22 January 2008

"to many brethren at the same time ..."

Posted by at 7:55 AM Read our previous post
UFOs over Texas.

Angels over L'América?

Dozens of folks down in Stephenville, Texas report having seen something huge and shiny and whisper quiet speeding along low over their fine province.

In this age of web-based telephony where you can play your favorite current MP3 and film yourself dancing to it and then transmit this footage to your grandmother who lives in East Madagascar, all in a matter of moments, it is interesting that the only video record obtained of this "close encounter" is a single badly shaky indeterminate (basically)useless one.

Something like this happened once while I was living in the Bronx years ago. Many people claimed to have seen some huge things up in the sky one night. Of course, I totally missed it (just my luck).


More recently . . . early one morning I noticed an iridescent concentration of light in the sky, a sight which I observed with fascination for some time. It was beautifully luminous. Not a comet. Not an aurora. All I knew was that it was weird and beautiful. Later that day, I found out that the cause of this light phenomenon was a test lift-off somewhere in the New Mexico sands which was causing this strange display in the upper reaches of the atmosphere. It was the latent trail of some rocket. Had I never heard the official report on the radio, it would have remained an "U.F.O." to my mind.

So . . . What was this thing that people saw over Texas?

There is an added element of intrigue in all of this. Some people are reporting two American military aircraft trying to pursue the U.F.O.s in question.

The military denies having deployed any aircraft in the area. Are they lying? To what purpose?

If people report having seen accompanying small craft, and the military says they are not ours, then instead of "pursuing" the "mothership" perhaps the two smaller craft are in fact supporting characters involved in perpetrating some illusion (I don't know that it IS an illusion, I'm just agnostic about it all, trying to figure this out).

But, if you ask me, some frivolous aviators are pulling some fast one here. This is happening in the buckle of the Bible Belt, too, so it wouldn't surprise me if there was an element of apocalyptic fervor simmering beneath all of this.

This all got me thinking; it reminded me of 1st Corinthians 15, in which Jesus is reported to have appeared to over 500 brethren at the same time. Fideists like Craig love this chapter, and see it as a kind of guarantor of historicity - I would love to see any serious theologian engage Bob Price's argument for that particular passage as a post-pauline interpolation. While I've read many people dismiss Price as a kind of enfant terrible of biblical studies, I've yet to see these people seriously engage this argument on its own merits. I feel similarly about Crossan's "Cross that spoke" theory, where he points to evidence of a precursor to the passion of Mark which was preserved in what we now know as the Gospel of Peter. I've seen people dismiss Crossan as a liberal extremist, but I've never a word to refute the strength of this particular thesis from them. As a disinterested layreader, that is very telling to me.

If 1Cor 15, by crystallizing into a liturgical formula, reflects a need for such inclusive language in refering to "bona fide" apostolic claims, while subtly still proclaiming Cephas as primary root (note even Yacob's much-less prominent placing on the list), then it loses its foundation as one of the texts that "vouchsafe" historicity for many. I'm not going to make the case here, though. If you are curious about Price's theory, read this article, which breaks it down fairly well:

Apocryphal Apparitions: 1 Corinthians15:3–11 as Post-Pauline Interpolation

Anyway, while I think the the fine residents of Stephenville did in fact witness something in the sky that night, I think the 500 brethren are simply made up to lend creedence to and bolster the emergent post-apostolic kerygma, long after the focus had shifted to the resurrection as the Christian zero-point.

The synoptics all imply that Jesus died during his first visit to Jerusalem.
Were there 500 Christian brethren in Jerusalem fifty days later? If not in Jerusalem, where did this 500-bird-with-one-stone event happen?

The questions start to beg themselves like dominoes.



listening to . . .
Pat Metheny - Secret Story
Langhorne Slim - Slim Picken's

1 comment:

  1. A key difference from the contemporary parallel you draw is that we can (at least in theory) check and see how many people actually saw something at the same time, and what they think they saw. In the case of Paul's reference to 500 at one time, it is not only impossible to cross examine eyewitnesses, but we don't actually know if there were any eyewitnesses at all! Paul is quite clear that he was not among the 500 (indeed, Paul himself was not even a Christian at the time this appearance is supposed to have happened). Did he get the information from someone who was among the 500? Or from someone who was told by someone else that they had been told...?


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