Ray’s Views Online

“The Combat” – a ‘Sacred’ Poem by Edwin Muir

What is this strange, moving, fascinating poem about? It’s about an ongoing fight to the death between very different creatures. It seems to be a decidedly “unequal battle”. One of the combatants looks like a ‘no-hoper’. There is a “crested animal” resembling the mythical griffin, with “eagle’s head” and “whetted beak”; “body of leopard” and […]

The Banality of Evil

The philosopher Hannah Arendt (1906-75), exploring the idea of the ‘evil’ person as a ‘monster’, following the trial of Adolph Eichmann, described the “banality of evil”. She saw Eichmann as an unimaginative bureaucrat, a ‘self-less’ cog-in-a-machine, mindlessly carrying out his assigned duties without question. Getting railway wagons from A to B mattered, not whether they […]

Love – Open, Honest and Unconditional

These words, moving and heartening, are from the blog of Bart Ehrman, the perhaps uniquely agnostic/atheistic Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina. He tells how his mother found it very hard to understand and accept his eventual departure from his early evangelical Christian faith. Their relationship, however, managed to work through […]

A Hand Shake across Thousands of Years

When caves are mentioned, some of us may still imagine unwashed, unshaven, grunting brutes lumbering about, dragging women behind them by the hair. These hand prints from the Cave of El Castillo, made at least 37 centuries ago, tell a different story. Let’s think about how movingly astounding they are. Early humans worshipped the Earth […]

Samson, a Hero and a Half (v)

What are we to say about the story of Samson? It’s morally outrageous. It has apparently divinely sanctioned mass murder, revenge killing, cruelty to animals, destruction of property, prostitution, theft, lies and deceit. It’s dramatically over-the-top with repeated displays of unbelievably super-human strength, and incredible instances of blind stupidity on the part of the hero […]

Samson, a Hero and a Half (iv)

In Judges 16, being ‘controlled by the Spirit of Yahweh’ seems to increase Samson’s sexual, as well as physical, prowess. While visiting Gaza “he saw a prostitute and went to her house to spend the night”. No moral censure appears in the text. Perhaps Yahweh was willing to let this go, since his aim (recalling […]

Borodin – Amazing Man and Music

One of my loves is Russian music of the later 19th century, That was when Russian music began. Previously there were no Music Conservatories, and no symphony orchestras giving regular concerts. Music was dominated by opera – Italian opera. In his lifetime, Alexander Borodin was seen as a professional Scientist and an amateur Artist. He […]

Samson, a Hero and a Half ! (iii)

Last time, we saw how, when Samson stomped off from his wedding day, the bride-not-to-be was married off by her father to someone else. Unaware of this, and having recovered his cool, Samson “went to visit the young woman he thought was still his wife.” He brought with him a gift which he clearly thought […]

Samson, a Hero and a Half ! (ii)

At the beginning of Judges 14, Samson sees a Philistine woman, and tells his parents, “I want to marry her”. In 1 Kings 11:2 it’s placed on record that “Yahweh had told the Israelites, ‘You must not marry people of other nations’”. Samson’s parents point this out to him – “Those Philistines are pagans. Why […]

Samson, a Hero and a Half ! (i)

In the book in the Hebrew Bible called “Judges” (chapters 13 to 16) we’re entertained with the amazingly outrageous story of Samson. This makes a welcome contrast to, let’s say, the first dozen chapters of 1 Chronicles. When sleep doesn’t come easily, try these interminable genealogical and other assorted lists of eminently forgettable names. The […]


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