The problem with that is that many passages could have several interpretations, and by default the average Bible reader will tend interpret things the same way his/her parents or pastors or friend or favorite musician or the writers of The Simpsons interpreted them.
By trying to avoid modern bias, one ends up with whatever assumptions are so ingrained in popular culture that one wouldn't even think to question them.
One use of reading modern books (and not-so-modern books) about the Bible is that it's a way of being exposed to those other alternatives, so a Bible reader can make a conscious decision about what they think some passage means, rather than reading something between the lines that might or might not be there and not being aware that they're doing it.
I think CS Lewis's recommendation to alternate between new and old books is a good one.
Instead of requiring years of study of ancient manuscripts in Hebrew and Greek, why not just deliver the message in clear, modern, unambiguous language that the reader understands?
>> (Jesus' words -->) (12) Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. (13) This is why I speak to them in parables: (Jesus quoting older scripture -->) “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand."
Many evangelicals would say the passage might represent the complexity of interpreting scripture in general, and the the divine purposeful obfuscation of truth. And here's a slew of commentaries about these two verses, giving various scholars' / theologians' perspectives on these two verses:
For commentaries on verse (12): https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/13-12.htm
For commentaries on verse (13): https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/13-13.htm
I haven't yet fully read the commentaries referenced above, but I think the verses and the commentaries will give much Christian perspective on why "the truth" is so obfuscated and hard to find.
The Bible is the same way.
The Bible is a collection of many books written over a long period of time on many subjects: law, poetry, history, prophesy, etc. It was originally written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, and has flavorings from many cultures.
It can take a while to cover the breadth of it, but is not actually difficult to understand. However, you may have to go over the breadth of it a few times to understand some of the nuances.
If you're interested in studying it, there are many "read the Bible" plans out there. Pick one and give it a go. There are also many Bible study groups out there such as Bible Study Fellowship that are dedicated to helping people in this task.
Most of the worst aspects of religion come when people don't think at all about nuance or that there might be a variety of reasonable views about how to understand a sacred text, or the need to apply it thoughtfully to their own situation. I'd want to make any sacred text I was inspiring as far from clear, modern and unambiguous as possible.
Not to mention, if your aim is to inspire a work that can be usefully read in nomadic farming communities thousands of years ago and also in the AI, VR infused future, you're going to need a certain amount of ambiguity.
The bible is full of symbolism, real events in context, doctrine, wisdom, etc. It's not a matter of one language vs another, it's a matter of universal symbolism that can be applied to any age. The monkey as trickster, the poison as subversion. It is incredibly difficult to communicate complex thoughts in plain language, and even then it is liable to a misunderstanding. The bible is not without its misunderstandings, but the point of it is that it's made to be universal in a way that complex meaning is communicated to every age. Every age has its interpretation, and every age is structured by how it puts that interpretation into action.
It evolves with time.
Paul said, "Well yeah, that might make sense. But, what if the real purpose of scripture is so that god can teach us to get along with people whose scriptures appear to say something different?"
Scripture like this probably don't help teach people of different faiths to get along.
I don't practice Catholicism anymore and must confess that I've reached the limits of my Catholic school education, so I'm not even remotely qualified to speak to that. I know that Thessalonians would be one of Paul's (the apostle, not that Paul from my first reply) letters and Paul has always struck me as the world's first growth hacker, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to do more than express a simple opinion.
I'd give anything to have access to some reasonable Catholics who I could ask questions like this. Alas...
I could find no record of them having ever even existed. I opened a few of them and found out why. They sucked.
A lot of works that were under-appreciated during their time had their extemporaneous advocates and promoters that had their own motivations that often had little to do with appreciation for the work.
If Kafka's editor had listened to Kafka and burned his works instead of making sure they got on as many bookshelves as possible, or if Van Gogh didn't have the close relationship he had with his art-dealer brother, we almost certainly wouldn't remember their works today.
I don't doubt their are many unknown masters ahead of their time that will forever remain in obscurity.
>Ernest Hemingway was deeply impressed with Markham's writing, saying
"she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen. But [she] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers ... it really is a bloody wonderful book."
However, it might be that time actually has a false negative rate of 99.9%. Almost all of the great old books are filtered out by time. In that case, time probably sucks as a filter. But then again, if your only goal is "read only great books," time is still a useful filter even if it has a terrible false negative rate, since it's irrelevant to you that there are lots of other books being excluded, so long as you get a sufficient supply of good books.
There are bad books nobody liked at time and never again. But when seemingly bad book was popular, then it likely filled some need or said somethig they wanted or needed to hear.
The overall point remains valid, however.
Consider Caxton's Polycronicon printed at the dawn of movable type, circa 1490. An encyclopedia of universal history, it deserves no less a place on the bookshelf than Gawain, Beowulf or the Mabinogian. But few will make reference to it today. Nor the thousands of other lost texts of the period known as the incunabula, the first half-century of transmission via printing press. A time in history that saw an explosion in literacy and design experimentation.
It could be worse - they could be fascinating, but entirely irrelevant to the modern world view.
My dad had a cache of books from a friend of his - that was collected from the pre-independence era for India from 1920s to 1945.
The world in those books were strange - the era looks like nothing like the world from my text books.
The "Great war" had just passed ("between cousins"), there was wistful memories of the Russian empire, of china being conquered by the japanese.
Oil empires in Burma (Burmah-Shell), political deals with the Kings of Siam, health of Austro-Hungarian royal inbreeding.
The shades of gray in which Belgian kings and Cecil Rhodes got painted as conquerors ,liberators and genocidal maniacs in one go.
All the important intellectuals are German (Kant, Hegel ...) or French. The world "lingua franca" was used to describe what English stands for today.
America was busted and fallen down, the economy under Hoover (who was called an "engineer, digging deeper into pockets"). They had poor quality cotton (remember, Indian British books - the Deccan plateau had Cotton too & the empire had Daka muslin) and a "department of war".
Is from such an amazing period of time, after fax machines, aero planes and Einstein, but before anti-biotics and nukes.
But other than as a curiosity, the whole collection has been obsoleted by the 2nd half of the century.
A Roman example--as described in Mary Beard's "SPQR"--is how imperialists claimed Rome was always ruled by kings, attempting to erase its Republican history. Contemporary populations accepted that viewpoint because they didn't have access to history.
They're still relevant.
Frankly, I am grateful for even your cursory summaries.
(1) The pressure and rapidity of publishing - for many authors - means less time spent on individual projects.
(2) Your expectations as a reader partially determine your judgement as to how much value a book has. As your expectations increase...
I understand this to mean that my ever-improving taste might make it seem like, as time goes by, a greater and greater proportion of books seem to be of low quality. However, it works the other way around, too: As people through new generations become ever more easily satisfied with mediocre writing, the need to produce high-quality works decreases. At least, this is what I think is happening with TV.
It is often presumed that because we learn new things as time goes on, and old theories are discarded as new information comes to light, that there is not much value in reading older science books. After all, isn't half of that stuff wrong? But similar to how Jack says how one can learn about different flavors of Christianity by stepping out of his own century, and thereby how much they have in common, I feel that by reading the original works of Millikan, Carnot, Gibbs, or Einstein, that you get a much better idea of the perspective that developed the theories we see as so cut-and-dried today.
Speaking as someone who is not a formally trained cryptographer, most introductory material on the topic is pretty terrible. Finally stumbling across Shannon's early work, many years after starting in security, was like a breath of fresh air.
Maxwell’s laws of electricity and magnetism are even harder. Today, “Maxwell’s Laws” refers to four equations, each quite brief. In his original paper, though, they are a system of 20 simultaneous equations with 20 variables with a dizzying amount of bookkeeping to keep track of x- y- and z- dimensions, because the curl and divergence operators hadn’t really been invented yet.
While now I tend to think about special relativity using Minkowski space (which I find to be the easiest mental construct for me), my 12-year-old self found all that stuff in Einstein's Relativity about trains and clocks very helpful in building intuition about relativity.
Just yesterday I was identifying a species of African ant. As I researched it, I found myself using taxonomic keys and descriptions published between 50 and 150 years ago - in English, French, German and Latin! Fortunately they had been digitized, and at least partially translated...
re Alexander von Humboldt: Andrea Wulf’s, The Invention of Nature, is an excellent overview of his work and impact.
It's quite shocking how little he is known; somewhat similar to James Clerk Maxwell.
I've admired Humboldt ever since I was a child - her book reawakened that interest and gave me the impetus to read some of his own writings.
There are two "new" references about "old" physics literature I particularly enjoyed:
- "The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus," by O. Gingerich, about Copernicus' book "De revolutionibus."
- "A Student’s Guide Through the Great Physics Texts," by K. Kuehn (4 volumes). It presents many original papers by Newton, Galileo, Maxwell, etc., together with study questions and exercises.
Once I actually picked up a volume of Plato's works I was surprised how approachable it was to me, a complete layman of philosophy.
You can read it free here:
It's hosted by former philosophy students who cover many dozens of philosphers relatively in depth. Their style is very approachable and conversational. They're not stuffy or boring, and often they're pretty funny. I've listened to a lot of philosophy podcasts and this is by far the best.
It's amazing how much more I learned from those essays than from years of formal classes on the topic of government though. Just getting the author's perspective from them directly, and realizing that they absolutely were thinking deeply about the impact, source, and validity of their arguments brings me so much closer to understanding the way things were designed than textbooks which reduce complex philosophical arguments down to their trivial outcomes like "So-and-So opposed a centralized bank".
Back to duality. We must remember that light and darkness are not opposites, they are the ends of a spectrum measuring the same thing: amount of light. Our western mindset has these placed as opposites, but they are not, they are the same thing. This is the principle of polarity in Hermeticism. The main insight is that these things are not different, they are the same thing in varying degrees (number of photons, in this case). Here is a decent overview (Look for Principle of Polarity, although the #1 point that the universe is a giant mind is the most important to me) https://medium.com/the-mission/the-hermetic-revival-7-ancien...
I'd highly recommend reading The Hermetica. It's not exactly an ancient source text, but it attempts to distill the wisdom of the body of knowledge called Hermeticism.
Your research is going to take you into works described as "occult". This bothered me at first, but then I realized it was my Catholic brainwashing about how occult is somehow related to satan or something. Occult simply means "hidden". These occult teachings, which every spiritual tradition possesses, are the pearls that were not to be cast before swine. This knowledge was typically reserved for initiates into a particular tradition. Basically, this means you had to be really committed and show your worth before you were taught this stuff. This is what many of the historical secret societies were protecting and teaching. This is what you learn when you reach the highest degrees of Freemasonry. Thankfully, the internet is blowing the lid off of this occulted information and people are waking up to the nature of reality at a great rate!
You are on a nondual Christian track reading the Gospel of Thomas. This Quora post sums it up nicely:
Here are some ideas of what life looks like post realization of your nondual nature. #6 describes it well:
Best to you on your Path!
I've always found the "hidden" aspect of gnosis to be strange, and perhaps even antithetical. There's a piece in Thomas that's equivalent to Luke 8:16-17 which to me seems to scream "share what you learn", but with the historical norm of persecuting gnostics, it's not surprising that they valued some degree of secrecy for protection. Though you're right that it does seem to go further than that, ie, witholding info as a means of controlling membership in the group in many cases. But thankfully yes, the internet has blown the lid off many "secret" sources indeed!
Again, I appreciate you sharing all of this with me and look forward to learning more through continued study.
I've read that Nietzsche and Schopenhauer are also delightful to read in the original. Schopenhauer's writing style is so good, even when translated to English by Saunders.
Tolkien is the one that convinced Lewis to leave atheism behind and become a Christian. Tolkien's poem "Mythopoeia" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mythopoeia_(poem) - was instrumental in that process.
It's worthwhile to read it, but as a warning, it was written from one (highly educated) friend to another (highly educated friend), and it is not easy to understand what Tolkien is trying to say about the nature of reality without reading through it a few times: http://home.agh.edu.pl/~evermind/jrrtolkien/mythopoeia.htm
> All wishes are not idle
That line alone could tip me over to Christianity. I'll have to think more about this.
For out of olde feldys, as men sey,
Comyth al this newe corn from ȝer to ȝere,
And out of olde bokis, in good fey,
Comyth al this newe science that men lere.
Some fields would entirely lack classic books and thus must be viewed with a wider net that includes the precursors. In that case it's obvious that the classic work of the precursors to the new language/field/idea contrast to all of the current works.
In other fields there may have been sufficient refinement to include well regarded works among the classics.
As a brief note: this article is the first time that I've come across the idea and I find it a refreshing proposal for expanding perspective of thought and having a rigorous world view. I do worry that in the rushed modern era there is not enough time afforded to do things the correct way.
* Foundations, before any computer was feasible to build: Newton, Boole, Babbage
* Early computing, when everything was custom-built: Alan Turing, Vannevar Bush, Claude Shannon
* Mainframes, where computer access is rare and precious
* Personal computers and early networking
* Mobile computing and ubiquitous internet
(emphasis on Ada Lovelace)
> Sketch of The Analytical Engine
Invented by Charles Babbage
> By L. F. MENABREA
of Turin, Officer of the Military Engineers
> from the Bibliothèque Universelle de Genève, October, 1842, No. 82
With notes upon the Memoir by the Translator
ADA AUGUSTA, COUNTESS OF LOVELACE
I think we know what the classics are. If someone's name is in all the textbooks, it's probably worth looking up their original works. Turing and Shannon come immediately to mind as people who are more often read about than read, despite being quite approachable.
There are old books, but you have to be a bit more creative to find them.
It's for fields where thoughts are evergreen (basically, anything to do with being human, literature, poetry, philosophy, etc) where this advice matters.
A good modern book on math, or chemistry, or compiler construction has more knowledge than any old one.
A good modern poet is not better than Shakespeare or Homer (and in many eras the poets are way worse than previous eras).
I'd argue that exactly because so much of it is cumulative, a lot of old technology texts stand up just fine when describing things like algorithms or a sub-field up to a certain level. The original paper on quicksort for example is just fine as an introduction to quicksort.
The books and papers that date are the ones that seek to tell you the best way doing something broad. An old text on the best way to sort in general will be date where descriptions of specific algorithms haven't.
Tell that to Claude Shannon, Fred Brooks, and Ken Thompson. "A symbolic analysis of relay and switching circuits", "The Mythical Man-month" and "On Trusting Trust" have aged fine, I promise.
- aged extremely well in some ways (it still takes 9 months to make a baby no matter how many women are assigned to the project)
- aged poorly in others (disk space is no longer an issue when deciding whether to comment on code)
- remained ahead of its time in others (its a good idea to have an architect to ensure the conceptual integrity of a complex system, rather than to have developers hack it out a bit at a time in a series of scrums)
Thought note that even those are barely ancient, they are at best a century old -- Lewis was talking of Plato as an example and in general centuries old classics, not whether someone should read Zola or Hesse.
Today very few would suggest reading Newton to learn physics in university (e.g. use it as a textbook). At best they'd tell to to read Newton to see how the thinking went behind early discoveries. But people use Plato or Shakespeare or tons of other centuries old writers as their core textbook all the time in philosophy and literature departments.
Mathematics textbooks are just as likely as anything else to suffer from modern pedagogical theories that have not been tested by time and will come to be regarded as mistakes.
It's the one with the most historical importance, but it hardly covers modern geometry.
I would argue that the fact that it does not cover modern geometry is exactly what makes it valuable. Learning is best as a process of rediscovery.
Not only do you learn geometry, but you participate in the same understanding of geometry that all later mathematicians started from.
I've always encouraged reading Euclid, Newton, Einstein. In my humble opinion, mathematics is much easier to understand historically, as it developed, and the best historical perspective comes from primary sources.
I must acknowledge, however, that for whatever reason very few people share my perspective on this.
It was sometime in the middle ages where it became impossible to read every book in existence, consider now you get to read a fraction of a percent of all books in your lifetime.
"If, instead of this remark, my father had taken the pains to explain to me that the principles of Agrippa had been entirely exploded and that a modern system of science had been introduced which possessed much greater powers than the ancient, because the powers of the latter were chimerical, while those of the former were real and practical, under such circumstances I should certainly have thrown Agrippa aside and have contented my imagination, warmed as it was, by returning with greater ardour to my former studies. It is even possible that the train of my ideas would never have received the fatal impulse that led to my ruin. But the cursory glance my father had taken of my volume by no means assured me that he was acquainted with its contents, and I continued to read with the greatest avidity."
"When I returned home my first care was to procure the whole works of this author, and afterwards of Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus. I read and studied the wild fancies of these writers with delight; they appeared to me treasures known to few besides myself..."
-- Mary Shelly, Frankenstein
Ioctls are a sad blemish on the face of computing and fork() while again beautiful in the simple world of single threaded programs forces far too many constraints on modern OS services. Modern OSs get around it by barely supporting it except for exec() calls immediately after.
Simply put... not everything is a byte.
Objects - which make verbs first class citizens more cleanly represent the true state of affairs and cover a much broader variety of cases more cleanly.
There's much to be said for and against "objects" from philosophical, scientific, technological and engineering standpoints. Personally, I agree with the great men that think that object orientation is bullshit (torvalds, stepanov, pike, ...). Still, whatever you think about the appropriateness of objects, they do not make verbs first class citizens, but nouns!
The Unix model does not link the two together - where for most hardware the two are inseparable. A sound card can only work on certain formats of data - it is more than mere bytes. It may have only limited processing ability (e.g. an EQ functionality or FM synthesizer). Ioctls are a hack around this - and of course they do "work" but they are not clean. They are also clearly not congruent with the Unix philosophy, you can't cleanly chain and pipe them or compose them into a larger whole.
NT did much better on this front, but much of the beauty is hidden by the horrid win32 layered on top. Cocoa is much nicer and probably the best real world example of how nice it can be when done right. You can use the UNIX APIs on a mac, but why would you want to?
But you can keep this "data" that is only understandable by your sound card, and send it over the net, or compress it with gzip, or do whatever you want with it because, yes, it is merely bytes!
> You can use the UNIX APIs on a mac, but why would you want to?
because they are much more beautiful, and not a layered pile of unneeded abstractions.
Object orientation is to computer science what category theory is to mathematics. Yes, it is a very interesting intellectual exercise. Yes, it can be used to provide a foundation for everything. Yes, if you are using it daily in your work then you are either batshit crazy or severely misguided.
In addition to it having a slight racist bent when discussing non-European civilizations, it contained facts that are now considered to be nonsense. The further in the past it went, the more it contradicted what are now considered to be well-known facts about the past.
It really demonstrated the many decades of changes in attitudes toward non-European people and all the incredible things that have been discovered since then through archeology, carbon-dating, and genetics.
I thought it worth reading to give me an insight on how people thought back then and their view of the world.
Can you give examples?
They stunk. All of them.
TV shows have gotten a lot better. I think it's because the production of them has soared, and the competition is fierce.
Or did you just read the linked article?
About 1/15 humans who have ever existed are still alive. And that includes the period before writing.
I think it's not unreasonable to think that most books have been written in the past 125 years.
I do not see any reason to deify the past. I say this as someone who has read the Bible in the original Hebrew and the Talmud in original Aramaic. They're of interest as a window to a different time, but fundamentally they're probably no smarter than many people today, and they have less mental tools and worse nutrition (which is linked to intelligence).
Furthermore it's not just that they are old, but that they are old and have survived that recommends old books to us.
There's also an element of survivorship bias. The Antikythera Mechanism, while not a book, is amazing, yet it and devices like it and its instruction manual didn't survive through the ages. Many books on the minutiae of the regiments and classification of angels did.
The book is well-written in the sense that in the hands of a believing Christian who is not likely to approach it critically, it can become an influential source that helps the Christian justify their beliefs to themselves.
Re. the trilemma: I wouldn't go so far as others here in saying that Jesus was "obviously a lunatic". I would say that there isn't enough in the bible or following writings to dismiss the idea as readily as Lewis seems to.
Re. the moral argument: maybe I'm unfairly advantaged by reading about evolutionary psychology but it's fairly natural/straightforward for me to conceive of a world in which humans share something like an innate core of moral values without any need for a supernatural explanation. In fact Lewis' apparent conviction about this reminds me of someone like Samuel Harris at the other extreme, who thinks we can do away with the is-ought problem by stipulating that there's a "worst possible world" which obviously all moral people would jointly want to move away from.
Regardless, I don't recall him dismissing atheism in a single sentence, but it has been years and it's quite possible I've just forgotten.
What's the sentence?
The only people who think this is a reasonable book are people who are already Christians.
1. There exists a moral law within ourselves that instructs us on what we "ought" to do.
2. There must be a "mind" behind this force, as "you can hardly imagine a bit of matter giving instructions".
I think Lewis would revise or abandon his argument if he lived in our age.
He would accept that answer (at least if we take the trilemma argument in isolation). The point is not that he is "Lord", but that good teacher is not one of the viable options. You clearly haven't read him very carefully.
 Although good teacher whose teachings have been manipulated/corrupted would seem to offer a fourth option. But then what, if any, of his teachings could be reliably attributed to the man himself? So "corrupted good teacher" is practically equivalent to myth. We thus have Lord, Liar, Lunatic, or Legend. Any of those four would seem a rational position.
Jesus, if the Bible is to be believed, healed people, told his countrymen to pay taxes to the empire that had conquered and subjugated them, and died quietly after stopping one of his followers from starting a fight with the mob that took him to be murdered.
They seem like pretty different people to me.
Edit: factual error. I thought Koresh started the fire, but Wikipedia says it's unclear how it began.
Why should we suppose Jesus was not a lunatic and was instead a god? For that matter, Why shoukd we suppose Jesus was not a liar and instead was a god? (After all, Jesus proposed to teach others to be "fishers of men", what do you suppose he meant by that, other than to teach them to be con-men?). C.S. Lewis's arguments on these points are to me, not convincing, to say the least.
I don't see much overlap between the popular conception of Jesus and who the Bible depicts him as, but that may be due to growing up in hyperconservative culture, which is oddly unfamiliar with the text it claims to be based on.
The more I've read the Bible, the more impressed I've become with Jesus as depicted. Your perception of him as necessarily a lunatic or liar puzzles me.
If he was insane, he shouldn't be able to make coherent arguments, let alone handily stump the most talented scholars in his culture. More to the point, I feel like he wouldn't have so consistently focused on taking care of others nor preached such a consistent message.
If he was a systematic liar, he must have had a motivation for being one. Perhaps I'm indoctrinated, but I can't see what that could have been based on my knowledge of the text.
I assume you're reading the Bible as a pseudohistorical document, with the a priori assumption that all the supernatural events must be false?
The arguments for him being God do largely hinge on the Bible being true (perhaps not in every single tiny detail, but certainly on the major claims). If his miracles are lies, then your position makes more sense to me (though they'd be lies from his followers, not him, and I'd wonder why the early Christians went with it, as they were promised the opposite of wordly wealth and power).
Note that I wasn't trying to defend Lewis' argument - if you don't find it convincing, you don't, and there's little point trying to persuade you otherwise.
I'm mostly puzzled by your perception of Jesus. I myself do believe he is God Incarnate, but I'm used to people seeing him as fictional, a moralist, or a guru, not a madman.
That his disciples would carry on Jesus' work and teaching, which would attract more followers. That does not make them con-men. If they believed Jesus' message then of course they'd want as many people to receive it as possible, indeed it would be irresponsible to withhold it.