Empson’s academic career in England was over, at least for the time being, and the best job he could find . . . was a teaching position in the booming city of Tokyo. And it was while teaching there, in 1932, that he visited the old city of Nara, where, as Rupert Arrowsmith says in his introduction to The Face of the Buddha, “the beauty of a particular set of Buddhist sculptures struck Empson with a revelatory force.” And thus began a curious detour in his career, a project that occupied him off and on for more than a decade before it eventuated in a book whose manuscript was promptly lost, by a drunkenly careless friend, and only recovered twenty years after Empson’s death.
Religion & Theology
Like Thomas Jefferson, Franklin thought that the Bible contained good moral advice even as he rejected the traditional Protestant doctrine that it is the “only rule for faith and practice.” Nevertheless, he knew it “backward and forward,” and was able to use it to great effect in his polemical writings. When he launched a campaign to encourage Pennsylvania’s government to fund a militia in 1747, he reminded his readers that God provided us with the Bible “for our reproof, instruction and warning” and that his Word clearly requires rulers to defend their subjects—by military force if necessary.
Ruden’s explanation of Hebrew poetry will enlighten nonscholars. She correctly observes that in the KJV of Psalm 23, “maketh me to lie down” sounds wrongly compulsive nowadays. But her interpretation of oil-anointing as designed for cleanliness raises questions: Why only the head? Why not the much dirtier feet? Why not oiling the head to make it shine joyously? And to me, “deepened ‘wagon tracks’” for “paths [of righteousness]” sounds too specific. Yet Ruden brilliantly builds up to Ecclesiastes with a discussion of Hesiod versus Juvenal, though I wonder whether in Ecclesiasticus, Jesus the son of Sirach might give Juvenal a run for his money in respect to misogyny, for which she awards the palm to Juvenal.
Like so many academics, Benedict is an introvert. This meant that he had to re-train the Vatican staff to undo the patterns set by his exuberant predecessor: “I am not capable of plunging into meetings right at the beginning of the day. I simply need that quiet.” As much as he admired his former boss (whose canonization process he would begin), Benedict knew that John Paul II’s papacy was not a transferable example for him. He quips: “I had a different sort of charisma, or rather a non-charisma.” Or, in a more sober, reflective assessment: “although being a professor is certainly not an ideal occupation for the episcopal or papal chair, it is not an impossibility either.”