[Milton-L] Help with a pedagogical question

Hannibal Hamlin hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com
Thu Oct 1 12:17:13 EDT 2009


My wife was once teaching a group of students a novel with an obvious
"Christ-figure" and asked students whether they knew the story of Jesus
Christ. One eagerly responded that he even knew his full name, Jesus H.
Christ. Seriously.

I agree with those who have downplayed the "problem" here. "Christ" is a
title that may or may not have faith-implications, depending on whether you
believe. My instinct is to say that the use of "Jesus" vs. "Christ" depends
on whether one is refering more to the human person or the Son of God, but I
don't know if this could be sustained. I would certainly argue against
discouraging the use of "Christ" on the basis of belief or non-belief.
Students, and scholars, should probably be aware of the meaning of the name,
but the use of it hardly requires faith. For instance, I mentioned the term
"Christ-figure," a perhaps overused but still useful symbolic-allegorical
category. Should we refer instead to a "Jesus-figure"? I don't think so.
Couldn't we raise roughly similar questions about other kinds of names? When
we refer to "King" Henry VIII or "Sir" Philip Sidney, are we necessarily
buying into monarchical government or an aristocratic social order? I don't
think so, though I think it more doubtful when Americans refer to the former
Beatle as "Sir Paul" or Gandalf as "Sir Ian."

I regularly teach the English Bible at Ohio State, and this particular
problem has never arisen.
Hannibal


On Thu, Oct 1, 2009 at 11:56 AM, James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com> wrote:

> Yes, it is "common era," which reinforces John's point -- common to
> what?  On what grounds?  It's still pinned to what was thought of at
> one point as the birth year of Christ, so Christ is the basis of the
> "common era."  At least BC explicitly pins the division to Christ
> without requiring an implicit identification with Christ.
>
> Jim R
>
> On Thu, Oct 1, 2009 at 11:51 AM, Mulryan, John <JMULRYAN at sbu.edu> wrote:
> > John: I believe CE is “common era,” not Christian era, although it
> amounts
> > to the same thing. John.
>
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-- 
Hannibal Hamlin
Associate Professor of English
The Ohio State University
164 West 17th Ave., 421 Denney Hall
Columbus, OH 43210-1340
hamlin.22 at osu.edu/
hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com
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