New Horizons

There are easy books which don’t teach you much, easy books which do teach you a lot, demanding books which don’t teach you much and demanding books which do teach you lots. Anthony Thiselton’s New Horizons in Hermeneutics falls into the latter category. I will happily admit that, for me, it was the most intellectually demanding one-volume read I have ever undertaken (and I love reading academic writing); I had to re-read the chapters on Derrida and Gadamer about three times to get my head around them. It was, however, one of the most intellectually thought-provoking and helpful books I have read in a while, and the difficulty certainly didn’t come from Thiselton’s inability to communicate; he has written a book which deal with very difficult concepts and, frankly, has done a fantastic job. I’m sure I will be coming back to it again and again in the future.

The subtitle of the book, ‘The Theory and Practice of Transforming Biblical Reading’, deftly summarises Thiselton’s aim. Texts, Thiselton claims, have the ability to transform readers (expand their Horizons), but readers can also have a tendency of transforming the texts through misreading. Thiselton’s aim is to navigate the theoretical minefield that is hermeneutics and to ‘include a description and critical evaluation of all the major theoretical models and approaches which characterise current hermeneutical theory, or which have contributed to its present shape.’ (p.1). This is an ambitious approach, but the size of the book and Thiselton’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject-area mean that if any book and any author will succeed in achieving this goal, these can.

The first couple of chapters provide good introductory material. Thiselton describes various ways in which the text itself can transform readers (one of the major ones being texts as performative speech-acts) and also how a text can be transformed by the reader. He then proceeds to survey the development of the idea of what a text is, from 19th-early 20th century views of the text as being understood in light of other data, to mid-20th century new-criticism, in which the text stands alone as an independent entity, through to more post-modern views, in which the reader himself gives the text a meaning.

Chapter 3 onwards is where the real meat of the book begins (it is also the most challenging reading in the book), and it would be overly ambitious to attempts a full summary of each. Chapter 3 reviews semiotic theories (the view of text as an interlocking system of codes) and questions whether they should in and of themselves lead to the idea of deconstructionism (i.e. no ultimate meaning in a text). Jacques Derrida pops up quite a lot in this chapter. Thiselton concludes that Derrida’s (and others’) deconstructionism is not ultimately warranted by semiotic theory.

Chapter 4 addresses pre-modern biblical interpretation, from patristic to medieval readings. Thiselton’s summary is very lucid and helpful and also helped put to rest a few myths about medieval readings of the Scriptures. Chapter 5 then addresses the reformers’ approach(es) to the Scriptures with their emphasis on the historical meaning and the ability of Scripture to question tradition (Thiselton is very clear, though, that the reformers did not reject tradition as a helpful way of dialoguing about Scripture).

Chapters 6 and 7 address Schleiermacher’s hermeneutics of understanding, in which the reader must try and place himself in the writers shoes since a text is an outworking of the author’s emotions (classic Romantic view). Schleiermacher’s contribution to hermeneutics was exceptionally important, as he was the first to make Hermeneutics a discipline in itself. For Schleiermacher, Hermeneutics involved both a feminine, intuitive (or psychological) approach and a masculine, methodological approach. One could not be used as the expense of the other. Thiselton shows how this approach is particularly helpful in Pauline texts.

Chapter 8 surveys the hermeneutics of self-involvement, including speech act theories. Rudolf Bultmann exemplifies this approach and claims that we must either have faith or historical understanding, not both. Thiselton critiques this extreme approach by claiming that particular assertions about Christ presuppose language which relates to truth-claims. Adopting Bultmann’s view as an all-encompassing theory would be disastrous for biblical studies. Thiselton then surveys Austin and Searle’s views of the idea of illocutionary acts – i.e. speech-acts which have causal power.

In Chapter 9, Hans-Georg Gadamer’s approach is delineated. This chapter make for difficult reading. Gadamer sought to make Hermeneutics a meta-critical discipline (i.e. not just thinking of methods for interpreting texts, but ranking these methods metacritically). Gadamer stresses that the hermeneutical problem is universal in that all understanding is language bound. He also dislikes the idea of scientific method for approaching texts. For Gadamer,  the text itself only becomes actualised in its performance (i.e. reading). But like a play it is never read twice the same way. This does not force Gadamer to collapse reading into relativism. Instead, a text can be understood by common-sense (aristotle’s phronesis) and by the ongoing dialogue of community. Thiselton notes that although Gadamer is right to stress the role of the community and common-sense in interpreting, it is ‘very seriously unsatisfactory that no criterion for textual interpretation can be found other than the “performance” of the text itself, alongside some role accorded to human judgment in the context of community and effective-history’

Chapter 10 traces Paul Ricoeur’s hermeneutics of suspicion and retrieval. The fallibility of human understanding was significant in Ricoeur’s hermeneutics. This means a hermeneutic of suspicion is needed (i.e. suspecting the reader of distorting the text). Ricoeur makes much of metaphor as double meaning (drawing on Freud’s psychoanalysis). Hermeneutics is meant to retrieve the meaning of the symbols in the text.  In a very helpful summary, Thiselton writes: “What remains central for Ricoeur is the double function of hermeneutics: the hermeneutics of suspicion which unmasks human wish-fulfilments and shatters idols, and the hermeneutics of retrieval which listens to symbols and to symbolic narrative discourse.” (p.372)

Chapter 11 looks at the idea of socio-criticla hermeneutics. Jürgen Habermas, in particular, contributed to this theory.  Habermas views all language as social (i.e. about social interaction). Within a social frame it is impossible to critique (actors cannot step out of the frame to critique the play). What is needed is a system which transcends the social to critique social norms. Thiselton applies this idea to the Law in Romans 7. The system of the Law critiques and transcends social norms. Richard Rorty’s socio-pragmatic view is also taken into account, here. For Rorty, society defines what counts as rational; there is thus no way of transcending this and critiquing from the outside. Thiselton, quite incisively, claims that this hermeneutic doesn’t sound as appealing to cultures that are extended in time (e.g. UK) as it does to those that are extended in space (e.g. US). History teaches that no outside critique of society is a scary thing.

This socio-critical hermeneutical agenda moves the book nicely onto a discussion of the hermeneutics of liberation (Chapter 12). In this lengthly chapter, Thiselton surveys Latin-American liberation hermeneutics, black hermeneutics and feminist hermeneutics. All three, ultimately, share common features: (1) A particular experience; (2) this experience becomes a critical principle; (3) biblical texts are understood in light of this principle; (4) an eschatological perspective. Care must be taken, Thiselton argues, to not collapse a so-called socio-critical hermeneutic (critique of a life-world, or use of texts) into a socio-pragmatic hermeneutic (use of texts to support an existing social agenda). This is a danger into which many liberation hermeneutics end up falling: the socio-pragmatic tool of the oppressor simply gets turned around and put into the hands of the oppressed.

I found chapters 13-14 particularly illuminating. They deal with the hermeneutics of reading and reader-response theory. Thiselton helpfully underlines some of the huge benefits of literary theory in biblical interpretation, not least in narrative interpretation. Chapter 13 also surveys structuralist narrative views (i.e. all narrative is objectively made up of a matrix of narrative codes). Once interpreters realised that these codes themselves were usually socially conditioned, the way was paved for a hermeneutic which would work in terms of the reader’s response, rather than the text or author’s view.

Chapter 14 surveys these reader-response theories. Wolfgang Iser, for example, views certain details in texts as left open to the reader to fill in (e.g. the text speaks of a table but doesn’t specify what kind of table). He also envisages that  text has an “implied reader” – a reader who has all of the presuppositions which enable the text to have its full effect on him. Umberto Eco reaches a not-disimilar viewpoint by appealing to semiotics. For him, texts envisage a “model-reader” who shares with the author the various semiotic codes of the text. Thiselton then moves onto more radical reader response theories (such as Holland and Bleuch). However, the ultimate proponent of reader-response theory is Stanley Fish. Fish questions the idea of the text having a given meaning: he claims that “reader-response is not to the meaning; it is the meaning.” (p.539) Thiselton critiques this extreme view by claiming (as Wittgenstein does) that some language-games (i.e. the socio-linguistic context and performance) transcend culture (Thiselton gives the example of pain). Fish’s theory would be devastating for biblical studies if it were the only model to be used.

The last two chapters (15-16) are entitled The Hermeneutics of Pastoral Theology. They are the most practical in the book, applying the various models viewed to different biblical texts and situations. Thiselton’s doctoral students have claimed they would be willing to give the rest of the book up for these two chapters and I can see why. Thiselton argues that we cannot apply one model of hermeneutics to all biblical texts. In the final few pages he emphasises that the cross and resurrection of Christian theology provide the meta-critique which socio-critical hermeneutics searches: ‘In this sense, the cross and resurrection stand not only as a critique of human self affirmation and power, but also as a meta-critique which assesses other criteria, and which transforms the very concept of power.’ (p.615)

There is so much more to say, but (1) I wouldn’t do it justice and (2) it would take a very long time. Personally, as I said above, I found this a tough read, but exceptionally worthwhile. It has helped me to realise the importance of thinking not just about how we approach a text critically, but about how we even think about what counts as a correct way of interpreting the scriptural text. It has also enabled me to understand what stands behind more post-modern and reader-oriented views of the text. Anyone who wants a thorough, balanced and intellectually rigorous treatment of hermeneutics will not be disappointed.

Resurrection and self-commitment

I’m teaching on death being defeated this Sunday and in preparation, I’ve found myself coming back to N. T. Wright’s magisterial summary of the implications of saying ‘Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead.’ Here is Wright’s take on the matter:

Many will challenge this conclusion, for many different reasons. I do not claim that it constitutes a ‘proof’ of the resurrection in terms of some neutral standpoint. It is, rather, a historical challenge to other explanations, other world views. Precisely because at this point we are faced with worldview-level issues, there is no neutral ground, no island in the middle of the epistemological ocean, as yet uncolonised by any of the warring continents. We cannot simply arrive at a topic and make grand declarations, as in Francis Drake’s annexation of California, and suppose that all the local inhabitants will take them as binding. Saying that ‘Jesus of Nazareth was bodily raised from the dead’ is not only a self-involving statement; it is a self-committing statement, going beyond a reordering of one’s private world into various levels of commitment to work out the implications. We cannot simply leave a flag stuck on a hill somewhere and sail back home to safety. (N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God [London: SPCK, 2003], 717)


Philo, Bultmann and reading the Scriptures

I've been thinking about Hermeneutics recently (what our method is for understanding texts). I've been making my way through Anthony Thiselton's monster book, New Horizons in Hermeneutics. Thiselton has a chapter in which he speaks about early allegorical interpretations of the Scriptures. He cites the well-known example of Philo of Alexandria. Philo was a hellenistic Jew who used allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament. For example, he read the account of Abraham's migration from Ur as an account of the soul's departure from the body. The reason he does this, Thiselton claims, is to give the Biblical text a universal meaning, a meaning divorced from its historical and cultural context. Sandmel (quoted by Thiselton) writes, 'The grand Allegory enables Philo to transform Scripture into the nature and experience of every man.'

Thiselton compares this way of interpreting scripture to the program of the 20th-century German NT scholar Rudolf Bultmann. Bultmann went through a process of demythologizing the Gospels, that is, he turned time-and-cultural specific language into timeless ideas. Jesus, after this process, was no longer a Jewish prophet but a teacher of existential, spiritual truths. Needless to say, Bultmann is not popular amongst conservative evangelicals for this.

That being said, there is a small irony in the evangelical rejection of Bultmann's agenda, as Tom Wright highlights. We very much desire, as evangelicals, to show how the Bible is relevant nowadays. In order to do this, though, we sometimes take the Gospels out of their historical, Jewish context and apply them directly to our lives. The irony of this process, though, is that we can end up being guilty of doing what Bultmann and Philo were doing to a greater extent. By removing the Gospels from their particular, Jewish context, we uproot them from their story and cultural background and can make them say things they never actually meant. For anyone who is tempted to think that we just need to take the Bible on its own without worrying about the historical context of the accounts, this should be a trenchent warning.


The Temple and the Church’s Mission

I’ve just finished reading Greg Beale’s classic The Temple and the Church’s Mission. I really should have read this a while ago, but for some reason I had put it off until now. This post is a rough summary and review of the book.

Beale wrote this book as a way of solving a dilemma in Revelation 21. On the one hand, Revelation 21 describes a new creation, but subsequently it seems to describe the New Jerusalem as a holy of holies. Beale argues convincingly that the New Heavens and New Earth in Rev. 21.1-8 and the description of the New Jerusalem in 21.9ff are actually two ways of referring to the same reality. New Creation is essentially a massive holy of holies. The rest of the book is an attempt to understand how John can describe New Creation in such terms from a biblical-theological perspective.

Beale’s thesis is that God created the cosmos to be a great temple in which he would dwell. Eden formed the first holy of holies and humans had the mandate of cultivating this garden-temple and expanding it to the whole world. The end result would be that the whole earth would become a huge holy of holies. This original intention was thwarted when the first priests, Adam and Eve, failed to banish impurity from this first sanctuary. The rest of the narrative of Scripture is aimed at working towards a time when the cosmos would indeed form the holy of holies which God had intended.

In chapter 2, Beale aptly argues that Temple imagery in the Old Testament (and the Ancient Near East) is cosmic; the outer court refers to the inhabitable world, the holy place refers to the visible heavens and the inner sanctuary refers to the dwelling place of God’s presence. Beale’s case is well argued and, in my view at least, solid. There are a few quibbles (he himself admits that some parts of the evidence may not be as convincing) but overall it is hard to argue that he has completely misread the data. The upshot of this is that Genesis 1-2 is to be read in terms of a cosmic Temple. I haven’t read John Walton’s Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology yet, but I think Walton makes a similar point.

Chapter 3 develops the thesis of chapter 2 and argues for the expansive nature of the temple. The first humans were meant to not only keep the garden-sanctuary, but also expand its borders. Clearly, as Genesis 3 indicates, they failed to keep this mandate and were thereby banished from the presence of God. Beale argues that the Old Testament narrative views the various manifestations of Israel’s physical Temples as expanding: from shrines with the patriarchs, to the tabernacle, to Solomon’s temple. The expansive nature of the Temple is key in Beale argument. Indeed, in the subsequent chapter (chapter 4 – ‘The expanding end-time purpose of temples in the Old Testament’) he argues that the Old Testament envisages that the temple would become a world-wide reality. This case is argued with strong reference to Isaiah 66 and Daniel 2. Concerning the latter passage, Beale claims that the mountain that fills the whole earth has cultic implications – the kingdom/mountain which expands to cover the whole earth is in fact also a temple.

Having set up this, overall strong, Old Testament background, Beale moves through the New Testament (chapters 5-10). He argues that the Gospels present Jesus as replacing the failing and impure Second Temple. It is particularly with his resurrection that the new ‘now-but-not-yet’ temple begins. The people of God themselves, in Christ, become the ever expanding temple which will one day fill the whole earth. This is argued well, though at times some of the intertextual references seem a little stretched. Beale is clear throughout, though, that the consummation of this temple will not be fully realised until the eschaton, at which point creation itself will be the Holy of holies.

After surveying the New Testament evidence, Beale dedicates a chapter to the vision of Ezekiel 40-48 and its relation to the New Testament. He claims, against some interpreters, that the vision is not meant to refer to a structural temple (i.e. a building). Rather, it is a reference to the heavenly sanctuary which will descend from heaven at the eschaton. In the church, the vision of Ezekiel 40-48 has began to be fulfilled (see Beale’s treatment of Revelation 11 in chapter 10), but its full realisation awaits the end of time. The vision of the temple in Revelation 21 represents, in Beale’s view, the ultimate fulfilment of Ezekiel 40-48.

In chapter 12, Beale gives theological conclusions to the book: the cosmos was intended to be a temple which would be full of the presence of God. After the failure of the first humans to extend the garden-sanctuary, the various manifestations of temples were escalating, but incomplete, pointers to the greater non-structural temple which would eventually fill the earth. The eschatological temple finds its literal fulfilment in the Messiah and his people and its ultimate consummation in the new creation which itself is referred to as a holy of holies. Much is made of this idea of ‘literal’ fulfilment. Beale rightly contends that ‘literal’ does not have to mean ‘physical’. Christ and his church are ‘literally’ a temple, though they are not a building. The physical temples of the Old Testament era were pointers to the truer heavenly temple which is currently expanding and which will fully descend at the eschaton. Chapter 13 then concludes with some helpful practical implications for the church and mission.

Overall, I found this book extremely stimulating and eye-opening (though at times very dense). It presents a strong overall case, though I had some quibbles about some of the precise details (for example, how likely is it really that Paul intentionally associated temple and agricultural imagery in 1 Cor. 3 because of the Jewish understanding of Eden as a temple). To be fair to him, though, Beale is refreshingly honest about the limited persuasiveness of some of the evidence – he clearly states that not all of it is equally convincing.

I find myself agreeing with Ron Fay, from RBL, that Beale shines in setting up the Old Testament background to his thesis. The New Testament section is good but not quite as insightful as the first four chapters. Nonetheless there are some truly astute observations that have certainly eluded me in the past: for example, I had never noticed the link between Jesus’ temple cleansing in Matt. 21 and the inclusion of invalids in the Temple courts before (something which is seemingly hinted at in Isaiah 56).

All in all, this is an excellent book by a very thorough scholar and worth working one’s way through. I am sure I will return to sections of it fairly regularly.

Resurrection and Translation

It’s pretty much taken for granted (for good reasons) in the scholarly world that resurrection did not feature prominently within the beliefs of Ancient Israel, but rather was a late development, becoming explicit in the canon only in Daniel 12.2. However, the development of this belief, particularly in the 3rd-2nd century BC, clearly influenced some Jews’ understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Septuagint (LXX), the 3rd-2nd century BC Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, contains a few instances in which a text which did probably not refer to resurrection immediately is translated in such a way that it unequivocally does. I was reading Job 19 this morning; 19.25-26 reads as follows in the Hebrew:

ואני ידעתי גאלי חי ואחרון על־עפר יקום׃

ואחר עורי נקפו־זאת ומבשׂרי אחזה אלוה:

I know that my redeemer is alive and afterwards he shall stand upon the dust

And after my skin has been destroyed in this way, from my flesh I shall see God

No particularly strong reference to resurrection here, but you can see how some may take it that way. In the LXX, the matter is much clearer, though:

οἶδα γὰρ ὅτι ἀέναός ἐστιν ὁ ἐκλύειν με μέλλων ἐπὶ γῆς. ἀναστήσαι τὸ δέρμα μου τὸ ἀνατλῶν ταῦτα· παρὰ γὰρ κυρίου ταῦτά μοι συνετελέσθη

For I know that the one who will release upon the earth is eternal, to raise my flesh which endures these, for from the Lord these things were accomplished for me.

That’s a very rough translation (no doubt, Greek specialists will have some quibbles), but it’s obvious that the translator has clearly interpreted the Hebrew of Job as a reference to resurrection. As the familiar phrase goes: ‘a translation is an interpretation.’

The Birth of Two Kings

The use of the term Gospel (Gk εὐαγγέλιον – euangelion) in the pagan ancient world helps us to decipher just how the Gospel writers (especially Luke and Mark) understood the good news of Jesus. An inscription discovered in Priene (western Turkey), dating to 9BC tells of the birth of Caesar Augustus (Gk. Sebaste):

Ἔδοξεν τοῖς ἐπὶ τῆς Ἀσιας Ἔλλησιν, γνώμῃ τοῦ ἀρχιερέως Ἀπολλωνίου τοῦ Μηνοφίλου Άζανίτου, ἐπειδὴ ἡ πάντα διατάξασα τοῦ βίου ἡμῶν πρόνοια σπουδὴν εἰσενενκαμένη καὶ φιλοτιμίαν τὸ τεληότατον τῶι βίωι διεκόσμησεν ἐνενκαμέμη τὸν Σεβαστόν, ὃν εἰς εύεργεσίαν ἀνθρώπων ἐπληρώσεν ἀρετῆς, ὥσπερ ἡμεῖν καὶ τοῖς μεθ᾽ ἡμᾶς σωτῆρα πέμψασα τὸν παύσοντα μὲν πόλεμον, κοσμήσαντα δὲ πάντα, ἐπιφανεῖς δὲ ὁ Καῖσαρ τὰς ἐλπίδας τῶν προλαβόντων εὐανγέλια πάντων ὑπερέθηκεν, οὐ μόνον τοὺς πρὸ αὐτοῦ γεγονότας εὐεργέτας ὑπερβαλόμενος, ἀλλ᾽ οὐδ᾽ ἐν τοῖς ἐσομένοις ἐλπίδα ὑπολιπὼν ὑπερβολῆς ἦρξεν δὲ τῶι κόσμωι τῶν δι᾽ αὐτον εὐανγελίων ἡ γενέθλιος ἡμέρα τοῦ θεοῦ τῆς δὲ Ἀσίας ἐψηφισμέμης ἐν Σμύρνῃ

It seemed to the Greeks of Asia, by the knowledge of the high priest, Apollonius of Menofilos Azanitos: ‘since the one who arranges all things of our life, namely providence, carrying eagerness and love of honour, perfectly ordered life by bringing in the eminent one (Sebaste), whom, for the sake of kindness to humans, she filled with virtue, sending to us and to those after us alike a saviour, who ends war, who orders all things. Caesar, by appearing, surpassed the hopes of all those who had previously received good tidings (εὐανγέλια), not only by overtaking the benefactors before him, but also by not leaving any hope of improvement in the things which are. The birth-day of the god was the beginning, for the world, of the good tidings (εὐανγελίων) which were because of him.’ This was resolved in Asia in Smyrna.

Very significant are the two references to the good tidings (εὐανγέλια – an alternative spelling of εὐαγγέλια). It shows us that the Greek term could be used in conjunction with the announcement of the birth of a Roman emperor.

A comparison with Luke’s version of Jesus’ infancy narrative is particularly revealing: Luke mentions very clearly that Jesus’ birth happened during the reign of Caesar Augustus (Lk. 2.1) – the same emperor whose birth is referred to in the Priene inscription. What is particularly striking is the angels’ announcement of the birth of the Messiah to the shepherds in Bethlehem:

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news (εὐαγγελίζομαι – a cognate of εὐαγγέλιον) of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2.8-14)

There are quite a few important thematic parallels between the two texts. Firstly, both speak of the birth of a king (Christ implies kingship in a Jewish setting) in conjunction with εὐαγγέλιον-language. Secondly, both Augustus and Jesus are referred to as a saviour (σωτὲρ). Thirdly in the inscription from Priene, the good news surpasses the expectations of all those who heard it; in Luke, the good news is for all the people. Fourthly, Augustus is said to be the one who stops war (τὸν παύσοντα μὲν πόλεμον); Jesus’ birth comes with a promise of peace on earth.

I don’t think that Luke had read the Priene inscription. However, it seems that he used language which would remind readers of Augustus in order to make a significant point: Jesus’ birth, not Augustus’ is the euangelion for all people. Jesus, not Caesar is the true prince of peace – pax romana is a false hope. In other words, Luke is blowing a massive raspberry at the Roman empire.

Something more on Ignatius

You may be able to tell that I’m reading a bit of Ignatius at the moment. Again, in his letter to the Ephesians, I found an interesting section:

I know who I am and to whom I write. I am convicted; you are free. I am under danger; you are safe. (Ign. Eph. 12.1)

In context, Ignatius is commending the church in Ephesus. He goes on to say that they are ‘fellow initiates of Paul’ (12.2 – Holmes’ translation). Ignatius had certainly read the letters of Paul (cf. chapter 18 and 1 Corinthians 1.18-31) and alludes to material from them. The section quoted above seems similar to the contrasts in 1 Cor. 4.10:

We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute (ESV)

Notice the contrasts. We have Paul (and the apostles) contrasted with the Corinthians, just as Ignatius is contrasted with the Ephesians. However, in 1 Corinthians 4, Paul is being fiercely sarcastic – the Corinthians are not really wise in Christ, or strong. In Ignatius’ letter, though, the same kind of contrast is intended to highlight how great the Ephesians are. Curious.