astrian writers —again, the ethnic is in,rnthe rehgious is out.rnSo the proposed Cambridge Histor’ ofrnJudaism uses the word “Judaism” to referrnto an ethnic group: its material culture,rnits politics, institutions, demography, itsrn”life” (whatever that means). A CambridgernHistory of Christianity that dealtrnwith Roman imperial politics and foreignrnpolicy, pagan anti-Christianity andrnpersecution of Christianity, but not withrnNicaea and Chalcedon, the formation ofrnthe New Testament, the invention of thernBible, the theology of Augustine, the histor-rnof Eusebius, the councils and creedsrnand martyrs and saints and Gnosticismrnand Orthodoxy—such a secular historyrnof Christians would not bear plausiblyrnthe tide of a “history of Christianity.”rnWhen Jewish scholars of Judaism definernJudaism as air ethnicity, not a religion,rnwhat is lost is any conception thatrnJudaism has a statement to make to thernhuman situation—and a cultural claimrnand a theological judgment to set forthrnconcerning the intellectual life of humanit’.rnJacob Neusner is Distinguished ResearchrnProfessor of Rehgious Studies at the Universityrnof South Florida and a professor ofrnrehgion at Bard College.rnLetter From Mexicornby Geoffrey WagnerrnThe First Racquet in the WestrnEvery man has his Holy Grail. Mine wasrna racquet held in the hand of a truculentrnpriest some four centuries ago. I hadrnheard about the ball player of Yagul inrnsouthern Mexico from colleagues in archaeology,rnbut it was only after severalrntrips south of the border that I decided tornflush him out. No one else seems tornhave bothered to do so.rnAs a racquet-sport enthusiast, I hadrnfamiliarized myself with what mightrnbe called Mayan pelota at sites likernChichen Itza and Mitia (with its fine Zapotecrncourts and unique Mixtec friezes).rnIt made for some pretty fast serve-andvolleyrnstuff in its day: This was a game apparentiyrnplayed with hand and hip offrnshort steps which most tourists mistakernfor ancient bleachers (the legend that arnhuman skull was used for a ball is apocryphal).rnWliile one ball court soon getsrnto look like another, even after a few hundredrnyears, Yagul boasts the largest courtrnyet unearthed. Plus it has a racquet. Thernracquet.rnSo, after renting the Burtons’ ratherrntatty house back of Puerto Vallarta for arnwhile, my wife and I slid off south downrnthe achingly endless Pan-Am highway tornOaxaca, leaving the preth’ hummingbirdrnthat took breakfast with us to its daily rationrnof Chivers marmalade. Even includingrnjaw-cracking Tlacochahuaya,rnwith its 16th-centun’ Dominican churchrnwhich the Indians painted over uninhibitedlyrnwith flowers and stars, suns andrnmoons, Oaxaca is the ultimate in peasantrnbaroque, hardly a centimeter of its SantornDomingo Church free from ardent deeoration,rnnot to mention all those woundedrnsaints reclining most mortally on theirrnlitters.rnIndeed, as my pilgrimage took mernsouthward to Tehuantepec, gloriouslyrnIndian-decorated old churches drifted inrntheir decay in the plains. The sequoia orrnsabino beside the church at Tule is saidrnto be 3,000 years old, nearly as ancient asrnmy racquet. We drove cautiously alongrnthe “beaten” road — Jesus Hernandezrndied here 60 years ago, I noticed on anrnaskew sidetrack shrine.rnAs we descended, only a minimum ofrnHollywood Mexico, long cured by realism,rnovertook us: palm trees drunk withrnsim, as the old song had it; an Indian matronrnwith a high huipil or blazingly whiternstarched headdress; a hoop-earringedrncantina girl, all kiss curls and ringlets,rninviting us under thatching to piles ofrntortillas and a sign for Hat Docs (phoneticrnfranks); a Warner Baxter cop withrnpearl-handled pistols, in the plural.rnExamining the lace work on a Virginrnat Tlacolula, I hear what appears to bernsome girls giggling behind a chain-mailrndoor leading into a side chapel with goldleafrnchurrigueresque at its most perfect.rnI’m wrong. It is a heavyset Indian womanrnon her knees, wet lashes pouring outrnsome sorrow to God.rnFinally, Yagul. I embrace the entrancerncolumn as directed and am toldrnI’ll live another seven years as a consequence.rnPast some cruciform tombs, Irnam directed to a shabby mini-museumrnannexed to a sleepy hacienda called LdrnSorpresa. I am shown shrunken headsrnand flayed faces, some of which are thernsize of small beads. The proprietor isrnslumped over his counter, semi-conscious.rnHe allows me, however, to pullrnout from under an adjacent table the neglectedrnstone slab I have sought—thernfirst racquet handler in the Westernrnhemisphere.rnBearing the outlines of a fierce Zapotec,rnecclesiastically robed, the has reliefrnshows to my joy a well-gripped racquetrn(Western or continental?) with arnball awaiting impact at the top. Thernshape of the racquet is akin to that usedrntoday in court or real tennis, fast vanishingrnas a sport. I played that code, with itsrndedans, tambour, and chases, at Oxfordrnand was horrified to hear recentiy that itsrncourt, one of only a relative few extant,rnhas been chopped up into little cubiclesrnworthy of some motel. That court wasrn400 years old. Shakespeare refers to therngame: “Tennis balls, my liege?” asks arnpage.rnIt is thus enormously exciting for mernto meet that sunny presence from thernathletic past, since it links us in a commonrnsporting pursuit across the centuries.rnThe difference is that the priesthoodrndid the playing then, and I’d wagerrnumpires’ decisions went uncontested,rnsince the sacrificial knife was the arbiter.rnIn any case, though neither played inrnheavy robes, I doubt that McEnroe orrnRodman would have disputed that striding,rnfrowning figure from the past. I dulyrntook photos, but the furrows in thernstone did not respond dramatically tornshadowing. Finally, I searched in vainrnfor stringing. After all, there must havernbeen such in that long-handled racquet.rnI wondered what those of another centuryrnor so would think of the player-priest,rnor whether he would gradually disintegraternunder a Coca-Cola sign.rnGeoffrey Wagner is a professor emeritusrnof English at the City University of NewrnYork.rnWh en in Rockford,rnEat atrnLee’s ChinesernRestaurantrn3443 N. Main St.rn40/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn