Thursday, April 15, 2010

Say That Again...?

The Good and Evil Serpent: How a Universal Symbol Became Christianized (The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library)

"I think we can hear the voices of those who are being freed from the dogmatism of literalism to spiritualism in some of the songs of Sting and Enya."
--James H. Charlesworth, The Good and Evil Serpent, p. 9

This book is an extensive overview of snake imagery in the art and literature of the ancient Mediterranean world.  I appreciate the project, and I really want to like the book, but it keeps saying stuff that makes me facepalm.

I will give it credit, though, in that it is trying to navigate between the view that snakes are universal symbols of evil and that snakes are mostly symbols of good.  So far, although the author to my mind sometimes lets his imagination run too free when he's interpreting ancient artifacts (this is a constant problem with the interpretation of archaeological finds), his overarching thesis appears thus far to be that what any particular snake symbol represents will vary depending on--surprise!--its context, though the range of meanings a snake can have is necessarily limited by the snake's actual anatomical attributes.  If Charlesworth could stick to his topic without interjections about his musical preferences, this would be a fine book.
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