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Posted December 5, 2009
Values Clarification & the Cultural Norms we Take for Granted
Those who've taken the word of the (supposed) experts in the pulpit could learn a lot here about "the big picture" of the "biblical epic," even if they don't like Miles's take on it. But those who flatly refuse to take the word (or The Word) as anything more than "history" or "manipulation" or "intimidation" or "Jewish Koran" may learn a lot, as well.
Miles is neither out to debunk the Old Testament nor is he out to hand the "religious" any sort of neatly packaged, theological "final proof." Instead, =G,AB= is a characterological (in the distinct, dictionary sense of that word) deconstruction of the numerous roles played by the title character along the course of a millennium.
There are parallels here to Julian Jaynes's =The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind= (1976). Jaynes's reading of stone tablet and papyrus documentation asserts that man was able to hear the "voice of god" quite directly and easily when Homer, Moses and Abraham were around. but that the men of Alexander's and Nehemiah's day found it very difficult to tune in to the "signal."
But the similarities end there. Jaynes seems to be looking to provide us with an explanation for our present =disconnection= with a spiritual deity; Miles appears to be handing us a case to explain the nature of the connection we believe we have.
The author chooses not to take a controversial position out of which he cannot wriggle. He offers an hypothesis (near the end rather than the beginning) that the god of the Israelites displayed six distinct -- and quite diverse -- characters or "value systems" or "trait sets" described by the numerous writers of the Old Testament. But he wastes no words whatsoever about "god" being a literary invention, or, as many a-theist debunkers have put it, "made in the image of man."
Clever. =Very= clever.
He could have laid the characters out near the beginning and then set out to demonstrate them, but instead, Miles chooses to go deductive rather than inductive. For a good reason. which may or may not become evident to the reader as he trudges through Miles's fascinating -- if often logically suspect -- appraisals, interpretations, evaluations, assertions, judgments and attributions of meaning along the way.
One may come away from =G,AB= feeling as though he'd stuck with it to arrive at somewhat obvious and even disappointing conclusion, but also grateful for having acquired a =much= greater grasp of a major part of the Western world's most significant piece of literature.
Far more lasting as an effect on the reader than the author's stated conclusion, =G,AB= makes a subtle yet powerful case for how our culture came to have the hugely conflicted beliefs, values, idea(l)s, assumptions, convictions and attitudes it has. about itself and others.
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