Oracular Thinking, Ancient and Modern
Political Forecasting in Ancient Greece and Modern America
As a student of ancient religions, I see parallels between the ancient Greek desire to know the future and the modern American urge to predict political outcomes. Both attempts at forecasting address the unpleasant situation of uncertainty and aversion to risk. While the underlying assumptions are worlds apart, the reasons for seeking wisdom from a Delphic oracle or a political forecaster are rooted in similar human anxieties.
HBO's The Leftovers probes the religious and nonreligious responses to a worldwide traumatic event—the “Sudden Departure,” a moment in which 2 percent of the world’s population inexplicably disappear. Religious responses include the emergence of new religious movements and new interpretations of older, more established religious traditions. Within these responses are references to scriptures. This article focuses on what the characters do with scripture. People do things with texts, in fictional worlds and the real world.
This site tracks the latest research project by Jill Marshall: the interpretation of cities from the New Testament: Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, Ephesos, Corinth, Thessoloniki ... Since cities so often are symbols in biblical interpretation and early discussions of Christian identity, I investigate how cities, cultural identity, and biblical interpretation interact in Christian discourse.
Dark currents have surfaced in the interpretation of Lazarus’s story, in which the weight is on Lazarus’s silence and death. Two rock songs in the last ten years have developed these currents: Bowie’s “Lazarus” (2016) and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Dig Lazarus Dig!” (2008). This article examines how both artists contemplate death, choice, and freedom through the figure of Lazarus.