Monthly Archives: March 2014

Why Jesus Went to India, Part Four.

In three previous posts I have introduced the myth of Jesus in India and examined its manifestations in its early Western authors and in Ahmadi Islam.  Now the big question: so what?  Why should these stories matter to scholars of antiquity or the Bible?

Of course, the myth of Jesus in India is useful to learn about for a biblical scholar because it is something that needs refuting.  What if you are riding the train and someone asks you if Jesus went to India?  While we can never finish correcting all the misconceptions of the Bible in popular culture, this is a fairly popular one.  Biblical scholars don’t even examine it because it is so far-fetched.  For a biblical conspiracy theorist (think of the Da Vinci Code believers!) this is just further evidence that the conspiracy theorist is real: the Church is scared to look at the evidence!

Throughout the history of Christianity, Jesus is often used as a heuristic device, a cipher to express whatever theological point or social-political program an authors wants to convey.  The point of these myths about Jesus is not historical accuracy, but polemic usefulness.  Many of these myths remain on the edges of a tradition.  Same with the tales of Jesus going to India and Tibet.  They employ Jesus for a broader point that really isn’t much about Jesus.  Once we understand this concept of a heuristic device we can see it at work in many religious contexts.  We may also see it at work in the Bible itself.

Mayan Jesus - that one never caught on either.

Somehow, this Jesus didn’t catch on among mainstream Christianity either.

We often think of stories of Jesus in India as religiously pluralistic, the kind of syncretism that affirms the truth of all religions.  After all, Jesus is learning from the Hindus and Buddhists, right?  Not quite.  It’s more complicated.  There are other motives at work, some still firmly unconvinced of the value of all or some non-Christian religions.  I mentioned how Dowling and Notovitch’s version of the story still portrays Jesus as the embodiment of all the wisdom of the world – very theologically triumphalist rhetoric.  Yet my hunch is that the New Age versions of the myth are more entranced by the idea of Jesus learning from other religions.  And that is my next big question in this vein.  How does Holger Kersten read the story of Jesus in India?  A blog series for another day.

Why Jesus Went to India, Part Three: Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.

In the first post of this series I introduced the figure of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, an Indian Muslim reformer and sectarian who argued that Jesus did not die on the cross.  Instead, according to his 1909 book Jesus in India, he went into a coma, woke up, and escaped to Kashmir in northern India.  There Jesus lived as a spiritual teacher until he died a natural death at 120.  Ahmad’s story about Jesus runs counter to both the Christian and the mainstream Muslim view.  I argue that his counter-myth was specifically designed to target Christian missionaries of his time.  But to understand Ahmad’s Jesus myth in context, I first need to give some background about Jesus in Islam, a topic I just finished an entire course on.

The Qur’an mentions many biblical characters, including Noah, Moses, Abraham, David, Mary,  John the Baptist, and especially Jesus. Most of these figures, including Jesus, are interpreted as prophets whose teaching is a precursor to the final revelation given to Muhammad.  As most Muslims read it, the Qur’an reveals that Jesus never went on the cross at all, but taught Islamic tawhid (unity of God) and ascended into heaven.  The New Testament’s crucifixion and divinization of Jesus were later inventions of false followers.

So according to most Muslims, the Ahmadis contradict the Qur’anic account of Jesus.  While the Qur’an affirms the ascension and denies the crucifixion, Ahmad affirmed the crucifixion and denied the ascension.  Why?  I do not take Ahmad’s message as revelatory, so I can only ask what might have motivated Ahmad to create this myth of Jesus that was not only historically unprovable but theologically unorthodox enough to make most Muslims ignore him and his movement.

One of the major issues the Indian umma faced in Ahmad’s day was the presence of foreign missionaries in India.  Due to the British colonization of India, missionaries not only had easy access to this “heathen” nation, but those missionaries could have the funding and force of a mighty nation behind them.  Christian missionaries translated Bibles and evangelical pamphlets into Punjabi, Urdu, Persian, Hindi, and Kashmiri.  Ahmad jumped into these debates, publishing a massive work of Islamic apologetics from 1880-1884 and even proclaiming death prophecies against Christian missionaries.

This counter-myth is calibrated to respond to missionary arguments.  One of the most common arguments missionaries used against Islam ran thus: whereas Muhammad is a human who died a natural death, they argued, Jesus was ascended into heaven by God, proving his greater prophethood.   Ahmad saw that he needed to refute this belief in order to counter the missionaries’ arguments.  This explains why Ahmad was so keen on denying the ascension and proving that Jesus died a natural death.  He wanted to undermine the credibility of the missionaries by creating his own story about Jesus.

Jesus' tomb in India.

Jesus’ tomb in India.

While all Muslims appropriate the figure of Jesus through the Qur’an, Ahmadi went one step further.  He marshalled historical evidence (dubious as it may have been) to support his narrative of Jesus, most famously claiming to have found the tomb of Jesus in Kashmir.  Not only is the Bible theologically wrong about Jesus, Ahmad could say, but we have his tomb right down the street!  The tomb of Jesus was a visible proof that the Christians were wrong.  Jesus’ dead body in the tomb is the proof that the ascension could not have happened.  Ahmad’s story of Jesus directly responds to claims made by the missionaries.  This is what makes it not just a myth, but a counter-myth designed to sway people from the Christian narrative of Jesus’ life.  Ahmad’s claim to have the true story about Jesus was akin to British scholars’ claim to have the true Buddha:

“I bear the same feelings of love and sincerity towards Jesus as do the Christians; rather, I have a stronger attachment to him, for Christians do not know the man whom they praise, but I know him whom I praise, for I have as good as seen him.” (Ahmad, Jesus in India, 50)

There is very little scholarship on Ahmadiyya theology, but two good starting-places might be Friedmann’s Prophecy Continuous and Valentine’s Islam and the Ahmadiyya Jama’at.  In the next post I will conclude this series by looking at the New Age Jesus in India and speculating on the significance of these tales for biblical scholars.

Why Jesus Went to India, Part Two: The Earliest Versions.

In my last post I introduced the myth of Jesus going to India and those who formulated it.  I concluded with my observation that these narratives say more about their  writers than Jesus himself.  The evidence that Jesus went to India either before or after his ministry in Judea is so slim, it cannot be that facts compel people to believe this myth.  There must be some other reason why this myth captivates people.  I argue that different groups have different reasons for their creation of and fascination of the tales of Jesus in India.

“Jesus Approaching Ladakh as a Youth,” J. Michael Spooner

“Jesus Approaching Ladakh as a Youth,” J. Michael Spooner

In these next few posts I will look at these different groups and why each one finds these myths captivating.  I’ll start with Nicholas Notovitch and Levi Dowling’s versions of the myth, since they are the two writers who invented the myth.  Far from being the kind of New Age syncretism we associate with the tales of Jesus in India today, I argue these two tales were very much products of their colonial time.

I’ll be using the framework posed by Edward Said, who asked Western scholars of “the Orient” (or “the East”) to consider the ways in which their depictions of the Orient served to define Occidental (Western) self-identity.  What do the kinds of dualities we construct about other cultures say about ourselves?  An obvious example is the way some Western colonial p[owers painted themselves as civilized to justify the “white man’s burden” of civilizing other cultures.  Said focused on Western depictions of the Arabic world, but scholars of Buddhism such as Philip Almond and Donald S. Lopez, Jr. extended his framework to early Western images of Buddhism.

First, these early myths reflected contemporary textualization of Buddhism.  The Victorian era saw the beginning of Buddhist Studies in the gathering of ancient texts and the decoding of their languages.  One of the most famous of these textual scholars was Thomas Rhys Davids, a British colonial officer in Sri Lanka who founded the Pali Text Society.  Rhys Davids and other colonial scholars saw in the texts of early Buddhism a purely rational religion, free from the supernaturalism and superstition then criticized in Christianity.  Unfortunately, living Buddhism failed to satisfy these standards.  By bringing ancient Buddhist texts to Britain and claiming that these represented true Buddhism, colonial scholars created a realm of discourse where they appropriated Buddhism.  True Buddhism was not in Asia, but in the university libraries of Europe!

The Jesus of India, like Rhys Davids and his colleagues, learns about Buddhism through texts:

“When the just Issa had acquired the Pali language, he applied himself to the study of the sacred scrolls of the Sutras.  After six years of study, Issa, whom the Buddha had elected to spread his holy word, could perfectly expound the sacred scrolls.” (Notovitch, “The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ,” VI.3-4)

The text does not mention Jesus engaged in Buddhist ritual or meditation.  For Jesus as for Rhys Davids, Buddhism is entirely a textual object.  Jesus learns the texts of Buddhism, then becomes the best teacher of it there is – so good that he crowds believe he is the Buddha reincarnated!  Jesus does the same with other religions, learning about them as entirely textual affairs.

Second, Notovitch and Dowling map Catholic-Protestant debates onto Buddhism and Hinduism.  Many of the early British scholars of Buddhism were from Protestant backgrounds.  They disdained Catholicism as a religion of an ignorant laity, meaningless ritual, and an authoritarian priesthood.  When the Victorians discovered Buddhism, they cast the Buddha as a Protestant reformer:

“Buddhism in Asia, like Protestantism in Europe, is a revolt of nature against spirit, of humanity against caste, of individual freedom against the despotism of an order, of salvation by faith against salvation by sacraments.”  (James Freeman Clarke, “Buddhism: or,  the Protestantism of the East,” 1869)

This is reflected in the Jesus in India stories, where Jesus inveighs against the wicked Brahmin priests who exploit the lower castes in the name of their arcane and pointless rituals.  For example, he chastizes the Hindus for perpetuating the caste system:

“And Jesus said no more to them, but looking up to heaven he said, ‘My Father-God, who was, and is, and ever more shall be; who holds within thy hands the scales of justice and of right; Who in the boundlessness of love has made all men to equal be. The white, the black, the yellow and the red can look up in thy face and say, Our Father-God. Thou Father of the human race, I praise thy name.’  And all the [Hindu] priests were angered by the words which Jesus spoke; they rushed upon him…” (Dowling, The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, 24.15-19)

Like Catholicism, Hinduism is portrayed as religion of unreasonable authority, of arcane rites that the people neither understand nor benefit from, of sacred knowledge kept in the hands of the few.  In both texts, the Hindu priests try to kill Jesus for saying these things, just as the Jews did in the canonical gospels.  In neither text does he perform this kind of rebuke against Buddhists.

jesus_meditating_forestAlthough neither Notovitch nor Dowling tell the same story about Jesus mainstream Christianity did or does, there is one way in which they are very traditionally Christian.  Their unorthodox Jesus is still the Lord of the World.  In Dowling’s narrative, he even portrays the “seven sages of the world” (great sages from Egypt, Persia, Judea, Greece, India, Assyria, and China) bowing down to Jesus as the fulfillment of all their wisdom.  Jesus is no longer King of the Jews alone, but of all the world.  This is hardly the kind of total syncretism we think of in the New Age Jesus in India narratives!

In my next post, I’ll examine the Ahmadiyya Muslims’ belief that Jesus escaped from Judea after his crucifixion and migrated to Kashmir.

Why Jesus Went to India, Part One.

No, I don’t think he did. When I ask “Why did Jesus go to India?”, what I mean is “Why do we feel the need to create stories of Jesus going to India?”  For these myths, though scorned by scholars, are popular with many devotees of New Age or other alternative spiritualities.  They show how myths about Jesus can be created for any purpose.  Jesus just becomes a useful mythological heuristic device.

I first began research these myths in a course I took last year on the Bible and postcolonialism.  I saw then, and still hold now, that these narratives are inseparable from a colonial context.  I also saw that virtually no scholar had examined the subject.  I was going to present my continuing researches at the regional AAR meeting last month, but my car broke down and I was unable to make it.


Jesus in India myths take two basic forms: those that portray him going there between 12 and 30, and those that portray him migrating there from Judea and living to die of old age.  In this first post I will give a brief overview of the originators of both of these myths.

The first mention of Jesus’ trip to India that I know of was written by Nicholas Notovitch, a Russian journalist and explorer.  His 1894 book The Unknown Life Of Jesus Christ claimed to translate a manuscript which Notovitch saw at Hemis Monastery about Jesus’ travels in India and Tibet.  Needless to say, it caused quite a controversy in his time!  Although famed philologist Max Muller travelled to Hemis Monastery and discovered Notovitch had never been there, the myth persisted and was echoed in Theosophical doctrine.

zzlevi_dowling01In 1907, a Civil War chaplain named Levi Dowling wrote The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ.  Dowling did not claim to have found a manuscript, but experienced a series of revelatory visits to the “Akashic realm” in deep meditation cultivated over forty years.  Dowling’s Jesus is very ambitious, travelling not only to India and Tibet, but to Persia, Greece, Assyria, and Egypt.  Although it makes laughingly implausible history, Dowling’s astrological vision continues to inspire New Age practitioners and conspiracy theorists convinced churches are hiding the truth.

Mirza_Ghulam_Ahmad_(c._1897)The second type of Jesus in India myths, the myth of Jesus going to India after his Judean ministry, originates with the Ahmadi Muslims of Pakistan.  Ahmadiyya is a late-19th century Islamic revivalist movement seeking to reform the Islamic umma and reunite it against British colonizers.  Its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, wrote a 1909 tome claiming that Jesus did not die on the cross.  He went into a coma, woke up, and migrated to Kashmir, where he died at 120.  If this sounds incredible, rest assured that the evidence is clear: his tomb can still be found today!

It is impossible to refute the belief that Jesus went to India.  After all, there was trade between Rome and India, so it is possible that Jesus was an international explorer.  However, it is quite possible to question the validity of the “evidence” that Jesus ever went to India.  This has been done quite well by other scholars, so I will not re-invent the wheel.

In the next post in this series, I will examine the first type of Jesus in India myth, showing how it is a creation of the Orientalist imagination.

Middle English Mondays: “Queynte” and Sexual Euphemisms.

Last week I was unable to continue my “Middle English Mondays” because of finals.  But here I am, with the most vulgar blog post topic I have so far: Chaucer’s wordplay on “queynte,” a word that sounds very similar to Middle English “cunte.”  I trust you can figure out what the latter word means!

Eve Siebert at Skeptical Humanities has a great post on this word:

The word that Chaucer uses is not “cunt,” but “queynte.” “Queint,” as a noun, literally means “a clever or curious device or ornament” (Middle English Dictionary) or an “elegant, pleasing thing” (Riverside Chaucer). When used to refer to a woman’s genitalia, it is both a euphemism and a pun.

Her post explains the most well-known puns on “queynte” in The Canterbury Tales, so I won’t detail how the word shows up in “The Miller’s Tale” or “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue.”  Instead I will look at both how the word shows up the The House of Fame.

The House of Fame is one of Chaucer’s dream-visions, a medieval genre in which a protagonist experiences an allegorical dream, often with a didactic dream guide.  Dream visions often drew heavily on classical myth.

The House of Fame is perhaps Chaucer’s most enigmatic dream-vision.  Scholars aren’t even sure whether it was left incomplete or has a deliberately ambiguous ending.  In one of its dream-episodes, Chaucer enters the Temple of Venus and reads the story of Dido and Aeneas:

What shulde I speke more queynte,
Or peyne me my wordes peynte
To speke of love? Hyt wol not be;
I kan not of that faculte.
And eke to telle the manere
How they aqueynteden in fere,
Hyt were a long proces to telle,
And over-long for yow to dwelle. (lines 245-252)

In other words: Why should I speak more elegantly of their love?  I know not how, and also to tell how they became acquainted in love – it would take too long to tell the story.  I love the pun here on the first “queynte,” in the sense of clever or elegant, and the word “aqueynteden,” equivalent to the modern word “acquainted.”  Chaucer here insinuates that their becoming acquainted has something to do with her queynte.

Given the word “queynte” has dropped out of modern English, this wordplay doesn’t translate well, and the most that one modern translator can convey is

Why should I speak more artfully or strive to paint my words in speaking of love?

That said, I do admire Neville Coghill’s modern rendering of the queynte wordplay in “The Miller’s Tale” (explained in Siebert’s post above):

Students are sly, and giving way to whim, / He made a grab and caught her by the quim

“Quim” is not a word we hear much these days (I had to look it up) but Coghill manages to preserve both the rhyme scheme and the wordplay.  I find it fascinating how hard it is to translate even Middle English, a language so similar to ours especially in Chaucer’s dialect.  If you want to read more on Chaucerian language, check out his other uses of the word “queynte” or just read his blog.  Also, in honor of “Whan That Aprille Day,” I hope to have a review of Simon Horobin’s book on Chaucerian English.

Ancient Languages Blog Carnival: Call for Contributers!

In a reply to Brian LePort’s question about biblioblogs, I offered up an idea:

Personally, I would like to see a site like Patheos focusing on learning ancient languages. It could bring together classics, biblical studies, linguists, Sanskritists studying Hinduism or Buddhism, medievalists, etc.

I don’t think this is likely to happen any time soon.  But in the meantime, I am going to see if I can get a blog carnival together on learning and using ancient languages.


The rules are simple:

  1. The topic can be about any ancient language, from cuneiform to Classical Chinese.  It can be about anything related to the language.  But I’d especially like posts that engage with ancient texts (manuscripts, epigraphy, etc.) and use ancient languages rather than writing about them.  
  2. Of course, I’m hoping all posts can be written in a way that is accessible to those who haven’t studied any ancient languages.
  3. I fully intend this to be cross-disciplinary.  So whether you are a classicist working with Sophocles, a biblical scholar examining Samuel, or a scholar of Hinduism reading Sanskrit, I’m interested in what you have to say.
  4. Feel free to send me stuff that you are submitting to other great blog carnivals, such as the Biblical Studies Carnival or the upcoming Patristics Carnival.  I don’t mind overlap!
  5. Please send your submissions in by Wednesday, April 30, at midnight.  You can comment here or email me at

I look forward to reading your ideas!

Blogging and the Value of Conciseness.

Recently Brian LePort asked, “Are biblioblogs dying?“:

I know for some this is pointless, but for others of us biblioblogs were our first microphone to join a broader discussion, our first means of interacting with scholars to whom we didn’t have direct access, and a place to share what we’ve learned or to read what others have learned. Is this changing? It seems to me that it is.

Although I have only been blogging a short time, Brian LePort’s reflections on the dangers of student blogging made me second-guess myself the day after I bought this domain.  Now he is making me thinking about the advantages of blogging!  Why bother blogging if it may be a dying art?  My reply:

Blogging forces me to write in a concise, punchy style far from the lengthy, formal fashion I use for term papers. Yet it also tends toward more depthy and lengthy thought than a typical tweet or facebook status. And even if family and friends comprise most of my readership, I have had some interesting conversations with them as they read my blog then “reply” to me in person or on the phone.

I blog because blogging’s mix of brevity and depth makes me a better writer.

When I was in community college, I took a course where we had to write one-page papers.  In that one page, we had to give broad overviews of shifts in Western culture, while citing three primary sources.  Another professor, for a course in early medieval literature, made every student in the class present their term paper in two minutes.  But the most extreme school of concise writing were the three years I spent writing 150-word abstracts for the Bay Area Honors Symposium, a conference for community college honors students to present their original research.

I learned how to make my writing lapidary and action-packed, trying to convey as much nuance as possible in each word.  These have been the most growing opportunities for me as a writer and presenter.  Blogging forces me to be that brief on a regular basis.  While every blogger has a different average length for a blog post, it is an axiom of the internet that peoples’ attention spans are short.  My personal limit is 500-600 words.

The brevity of blogging, I’ve found, is very different from papers for courses.  Usually my structure and style are good enough on the first go to get an A.  But if I adapt that essay into a blog post, as I did with my first Chaucer post, I have to commit a lot of triage to make it a workable blog post.  When I only have 500 words, I am checking and re-checking, forced to narrow down my essential point.

What do you get out of blogging?  How has it helped your spiritual and intellectual life?

Is any language truly “dead”?

You may guess from the title of my blog that I don’t agree with calling any language “dead.”  Of course I admit that Latin is no longer spoken on street corners.  It no longer has the native speakers requisite for a linguist to deem it a living language.  I just don’t like the word “dead.”

The Ancient Bookshelf links to this great documentary on Ge’ez, the ancient liturgical language of the Ethiopian Christian Church:

Around 4:30 the narrator, Ge’ez speaker Fisseha Tadesse, addresses the question of whether or not Ge’ez is a dead language.  He admits that yes, nobody is conducting business in it.  But it is used in chant, prayer, and theological discourse by a living religious tradition.  Is it truly dead, he asks?  Not really.

There are some ancient languages, such as Greek and Hebrew, that are by no means dead, though they (at least Greek) may be unrecognizable.  But I don’t even want to call Latin or Sumerian dead.  These languages live on in the scholars who are passionate about their lives and literatures.  They live on every time someone reads about Inanna and Dumuzi, or every time someone opens Wheelock’s Latin.

For a living perspective on another ancient biblical language, check out the Smithsonian’s profile of modern Aramaic, which may lose all its native speakers within decades.

Middle English Mondays: “Wode” in the Canterbury Tales.

chaucerOne of the joys of my Chaucer class this quarter has been reading the original Middle English text.  People often toss about the term “Old English” to refer to any old-fashioned English.  But in medievalist lingo, Old English refers only to the texts of pre-Norman Invasion Anglo-Saxon.  (Think Beowulf.)  Middle English (roughly) covers everything from 1150-1500, the beginning of the Renaissance and the invention of the printing press.  Whereas Old English might as well be its own language, Middle English is not hard to pick up.  As one of my professors put it, “Middle English is modern English with a dictionary.”  Chaucer’s Middle English is relatively easy, as he was writing from London, in a dominant dialect that looks more familiar to us than a more regional dialect of the tongue.

But that doesn’t make Chaucer’s language simple.  He is a real wordsmith, playing with multiple meanings of words for his broader goals of creating stories with “sentence and solaas” — meaning and entertainment.  This series of blog posts will look at some of the wordplay I’ve encountered in Chaucer this quarter.  Much of this is untranslatable, so I’m also making an argument for reading Chaucer in the original.

I’ll start with the word “wode” in its three meanings.  My main argument is that the triple meaning of wode in the “General Prologue” reveals Chaucer’s connections between physical wood, insanity, and the satirized failings of the first and second estate.

One.  The most basic meaning of wood is the one that has survived: dead trees.  In the yeoman’s portrait, Chaucer describes him as a man who

Of wodecraft wel koude he al the usage.

In other words, he is good at “wodecraft,” or wood-working.

Two.  Chaucer also uses wood in its other sense of “madness; also, an overmastering emotion, specifically rage or fury.”  He does so in two places.  First, in the portrait of the lecherous and alcoholic summoner, he writes:

And for to drynken strong wyn, reed as blood;

Thanne wolde he speke and crie as he were wood

When the summoner gets drunk (as he does often) he shouts out random Latin phrases he has learned at the ecclesiastic court.  His drunken shouts are like those of a crazy man!

In the portraits of the monk and the manciple, Chaucer brings out the most satirical uses of wood.  Chaucer, writing an estates satire, pokes fun at both the first and second estates, the clergy and the nobility.  In the monk’s portrait, he writes: “

What sholde he studie and make hymselven wood,

Upon a book in cloystre alwey to poure,

Despite being a Benedictine monk, vowed to a life of ora et labora, this monk is more interested in sporting and hunting in the great outdoors than in illuminating manuscripts in a dusty scriptorium.  But Chaucer himself is a learned man who has pored over and written many books.  The only one who fears that reading books will drive one mad is this jockish monk!

Chaucer also uses wood satirically in the manciple’s portrait.  A manciple is a purchaser for a monastery or a lord, managing a house of some kind.  Chaucer describes the men this manciple has worked for:

Of maistres hadde he mo than thries ten,
That weren of lawe expert and curious,
Of which ther were a duszeyne [dozen] in that hous
Worthy to been stywardes of rente and lond
Of any lord that is in engelond,
To make hym lyve by his propre good
In honour dettelees [debtless] (but if he were wood),
Or lyve as scarsly as hym list desire; (Chaucer 576-583)

This manciple has worked for over thirty masters, a dozen of whom were wise enough to be the stewards of the property of any lord in England.  These lords could live so nicely that they would be debtless in honor “but if he were wood” – unless they were crazy.  Wood here refers to the madness of an already-powerful lord wanting more power, more wealth, more luxury, than any sane human might want.

Three.  While it doesn’t explicitly show up in the General Prologue, Chaucer was likely playing on the third meaning of wood/wode: a blue dye or the woad-plant used to create that dye.  In medieval England, blue was a color of royalty.  So the lords who desire to be too wode (blue, or noble) are really wode (crazy).  The vanity and greed of the wealthy is actually insanity!

For some modern-day woad users, click here:

For some modern-day woad users, click here:


It is well known that Chaucer is a great satirist, poking fun at the three medieval “estates” of clergy, nobility, and the “everyone else” estate.  Here he exploits the triple nuance of this word to create powerful satire.  But since the meaning of “wood” as “crazy” disappeared in the nineteenth century, this pun can’t be translated into contemporary renderings of the Canterbury Tales!

If this tempts you to read Chaucer in the original, then get yourself a Riverside Chaucer and check out the Middle English Dictionary online.  If not, then continue onto my next post.

The Minimum Bible

Check out the Minimum Bible project:

Welcome to THE MINIMUM BIBLE, a graphic design collection by Joseph Novak. In an age of information overflow, sometimes we need to strip away the many words which obfuscate meaning and rely on simple symbolic shapes to introduce us to themes beyond the text. THE MINIMUM BIBLE is one attempt to portray biblical themes and texts visually using a minimalist style with a found-item overlay.
Thanks to BLT blog for directing me to this.