Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Itsy Bitsy Idea Went Up...

Towards the end of class, Professor Fulton Brown noted that Christ and hunting were often associated. Although many heroic figures were hunters (and some biblical figures), the Church condemned hunting and the literary tradition turned to a rhetoric in which Jesus was preylike and evil was "hunting" good souls.

It struck me that perhaps this rhetoric of Jesus-as-prey isn't so absurd after all. Although hunters had historically been glorified, Christ and prey have one thing in common - the necessity of the death. I don't know much about medieval theology, but I have always been under the impression that the death of Christ was theologically necessary. It was necessary both because he was a human (and thus mortal) and also in the sense of needing to die for man's sins so other people can achieve salvation. Similarly, we discussed that hunting wasn't just about the thrill of the chase - it was also about the results. These results ranged from meat and skins to increased safety (in the case of crop pests or dangerous animals). In these ways (for both peasants who were hunting for food and nobles who were hunting for glory and security), the death of the animal is necessary.

However, this necessity doesn't alter the veneration of the animal. We talked in class about how animals like the stag were regarded with some respect, unlike the more common 'stinky' animals. We've already covered that nature and animals commanded respect both as messages from God showing his plan and necessary to certain lifestyles (both in the sense of taking good care of one's farm animals and in the good training of noble animals like the falcon and the horse). The highly ritualized form of the kill (at least in noble hunting) also gives the animal respect - it wouldn't exactly bring glory to the noble in question to slay a rabbit, everyone involved has to recognize that the person is slaying a respectable animal.

To get to the point (which I intended to only write a paragraph about!): Perhaps the entire Christ-as-prey and vice versa in medieval literature came about because the people involved recognized that in both instances a respected creature must die for the good of society.

So, does this make sense to anyone? Was this just a good way of relating theology to real life or did it have an impact on the consciences of hunters?

1 comment:

  1. This makes sense to me! Yes, I think the necessity of the death is definitely at play in the image of Christ-as-hunted-stag. Would it play the same role in the image of the soul as hunted stag, I wonder? The soul is pursued by evil (the hunter), but does not die unless it is overcome. Nor is it clear that the soul has to die in the same way that Christ does. Hmmm. Now I'm not sure what to do with the image myself!