Dockyards Ebooks Catalog
The appearance and rapid diffusion of new forms of infectious disease were made possible by Rome's legions, caravans, and sailing ships, which apparently brought new and often more virulent strains of disease back from southwest Asia and beyond. Incursions of Huns and Goths from eastern Europe, beginning in the third century, contributed further to what McNeill termed a confluence of disease pools. 39 Indeed, McNeill has suggested that by the early Christian era the Roman Empire was in an epidemiological position analogous to America in 1492. Although authors such as Livy, Suetonius, and Orosius recorded serious epidemics during the pre-Christian era, few seem to compare with the series of disease episodes that began in the mid-second century c.e.4 At this time and on numerous occasions during the centuries that followed, variants of the same diseases that later devastated Amerindian populations (smallpox, measles, malaria, plague) regularly wrecked havoc on the Roman Empire.
Whether they now really want that role or not, Europeans have been assigned the role and the responsibility of being the dominating people in the unfolding scheme of world history. It is they w ho discovered the other ecumenes and who gained domination over them by technology, force of arms, and the impact of horses, gunpowder, and caravels. This domination led them to ponder reality from the standpoint of domination, even where theology was concerned. But if we start to ponder things from the other end, from the standpoint of those dominated, then we see everything in a very different light. The theology formulated from the standpoint of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt was hardly akin to that formulated by the pharaoh and his priests.
Other reactions to portraits of Jesus are not only possible, but certainly more frequent in conscious experience. I may look at a crucifix and think that it is bad art, a bit of factory kitsch. Or I may look at it and recall how different Jesus may have looked in fact. Or, again, the sight of a crucifix may lead me to meditate on the many ways in which Jesus appears to me - in the consecrated bread and wine, in the faces of the needy, in the luminous transfigurations of human love. Jesus' physical body may be noted more as absent or as multiplied than as singular and specific. Still, if I am led by a piece of religious art to place myself at the foot of the cross, to walk with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, to follow his commands in a fishing boat on Galilee, I must also meditate on my reaction to his body, which must be sexed as human bodies are.
Another story in Genesis tells how God became disenchanted with all the evil in the world, and sent a great flood to destroy much of the wickedness. Only one good man, Noah, was allowed to escape with his family. He built a great boat, the ark, in which he, his sons and their wives, and all the birds and animals took refuge. Christians think of Noah as the second father of the human race, after Adam.
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