A Room with a View

This is a not very good picture of the view from my desk. I was leaning back in my chair, so there was a little shaking going on. Still, it’s the best of the lot.

The city lights out there are San Francisco, the dark swatch through the middle are the waters of the Bay. The nearer lights are those of Berkeley leading down to the water.

I was trying to catch the magnificent sunset. You can see something of the colors involved, and the brilliant planet Venus.

That’s where I get much of my work done. Being able to stare out at a view like that is remarkably conducive to actually getting things done, though that might seem counterintuitive. I’m grateful and thankful for such blessings as simple things like quiet, a view, a working computer, and such.


  1. It is a nice view. I’m more taken with all the real estate on your desk! I’ve long lost mine under a pile of clutter and what was there to begin with has never been that spacious.

    Unrelated to this post, I see that you’re reading Messianism Among Jews and Christians—how is it? I’ve been after it for a while but I can’t find a cheap enough copy (used copies go for about $60).

  2. This was a day or two after I cleaned off piles of junk! I still have to move a little pile of books off the desk to somewhere else in order to use it. To the left of the Mac you can see a bottle of Sam Adams Boston Lager (or “Laga” as the natives say), and a little print of the Sinai Pantokrator, the latter of which is propped up conveniently by the AT&T 3G Microcell. At my desk is the meeting of many worlds!

    Horbury is awesome. I’m truly in awe. I’ve never run across a writer who has such a command of the primary sources, at least since those guys born in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He’s apparently read everything even remotely messianic from around the Mediterranean basin and managed to retain and process it well enough to describe the intertextual play indicating a never-missing messianism amongst the Jews, from before the exile and from then on. Messianism Among Jews and Christians is something of a supplement to Jewish Messianism and the Cult of Christ (didn’t you read that?). A few chapters in the former expand on the latter, but most are on other topics (I list them below). It’s more a collection of reworked articles than it is a real monograph. Jewish Messianism… is superb, a truly amazing and, I would say, probative coverage of the topic. I’m going to read through it again more closely. It really repays looking up the quotations in order to follow the argument, so you need to have a pile of books or online resources at hand (and not just on the iPhone: I got tired of looking things up on there). Next on the list, I’ll read Pomykala’s book on Davidic Kingship traditions. He apparently comes to an opposite conclusion from Horbury, that there was no messianism in pre-exilic writings and that the expectation of fulfillment of the Davidic covenant was entirely separate from messianism (which seems strange, so hopefully that impression is wrong or somehow qualified). But from what I’ve seen in a flip through Pomykala his approach is really rather pedestrian, imposing a kind of late-twentieth century reading onto the originals, as though the books of the “academic Bible” were the same as those being written in their originals, and that that was all that they could ever be. Horbury explodes that notion with actual evidence. Pomykala doesn’t seem to share the interest in the parallel materials and evidence that Horbury is past master of, or perhaps he ignores it because it doesn’t fit his thesis. We’ll see. But that’s next on the list, waste though it may be. (Not to be crass, but that’s just how it looks like it’s going to play out. I started this recent set of reading on messianism with Mowinckel’s He that cometh — OMG what a trainwreck. If I’d wanted to read some tedious relic of the History of Religions school, I’d’ve picked some wretched German thing on archive.org or something. I wish someone had warned me about that one.)

    Here are the articles/chapters in Horbury’s Messianism Among Jews and Christians:
    Messianism in the Old Testament Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha
    The Gifts of God in Ezekiel the Tragedian
    Herod’s Temple and ‘Herod’s Days’
    The Messianic Associations of ‘the Son of Man’
    The Twelve and the Phylarchs
    Jerusalem in Pre-Pauline and Pauline Hope
    The Aaronic Priesthood in the Epistle to the Hebrews [I finished this ch. last night]
    Septuagintal and New Testament Conceptions of the Church
    Messianism among Jews and Christians in the Second Century
    Suffering and Messianism in Yose ben Yose
    Antichrist among Jews and Gentiles
    The Cult of Christ and the Cult of the Saints

  3. Thanks for the review! You’ve managed to provide more info in a comment than most bloggers provide in their “formal” book “reviews.” I’ll have to once again chalk this up to you actually reading the book!

    Unfortunately I have not read Horbury’s Jewish Messianism and the Cult of Christ although it’s on my to-read list and copies are easy to find at good prices. I might pick one up with my next Amazon gift card now that you reminded me about it. The only stuff I have from Horbury is his Jews and Christians in Contact and Controversy along with a couple of essays in edited volumes (and I suppose I could include The Cambridge History of Judaism, vol. 3 since he edited it).

    Pomykala’s thesis sounds bizarre and untenable. I’ll be interested to see if your suspicions are confirmed (which I’m sure they will be). Sorry to hear about Mowinckel. At 500+ pages I can imagine how torturous is must have been! I’ll make sure to avoid this one along with all those insipid old German works on archive.org and elsewhere. Thanks for giving me the warning you never got!

  4. You’re welcome! The good thing about Mowinckel is that I only had to make it through the Introduction and first chapter to realize that it wasn’t worth my time. He fortunately lays out in detail his influences and the foundation for his arguments. Yet all of these are based in old History and Myth approaches, I suppose you could call it, or “the Scandinavian School”, which followed on the heels of the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule. So, while he and those like him eschewed some of the more outré aspects of the RS approach (that sort of Frazerian parallelomania), he at least is still an adherent of now passé ideas (like “Persian influence” on the OT [where all the “Persian” texts underlying this are much later!] and “Mystery Religion influence” on the NT [very popular at one time, but is supposition utterly without evidence, however popular it might be]). So, to his credit and as a fine example, Mowinckel lays out his foundation: and there is none. It’s “the Emperor’s New Foundation” so to speak. So Kevin, as he is uninterested in even briefly inhabiting a building the foundation of which is nonexistent, put He that cometh in a pile of books to be sold to the local bookstore when he gets around to it. Perhaps he’ll be able to afford a coffee with the proceeds!

    Definitely pick up Jewish Messianism and the Cult of Christ. It’s the best treatment that I’ve yet seen on the topic. As I called him a “past master” of the materials above, this title goes for both the ancient primary sources and their relations as well as for the modern secondary sources and their relations. He shows a deft hand with the scholarship, and shows great skill in summarizing the work of earlier scholarship and evaluating them (for good and bad) succinctly. But his treatment of the primary sources, noting their interconnections, is truly amazing.

    I would say that the only drawback is a very dry and somewhat convoluted writing style that forces one to slow down and pay attention, which is not a bad thing at all, of course. So reading Horbury is a bit slower than reading other comparable stuff.

    The Pomykala I had formerly been excited to read. Now? Not so much. We’ll see, though. If it’s as it seems Horbury indicates, it’s not going to be all that useful. He may join Mowinckel in Kevin’s Coffee Fund Pile.

    My antipathy for liberal Protestant German theology (which I find hardly Christian except in an extremely attenuated sense), which is the root of modern academic Biblical Studies whether people admit or like it or not, is a result of following on with readings after having read Anders Gerdmar’s excellent book, Roots of Theological Anti-Semitism: German Biblical Interpretation and the Jews, from Herder and Semler to Kittel and Bultmann. Kevin doesn’t waste time with houses of cards built on foundations of excrement. The demons were dancing there.

  5. I thought San Francisco was always damp, too cold for comfort, and foggy. 🙂

    Well, I know you do sometimes get clear skies, but I have to say that my mold allergies were deeply unhappy during my brief stay in San Francisco, even without the horrors of that nasty Valley Fever creeping crud you folks keep around to kill off the Ohioans. And I don’t think I ever saw any views that went that far and were that clear!

    OTOH, you should read Anthony Boucher’s contemporary mystery stories set in Berkeley and in LA, which he wrote back in the late 1930’s and into the 1940’s. I like his Berkeley lots better than ours; but then, his wise heroic mentor is a professor of Sanskrit, and I’m biased toward that sort of thing. 🙂

    1. Delightful! I’ll look those up. They sound diverting, exactly as I prefer my fiction to be.

      I long ago began to describe the Bay as a giant Petrie dish. Berkeley is (or has been) a nicer place to live than SF, particularly in the view department. But every bookstore that I loved in Berkeley has either closed or moved. The Berkeley I loved is gone. Pity.

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