Sunday, 30 July 2017

Canaanite DNA and a Failure to Read

Lonergan in his work issues a four-fold imperative: Be Attentive. Be Intelligent. Be Reasonable. Be Responsible. In biblical studies, there is perhaps no attentiveness more foundational than simply reading the biblical text and paying close attention to details. A recent article in the Telegraph, entitled "Study disproves the Bible's suggestion that the ancient Canaanites were wiped out," exemplifies what happens when such attentiveness is lacking. The article reports that a comparison of ancient DNA with that of modern populations demonstrates that modern Syrian and Lebanon populations are descended from Bronze Age Canaanites. It then asserts that this contests the biblical claim that Israel exterminated all the ancient Canaanites. The difficulty is that the biblical text never really makes this claim, and moreover is really quite explicit in stating that the ancient Canaanites were not all exterminated. Yes, as the article notes, the biblical text records the God of Israel commanding the ancient Israelites to destroy all the Canaanites, and we also find in the text assurances that he will deliver them into Israel's hands. That however is not the same as saying that it happened. If you ask me to carry out task X and say that you will help me in doing so, it does not necessarily follow that I will successfully complete task X. And indeed, the books of Joshua and Judges make clear that certain portions of the population were not wiped out, and throughout the subsequent historical writings we again and again see "indigenous" Canaanite populations and persons playing a significant role in Israelite history (the Phoenicians, for instance, are to a large extent just Canaanites in first-millennium drag). The biblical writers acknowledge that the Canaanites were not wiped out. They acknowledge, and they lament--for they see these people of the land as perhaps ultimately the single most significant external threat to Israel's existence. (N.B.: yes, I am aware that the Israelites were themselves in some way related to the Canaanite populations, a fact intimated by not only linguistics--ancient Hebrew being in fact a language of the Canaanite group--but also by an attentive reading of Genesis. I am talking here about the biblical writers' understanding of their own past, and in that understanding Israel is seen as more or less wholly distinct from the Canaanites).

Looking more specifically at the details in this study, we find that the ancient material used to produce the DNA profile came from Sidon. Now, that's really quite significant, as Joshua never reports that Sidon was destroyed, while Judges 1:31 lists it explicitly as a city that was never conquered by Israel. Moreover, Sidon appears repeatedly as a non-Israelite city throughout the balance of the Tanakh. In other words, again, there is no biblical claim that the people of Sidon were ever wiped out and in fact a biblical awareness that they weren't. Far from contesting the biblical claims on the matter, the DNA confirms them. Given what we find in the biblical text, Sidon is one of those places that we should most expect to find genetic continuity. In fact, the absence thereof would require greater explanation than the presence, if the DNA evidence is to be related historically to the biblical narrative. Confirmation of a claim rarely suffices to disprove said claim.

Although I have never made a systematic study of the matter, I am generally impressed by the extent to which various streams of data tend to cohere not just when it comes to biblical history but to ancient history more generally. My favourite go-to example is the founding of Rome. The ancient Roman accounts suggest that the city was founded sometime between the late-9th and mid-8th centuries B.C.E. (753 is the best known but not the only date that can be calculated from these accounts, but all cluster within an approximately sixty or so year range). Interestingly, recent archaeological discoveries have shown that it was at approximately that same time that Rome came into its own as an urban centre, and in fact that it is perhaps only from c. 750ish that we can properly describe it as a city at all. Of course, it doesn't necessarily follow that Romulus and Remus were real persons, nor that they did everything attributed to them, etc., but it does follow that the Romans were able to record with reasonable accuracy the foundation of their city. I have over the years become increasingly convinced that when ancient persons sought to record their history with reasonable accuracy (and of course it is not a foregone conclusion that any given group was interested in such record-keeping, although my suspicion is that such an interest tends to correlate with the movement towards urbanization), they generally had the tools to do so. The DNA evidence reported by the Telegraph seems to further support that this is the case.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

The Virtue of Memory

I recently was involved in a FB discussion regarding the significance of "memory" for historical Jesus studies in particular, and biblical studies more generally. The background for this is the epochal shift in HJ studies that occurred with Dunn's 2003 Jesus Remembered. This led to a surge of interest in the question of memory within the study of the historical Jesus. I should say "renewed interest," because memory had been addressed at various times throughout the two centuries of modern historical study of Jesus' life, but never in as sophisticated a fashion as it has been addressed since 2003. In the work of most notably Chris Keith, Anthony Le Donne, and Rafael Rodriguez there has emerged a focus, borne under the general rubric of "social memory theory," upon the concrete operations of memory. Such focus is virtually unparalleled in the history of historical Jesus scholarship (perhaps only Birger Gerhardsson's work in Memory and Manuscript comes close to evincing such a concerted focus). This should all be celebrated, and the genuine insights found within this work integrated into a more robust understanding of Christian origins.

Nonetheless, I have three concerns, for want of a better term, each of which came out in that FB discussion, and which I would like to give more systematic form here. First, much of what the memory theorists within HJ studies have done is already found in earlier scholarship. In Dunn, for instance, in Jesus Remembered explicitly invokes Meyer as the basis for his hermeneutical approach to the historical Jesus. The question: what does it bring that wasn't there before? Chris Keith, who graciously participated in the discussion mentioned above, provided a quite legitimate answer: it provides a more intelligible framework with which to integrate the insights and concerns of that earlier scholarship (my paraphrase of his statement, but one that I believe to be a fair representation). Insofar as the work of discovery entails the movement from lesser to greater intelligibility, that is a quite compelling answer.

That answer leads to the next concern: how does one integrate the framework of "social memory" into a yet broader framework, one that includes a more comprehensive view in which memory is relativized in the literal and non-pejorative sense of being placed in relationship with other aspects of our human existence? Here let us distinguish between personal, cultural, and social dimensions of human existence (the former more or less corresponding to what we often mean when we use the term "individual"). I would suggest that social memory, as it has been worked out in historical Jesus studies, probably most fully pertains to what we might describe as the cultural dimension, in that it has to do with our collective work of making sense of the world and our place in it. That has entailments for both the social and the personal, but the cultural becomes the locus for its work.

That suggestion leads to a third concern, one that in fact has nothing to do with the work as carried out by such persons as Keith, Le Donne, and Rodriguez. There has I think emerged a tendency to suppose that when these scholars talk about memory they are talking about personal (or individual) memory. We might describe this as a psychological reductionism, wherein properly anthropological (in the sense of the discipline that historically focuses upon culture) and sociological insights are treated as if they were psychological ones. And like most reductionisms, it tends rather to miss the mark, for the simple fact that it is studying the wrong set of relationships: not that between memory and culture or society, which what is what is actually in question when social memory theory is utilized in HJ studies, but rather that between memory and the person. It must again be emphasized however that this reductionism is not present in the work of Keith, Le Donne, and Rodriguez, but in fact precisely the opposite: an effort to overcome a tendency to reduce all memory to that of the individual. And it seems to me that that anti-reductionist spirit is perhaps the single most significant contribution that this work has made.

Friday, 28 July 2017

International Institute for Method in Theology

I have the incredible privilege in being involved in a truly amazing development, namely the International Institute for Method in Theology. This institute has been more than thirty years in the making, since the initial discussions that led to the foundation of the Lonergan Research Institute in Toronto, and finds ground at least thirty years before that in Lonergan's reflections upon his own work in Insight. It is at least sixty years in the making. Moreover, the main force behind establishing this institute, Robert Doran, explicitly envisions the work with which the institute is involved taking centuries. The vision is nothing less than to provide the basis for a new way of doing theology for an age that has yet to come.

I believe that this is urgently needed. I don't think it takes much for thoughtful women and men to apprehend that we are living through epochal events. This is most immediately evident on the level of technology, especially but not limited to the internet and global transportation. I have access at my fingertips, in my own home, to more information than I could ever have found in any library when I was a child. I can be in real-time face-to-face communication with people the world over, again from the comfort of my own home, using a computer that is entirely mobile. I can be at virtually any major metropolitan centre on the face of this planet within forty-eight hours, and many within twelve. The first two of these developments were unimaginable even in Lonergan's day (and he passed away in only 1984!), and the last unimaginable in his youth (fun fact: Lonergan was born on the first anniversary of the Wright brothers' famous first flight at Kitty Hawk). But it goes well beyond the technological, and is often expressed in terms of a global foreboding. These technological advances have come with a cost. Among that cost: we are pushing our biosphere towards the limits of its capacity to sustain human life. Another cost: these technological advances are all too easily weaponized, either in the most brutally obvious ways possible when we build bombers and fighter planes, but also in the capacity to use modern media to police and manipulate populations. And this weaponization points at a deeper malaise, one that Doran, building upon Lonergan, identifies as a largely cultural one but not one without social or personal dimensions.

What is happening, I would propose, is that healing has not been adequately mated with creating. Lonergan talks a great deal about healing and creating in history. Healing works "from above" upon our existing institutions, ways of life, etc., and corrects error (intellectual, moral, practical) contained therein, while creating works "from below" to build new institutions, ways of life, etc. Ideally, these two vectors meet in the middle. I would argue that we have seen much healing in recent times. We have made tremendous advances in ameliorating racism, sexism, and other virulent -isms. This is all healing, and has fruits for society, culture, and persons. It is incomplete and unfinished, but it is healing. In theological terms, it represents ultimately the operations of divine grace in human history, as much as these operations might be mediated through human persons, cultures, and societies (and there we would want to talk about cooperative grace, but no matter). But this healing has not been met by a comparably radical revision in the institutions that define our social lives. Despite the advent of capitalism, we still work with an essentially feudal social formation. The landlord has transformed into the CEO, but the basic form remains: someone else owns that upon which I, the poor labourer, work. This radically hierarchical system--wherein hierarchy is not a functional matter organized to facilitate decision-making but rather is based largely in accidents of birth and must sustain itself through the sometimes overt, sometimes covert, exercise of force--has indeed been healed of many of its more extreme abuses. Nonetheless, this essentially feudal system has extended globally, such that we now have just a few lords who ultimately control most of the capital and leave us billions of poor commoners to eek out a meager living (indeed, it is shocking really to realize how easy it is to think about the global economy as a medieval landscape, filled with lords who control the land, tenant farmers who manage to find a plot that they can rent from the lords, and labourers seeking, but not always finding, employment from those tenant farmers). Such a framework is ill-suited to either accommodate the egalitarian forces unleashed by the healing vector, or to deal with the terrifying reality of ecological disaster. Radically new institutional formations are needed.

In my own understanding, the International Institute for Method in Theology aims to help produce these new formations. It aims to do so by engaging explicitly with what Lonergan describes as the scale of values: vital, social, cultural, personal, and religious. It moreover, and perhaps more importantly in the long-run, is an experiment in the sort of new institutional formations that must come into being. Its decentralized structure perhaps represents exactly what is needed for the future, not just for institutes of this type but of our institutions more broadly. Perhaps such decentralization is exactly what is needed as we learn to think globally. Or perhaps not. One of the great joys of being involved with such a project is that we get to discover whether or not such transformations are needful or not.

Monday, 17 July 2017

The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture

I've been thinking a lot about the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament (terms which are not quite identical, as the majority of Christians operate with an Old Testament that includes several books not found in the Hebrew Bible) lately. This is the result of two related realities. One, there has been considerably more concerted Lonerganian engagement with the New Testament than the HB/OT. Two, no NT scholar worth her or his salt can proceed in ignorance of the HB/OT. This has me wondering how a more thorough Lonerganian engagement with the HB/OT might look (clues in that direction come notably from the work of Sean McEvenue, although his more theoretical interests differ notably from my own), and also how my own Lonerganian engagements with the NT might suffer from the relative dearth of such engagement with the HB/OT.

It is with such two-fold wonder in mind that I have been working my way through Yoram Hazony's 2012 monograph, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture. I'm just about halfway through the book, but thought I'd share some initial thoughts here. Hazony wants to argue that the Hebrew scriptures contain an "abstract" (his word) philosophy on par with that of the great achievements of Greek philosophy in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE. I am sympathetic to this project in principle, as I very much think that it is of significant value to understanding how the Hebrew scriptures (as well as the additional books of Jewish origin that are now found in the Christian Old Testament) fit into the long (and ongoing) development of human thought and consciousness. As a historian, I think this of great value in its own right, and as a historian who often engages with doctrinal and systematic theologians I recognize that this is an area of investigation wherein these disciplines can come into contact in a way that mutually enriches each another. As I ponder such matters, I find significant insights in Hazony's work. But I wonder if Hazony has fully wrestled with the reality and significance of form. He asks whether in Genesis through 2 Kings (which he treats as a single work called "The History of Israel"; we'll leave to one side the propriety of operating in this way, and rather follow his convention for heuristic purposes) there are "arguments of a general nature" (his term). He answers his own question in the affirmative, arguing that the use of doublets, triplets, etc., of similar narratives evinces a series of judgments around particular character types. Judah and Joseph, in his reading, become not simply figures within the narrative, but rather character types who relate to each other as do, for instance, Joshua and Caleb, or David and Solomon. Effectively, he argues, this makes "The History of Israel" a work of political theory. Yet, when I see the question "Does the Hebrew scriptures [with a focus upon "The History of Israel"] make arguments of a general nature?", a more basic question occurs to me: Does "The History of Israel" make arguments at all?

Hazony's particular readings of these figures and their significance might be quite on point. It might be exactly what the writers of the Hebrew scriptures intended to convey. The difficulty though is the amount of work that he has to undertake to get to these readings. By contrast, it doesn't take much to read Plato's Republic as a work of political theory. And I think that this difference is significant. It gets to what Lonergan calls the differentiation of consciousness, a process by which humanity learns to distinguish between commonsense, theory, interiority, and religiosity. In Plato, political theory seems to have clearly begun to develop a sort of autonomy apart from commonsense (defined as the things that a people take as given, without reflection). Precisely because "The History of Israel" is narrative, with little in the way of explicit theoretical reflection and argumentation, that autonomy is less evident in this work. In part, this likely to do with what Lonergan calls the level of the time. Although "The History of Israel" might have been finally brought together more or less as we recognize it around or slightly earlier than the age of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, much of the material therein likely goes back to the times of Homer and Hesiod. One should probably then not be surprised to find that it reflects a consciousness more at home at that earlier time than the later one. If we compared Plato and Aristotle to, say, Ecclesiastes, or to Sirach yet later, we might well find the gulf narrowed. And it is precisely this atemporal approach, that ignores the fact that literature of the 10th century B.C.E. perhaps reflects a very different world from literature of the 5th, that I find a bit off-putting in this work.

Lonergan and Bible FB

Hi, all. Towards the end of furthering public discussion of matters related to the intersection of Lonergan and biblical studies, I have created a Facebook group. All are welcome to join.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Lonergan and Space

Any reader of this blog should know that I love the word "development," which I loosely define as "continuity with change." Implicit in that definition of development is the qualifier "over time": development is continuity with change over time. The focus upon temporality has a deep pedigree in the western tradition. The Abrahamic traditions all declare that revelation--whether delivered to Moses or Isaiah or Jesus or Muhammad--occurs at definite moments in time. Things before the revelation differ from things after. While there are similar patterns in other traditions (the Buddha under the Bodhi Tree comes to mind immediately), it seems particularly prominent in the Abrahamic traditions. Yet, as Ben Meyer argued forcefully, the ancients struggled precisely to reckon with the dual reality that in these moments of differentiation there was yet continuity, and that such work of differentiation occurred not necessarily at select moments but rather throughout an ongoing temporal succession (even if particular moments might have been particularly significant in that succession). The intellectual techniques did not exist to adequately apprehend how something could continue to be itself yet be irreversibly and even radically transformed. The great breakthroughs of a Newman or a Lonergan consist not in small part of helping to bring us to terms with that continuity with change.

In this connection, it is interesting to note the extent to which the ancients associated the great moments of revelation with particular spaces. Sinai, Jerusalem, Mecca: all become metonyms for the particular moments of revelation associated with them (Jerusalem in particular becomes overburdened with such metonymy). No doubt this is related to the ancient inability to fully conceptualize continuity with change, or perhaps more precisely continuity with change was conceptualized in large part through concrete, material, spatial expressions. Sinai is always Sinai, even when its actual location is forgotten and it lives only in the imagination. Jerusalem is always Jerusalem, even when inaccessible due to exile or diaspora. Mecca is always Mecca, and the centrality of this space in the Muslim imagination helps accounts for the tradition's capacity to conceptualize itself as the grounds of an international ummah. These spaces become concrete expressions, even if only in the imagination, of continuity. They provide the site in which what Lonergan calls integrators can function, i.e. that pole of any dialectic that provides the necessary limiting factor that maintains the integrity of that which is undergoing change. At the same time, they become sites of change, as buildings and other structures are renovated and constructed to meet exigent needs, as new rituals and practices are introduced and old ones abandoned for a variety of reasons, as pilgrims undergo the transformation of their horizons that results from what they experience and discover in those spaces.

Of course, this happens not just in the great holy sites. It happens in synagogues, in churches, in mosques. These are more than just gathering spaces. We can see this reality vividly when the uniquely spatial dynamics of worship sites are denied or trivialized. The radically low church habit of thinking rented spaces to be sufficient for ecclesial purposes shows a profound dialectical distortion that denies the significance of space in the work of maintaining communal integration. It ignores the way that buildings take on a life of their own, and that this life provides remarkable anchorage for a community. (This of course differs from the communities that must rely upon rented spaces due entirely to exigency. They still cannot avail themselves of what a concrete, permanent space might provide, but in not denying the value of such they do not suffer the dialectical distortion that results from an inadequate understanding of community). There is something quite profound about going to Europe and visiting synagogues or churches or even the occasional mosque that has been in service to the community for centuries (sadly, the number of European synagogues for which that is the case has decreased significantly over the last hundred years). A community without a permanent space is always by definition a community without permanence.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Of Foundations

Writes Lonergan in Method in Theology:
[I]f one desires foundations for an ongoing, developing process, one has to move out of the static, deductivist style—which admits no conclusions that are not implicit in premisses—and into the methodical style—which aims at decreasing darkness and increasing light and keeps adding discovery to discovery.
In this single line, we can apprehend the cognitive deficiency that defines most every fundamentalism: these consist of static deductions which admit no conclusions that are not implicit in the premises. As an example of such deductions, Lonergan offers the following: "One must believe and accept whatever the bible or the true church or both believe and accept. But X is the bible or the true church or both. Therefore, one must believe and accept whatever X believes and accepts. Moreover, X believes and accepts a, b, c, d. … Therefore, one must believe and accept a, b, c, d...." The beliefs at which one arrives are implicit in the premise. Such foundations consist of really nothing but foundations. There is no actual work of building upon that foundation, but rather merely of describing the foundation in more precise detail. One never has more than a basement. Replace "bible" and "church" with "Party" or "Qu'ran," and it makes no cognitive difference. The style of thought remains unperturbed. That style is one that supposes that knowing is like looking: the truth is out there, already formed and ready to be seen; one just has to look in the right place.

By contrast, what Lonergan calls a methodical style defines the search for truth not by the sources to which it turns but rather by the manner in which it turns to the various sources of light that might be available. A methodical style consists at base of being attentive, intelligent, reasonable, and responsible, and this means accepting for oneself the heavy burden of being the ultimate arbiter of what one holds to be true. And that burden is indeed heavy: not everyone is up to it. This is because not everyone has learned how to be consistently and authentically attentive, intelligent, reasonable, and responsible. Such learning Lonergan grounds in conversion: to a self-transforming love that obviates hate and irrational fear; to a goodness that transcends narcissistic and parochial concerns; to an intellect that can readily distinguish between reason and the mere appearance of reason. Only the loving subject who desires the best for her or his fellows and is able and willing to cling to truth rather than error is truly prepared to carry out the methodical work of fashioning for her or his self an adequate foundation by which to most genuinely apprehend reality. Subjects lacking such love, goodness, or intellect might yet make many great discoveries. They might learn many secrets in heaven and on earth. Humanity might be better for their work. But the more excellent truths will remain forever closed to such persons, because hate and fear, narcissism and parochialism, irrationality and delusion, consist insuperable barriers to apprehension.

Becoming a loving subject concerned with the collective good and the apprehension of truth takes hard work, to be carried out in fear and trembling, and the various fundamentalisms of the world are for a large part simply a way by which to justify a refusal to carry out such work. They are the shortcuts preferred by the coward who fears the dark night of the soul. Such persons advert to jingoism rather than argumentation. They substitute all-caps for reason. They prefer bellicosity to dialogue. And frankly, they're the reason for most of our problems these days.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Noah, Abraham, and the Level of the Time

There is a long-standing habit of rejecting the morality of Genesis, and through it the God of Israel. We see it already in Marcion: the God of Israel is a vengeful god and thus cannot be the God of Jesus. We see it today in your more vacuous atheist attacks on Christianity (which often seem blithely unaware that such anti-Christian rhetoric is equally anti-Jewish). Marcion can be forgiven for what is a thoroughly ahistorical approach to reading ancient writings, but the person living on this side of the great breakthroughs in historical thinking achieved by the nineteenth-century cannot, especially when that person claims to stand in a position of moral and intellectual superiority above the single most influential tradition in human history (with its influence on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the tradition of ancient Israel can rightfully claim to have more fully shaped humanity than any other tradition, religious or otherwise). Such an ahistorical approach fails to reckon with a basic reality, namely that Genesis operates at which Lonergan calls the level of the time.

Let's take two examples: the flood and the non-sacrifice of Isaac. Denuded of details, the flood sounds horrific. The God (who will eventually become that) of Israel wipes out all but eight persons via torrential rains and flooding. It has the taint of genocide, as the nephilim--the "giants"--are all killed in the process. But details matter. The Genesis account indicates that the God of Israel did this not out of caprice or malice, but rather out of righteous repentance for creating a humanity that turned its thoughts and actions towards evil (Gen. 6:5-6). He preserves Noah because Noah is the one righteous man among his generation. This moral dimension is highlighted when we read comparable accounts from the ancient Near East. In these accounts, Enlil sends the flood to destroy humanity because they make too much noise. They disturb his rest. The "Noah" equivalent is saved because another god, Enki, warns him, but there is little sense that "Noah" receives this warning because he is particularly righteous. The ancient Israelites seem to have taken a typical pattern of ancient Near Eastern storytelling and invested it with a profound moral reflection upon good, evil, and their respective consequences. Yes, they said, the divine realm did indeed send the flood, but not because humanity was annoying but rather because humanity had turned its collective energies to evil. It was a profound reflection--a sort of early theodicy, really--written at the level of its time, using the resources at hand.

Or take the non-sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22. Certainly, read with a twentieth-century sensibility, the God of Israel comes off as a bit of schmuck. He commands Abraham to sacrifice his son. Abraham obeys, which doesn't necessarily make him come off as a particularly caring father, and then at the last minute the God of Israel intervenes by sending a ram to sacrifice in Isaac's place. This seems all quite cruel from our vantage point. But the story was not written from or to our vantage point. It was written from and to that of several millennia ago. And we know that at the very least the ancient Israelites understood that their neighbours engaged in the act of sacrificing their children to their gods. The extent to which such a practice existed in actuality is an open question, but it certainly existed in the Israelite imagination. This story responds to that reality by saying that Israel's God is not a God that requires one to sacrifice one's child. Restricted almost entirely to the device of storytelling to make that statement, the originators of this account must provide narrative action. Indeed, Genesis gives little indication that the persons responsible for its creation were even aware of the device of explication, whereby one relays a story and then says "And this story means X." Narrative action is almost entirely the medium of expression. It would not have been much of a story if the God of Israel just showed up and said "Hey, Abraham, just so you know, I don't expect you sacrifice Isaac." It would have been even less of a story if the God of Israel hadn't said or done anything at all. In fact, when one thinks about the task--convey through a story that the God of Israel does not demand human sacrifice--it is difficult to imagine something far off from what we find in Genesis 22.

The level of the time both enables and limits. The level of the time was such that the ancient Israelites had developed a morality capable of reflecting upon the question of divine goodness. This was a significant breakthrough. In humanist terms, this can be understood as the product ultimately of evolution, which led to the advent of an animal capable of such reflection, and of historical processes that led to ever-deepening reflections upon morality. In theological terms such a humanist understanding can be affirmed, but also understood as the work of divine grace. But the level of the time was limited almost entirely to storytelling as a means by which to conceive and articulate those reflections. Looking back, millennia later, as the inheritors of the moral and intellectual tradition to which they were contributing, these early efforts seem virtually barbaric. Such a judgment however seems quite ungrateful. We might call these early efforts "primitive," in the etymologically precise sense of coming first (or at least early) in a sequence, but that does not obviate the remarkable breakthroughs that are evident in these works. We, the heirs of such breakthroughs, might have moved well past them, but we can only do so because of the advances made by the ancients at the level of their times.