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Sexualized Racism: Hebrews 6:6 and SAE at OU

March 12, 2015

Earlier in the year, I posted “Sexualized Racism: Crucifying Jews and Lynching Blacks.”

Today, this post examines Hebrews 6:4-6 as a backdrop to discuss the anti-black racism of white student members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

Yesterday, Jacob Cerone referred to “these verses” as “some of the most debated passages within the New Testament” in a post he entitled “Public Shaming of Christ.” He did not in that post discuss the anti-Semitic racism of the Roman fraternity of Pontius Pilate’s imperial military force at The Praetorium in Jerusalem.

Cerone did not show this image:

But without commenting on it at all he did show this image, a bit of graffiti found in the Roman city of Pompeii:

And Cerone did see “the word παραδειγματίζω” (the final Greek phrase of Hebrews 6:6) as meaning to “‘hold up to contempt’ or ‘disgrace publicly'”;

and he did “look through the LXX, the Greek version of the Old Testament” to “find it [i.e., that Greek phrase of Hebrews 6:6] used in a number of places,” particularly Num. 25:4 and Esth[er] [4]:11 and Dan. 2:5 in order to state, among other things more central to his point, that “crucifixion isn’t in view in these instances.”

BACKDROP OF HEBREWS 6 (TO DISCUSS THE RACIST DEEDS OF SAE AT OU)

Now, I want to suggest quite pointedly and centrally that crucifixion actually is in view in the Hebraic Hellene version of Esther.

Let me first say (again) that scholars such as Adele Berlin say things like this about Ἐσθὴρ (that is, about “Esther” in Greek and how it gives Jewish views on the Hebrew Bible):

The Septuagint is a window onto how Greek-speaking Jews of the early pre-Christian centuries read and understood the story of Esther.

Then allow me to conjecture (again) that the book of Hebrews, where Cerone examined the Greek in comparison to Esther, may be a Greek-speaking, early Jewish-Christian statement of violence.

Given all this language of herem here, we might read Hebrews 4 as rather devoted and dedicated and destructive language.

Now let’s look at the Hebraic Hellene called Hebrews 6:6 –

καὶ παραπεσόντας, πάλιν
ἀνακαινίζειν εἰς μετάνοιαν,
ἀνασταυροῦντας ἑαυτοῖς // τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ
καὶ παραδειγματίζοντας.

Without yet viewing the meanings, please hear the alliterations and the rhymes. Or at least look at the bolded font above to see the parallels in sounds represented by the Greek alphabetic prefixes and suffixes. The last phrase, παραδειγματίζοντας, both starts and ends with the same sounds as the first phrase, παραπεσόντας. And there are two phrases in the middle that have the same start:  ἀνακαινίζειν and ἀνασταυροῦντας.

Now let’s look at Willis Barnstone’s English translation of this bit of Greek-language Hebrews, which he entitles “Yehudim or Jews” –

But have collapsed [παραπεσόντας], it is impossible
For them to come into a new [ἀνακαινίζειν] repentance
Since they are crucifying [ἀνασταυροῦντας] the son of God
And making him a public spectacle [παραδειγματίζοντας].

Note how Barnstone, who is a Jew restoring the Jewishness to the New Testament and who not a Christian, has the English phrase “have collapsed” for the Hellene παραπεσόντας. Christian translators of the New Testament, in contrast, have for this Greek phrase English phrases such as “have fallen away,” “turn away from,” “have committed apostasy,” “would sin again,” and “have deserted [Christ].” (This may be in part how Cerone has been able to note, “Now, these verses are among some of the most debated passages within the New Testament.” Christians do not want to lose their salvation in Christ, and they argue over who is apostate and how one becomes apostate and whether one can become apostate since, for some, “once saved always saved.”) I’d like us to see how this Hebraic Hellene phrase παραπεσόντας is used in the Septuagint, in Esther.

In Esther 6, the Old Greek addition (not in the Alpha addition), here’s the use of that same phrase with my formatting and with my attempt at a Barnstonian English translation:

εἶπεν δὲ ὁ βασιλεὺς τῷ Αμαν
Καθὼς ἐλάλησας,
οὕτως ποίησον τῷ Μαρδοχαίῳ
τῷ Ιουδαίῳ τῷ θεραπεύοντι ἐν τῇ αὐλῇ,
καὶ μὴ παραπεσάτω
σου λόγος ὧν ἐλάλησας.

But the king said to Haman,
Well spoken!
Thus do to Mordechai
The Jew serving the court,
And ensure your word so spoken
Will not collapse [παραπεσάτω].

Of course, in the narrative, Haman keeps his word and has to publicly show off the Jew named Mordecai as exemplary of the type of person the king extols publicly. And all of us familiar with the story know what happens to Haman at the end of the very next chapter of Esther. Again, here’s the Old Greek addition (and another Barnstonian English rendering by me):

εἶπεν δὲ ὁ βασιλεύς
Σταυρωθήτω ἐπ’ αὐτοῦ.
καὶ ἐκρεμάσθη Αμαν ἐπὶ τοῦ ξύλου,
ὃ ἡτοίμασεν Μαρδοχαίῳ.
καὶ τότε ὁ βασιλεὺς ἐκόπασεν τοῦ θυμοῦ.

But the king said,
Crucify him on it.
And they hanged Haman from the tree
That he had readied for Mordechai.
And thus the king had no more anger.

So we see that there is, there really is, some view of crucifixion here. Haman hated Jews and the Jewish man named Mordechai, and he was preparing to lynch him, to get public permission to show him worthy of a hanging.

From this point in this text, this crux, this crucial literary point, we might fast forward in time to that other text called Hebrews (or Yehudim or Jews). And there we see crucifixion still in view. Instead of the anti-Semitic racist Haman hanging the Jew named Mordechai, it is the anti-Semitic Roman racists who have hanged a Jew named Yeshua. In Hebrews 4, two different Jews named Yeshua are noted. In Hebrews 6:6, the crucifixion of one of them is mentioned again: “Since they are crucifying [ἀνασταυροῦντας] the son of God.” And here the mention is of those who are lynching, are hanging, are crucifying him all over again. This is certainly not a literal crucifixion of this Jew, but it’s a figural hanging, a literary sort of violent public spectacle lynching meant.

And from our point in the Esther text where the Jew is not lynched but the anti-Semitic racist is, we might back track a bit in the story again. We might return to Esther 4, again to the Old Greek (and we hear a prayer of Mordechai to the Hebrew God who is only here explicit in these Hebraic Hellene additions):

μὴ παραδῷς, κύριε, τὸ σκῆπτρόν σου τοῖς μὴ οὖσιν,
καὶ μὴ καταγελασάτωσαν ἐν τῇ πτώσει ἡμῶν,
ἀλλὰ στρέψον τὴν βουλὴν αὐτῶν ἐπ’ αὐτούς,
τὸν δὲ ἀρξάμενον ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς παραδειγμάτισον.

Do not betray, Oh Lord, your royal scepter to those who do not even exist.
And do not let them laugh at our collapse.
Rather, turn their wishes upon themselves.
But make this arch-ruler against us a public spectacle.

The Hebraic Hellene texts of Esther and of Hebrews both share a view of anti-Semitic racism that involve the public spectacle of lynching, hanging, or crucifixion. In fact, three different moments in the story of the Septuagint text are reflected in the short space of the one little verse in the New Testament. Behind Purim, behind Harem to a degree, is sexualized anti-Hebrew, anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic racism. The public spectacle of naked hangings motivated by hate is alluded to and implied and understood.

A RELATIVELY LONG DISCUSSION OF ANTI-BLACK RACISM

For some time in the States of America, artists and writers have linked the sexualized hangings and lynchings perpetrated by anti-black racists with the crucifixions by anti-Semitic racists. Here are some examples in contexts where Jesus (or the one Yeshua mentioned in Hebrews) is the Christ of Christianity:

In 1916, there was this Political Cartoon – “Christmas in Georgia.” It puts Jesus there with the victim of a lynching.

In 1931, Langston Hughes published the poem “Christ in Alabama.” It makes Jesus black, on the cross.

And then there were these analogies made between the lynchings and the crucifixion (noted in the pages of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America by Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey):

pre.James.Cone

Aaron Douglas, Crucifixion, 1927

An Illustration by Charles Cullen. Frontispiece to Countee Cullen’s “The Black Christ and Other Poems,” 1929.

Another Illustration by Charles Cullen. Frontispiece to Countee Cullen’s “The Black Christ and Other Poems,” 1929.

Christ in Alabama, Prentiss Taylor, 1931

Julius Bloch, “The Lynching,” 1933

And all  of this seems to have stirred up Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a way sympathetic not to the white Christians in America but to the black Christians, as his own people in Germany were killing Jews in their attempt to extinguish the entire race. Here’s a bit from Willis Jenkins’s history on Bonhoeffer:

Dietrich

Writers wrote, and painters painted, and theologians theologized as much as they could to try to expose the lynchings as as significant an issue in the States of America as the Holocaust was becoming in Europe.

And at Lincoln University in the States of America, not long afterwards, Albert Einstein had to say this even after the lynchings and the news of them were finally no longer tolerated:

My trip to this institution was in behalf of a worthwhile cause. There is a separation of colored people from white people in the United States. That separation is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.

Einstein was painting with his words, using “disease” as a metaphor for hatred and utter irresponsibility towards humans on the planet. He also elsewhere, for example, had to write this:

As a citizen of Germany, I saw how excessive nationalism can spread like a disease, bringing tragedy to millions.

And he wrote:

The Germans as an entire people are responsible for these mass murders and must be punished as a people if there is justice in the world and if the consciousness of collective responsibility in the nations is not to perish from the earth entirely. Behind the Nazi party stands the German people, who elected Hitler after he had in his book and in his speeches made his shameful intentions clear beyond the possibility of misunderstanding.

And that brings us to the quicker discussion of the fraternity of white men at the University of Oklahoma this very week, of March, 2015. Their well-rehearsed and profoundly memorized racist chant was this:

There will never be a nigger in SAE. There will never be a nigger in SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me. There will never be a nigger in SAE.

If anybody objects to my quoting their use of the n-word (linked from Michael W. Twitty’s blog Afroculinaria), then please also object to my also pasting in the first image above showing a naked Yeshua and two other clearly Jewish men being lynched by anti-Semitic Romans. (It’s from the Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney’s blog.)

What I’d like us all to see is that the racism is the white man’s disease, based on separation and on particular separations:

  1. The white brothers in the SAE fraternity chanting on the bus are pledging their separation from the black man.
  2. They pledge to separate the black man from the world of the living by lynching him.
  3. Other white men in Professor Nolan L. Cabrera research confess to separating the racism in their jokes, ostensibly, from real racism.
  4. These also separate themselves physically (when telling their “we’re just joking” jokes) from non-whites.
  5. These also separate themselves from those they claim are overly sensitive to their expressions of racism.

Here’s a figure from Dr. Cabrera’s research showing these separations as rationalizations:

figure1.Cabrera.Research

The figure is from the article, “But We’re Not Laughing: White Male College Students’ Racial Joking and What This Says About ‘Post-Racial’ Discourse.” And Cabrera explains more this week in an interview here with the Chronicle of Higher Education.

TOWARDS CONCLUSIONS

Well, this may be too much in one little post. Racism is too much.

There are interesting parallels in this month of Purim between what happened in the story of the Septuagint Esther and what has happened in the news of the University of Oklahoma. The tree intended as a public spectacle of shame and death for the Jew named Mordechai is where the racist named Haman gets hanged. The joke intended as a private denigrating pledge against men who are African Americans in university in the States of America is a public spectacle of separation from their fraternity and their university for the white men telling it.

There is an interesting parallel between the Hebraic Hellene phrase μετάνοια (which Barnstone translates into restored Jewish English in Hebrews 6:6 as repentance) and the calls for profound re-thinking and paradigm-shifting and re-orientation and re-training and real-educating sounded by a few. For example, Twitty in his blog suggests this:

Make these boys take classes in African American history. Make them work with young Black kids with a Black fraternity. Make them understand that working together we have more to gain than we do constantly figuring out ways to misunderstand each other. Make them go to an HBCU in an academic exchange so they can feel what it’s like to be in the minority for a change. Make them see the world differently, make them care.

And Professor  recommends these things in her instructive blog post here:

  1. how about we cut these boys a little slack?

  2. after 12 years of a steady diet of erasure, dismissal, and hypocrisy when these boys have a full blown cardiac arrest of racism, rather than giving them a defibrillator of God’s grace and challenging them to see the sacred worth of all—we pull the plug and do a dance on their [sexualized racism’s] graves.

  3. Rather than marching and shouting, what if President Boren [of OU] invited the young men on that bus who sang their hateful song to sit and watch the video with the black staff members of the SAE house who fixed their meals and cleaned their rooms? Just played it over and again or even ask them to sing the song live. What if after their live performance President Boren finally allowed Walter, the man who cooked their meals for the last 15 years to ask the young men one simple question: “is this what you really think of me?” See most racists, like homophobes hold to their views in isolation. I believe when those young men came face to face with the people who cared for them and loved them, the full impact of their behavior would then be clear—“How can you profess love for a God you have not seen while hating (hurting) your brother that you see every day?” As the boys and girls who withstood Bull Conner’s hoses will tell you— the human conscious is a most power ally in the battle for social justice. [[And Twitty has already suggested we all get this: http://blacksportsonline.com/home/2015/03/gofundme-started-for-black-sae-house-chef-whos-now-unemployed/]]

  4. do something meta-noia like about this:  They have learned that racism must never be articulated; it must be hidden; it must enacted but never espoused.

There’s indeed an interesting parallel between the sort of sexualized racism that wants to make a shaming public spectacle and the sort of repentance for that racism (with all its dependency on secrecy for and by the racists) that calls for prayer and fasting and real exposure to education that brings persons of difference in contact to confront the hate.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 12, 2015 3:18 pm

    Good catch on the fact that crucifixion is in view in the Esther passage I cited. My apologies for overlooking that. I picked a couple of passages out of the LXX as illustrations that παραδειγματίζω is a public spectacle of shaming and intended to provide cover for myself by saying that the same situation in Hebrews was not in view in the passages I cited. And yet, one of the passages had exactly the that in view…

  2. March 12, 2015 4:12 pm

    Your post in a very short space covers a lot of ground. It’s most impressive. Thank you for that there and for your comment here.

    Another Hellene text (non-Hebraic) that shows the public spectacle of a crucifying hangings is the first century novel Callirhoe by Chariton. Here is one mention of several on pages 198-99 of the Loeb Classical Library edition (with English translation by G. P. Gould) –

    The entire work can be accessed online freely here:

    http://www.loebclassics.com/view/chariton-callirhoe/1995/pb_LCL481.199.xml

  3. September 28, 2015 8:32 am

    “I must say that black and white, as forms of speech, and as a means of judging mankind, should be eliminated from human society. Human beings are precisely the same whatever colour, race, creed or national origin they may be.”

    His Imperial Majesty, Qedamawi Haile Selassie Ist, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Kings, Emperor of Ethiopia, Elect of God.

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