26 June 2014

13 May 2013

moving …

catch my future ramblings here:

The Quixotic Infidel

15 May 2012

quote of the day …

— 'What fruit dost thou bring back from this thy vision?'

— 'An ordered life in every state.'
(Evelyn Underhill

03 December 2011

Religious symbols point symbolically to that which transcends all of them. But since, as symbols, they participate in that to which they point, they always have the tendency (in the human mind, of course) to replace that to which they are supposed to point, and to become ultimate in themselves. And in the moment in which they do this, they become idols. All idolatry is nothing else than the absolutizing of symbols of the Holy, and making them identical with the Holy itself. In this way, for instance, holy persons can become god. Ritual acts can take on unconditional validity, although they are only expressions of a special situation. In all sacramental activities of religion, in all holy objects, holy books, holy doctrines, holy rites, you find this danger which I like to call demonization. They become demonic in the moment in which they become elevated to the unconditional and ultimate character of the Holy itself. 

Paul Tillich 
from The Christian Scholar 
p. 193
(transcribed from a speech given at Shimer College, Mt Carmel, Illinois)

27 October 2011

foto, Mesa, 2011

17 September 2011

quote of the day …

" The practical problem: Can the necessary demythologization be communicated to the congregation? And here we find a tremendous conflict. There are some people who live in the myth as a reality, without even trying to mediate it to their natural world view, which they of course share with everybody, whether or not they are scientists. Some of Bultmann’s critics say: “Look at the Catholics; they don’t need demythologization! They take all this without difficulty.” This is one group. And many Protestants are the same. The others see the incompatibility of the mythological forms if taken literally with the world view in which they naturally think and live: then they either sacrifice their honesty or throw the whole thing out the window. And often it has been thrown out long ago by their fathers or grandfathers, and they have no idea how a mythological thinking can have any meaning for them. This duality puts the ministers before a tremendously difficult alternative. Must he sacrifice the one group for the sake of the other group, who in the Pauline sense are the weak ones from whom the minister must keep hidden his greater knowledge? This is the great question which of course is also put before Bultmann, and before every scientific theology. Here the existential concern of the whole discussion becomes a real concern not only of the minister, but also of everybody who feels obliged to help anybody else in his religious difficulties. And that means that this whole discussion is far removed from being simply an academic discussion. It is a most existential discussion and one which puts each of you before a decision. "
Paul Tillich
The European Discussion of the Demythologization of the New Testament
Auburn Lecture Series at Union Theological Seminary
10 November 1952

06 June 2011

scenes, themes, memes (moshpit perspectives) …

An extraordinarily busy work schedule was followed by the sudden death of a loved one, momentarily derailing my psychic state, putting me just this side of despondency for a moment. In the meanwhile, I eked out 47th place on the biblioblog list for the month of May—a month that had surprisingly far less traffic than when I made 49th place a couple of months back. I don't understand how any of this works, so I won't even pretend to. People seem to really get into blogging, though, competitively employing strategies, vying for position. Some people take it very seriously. From my perch on the periphery I look at the playful taunting and gibing and strutting going on at the beating heart of the phenomenon, and realize what a strange subculture of people I am blessed to be a part of, albeit if only tangentially. It's the closest I come to the sort of nerd impulse in a certain kind of personality which often results in Star-Trekkies, Dungeons and Dragons geeks, comic book fans. These are variants of the same impulse, really. This nerd-complex also reminds me of watching a moshpit from a distance. In the center of the throbbing mass of entranced dancing bodies, it feels like a battle for survival, but from the edge of the whirlpool, beyond the event horizon, it can be a beautiful and cathartic experience, a lesson in human behavior, even. Some people have never seen a moshpit. They can't even imagine such a thing as a potential source of beauty. I reckon that's cool. Some people are more esthetically sedate than others; some more savvy, We can't legislate taste. Right?
Anyway . . . Next up I will write some of the thoughts I've had while exploring Hebrews It suddenly occured to me a couple of weeks ago that that epistle is the main reason why Christians are so confused about the character of their Judaic inheritance. It will close out my recently started review of the New Testament in search of judaic content. I won't deal with any of the catholic epistles (they are all clearly forgeries) or with the Apocalypsis of Saint John the Divine (don't get me started), except to say that they add nothing anyway to my search.

soon …



05 June 2011

pésame …

Lela Knox
6 Jul 1989 — 25 May 2011

17 May 2011

quote of the day . . . . (guess who)

"[…] every man, against his passionate resistance, becomes an object for every other man in every encounter. Existence is the continuous loss of freedom within a continuous struggle for freedom. Existence means being made an object amongst objects, a thing amongst things; it means being estranged from true humanity and trying to resist this destiny desperately and vainly."

Paul Tillich
"Existentialism and Religious Socialism"
Christianity and Society
Vol XV
p. 9

24 April 2011

quote of the day … (Tillich again)

"It is illoyal to God not to develop scientific knowledge."

"Existential Thinking in American Theology"
Religion in Life
Summer 1941
p. 455

18 April 2011

quote of the day … (Tillich again)

"[A condition of historical freedom] is the freedom for autonomous creativity (autonomous in traditional and only meaningful sense of following the laws embodied in things themselves without any encroachment either by authorities or by one’s accidental nature), that is, the freedom to follow the objective demands involved in the nature of one’s work, unrestrained by heteronomous demands coming from outside. Every creative work has its structural necessities which follow from its special nature. An artist, for instance, has the freedom for autonomous creativity only if he is free to follow the structural demands, first of his material, second of the forms of his art, and third of the special style he represents. In the same way the scholar must be able to follow the methodological demands of his material without restriction by religious or political powers. And the technical worker must be able to follow the principle of the greatest effect with the smallest means and must not be obliged to suppress or to disturb creative possibilities under the urge of political interests. Wherever this freedom is denied, man is deprived of his self-determination through history. He is enslaved and dehumanized. A judge who is not able to follow his judgment about the law and the special case to be judged has no freedom. "
"Freedom in the Period of Transformation"
Freedom: Its Meaning
(p 132)

13 April 2011

quote of the day … (Paul Tillich)

Eternity is the mere opposite of time.

The Kingdom of God and History
1938 (p. 113)

02 April 2011

quote of the day . . .

“Man is a hacker, the human essence is that of a hacker’s. We need to invade everything and use it, and then move.”

— Totonho & Os Cabra


25 March 2011

baby step trepidation …

I recently played my first church gig. That first gig later led to singing at a memorial service, after which I was invited to attend a meeting, a screening and interactive discussion of the Living the Questions DVD series. I knew of this series from my previous exposure to AzFCT. It features some renowned scholars and theologians espousing a very inclusive, pluralistic, positive gospel message. It includes the ubiquitous Dom Crossan in his flowy Irish cadence, Marcus Borg in his sleepy blue-eyed myst, Bishop Spong, all casual in a baseball cap speaking his trans-Christian message of love. What's not to like? So I attended two of these meeting/screenings. The second one was devoted to the topic of the pre/post-Easter Jesus dichotomy. The historical Jesus contrasted with the Christ of faith.
What I didn't realize is that this was to be the introduction to this kind of post-Bultman mythologized historical Jesus for many of the congregants in attendance. In a way I feel privileged to have witnessed their very first baby steps into a higher-critical analysis of the New Testament. As one who has been exploring Christian origins for over a decade from a historiographic areligious angle, watching average folk dipping their toe into unfathomed water, not knowing how cold or deep it goes, I found the whole experience amusing and simultaneously frustrating in that I could not really participate in the discussion. For fear of really blowing people's minds, I bit my lip throughout. (Hey! I wanna keep playing there :)
Still, I wish I could describe the look on the faces on some of the people gathered as they listened to Marcus Borg explain that his Christian faith does not depend on any physical resurrection, that insisting on such a literal interpretation is not a necessary component of faith for him. This concept is a very challenging one for a laity raised on imperative literalisms and biblicisms to wrap their head around when they first hear it. It was worth the price of admission just to be able to watch people wrestle with their sacred cows in such an open and vulnerable way.
During one of the breaks, one woman asked about the role of God's spirit in the conception of Jesus. It was as though she somehow needed Jesus to be conceived of the Holy Spirit in a virgin womb. She looked a bit sad when the pastor —who I must give a lot of credit to for being so honest in his answers to her awkward question— rightly explained to her that birth narratives appear in only two gospels and that the earliest gospel we have, that according to Mark, actually pinpoints the moment of Jesus' acquiring his spirit-divinity as the moment of his baptism, not his conception. He went on to show that the gospels that Matthew and Luke pinpoint the moment as his conception/birth as the crucial moment, and John later pushes Jesus' divine status even further back in time, ascribing eternal coexistence with G-sh to this Jesus guy. The pastor is obviously familiar with the main trends in mainstream historical Jesus studies. It is clear that Christianity for him is not so much about historical veracity as it is a mundane call to "live the questions" that this DVD series tries to focus on. The stunned woman exuded a certain melancholic demeanor when faced with the prospect that the birth narratives are essentially mythical language after all. It was a poignant moment. I felt the pastor's pain.
The DVD itself is a visually dynamic stream of bite-sized morsels of insight, strung one after another. Key phrases are stressed and highlighted. Grunge fonts abound. The layout and design tends toward the cut and paste post-MTV variety of semi-chaotic direction and editing. Seeking impact through digital manipulation of forms, through bold use of color, through subtle echoed repetitions, it is a fine, visually.striking production. Unfortunately, the flashy, piecemeal style of the presentation, perfect for the short attention span of the modern North American lifestyle, does no justice to the profundity of the subject matter. Not really. It feels more like a teen ministry show than a useful learning tool at times. It is somewhat systematic, though. At distinct points in the progtam, one is prompted to pause the DVD, and folks are asked to reflect on what they've seen and heard. Printouts contain questions to use as springboards for discussion. Given the reactions I witnessed, even though I think it is overly minimalistic in scope and content, I think it is probably all that some of the laity can take. As dreadfully cursory as the series is, if it was any deeper, I'm sure some would be too horrified by it. I mean, if they have a hard time doubting the virgin birth, wait 'til they hear what Strauss and Bauer and Loisy have to say about all the nooks and crannies in the puzzle.
Anyway, I felt like documenting this episode.


06 March 2011

Dan Dennett: A rebuttal to Rick Warren

28 February 2011

JHC still online . . . .

I had posted these articles before, but the links were all broken. I am posting them again here. They present some of the Tübingen and Dutch Radical arguments for the spuriousness of the Pauline corpus:

They are really very well researched and well argued essays. I highly recommend them.



14 February 2011

quote of the day . . .

All the hair on the horse's tail has disappeared, but he must not be admitted to be tailless; the missing essence is not in the kitchen, the drawing room, or the attic, yet somewhere in the house it must be; and thus theology becomes an illogical suspense between the conclusion and the premises; the literalist relents, but the mystical spiritualist is firm, and the true "Word" in scripture remains unimpeached by literary and historical refutation. The husk is gone, but the invisible kernel maintains the position; although in the many pious platitudes passing current in the subject no real meaning be discernible except the broad inference of natural morality and providential superintendence, the general teleological purpose which we believe to be ever tending to good in its majestic passage through the ages, although ourselves far too limited in faculty to identify its action in special cases, or to make it directly responsible for particular occurrences or books.
[...] Strauss' great merit consists in the negative work contributed by him towards the reconstruction of theology; and it was the fitness of the "Leben Jesu" to accomplish the intellectual iconoclasm so often needed in the progress of science which provoked so much odium; since nothing irritates so much as to be convicted of ignorance as to matters confidently believed to be already sufficiently and fully known.
R.W. Mackay,
The Tübingen School and its Antecedents,
1863, pp. 172, 184–185

31 December 2010

pésame …

15 Jan 1941 – 17 Dec 2010
I just now heard about the passing of Don Van Vliet (a.k.a. Captain Beefheart)
Goodnight you beautiful freak.



20 October 2010

Google To Put Dead Sea Scrolls Online

Google To Put Dead Sea Scrolls Online

This should finally allay the suspicions of those who smell a conspiracy which seeks to suppress their release/publication.


18 October 2010

How not to worship (quote of the day) . . .

You have felt, doubtless, at least those of you who have been brought up in any habit of reverence, that every time when I in this letter have used an American expression, or aught like one, there came upon you a sense of sudden wrong — the darting through you of acute cold. I mean you to feel that: for it is the essential function of America to make us all feel that. It is the new skill they have found there; — this skill of degradation; others they have, which other nations had before them, from whom they have learned all they know, and among whom they must travel, still, to see any human work worth seeing. But this is their specialty, this their one gift to their race, — to show men how not to worship, — how never to be ashamed in the presence of anything.

John Ruskin
Fors Clavigera, vol I, 1871, letter 12

I love this and I think it extends beyond the confines of religious matters. Though it did start here, it's a characteristic so admirable that it later spread to the rest of the world— the unwillingness to accept any authority but that of one's own conscience.


08 October 2010

The Sound of Science

28 September 2010

atheists/agnostics win one . . .

A new Pew research poll has found that of 3412 American people interviewed, atheists and agnostics outperformed Jews, Mormons, Protestants AND Catholics in general religious knowledge . . .
read more . . .

22 September 2010

the effect of death on culture . . .

This is a lyrical well-written documentary that explores the work of Ernest Becker and its sociological implications.

18 September 2010

lord, save us from your followers . . .

07 September 2010

quote of the day . . .

All the hair on the horse's tail has disappeared, but he must not be admitted to be tailless; the missing essence is not in the kitchen, the drawing room, or the attic, yet somewhere in the house it must be; and thus theology becomes an illogical suspense between the conclusion and the premises; the literalist relents, but the mystical spiritualist is firm, and the true "Word" in scripture remains unimpeached by literary and historical refutation. The husk is gone, but the invisible kernel maintains the position; although in the many pious platitudes passing current in the subject no real meaning be discernible except the broad inference of natural morality and providential superintendence, the general teleological purpose which we believe to be ever tending to good in its majestic passage through the ages, although ourselves far too limited in faculty to identify its action in special cases, or to make it directly responsible for particular occurrences or books.
[...] Strauss' great merit consists in the negative work contributed by him towards the reconstruction of theology; and it was the fitness of the "Leben Jesu" to accomplish the intellectual iconoclasm so often needed in the progress of science which provoked so much odium; since nothing irritates so much as to be convicted of ignorance as to matters confidently believed to be already sufficiently and fully known.
R.W. Mackay,
The Tübingen School and its Antecedents,
1863, pp. 172, 184–185


26 August 2010

a Lhasa . . .

One day in the summer of 1997 I was shopping at what was then Changing Hands Bookstore on Mill Avenue in downtown Tempe. It was a split-level place. The new releases were on the ground level. Its lower level was the coolest used book bazaar in the whole town. Changing hands was one of those old places where the floor creaks just right when you walk through one of its corridors. I used to play guitar/viola duets with my friend Karen there back in the day. The gig payed $40 cash . . . . or $80 in books. Karen and I always went for the books. Every time.
Anyway . . . .
I'm standing in line waiting to pay for a book (I think it was The Cloud of Unknowing). It's hard to make sense of the many synchronicities that life brings our way, but there are moments when some numinous connection is made with some symbol, after which we emerge the better for the experience. Flags that wave themselves.
This was such an occasion.
Out of the corner of my left eye, I detected the green-pallored CD cover that you see above, one of many recordings for sale that summer on that rack at that store. It caught my attention. I leaned in to look. "La Llorona" by someone named Lhasa. I remember the moment.
I reached and plucked the shrink-wrapped gem from the rack (I just had to) and turned it around to read the liner notes in the back. I noticed a few things. First, every song had a Spanish title. Cool. Second, and crucial to this story, I instantly saw that the painting on the cover was a self portrait of the beautiful woman whose photograph looked out of the back view. I was in love. I gave in. This work of art called unto me in a way that seldom happens, and I followed my instinct, buying it that very day.
Not surprisingly, it turned out to be a real score when I got it home and listened to this strange chanteuse sing her beautiful songs of love and loss. Over the years, it has remained one of my favorite albums, the kind of record you give copies of away to the people you love.

Today, I'm sore.
I just heard that Lhasa died on 1 January 2010 after battling with breast cancer for twenty-one months. I had to share this story because not since Ray died has the death of an artist hit me so hard. It's hard for me to believe that someone who affected my life so deeply was cut down at the age of 37 like that.
Thank you Lhasa, for the beauty and the joy. It is with much sadness that I write.
Oh, How you will delight the angels.



10 July 2010

eyewitnesses times two . . .


Found two episodes of a Christian show called "Unbelievable?" which feature discussions between Richard Bauckham and James Crossley.

Though I disagree with Bauckham's thesis, I must say that it surprises and impresses me that he accepts a couple of things: one, that Matthew/Levi could not have written the gospel that bears his name and, two, that the author of John very likely knew the gospel attributed to Mark.

It's a pretty good discussion.



05 July 2010

radiocarbon dating works . . .


Recent research shows that radiocarbon dating techniques have been fine tuned, refined to a remarkably high degree of accuracy. The chronological dating derived from archeological techniques of the Egyptian kingdoms was verified by radiocarbon testing of seeds and papyrus specimens from the tombs of pharaohs and other important archeological excavations. The chronology checks out.

So, the technique has been applied to 4,000-year-old papyrus. There is precedent. As I said a couple of posts back, I'd love to see the technique applied to P-52.



03 July 2010

Submission Part I - Theo Van Gogh Tribute

This is the short film that inspired Mohammed Bouyeri to murder Van Gogh in the early morning of 2 November 2004, in Amsterdam, in front of the Amsterdam East borough office on the corner of the Linnaeusstraat and Tweede Oosterparkstraat, while Van Gogh was cycling to work. Bouyeri shot van Gogh eight times with an HS 2000 handgun, and Van Gogh died on the spot. Bouyeri then attempted to decapitate him and stabbed him in the chest something like twenty-eight times. Two knives were left implanted in his torso, one attaching a five-page note to his body. The note threatened Western governments, Jews and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The note also contained references to the ideologies of the Egyptian organization Takfir wal-Hijra.

I found particularly disturbing the giggling throughout her telling the story of her lecherous uncle.


29 June 2010

Reading the Unreadable

Some ancient scrolls are so deteriorated that unfolding them would completely destroy them, would pulverize them.

Here's a link to a cool video about a new technique that's been devised to enable us to read text which would otherwise be destroyed in the reading.

ResearchChannel - Reading the Unreadable


26 June 2010

the problem with P-52 . . .

I have a cousin named Miriam. She has had a distinctive handwriting for as long as I can remember. She obviously takes pride in her flawless penmanship. Her writing is not necessarily excessively ornate, per çe. What makes it beautiful and memorable is her use of crisp and clean lines, her consistently sized letters, her careful attention to spacing and symmetry. She's in her early fifties now, but like the rest of us, she learned how to write sometime around age 5 or so. What makes some people meticulous scribes and other not-so-meticulous?

Me, I write like a barbarian. Miriam's script is lovely.

I am fairly sure that her style has not changed much if at all in all the ensuing years.

I wonder: If she had been asked at age 8 and then at her present age, to make two copies of the preamble to the U.S Constitution, let's say, or even of the Gospel of John, would I be able to tell which copy was done in the sixties and which today? Would her style be useful to me in discerning this?

A further question ... a bit more abstract: Was her style influenced perhaps by a former stylist's own flair for symmetry (her first grade teacher, for example—we tend to stress our own peeves in our students)?

And another: Might Miriam not herself influence a younger scribe so that her distinctive style would show up later . . . say in the coming decade or two? In other words . . . Might Miriam's script not look similar to both her teacher's AND her student's?

Ok, now go back 1900 years or so . . .

Above and to the right is a fotograf of P52 (Rylands Library Papyrus P-52). It's a piece of papyrus that measures about 3½ inches by 2½ inches. It is inscribed with some Greek writing. One side reads (roughly):

"... the Jews for us ...
... anyone so that the word ...
... spoke signifying ...
... to die entered ...
... rium Pilate ...
...and he said ...
... Jews ...

the other side reads:

"... this I have been born ...
... world so that I would ...
... of the truth ...
... said to him ...
... and this ...
... the Jews ...
... not one ..."

As we can clearly see, there's a top margin there—a left margin too. What we see here is therefore the verso side of a top outside corner of a page of a codex. We can calculate from all this that it is in fact a chunk of a page from the Gospel of John (verso: 18:31–33, where Pilate is compelled to interrogate Jesus by the Jews, and the recto side: 18:37–38, the bit where Pilate finally asks his perennial question, "What is truth?", respectively).

Paleographers who have examined the fragment have identified the style of Greek as Hadriatic. Based on this professional verdict, a date range of 117–138 CE has been proposed. The dating process consisted of comparing and contrasting this specimen with other known samples of ancient writing. It was subsequently placed on what they think is an appropriate place on the historical time-line. As such it is hailed as the earliest extant manuscript of any New Testament text that we have anywhere. This date range has been repeated so often that it has become almost axiomatic; scholars take it for granted these days. Most people in fact just round it off and say 125.

It seems problematic to me that the only method used to date this fragment is based on such a subjective, semi-tangible criterion that infers that the stylistic idiosyncrasies of individual scribes can be isolated and narrowed down accurately to a fixed date.

While I recognize the value that such a method would have as a secondary form of verification (perhaps) of a date, by itself it lacks the empirical precision that would be required for the kind of certitude that is conferred on the dating of this fragment by scholarship. It seems to me that a wider window is needed. Perhaps from 100-160 (adding a couple of decades to each end of the scale). This is not an insignificant difference. Paleographic dating is not conclusive.

Should we not perhaps radiocarbon date the fragment?

I realize that some folks would be up in arms about destroying a portion of such an old fragment of a gospel in the process (it's pretty tiny to begin with, it's true), but i think it is far more important for the furthering of our understanding of these texts to precisely date this manuscript, than it is to revere it to the point where we preclude any further scholarly examination of it.

I mean, we already KNOW what the Gospel of John says (right?) —it's not like it's the only piece we have. Besides, if we only use a small section of margin, the text will still be intact.

I know that this will probably never take place, but until it does, I will take the consensus on the dating of P-52 with a grain of salt.



12 June 2010

Hunanist testimony & exegesis . . .

I became a Hunanist some time ago. I had been a seeker for quite a while before finally accepting the Great Panda (blessed be his two-toned visage) as my guide.
I had tried everything along the way: Pastafarianism, Baba Ganoush, Veganity, Enchiladism, Soul Foodism. Hell, I even tried the mysticism of Sushism, all to no avail. Each left me feeling bloated yet empty inside.
The ritual/ceremonial aspects of their respective table fellowship liturgies, I had no problem with that part of it at all— in fact, I rather enjoyed the ambience, the sounds, the smells ... but it all seemed so ephemeral to me, so mechanical, so uninspired and uninspiring. After these various eucharists were over with, I would soon forget any significance the event might have had. Any wisdom imparted throughout the meal was soon lost in a soporific wave of tryptophan complacency. I needed more. I was yearning for some permanence, hungry for wisdom.
That's when I fortunately found the Great Panda (forever may he reign).
Imagine my delight when, at the end of the ritual, I broke open the sweet confection which is the fountain of all our wisdom (the silk-attired priestess called it a "cookie") and brought forth and read the first of many Hunanist oracles that would enlighten my life.
It read, "To know is nothing; to imagine is everything."

Wow! This was a deepity I had never before encountered. It resonated with me.
I mean, who needs knowledge, when we can just imagine things to be true?

This was just too weird. The burning in my bossom (there are some who imply that it was the spicy garlic sauce, but I know it was the Great Panda—may he glory in eternal bamboo fields) convinced me: This must be the place I was looking for; it felt like home.

So I've been saving my oracles over time and wish to share some of my favorites with others here, now, in the hope that they too might find solace in the Great Panda (blessed be his furry is-ness)

  • Today is a good day for being with a companion.
    —(Have you ever heard anything so true?)
  • Don't let unexpected situations throw you. (lucky #s: 37, 46, 9, 28, 39, 15)
    —(You have no idea how many times this one oracle has helped me to deal with the daily chaos of living—I don't know what I would have done without meditating on its simple beauty)
  • Don't expect to find one right way to make yourself more creative. (9, 27, 33, 30, 29, 14)
    (I therefore stopped expecting one right way and instead I am content with any old way, even if it's a wrong way—I mean, who am I to question the infinite wisdom of the Great Panda? — may his radiant splendor touch us all)
  • A new relationship is about to blossom. You will be blessed. (5, 17, 21, 44, 47)
    (Oh boy!! A prophesy!!! I hope this means a girl.)
  • The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them. ( 44, 21, 26, 36, 19, 7)
    (This was a hard one to act on, but i figure that it is right after all to give up my advantage so that others may not feel inadequate. Reading is hard work anyway.)
  • Your original ideas find a place in your work and your play. (41, 28, 33, 29, 30, 2)
    (Amazing! How does He know this?? And you wonder why I gave my life to the Great Panda!—holy holy holy is HE)
  • The best profit of future is the past. (21, 19, 24, 16, 17, 45)
    (Although this one might not seem to make any sense grammatically or syntactically at first glance, I feel confident that the Great Panda's ways—hallowed be his adorable nose—though seemingly mysterious, are part of a higher purpose that I shall come to understand in time—I mean, He woulnd't confound his devoted servant with bad phrasing just for fun, right?)
  • Help people reach their full potential. Catch them doing something right.
    (I've been vigilantly on the lookout for an opportunity to do this. It's bound to happen soon, and then . . . won't He be SO proud of me?)

You'll notice that sometimes, these cookies also include lucky numbers for me. People once upon a time used to structure their lives, all their daily activities around their lucky numbers, but this is no longer common practice (though a few "saints" still do it), so I don't get all fanatical about it, except of course for the numbers 21, 28, 29, 30, and 44, all of which are doubly attested.
I may not be superstitious, but my momma didn't raise a fool. I know a good thing when i see it.

So . . .
I fervently pray that you also may find the inner peace that comes with obsession with submission to the Great Panda (may his goodness descend upon you like a dove).

It works for me!


Disclaimer: the above is not serious. It is a moment of levity, in case you were wondering.

11 June 2010

a year short and a dollar late . . .

I stopped staring at television sets 'round '91. Those were the days of Desert Storm and its thousand points of lights in the sky, the days when I and the rest of my family were in the process of becoming informed of my father's recently diagnosed terminal illness.
School was heavy enough at the time, so I figured TV was a good bad habit to drop right then.

I'm not a prude about it. I won't turn your television off like some crazed Nazi when I walk into your home or anything like that; I simply won't turn it on of my own accord, especially when I'm at home. Any of my friends will tell you; there is no TV set in my living room. There is an ancient model in my bedroom, the one that used to be connected to a VCR (no cable), but it hasn't been turned on in years now.

Nineteen years have passed since my self-imposed exile. Rarely has it been an inconvenience to me. Occasionally it is, as when a conversation that revolves around some recently minted meme or catchphrase completely goes over my head, or when I have no idea who a celebrity is. But then, that's not much of an inconvenience. Is it? Real tragedy is when I hear some report of an amazing moment in history that was broadcast on the air, such as when Peter Gabriel sang a tune accompanied by Randy Newman on the piano during one of the Academy Award ceremonies in the nineties.

God, I wish I had seen that.

So, yeah, I'm sure I've missed a few gems in my obstinacy.
I guess the same goes for the internet. There are only so many hours in a day and so many sites out there. One is bound to miss much. Most times it doesn't matter. Sometimes it's too bad.

As I was surfing around the other day, I accidentally stumbled onto an almost-two-year-old conversation between two men with opposing views on the resurrection of Jesus. In this case, the two men were Robert Price and Don Johnson.

The premise of the show apparently was to highlight various highly contested topics (Monthly? Weekly? It's not very clear) and then have opponents alternately discuss the strength of their respective opposing positions in an open-format debate process, one in which time restrictions and protocol would ideally take a back seat to allowing a given point to be followed through to its logical end if need be, if clarity or coherence require it. Sporadic pauses—pit-stops— need to take place between rounds so that definitions and premises are understood and agreed upon as they fly by in real time, so as to leave little room for evasive or dissembling maneuvers on the part of the participants.

I had no idea that this podcast had ever existed. I realize that it has run its course and that I am likely trying to feed a dead horse here. I am nevertheless inspired to comment on it, so affected was I by what a great thing such an extended format might be. I listened to the series twice, in fact, just to make sure that I am being fair and accurate in my analysis. When I then tried to add my own comment to the last episode in that particular series, it didn't show up. I guess that no new comments are allowed after a certain time.
So i decided to comment here on my own blog.
I highly recommend this series to anyone with an interest in historical Jesus research or in the origins of Christianity.

First I want to give kudos to Paul Erins(sp?), the host of this podcast. Like him, I've often objected to the conventional approach to debate wherein the participants merely talk past each other, seldom straying from their rehearsed strategies. Like him, I find that very little genuine communication is actually possible within such a limiting format and I heartily commend him for his experiment here. Though it has its own speacial problems, as one might expect from such an unorthodox approach, this is possibly the best debate on this particular subject that I have heard so far online.

That said, episode 11 was almost painful to listen to. This was the episode where the two apologist gentlemen spend their time objecting to the host's not allowing their introduction of "worldview" as evidence. It made me extremely embarrassed for the two of them. Their insistence that worldview should be allowed into the debate is clearly nothing more than special pleading.

After this emotionally charged gambit, Paul (the host) was right to conclude (in episode 12) that the conversation could only come to a screeching halt at that point. It is interesting to note, however, that the apologists are essentially indirectly admitting that, without interjecting the limitlessnes of a supernatural into the mix to prop it up, their "historical" case cannot stand. This “evidence” of worldview is so vital to their otherwise impotent argument that they cannot continue without it. I found that fascinating.

So the debate is deemed a failur. I think that the host was extremely gracious in ascribing to himself the blame for the dead end, even unduly so, in my opinion. This is a testament to his honorable intentions in all of this, but anyone with eyes to see can see what really happened here. (i.e. — Somebody tried to use a figurative get-out-of-jail-free card in a game that doesn't allow such desperate fix-all tactics.)

At any rate, Paul is right. In the end, he was left with only two choices:

  • a:Allow for the “possibility” of miraculous intervention in the world by a “god”—whatever that might be(definitions!)—and thus render a historical debate absurd.
  • b:Don’t allow such special pleading as evidence, and thus make the apologist “uncomfortable” about continuing his participation in the debate.

Personally, I would choose the latter, but then it wouldn’t bother me at all to make Mr Johnson (clearly a very nice gentleman) “uncomfortable” about this point of contention.
This is not about comfort. Mr Johnson is a nice-enough guy, but congenial nonsense is still nonsense, and it must be called out. The civility/restraint displayed by the host, although admirable in one respect, is somewhat unfortunate in another, in fact, for it risks giving off the impression that the debate ended in a stalemate. It didn't. To me it looks more like the game was forfeited by the apologist side.

That's cool, though.
I can forgive people for being so emotionally attached to some obsession that they will try to sneak some face-saving "hallelujah" pass into their defense.

What I have a hard time forgiving, however, worse still than all that, is the claim, made at least two or three times during episode 11, as I recall, that Mr. Johnson had in fact spelled out a positive case for the historicity of the resurrection during his interview segments.
This shocked me.
I had to listen to those again, because I figured I had missed it the first two times. So I listened attentively this time to the Johnson interviews again.

But no dice; it turns out that I had not missed anything, after all. The closest that Mr. Johnson actually came to offering up a positive case for anything was when he posited that the Jewish context of the gospels (to his eyes) made the notion that Jesus had not existed improbable. This, however, a repudiation of mythicist thinking, is far from a defense of the historicity of the resurrection on its own merits.

What this means (in the end) is that when Paul the host disallowed the “worldview” defense, Mr. Johnson had absolutely nothing to offer in the positive. When I hear him saying, in effect, “well, you are not letting me use all of the evidence available to me” I can’t help but feel embarrassment for him. This was an incredibly disingenuous tack to have taken in a scholarly debate. Par for the course of general apologetic practice, perhaps, but transparently dishonest nonetheless.

I can't help but wonder if Mr Johnson realizes that if his appeal to worldview had been allowed as evidence, the best that Mr. Johnson could have reaped from this appeal would have been the plausibility of divine intervention. In other words: “I believe that gosh exists, therefore the fantastical claim contained in the New Testament could have happened.” Could have is not a positive case for anything, however; it never has been. Just because something could have happened doesn't necessarily mean that it did. One is still left with the burden of demonstrating reasons for why it is that we think it did happen.
Moreover, if our worldview allows us to accept a particular miracle story as historical, why would one accept these particular texts while not accepting other miraculous claims of other holy books and traditions. On what ground? When he did try to address this problem, Mr. Johnson went on to commit yet another logical fallacy, this time that of selective observation. Specifically, Johnson cites the fact that Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard were known mountebanks before they produced their respective holy texts, and so he confidently distinguishes his rejection of their claims from his acceptance of the New Testament's own claims.
But does he have a reason to think that Mohammed was a huckster as well? Bahaullah? Philostratus? By counting the “hits” and forgetting the “misses” in this way, Johnson reveals himself to be more entrenched in his "worldview" than he probably realizes.

The essence of the problem with this debate could be summed up by one of the brief exchanges between Paul and Mr. Price (episode 9):

host: When you described your principle of analogy originally [what you are saying is that] we‘ve got this event that‘s disanalogous to anything we observe today and you‘ve got these other accounts that are analogous to this one, so why would you take the explanation that that disanalogous event happened and these other analogies don‘t hold. […] Don reacted to that whole thing […] He said that, basically, you couldn‘t know anything, […] couldn‘t ever have historic evidence of uncommon events under that. It‘s almost [...] circular […] The construction ruled out the ability to ever derive the conclusion that some unique or uncommon thing happened in history […] because you immediately say that you have to go to the more likely alternatives.”

Price: What‘s the problem with that, other than it doesn‘t allow a guy to say that you could prove that his favorite dogma is true?”

Amen to that, I say.

It’s as if some players are sitting at a poker table.
One almost has a royal flush—but not quite—so he reserves the right to draw a joker (not from the deck, mind you—he himself provides this joker) as a wild card that will finish the flush for him.

Don (the player in question) is complaining that it is not fair to disallow this tactic. I think, however, that any other player at the table would be completely justified in calling that player a “lowdown dirty four flusher.”

Anyway . . . Paul produced a great podcast series. It doesn’t seem to have continued after this debate and that's too bad. I think he was really onto something.

for now . . .



03 June 2010

glenn beck on the dead sea scrolls or nag hammadi or the septuagint or ...

I am too stunned to comment . . .


18 April 2010

my most recent past life . . .

I found this site . . .

Past Lives

Here is what it determined for me:

Your past life diagnosis:
I don't know how you feel about it, but you were male in your last earthly incarnation.You were born somewhere in the territory of modern Alaska around the year 1675. Your profession was that of a designer, engineer or craftsman.
Your brief psychological profile in your past life:
Seeker of truth and wisdom. You could have seen your future lives. Others perceived you as an idealist illuminating path to future.
The lesson that your last past life brought to your present incarnation:
You fulfill your lesson by helping old folks and children. You came to this life to learn to care about the weak and the helpless.

Interesting . . . the ways that people come up with to feign mystic insight.



25 February 2010

the evolution of confusion ...(Dan Dennett on "deepities")

This guy seldom fails to get a good "amen" out of me.

02 December 2009

Brother Born Again

This documentary moved me very much. It was made by a woman who "lost" her brother to a fanatical religious cult in Alaska.

17 October 2009

AJLevine on the historical Jesus . . .

During a program in which Amy Jill Levine was interviewed on the topic "Who Was Jesus of Nazareth" she says:

In terms of what I do historically ... what I hope to have happen is . . . when studying the texts with me . . . individuals: Christian, Unitarian, Jewish, atheist, Muslim ... whoever . . . will be able to see in fact the different portraits of Jesus that are available and rotate not only the concerns about . . . you know . . . . 'he died in order that my sins be washed away' . . . . but go back prior to the cross and see what sort of life he lived as well as death he died, because it seems to me that unless we take this historical Jesus here defined as the entire Jesus story, seriously and only concentrate on the cross ... and only concentrate on the resurrection, we've done a disservice to Jesus ... we've certainly done a disservice to the New Testament, which gives us a fourfold story, and I think that we've done disservice to God as well in terms of how faith has to have some sort of action to it.

Forget who is speaking for a moment and stand back and read the words again. This could be an encapsulation of the position taken by Paul's opponents regarding his obsession with the cross as the central metaphor in Jesus-adoration.

Just an observation.


04 September 2009

close encounter of the first kind . . .

Just a brief note to commemorate —before I forget—what happened on Wednesday (the 2nd) while I waited for the afternoon class to get ready to record (it was the Bobby Fraser 10th cycle clinic).

In brief, I saw a UFO that day. It was about 5 P.M.

Funny thing is, I'm a skeptic from heck, so go figure. But it definitely wasn't an airplane or anything that I could identify. It was round and emitted its own light, radiant enough to make bright azure daytime sky pale in contrast.



13 August 2009

pésame . . .

He was 94 years old. May he rest in peace.



10 August 2009

quote of the day . . .

"Brazilian sounds like Russian Spanish to me."

Overheard in conversation

08 August 2009

celestial alignment . . .

I was just standing outside, looking up at the desert night sky. A brilliant planet (maybe Jupiter? It's not red enough to be Mars) formed the top point of a perfect small (the moon could have fit snugly inside it) equilateral triangle. I don't think I have ever seen one of those before in nature, at least not as simple or as pronounced.

Way cool.



04 August 2009

open question for NT scholars #5 . . .

Thinking of textual blunders, an example ocurred to me: Matt 27.

The gospel-we-know-as-Matthew's narrative about the downfall of Judas Iscariot contains an error:

"There was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me."


Jeremiah never said anything about thirty pieces of silver. Some folks have tried to epicycle Jer.18:2–3 into something, but it's fair to say that the author of Matthew just plainly made a mistake. The citation is instead a paraphrase of Zech.11:13.

This from the most outwardly 'Jewish' gospel.

The more I think about it, the more I doubt that the gospel writers were the early Jewish-Messianists that people think they were.

I'm trying to figure out why the Hellenists would co-opt the mantle of Judaism after the fall of Jerusalem, though. The remnants of the Pharisees must have been furious at these Paulinists, who were claiming to be the New Jerusalem. I can only imagine.



01 August 2009

nitpicking Religulous . . .

Two of the bloggers that I sometimes read (Greg Boyd and James McGrath) have done reviews of the film Religulous recently. I watched the film soon (a couple of weeks) after it was released in theaters. I thought it was funny. Nothing special, really, but a decent enough film. That will be the extent of my critique of the film itself here.

I write, however, because I see a certain pattern in both of the reviews of the film that I think deserves a little highlighting. I like both of the bloggers, by the way, and find them both to be honest and smart men—they are well-meaning and are generally pretty good thinkers .

The focus of their main complaint regarding the film is an interview in the film where Bill Maher asserts some parallels between the Horus legend and the Jesus legend. The claims that Maher makes are indeed erroneous (specifically, that both were supposedly born to a virgin on December 25th and had wise men visit them as infants. And that both supposedly had 12 disciples, walked on water, raised people from the dead and were themselves raised from the dead.) I am not here to defend Maher’s blunder.

But I can’t help but think that the severity of the bloggers’ critiques of this error (particularly Boyd) is making trees out of mustard bushes, so to speak. It’s kinda funny.

Bill Maher is a secular Jewish comedian. Like most human beings, he is at best but peripherally informed about both Egyptology and Christian origins. While it is true that what he actually said was just plainly wrong in this case, his mistake is a layman’s slip. Somewhere along the line, he read somewhere that there are parallels between Jesus and several other mythical figures in antiquity. In the heat of extemporaneous performance, he makes a silly mistake. It reminds me of an argument I once had with an older gentleman who mistakenly referred to the Protevangelion of John. Mistakes happen.

But the root of Maher’s argument in the passing comment is actually correct, there ARE parallel between Jesus and some of the other ancient legends. Had he brought up one of the valid ones (not silly born-on-25-December things, but some of the parallels with Apollonius and with the Mithric cults), I doubt that Boyd and McGrath would have been so critical. Too bad you can’t do a do-over with a film once it’s released.

I think it’s funny that Boyd would get so upset, especially since such parallels DO exist.

McGrath, in his review, calls attention to an important aspect of all this, “we are all prone to claim to be critical, but it is extremely difficult to actually be self-critical, regardless whether you are religious or not,” he says, and I agree. But it’s funny to find him in the same soup in this case. Ironic.

In his case, I think that he sees himself as being fair and consistent. After all, he once wrote a scathing critique of Ben Stein’s “Exposed” where he intimated some of the same thinking into his verdict (he also did one on one of Spong‘s books). And rightly so.
But I think there is a big difference. Bill Maher made a layman’s passing blunder at worst.
Ben Stein’s entire film was a systematic set of arguments that defiantly flew right in the face of the scientific method.

Again, don’t get me wrong . . . I think that Bill Maher needs to be corrected.

But I can’t help but wonder where Boyd and McGrath are when an “expert” like Ben Witherington III says that Origen explicitly mentions Josephus’ mention of Jesus. Or when he claims that Josephus and Suetonius and Pliny explicitly mention Roman records of Jesus’ crucifixion.
Or when Wm Lane Craig says that there are four “irrefutable facts” about Jesus’ resurrection. Or Phil Fernades not knowing the difference between the Thomas Infancy gospel and the Gospel of Thomas.
I could go on.

Where is the consistency there, though? And these guys are “experts”!

(That said, I appreciate McG’s review of Bauckham’s book — great job)

I understand that there may be professional repercussions to making waves against a “colleague” in the field, and as such, I don’t much blame anyone, but I just think it’s cute.



a fool on the hill . . . well done



I have been thinking about Al Franken's final victory over Norm Coleman, so I watched the Ken Burns documentary film about Congress. It's a great overview of the history of that particular branch of government and the building(s) it has occupied, and the colorful characters that have festooned its halls and chambers:

Davy Crockett sat here. So did Joseph Pulitzer and Horace Greely. William Randolph Hearst and Emily Dickinson’s father. Isadore Strauss, the founder of Macy’s, and a man who pitched a perfect game for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1964.

Over ten thousand men and women have served here. Farmers and housewives. Rhodes scholars and ex-slaves. Astronauts and priests. Basketball stars and convicted felons. School teachers and playwrights. And lawyers. Always lawyers.

[…] One member has gone insane in office. One has taken maternity leave and several have served jail terms for bribery. Members have fought on the floor with fists, fire tongs, shot each other on dueling grounds, and been shot at from the galleries. 23 from Congress have become president.

We can now add to that motley list of professions and personalities a comedian.

He's definitely tried to keep a low profile on his humor since he decided to run for the senate seat. When he finally spoke in his new official capacity during the Sotomayor confirmation hearings, I was relieved to see that his unique sense of humor is still lurking beneath the surface, intact, just waiting for any prudent opportunity to surface.

When I survey the history of Congress over the last two centuries plus, it's clear that he has some pretty big shoes to fill and a great responsibility is entrusted to him, a responsibility that anyone familiar with his former show on Air America Radion knows he takes very seriously.

  • Henry Clay - voted speaker of the house on his first day there for his oratory skill.
  • John Quincy Adams - Old Man Eloquent, the only U.S president to serve in Congress after his presidency.
  • Thomas Hart Benton of MO, the voice of western expansion (he once shot Andrew Jackson in a street brawl)
  • Sam Houston, future president of Texas, who sat in the house chamber whittling a pine stick.
  • Daniel Webster of Massachusetts . . . It was said that no man was ever so great as Daniel Webster looked and sounded.
  • Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, who was in charge of the construction of the Capitol while it was being built. He would go on to become the president of the southern Confederacy before it was completed.
  • On the floor of the senate, South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks savagely beat the abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner (Mass) with a cane. Sumner tried so hard to get away that he wrenched his desk from the floor
  • Hiram Revels-first black man ever to serve in the senate. Ironically, he filled the seat that had last been held by Jefferson Davis.
  • James G Blaine - who almost became president - had it not been for previously accepting money from corrupt corporate barons.
  • Thomas Bracket Reed of Maine Speaker of the House- staunch anti imperialist at a time when we were collection colonies.
  • George W Norris, who finally broke speaker Joseph Gurney Cannon's (Foul-mouthed Joe) iron rule on congress.
  • Robert M. LaFollete of Wisconsin, a progressive Republican, one of only six people to vote against a resolution of War against Germany in 1917. His son, Robert Jr would follow in his footsteps.
  • The first woman to serve in Congress. . . . Jeannette Rankin of Montana, was also one of the "no" votes in 1917. She was the ONLY "no" vote in 1941 (WWII).
  • Fiorello LaGuardia, a progressive (sometimes socialist) politician who could denounce exploiters in six languages.
  • New Deal pioneers George Norris and Robert Wagner (he was born in Germany), and Sam Rayburn of Texas, and his eager young protege, Lyndon Johnson
  • Harry S Truman of Missouri.
  • John F. Kennedy

Some amazing and noteworthy personalities have walked those hallowed halls.

I wish Senator Al Franken much luck and clarity and wisdon in the coming years.


30 July 2009

non-sequitur of the day . . .

I absolutely adore Aretha Franklin's singing voice. It soothes my savage breast. She made a gospel recording some time in the mid seventies. The opening song is called "Mary Don't You Weep"

Lovely music.

Earlier today, while listening to NPR I heard one of the old classic folk singers singing the tune (I'm sure it wasn't Pete Seeger, but I can't recall who it was). Anyway, the absurdity of the song's lyric hit me like a joke for the first time:

Oh Mary don't you weep
Mary don't you weep
Pharaoh's army got drownded [sic]
Oh Mary don't you weep

Can anyone tell me what the hell this song is about?

I suppose that, if I really needed to, I could concoct and spin a nice little epicycle to make sense of it.

Just thought this was funny, all of a sudden.

28 July 2009

epicycles are brilliant . . . but unnecessary . . .

"Galileo's head was on the block ... "

I recently asked an apologist blogger to complete the "refutation" of the Tübingen Scholars and of the Dutch Radicals which he had started a year before. My request was based on my frustration due to my observation that no apologist/polemicist ever adequately addresses the problems raised by the arguments stemming from these two all-but-forgotten historical-scholarly entities. These mainly (for my purpose) have to do with the 'inauthenticity' of the pauline corpus and the implications that follow this conclusion.

Before commenting on a few of the specifics of this gentlemen's 'refutation', I must comment on my immediate reaction to the style and form of this kind of apologetic enterprise, as I believe these to be part and parcel of the problem of research regarding these matters.

Let's go way back.

Long ago we started watching the skies at night. Years and decades and aeons of observations made it possible for us to theorize about the movement of celestial bodies in the firmament. Beside the obvious fact that the moon was our monthly dancing partner, we began noticing that the stars don't ever change positions relative to each other and that they go around and around the earth at a set regular rate of movement that corresponds to the yearly seasonal cycles. This observation made people realize that the firmament is in fact in constant revolution around our little planet (and, again, relatively speaking, this is true).

Next we noticed a different kind of celestial body in motion. Planets. Planets, however, seem to display a somewhat different pattern of movement through the sky, one with much variation. They are all over the place compared to the stars, further observation and cataloguing revealed that even these seemingly chaotic bodies are also in constant regular revolutions around the Earth. Always around the Earth. This was the only conclusion that the early philosophers could come to in a pre-scientific world, based on the observational criteria they had. All heavenly bodies revolve around the earth. It's obvious, no?

There's a little problem, though. It became almost immediately apparent that the orbits of all of these celestial bodies around the Earth were not always perfectly circular (the circle being the "perfect" form of motion according to our logical and metaphysical ruminations). In fact, a model which would explain the apparently asymmetrical orbits would require the use of epicycles and deferents to explain these orbital anomalies.

This is in fact what Hipparchus (c. 190 BC – c. 120 BC) brilliantly came up with to explain the retrograde motion of such strange orbits as those of Venus and Mars. (see above figure for an example of what an epicycle is)

This was a brilliant solution for an observable natural phenomenon. Hipparcus in fact built a room-size mechanism, a model using these epicycles, with all of the heavenly bodies revolving around the Earth in a rigorously synchronized cosmic ballet. This model was so good, in fact, that with it he could predict solar eclipses and other celestial events—decades in advance—with remarkable accuracy.

Right about this same time another man, Seleucus of Seleucia (c. 190–150s BC), hit upon the idea that the orbits of celestial bodies would be simplified—epicycles no more—if only we would place the sun in the middle of the scheme instead of the Earth.


The point that I'm after here is that epicycles, brilliant constructs that they are, (They work! They explain so much!) are not reality. Though they solve a philosophical problem in the eye of the observer, they did not reflect the reality of the cosmos.

And this is the sort of thing that apologetics in general (but especially the "historical" variety) reminds me of. Pages and pages devoted to epicyclic spinnings-in-place. It all looks so very systematic and erudite. Secondary and tertiary sources are quoted copiously. Cross-referenced.

I actually read the forums that the apologist blogger directed me to regarding the Dutch Radicals.

He referred me for instance to a link that "rips Hermann Detering a new one for his ridiculous arguments based on his misunderstanding of the mechanics of letter production, the different kinds of letters, and travel in the ancient world."

Well, I read the article. Lupia rightly points out Detering's limitation as a paleographer or papyrologist or what-have-you, but to simply list some thirty-one varieties of letters and then say that Romans is sorta kinda like a Diogenes Laërtius work? That's it? That's weak! It's the rhetorical equivalent of: See? You didn't even know there were eight different conjugations of the verb "estar"!! . . . Such 'gotcha' type epicycles may serve to point out an individual's deficiencies in some specialty field, true, but to imagine that a lack of specialization in papyrology (or whatever) disqualifies a historian from commenting on the general form and function of an epistle. Well . . . that's just silly. As Bob Dylan once sang, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."

Yet, this supposedly "rips Detering a new one". The apologist treats it like one more slam dunk.

Slam dunk? It's barely relevant!

Even if you could semantically call "Romans" (or Ignatius' "letters" or 1st Clement, or whatever) a "letter" because another long diatribe is called a letter in 300 CE or so, it's still not functionally a letter (no more than Diogeneses' letter to Herodotus is—THAT's the point!). Detering's point stands.

The modern historico-apologetic enterprise has been so busy at work conceiving epicycle solutions to the problems that beset the texts. They're brilliant at it.

Well . . . . I'd like to commission a few epicycles from some apologist. Not too many; in fact, I prefer to deal with them one at a time and at length (one of my complaints about the apologists MO is that they throw out a lot of information in a short time, declare some finality to it all and move on to the next desultory point. Ironically, it's like listening to an astrology buff wax on and on about some favorite astral exegesis. Yes, it's ancient. Yes, it's highly systematized. Yes, it is historically deep. Astrology is not an adequate view of reality nevertheless, and no amount of prolixity and erudition will change that.

Anyway . . . I'd like a few custom-made epicycles from one of my apologist readers:

  1. Why do you think that, even if they are authentic —which they almost certainly are not—The author of the Ignjatian corpus only knows for sure of one Pauline letter? I mean, this reportedly happened in 106–110, right.
  2. While I'm on the topic of Ignatius . . . Why do you suppose that there was a tradition all the way up to the fifth century, in ANTIOCH, no less (Ignatius' home turf) that Ignatius had been martyred there at Antioch (John Malalas). Mind you, I am not saying that his version is true. I don't care. What I'm saying is, Why is there this independent tradition in Antioch, if everyone knew that Ignatius died in Rome after writing a book (I mean, some letters ;)? Would the Antiochenes not know of it?

I'd love to see what epicycles may come.





25 July 2009

la YiYiYi, que nos dice . . .

I've watched this video a bunch of times. When Pablo Picasso watched La Lupe perform for the first time, he said, "One word: genius." This clip comes from a mid sixties PuertoRican television program. I can't help but imagine my grandmother and all her friends behind their Roman Catholic lace veils, utterly horrified at what La Lupe was doing on Prime Time. Rosaries and penances for sure.

This woman is dancing around—wrestling with some serious angels. She scared the hell out of the PuertoRicans, Cuba's newborn dream couldn't care less about apostates like her and Mexico just wasn't enough to sustain this brilliant artist of the twentieth century, amazing though she was.

Had she made it to the Buena Vista age, she would have possibly had a new audience. Like a rare and beautiful Ibrahim Ferrer, a black pearl from a deep deep forgotten treasure.

Who knows?