Tatian, a pupil of the more famous Justin Martyr who lived in the second century, is best known today as the author of the Diatessaron, a harmony of tTatian, a pupil of the more famous Justin Martyr who lived in the second century, is best known today as the author of the Diatessaron, a harmony of the four gospels. A native of Assyria, he labored in Rome for years before departing back east sometime after 165. According to Irenaeus, he was expelled from the church for his extremely ascetic views (including, apparently, a rejection of marriage as being too worldly a pursuit for a true follower of the faith).
His Oratio ad Graecos (Address to the Greeks) was probably written before his expulsion, and while Tatian’s more extreme views were roundly rejected by other Christians of his era, the Oration seems to have escaped widespread condemnation. The essay is an example of early Christian apologetics – a genre where Christian writers sought to defend their beliefs against attacks from the Greco-Roman establishment. Tatian takes a very aggressive stance, ridiculing paganism as illogical and immoral while defending Christian practices as superior in every way. Interestingly, he doesn’t so much contest the existence of Greco-Roman gods & goddesses (Zeus, Hera, Dionysius, etc); instead, he describes them as “demons” – beneath the one, true, God – whose influence on the mortal world (if any) is to mislead, entrap, and waylay mortals from a more virtuous path. To support his arguments, Tatian attacks their less-than-godlike behavior familiar to readers of Greek mythology – infidelity, capriciousness, rape, and even cannibalism. To a modern reader, these myths are colorful and enjoyable, but Tatian points out that actually worshipping this kind of deity is questionable at best.
By the second century, this was shooting fish in a barrel; a growing number of educated individuals in the Greco-Roman world had been struggling to reconcile their religious heritage with the realities of the world around them for some time now, and few still believed (for example) that Atlas was carrying the earth on his shoulders. A number of other apologists have made similar arguments, some more eloquently or effectively. Still, Tatian makes some solid logical points, and his digressions on his personal conversion and the antiquity of Moses vs. Homer are interesting reading. A relatively short essay that’s a solid example of its genre, recommended for readers interested in early Christian literature. 3 stars....more
The Dark Knight is one of four (count ‘em) Batman series that were released as part of DC’s New 52 reboot in 2011. Knight Terrors is probably my seconThe Dark Knight is one of four (count ‘em) Batman series that were released as part of DC’s New 52 reboot in 2011. Knight Terrors is probably my second favorite of the four debut volumes (i.e., the first story arc in each of the four series), a bit better than Batman and Robin and Detective Comics, but far behind the outstanding Batman.
The gist of the plot is that, believe it or not, the top-notch security at Arkham Asylum has been breached once again and a breakout has occurred. This latest prison break involves some strange drugs and a mysterious, scantily clad woman. There’s also a sideplot about the the Gotham P.D. getting a little too suspicious of Bruce Wayne’s and Batman’s relationship for the Dark Knight’s comfort, but that’s not really here nor there. There are some twists and turns which I will not spoil because I am a gentleman. But overall this felt fairly generic plot-wise: I was entertained, but I did not find the story to be particularly gripping or memorable.
With four bat-titles clogging the New 52 release calendar, I was curious to see how this series would set itself apart from the others. At least in the early going, the answer seems to be with a lot of cameos from the wider DC universe. In this book alone, the following heroes appear on the scene: (view spoiler)[Superman, Flash, and Deathstroke (hide spoiler)]. I suspect that how you feel about this aspect of the series will go a long way towards determining how much you like the book as a whole, as the story & art are both solid but unspectacular. A pleasant read, but just OK. 3 stars.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This was a bit disappointing. I was impressed with Justin’s First Apology and Second Apology - the only other two extant writings from this second cenThis was a bit disappointing. I was impressed with Justin’s First Apology and Second Apology - the only other two extant writings from this second century Christian author. Both featured well constructed arguments, a good sense of logic, and a surprisingly strong literary sensibility. Dialogue with Trypho was much more of a slog.
The premise is that Justin, a Christian, is engaging a Jewish audience (led by Trypho) in an informal discussion about their respective faiths (although Justin does far and away the bulk of the talking). There’s an interesting introductory section that describes Justin’s real-life conversion, and there are occasionally revealing glimpses into what the relationship between Christians and Jews was like in the second century AD. But, the actual argument was pretty mediocre reading. Unlike the Apologies, this is a long work, and the pages didn't exactly fly by. Justin’s tactic is to use language and events from the Old Testament to convince his Jewish audience that Jesus Christ was indeed the messiah and the Jewish people’s refusal to recognize this is a mistake. But unfortunately this line of argument gets very repetitive sooner rather than later, and the logic behind many of Justin’s arguments felt rather flimsy.
Not awful, but a big step back from Justin’s other work. For readers interested in Justin’s life and beliefs, I would recommend the Apologies, which make for surprisingly engaging reading nearly 2,000 years later. This one is for completionists only. 2.0 stars....more
Justin Martyr (AKA Saint Justin) was a second century Christian leader, teacher, and writer. Only three of his works survive today: the lengthy DialogJustin Martyr (AKA Saint Justin) was a second century Christian leader, teacher, and writer. Only three of his works survive today: the lengthy Dialogue with Trypho and two shorter apologies. This book contains both apologies, written around 156-58 or so and addressed to the emperors Antoninus Pius, his sons, and the Roman Senate.
An apology is a special kind of genre in Christian literature where the writer attempts to use logic and reason to defend the faith against outside attack. At the time Justin was writing, Christians were being persecuted by the Roman authorities for a number of reasons. If they weren't quite enemies of the state, their failure to embrace the ruler-cult that the various emperors liked to promote, along with their rejection of many other aspects of classical/pagan culture, made them a most unwelcome sect to many in high places.
Justin’s defense of Christians and their doctrine was much more engaging reading than I expected it to be, particularly the more famous First Apology. A lot of rhetorical literature from the first few centuries AD can be weighed down by sophistry, but Justin largely avoids falling into that trap. His logic is clear, easy to follow, and sound. His language doesn't ascend to the heights one can find in the best written parts of the Bible, but there are moments of quiet grandeur. Justin manages the difficult trick of defending Christian beliefs without ridiculing or belittling the pagan culture surrounding them, a skill some of his contemporaries were unable or unwilling to learn. And the insights into what the Christian faith was like around the year 156, and how that faith interacted with the pagan world around it at that time, were interesting. I found Justin’s descriptions of the mass in general and the Eucharist in particular to be especially fascinating; the similarities between how Christians of 156 and Christians of 2006 practiced their faith are striking. If Justin does descend into sophistry every now and then – particularly when he leans a little too hard on Old Testament prophecy to prove his points – I was more than willing to forgive him given all the things these writings do well.
“You can kill, but not hurt us” Justin proudly proclaims near the beginning of the First Apology. At the macro level, he was correct. Over 1,500 years after the Roman Empire crumbled, the church that Justin died for continues to shape the world. These short works provide an interesting glimpse into the challenges that church faced in the early going, and the arguments it used to defend itself against a sometimes hostile empire. 3.5 stars, recommended....more
In Live and Let Die, the second of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, a change has come over our hero. The cold, callous secret agent of Casino Royale hIn Live and Let Die, the second of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, a change has come over our hero. The cold, callous secret agent of Casino Royale has softened a bit: he’s (at least temporarily) morphed from Daniel Craig’s hardened killer to the great Sir Roger Moore:
007 is off to the colonies in order to investigate a large number of mysterious gold coins that have begun popping up throughout the United States, and how this might be connected to the Queen’s enemies in the Kremlin. His search leads him to Harlem, where a criminal mastermind called Mr. Big has set up an impressive operation. But it’s not all work and no play for Mr. Bond, as he forms two relationships to occupy his free time. The first is with Felix Leiter, a CIA agent and bit player from Casino Royale who forges quite the bromance with our hero as they team up to take down Mr. Big. The second is with a female associate of Mr. Big named Solitaire. Solitaire earned her name because she has opted to swear off men…although that decision was made before she met you-know-who:
Happily for Solitaire, the James Bond of Live and Let Die has learned to play nicer with others since his adventures in book #1. While in Casino Royale Bond seemed to mostly use other people as objects to achieve his top-secret aims, 007 actually seems to like – even love - his allies this time around. This chumminess is one aspect that makes Live and Let Die less dark than the first entry in the James Bond series. The other is the general plot, which is much zanier than the first book. Here we find for the first time some of the elements of the Bond series that have been lampooned so successfully in movies like Austin Powers and TV shows like Archer: diabolical voodoo-practicing villains, nefarious traps (complete with sharks, of course), and wild, impractical plots to kill our hero. The whole story just feels a little bit campier.
That’s not to say that this is an altogether bad thing – but it’s noticeable. Another aspect of the book which bears mentioning, and will be very noticeable to 21st century readers, is a sort of casual racism that our hero and his allies display throughout the novel. It was not enough to hurt my enjoyment of the book, but it’s there, and many readers are likely to find it off-putting. Just be warned.
Anyway, throughout the course of Bond’s journeys through Harlem, the Gulf Coast, and the Caribbean, all of the traits that have made this series so enduringly popular are on display. The book has a brisk pace and is a lean, tight read throughout. Fleming’s prose is straightforward but very strong and a real pleasure to read. And even if some of the hardest edges have been softened, Bond still makes for a hall-of-fame protagonist, drinking, smoking (although he cuts consumption of his beloved Chesterfields down to ten a day while preparing for a particularly tough mission), shooting, and flirting his way across this great nation of ours as he strikes a blow against Communism in the name of Queen and Country.
Overall, this second book was not quite as strong as the excellent Casino Royale, which was a bit more focused, had some better twists, and built up the tension more effectively. But it’s a fun thriller that fans of the genre will likely enjoy. 3.5 stars, recommended!...more