Miqeitz: Time and Process

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  1. Pam Green says:

    I don’t think you should cite Judaism as the origin of the modern view of time as linear and progressive. The linear-progressive model was developed to justify European colonialism and anthropology as the ‘handmaiden’ of colonialism. The theory went that mankind had developed from the primitive to the advanced. So, indigenous peoples who seemed primitive to the Europeans were considered less intelligent, unable to advance.

    To associate Judaism with this now well-known racist theory is both wrong and dangerous.

    • micha says:

      The notion that history runs from Adam to the messiah is older than (and in fact motivated) Christianity, never mind colonialism. And it’s a linear, progressive, model of time. The Imperial west may have adopted and adapted the idea for its own purposes, but one can’t say I’m associating Judaism with what racists did with an idea millennia after we developed it.

      • Pam Green says:

        Luckily your blog isn’t mainstream because anti-Semites don’t make such distinctions. In any case, I don’t know why you would want to claim such a theory. From an historical perspective, it was debunked over 100 years ago. Things don’t move forward, and they most especially don’t improve with time.

        • micha says:

          But it’s not only Judaism that has the “midgets atop the shoulders of giants” view of history. So do Christians awaiting Jesus’s alleged second coming, and Moslem awaiting Yom ad-Din and Yom al-Qiyama (the day of judgment and the day of resurrection). If the antisemite is willing to associate Judaism with colonial antisemitism because we adopted this notion of historical (decelerating) progress, then it’s the antisemite’s problem, not mine.

          (Embedded in the above is assertion that Zoroastrian messianism comes from the era in which the Jewish prophets were the sages of the Babylonian and then Persian-Median court. As recorded in the latter prophets. And therefore they got the idea from us. There are Christian skeptics who wish to deprecate the idea of messianism by asserting the idea flowed the other way, but it’s not supported by historical fact.)

          • Pam Green says:

            Ironically, your ‘midgets on the shoulders of giants’ quote is far older than Judaism. Do you know its history? As for ‘it’s the anti-Semites’ problem, not mine’, I’ve heard that attitude expressed by my fellow Jews before and it strikes me as highly impractical.

          • micha says:

            At some point you have to give up. The point of this blog is to share my thoughts about Torah with other Jews. I can’t worry overly much about how my words will strike someone looking for reasons to hate me. Such as faulting Jews for something people of his own religious background adopted from us.

            As for the history of the “atop the shoulders of giants” metaphor, In another blog post I traced it as far back as: “Pigmaei gigantum humeris impositi plusquam ipsi gigantes vident. — Pigmies placed on the shoulders of giants see more than the giants themselves.”, Didacus Stella in Lucan 10, tom. ii. (39-65 CE)

            Which is far younger than Judaism. Do you know of an earlier source?

            Notice, though, that you just also asserted an origin for the notion of progress, albeit decelerating progress, that is far older than colonialism. I think the problem with today’s age is the conflation of our accelerating technological progress with our actual stature.

          • Pam Green says:

            Where did I assert “an origin for the notion of progress”? Are you suggesting that the midgets/giants quote is a reference to linear progress?

          • micha says:

            Yes, “atop the shoulders of giants” does imply progress. It sets to explain how we expect to reach the goal, whereas generations before us, comprised of people greater than us, did not. The whole idea is that even though we are less capable to contribute to moral/spiritual progress than they had, we are progressing from where they brought us to, not from ground zero.

            As I wrote, the metaphor is of a decelerating progress.

            But in any case, of linear time, of a history that tends toward that goal we midgets still have a hope of reaching. Unlike Plato’s or Axtecian circular time, in which nothing really changes.

          • Pam Green says:

            Well, Micha, my advice to you is that whenever you see something worthy in a Greek or Roman author, assume that it was stolen from a more advanced culture.

            Out of curiosity, how did you find the Didacus Stella reference?

          • Pam Green says:

            Having followed your link to your previous post, and, in turn, to the blog post of Rabbi Sedley entitled “Dwarves on the Shoulders of Giants”, I really don’t understand the comment you left under Rabbi Sedley’s article. You wrote,
            “Pigmaei gigantum humeris impositi plusquam ipsi gigantes vident — Pigmies placed on the shoulders of giants see more than the giants themselves.” – Didacus Stella in Lucan 10, tom. ii. (39-65 CE, around the time of Hillel and Shammai).”

            Rabbi Sedley cited a book by Robert Merton, On The Shoulders of Giants, which explained in detail that there is no reference to this aphorism in Lucan! This mistake persisted for centuries because no scholar actually looked it up – so you, Micha, are in good company! Merton goes on to say that Didacus Stella – a 16th century Spanish mystic – was referring to the gospel of Luke.

            You should at least have provided a source for your comment instead of boasting that you yourself had traced the aphorism to the time of Jesus, not only to save yourself from embarrassment but to reassure any contemporary sources that you wouldn’t think of taking credit for others’ ideas. Personally, I feel uneasy about telling you the provenance and original meaning of the saying, which does predate Judaism and which had absolutely nothing to do with progress or linear time. The metaphor was invented long after the history and science were forgotten! It is like people of the future, with only scraps of books extant, looking at a painting of Adam and Eve and making up a story about an illicit love affair being found out during a picnic.

            And the greatest irony of all is that the pride taken in this metaphor, in the absence of historical knowledge, demonstrates why there can be no linear progress. It is because knowledge is lost! Or should I say, it is conveniently, intentionally, destroyed? As sentimental as the concept might be, we do not stand on the shoulders of those who came before. During every political regime change in history, the incoming despots destroy the knowledge of their predecessors. And it takes hundreds of years to recover, if recovery even occurs.

            As for your reference to “Plato’s or Axtecian (sic) circular time, in which nothing really changes”, that too is a facile cliche. I used to be so proud of the intellectualism of the Jews but it seems that we really are living on past glory, just keeping our brand alive.

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