According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Thursday, March 14, 2013

R.E. Slater - Interpreting the Violence of the OT

There is the temptation is to redact the bible and separate the "Actual God of the universe" from the "Textual God of the Israelites" - what one would call a "high view of the bible" as versus a "low view" of the bible. However, as someone who holds to the authority and inspiration of the bible (but not to its inerrancy), that would be to start down the path of textual redactionism which I do not wish to entertain for it is too easy to displace the bible with our own thoughts when thinking about this very difficult subject. In contrast, I would much prefer to study the bible eclectically from both viewpoints beginning with its Ancient Near-Eastern (ANE) setting using historical, anthropological, and literary research, in an attempt to discover just why its ancient texts and scrolls held such fearful and terrible commandments, acts, and attitudes by God and His ancient people. This approach would then utilize some of textual redactionism's tools and methodologies without removing the origin and preservation of divine authorship that subscribes to the high view of Scripture.
Consequently, when considering the violent acts of God within the bible upon the ungodly, one might say that we could be reading of Isarel's ancient Semitic beliefs correspondent to their cultural and political dispositions of the time. Not only did Israel have the temptation to replace their God (known as YHWH in the Jewish tongue) with the gods from their surrounding neighbours, but to also follow suit in their laws legally, their government politically, and their warfare militarily, in lockstep with the pagan, polytheistic nations around them. Thus, Israel did as the other nations did, crying out upon their enemies threats filled with violent speech, imprecations, and worse. Forcing the biblical reader today to discern whether the violence found in the OT is actually from God Himself, or from Israel's mis-representation of the God they embraced and believed they were following. So that we must ask, did God actually tell Israel to commit such horrible acts of obscene rape and pillage, butchery and genocide, or was it Israel's imposed understanding of God's commandments as astute observers of the surrounding nation's god's and their commandments? As example, if Assyria's gods took no pity upon Assyria's enemies, why should Israel's God take any pity upon Israel's enemies? At least this may have been the common thinking of the day back then, no less than it is now with ourselves, when facing situational ethics, world politics, and the vagaries of patriotic nationalism.
Thus, one approach might be to say that Israel acted like her enemies. An attitude that required God's patient teaching and admonition to His people to not subscribe to in their conduct with each other and the nations before them. However, though this approach is not altogether satisfying, it is not altogether naive as well - by its tacit admission that within Scripture we can, and will find, the cultural, religious, and politicized beliefs of Israel inserted deep within her own texts about the God they embraced and claimed to follow. Which is what is meant by utilizing an historical redactive approach to the Bible. Combining both the high view of Scripture with the low view of Scripture in a hybrid mix of some sort. One that believes Scripture is God's divine revelation, but not necessarily devoid of man's interjections and reassessments. Meaning that, though the people of God would declare God's divine authorship in the composition and preservation of the bible, we also have within this process the attenuation of the Spirit of God cleansing His people from the world's paganisms held in mind, body and spirit. Thus assisting Israel's dedication to YHWH's charters and covenants not by declaration alone, but to YHWH's integrity of purpose and behavior, by helps of His Spirit within and without the Jewish nation.
Against the ancient records of Israel's continued failures to hear and obey YHWH, came the requisite tasks of remembering her faith walk with YHWH from the waking dawn to the setting sun. Hence, from generation to generation God tells Israel's leaders and priests, people and peasants, to remember Him. To declare Him to their children. And to their children's children. Through oral legends, stories, and historical accounts. Including not only the stories of spiritual faith and success, but also by stories of failure and unbelief. And from this very fluid, dynamic milieu of charged cultural beliefs and traditions, came the Jewish Scriptures over Israel's many long generations. First by word, song, poem, re-enacted traditions, customs, icons, symbols and religious rites. Then by iron stylus applied to soft clay tablets, parchment pens onto failing scrolls, and a developing body of scribal authorities charged with remembering Israel's walk with God (we call this running narrative by the theological name of "salvation history"). Her tribal holy men we know as priests. And her temple scribes, teachers, and prophets, were spiritually charged with the holy task of preserving God's holy word and acts to Israel's moiling mix of believers and unbelievers. So that when we read the OT we are reading a very long, very old, narrative of God's continuing intercession with His people composed to both the godly and ungodly, the circumcised and uncircumcised, the redeemed and unrepentant, in their faith walk with the God of Israel.
Several times over these past many years I have indicated that those generation's beliefs and legends have been modified, or perhaps lost altogether, creating a broken record at best of Israel's account of their walk with God. For didn't Josiah weep when discovering a lost copy of the Jewish bible before setting about to reform Israel of her ungodly paganisms? The miracle is that the Jewish scriptures have been preserved at all (in comparison, think of the many American Indian legends lost in the annuals of time over their many long generations never to be known again). But who can say how many times the oral legends have been added to, or subtracted from, against Israel's lost traditions and moiling mix of contemporary beliefs held within its many past antecedent generations? To me, this is a realistic approach to discerning the theology and teaching of the Bible - that there occurred within the original autographs of the bible later collations and emendations to its text. This is not to say that YHWH was not the Bible's author (the high view). Nor to treat the Bible as simply an ancient human record (the low view). But that in the process of revelation the story of redemption was preserved against cultural adjustments to its teachings (a hybrid view). So that it brings us back to the problem of how to objectively discern Scripture against our own reasonings and thoughts when confronted with commandments and actions within the bible that exhibit very ungodlike actions by YHWH Himself.
However, the problem created here is that by following this line of reasoning it becomes admittedly subjective. One that is - and isn't - helpful. And thus requiring our further attention to contemporary archaeological discoveries, as well as to contemporary theological discussions, often composed against our own ideological preferences. Hence, when reading of the violence in the OT, we must ask ourselves if whether God really did say these things, or whether they proceeded from Israel's cultural attitudes, and religious misunderstanding at the time? Certainly it is possible as we see time-and-again in Israel's own history YHWH's prophets preaching against her people's corrupted religion, abominable faith, and wickedness. Or even later in the NT when Jesus comes like an OT prophet of old upon the Jewish establishment of His day to declare the same. However, if God really did say such horrific things, then we must admit the hoary truth that this Christian God must be part monster. Making of Him a dipolar entity ethically and morally split from the God of the NT at the very least. And yet, it is highly doubtful that what was spoken in YHWH's name actually were by the commands of YHWH, but rather by Israel's own deficient understanding of God Himself. At least that is one of the arguments I think we could reasonably entertain without doing injustice to the spirit of divine revelation submitted into the hands of corruptible men.
Another approach to understanding the violence in the OT is to use a literary redactive approach. That is, one that concentrates on comparing the stories of the Bible against other, more popular stories of Israel's polytheistic neighbors. Who are themselves committed to various pagan forms of mythology (just as we Americans are today by our movies, games, and novels) such that where Baal is described as terrible, YHWH is described as even more terrible. Where a pagan covenantal treaty is broken and judgment is found to proceed immediately, YHWH's treaty when broken comes with judgments as well, but also with a degree of righteousness, grace, mercy and forgiveness. Where a flood story is remember as despairing and hopeless, another flood story is composed telling of YHWH's divine protection and shelter in times of destruction and woe. Where a creation story attributes birth to the sun and moon, another creation story is written telling of YHWH as creation's origin and purpose. For each legal composition written, each narrative rehearsed, each national act recounted by Israel's neighbours, God gave to Israel their own divine compositions, holy narrative writs, and compelling stories of grace and redemption.
Thus, by utilizing comparative literary redactionism, the Bible now becomes more alive within the cultural and political milieus of its day. And similar to scribal/historical/cultural redactionism and accommodation, inserts a reality about the Scriptural passages previous unimposed if simply read naively, or non-historically, without regard to its ANE setting and folklores. To come to the Bible and interject our own flavor of cultural transcriptions is to do the texts of the Bible an injustice. One might call this popular approach a form of epistemological redactionism. Where we, as the current readers of the Bible, force our own presuppositions and attitudes upon the Bible without regard to its setting and text. Many popular theologies have found themselves at the forefront of the church's pulpiteers over the past 2000 years for this very same reason. For how could the barbarity of slavery have been encouraged in the Netherlands, Spain and England, without its teaching of the superiority of a Christian, European, race? Or how could the genocides of the Crusades have been committed without the superimposed belief of justifiable war against the innocent Muslim races of the Middle East? Or how could the cruel and terrible Inquistions have occurred without belief in the majesty of the Catholic Church? Nor the gender inequality endured by women; the bigotry of color, race, ethnicity; or the homophobia found amongst the church today? Don't be so naive as to believe we are above the act of turning the words and phrases of Scripture to our own prejudicial beliefs and purposes. Hence, such derivatives are not of God but from our own sinful hearts, making God guiltless as charged.
Another argument laid down besides that of historical and literary redactionism is that of utilizing a Christological approach to the violence found in the OT, albeit one that may be circular in reasoning, admittedly. In this approach we find Jesus acknowledging the God of the OT as His God. One whom He trusted, believed, obeyed, and followed, with his whole heart and life's committal. But Jesus went on to say more than this - that the YHWH of the OT was the same YHWH present within Himself by His incarnate birth. That the God of the OT was Himself, born in the flesh to lead men to salvation and unto the Kingdom of God. Jesus did not say that He was simply infilled, or clothed upon, by the spirit of YHWH, like the prophets and kings of old. But as One who was in the very nature and being as YHWH of the OT (John 1, 1 John 1). Who, in Himself, was YHWH come to man in the flesh. He, who was love, mercy and forgiveness, was one-and-the-same with the God of the OT that was full of fire and judgement, mercy and grace. To these teachings Jesus declared by the Jewish Scriptures YHWH's righteousness,love, mercy and forgiveness to the Jews of His day (which Jewish Scriptures were the only ones extant in Jesus' day. Not until after His death did Jesus' Jewish disciples write down the NT Scriptures many years later as a Jewish follow up to the OT). And further, Jesus illuminated those same Jewish Scriptures with His own original teachings about YHWH through His deeds, ministries, miracles, prayer and teachings, as endowed by the Holy Spirit.
And so, it is not enough to simply declare that the God of the OT is a dipolar God quite unlike the God of the NT. For Christianity does not worship two Gods, but one God. Who is one-and-the-same with the God of the OT and the NT by whatever name we know Him. Additionally, we have as our foremost-and-final arbiter Jesus Himself who declared the same. So that, like Jesus, we too recognize that the God of the OT (YHWH) is the same as the God of the NT (Jesus), creating for us a very real problem with the visceral violence we read of in the OT attributed to God's name. In comparison, Jesus and His disciples showed God's love, mercy, grace and forgiveness (even as the OT did in abundance to YHWH's name as well, though I have neglected to mention this as yet!). So that we must ask ourselves then, to what do we attribute these differences things too? Have we over-read the Scriptures with too literal a comprehension? Have we ignored its passages of literary genre to the exclusion of missing the God of those genres? Have we failed to understand what God's Covenant implied to Israel (protection and blessing) when surrounded by godless enemies committed to threats and deprecations, war and bloodshed? That if Israel did not follow God's commands she would suffer at the hands of her own enemies? As you can see, there can be many explanations for the violence spoken of in the OT.
So then, to what degree did God in the OT actually eviscerate Israel's brutal enemies everywhere abounding? Was it by their own sinfulness and wickedness? By their faithless disbelief committing them to destruction before the vagaries of this sinful world? By the hands of other faithless nations come for bloodlust and glory? Do we attribute these things to God's ferocious judgments or to the more refined view of God's inability to help redeem the wicked as they sowed whirlwind's of calamitous destruction upon their own heads? And to this, how are we to understand Jesus' command to love one's enemies? To bless them who curse you. To turn the other cheek. To offer cups of cold water to the thirsty? To give aide to those waylaid on the roadside? To what degree do we redact the OT material? Do we uphold it? Do we admit national/personal fear and confusion in the midst of sin and pain and broken biblical treaty? And to what degree do we accord Jesus His own personal redaction of Scripture back towards the contemporary Jewish understanding of His day against its straying elements of simplistic literalism? And, as central argument of all, do we utilize Jesus' depiction of YHWH through Himself as that truer picture of God in the OT. Both His anger and His grace; His judgments and His forgiveness; His terribleness and His beauty? To use the concept of Christology not only as a forward element in Scriptural interpretation prophetically, but as a backwards element of Scriptural interpretation didactically? Or, if we could create another word-image-concept: to utilize the theological idea of Jesus as the measure-and-meter of all of Scripture.
That is, through Jesus do we have the right idea of God in the OT. If YHWH appears un-Jesuslike, than we have reason to doubt whether the OT passages truly depicts God as God. Yet, you might ask, what about the warrior image of Jesus as the Lion of Judah come to smite His enemies in the book of Revelation? Certainly the Apostle John seems to depict Jesus in the image of YHWH's judgments and anger. And yet, should we turn those apocalyptic elements around on their head, perhaps the Lion that comes, comes as a Lamb covered in His own sacrificial blood, to the cursed and the damned requiring salvation. That the Armageddon we read of is by man's own doing; his destruction by a corruptible planet corrupted by man; of a universe that is indeterminate in its nature; and of a government and nations heedless of the Creator God, their Redeemer. Where then can be found the beat of drum and dash of sword except in the irony and paradox of the images under the Apostle's pen? And by our own conflicted hearts so warlike and unChristlike in its depositions of survival and glory, pride and ego, storms and loss? As we read forwards of Christ in the OT perhaps we should do the same backwards from the NT of the YHWH we thought we understood but missed. Who declared to Abraham His fidelity and love. Who cut treaty with Abraham using Himself as the propitiating, severed carcass. Who declared blessings and help within a wicked world crying for blood and disorder.
For I do not think it is correct to say that in the NT Jesus' commands have come to supersede YHWH's judgments - for then we have two very different Gods. One severe and the other gracious (to put it simply). But perhaps it is more realistically to admit that Israel misunderstood YHWH's laws and commands, and too easily fell from faith to behave just as her neighbours did around her. By interposing her deepest fears of God as a very terrible God who would do to Israel and He would do to her enemies, and worst, if she were not to obey. Or perhaps, doubting YHWH's protection, write of YHWH as a terrible God who would do terrible things to His enemies. Kinda like a small, weak kid saying to a large bully, if you do this to me, my dad will do worse to you. Largely, I think its a dialectic problem lost to us in our scientific, over-rationalizing cultures far removed from the ancient cultures and customs of the OT. For myself, I believe Jesus is the truest illumination of the God of the OT. That this same YHWH then is the same YHWH now come within our midst. To ascribe to God the violence we read of in the OT is to actually ascribe its violence to the sinfulness of our own hearts. That we are a wicked people who do cruel things to one another all in the name of God. And when done, give support to our wickedness by using God's word as support to our guilt and crimes. Nowhere in the NT do we see Jesus, nor His disciples, harm others, rape and pillage, kill or maim, in YHWH's name. The New Covenant cut in Jesus' blood was a sacrificial covenant cut as the same covenant as that of the Abrahamic Covenant, committing us to the Holy Other known to us by many names: King of Peace, loving Lord, Merciful One, Forgiver of my soul, Almighty One, Protector of His children, Benevolent One, and Father of all.
Lastly, I would suggest a book by Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade, SJ, entitled Abandonment to Divine Providence. Here we'll find another world than the familiar world we live in today. An ancient world with forgotten customs and traditions, fears and sentiments, give to us some idea of the ancient Near-Eastern world of Israel's day when its people were growing and developing under the Abrahamic covenantal faith in its early days of tribal formation. Or under the Sinaitic (Mosaic) charter's observances in Israel's various stages of nationalism which theologians would describe in short as her "salvation history" under God as a forming, monotheistic people. Whose customs and traditions were fundamentally different from that of her polytheistic neighbors everywhere abounding around them. Becoming a people of God that were godly, Yahwistically-imbued, and culturally sensitised to the movement of God in their lives. Even as the church today is forming under Jesus' charters and observations in varying degrees of redemptive enlightenment and failure. Giving to us Christianity's many transitional forms from the first century until now, as we struggle to embrace what it means to be a people of God. A community of believers. A grace community bearing love and forgiveness. Holding to its trust in God against calamity, disaster, ill-will, harm, and destruction. Witnessing the transition of redemptive movement under the hand of God, and by His Spirit, to a forming kingdom of Light and Life. A kingdom hidden to the world but growing mightily like as a mustard seed. Or like yeast as it leavens out the whole world under the direction and rule of the Redeemer God of the bible. Not by might or by muscle. Not by war and pillage. Nor rape and injustice. But by service and humility, peace and assistance, sacrificial giving and wise justice. Well it has been said that the Church is ever reforming, renewing, reviving, rebirthing, resurrecting. Even now, let it be so once again in declaring to ourselves all that is Jesus, as a risen people unto His blessed name.
R.E. Slater
March 13, 2013
*For more Articles on this Subject please refer to the sidebars as listed below
Peter Enns was interviewed on the Drew Marshall Show
shortly after I wrote my piece referenced at the end
on the violence found in the OT...

I Have Conquered Canada: My Interview on The Drew Marshall Show
by Peter Enns
March 15, 2013
The Drew Marshall Show is “Canada’s most listened to spiritual talk show,” though probably not any more: last week they interviewed me.
All kidding aside, this was a fun 15 minutes and I hope to be invited back so I can pontificate further on Evangelicalism’s failure to offer a convincing explanatory paradigm, the problem of divine violence in the OT, and perhaps have a chance to dislodge the shoe from my mouth.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Some Notes
mostly mine own by premeditated arrangement
R.E. Slater
March 16, 2013

According to Iron Age tribalism, found between 1200 to 500 BC, it was believed that "God's" preferred means of conflict resolution was to slaughter people and wipe them out (sic, Noah and the Flood, Israel's enemies, even Israel herself through her Exiles). This was thought to bring about purity amongst people, and maintain fideism to God.
Consequently, the church has kept to old Israel's ancient ways and mindset by burning martyrs at the stake; banning witchcraft by the same; locking away and/or torturing those who differed with the church's "official" attitudes; subjugating people groups in power battles of "might-and-right."
Many centuries later, when Jesus came along in the NT, He changes things up and said, "Love your enemies. Pray for them that do evil against you. Don't kill each other. Don't wipe each other out so you can get their property and land. Don't stone those who differ from you, whom you thought has created transgression."
In effect, I say unto you "Stay in the tension you live in, and try to get along with each other justly, rightly, fairly, without resorting to murder, killing, and war. This is what God says... And by the way, 'I am God.' So, this is what I'm telling you to do. Not like what your ancient forefathers once thought I had told them to do. Nor by how they explained how I rolled with the universe. But to learn to love one another. To get along with one another. For if you love one another then have you seen God."
"Back then, in the OT, they couldn't explain me because they couldn't see any other way other than how they saw it being done around them. But my ways are higher than man's ways so much farther than the East is from the West, and the heavens are higher than the seas. Finally, I had to come to humanity to explain how God rolls through myself. Hopefully to make things absolutely clear how God operates, and what He thinks about people - those that doubt; those that live self-righteously; those that would make a religion out of a living faith of trust and commitment."


  1. For several years I would meditate on the fact that God created a world with predator and prey. There are those who insist this is the result of the fall, but I don't find that convincing at all. Rather, it does seem that this world we live in does rely on the violence of predator and prey to exist. And God said this world was good. I think that those who want to rid the bible and God himself of any capacity for violence are mistaken.

    I don't know if you've ever seen an animal eat it's prey, but I've watched a hawk tear into a rabbit. And the hawk is so casual about it. The poor rabbit might not even be dead yet and the hawk just sits and eats, looking around, heedless of the life of the animal it is eating. There's no animosity or ill will; it's just the nature of things. What I came to think was that there is a sort of ruthlessness about God which is reflected in his creation. It's not particularly personal, but is very practical and perhaps more unsentimental than we humans are comfortable with.

    There's a book I really enjoy called Ideas that Changed the World which goes back into pre-history through to modern times to glean the ideas and changes in our ways of thinking which have made humanity what it is. In it, he credits the Jewish people with introducing the idea of a loving God. We take for granted the idea that God (or whatever gods may be) would love us, but it's really a strange idea. Gods may want a people to prosper for their own glory, but to simply love them is a whole other story. So what if the Israelites were the carriers of this strange idea - that the God of all creation loves humanity? Would God not do whatever it took to make sure that those people survived long enough to pass their precious cultural insight on to the wider world? Yes, it's a bit of an ends justify the means concept, but really, we humans were doing plenty to make each other suffer with or without his input. And after all, death is not to God what it is to us. For us it is a horrible thing, for God it is a return of his children to himself.

    I do think that there is room for literary, historical contextualizing when we read the OT. And almost certainly, some of what is written reflects the views of man rather than the desires of God. (In fact, I think that where this tends to come through the most is whenever motivations are attributed to God. We humans tend to be bad at discerning the motivations of other men, how much worse are we at figuring out God's motivations?) But I think that it's probably a mistake to go too far in insisting that God would not and did not ever command violence. This is the God who made the hawk and the rabbit, after all. And the truth is that God's plan seems to have worked - the Jewsih religion remains and the idea of a loving God continues to grow and resonate while all the other religions of the ANE are nothing more than artifacts.

  2. Thanks Rebecca. For myself, when viewing the Hawk-and-the-rabbit illustration I think of that in terms of a fallen creation.

    Certainly we do not disallow God of violence and destruction (as is shown in some of the larger biblical narratives of prophetic ruin and waste), but of the wanton types we read of in the bible re women and children, pillage and ruin, that seem to be more from the hand of sinful man, and creation gone wrong because of sin, than from the hand of a cruel God.

    This has been simply said, I know, but I'm trying to address some of the broader issues of violence found in the OT when comparing YHWH of the OT to the Jesus in the NT.

    And specifically those societal values found in the Hebrew's Iron Age culture between 1200-500 BC, and its relevancy for our 21st Century contemporary, postmodern, society given all that we know and have experienced as humanity since those many long years ago. As seen through humanity's many stages of pain and deep harm, enlightenment and failure, against our failing efforts towards peace and tolerance, understanding, anger, and righteousness.