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Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#1 Aug 18, 2013
Just a place to put some of my past posts for future use.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#2 Aug 18, 2013
Postmortem Punishment I

As with many concepts in the Bible, punishment in the afterlife is a complex matter, and people come away with varying conclusions about it. In the end, though, recognition that the biblical texts were constructed by many people over roughly a millennium to address ever-changing audiences and ever-changing sets of circumstances is necessary to appreciate that key concepts such as postmortem punishment simply are not always presented consistently throughout the canon, nor are words that run throughout the canon always used with just a single, immutable meaning.

The result is an array of varying modern theologies regarding the afterlife and the system of rewards and punishments in it, though it is safe to say that majority Christian thought has always held some sense of a conscious punishment in the afterlife for the wicked, usually in perpetuity and often applied in a fiery manner. But when it comes to punishment in the afterlife, no one who promotes any particular theology regarding it can get all of the references to Hell and to postmortem punishment in the Bible to jive easily with that theology. No theology, whether it is one of perpetual punishment in Hellfire, conditional immortality, annihilationism, universal reconciliation, or something else can make all of the Biblical entries on the subject fit into its framework without a fair amount of artifice.

But as a 1st century Palestinian Jew, it is likely that the historical Jesus believed in some version of eternal punishment. And when it comes to guessing what he may have thought about the subject, the prominent schools of Jewish theology during his lifetime are more important than trying to figure out what the “proper” interpretation of the OT’s position on the matter is. The OT’s position, after all, was a shifting one.

In this regard, Shammai and Hillel, important Pharisees of Jesus’ day, taught that eternal punishment would be the fate of the wicked. Their teachings were extremely influential in 1st century Jewish theology, and as one scholar notes,“since the Schools of Shammai and Hillel represented the theological teaching in the time of Christ and His Apostles, it follows that the doctrine of Eternal Punishment [was what] held in the day of our Lord….”(Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, p. 792.)

Whether Shammai and Hillel were correct in their interpretations of the OT scriptures does not matter. Several intertestamental Jewish texts support this view of eternal punishment as a widely accepted one in the Jewish community during this time. As the authors of The Four Hells note on page 70 of their book, the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, who were the largest and most popular group of Jews and Jesus’ primary audience,“embrace[d] eternal, conscious punishment.”

The Essences also appear to have bought into the concept of conscious punishment in the after life, leaving only the very small and short lived sect of the Sadducees to run contra in thought. Josephus writes of them,“They deny the immortality of the soul and the punishments and rewards of Hades.”(Jewish War, ii. 8.14.) Luke also notes (20:27) that they did not believe in the resurrection.

So absent strong evidence to the contrary, it is likely that the historical Jesus, as a 1st century Palestinian Jew, held beliefs consistent with the majority of Jews of his time regarding a conscious and eternal punishment in the afterlife – punishment other than simply death. And instead of offering strong evidence to the contrary, the NT often portrays Jesus teaching of judgment and punishment in the afterlife, sometimes in very fiery terms and sometimes in perpetual terms.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#3 Aug 18, 2013
Postmortem Punishment II

In this regard, Jesus is reported as saying in Mark 9,“It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.” In Matthew 5, Jesus again speaks of a fiery punishment:“But anyone who says,'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.” And Matthew 13 has Jesus proclaiming,“The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Similarly, in Matthew 25, Jesus warns,“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” All of this, of course, relates to the Lazarus parable in Luke, where the rich man suffers a hot agony in the afterlife and asks Lazarus for some water.

Nowhere in the gospels am I aware of Jesus going out of his way to dispel the widely-held notion of a conscious, perpetual punishment in the afterlife. And even if Jesus did not buy into the generally held Jewish beliefs during the 1st century regarding an active, eternal punishment for some, it is likely that his purported words in the gospels, taken as a whole, implied exactly that to most of his 1st century Jewish listeners.

So why would Jesus use such imagery, if he did not believe in punishment other than death in the afterlife? He had to know what most Jews of his time thought about the subject; yet, as depicted in the gospels, he often used imagery that was common to such a belief in his time. I believe the most logical conclusion is that, if the words in the gospels attributed to Jesus were actually spoken by him, then he intended them to carry a meaning of an active, conscious, and eternal punishment. At least, this is what the bulk of his audience would have taken from his collective pronouncements. And Jesus had to have known that a parable such as the one about Lazarus would have fed on his audience’s belief in such a punishment in the afterlife.

But it is doubtful that Jesus actually ever told the Lazarus parable; the parable’s abnormal literary style is only one of the reasons that “modern criticism forbids us to believe the parable … was ever actually spoken by our Lord”.(Samuel Butler, The Fair Haven, p. 197.) In short, the Lazarus parable comes from the author of Luke, or a source he relied on, and not from Jesus. And this may be true for other putative pronouncements of Jesus in the gospels regarding punishment in the afterlife.

So what did Luke and the other gospel writers likely think about a perpetual, fiery torment and what did they intend to convey to their contemporary audiences, late 1st century Christians? Parts of the canon, such as Revelation, and some apocryphal Christian texts of the period are suggestive of the answer. In some of them, such as the Apocalypse of Peter, Hellfire was all the rage. For many early Christians, Hell was a real, fiery, and perpetual torment. And the authors of the canonical gospels, including Luke, did little to dispel that common early Christian mythology when it came to Jesus’ putative pronouncements on the subject.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#4 Aug 18, 2013
Postmortem Punishment III

Many early Christians took Jesus’ purported sayings about punishment in the afterlife to mean exactly what they immediately suggest to modern readers, at least in general terms. As one scholar noted,“[I]n the primitive church a very gloomy interpretation was placed on the teachings concerning the state of the damned. A literal ‘hell fire’ was almost universally believed.”(Henry Frank, The Doom of Dogma and the Triumph of Truth, p. 176.) Again, to rely on the authors of The Four Hells at p. 70:

“The point is that the imagery of hell fire must be interpreted in light of the Hellenism of the first century. It is not enough for annihilationist to argue from the Old Testament (which they think has no concept of unending punishment for the wicked) to the New Testament (in which they conclude the same). Nor is it wise to import wholesale the contexts of the Old Testament into the New. For example, just because the undying worm in Isaiah 66:24 feeds on dead bodies is insufficient reason to say that the undying worm image in Mark 9:48 must relate to dead (annihilated) creatures. About 150 B.C. the Jewish composer of Judith (16:17) uses Isaiah's worm image to say that the wicked will suffer eternal pain. From the first century on, the fire and worms of Isaiah are commonly placed in hell, inflicting pain on the wicked who suffer eternally. The important thing in interpreting any ancient text is to give proper weight to the meaning of words in the time period in which they are used.”

As for the Lazarus parable itself, Hippolytus’ Against Plato – On the Cause of the Universe describes Hades in terms that are identical to the Lazarus parable. The author, an important Christian writer in the early 3rd century, appears to be relying on the Lazarus parable in his description of Hades as a place where all souls go but where the wicked are eventually cast into a Revelation-type lake of fire that exists in a separate region in Hades. Notice that Hippolytus of Rome sees Hades as a place where everyone goes to meet with either punishment or favor. This approach fully comports with Josephus, a 1st century Jew, and his reference to punishments and rewards in Hades in his Jewish War. For both writers, Heaven and Hell belong to Hades, the abode of the dead.

Finally, anyone placing fine, immutable distinctions on the original language and assuming a word such as Hades may not mean different things to different people at different times is doomed to deception. As Metzger notes,“The word ‘Hades’ in Greek … was originally a proper noun, the name of the god of the underworld. In time the word came to denote a place or state….”(Bibliotheca Sacra, 150: 599.) The same is true for many words and phrases that are important to the Biblical concepts of the afterlife.

In sum, to arrive at a claim that Christ – that is, the historical Jesus as presented in the NT – never taught or implied any punishment other than death in the afterlife is to go against what he purportedly said and what those words would have meant to the average Jewish listener, had he actually spoken them, or to the typical Christian reader of the time, if they are merely the inventions of the gospel writers. It is the eyes and the ears of these 1st century people that must be paramount in determining what was intended, for a “word is not crystal, transparent and unchanging; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstance and the time in which it is used.”(Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Towne v. Eisner, 245 U.S. 418, 425.)

For the vast majority of Jews and Christians in 1st century times, postmortem punishment was a conscious and usually eternal punishment, not merely unconscious extinction, and Jesus’ purported pronouncements in this regard would have reinforced that view.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#5 Aug 18, 2013
Ode to an Ash

A poem by Chess Jurist

What a mighty, towering tree.
A wondrous sight for all to see.
Who could want for any more?
Certainly not the evil borer
That claimed its stately majesty
And thirteen hundred bucks from me.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#6 Aug 18, 2013
Biblical Snow Globe
If one reads the bible objectively -- that is, in the same fashion as one would read any other religious text -- one sees a mythology that changes over time. The concept of God changes from a powerful but not all-knowing deity to one who is all powerful and all knowing. In the beginning, he asks questions and goes to investigate things. Later, he simply knows – he sees all, knows all.

The concept of the afterlife changes. One tends simply to die or at best end up in a slumber in a netherworld in the earliest parts of the Bible. Rewards for godly behavior tend to be handed out in this life, not the next. Later, a judgment day develops, after which good folks are rewarded, but the bad are not necessarily punished, other than through denial of a reward. Ultimately, there is talk of punishing the wicked, sometimes in fiery, eternal, and very Greek terms.

In the Bible, especially in the earliest parts, the world is seen as a sort of snow globe. A flat surface sitting on a foundation and encased in a shell -- a firmament. God resides on the other side of that firmament. But men ostensibly can reach God's abode, if only they build a tower that is high enough. And, seemingly, but for God's active intervention, they might succeed.

Incredible stories abound in the Bible, often borrowed from the mythology of other cultures. For example, Noah encounters a flood, much as Gilgamesh did before him. In the New Testament, Greek mythology rather than Mesopotamian mythology has the greater influence. Thus, Hades is all the rage. A savior is born, and he is much like the other saviors in the ubiquitous mystery religions of the Hellenistic world. And these religions all seem to borrow from one another -- and compete with one another.

When I read the Bible, I see a product of its time and culture. That time is a relatively long one. It was written over roughly a 1,000 years. And its culture is not uniform. In the New Testament, Greek influences abound simply because the writers and the believers are either Gentiles or Hellenized Jews. The traditional culture of the Jews is mostly rejected, and the process of rejecting that culture creates tension and disputes that survive in those writing, with people such as Paul warning about the Judaizers and the author of John disparaging the Jews.

Hoax, mythology, delusion, a mix of all the above, whatever. It all comes out pretty much the same in the wash.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#7 Aug 18, 2013
The Unfinished Gospel

The earliest surviving copies of Mark end at Mark 16:8. There the women who have gone to anoint Jesus' body find a young man (neaniskos) wearing a white robe in Jesus' tomb and flee in fright.

It's an odd ending, and to smooth out that ending with the rest of the canonical gospels, various late redactors added disparate endings to Mark, including the one that commonly is printed today.

Bruce Metzger notes in his commentary on the Greek New Testament that three theories are common in scholarship for explaining Mark's strange ending at 16:8: The original ending was lost. Or Mark's author actually intended to end his gospel on a rather odd note with the women fleeing the tomb. Or Mark never got around to finishing his gospel.

But I believe there is a fourth option: Mark's original ending became problematic and was therefore redacted.

Fast forward from Mark's writing in the 70's to 80-something AD. Matthew's and Luke's authors are writing their gospels. Luke claims at 21:32 that Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things [including his second coming] have happened." Matthew's author puts a similar statement in Jesus' mouth at 24:34.

Fast forward a little more to roughly 90 AD. The primary author of John finishes his gospel at John 20, not John 21, as it ends now. Don't believe me? Consult Tertullian's writings. In the second century, he quotes John 20:30-31 as the ending of that gospel. But more about that later.

Early Christians believed Jesus would return in their lifetime. Matthew 24:34 and Luke 21:32 feed into this as do a few other passages in all three synoptic gospels. Paul believed this too. To paraphrase 1 Corinthians 7:29-31: "Time is short, so buy stuff as if it is not yours to keep." But modern Christians merely apologize these passages away. They make arguments such as the words "this generation" do not necessarily mean the people living in Jesus' time.

Evan Powell argues in “The Unfinished Gospel”, correctly I think, that Mark's missing ending also played into the theme of Jesus swiftly returning and that the missing ending was a little too clear about it to be apologized away.

When Jesus' generation obviously had all passed away, early Christians came to doubt their faith because of the failed promise.

Houston, we have a problem.

Enter John 21, John's second ending, sometimes referred to as John's appendix. It was added in the 2nd century to explain away the failed promise of a swift return. In this added chapter, Peter asks Jesus what will become of the Beloved Disciple. The text continues:
John wrote:
Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die.
Voilà! Jesus didn't promise to return so soon! You guys merely just misunderstood.

Because of the great variance in the Greek used in John 21 from the rest of John, it is clear chapter 21 is not the work of the primary author. But did this second author make up the text from whole cloth? Apparently not.

For reasons that are complex, it appears this 2nd ending in John may be based loosely on the missing ending of Mark. If so, it is likely that the Beloved Disciple (John? Doubtful. Mark's neaniskos in the tomb in chapter 16 and in chapter 14? Maybe.) was probably promised that Jesus would return in his lifetime in Mark's missing ending. And if so, it appears that different redactors handled that problem differently. John's redactor provided an addition ending that claims the "brothers" had misunderstood what Jesus said. Mark's redactor simply deleted the problem altogether, only to have even later redactors add various endings to close the hole the deleted ending created.

Christians. Gotta love 'em! But keep an eye on the silverware when they’re around.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#8 Aug 18, 2013
The Polemics of Mark

The earliest extant Christian writing, aside from the genuine letters of Paul, is the gospel of Mark.

Mark is a marvelous work of fiction. It was written anonymously and later attributed, almost certainly incorrectly, to John Mark, son of Mary of Jerusalem. It was written in the 70's after the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the 2nd temple. And it comes to us in a crude Greek that probably was written by a Gentile or Hellenized Jew who was a masterful storyteller but not the best linguist and not a resident of Palestine, as John Mark was.

Perhaps seizing on the moment weakness for the early Jerusalem church that came after the fall of Jerusalem, with most members of the Jerusalem church likely killed or dispersed with the rest of Jerusalem's residents in the siege, Mark is written as a polemic against Jesus' closest followers, including members of Jesus' family.

Backtrack to Paul's genuine texts: In most of the 1st century, there was a struggle in the Jesus movement between Gentiles and Jews. Paul, a Jew but also a proponent of a more Hellenized version of the movement, warns against believing the "Judaizers". These "Judaizers" were believers -- probably mostly or exclusively Jews -- who argued for believing in Jesus but still following Jewish law. According to them, Gentiles were to be circumcised and to obey Jewish dietary restrictions among other things before becoming full members of the movement.

What? No bacon and eggs for breakfast? Say it ain't so.

According to one of Paul's genuine letters, he met Peter in Antioch -- a real event, not fiction.

Peter ate with everyone there until the rest of the Jerusalem delegation arrived. Then Peter would no longer eat with the unclean Gentiles. Paul called Peter on this. Paul does not tell us he won the argument, suggesting he did not, but what Paul does tell us indirectly was that Peter was an observant Jew when circumstances permitted. In short, Simon Peter, a key member of the Jerusalem church, was an observant Jew after Jesus' death, and the Jerusalem church, the hub of power in the early movement before the fall of Jerusalem, was also likely the hub of power for Paul's "Judaizers".

Fast forward to Acts: Despite the portrayal in the canonical gospels of Jesus' family living in Galilee and the portrayal in John's appendix, chapter 21, of the disciples returning to Galilee, everyone lives in Jerusalem. And despite Mark portraying Jesus' family as nonbelievers, Jesus' brother James appears to lead the Jerusalem church.

Mark's author was anti-family -- biological family that is. And he sought to portray the Twelve as a bunch of dolts. In short, he sought to portray the key members of the then-dead-or-dispersed Jerusalem church as misguided.

Masterful. Not only is Mark's author a great storyteller, he's a great strategist as well.

In Mark, the Twelve just don't get it or don't measure up. They don't understand Jesus' parables, argue among themselves about whom is the most worthy, fall asleep during guard watch, and even deny Jesus in his hour of need.

In Mark, Jesus’ family does not follow him and disrespects him.

In Mark, the movement comes before family.

In Mark, Jesus' closest followers are discredited.

Masterful stuff.

-- Chess Jurist

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#9 Aug 18, 2013
On the Pseudograph 2 Peter
<quoted text>
… now just how is it YOU come to the knowledge that Peter was uneducated and a bumpkin?....

Sorry, child, you are arguing against your own scripture:

Acts 4:13 -- Now when they ... perceived that [Peter and John] were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled.

You realize of course that common laborers, such as fishers, normally would not have learned to read or write then, let alone read or write a foreign language. If Peter was a fisher, as claimed, and from the laboring class, he would have received no formal education, and the description of him being uneducated in Acts would have been accurate.

As to actually writing 2 Peter, even apologists have a tough time arguing that with a straight face:

"2 Peter claims to have been written by Peter. This attribution is almost universally rejected by commentators."

-- 2 Peter and Jude, Jonathan Knight, p. 22.

"Scarly anyone nowadays doubts that 2 Peter is pseudonymous."

-- A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and Jude, J. N. D. Kelly, p. 235.

"The final book of the New Testament to be written was probably 2 Peter, a book almost universally recognized by critical scholars to be pseudonymous, not actually written by Simon Peter but one of many Petrine forgeries from the second century."

-- Lost Christianities, Bart D. Ehrman, p. 234.

"....the majority of commentators argue that the book is written by someone who is using Peter's name, rather than Peter himself."

-- James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude, Gerald Bray, Thomas C. Oden, p.xx.

"It is generally admitted that the literary dependence of 2 Peter on Jude rules out apostolic authorship."

-- Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Part 7, p. 323.

"Second Peter is widely considered a clear example of pseudepigraphy."

-- The Westminster Dictionary of New Testament & Early Christian Literature & Rhetoric, David Edward Aune, p. 354.

"The Petrine authorship of II Peter has been widely denied...."

-- John: Gospel of Belief, Merrill Chapin Tenney, p. 303.

"It is generally held that the document is pseudonymous...."

-- Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, D. N. Freedman, ed., p. 1040.

"The Petrine authorship of 2 Peter has long been disputed, but only since the beginning of this century has the pseudepigraphal character of the work become almost universally recognized."

-- Peter 2: An Account of Research, Richard J. Bauckham, in Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt, v 2.25.5, p. 3719.

When many apologists run from the letter's authenticity right along with virtually all serious scholars, there's a problem.

But you keep on deluding yourself to the contrary, hear?

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#10 Aug 18, 2013
On Plagiarism
Blackbwoy wrote:
<quoted text> can i plagiarize a material, when i gave the source of where the material....

When I was four years old, I stole a piece of candy from the general store in the small town nearest to where my family lived. I took a taste of it when no one was looking and instantly hated it. To my unlearned palate, it was a terrible tasting thing.

Today, I am unsure of what kind of candy it was, but my guess is horehound or a similar confection that might engender envy in a young eye but turn a tender tongue. Regardless, my plan had been foiled: I could not eat the evidence of my misguided misdemeanor.

That evidence clung to me as a barnacle bonds to a boat’s belly. It was winter, and I put the candy in my coat pocket while hoping for an opportunity to discard it unnoticed. On the way home, I laid on the backseat of my mother’s car listening to its engine toil along the unpaved county roads as my mind, both youthfully innocent and guilty at the same time, raced around looking for an escape route. All the while, the horehound candy in my pocket taunted me for having done such an evil deed.

I could have tossed that candy on the car’s floor at anytime or, perhaps, pitched it during the walk from the driveway to the house. But I was afraid. To me, that piece of candy was the equivalent of a gold ingot. Though useless to me, I figured it was virtually invaluable and would never go unnoticed lying in the driveway or on the floorboard of my mother’s Ford. An adult would immediately notice it, I thought, and, having found it, he or she would expend endless energy trying o retrace the ingot’s steps from the general store to where I tossed it.

In short, I would be exposed for the master criminal I was.

Once in the house, my mother wanted to take my coat and hang it up. But I refused. The gold ingot rested heavily in my coat’s pocket, and I believed she certainly would notice. In truth, she never would have given that chunk of candy a second thought. But she did immediately zero in on my reluctance to relinquish my wrap.

It was over; I had been exposed. And as judge, jury, and executioner, my mother swiftly imposed and carried out the penalty for my peccancy. She gave me a penny and drove me back to the store, where I had to confess my crime and pay the proprietor.

A week or so ago, after I called you on your paganism, you began linking to Goodacre’s site in your posts that referred to his ten questions rather than cutting and pasting his questions without credit to him. That earlier plagiarism is what I was referring to, and I'm sure you know that.

You never expressly admitted your plagiarism, but you did change your behavior. So your most recent post about those questions is not plagiarism; now it is only hypocrisy. It is hypocrisy because you still complain about Vidor’s use of web sources even as you link to such sources.

Vidor uses those web links rather than printed material precisely because they are accessible to people reading these posts. Printed sources would not be. You know that. That is why you complain.

In sum, you have been exposed. Now learn from a kid’s experience: Confess your crimes and pay the proprietor.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#11 Aug 18, 2013
On the Gospels and Astrology
Peace_Warrior wrote:
<quoted text>
It's okay to be gay.
Jesus said so when he told his followers that he'll teach them to be fishers of men.
If the Secret Gospel of Mark is genuine, you may be correct.

It has been both reaffirmed and re-challenged of late in the pages of BAR.

I happen to believe it is genuine.

I also believe Morton Smith was correct in the scholarly version of his book: Clement edited the Jericho passage before delivering it to Theodore.

That passage may have suggested bisexuality, common in Greek society of the time but not in Jewish culture. Think the Pericope Adulterae, which ultimately landed in John as that book's last major redaction but which carries both Markan and Lukan language, suggesting it may have originated in Mark, passed through Luke, ultimately was removed from both before it arrived in edited form in a late addition to John. Part of that pericope may have filled the Jericho lacuna.

Regardless. The fish symbolism likely had more to do with astrology than sexuality. Astrology was all the rage in antiquity, even in Jewish culture, according to Josephus.

What did Jesus feed the masses? Two fish -- the sign of Pisces -- the astrological age that had just dawned around Jesus' time.

Who led his disciples to the room where his last meal would take place?

A man carrying a pitcher of water, the sign of Aquarius, the next astrological age.

More interesting: When one reads Acts, one finds that, unlike the canonical gospels, Jesus' family -- at least his brother -- does not live in Galilee. Neither do his disciples.

Odd since at least John (in John's so-called second ending) had the disciples returning to Galilee, where the gospels also place his family. Evan Powell and a few other have argued (correctly in my opinion) that John 21 -- a late addition (a second ending) to John -- may be a modified version of Mark's missing ending.

In short, there may have been an undercurrent in longer Mark involving an astrological theme. Jesus' home near Galilee may have been a fiction created by Mark's author designed to promote that theme. Jesus' ministry may have been Jerusalem based all along.

This probable astrological theme is not unique in the gospels. There are many such thematic undercurrents -- some passages portray him as a stoic -- think 40 days in the desert, while some portray him as just the opposite, a libertine -- think alabaster jar.

One of those never completely fulfilled themes seems to have been astrology. For example: The magi followed a star to find Jesus' supposed birth place.

And when will Jesus return?

Well, actually, he won't.

But according to Luke's author, "There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars."

The fishers of men imagery fit this theme better than one of a particular sexuality.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#12 Aug 18, 2013
The Resurrection I -- Who needs Galilee?

Despite fundamentalist claims, the gospels are full of inconsistencies. This includes the gospels’ various post resurrection stories. Yet it is precisely these inconsistencies that tell us much about the development of early Christianity.

The first canonical gospel, Mark, only briefly addresses the post crucifixion events, at least in the extant form of that text. Except for a brief passage in chapter 15 dealing with Joseph of Arimathea, the relevant verses of that text are Mark 16:1-8 of the original text and Mark 16:9-19, which is a spurious addition to the original text.

In Mark 16, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome take spices to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body on the "first day of the week just after sunrise".1 When they arrived at the tomb, they see the stone in front of the entrance has been rolled away and find a “young man”2 (Koine Greek: neaniskos) inside wearing a white shroud.

The young man instructs the women to tell the disciples to go to Galilee, where Jesus is already headed and where they would see him. On hearing this, the women fled the tomb in fright.

Mark 16:8, where the women flee the tomb, is the point the original author’s text ends and a redactor takes over. That redactor tells us, "Jesus rose early on the first day of the week,"3 and met Mary Magdalene first and later two other followers, presumably Mary the mother of James and Salome, since the reflexive pronoun autwn is used. Both encounters are reported to the disciples but are disbelieved. After this, Jesus appears to the survivors of the Twelve and rebukes them for their disbelief, apparently on the same day in Jerusalem. He then gives the disciples their Great Commission.

Interestingly, without any indication that there has been any passage of time or a change of venue, the redactor set the events of his narrative on the "first day of the week", just as the original author did. This language suggests the women and later the disciples met Jesus the same day the women discovered the empty tomb, even though the neaniskos had indicated Jesus had left for Galilee and the disciples were to go there to meet up with him, raising the question: What happened to the trip to Galilee?

What has happened here is the redactor has dropped a storyline of the original author. This is not surprising, for the redactor seems not to have cobbled together an original ending to the narrative on his own but to have borrowed an ending from another, existing account. This appears so not just from the dropping of key elements of the story – Jesus going to Galilee and the disciples being instructed to follow – but for linguistics reasons as well. While those linguistic reasons are beyond the scope of this post, they can be found in Bruce Metzger’s “A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament”,(Stuttgart, 2005), where Metzger notes that it is “likely that the section was excerpted from another document, dating perhaps from the first half of the second century."4

Thus, even in a single canonical account of events after the resurrection, we have some issues – or at least some very bad writing. Regardless, Mark's resurrection narrative, being the first of the canonical accounts, is the baseline for comparing the other stories and their discrepancies with this baseline.

1. Mark 16:2.

2. Mark 16:5.

3. Mark 16:9.

4. Pp. 104-5.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#13 Aug 18, 2013
The Resurrection 2 -- Let Me Help You with Your Whopper.

Fast forward a decade or so from the 70’s, the time of Mark’s writing, to the 80’s and the crafting of Matthew and Luke. Matthew and Luke are dependent on Mark and often copy verbatim from that text. These three gospels together are therefore referred to as the synoptic gospels. But the authors of Matthew and Luke were not content with merely relying on Mark and, perhaps, cleaning up his crude Greek or adding stories he had missed. Instead, they feel a need to modify or embellish some of his stories, and that is true of his post-resurrection account.

Matthew’s account of the post crucifixion events consumes part of chapter 27 and all of chapter 28 of that text and, as with the account in Mark, is rather short.

In between Jesus’ burial and the women (two in Matthew rather than three, as in Mark) going to the tomb, Matthew’s author adds a new element not present in Mark – the stationing of guards outside of Jesus’ tomb to ensure his body would not be stolen by his disciples. The author appears to have added this new element to address a rumor that “has been widely circulated among the Jews”1 about the disciples swiping Jesus’ corpse. This new element addresses that rumor by making it all but impossible for that to have happened. In short, Matthew’s author invents this element to address a rumor with some currency that Mark’s author either was unaware of or unconcerned with.

But more interesting than the introduction of guards at the tomb is the addition of an angel who appears there as well. In truth, the angel is less a new element as a transmogrification of an existing element: Mark’s neaniskos, who does not appear in Matthew.

In Mark, the stone at the tomb entrance has already been rolled away when the women arrive, and a young man – a neaniskos – is inside wearing a white shroud. Not so in Matthew. The stone is in place but an angel whose “clothes were white as snow “2 appears and rolls it away and then sits on it. In Matthew, it is the angel sitting outside the tomb, not some young man inside, who delivers the news of Jesus’ resurrection and the instructions for the disciples to go to Galilee.

Matthew does provide some clarity to the issue of where the characters in the story encountered the risen Jesus. According to this author, the women – two of them anyway – encounter Jesus in or near Jerusalem, the disciples, on the other hand, connect with him later in Galilee on a mountain. Of course, Mark’s text gives no indication these encounters are temporally or geographically so disparate, just the opposite. That narrative suggests the encounters took place on the same day as the discovery of the empty tomb. And Mark has Mary meeting Jesus alone and the two other women meeting him separately. Matthew has Mary meet Jesus with “the other Mary”3 and makes no mention of Salome at all.

1. Matthew 28:15.

2. Matthew 28:3.

3. Matthew 28:1.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#14 Aug 18, 2013
The Resurrection III -- Let Me Help You with Your Whopper – Redux.

In Luke, the third of the synoptic gospels to be written, it is not Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, and Salome who go to the tomb, as in Mark. It also is not Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, as in Matthew, it is “Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them”1 who went to the tomb.

Many apologists use the reference to others being present to claim a large group of women went to the tomb and each of the various synoptic authors merely focused on different members of the group when mentioning specific, inconsistent individuals. Nah yaw; whatever it takes to believe. But, actually, what is going on more likely is an attempt by Luke’s author to enhance the veracity of his account by adding more eyewitnesses to the discovery of the empty tomb, especially since the witnesses in the story were women, whose testimony often was discounted in Luke’s time and culture.

In Luke, the women never meet Jesus, but Cleopas and another of Jesus’ followers do, as apparently does Peter, and then all the survivors of the Twelve. These meetings take place in and around Jerusalem, and there also is no mention of Galilee.

More interesting, though, is Luke’s enhancement of the encounter at the empty tomb. In his account, the tomb is open when the women arrive, as in Mark, and empty, as in Matthew. There is no angel out front, as in Matthew, no young man inside, as in Mark. But while the women are in the tomb, suddenly “two men stood by them in shining garments”.2 The narrative later makes clear that these are not just men but “angels”3 who deliver much the same message as Mark’s neaniskos and Matthew’s angel sitting outside the tomb.

What is going on between these three synoptic gospels is something that is common in storytelling. As stories are told and retold they often are embellished while some minor inconsequential details are dropped. This is true for the synoptic gospels just as with any other story form. Three women become a group of women. A young man becomes an angel then two angels. A tomb sealed with a rock becomes one that is guarded as well. As Matthew and then Luke borrow Mark’s account, they make it a bigger, better story with higher production values. In scholarship, this is a well-recognized process. These gospel writers were simply following that process and embellishing an earlier account with "the introduction of elements from which the more crude, primitive"4 Mark was free.

1. Luke 24:10.

2. Luke 24:4.

3. Luke 24:23.

4. Walter Cassels, Supernatural Religion, 3rd ed.,(Longmans, Green, and Co., 1874), v. II, p. 139.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#15 Aug 18, 2013
The Resurrection IV – John Doesn’t Get the Memo.

John’s dependence on Mark is debated. Certainly John’s primary author was familiar either with Mark or shared a common source with Mark’s author, since John and Mark occasionally agree verbatim, but certainly not anywhere near the extent Luke and Matthew do. It is no surprise then that John’s account of events after the crucifixion depart more from Mark’s account than the other canonical gospels: John didn’t get the synoptic memo.

In John 20, probably written in the 90’s, only Mary Magdalene is mentioned going to the tomb, though at one point in the later narrative she seems to intimate others were with her. Regardless, when Mary discovers the tomb, it is open and empty. There is no young man inside, as in Mark, no angel outside, as in Matthew, and no angels who suddenly appear inside, as in Luke. In short, no one is there to provide her with an explanation and with instructions to take to the disciples, as was the case in all three synoptic gospels. And there is no mention of a meeting in Galilee, as there was in Mark and Matthew.

Nevertheless, Mary does go to alert Peter and the Beloved Disciple of her discovery, and both of them, followed by Mary, go to investigate the tomb.

It is only after Peter and the Beloved Disciple leave the empty tomb that angelic figures appear to Mary. As she lingers behind outside the tomb, two angels appear inside sitting where Jesus’ corpse had been. But they are not alone, for shortly Jesus appears, too, outside the tomb with Mary. In the synoptic gospels, Jesus appears to a variety of people at different locations, but never at the tomb and never in the presence of any angelic being.

Later, Jesus appears to the remaining members of the Twelve in Jerusalem, excluding Thomas. Matthew mentions that some or all of the Twelve disbelieve, but here it is only Thomas who doubts, having not been present when Jesus appeared. On a second visit by Jesus, Thomas has to touch Jesus’ wounds to find faith, a nice addition that is absent in the synoptic gospels and surely their earlier sources. In short, a memorable embellishment.

While John 20 is silent about any trip to Galilee, John 21, the so-called appendix to John, does deal with such an adventure. But John 21 is a late addition to John, not the work of the primary author, and may be loosely based on Mark’s missing ending. John 21 is outside the scope of this post but is something I have touched on in great detail in the past.

The canonical gospels and their various treatments of post resurrection events provide marvelous insight into the development of traditions in general as well as Christianity in particular. We see Matthew’s and Luke’s authors starting with the same text, Mark, and modifying its account in different ways to suit their own tastes and their communities’ needs. We see John’s primary author apparently starting with the same or similar source material as Mark’s author yet head in a very different direction with it and embellishing it with one of the most memorable scenes in the New Testament – Doubting Thomas’ story. It is all fascinating insight into the development of Christianity as we know it. Yet it also should be eye-opening to believers. But, of course, it won’t be; blind faith won’t permit that.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#16 Aug 18, 2013
The Pauline Corpus I
The New Testament is a hodgepodge of 27 texts tossed together in a canon. Most of the texts are psyeudographs or anonymous documents later falsely ascribed to someone of significance in the early Christian tradition. But then there are the letters of Paul -- the Pauline corpus. Despite the common misconception among non-believers, many of these texts are genuine, with about half of the 13 epistles bearing Paul's brand in the canon being from his hand: 1 Thessalonians, Philippians, Philemon, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans.

I find these seven authentic letters fascinating for a number of reasons. First, they are the only sure writings of the person credited with drafting them in the NT (though they suffer from interpolations and concatenations). Second, they are the earliest extant Christian documents, dating to the 50's, about two decades after the supposed ministry of Jesus. And finally, being genuine writings written to people who were living the subject matter of the letters, such as strife in the church in Corinth and harassment of Christians in Thessalonica, they could not pass on wild, fanciful stories, at least not about events in the churches to which they were written.

Paul could claim he met Jesus in Heaven, he could recite the kerygma at 1 Corinthians 15 about the resurrection of Jesus, but he could not write of miracles in the church in Corinth, other than the sort of "miracles" that occur in frenetic congregations today. That is, he might claim Jesus, in absentia, helped brother Alexandros find his missing chariot keys, but he could not claim Jesus appeared as an apparition and walked on the baptismal water before the Corinthian congregation. His letters had to be largely truthful when dealing with then-contemporary events among believers in the various churches to which he wrote.

And so Paul’s letters are usually about rather mundane things. For example, in Galatians, he writes of meeting with Peter in Antioch and getting into a dispute with him over Peter following the law and not eating with the unclean Christians. Paul records no miracles at the hands of Peter in Antioch. Unlike the Book of Acts, Paul mentions no raising of the dead, as Acts does with Tabitha. Neither does Paul record Peter rebuking any magi who want to buy the secret to his miraculous powers, such as Acts does, or Peter engaging in a magical duel to the death with any magi, such as the apocryphal Acts of Peter does. Instead, Paul simply records getting into a theological squabble with Peter over the need to follow Jewish law, a squabble Paul likely lost, since his letter is silent on the outcome.

While the Antioch incident is useful for demonstrating that the first church, the Jerusalem church, was very much a Jewish congregation in tint and tenor, it also is useful in piercing the veil of Christian mythos surrounding Peter and the gospel and apocryphal narratives in general, all of which were written a considerable temporal distance from the putative events they memorialize. With the luxury of that distance, these subsequent writers could mix facts and fanciful fiction with nary an objection from anyone.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#17 Aug 18, 2013
The Pauline Corpus II

On most sweltering summer nights, somewhere in America, charismatic Christians can be found gathered in some revival tent swaying and swinging to the rhythm of rockabilly gospel tunes, praying, sweating, and waiting for the Holy Ghost to grip their spirits, whereupon, in frenzy, they begin dancing in the spirit and uttering the unintelligible sounds of speaking in tongues. Doubtless most of these frenetic religious practitioners do not realize their fluid vocalizations represent glossolalia, syllabic sounds common to their particular native language but strung together in a sequence devoid of any natural meaning.

Perhaps these ecstatic worshipers envision themselves in the upper room of Act 2, with Peter and the Twelve. There, according to that fanciful text,“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where [the Jerusalem assembly] were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. And all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.[And] God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven ... heard their own language being spoken."

Yet what is described in Acts 2 is not the glossolalia of the modern-day charismatic Christian or even the Corinthian Christians in Paul’s text but xenoglossia; that is, the speaking of an actual language one has not learned through any natural means.

While what modern practitioners experience is far from the fanciful account of the events in Acts 2, it is exactly what Paul seems to describe in 1 Corinthians 14:“For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit.”

Roughly 50 years after Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Acts’ author, who ostensibly was Luke, adds a magical gloss to the Jerusalem assembly’s gathering on the day of Pentecost and portrays the event as one involving xenoglossia and special effects galore. But Paul’s earlier letter to the church in Corinth, constrained by an audience with firsthand knowledge of events at that church, lets the discerning NT reader in on the obvious: The first generation of Christians, even those considered apostles, were ordinary folks practicing the same dubious “gifts of the spirit” modern charismatic Christians practice. Unlike the fanciful account in Acts, in Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians, there are no rushing winds, no tongues of fire, no foreigners understanding the utterances in their own native languages, just utterances that often no one in the church bothers to pretend to understand, similar to any given hot August night under a Pentecostal big top in Ohio, Missouri, or Tennessee today.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#18 Aug 18, 2013
On Isaiah 7:14
Chess Jurist wrote:
<quoted text>"Fools rush in where angels fear to tread."
The Jewish scholar, Cyrus H. Gordon, who made some of the archaeological discoveries at Ras Shamra, conceded that recent archaeological evidence confirms that "almah" means “virgin.”
The Journal of Bible and Religion XXI, April, 1953, p. 106.
Knock, Knock!!
Woops, wrong house.
Gordon's note has not altered the generally held view of Hebraists with respect to this passage. He summed up that view this way in the same note: "[T]he distinctive Hebrew word for 'virgin' is 'betulah', whereas 'almah' means a 'young woman' who may be a virgin, but is not necessarily so."

Gordon published his note 50 years ago to "call attention to a source that has not yet been brought into the discussion". So now it is part of the discussion, but it has not changed the general view he so aptly described.

Further, use of the Greek 'parthenos' to translate Isiah 7:14 does not mean the translators thought almah referred to a physical virgin in that passage anyway. The same word is used to translate Genesis 34:3 in the Septuagint. In Genesis 34:3, the word refers to Dinah, a rape victim.

But I understand. You desperately want almah in Isaiah 7:14 to mean a woman who never had sex, even though the vast majority of experts claim otherwise.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#19 Aug 18, 2013
Correction: Should read "keltec 9mm wrote" not "Chess Jurist wrote".

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#20 Aug 19, 2013
On Claims that Christianity Is Not a Religion

(Posted under a previous avatar)

Wow. Topix should add a disclaimer to this thread:

Christianity Is Not a Religion*

*WARNING: This statement may not be true in all states and countries and may be dangerous in the hands of anyone who isn’t generally considered a nut and not taken seriously anyway. It does not apply to the Internal Revenue Code’s exemption of certain religious institutions from compliance with obligations related to reporting income and paying taxes thereon, the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion, and various and sundry provisions of the US Code and the codes and constitutions of the states, commonwealths, and US territories that provide exclusions from civil or criminal regulatory schemes for religious institution and their principals, agents, employees, and members or that bestow affirmative benefits thereunto. It also is not applicable for purposes of taking advantage of any administrative decisions, rules, or regulations intended to benefit religious activities, including but not necessarily limited to those applicable to governmental funding of faith-based charitable activities, or to any local or municipal codes or regulations exempting religious institutions from zoning and similar obligations. Nor does it apply for purposes of interpreting any case law of any court that limits governmental intrusion into ecumenical affairs or applies a privilege, shield, or other protection for those activities. Further, application of this statement when interpreting literature, as well as reference materials, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, concordances, and similar intellectual works, may cause erroneous results. Additionally, it is inapplicable to interpreting the writings of James, who didn't get the Christianity Isn't a Religion Memo and therefore errantly wrote about religion in the New Testament.

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