Friday, June 25, 2004

Biblical Illiteracy

An AP article about Sen. Zell Miller (D-GA) endorsing Bush for President includes a reference to the story of Jacob and Esau:
"I think he has sold his soul for a mess of pottage," said [Democratic Rep. John] Lewis, in a reference to a speech Miller gave as a congressional candidate 40 years ago in which he argued that President Johnson was "a Southerner who sold his birthright for a mess of dark pottage" because of his support for the Civil Rights Act.

(I should note that, as the article says, Miller later changed his position on Civil Rights.)
The article proceeds to explain the "mess of pottage" allusion thus:
Pottage is defined as a thick soup or stew of vegetables.
Huh? How is that helpful at all? Those who are unfamiliar with the Hebrew Bible might not know that Esau, son of Isaac son of Abraham, sold his birthright (i.e. inheritance) to Jacob, his younger brother, for soup. Esau was tired from hunting, and, upon arriving home, asked Jacob for the soup he had made. Jacob replied, give me your birthright for the soup. Clearly, defining pottage (the King James Version's word for the soup) does not explicate the reference at all! Sadly, this is a typical, though relatively harmless, example of the media's futile and ignorant attempts to provide "context" without knowledge. (A more pernicious case is that of Israel reporting.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

An elegantly emblematic way of making a crucial point. Your argument would be strengthened by an example of shallow Middle East reporting.


12:44 AM  

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