The Book of Chess

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#21 Aug 19, 2013
Typos: institution - institutions; Christianity Isn't a Religion Memo - "Christianity Isn't a Religion" memo

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#22 Aug 20, 2013
On Ancient Hebrew Cosmology

The root word for raqiya` is raqa, which means to spread or hammer out something such as one does with metal. That ancient Hebrews believed that is exactly what was done is obvious from Job 37:18: "Has thou with him spead out the sky, which is strong, and as a molton looking glass."

This also is the interpretation given to the word in the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures known as the Septuagint, which preceded the canonical Christian writings by a couple hundred years and is sometimes quoted in the Christian scriptures.

There the Greek word stereoma, which indicates firmness, was used. And it is this Greek word from whence the Latin word firmamentum originates.

Firmamentum is used in the Vulgate, Jerome's 4th century Latin Bible, for the shell supposedly encasing the Earth. And the English word firmament, of course, derives from the Latin. It is the word used in the 17th century KJV.

Obviously, with the foregoing in mind, the word firmament suggest firmness or solidity.

It is only in modern times, now that science has demonstrated the problems with the concept of a solid encasement, that some English translations of the Christian canon have tried to downplay the meaning of the original Hebrew.

But it is not merely that these passages *can* be taken to refer to a firm encasement but that they were intended to be taken that way and were in fact taken that way by believers for a couple millennia.

And they still should be taken that way by those who are being honest with themselves.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#23 Aug 25, 2013
Mithraism I

The Mithraic mysteries, according to David Ulansey, an author your source cites but apparently has not read,“arose at about the same time as Chrstianity."1 Indeed, Plutarch seems to place the arrival of that religion on the shores of the Roman Empire at 67 B.C., less than a century before Christianity. But Roger Beck, a leading authority on Mythraism, rejects Plutarch’s date and places it in the “Flavian age”, 30 years or more after the birth of Christianity.2

Regardless, Mithras is the Roman version of Mithra, a god in the Zoasterian pantheon. But the Roman version of that god, and more precisely, the Mithraic mysteries as opposed to the Zoasterian religion, arose roughly concurrently and remained directly in competition with Christianity from the 1st century through the 4th century, "when [Mithraism] succumbed to Christianity".3

Franz Cumont, another author your source cites but also apparently hasn't read, believed many of the traditions regarding the Persian Mithra were carried over to the Roman version, Mithras. But this has become a minority view since the 1970's, after the First International Congress of Mithraic Studies, primarily for want of evidence.4 Some of the most basic elements of Roman Mithraism are nowhere to be found with respect to Mithra in the Zoasterian religion. For example, Mithra does not slay a bull in that tradition and there is no tauroctony, which is present in surviving Roman Mithraea. So relying on Zoasterianism or any of its precedents to date the Mithraic mysteries is much like dating Christianity based on Judaism – it doesn’t really work.5

1. Ulansey, David, The Mithraic Mysteries, in Scientific American,(v. 261, n. 6, December, 1989), pp. 130-5 at p. 130.
2. Beck, Roger, Beck on Mithraism: Collected Works with New Essays (Ashgate, 2004), p. 293.
3. Ulansey, David, The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries (Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 4.
4. Congress of Mithraic Studies, Mithraic Studies: Proceedings of the First International Congress of Mithraic Studies (Manchester University Press, 1975).
5. Beck, Beck on Mithraism, p. 293.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#24 Aug 25, 2013
Mithraism II

For Ulansey and others of his generation of scholars, little other than the name of the Persian deity was borrowed for the Roman mysteries. Beck sees more than that, but not to the extent Cumont did at the beginning of the 20th century. In Ulansey's words, there were "a number of serious problems with Cumont's assumption that the Mithraic mysteries derived from ancient Iranian religion. Most significant among these is that there is no parallel in ancient Iran to the iconography which is the primary fact of the Roman Mithraic cult. For example, as already mentioned, by far the most important icon in the Roman cult was the tauroctony. This scene shows Mithras in the act of killing a bull, accompanied by a dog, a snake, a raven, and a scorpion; the scene is depicted as taking place inside a cave like the mithraeum itself. This icon was located in the most important place in every mithraeum, and therefore must have been an expression of the central myth of the Roman cult. Thus, if the god Mithras of the Roman religion was actually the Iranian god Mithra, we should expect to find in Iranian mythology a story in which Mithra kills a bull. However, the fact is that no such Iranian myth exists: in no known Iranian text does Mithra have anything to do with killing a bull."6

Assuming any parallels between Christianity and Mithraism requires syncretism only on Christianity’s part is naïve. As Cumont notes, "The only domain in which we can ascertain in detail the extent to which Christianity imitated Mithraism is that of art. The Mithraic sculpture, which had been first developed, furnished the ancient Christian marble-cutters with a large number of models, which they adopted or adapted…"7 Cumont goes further: "We are too imperfectly acquainted with the dogmas and liturgies of the [Mithraic Mysteries], as well as with the development of primitive Christianity, to say definitely what mutual influences were operative in their simultaneous evolution. But be this as it may, resemblances do not necessarily suppose an imitation. Many correspondences between the Mithraic doctrine and the Catholic faith are explicable by their common Oriental origin. Nevertheless, certain ideas and certain ceremonies must necessarily have passed from the one cult to the other; but in the majority of cases we rather suspect this transference than clearly perceive it."8

In short, these religions arose at approximately the same time, likely borrowed from one another as well as inherited common themes and assimilated common cultural motifs of the time. But which borrowed from which and what themes were borrowed vs. inherited or assimilated from other influences is simply not knowable in the main. In this regard, I’d recommend a reading of Drudgery Divine by Jonathan Z. Smith of the University of Chicago. So would Beck.

6. Ulansey, David, .
7. Cumont, Franz V.M., McCormack, Thomas J., ed., The Mysteries of Mithra (Open Court Publications, 1903), p. 196.
8. Ibid., p. 194.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#25 Aug 25, 2013
Mithraism III

And as to common inheritance, the December 25th celebration in both religions may simply be usurping the Roman celebration for Sol Invictus in both cases. There is no such date in the Iranian tradition for Mithra that I am aware of, nor is there one in the Christian scriptures, only in later tradition. With respect to the Christian practice, Cumont claims that “it appears certain that the commemoration of the Nativity was set for the 25th of December, because it was at the winter solstice that the rebirth of the invincible god, the Natalis Invictus, was celebrated.”9

With respect to three "wise men" coming to Mithra's birth bearing gifts, I have never found evidence of that. This likely is a misinterpretation of 4th century Christian art that sometimes depicted three Mithraic priests doing so for the infant Jesus. That is, by the fourth century, the magi of Matthew sometimes were depicted in Christian art as Mithraic priests. I assume this was intended as a thumb in the eye for Christianity's main rival at the time, but it also makes some sense. Since the Mithraic mysteries relied heavily on astrology, and since "magi" is the Greek plural for magician, a term that included astrologers, why not portray these astrologers as Mithraic priests, since Roman Mithraism was very much centered on the Zodiac? Why not portray your rivals worshiping your deity at his birth?

Likewise with the claim Mithras was born of a virgin. Mithras emerged from a rock10 without the help of a virgin, at least in mainstream Mithraism. I can find no reference in Cumont, Beck, or Ulansey that supports this claim or the claim of crucifixion or decent into hell by Mithras. I can find support for it in “Solar Myths and Christian Festivals” by Edward Carpenter, from whence your source, while citing legitimate scholars such as Ulansey and Cumont, lifted the list (either directly or indirectly) verbatim and without credit. Carpenter was hardly a competent scholar in the area. But at least he and your source did not limit the list to Mithras. Rather, similar to the less-than-competent recent work of Freke and Gandy in The Jesus Mysteries, Carpenter built the list as an amalgam of multiple savior gods, not just Mithras, though he does go on to make bogus claims about Mithras.11

8. Ibid., p. 194.
9. Cumont, Franz V.M., Mithraism and the religions of the Empire, in Open Court (v. 16, n. 12, December 1902) pp. 717- 32 at p. 726.
10. Tripolitis, Antonia, Religions of the Hellenistic-Roman Age (Eerdmans, 2002), p. 50.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#26 Nov 8, 2013
One of the earliest Christian texts extant is a genuine letter from Paul to the Corinthians. At 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 he writes:
Paul wrote:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:

That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
That he was buried,
That he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and
That he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve.
This is a kerygma, a programmatic statement of faith. While Paul's letter is genuine -- his effort from around 50 AD -- the words in the above passage are not his. They represent a well-worn statement of faith, something he "received" and merely is repeating.

It is a statement as old -- or nearly so -- as Christianity itself.

Notice this kerygma is devoid of any reference to a virgin birth. A virgin birth was not necessary to the faith of the earliest Christians. Indeed, it was not known to them.

Fast forward to Mark, written around 70 AD. In Mark, a polemic against the Jerusalem Assembly, Jesus' family is antagonistic to him. In Mark 3, for example, the following passage is found:
Mark wrote:
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said,“He is out of his mind.”
Odd that, given the annunciation found in Luke 1:
Luke wrote:
Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
So Mary, having been told by an angel of the special mission of her son in Luke 1, thinks her son is nuts when he engages in that mission in Mark 3. And early Christians exclude any reference to a virgin birth in one of their earliest statements of faith found in the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians.


Because, as Raymond Brown notes, the infancy narratives represent a late layer of tradition incorporated in the gospels -- an afterthought that in many respects was inconsistent with the earlier tradition recorded in Mark. The annunciation is part of that later tradition and something not known to the earliest Christians or to the author of Mark, a gospel entirely silent about Jesus' birth -- let alone any miracle birth.

An early Christmas gift from Chess and re-post from another thread.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#27 Nov 21, 2013

There is a term in NT studies.

It is the "synoptic gospels".

It refers to the first three texts in the NT.

"Synoptic" means with a single eye -- with one view.

The synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are more closely related to each other than they are to the 4th gospel, John. Even many (most?) learned apologists accept the relationship.

It goes like this: Mark was written around '70 AD -- after the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the 2nd temple.

Matthew came next in the 80's followed not too long after by Luke, some say in the late 80's a few outliers, such as the late Burton Mack, claim it was in the very early 2nd century.


Matthew and Luke rely on Mark and sometimes copy from Mark verbatim. These two gospels also share another common source other than Mark. That source often is referred to as Q.

Q is short for Quelle, a German word that means source.

Q is thought to have been a "sayings gospel" similar to the extant Thomas but not actually Thomas.

Q has never been found; it is a hypothetical manuscript.

A very few critical scholars, such as Mark Goodacre, now at UNC, argue there is no Q. From Goodacre’s viewpoint, Luke merely relies on Mark and Mathew, not Mark and Q.


But Luke's author, whether he was a physician and follower of Paul or not, was not an eyewitness to the events in his narrative. Just the opposite. In his opening sentences in that text, he admits he relies on other sources to tell his tale. Modern scholars know -- for a fact -- that one of those sources was the Gospel of Mark.

Odd that Luke's author would rely on Mark -- sometimes verbatim -- but change that text at will whenever it suited him, eh?

Yet that is exactly what he did.

So in Luke, the passion narrative is not just different in detail but also in tenor in comparison to Mark’s passion narrative – even though Luke relied on Mark for the story.

In Mark, Jesus runs the passion gauntlet in silence until, at the end, after those who were crucified with him reviled him, he cries, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"

(Didn't Eloi have a helpful household hints column in syndication a few years ago?)

But in Luke, though relying on Mark, things are different. Rather than suffering in silence until the end and then asking BibleGod why he has been forsaken, Jesus is rather vocal throughout the whole process.

And the two crucified with Jesus -- "malefactors" according to the KJV -- are not in accord in reviling Jesus. One mocks him but the other proclaims Jesus innocent.

And Jesus, rather than feeling "forsaken" at the end tells one of the malefactors, "To day shalt thou be with me in paradise," and then Jesus commends himself to his father: "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit."

So much for feeling forsaken as portrayed in Mark even though Mark is Luke’s source for the story.

Lying for Jesus has a long history; Luke’s author is merely one of the earliest practitioners. But then he had a good example to follow – Mark’s author.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#30 Jan 25, 2014
Robert F wrote:
<quoted text>
Chess Jurist
I was hard pressed for another expression, and thought twice, and thought an implied perjorative might have been taken. But in general I don't take to debating history, as it all comes down to view point, or world view.
I stated, in my opinion, that your view point has presuppositions to your "data/history". I just expressed it in a different way.
I could go and research and logically deduce a different opinion on the same history. But what is the point? You need to admit your presupposition/prejudice to a debate/argument before you start. Arguing points just makes a mess....Don't you think so?
It is a sign of a good debater to take either side of an argument, and express it well. Sometimes believing in one's side, exposes their view point to weaknesses they are not aware of, and will not admit(denial).
Fear not, for I have done your homework for you.

According to one of the best apologists around, Ben Witherington III, Mark is not a polemic:
Ben Witherington wrote:
<quoted text>There is firstly the approach of T. J. Weeden [not to mention Chess Jurist] that sees Mark as offering a deliberate polemic against the earliest disciples. This view has been echoed by a variety of other scholars with some variation. Yet the majority of scholars [read: apologists like Witherington] reject this severe assessment, and most suggest some variation on the theme that the “misunderstanding” motif has some pedagogical purpose. E. Best suggests, I think rightly, that the disciples to some extent act as a foil for Jesus. But are we then to think of Jesus’ family as also a foil to the portrayal of Jesus? They also come in for some heavy weather, especially in Mark 3. Some would take Mark’s point to be a more pastoral one. His community is facing persecution. He wishes to warn of the dangers to keeping the faith that lurk ahead and to make a strong point that Jesus, and not the early disciples as they behaved at the end of Jesus’ life, is the model of the way of the cross, the way of faithfulness to the end. This is a plausible conclusion.1
Witherington, Ben, The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-rhetorical Commentary (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2001), p. 55.

Problem is, of course, all poor Ben is saying is that, while Mark’s author disparages the Twelve and Jesus’family, he’s doing it for higher purposes rather than simply to discredit them.

Of course his logic fails, especially when it comes to the family, whose presences in Mark is all but nonexistent, except when they are being disparaged.

And, of course, while Witherington casts the Twelve’s failure in terms of “misunderstanding” stuff such as Jesus’ mission and parables, there is more to their bad behavior than stunning ignorance.

For example, in Mark, Peter denies Jesus in his hour of need, and John and James, the sons of Zebedee, vie for status in heaven.

Interestingly,the longer the demise of the Jerusalem assembly’s influence continues and the less of a threat the Jewish version of the movement becomes, the more the gospel writers want to rely on the authority of that assembly’s most influential members -- the original apostles. After all, none of the Twelve are around to object, and the Hellenized version of the Jesus movement has become a force in its own right, not just an afterthought.

So subsequent canonical gospel writers, even while relying on Mark as a source, seek to modify his stories to soften his portrayal of the Twelve and Jesus’ family.

Thus Mark’s story of John and James vying for status in heaven (Mark 10:35-37) becomes a request from their mother rather than directly from them in Matthew (20:20-21).

Strange that, huh?

Well, not so strange, if you know what’s going on.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#31 Mar 7, 2014
On the Name of Jesus

The name we now write as Jesus was transliterated from the Aramaic into Greek, typically if not exclusively as lesous, ignoring matters of case, because Greek could not accommodate words beginning with the ye sound, had no sh sound, and needed masculine sufixes to indicate gender.

The Aramaic name, Yeshua, consisted of two parts. The first part was a shortened form of the Hebrew word for god. The second part meant salvation -- the salvation of god. The name in Aramaic is a variation on the Hebrew name we typically render as Joshua, and dates centuries before the time of Jesus, and it was a common Aramaic name for the time.

The notion that first century Palestinian Jews would name their child with a Greek transiteration of a common Jewish name is ridiculous. Even if you want to pretend that Jesus bar Joseph was merely a character made from wholecloth by his earliest Jewish followers, they would not have used a Greek transliteration of a perfect Aramaic name -- Yeshua -- for that purpose. And the Greek transiteration has no other function I am aware of; it is simply a transliteration of Yeshua.

As Josephus' surviving works attests, the same transliteration was used for numerous Palestinian Jews named Jesus from that time, not just the person who later morphed into a christ for Christians.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#32 Mar 15, 2014
That is a slight twist on a common Christian claim: I'm not religious, I am a Christian.

I once dug to the bottom of this claim. It came from an evangelical's book a couple decades ago. I forget who the nut was.

He and those since try to focus on the ritualistic aspects of religion and try to pretend that things such as praying aren't ritualistic.

Of course, religion is not limited to rituals but usually involves belief in a deity.

And unfortunately for these folks, the NT claims Jesus' brother thought religion was a good thing:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

-- James 1:27

Psst! Don't tell 'em Jame's epistle is a 2nd century pseudograph.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#33 Mar 29, 2014
So let's wrap this up.

In Mark, three women go to the tomb to find the stone rolled away and a young man -- a neaniskos -- inside.

In Matthew, two Marys go to the tomb. An angel -- an aggelos -- rolls away the stone and sits on it, apparently outside.

Then comes Luke. Unspecified women find the tomb empty. While there, two men -- two aner -- appear beside them.

And then there's John. In John, only the Magdalene is referred to as going to the tomb. No mention of any young man, men, or angel there. None. The Magdalene tells Peter and the character often referred to as the Beloved Disciple of the empty tomb. Only after they return to the tomb does anyone encounter anyone at the tomb. This time Mary encounters Jesus -- Iesous.

So much for no errors or contradictions, eh?

Sucks to believe in nonsense, huh?
Ha Ha Dix

Lakeville, MN

#34 Mar 29, 2014
Chess Jurist wrote:
So let's wrap this up.
In Mark, three women go to the tomb to find the stone rolled away and a young man -- a neaniskos -- inside.
In Matthew, two Marys go to the tomb. An angel -- an aggelos -- rolls away the stone and sits on it, apparently outside.
Then comes Luke. Unspecified women find the tomb empty. While there, two men -- two aner -- appear beside them.
And then there's John. In John, only the Magdalene is referred to as going to the tomb. No mention of any young man, men, or angel there. None. The Magdalene tells Peter and the character often referred to as the Beloved Disciple of the empty tomb. Only after they return to the tomb does anyone encounter anyone at the tomb. This time Mary encounters Jesus -- Iesous.
So much for no errors or contradictions, eh?
Sucks to believe in nonsense, huh?
Not that I believe any of that nonsense, but to play the devils advocate, couldn't all four accounts be true? And each writer is just relaying the version they are aware of? It doesn't seem to me the four accounts conflict with each other. In other words, each account could have happened at a different point in the day with Matthews account being the first.

Your previous posts may explain, but in honesty I don't read much of the bible or its apologetics. I'd find it hard to muddle through all that.
Chess Jurist

Columbus, OH

#35 Mar 30, 2014
Ha Ha Dix wrote:
<quoted text>
Not that I believe any of that nonsense, but to play the devils advocate, couldn't all four accounts be true? And each writer is just relaying the version they are aware of? It doesn't seem to me the four accounts conflict with each other. In other words, each account could have happened at a different point in the day with Matthews account being the first.
Your previous posts may explain, but in honesty I don't read much of the bible or its apologetics. I'd find it hard to muddle through all that.
This is not a thread intended for discussion.

The original post is here:

I'll discuss it on that thread.
Ha Ha Dix

Lakeville, MN

#36 Mar 30, 2014
Ok sorry, i didn't know I was on hallowed ground.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#37 Apr 24, 2014
The human species is subject to death for the exact same reason nonhuman members of the biota are. Folks die, in fact, precisely because they are part of the biota, which imposes a limited lifespan for all its known members. And claiming in the case of human members that limited lifespan is because of sin is simply absurd.

Just as important, your canon demonstrates changing views on death, what sin is, and what the consequences are.

Prof. James D. Tabor, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, in addressing the plethora of canonical views on death and afterlife, including postmortem rewards and punishment, writes:
Tabor wrote:
<quoted text>There is no simple and single response to the question of what the Bible really says about death and life beyond the grave. What one finds is just what one would expect in any book composed of documents from many times, places, circumstances, and authors–variety and development. There are a lot of both, although by “development” I mean here simply change. ...

The operative word in the above quote is *change*. Just as change is the very essence of the canon's view of sin.

Is it really still a transgression to eat shellfish? Rabbit? Pork? It would seem according to Acts 10 it no longer is. Does one still offend BibleGod by mixing fabric? Apparently not, since one need merely to follow two broad rule involving the love of god and man according to BibleJesus. Does one risk punishment by ignoring the circumcision process now? Not according to Paul in 1 Cor. 7:18. Does one run afoul of BibleGod's rules by working on the Sabbath? Seems now, according to BibleJesus, the Sabbath is made for man and not man for the Sabbath. Is it a sin now to slaughter captive young boys and old women and divvy up captive virgin girls after victory in war if you think BibleGod or one of his prophets tells you to? Seems it was OK when Numbers 31 was penned. How's that sit with BibleJesus' command to love one another? Is it still OK to have multiple wives? It was in the OT.

And what is the punishment awaiting the sinner in the afterlife? Annihilation? Simple banishment from the presence of BibleGod? Temporary punishment in hell followed by reconciliation with BibleGod? Or endless torment in a fiery pit? Is whatever punishment there awaits the same for all or meted out in different measure depending on the nature of the sin? Do children burn in hell or no?

For every version of postmortem punishment represented in the above paragraph, there are Christian sects holding that view. Why so many modern views of punishment for sin? Because Tabor is correct. The canon was written over roughly a millennium. Its scores of major contributors and countless redactors had differing points of view on these matters. They came from different times, cultures, and circumstances. Modern Christians trying to harmonize these diverse and often contradictory views naturally harmonize them differently, since such harmony is not something that actually is there on this subject.

BibleGod and his rules are changelings.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#38 May 9, 2014

A fetus, under US law, or more precisely, under the law of many jurisdictions in the US, may be murdered.

Constitutionally, in many -- most -- cases, a woman carry a fetus may abort it without legal penalty because of the decision in Roe v. Wade. But Roe v. Wade is limited. It does not apply to most late term abortions and it does not apply to killing a fetus even in the early term without the mother's consent.

So, whether a fetus has been murdered under US law depends on who killed it and when in the pregnancy it was killed and in what state or territory, though so-called partial birth abortion is federally prohibited throughout the US by a 2003 law upheld by the US Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Carhart. I have not bothered to see whether that procedure could result in murder charges at the federal level, but it could at the state level, depending on the state.

So a fetus can be "murdered" under US law. California has such a law and the state at least considered applying it to the infamous Scott Peterson, who murdered his wife, Laci, who was pregnant with his unborn son. Had they done so, it would have qualified Peterson for the death penalty. I assume they didn't do so, since he ended up merely with life in the big house. But other states have successfully prosecuted such cases.

In the words of Justice Kennedy in Carhart, "The government may use its voice and its regulatory authority to show its profound respect for the life within the woman."

Rarely are rights absolute. Rights often abut competing rights and interests, and a rational government will balance these rights and interests.

But regardless of what the law permits and prohibits, I find abortion as a means of after-the-fact birth control reprehensible. Perhaps it should be legal, but in most cases, it shouldn't be done.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#39 Jun 10, 2014
The Gospels and Astrology I

According to a late gospel tradition recorded only in the text attributed to Matthew, magi journeyed to pay homage to the infant Jesus:
Matthew wrote:
<quoted text>After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked,“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”1
"Magi" is the Latin plural form of "magus". It derives from the Greek root word, "magos". "Magi" means magicians, a term that applied to astrologers, seers, magicians and folks of similar ilk in antiquity. Most English translations render the Greek of Matthew in the Latin form, "magi", or offer the equally opaque English, "wise men", rather than providing the more accurate rendering, "magicians" or "sorcerers". Of course, such opacity in these translations represents a Christian discomfort with actual meaning of their own scriptures.

By the 4th century, these magi, often numbered at 3 based on the number of gifts they supposedly brought, were frequently portrayed as Mithraic priests in Christian art. But scholars generally agree that the primary author of Matthew almost certainly intended them to be taken as Zoroastrian priests, who, as with their Mithraic off-shoots, steeped themselves in astrology. Indeed, the Greek word "magos" originates in the Persian word applied to the Zoroastrian priestly caste.

More than one scholar has noted that the gospel attributed to Matthew was written only a decade or so after Tiridates I of Armenia went to Rome with his Zoroastrian magi in tow to pay homage to Nero, suggesting that journey inspired the infancy narrative found in Matthew.

And as for the star those Zoroastrian astrologers supposedly followed? Both a simple and a complex theory hold considerable sway in the academy.

In antiquity, it was generally believed that everyone had their own, individual star, and the Star of Bethlehem could have merely represented Jesus' unique star for the Matthean author. On the other hand, Michael Molnar, a numismatist and retired professor of astronomy, acquired a coin from antiquity that celebrated a celestial event in Aries the ancients may have interpreted as portending the coming of a Jewish king in the then-dawning age of Pisce.2

Since the 2nd century, the Christian community has usually shown animosity toward astrology, but the 1st century gospel writers appear not to have shared that animosity. Greek astrology was all the rage in that time, and so it is of little surprise such imagery infiltrated the canonical gospels. As one scholar notes, the Matthean portrayal of the magi "is remarkably positive; there is no hint of explicit or implicit criticism of them in this pericope."3

The gospels' affinity with astrology does not end with the Matthean reverence for the magi. It goes deeper -- much, much deeper. It is, in fact, the lingua franca of the gospels, perhaps due in no small part to Hipparchus' discovery of the precession of the equinoxes about a century before the time of Jesus.

1. Matthew 2:1-2(NIV).

2. Molnar, Michael R., The Star of Bethlehem, The Legacy of the Magi (Rutgers University Press, 1999).

3. Hegedus, Tim, The Magi and the Star in the Gospel of Matthew and Early Christian Tradition, in Laval Théologique et Philosophique, Volume 59, Numéro 1,(Février 2003), p. 81-95, at p. 90.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#40 Jun 10, 2014
Astrology and the Gospels II

Think not? Consider the Gospel of Mark, written a decade before Matthew and from whence much of the Matthean text was copied. There is no hint of the magi in Mark -- no infancy narrative at all. But the astrological references are unmistakable there.

While Jesus is portrayed in Mark as coming from the region of the Sea of Galilee, there is no reliable evidence for that. Mark tells us Jesus' family is still located there during his ministry and does not follow him4, and John 21, a 2nd century addition to John likely based on Mark's missing ending, has Jesus' disciples returning to that region after his death. But Acts has his family and disciples located in Jerusalem after his death, not Galilee, with his brother, James, seemingly leading the Jerusalem Assembly.5

So why did Mark's author have Jesus come from the Galilee region? The answer may have to do with the precession of the equinoxes. That is, in the night sky there are 12 constellations that form the Zodiac. Due to the wobble of the Earth's axis, these 12 formations take turns ruling the night sky during a Great Year, which lasts about 26,000 years. Thus, each sign of the Zodiac reigns for a little over 2,000 years -- an age.

Roughly coinciding with the time of Jesus' birth, the Piscean age was dawning. Now, 2,000 years later, in our time, the Age of Aquarius is nigh and represents the end of the Piscean age that began in Jesus' time.

But if Greek astrology had any influence on the gospel writers, and Jesus was a representation of the Piscean age, one would expect to see Piscean imagery in gospel texts.

And one does.

In Mark, Jesus walks on water6, controlling the sea and thus controlling the Piscean age. He has 12 disciples7, just as the Zodiac has 12 signs. He also feeds the multitude not with one fish but with two fish8, the sign of Pisces. And he recruits fishers as disciples, telling them he will make them "fishers of men".9

And when the Piscean age -- Jesus' time -- is to come to an end, who heralds it in? According to Mark, it is a "man carrying a jar of water"10 to a house in Jerusalem. Given that a man carrying a jar of water is a "very unusual sight in the East, where the water is drawn by women",11 this image from Mark must have special significance. And sure enough, it does. For it is the sign of Aquarius, the age that follows Pisces in the Zodiac.

But what did Jesus have to say about all this? According to Luke's author, Jesus said, "There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars."12

Odd that, eh?

4. Mark 3, generally.

5. Acts 1:12-14; Acts 12:17.

6. Mark 6:45-52.

7. Mark 3:13-19.

8. Mark 6:30-44.

9. Mark 1:17(KJV).

10. Mark 14:13 (NIV).

11. Perowne, J.J.S., ed., "The Gospel according to St. Luke" in The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (Cambridge University Press, 1910), v. 39, p. 324.

12. Luke 21:25 (NIV).

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#42 Jun 25, 2014
Death of John II

All four canonical gospels were written anonymously and later falsely ascribed to important early Christians, including the 4th gospel being falsely ascribe to John.

But John, an illiterate and long dead before the 4th gospel was written in the 90's, had no involvement in that gospel's creation. Nor did he have any involvement in the three 2nd century epistles claiming his name. Those letters all are forgeries. Nor did he have a hand in Revelation. Revelation was written by someone claiming the name John but never claiming to be the apostle.

Let's give that John, author of Revelation, the benefit of the doubt and assume he was not pretending to be *the* John.

Why? Among other reasons because his audience probably was very aware *the* John was long dead.

Backtrack to Mark 10:
Mark wrote:
<quoted text>37 They [James and John] said unto him [Jesus], Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.

38 But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?

39 And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:

40 But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.
-- KJV

GoMark, written in the 70's, pretends to foretell the deaths of the sons of Zebedee: They shall drink of the same cup Jesus does.

The Gospel of Mark is dated to the 70’s, in part, because of the claimed prophesies that already had come true by then -- e.g., the fall of the temple -- and apparently so too the martyrdom of the sons of Zebedee.

Enter the Sinner. George was a 9th century monk in Constantinople. He writes of an early tradition that the Apostle John was killed at the hands of "the Jews". This early tradition, according to him, comes from Papias in his "Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord", a work that now only survives in a handful of snippets contained in later authors' works.

Papias wrote that five-volume text at the beginning of the 1st century. Of course, the claim of John's martyrdom contradicts the later tradition that John died of old age in Ephesus, a tradition intended to give credence to his supposed but false late authorship of the Gospel of John and Revelation. Indeed, George seems to merge the two traditions, though not on authority of Papias.

George was not the best historian. He cited Origin for support of Papias' claim of John's martyrdom, though Origin seems not to have provided such.

But enter Philip of Side, nearly half a millennium before George. According to Philip, "Papias says in the second book [of five] that John the Evangelist [Apostle] and his brother James were slain by the Jews."

Odd that, huh? And not just Philip.

Meet Aphraates, the Persian Sage and contemporary of Philip. He claimed "James and John trod in the footsteps of their Master Christ. Also other of the Apostles thereafter in diverse places confessed and proved themselves true martyrs."

Of course these early Christian writers could all have been wrong. For example, Philip could have been confusing the death of James, son of Zebedee, with the death of James, brother of Jesus. After all, Acts claims the former was not killed by his fellow Jews but by Herod to the pleasure of his fellow Jews.

These early Christian writers all happily past on groundless traditions whenever it suited their interests. But given that John’s death of old age in Ephesus is even more groundless and given Mark’s apparent reference to the martyrdom of James and John, it seems more probable that John became a martyr before the fall of the 2nd temple in much the same fashion as James, the brother of Jesus, and Stephen –martyrs at the hands of their fellow Jews in Jerusalem.

Since: Jul 08

Columbus, OH

#43 Aug 8, 2014
Plagiarism as Theft

Plagiarism often represents a crime. In modern times, plagiarism usually is not subject to criminal sanction unless it also represents something beyond plagiarism, such as infringement.

Plagiarism is using someone's work without giving credit to that author. Infringement is using someone's *legally protected* work without legal right, whether credit has been given or not, though lack of credit can be an aggravating circumstance. Obviously the two concepts overlap. But they are not the same. Shakespeare can be plagiarized but not infringed, since his works are not protected under any intellectual property law.

The author of a work that has been plagiarized is normally the victim plagiarism, unless he has given consent to the plagiarism, such as in the case of term paper mills. The owner of intellectual property is always the victim of infringement. The author and the owner are not always the same person or entity, since an author may have assigned ownership in a piece of intellectual property, thus making another person the owner of his work.

The audience usually is a victim of plagiarism too, though it is not always a victim of infringement and may actually be a willing participant in that endeavor.

Infringement can be prosecuted even if no commercial gain was sought, though infringement rarely is prosecuted unless it is done for commercial gain.

I am not aware of any prosecution of plagiarism as simple theft in modern times, though many theft statutes are broad enough to encompass it. But long before intellectual property laws and the concept of infringement arose, plagiarism was sometimes criminally punished.

The first example I am aware of is Ptolemy II's prosecution of plagiarists in a literary competition. The plagiarists were convicted of stealing and banished. That occurred in the 3rd century BC. Plagiarism and its association with theft has a long history.

Regardless of criminality, plagiarism often is subject to punishment. That punishment normally takes the form of social stigma. It sometimes takes the form of academic or professional sanctions. More than one professional in modern times has lost his license to practice his profession or lost his job due to plagiarism. And countless students and academics have suffered academic consequences from plagiarism.

Ultimately, a plagiarist is a dishonest broker. And you gotta ask yourself why you would take seriously anything a plagiarist -- a thief -- has to say.

Tell me when this thread is updated:

Subscribe Now Add to my Tracker

Add your comments below

Characters left: 4000

Please note by submitting this form you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Service and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator. Send us your feedback.

Top Stories Discussions

Title Updated Last By Comments
Jehovah's Witnesses are true disciple of Jesus ... (Mar '07) 3 min Steve III 44,425
The Christian Atheist debate (Jun '15) 8 min Buck Crick 38,462
Prove there's a god. (Mar '08) 39 min pusherman_ 970,073
Play "end of the word" part 2 45 min Aussie Kev 1,735
News Roman Catholic church only true church, says Va... (Jul '07) 1 hr truth 641,785
Bush is a hero (Sep '07) 1 hr bad bob 182,307
Do White men know that White women prefer Black... (Sep '10) 1 hr John 3,122
Poll Is homosexuality a sin? (Oct '07) 3 hr Rosa_Winkel 104,734
More from around the web