could be less interesting than this?

I prefer not just in-house knowledge, but outhouse knowledge

On conversions: They had people assuming missionary positions…perhaps a poor choice of words

Parsing is how I get my kicks. That and heroin and cocaine. One is much more effective than the others.

You could write a fine dissertation on this. Boring as hell. Which makes it all the better for a dissertation.

Student: My perception was that people didn’t have horses until the 7th century. Levenson: I still don't have one.

Is it true that there are more sheep than people in New Zealand? So how do they deal with the sexual temptation? That’s why I never visit.

Student: I don’t have any handouts. Levenson: ok, you flunk!

[On the JPS 1962 Torah translation] 'Who is like you, O Lord, among the celestials?' What the hell is a celestial? A tea? An ancient near-Eastern deity with a PhD?

Hindus sometimes take offense at being called polytheists: there's a unity. Of course, I mean real Hindus, not Westerners running around HDS calling themselves Hindus. You know--people who've taken a yoga class. . .

A pure historical telling would say the Israelites left Egypt, somehow got to the other side, and somehow the Egyptians didn’t.

Now we get this postmodernist crap--and I don't mean that in a pejorative sense.

Pharaoh googles that deity--nope, haven't heard of him. I won't let your people go.

'Redeem' has lost its secular sense, except when you redeem coupons.

It’s always a bad sign when people use etymology to make arguments.
Someone asked if I had seen ‘Prince of Egypt.' I said I was waiting for the book to come out.

Student: Maybe "sft" is lips, so the sea is licking its chops. Levenson: We’ll ignore that. There’s personification, and then there’s that.

Student: I don’t know where to begin. Levenson: Books. Don’t just interview people on the street.

The Samaritan Pentateuch says 'goy'? So it was probably written by a non-Jew

I’d better figure this out before someone asks.

I don’t care. I really don’t care. 98% of what these Germans have at the bottom of the page I don’t care about. I heard a German saying ‘I’ve been here 5 and 40 minutes. When do I become a sausage?’ so that says something about these notes.

One of the few advantages of being at the bottom of the sea is that you’re not sinking.

When grammarians don’t know what something is, they make up a word for it.

I myself don’t do archaeology, because a man of my status shouldn’t get his hands dirty. That and they're drunk until 4 a.m.

You sit on your own rump and on the ass’ rump. Who’s sitting on the ass’ ass?

I did once try to get into animal husbandry, but my wife got jealous.

It’s not very intimidating that God threw the groomsmen into the water.

We’ve spent too much time on this. I don’t care.

I’d be terrible in the British royal family. First of all, I’d stay married to the same person.

When I taught at Wellesley, they had two types of shops in the square: bridal shops and bridle shops. For those well-bred young ladies.

God as "yoshev al haKruvim" (The Lord of Hosts enthroned on cherubs): What is He doing? Is this the Divine Derriere on some cherubs? Ms. Mirguet, I'll translate 'derriere' into French for you later.

I'm doing this from memory, but my memory is perfect...as long as it lasts.

It’s like the Westminster dog show, where the people look like their dogs and are fat.

The Anchor Bible Dictionary entry for zoology is very good. No pictures, unfortunately.

Student: I would rather agree with you. Levenson: I think for the purposes of this class, that’s a good idea.

Just draw a bird on the board, people will assume it's a hieroglyph.

I avoid the outdoors in general. The only time I’m outdoors is between buildings if there's no tunnel.

Of course, the larger theological question is ‘who cares'?

He’s famous for using dirty words. He’s famous for more than that, but he’s the only person who can make ‘shit’ into a 5-syllable word

The religion scholar at Duke who pronounced "shit" as a 5-syllable word. "That's just how I grew up--in Texas." "Well I bet you grew up saying "nigger" too. Language change IS possible.

If you smoke within 100 feet of a Harvard building, they will rip you apart, wrap your head in seaweed, and throw you in the Charles.

He calls me prominent because I insisted he get rid of ‘scintillating, brilliant, overwrought…’ because I’m modest.

When you talk to Lutherans it’s good to bring up Paul because their theology is based on a misreading of Paul. So I like to push that in their faces. He thinks gentiles are dreck, which is the Yiddish word for excrement, and may be anachronistic.

It would be hard to imagine someone saying they’re born again as a UU.

Sexual misdeeds—whatever we call them today, alternative lifestyles.

Its more like the missionary position—er, missionary position----missionary theology

Except for the mispronunciation of the qamatz katan, nothing makes me angrier than the misquotation of Galatians.

You can spend your life trying to tell people that they shouldn't say Old Testament, shouldn't say Indian, shouldn't say girl. . . Only in Stalinist countries--or Harvard --can we achieve these socio-linguistic changes.

Neither Christian nor Jew says ‘let's hold hands and sway back and forth and sing.'

I suggest that one of you go first, and whoever doesn’t go first should go second.

Do you want to tell everyone your theory before I tell them why it's wrong?

Who knows what the history was on this thing? I'm a historical agnostic.

Stager says it’s mounting a horse—with the purposes of riding….actually, I’ve never heard it specified. He did grow up on a farm…

They assume you're not an idiot and they can mention a couple words and you’ll know the rest of the verse. Few can, and they're getting fewer. Except in the Bible Belt.

Things have different uses. Horses are useful in combat. Dictionaries are not.

Which text am I thinking of in my pea-sized brain?

It’s hard for Protestants to grasp this thought—it’s not the only thing it's hard for them to grasp

I don’t know of any OT text which hath a clear Christological sense.

Zachariah 9:9, Matthew 21--riding on two animals at once. I once saw a rodeo performer do this. I started to wave palm branches, but nobody understood the symbolism.

This is very intelligent; don’t ever think about it for the rest of your life.

Eschatological things like the blind leaping…well, not the blind leaping, really

There’s probably someone in the linguistics dept writing a dissertation on that right now…which won't work

Lutheran minister at Wellesley: I don't see myself as a minister. I see myself as a Values Clarification Facilitator.

The universality of the Church was undercut when they got rid of Latin. The authority of Rome was undercut. I got news for you (Catholics): you get rid of Latin you can get rid of Rome. In fact, historically there's even a connection between Latin and Rome.

One thing about the Hebrew Bible: God didn’t lack ways of punishing people.

The point of the midterm is to scare you to death.

When I go to the library I go from BM to BS and sometimes I take a bathroom break.

I know people like Noam Chomsky make fun of this, but I make fun of people like Chomsky.

Why is Dr. better than Rabbi? They're equally incompetent.

I show up with a shofar, people think I’m crazy

Questions? Comments? Boredom?

I have so few examples, I have to use them over and over

You should think about things like that. Not in my presence, but…

Jemima was the daughter of Job. She was the daughter who made pancakes.

You could look across the page and see the translation. I’m hoping the class is too dumb to do that.

God provides wine so their father will have incest with them. What a compassionate God!

I don’t want any memorial services at HDS.

This is like the least Jewish place on the planet (Jackson,WY)

They had candles and matza on the supermarket shelf at the same time. For the rare calendrical occasion where Passover is at the same time as Hanukkah.

There will be translation, grammar, discussion, and discomfort.

'Deaf and dumb' is very insensitive. I usually say 'hearing-impaired and dumb.'

I say we go in alphabetical order. Or the alternative is to go in reverse alphabetical order.

That chainsaw image is too violent. I would say ‘disembowels’

This may shock you--I'm not even Catholic. This may have affected their consideration of me for the papacy. If you look at the history of Popes--there's a history of discrimination there.

They elected a new Pope, and I was very disappointed because I wasn’t even the runner up. Nonetheless, I have a platform

It’s a Yiddish expression. Jesus was unlikely to have used it.

I don’t much care. Questions, comments?

I wasn’t elected Pope. I’m getting close though. The West Virginia state bird is the cardinal

Let me say why they're bringing all this up. Why ARE they bringing all this up?

I, who dreamed of being Pope, am laughing at the Catholic church
A lot of Catholic priests became Episcopal priests and don’t know it.

[phone rings] Oh, that’s the Nobel Prize Committee again. I just don’t want to go to Oslo in the winter. Rome wouldn’t be so bad.

The dead don’t really move. That’s one of their characteristics, they stay in place

The first question is what the hell relevance is it?

What do you do if your colleagues hate you? Not personally, but in general, what's your advice?

--And what happened when they opened James's tomb?--There was nothing in it.--You see, proof that James also was resurrected!

Scholars think this was a late cemetery—a lot of people in there were late

How many people who name their son Christopher actually want him to bear Christ?

It's so obscure I wish I’d written it myself.

Can you imagine if some of these cult-of-the-dead Biblical scholars walked into a liquor store and saw them selling ‘spirits’?

You archetypal, pathetic moderns…

Keren-Happuch (Job's daughter): Her name means eyeshadow. I think she changed it to Estee Lauder.

It’s a big pile of BS and I don’t mean Biblical Studies.

If people interrupt me every time I’m right, we'll never get anywhere. If you interrupt me every time I’m wrong, you flunk.

I have no idea what I actually think, or if I actually think.

Nobody asked, ‘which one is God?’

You seem to have some gender confusion. Have you been taking too many classes at HDS? Oh, I have the gender confusion. It must be my operation.

Remind me, when I become Pope, to change that too.

If you find out, keep it to yourself so you don’t show me up.

To me, all gentile names sound the same. It’s the last class, might as well say what I actually think. And I have a large database.

I don’t know why they let Jewish students into this school.

I don’t think Babe Ruth was named after the candy bar. Good thing they didn’t call him Snickers

I call her Mrs. Levenson myself.

People who teach Biblical Hebrew are always excited and saying wow (vav)

[On the Song of Songs] It looks like a bunch of horny teenagers with a gift for poetry

If you’ve missed any of the pearls I’ve scattered before you, you might as well hang it up, you're doomed.

You should do all the secondary reading you've been ignoring and pretending didn’t exist. Many of the things we don’t read in class are irrelevant, and things we did in class are irrelevant.

Thanks Be to God and Boomer Sooner!
Feast of St. Norbert


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At 8:47 AM, Blogger SoonerScotty said...

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