To Irene and Donald Grant (15 June 1947)

From Karl Polanyi
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Text in English to re-read

June 15, 1947

Irene, Donald, my dears - these last days I have been reading in the Luther Bible 2 Moshes, Joshua & Kings. It's {yet/get} of my though of ancient history for {which} I am rising {long of} the {Eve}… {Br'} as an introduction. The purpose is, of course, to get a background for economic history of the ancients, on which I have announced a course for Bennington in 1948. The more concrete the interest and more definite the framework, the more puzzling the problem of the Jews becomes! As a source of knowledge on {Polyhumains}, {Anzians}, {Romains} the O.T. is proving of unique authenticity, __ had the external evidence of the excavations has {uncursed} to much of those {Sunken} empires. But as to the history of the Jews themselves, the opposite is the case. Their {story} [30] appears more & more confused to the point of unintelligibility. I mean the relation of Exodus to their previous stay in Palestine, the {invasion} of Palestine after the Exodus; and specially the Judah Israel relationship which is after all {enli} of historical and yet a veritable {Shock/Mask}! At the {same time/Samaritain} as other things {converges/emerges}: the tremendous {Gewinners} of the religious event. The Jews were {heavily} less a naively inspired part of a sophisticated {emminment} than Joseph Smith and his {devotees} were a 100 years ago in New England. The world in which they made their modest appearance ___ that of ancient world powers of immemorial age, wealthy, cultured, educated. The obscurity of the life of Jesus - he who existed and died almost {nunshied} - is a {pansfin} of Jewish national existence. Similarly striking is [31] the analogy of their later fame and importance when controled to former obscurity: the rise of Christianity and the {envonty} of the diaspora from 70 AD to 1947 AD. In this perspective the simplicity of the Jewish origins become strikingly clear. Far from having been an intellectually _____ing people (as the legend has it) they were essentially backward (somewhat in the manner the {Mommus} refused to {survive} in the Yankee tide). All the {grower} appears those religious achievement - their inspiration, their preoccupation with the higher good, their identification as a people with a higher will, the {pantheism} of the prophets, their eventual giving birth to Christianity and the tragic survival after fulfillment of their mission.

All this becomes {obvious} if the dates are considered. The O.T. _____ Exodus chronologically with the beginning of the world. Yet history dates it somewhere above 980 B.C. It is almost as if the Barbarians frank had put down their story about 980 A.D. and started it with Exodus from Germany, and forgot about the Roman Empire which had germe before them. Yet the appearance of the Jews was such a self-centered event of a religiosity nature in the very midst of a highly civilized world (like Christian leaning his life & children in the merry times of Charles II, to seek {solution}, alone).

I do not yet quite know how much this has to do with economic history. Maybe, nothing. The amazing feature of the Old T. people is their unbalanced diet. Take {Jewish's} family: while their gestures are teaming mill sheep and oven, they are threatened with famine & starvation for lack of {faminaciens} front stuffs. Well, we will see.

I love you all {heartily}.



KPA: 56/13, 29-32 (Manuscript)

Editors' Notes

  1. Dicki