29 April 2008

100 intellectuals . . .

Posted by at 8:51 AM
Exploring Our Matrix is spreading yet another internet meme around. This time it's a call to list a hundred intellectuals.
I think it was Huxley that said that an intellectual is just somebody for whom sex is not the most important thing.
Oh dear!

I'll mutate the meme beyond all recognizance. Having read one such work and re-read another recently, I'll just list a few books which inform or have influenced my thought on Christian origins in some significant way.

  1. Antiqua Mater by Edwin Johnson
    Written in 1887, just three years after the publication of the recently-discovered Didache, this is an honest and well-argued skeptical examination of the early Christian literature, one that would greatly influence what would eventually develop into the mythicist position. I like his analysis of the Didache in contrast to Justin of Neapolis, especially in light of the fact that the Didache was a brand new text back when this volume was published.
  2. The Birth of Christianity by Joel Carmichael
    Warning—This book is written in a way that requires the average reader to keep a hefty dictionary nearby. Nearly every sentence is a beautifully convoluted flurry of dexterous polysyllabic insight. If you can navigate the advanced lexicon used throughout, this book contains what I think is one of the best laid-out overviews of Christian origins that I have ever read in a single volume.
  3. The Origin of the New Testament by Alfred Loisy
    Reading this 1930's work by this lovely apostate about ten years ago brought me for the first time face-to-face with the fact that any appeal to "apostolic" authority is tenuous at best.
  4. Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity by Walter Bauer
    Another milestone work that forever changed the way I looked at the relevant materials. I've actually read this book in its entirety thrice. (OMG, I'm such a geek!)
  5. The Cross That Spoke by John Dominic Crossan
    Though I have seen critiques of Crossan which dismiss him as an ultra-liberal fringe writer, and though this book in particular (and also his Who killed Jesus, which essentially demolishes Raymond Brown's multiple-volume treatise on the death of Jesus in a mere 100 pages) argues what might be seen as an especially fringe position on the original provenance of the Passion Narrative, I have never heard a single scholar try to refute it. Not one.
  6. Lost Christianities by Bart Ehrman
    Although I think Ehrman makes a huge mistake in thinking that the catalyst of the movement was a historical Jesus who was an end-times monger (an error which pervades all of his subsequent theses derived from that one), his insights regarding the first and second-century variations are nevertheless fascinating and useful.
  7. The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man by Robert M. Price
    This book helped me see that there is nothing new under the sun—not even the "New" Testament.
I'll stop there for now . . . . gotta go to work.



27 April 2008

20 April 2008

weird Jesuses #3 ...

Posted by at 11:56 AM
Here's a primitive woodcut:
The Way to Emmaus.

15 April 2008

weird Jesuses #2

Posted by at 5:43 PM

Light by Sigfried Reinhardt - 1959

A free-jazz Jesus?


heathen heathens atheists atheist agnostic skeptic skeptical buddhist buddhism jain bahai


Posted by at 2:46 PM
Over at Pistoumen, there's an interesting theory (nay, a rumination) regarding the identity of Joseph "of Arimathea." (JºA) The blog credits A.J. Fejfar with this bold discovery.

The gist of it that since there's no way to really know that Joseph (Jesus' father) had died relatively early (as the complete silence in the NT regarding Joseph after his brief role in but two of the synoptics suggests to their readers) , that it is possible that he lived on to even survive Jesus. JºA is put forward as a likely "secret identity" of Jesus' father.

Maybe, since he is referred to as a Tekton in the texts, the rumination goes on, and since Tektons were rumored to be prone to "penury," then perhaps Joseph, in order to avoid prosecution or shame or taxes or what-have-you, moved to Arimathea and changed his name. This would allow for the possibility that both his mother and his father were present in Jerusalem for Jesus' egress.

Over at Sunestauromai, the idea is deemed "persuasive" and some questions are asked about the implications for Catholic doctrines . . . etc

Since we are asking questions, here are some of my own:
  1. "Penury"?
    First of all, I would immediately ask for a textual citation for this claim, until then, this is but a silly ad hoc contrivance.
    But, for the sake of argument, I'll seriously consider it for a moment.
  2. Here I would next ask: why on earth would Yusef be harrassed and prosecuted for being destitute (which is what "penury" means)? Even if we extend the definition of the word to denote miserly behavior, isn't one man's miserliness another man's frugality? Where was the dividing line in this "practice"? Is there any evidence that would lead to the conclusion that stingy people were prosecuted to such a high degree in the Galilee—to the point of even having to change their name and locale?
  3. Further bracketing the silliness, I'll next ask: Why would Joseph have to change his name, but Jesus could continue to use the Nazareth reference? This seems counter-productive. Non?
  4. Also, if Joseph wanted to "hide," why would he retain even the "Joseph" part of his name? Imagine Vito Corleone entering the witness protection program, where afterward he is known as "Vito from Yonkers."
    What kind of "hiding" is that? He would do better by wearing a burkka.
    (does this seem silly yet? :)
  5. Since we are being arbitrary here, isn't it possible that this was his real name after all, i.e. Yusef bar Matthai?
    I mean, the two genealogies don't even agree on what his name at Nazareth was: Was it Yusef Bar Yacob? — Or bar Heli? I suggest that this is at least as probable as the present rumination.

I'll stop here, lest I be deemed as arrogant (as was the case when I tried to call attention to the folly in the rumination), and I'll end by adding a glimpse of my own view regarding JºA.

I happen to think that the JºA bit was invented out of whole cloth by the author of GMark in order to establish in one fell swoop 1- that Jesus had been indeed buried, and 2- that the women watching from a distance would know where Jesus had been interred (both of these being highly improbable scenarios without reliance on such a character as JºA to tie the empty tomb story together) . . . so the whole point is moot to me in the end, but is it amusing to see people taking convoluted fanciful things like this this seriously.



14 April 2008

Quote of the day - Philip Davies

Posted by at 2:41 PM
"Can biblical scholars persuade others that they conduct a legitimate academic discipline? Until they do, can they convince anyone that they have something to offer to the intellectual life of the modern world? Indeed, I think many of us have to convince ourselves first."

Philip Davies
University of Sheffield
"Do we Need Biblical Scholars?" , 2005


weird Jesuses #1

Posted by at 1:45 PM

In my studies, I sometimes encounter visual representations of Jesus or of people related to the Christian scriptures that fall outside of the normative way of representing him/them.

I decided to post some of them here from time to time. Here's the first, a Chinese woodblock representing the story of Jesus stilling the tempest.

It's a beautiful piece, in my opinion.


13 April 2008

quote of the day

Posted by at 9:31 PM
(for those who insist that only an "expert" can comment on Christian origins):

"[...]in the absence of further historical evidence, we must already come to the probable conclusion that the belief of the Christians in the middle of the second century rested upon a foundation purely Ideal. This is no hasty and rash conclusion; though it is one which constrains every thoughtful mind to a long pause of silence and of reflection. There is no need for us to tread over again ground so thickly marked and perhaps obscured by the footprints of modern scholars. There is good reason why we should abstain from overloading our pages with references to their writings, and so lend any further countenance to the notion that no man is competent to form a judgment on these questions until he shall have perused a whole library of learned letters. The data are few; the scope of the investigation is within the range of every clear-thinking person."

(Edwin Johnson, from Antiqua Mater, 1887, p.34)


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12 April 2008

Beyond Belief ...

Posted by at 7:13 PM

I found a series of lectures which deal with the chasm that divides science/religion, faith/logic. It touches on a lot of the points brought up in recent discussions with fellow bloggers.



07 April 2008


Posted by at 11:19 PM
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