With all the interest in the recent debate between the Vice Presidential candidates I began wondering about the origins of the practice of debating.
Were the Greeks, who invented democracy, the first to openly debate? Or was it the Romans who refined the art of argument?
Perhaps debating began in the Garden of Eden:
Adam and Eve are about to go out for the evening. Adam looks upon Eve and sees that she is wearing only three of the tiniest of strategically placed leaves.The end result of that first debate would find the couple turning over some new leaves.
"You're not going out dressed like that!" Adam said to her.
She answered, "Why not? What's wrong with this outfit?"
"Look at you! You're practically naked!" he exclaimed.
"You gotta be kidding me, numb nuts. I'm always naked."
"That's my point," he countered. "That's the way we're supposed to dress."
"Hey! You're one to talk." She pointed at him and added, "Why are you wearing that big palm leaf down there? And why is it moving up and down?"
"Uh, if you're going to dress like that, it's making my imagination run wild."
"Hmph! You don't need a leaf that big to hide your ... imagination!"
After surfing around I managed to find the earliest recorded debate:
¡uʍop ǝpısdn sı plɹoʍ ǝɥʇ
Several centuries ago, the Pope decreed that all the Jews had to convert to Catholicism or leave Italy . There was a huge outcry from the Jewish community, so the Pope offered a deal. He'd have a religious debate with the leader of the Jewish community. If the Jews won, they could stay in Italy; if the Pope won, they'd have to convert or leave.
The Jewish people met and picked an aged and wise rabbi to represent them in the debate However, as the rabbi spoke no Italian, and the Pope spoke no Yiddish, they agreed that it would be a 'silent' debate.
On the chosen day the Pope and rabbi sat opposite each other. The Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. The rabbi looked back and raised one finger. Next, the Pope waved his finger around his head. The rabbi pointed to the ground where he sat. The Pope brought out a communion wafer and a chalice of wine. The rabbi pulled out an apple.
With that, the Pope stood up and declared himself beaten and said that the rabbi was too clever. The Jews could stay in Italy.
Later the cardinals met with the Pope and asked him what had happened.
The Pope said, "First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up a single finger to remind me there is still only one God common to both our beliefs.
"Then, I waved my finger around my head to show him that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground to show that God was also right here with us.
"I pulled out the wine and water to show that God absolves us of all our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of the original sin. He bested me at every move and I could not continue."
Meanwhile, the Jewish community gathered to ask the rabbi how he'd won.
"I haven't a clue," the rabbi said. "First, he told me that we had three days to get out of Italy , so I gave him the finger. "Then he tells me that the whole country would be cleared of Jews and I told him that we were staying right here."
"And then what?" asked a woman.
"Who knows?" said the rabbi. "He took out his lunch so I took out mine."