Pushing out to the Edge

Article in Stretton Focus, February 2019

As humans travel to the edge of the Solar System and colonise the planets, what God will be found? I think it was one of the greatest Archbishops of Canterbury, a scholar and statesman, William Temple (1881-1944) who said something like: “Every idea is ultimately theology, i.e. about God, ultimate reality; the question Moses posed: whom shall I say sends me? Answer: I AM, Existence, Being, Life itself.”

For a long time I have really questioned the traditional view that Jesus comes from humble beginnings and served his time as a carpenter, only leaving that bench in his 30s for a public ministry, speaking only an Aramaic dialect. There is even enough in the New Testament to suggest otherwise, e.g. those early years snapshot of a 12 year old boy discussing with the teachers, which implies an education and an education means there was financial provision. Throughout history great changes and movements, revolutions even, generally, have been led by members of the educated, most often middle classes: writers, preachers, public speakers, politicians, scientists.

We now know through a combination of archaeology and literary analysis that Galilee was not a backwater; but a centre of Roman regional administration at Sephoris a cultured city, three miles from Nazareth, on the trade routes through to the largest port in the Empire at that time, built by the brutal Herod the Great. Trade is accompanied by the travel of ideas from around the known world.

Did Jesus know about Pythagoras, 6th-5th centuries before who taught respect for all life, human and animals; the first to suggest that illness was from bodily imbalances, not from the gods? Did he know about Hippocrates in the 4th century before? He taught that epilepsy was a disease, not from evil spirits. Did he know about Aristotle in 4th century BCE? At the time when infanticide was the chosen means of population control in hard times, he proposed that an abortion was less cruel. Did he know about Buddhism about 5-400 years earlier and teachings about compassion?

When people gather to exchange ideas and push out the boundaries, taking time to develop a subject or theme or system, to improvise, invent, do something new, there will be something different and fresh emerging that takes us farther and excites the human spirit. Then the way home will be different; we will be different. The difficulty is always in translating this into some practical outcome back home. We cannot, nor should we stop the restless, questing spirit, but we can insist on its’ seeking consent, its’ sharing, its compassion and its pausing in awe and wonder and respect.

Noel Beattie

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