2018-11-18

How Plato Inspired Moses: Creation of the Hebrew Bible

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by Neil Godfrey

Plato’s Laws provides the only example in antiquity of an ethical or national literature comparable to the Hebrew Bible. . . .

. . . . One may therefore reasonably propose that the biblical authors not only found in Plato’s Laws a blueprint for the creation of a persuasive legal code, but a mandate and program for the creation of an authoritative national literature intended to supplement and bolster the laws of the Torah. (Gmirkin, 264)

After having demonstrated the many details, themes and values that the books of the Hebrew Bible share with Greek literature, practices and ideas, Russell Gmirkin concludes with a chapter examining how closely the biblical canon appears to match Plato’s recommendations for a national curriculum. There are certainly Canaanite and Mesopotamian fingerprints in the “Old Testament” but these Scriptures are unlike anything else produced in the ancient Near East. The Hellenistic heritage explains that difference.

The ancient Judean and then Christian authors used to say that Plato got his best ideas from Moses. Gmirkin, however, argues that the evidence points to the borrowing being in the other direction, that the Judean authors of the Bible found their inspiration in Plato.

I doubt that any Westerner can read Plato’s Laws and not at some point think of a comparison with the Bible. I certainly could not avoid the comparisons: the box insert lists the posts I made prior to reading Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible [PCHB]. So you can see why I have posted so much on PCHB. Great minds and all that.

Plato believed that laws for a new state should be written in a way that encouraged a loving willingness to obey them. Stories honouring ancient ancestors, legislation presented in persuasive language, pure songs and poetry,  all should function to inspire citizens to live with pure and righteous thoughts and behaviour.

Rule by God and God’s Laws

Russell Gmirkin cites Glenn Morrow’s discernment that Plato was in fact setting out a government ruled by “God”, a “divine government”. To quote from Morrow’s article:

Our state is to be called, not a monarchy, nor a democracy, but by some term indicative of that power which is supreme in it, viz., Nous (713a). This Nous is what is truly divine in the cosmos; it is Plato’s God. This divine Nous furnishes the standards for all legislation, and the laws are sovereign only because they have this reason in them. Plato no longer suggests—in fact he explicitly rejects—the conception of personal absolutism. All officials are themselves subject to the law . . . .

(Morrow, 244)

Laws had an ancient and divine origin

Gmirkin rightly emphasizes the importance to Plato that the new laws should not appear to be innovations. On the contrary, myths had to be composed to give the laws an air of great antiquity and divine origin. The peoples’ ancestors, it must be taught, had always kept these laws. PCHB quotes one of several key passages from Laws:

If there exist laws under which men have been reared up and which (by the blessing of Heaven) have remained unaltered for many centuries, so that there exists no recollection or report of their ever having been different from what they now are, then the whole soul is forbidden by reverence and fear to alter any of the things established of old. By hook or by crook, then, the lawgiver must devise a means whereby this shall be true of his State. (Plato, Laws 7.798a-b)

(Gmirkin, 254)

Plato was imagining a brand new colony being established with a perfect start. The citizens were to be new arrivals into the territory and to be taught that they were the descendants of the original inhabitants divinely commissioned to restore the ancient city or “nation”. The new settlement was to be divided into twelve nominal tribes.

Laws to be presented through a charter myth

A third goal was to create a charter myth for those divine laws in the dramatic narrative form of a foundation story that forged a powerful sense of national identity in those who adopted this literary narrative as their own historical past as descendants of the ancient children of Israel. The refounding of the Jewish nation in the early Hellenistic Era, with new civic and religious institutions and a new constitution and laws, was thus successfully portrayed as a new edition of the ancient writings of Moses, the divine legislator, educator and founder of the ancient Jewish nation, in line with the Platonic legislative agenda.

(Gmirkin, 262)

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2018-11-17

Can one prove a negative?

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by Neil Godfrey

R.G. Price argues that you can: Is it really impossible to “prove a negative”?

I think you can, too. Anyone who is innocent of a crime they are standing trial for sure as hell wants a negative proved, too.


Guns, Violence and Durkheim

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by Neil Godfrey

Interesting to read an article by PhD candidate Galen WattsPioneering sociologist foresaw our current chaos 100 years ago in The Conversation.  Reminded me of what I once posted about Durkheim here: Understanding the Nature of Religion and the Religious. And that reminded me of something I read years back by Ghassan Hage in his book, Against Paranoid Nationalism: Searching for Hope in a Shrinking Society — in my own words…

As for the suicide terrorism bit, it enabled me to see how personal despair, humiliation, hopelessness, — and end of real life on an individual level — is so unbearable that some prefer to swap their physical existence for a symbolic existence.

The key theme in the Galen Watts’ article is surely related:

A famous example of a social fact is found in Durkheim’s study, Suicide. In this book, Durkheim argues that the suicide rate of a country is not random, but rather reflects the degree of social cohesion within that society. He famously compares the suicide rate in Protestant and Catholic countries, concluding that the suicide rate in Protestant countries is higher because Protestantism encourages rugged individualism, while Catholicism fosters a form of collectivism.

What was so innovative about this theory is that it challenged long-standing assumptions about individual pathologies, which viewed these as mere byproducts of individual psychology. Adapting this theory to the contemporary era, we can say, according to Durkheim, the rate of suicide or mental illness in modern societies cannot be explained by merely appealing to individual psychology, but must also take into account macro conditions such as a society’s culture and institutions.

In other words, if more and more people feel disconnected and alienated from each other, this reveals something crucial about the nature of society.

That “rugged individualism” idea surely has a down side.

Then there was Clark McCauley and Sophia Moskalenko bringing together many studies on terrorists and the process of radicalization in Friction, and I collated various posts on that book at How Radicalization Happens to Them and Us. One factor they point to is the need for belonging but also for status, recognition. Return again to the “symbolic life” preference to the real one spoken of by Hage.

If there is anything to Durkheim’s analysis, I suppose we have to see the prevalence of mass shootings in the U.S. as all part and parcel of whatever is also driving people to extremist groups such as the white nationalists, sovereign citizens, and so forth. And the erosion of civility? Intolerance for and even pushback against “political correctness”? Presumably facets of the same.

Australia is not so badly off as what we read is happening in the United States, thankfully.

But we’re not in a good place right now. But you knew that already.

 


Archive for Billionaire Logic and the Death of JFK

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by Neil Godfrey

For future easy reference I have archived the series of posts of the interview with John Curington in the Archives by Topic page linked in the right hand bar of this blog: Billionaire Logic and the Death of JFK


2018-11-16

Questioning the apologetic argument for Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem

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by Neil Godfrey

Let’s assume, as is commonly argued within mainstream biblical scholarship, that there was a very small town of Nazareth in Galilee at the supposed time of Jesus’ birth and let’s assume that the reason Jesus was called “Jesus of Nazareth” was because he grew up in Nazareth, and that the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are awkwardly contorted to have Jesus of Nazareth somehow also born in Bethlehem because all the Judeans of the day knew and expected that that’s where the Messiah was to be born. The concocted narratives of Jesus being born in Bethlehem are even pulled out as evidence for the very existence of Jesus since the evangelists were oh so embarrassed that he came from Nazareth in reality.

After reading some sections of Richard A. Horsley‘s The Liberation of Christmas: the Infancy Narratives in Social Context, I think we have some problems that seem so obvious in hindsight that I have to pinch myself for not noticing them before. Our attention will be primarily on Matthew’s birth narrative rather than Luke’s in this post.

Part of Horsley’s discussion begins on page six and seven:

Recognition of Matthew’s distinctive use of “formula quotations” (“this was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet… ”) led to the claim that Matthew 2 (which contains several such quotations) “is dominated by geographical names,” which are “what is really important to him.”21 The purpose of Matthew in Chapter 2 was apologetic: how did Jesus the messiah come from Nazareth in Galilee and not from Bethlehem, the village of David, as it said in Scripture, according to the questioning in John 7:41-42.22

21. K. Stendahl, “Quis et Unde? An Analysis of Mt 1-2,” in Judentum, Urchristentum, Kirche (Festschrift J. Jeremias; ed. W. Eltester; Berlin: Topelmann, 1964; reprinted in Interpretation of Matthew [ed. G. N. Stanton; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983], 56-66), 97. Stendahl’s article is important and influential and is followed with further refinement by Brown (BM, chaps. 1 and 5).

22. Stendahl, “Quis et Unde?” 98; Brown, BM, 179-80.

That’s the common understanding. Now Horsley begins to notice some problems with it:

However, the claim that the geographical names, even as emphasized by the formula quotations, dominate Matthew 2 seems highly questionable. What dominates the narrative is clearly the conflict between the newborn king of the Jews and the reigning king, Herod. The threatened Herod figures directly or indirectly at every point in the narrative except the actual visit of the Magi in verses 9—11 and the naming in verse 23.23 Moreover, the notion that Matthew is pursuing an apologetic purpose is derived not from Matthew but only from the dispute in John 7.

23. As Stendahl himself points out, the text mentions “Herod’s name 9 times, and at all points of progress in the account” (“Quis et Unde?” 99).

Yes, of course. The only reason we know there was supposed to be a problem with Jesus not really being born in Bethlehem are the narrative dialogue in one of the latest canonical gospels. We do not find supporting evidence in any earlier or independent records.

From the lack of textual evidence, we are increasingly aware that at the time of Jesus there were almost certainly no standard or widely acknowledged “Jewish expectations about the Messiah” such as birth in Bethlehem, about which Matthew or other followers of Jesus of Nazareth would supposedly have been embarrassed.24 Just because the followers of Jesus early on applied to their “messiah” phrases from psalms that stemmed originally from the established Davidic royal theology (esp. Pss. 2 and 110) does not mean that they were defensively oriented toward some hypothetical established view of the proper pedigree of the messiah. Indeed, the royal Herodian and aristocratic priestly families that dominated Jewish Palestinian society would hardly have been entertaining messianic expectations, which could only have been threatening to their own position. Precisely that is the principal point of Matthew 2! The popularly acclaimed “kings” among the Jewish people who were active around the time of Jesus’ birth surely did not have Davidic pedigrees.25 There is little in the Gospel of Matthew itself or in the Palestinian Jewish milieu out of which the traditions he used emerged to suggest an apologetic motive. The typical early Christian concern to interpret Jesus according to fulfillment of biblical promise and prophecy (and prototype) would appear to be the operative motive in Matthew’s use of the formula quotations to embellish the significance of the events narrated in chapter 2.

24. Cf. Brown, BM, 180; but Brown himself points out in Appendix 3 that expectation of the messiah’s birth at Bethlehem is not attested “until considerably later in Jewish writings.”

25. For a sketch of these popular Jewish kings and their movements, see R. A. Horsley and J. S. Hanson, Bandits, Prophets, and Messiahs (Minneapolis: Winston- Seabury, 1985), chap. 3.

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2018-11-15

Billionaire Logic and the Death of JFK / Conclusion and Commentaries

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by Neil Godfrey

This is the conclusion of Greg Doudna‘s interview with John Curington.

But first, here is what I wrote at the beginning of this series:

. . . . Since reading the interview I have followed up some of the information and names mentioned and the more I learn the more questions I have. . . . .

I have never followed closely the many statements that have been published in relation to JFK’s assassination and have routinely shunned conspiracy theories for anything on principle. Sometimes, though, historical research does lead to new questions and interpretations of events. Historians have ironically noted that ancient history and contemporary history are very similar in the sense that so much vital information is either lost or hidden from view so we are left to posit only the most tentative explanations for events pending new discoveries.

On re-reading the interview as I have been posting it here, I am in the same position as when I began. I find myself suspending judgment entirely. I simply don’t know what to make of it all. Others more familiar with related details will have stronger views for or against what one might make of events raised in this interview. I would encourage others more knowledgeable than myself to add their own questions or thoughts in the comments on these posts. Hopefully comments will reference accessible sources. Some may dismiss everything Curington has said in this interview and I would appreciate comments to that effect as long as they give fair reasons for doing so. I have linked to a review of the book Motive and Opportunity beneath the cover image below.

At the end of this interview is another statement by Greg Doudna.

~ ~ ~

As I look around me, I find that most everyone else involved from this time is gone—I’m the sole survivor, the last man standing, and I simply want to tell my story.

GD: There’s one question I’ve got to ask because other people will ask. Many of these important events, you were at the heart of it. It’s a long time now, and people might say, why didn’t you say something earlier? I mean, when the Warren Commission and the House Committee were investigating—

JC: It was their job to find out what was involved. Mr. Hunt was well enough known that somebody should have gone and talked to him.

GD: Yes.

JC: And they would have talked to me first before they talked to him. I would have answered their questions. But that could have been planned. Johnson—Johnson and Hoover had to present this lone theory shooter in the initial beginning. Johnson had more to gain from the lone shooter than anybody on the face of the earth, you understand that? He didn’t want Sam Giancana involved, or Lucky Luciano, or H. L. Hunt, or Joe Civello. He wanted a lone shooter, acted alone, that’s the only way he’s going to save his own ass there.

GD: The 1976 House Select Committee on Assassinations, they didn’t contact you?

JC: No.

Jim Garrison

GD: What about Garrison, in Louisiana?

(Jim Garrison was the District Attorney of New Orleans 1962-1973. In the late 1960s Garrison undertook criminal prosecution of a conspiracy in the death of President John F. Kennedy which Garrison charged involved New Orleans figures in conjunction with the CIA. Garrison was the inspiration for and the central character of the Oliver Stone movie, JFK.)

JC: Well he came in our office. He became a big pest. I imagine I talked to him maybe twenty-five or thirty times. He had nothing to hang his hat on. Of course he was always trying to get a little money. And Mr. Hunt, as far as I know, never let him have a nickel.

GD: He was asking Hunt for money?

JC: Yo.

GD: For what?

JC: Well, to help build his case on—

GD: How’s the money going to help build his case?

JC: Well, you have to have traveling expenses. You have to—and he’s on a limited budget with the DA’s office—you know he was just an attorney there.

GD: But he suspected Hunt. How is he asking a suspect for money?

(“The assassination, Garrison charged, was ordered and paid for by ‘a handful of oil-rich psychotic millionaires’ … he refused to say how many ‘Texas style’ millionaires were involved, although he identified them all as extreme conservatives … Garrison said he could reveal the latest developments because his investigators were finished in Dallas.” The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, Sept. 22, 1967.)

JC: Well, I never got that feeling in talking to him. Mr. Hunt may have met him a time or two, but he’d <unintelligible> step into my office, when Garrison came in.

GD: So Garrison was seeking extra funds for the investigation?

JC: Yeah. He was seeking funds to help him on the investigation. Of course as a district attorney, you know, you have certain things available to you, but if Garrison could pick up ten thousand here, or twenty thousand there, he wouldn’t be averse to it, no.

GD: So Garrison was—

JC: Garrison wanted to make a name for himself, and he didn’t care whose toes he stepped on to do it there. And he got laughed out of the courtroom.

GD: OK. Thank you Mr. Curington.

John Curington

~ ~ ~

The following is from the close of Mr. Curington’s 2018 book, Motive and Opportunity: The Means by which H.L. Hunt influenced the assassination of JFK, King, Bobby & Hoffa. read more »


2018-11-14

Billionaire Logic and the Death of JFK / 5 —

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by Neil Godfrey

Part 5 of Greg Doudna‘s the interview with John Curington.

The previous installment ended with Curington’s recalling a visit by Adlai Stevenson amidst a rowdy demonstration and H.L. Hunts interest in retrieving an autographed book.

~ ~ ~

GD: The Adlai Stevenson incident happened less than a month before the Kennedy assassination.

You have to accept this fact: Johnson had worn his welcome out with the Kennedys on the ‘60’s ticket there. He was gonna be—he was not gonna be on the ticket in ’64. Bobby Kennedy was going to indict a fellow named Bobby Baker. And that deal was already made. Bobby Baker would in turn turn against Lyndon Johnson, enter into a plea agreement on his deal, just like they’re doing on the deal with Trump. Johnson was going to be out in ’64. No ifs, ands, buts, and maybes.

Bobby Baker (Cover Credit: BORIS CHALIAPIN)

And nobody realized this until about the beginning of ’63, latter part of ’62 or ’63. Johnson was losing his skills every day, and Jack Kennedy was gaining more. So Mr. Hunt was almost at the stage where he didn’t have much time to fulfill his obligation that Kennedy would not live through four—would not survive four years in the office there. That’s really the essence of the Kennedy story. For Mr. Hunt to protect his empire, and to honor his commitment to Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy had to leave office. No ifs, ands, buts about it.

GD: How could Hunt make that happen?

JC: Having somebody shoot him with a high-powered rifle. Pretty easy.

GD: How would Hunt go about doing that?

JC: I don’t think Hunt would have gotten on the telephone and called somebody up. I think he would have had enough power with Sam Giancana or Joe Civello, or Luciano, just to make a suggestion that he needed a little help, and I think they would run it there.

GD: So Hunt may not know how they did it—

JC: No, he wouldn’t care how they did it.

GD: After the assassination, did Mr. Hunt show any signs or unusual knowledge or say anything?

JC: No. And that wouldn’t be unusual at all.

GD: And you say that Hunt—nobody was above Hunt?

JC: No. No. No.

GD: Hunt gave orders, but nobody gave Hunt orders.

JC: No. No. I don’t—Hunt would give orders to Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover—

GD: He would? He would give orders to these guys?

JC: Oh yeah, yeah. Well not orders in that—he wouldn’t say, “Now Lyndon I want you to—.” He might say, “Lyndon, this would help me or help this—,” or, “If you see your way clear to—.“ read more »


2018-11-13

Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible – Post #32

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by Neil Godfrey

Here are all the posts I have completed so far on Russell Gmirkin’s book, Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible. You can also read an extended abstract or chapter by chapter outline by Gmirkin himself on his academia.edu page.

As you can see I have not yet begun to post anything on the final chapter of the book. And what’s worse, I can see from post #18 that I am still stuck at the same place I was over a year ago! Blame my long time love of ancient history for this situation. So when I came to the chapter covering foundation stories I found myself revisiting a raft of Greek foundation myths, their sources, and literary and thematic structures, and doing too many posts on that one point. I’ve often found myself also chasing up new data relating to historical methods that I have been discussing on Vridar quite often, and also learning about historical controversies and how the debates are conducted among classicists and ancient historians (with half a mind comparing the way such disagreements are handled in certain quarters of biblical studies). Further, I’ve spent some time following up studies not just on concrete points of similarity (e.g. a hero leaves a high culture; hero experiences a divine command; etc.), but on literary structures of the narratives themselves. I’d like to write more about those.

But no, Russell’s book also shares some of the blame. Many pages are crammed with the bare equivalent of “dot points” with referrals to end-notes (several pages away) to find follow up examples and further elaboration. For example, look at this last paragraph on page 226 (with my bolding, of course):

The foundation story proper typically included an explanation of the circumstances
leading up to the launching of an expedition of colonization to a new land.
According to the typical sequence of events, negative circumstances at home, such
as overpopulation,37 famine,38 plague,39 natural disaster,40 economic subjection,41
stasis,42 exile,43 defeat at war,44 or escape from impending conquest45 and enslavement46
prompted a decision to found a new colony. In the Jewish foundation story
by Hecataeus of Abdera in ca. 315 b c e , overpopulation was the reason why the
Egyptians sent colonists to settle Babylon, Argos, Colchis and Judea (Diodorus
Siculus, Library 1.28.1-3 [colonization accounts]; 29.5 [reason for colonies]).
In Manetho’s story of ca. 285 b c e , Jerusalem and Judea were first settled by the
Hyksos, foreign kings who had enslaved Egypt, who were eventually expelled
by the Egyptians because of a plague caused by their impious foreign practices
(Josephus, Apion 1.75-91, 228-51; cf. Gmirkin 2006: 170-213). In the biblical
Exodus story of ca. 270 b c e , Manetho’s story was turned on its head: plagues fell
on the impious Egyptians for enslaving the children of Israel and to convince Pharaoh
to release them so they could worship Yahweh in the wilderness (cf. Gmirkin
2006: 187-91, 212-13). The Exodus as an escape from slavery was in keeping
with Hellenistic foundation story motifs and was a central recurring theme in
biblical accounts. Egyptian enslavement of its populace and the use of slave labor
for the creation of Egyptian monuments such as the pyramids were also proverbial
(Herodotus, Histories 2.124; Aristotle, Politics 5.1313b). The miraculous deliverance
of the children of Israel was a narrative element unique to the biblical . . . .

That is not a quick read for anyone who wants to know the detail, the examples, in order to know how well the argument really works when examined more closely. I would much rather the end-notes had been printed on the same page as the main text. Yes, that would sometimes mean only a few lines of main text on a page where many follow up references and discussions had to be added, but for me that would have made a much easier read. I’m also greedy enough to want more than line references in the sources that I have to go away to look up. Adding quotations would add to the length of the book, of course, but it would have made it much easier to feel one has the complete picture, not just direction signage to lead one to locate the pieces of the picture for oneself.

But I can’t complain about the book lacking detail or the means to follow up the many topics addressed.

I have these past few weeks been following up additional reading (from the end-notes — and then more readings as I follow up the second and third order citations), piecing together the various sources for other foundation myths I have not covered on Vridar yet. But enough is enough. I will post more on those myths and their structural similarities to many of the Biblical stories at another time. Next post must begin with a look at the final chapter.

Did I say enough is enough on the foundation stories?

But what about the differences, the unique features in the Bible stories?

Allow me one more particularly interesting point Gmirkin offers with respect to the unique features of the Bible’s foundation stories (pp. 230-31). Fortunately for you readers this passage only has one end-note to follow up and I have copied it right next to the main paragraph so you don’t have to turn pages or click links to find it! 🙂

91 The tradition history approach of Rolf Rendtorff and the European school hypothesized the independent formation of the various units composing the narratives of Genesis- Joshua, which were thought to have been unified only at the last stage of redaction; cf. Rendtorff 1990. But these narrative units (aside from the primordial history in Genesis 1-11) may now be seen as essential story elements within a typical foundation story: the ancestral land promises, the departure or exodus, the wanderings, the receiving of the law, the conquest and settlement of the land. The individual units are best understood as having been composed with overall narrative scheme in mind. The explanation of these units as expected components of a foundation story appears to weigh decisively against the redaction critical model.

As can be seen from the earlier comparisons, the biblical narratives about the patriarchal promises and the later Exodus, Sojourn and Conquest form a connected unity that closely conforms to the Greek literary genre of ktisis or foundation story.91 As with many foundation stories, the biblical account has its own distinctive features. Although some Greek colonizing expeditions began as an escape from slavery, and although some Greek lawgivers claimed divine inspiration, both the biblical Exodus and the giving of the law at Sinai were accompanied by divine signs and wonders not typical of Greek accounts. The authors of Deuteronomy appear to have been keenly aware of these innovations in Israel’s foundation story. Deut. 4.32-34 claimed that one could make inquiries and not find another nation to the ends of the earth and the dawn of time that had heard the voice of God speaking directly out of the fire (an allusion to the Sinai theophany of Ex. 19-20, 24) or was taken by signs, wonders and a mighty hand from out of the midst of another nation (cf. Ex. 34.10). This statement displays consciousness of a literary genre dealing with the origins of nations – namely the foundation story, which was known only in the Greek world – and that the Israelite foundation story was unique in Yahweh’s direct role as deliverer and lawgiver.

So here’s a list of posts directly discussing Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible and others (mostly indented) related to the theme of the book. read more »


Billionaire Logic and the Death of JFK / 4 —

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by Neil Godfrey

Part 4 of Greg Doudna‘s the interview with John Curington.

The previous installment ended with Curington’s testimony concerning a meeting between H.L. Hunt and Lee Oswald’s wife, Marina. Discussion of that meeting continues here.

Further details covered: circumstances surrounding Oswald’s murder; rowdy crowds at Adlai Stevenson’s visit to Dallas; and retrieval of an autographed book.

~ ~ ~

John Curington

GD: You mentioned that it was maybe thirty minutes. That’s not a very long time for a visit.

JC: It would be less than—oh he wouldn’t, no, that would be a long time for Mr. Hunt to spend with somebody. I don’t believe he’d have had any interest whatsoever in other than a five or ten minute conversation.

GD: OK.

JC: Again, you’re going back to what most people would do, but you know, he just wasn’t most people.

GD: OK.

JC: But again, when I make a statement like that, or when I write something like that, when Marina Oswald denies the story, most people hearing my remarks wash ’em off as a fictitious story. Nothing I can do about that. You know, they’ve got their opinion. But I know—you just don’t go lock a door between two buildings that’s never been locked before, never been locked since. You don’t normally go in and tell every Hunt employee to go home if in fact they are there. And you don’t stay in the lobby and if a Hunt employee comes in to send them home. It would suggest to me that he wanted somebody coming into that office that he didn’t want anybody else to recognize or see.

H.L. Hunt;       Marina Oswald Porter

GD: Did she speak to you or anything?

JC: No, my instructions were not to look at her, not to speak to her. She didn’t look left, didn’t look right, I didn’t show any recognition whatsoever. She was well dressed, her hair was combed, had on lipstick, she would not be what I would call a pretty woman, but sort of an attractive woman you know, just the way she walked and carried there—she didn’t look left, she didn’t look right, she punched the elevator door. Of course at that time all of the elevators were on the ground floor. I think there were four there in the lobby. It opened immediately, she disappeared, and came back within a less than a thirty minute period of time.

GD: Is the fact that she says she never went to see Mr. Hunt—could that be as simple as he asked her not to tell anyone?

JC: Well, again in fairness to her, she may not have known. But you’ve been around me long enough to know that I sort of have a grasp of the situation—

GD: Yes.

JC: —going around me, you know.

GD: Yes.

JC: I’m not going to be in the lobby under a very set of mysterious instructions, see a lady come in that is on the news 24 hours a day 7 days a week, that I don’t know who she is, you know.

GD: Right.

JC: An orangutang if he had been with me he could have told me who the lady was there.

(This is one of Mr. Curington’s favorite expressions to emphasize something that, in his opinion, should be obvious, some form of even an orangutang could figure that out.)

So I don’t think, you know—I don’t have any reservation, conscience whatsoever in telling that story. That’s exactly what happened, and I think what happened with Marina Oswald, one, Mr. Hunt could or could not have given her a pretty substantial gift. He could or could not have identified himself. Normally he wouldn’t identify himself. But he just had enough ego that in his mind, if he could talk to Marina Oswald for three or four minutes, he could pretty well tell anything she believed as far as Lee Harvey Oswald and Kennedy was concerned.

GD: And when you saw her, how long did it take for you to say, “That’s Marina Oswald”?

JC: The minute she was out of the car. Of course I had an opportunity to observe her for about a two hundred foot walk there, so, you know, it wasn’t just a haphazard glance where well maybe it is, maybe it’s not.

But, anyway, I’m the first to admit, that’s my story, she has a different one, but mine’s correct and hers may not be deliberately incorrect, but she may not have known any differently.

GD: That’s one of these unexplained questions, as to what that meeting was about, but who knows—yeah.

JC: Yo. But anyway, having said that, you know, we could speculate forever on did this happen or did that happen. The comments that I am making leave just as many unanswered questions as when we started. But I can move that pendulum a little bit, a little bit step further.

GD: Let’s go back to Civello there in Dallas. Was Civello under any other Mob boss?

Joe Civello

JC: Civello was not a high profile Mafia leader. But he was one of the smarter Mafia leaders, and in a way more cruel. He ran his part of the United States with an iron fist—but in a gentlemanly manner you know. He just had the ability to get things done the way he wanted them done, without a lot of the adverse publicity that some of the people out of Chicago and New York and Los Angeles may have done there.

When the United States was divided there were eight different sections in the United States. It wasn’t an organizational chart, but they didn’t go out of their geographical area. And it was a gentleman’s agreement, this is your area, and you run it. You don’t get involved in this place, and you don’t get involved over here, and we’re not interested in your concerns as to what happens in Louisville Kentucky. You run your business and we’ll take care of the rest of it here.

I would guess that Marcello—well I wouldn’t have any way of guessing—but it wouldn’t be uncommon for Marcello to come to Dallas two or three, four times a year, you know—

GD: Marcello?

10 Lamar Waldron, The Hidden History of the JFK Assassination (Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2013), 189; John L. Davis, Mafia Kingfish: Carlos Marcello and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy (New York: Signet, 1989); Stefano Vaccara, Carlos Marcello: The Man Behind the JFK Assassination (New York: Enigma Books, 2013).

(Carlos Marcello was head of the New Orleans crime family from 1947 to the 1980s, considered one of the top Mob bosses in the United States. Marcello’s sphere of operations included Dallas, and according to an FBI informant, Jack Van Laningham, Marcello said, speaking of Dallas, that “all the police were on the take, and as long as he kept the money flowing they let him operate anything in Dallas that he wanted to.”10)

Carlos Marcello (From NCS)

JC: Yeah. It wouldn’t be uncommon, you know, to get a call, “Well, Marcello’s here if you want to drop by.” Nothing planned, nothing formal, nothing regimented or—just a routine thing. Normally it wasn’t a formal meeting. It sort of was like saying, “If you and Mr. Hunt—Marcello’s going to be in town tomorrow, just stop by the liquor store by the airport”—just very informal, no scheduled meeting, no plan to get together, no drawing up a plan or anything—

GD: Most people would be scared to meet these guys.

JC: I had a limited knowledge of a lot of these activities. But astute people don’t have to go into a long-winded detailed explanation of what to do or how to do it. Just three or four words gets the message across you know. And I don’t think Civello, or Marcello, or H. L. Hunt or anybody else is gonna sit down and write out a plan, and discuss it, and call in people to evaluate it—

Again, I’m making a statement. It has nothing to do with anything. But just suppose that H. L. Hunt did have enough concern that Lee Harvey Oswald needed some way not to testify. All he’d have to say is, “Man if there’s any way in the world that somebody could get to Oswald and keep him quiet.” That’s all that would be said, you know. Civello wouldn’t say, “Well what do you want me to do? How much money you gonna—?” Its not that kind of conversation at all. People want there to be something like that, where you want a committee meeting, and you want a faculty meeting, and you want an outlined plan, and you want it written down, and you want to rehearse it and go over it. Its not that kind of a deal at all.

GD: OK.

JC: But the people that think they’re in the know, they believe they have every answer in the world as to why Jack Ruby should not have been at the spot he was when he shot Lee Harvey Oswald. Again, my opinion. I’m not giving you any evidence whatsoever. But in my opinion, Ruby was given instructions to get rid of Lee Harvey Oswald. He didn’t want to do it! But he was afraid not to do it. So he left a paper trail as wide as he could, on protecting his image. And everything he did corresponded with the delay that exactly corresponded with what the Dallas police department was bringing on themselves. Not deliberately. But they had the car parked wrong. That cost ten minutes. They had to do something else to change the deal there. So the Dallas police department was making time mistakes there, so when the shooting <unintelligible>, Ruby over here was leaving the best defense he could as to where he was and it being impossible for him to be there. But by him building up his defense theory, and the Dallas police department making mistakes, put the two together, unintercooperated (sic) by anybody else, to me the explanation is just as simple as two and two is four.

The police department made enough administrative errors that it delayed the meeting about fifteen minutes from the schedule. Jack Ruby didn’t know those things were going on. If the Dallas police department had done what they were supposed to do, and not made the errors that they did make, Oswald would have been in the car and disposed of by the time Jack Ruby was building his alibi that he couldn’t have been there. Everything just unraveled where, without any assistance from anybody, just unraveled, to put him where he was able to confront Lee Harvey Oswald and do just exactly what he did.

Now me saying that doesn’t make it happen that way. You can accept it or reject it. That’s my theory as to what happened there. The Dallas police department didn’t plan on making the mistakes it did. Ruby knew what time that he should have been coming out of that deal. He scheduled everything he did, going to the Western Union office, calling somebody, calling in, so it would have been impossible for him to have been there. I don’t think Ruby wanted to do the shooting. But then he had no other choice. You know, somebody told him what needs to be done. And he knew if he didn’t do it, he could very well have been ground up in a sausage grinder, and all his brothers and sisters and everybody else there.

So its not that simple to just say, “Well I don’t believe I’ll load my gun this morning and go down and shoot somebody.” You don’t have that, you know, you don’t have that choice there.

GD: When Ruby was arrested, after shooting Oswald, Ruby said he did it on his own—

JC: Well, what do you think he’s gonna say?! “Oh, me and Joe Civello, the leader, we own the Carousel Club together, and Civello called me this morning—woke me up, just told me to go down and shoot the deal, and I had to do it.”

They’re not going to say those—

read more »


2018-11-12

Two Foundation Stories: Dan by the Danites, Massilia by the Greeks

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by Neil Godfrey

Fort, Marie-Antide. 2009. “De Foça à Marseille en galère, comme il y a 2 600 ans.” L’Obs avec Rue89, May 22, 2009. https://www.nouvelobs.com/rue89/rue89-paristanbul/20090522.RUE7848/de-foca-a-marseille-en-galere-comme-il-y-a-2-600-ans.html.

A first century Greek named Strabo documented an account he heard or read on the founding of a colony at present day Marseilles, southern France. The founders were from the Greek city-state of Phocaea, present day Foça on the Turkish coast. The date of the founding was around 600 BCE.

Nadav Na’aman

In 2005 Vetus Testamentum published an article by Professor Nadav Na’aman of Tel Aviv University that drew attention to a unique combination of details in both the Greek foundation story of Marseilles and the story in the Book of Judges about the foundation of the city Dan.

You know the story in Judges 17-18 but here are the main points to refresh your memory.

Many of the tribe of Dan were looking for a new place to settle. They selected five men to go out and spy in other places and report back on the best place to migrate to.

Meanwhile in the region of Ephraim a certain Micah established himself with images of gods and made one of his sons a priest. But soon afterwards a Levite looking for a new home came by and Micah promptly offered him remuneration too good to refuse to be his priest. Much better to have a bone fide priest — that is, a Levite.

http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/tribe-of-dan.html

Back to the story of the Danites. The five spies came upon Micah’s house and asked the Levite priest for a sign or message from God about the chances their efforts in finding a new land would be successful. The Levite was able to inform them that God would certainly favour their mission. And he did.

So the five returned to their fellow Danites and began to lead them to their new homeland. On their journey they once again passed Micah’s house. This time they invited themselves in and took the images of his gods. When the Levitical priest challenged them he was intimidated and bribed into joining them and becoming the priest of whole tribe. The Danites travelled the rest of the journey with the gods and the priest.

When Micah also tried to challenge them he was bluntly cowered into accepting the situation and loss of his images and priest.

The story ends happily for the Danites who build their new city, Dan. And the first thing we learn that they did was to set up the images in a proper place and institute a new priesthood.

That’s the story you will recall.

Now the many details are quite different from the old story that Strabo documents. But the similarity in structure and the unique combination of details are noteworthy. You can read Strabo’s narrative in the fourth paragraph here.

Here is the outline.

The Phocaeans made a decision to leave their city in Asia Minor (Turkey). On their journey they received an oracle in a dream advising them to take on their journey a guide from the goddess Artemis of Ephesus.

They weren’t quite sure of the details of how they were to find that guide but they did berth at Ephesus and made inquiries at Artemis’s temple. Among the prominent women devotees at the temple was Aristarcha. The goddess appeared to her in a dream, commanding her to go with the colonists and to take with her a sacred image of the goddess.

The Phocaeans finally settled at Massilia (now known as Marseilles) and built a temple to Artemis there, installed the image they had brought with them from Ephesus, and made Aristarcha their high priestess.

“Unmistakable Similarities”

Nadav Na’aman itemizes four “unmistakable similarities between the two stories”: read more »


2018-11-11

Billionaire Logic and the Death of JFK / 3 —

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by Neil Godfrey

Part 3 of Greg Doudna‘s the interview with John Curington.

~ ~ ~

GD: No one at the door asked for ID?

JC: No. Nobody asked for ID, nobody looked into my briefcase. I even got on an elevator to go up where the man, to get him released from his jail cell—

GD: On the fifth floor, right? The jail?

JC: Yeah. And Captain Will Fritz got on the elevator, and he had Lee Harvey Oswald with him. And Captain Fritz, of course we knew each other, and he just looked over and said, “Meet the S.O.B. that shot the president.” Oswald didn’t make a comment, I didn’t make a comment. But anyway that was the gist of the conversation.

But after that I did get the man out of jail. Then I went down to get out of jail. And then by this time it was about 1:30, 2 o’clock in the morning. I had to go to Mr. Hunt’s house. And as I recall, he was still up. Anyway I rang his doorbell and he came to the door almost immediately. He had his clothes on which suggested to me he was still up. And I gave him a report, that there was no security that I could see whatsoever around Lee Harvey Oswald, around the jail.

Joseph Civello

And he said, if you would, I want you to go out and have “The Man”—he called Joe Civello “The Man”—and have him come over to Mount Vernon. That was the name of his home. And I did that and I went home.

(Joseph Civello was the leader of the Dallas crime family 1956-1970.)

GD: You called Civello in the middle of the night?

JC: Yep.

GD: Just called him in the middle of the night?

JC: It was about 2 o’clock in the morning.

GD: He’s not angry at being called in the middle of the night?

JC: No. Civello, although he had a pretty bad reputation in the Mafia circles, look, all in all he was a pretty nice kind of a fellow. As far as I know I never saw him take a drink of whiskey, I never heard him use a word of profanity, he tipped his hat to the ladies. Outside of shooting one or two people he had a pretty fair background.

GD: So there was a meeting of Hunt and Civello set up—

JC: Yeah.

GD: You were not at that meeting?

JC: I was not at that meeting.

GD: So that was Mr. Hunt’s reaction to the security situation?

JC: Yes.

GD: And he couldn’t wait until the next day to set up the meeting?

JC: No. He asked for that meeting right then.

Jack Ruby (from TexasMonthly)

GD: Did Fritz know that you were coming to the police station? I mean, did you contact—

JC: No, no.

GD: So that was an accidental meeting?

JC: Accidental, just a random accidental meeting. I couldn’t have timed it, and he couldn’t have timed it. Nobody—we just happened to get on the same elevator at the same time.

GD: Did Civello know Jack Ruby?

(Jack Ruby, 1911-1967, operated the Carousel Club, a Dallas strip club. He cultivated relationships with the Dallas police. On Nov. 24, 1963 Ruby shot and killed accused JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.)

JC: Yeah, they would have had a—I don’t know that they would have had a close working relationship, but Jack Ruby would have certainly known Civello and Civello did know Jack Ruby.

GD: Would you say that Ruby was Mob connected or was he Mob himself? read more »


2018-11-10

Updated post

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by Neil Godfrey

I have updated the post discussing Tim O’Neill’s Non Sequitur discussion of the Ascension of Isaiah.

Response #3: Non Sequitur’s Tim O’Neill presentation, The Ascension of Isaiah

 


Should Scholars Vote? Mocking The Jesus Seminar / The Jesus SeM&Minar

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by Neil Godfrey

Religion Prof James McGrath has a class on the historical Jesus in which he regularly pokes fun at the Jesus Seminar for supposedly attempting to decide the authentic words of Jesus by voting.

I have an activity that I run in my class on the historical Jesus, in which I get students to reenact what the Jesus Seminar became famous for doing at its meetings. The Jesus Seminar, for those who may not be familiar with it, produced a variation on the classic red letter editions of the Gospels. They voted as a group on which sayings of Jesus they consider authentic – the actual words of Jesus; which provided the gist but probably not something really close to what Jesus said; which may be in essence still true to the emphases of Jesus but owe more to the later church; and which are simply inauthentic. They voted using colored beads: red, pink, grey, and black. These correspond to the views on the authenticity of the saying in question listed above, so that the resulting edition still has “the very words of Jesus himself in red letters,” but very few of the sayings attributed to Jesus in the Gospels end up printed in that color.

I got students to do the same things, giving them a particular saying in its various forms across ancient sources, letting them debate, and then asking them to vote.

The especially “fun part” this time was that customized M&M’s were used:

This year, I took a step that I never did before. In the past I’ve simply had students bring M&Ms and we’ve decided what the regular colors would correspond to in the scale. This year, I placed an order for custom M&Ms for use in this activity. They are red, pink, grey, and black, and some of them say “Jesus SeM&Minar” on them!

McGrath’s idea has been taken up by another scholar, Keith Reich, who explains

The idea is to, Jesus Seminar style, vote on various sayings and/or deeds of Jesus as to their historical probability, but instead of using colored stones, one uses M&Ms.  More fun, and hey, you get to eat your vote after you are finished. 

McGrath hews to the point of making fun of the Jesus Seminar:

Then we vote, secretly, by dropping a colored M&M into a box with a hole cut in the top. We then tally the votes and figure out the average. (Students can also learn the useful skill of calculating their grade point average through this activity).

. . . . .

The Jesus Seminar, as far as I know, doesn’t get to eat the beads used for voting once that process is over, and so the case can be made that our way of doing things doesn’t merely imitate theirs, but is superior.

As if “truth” or “history” can be decided by a vote! Ha ha.

One often sees the Jesus Seminar ridiculed in this way. So let’s give the Seminar a chance to explain itself.

The Jesus Seminar was organized under the auspices of the Westar Institute to renew the quest of the historical Jesus and to report the results of its research to more than a handful of gospel specialists. At its inception in 1985, thirty scholars took up the challenge. Eventually more than two hundred professionally trained specialists, called Fellows, joined the group. The Seminar met twice a year to debate technical papers that had been prepared and circulated in advance. At the close of debate on each agenda item, Fellows of the Seminar voted, using colored beads to indicate the degree of authenticity of Jesus’ words. Dropping colored beads into a box became the trademark of the Seminar and the brunt of attack for many elitist academic critics who deplored the public face of the Seminar.

(Funk, 34. Bolding in all quotations is my own)

What were the methods to be followed in those debates?

This was the rule the Fellows adopted:

• Canonical boundaries are irrelevant in critical assessments of the various sources of information about Jesus.

They refused, in other words, to privilege the gospels that came to be regarded as canonical by the church. The Seminar thus acted in accordance with the canons of historical inquiry.

(Funk, 35. Red text original)

So where did the voting come in? What was that all about? read more »


2018-11-09

Billionaire Logic and the Death of JFK / 2 —

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by Neil Godfrey

This is part 2 of the interview with John Curington. See Billionaire Logic and the Death of JFK for the introduction and background this series. (Greg Doudna has posted a link to the full interview on his academia.edu page.)

It is interesting to compare today’s events with “fake news” and its correlation with criminal violence.

~ ~ ~

GD: So then we come to—Kennedy is assassinated.

Mercantile Bank, Dallas

JC: Yeah. At the time Kennedy came to Dallas in November ’63, our offices—when I say our I mean Hunt Oil company offices—were in the Mercantile Bank Building there in Dallas. And the Mercantile Bank Building had windows that were about four by six foot in dimensions, and you could raise them up and be exposed without a screen or anything. And when the Kennedy caravan passed our offices on the day of the assassination, Mr. Hunt and I were in the window looking out, and John Connally was in the front seat of the limousine in which Kennedy was a passenger. He turned up and looked at our building and recognized Mr. Hunt, and he turned around and made a comment to Jack Kennedy. And Kennedy in turn turned up and waved to Mr. Hunt there. So I think there was a recognition of Mr. Hunt on the parade route looking out his office window and being recognized by both John Connally and John Fitzgerald Kennedy there.

GD: You were standing right there with Mr. Hunt?

JC: Yeah, he and I were—in fact I’ve seen one clip, that I can recognize myself in that window and Mr. Hunt is standing by me there. But it has to be <unintelligible> personal recognition, which was more of an important issue there.

He and I were looking at—then I received a telephone call, I would say within three or four minutes of the shooting. And the person that called me stated that they had just heard that there had been a shot fired at John Kennedy. And I told that person that was impossible, because I had just seen him pass the window three or four minutes before, and that was impossible. But I had a TV in my office, and I did go over to my office and turn the TV on. And after a few minutes there was an interruption in the program, and it, the interruption, stated that yes there had a been a shot fired, and they at that time did not know where the shot was fired, who was hit, or what was involved with it, but as the story unraveled it became clear that yes, Kennedy had been shot, and yes, it was a fatal shot.

GD: Do you recall Mr. Hunt’s reaction to the news?

JC: I don’t think there was any visible reaction. He shared the same view that I did. He did not have a TV in his office. But after the program began to get interrupted with the story, then Mr. Hunt did come into my office and did sit down in a chair and watch the news. But I don’t remember him making any comment one way or the other, as to what was happening or not happening.

GD: But you said he did not make comments very much on things—

JC: No, no.

Officer J.D. Tippit

GD: Then—Officer Tippit was shot, and Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in the movie theatre, and this was on a Friday afternoon—

(J. D. Tippitt, 1924-1963, was a Dallas police officer who was shot to death in another part of the city an hour after the Kennedy assassination, by an assailant described as matching Oswald’s description near to and immediately prior to Oswald’s arrest in a movie theatre.)

JC: Yes.

GD: And then the Dallas police—he was being questioned by Captain Fritz—

JC: Yeah. Will Fritz, he was Captain, head of the Homicide Division of the Dallas Police Department.

GD: Did you know Captain Fritz?

JC: Yes. I knew him, was on a first-name basis with him.

GD: Did you know others in the police department pretty well?

George Butler

JC: Well, I guess my best contact, we tried to keep pretty good contact with all the law enforcement people, but I guess my best contact would have been Lieutenant George Butler. He was a frequent visitor to our office, and I was able to do some things for George Butler that he was appreciative of me being able to do, that—nothing illegal or unethical about it—but we just developed a pretty close working relationship. And I was able to call upon him for information, or his assistance on anything that I needed a little help on.

8 Ray Zauber, “George Butler: His Word Was Law,” Oak Cliff Tribune, Jan. 10, 1980, 1-2.

(“A friend of the late H. L. Hunt, Butler was a confidante of the famed oil tycoon and handled personal investigative assignments for Hunt Oil.”8 Butler is said to have been the officer in charge, under Captain Fritz, of the Oswald transfer in the basement of the Dallas Police Department in which Oswald was killed on Sunday morning, Dec. 24, 1963.)

GD: Then there’s the story that’s been partly reported in the past, that Mr. Hunt asked you to go to the police station and check on the security of Oswald.

JC: Well, there’s a little bit more to that story than just, you know, going down to check on security. Of course at that time Mr. Hunt was a very well-known person, in wide circles, but was well known in the Dallas area, and was well known by a lot of people who listened to his political views. And when the accident happened with John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Mr. Hunt immediately started getting threatening, what I would call threatening telephone calls, in the sense that they would be badmouthing Mr. Hunt for badmouthing the President on previous Life Line programs. Nothing more than what I would say random calls from people who shared different political views. But after you get several of those over a short period of time you become a little bit concerned with what their next step might be there.

GD: So Mr. Hunt was getting threatening calls—

JC: Yeah.

G: And did that have anything to do with him asking you to go check the security of Oswald?

JC: Well, I think so. Because immediately after the assassination, everything started off in slow motion, as far as publicity and information being distributed. On a minute-to-minute basis that information was being upgraded, changed, altered, but presented in a different light. So I think that continuous new information just encouraged people to more and more call Mr. Hunt, expressing their frustration that, one, could he have been involved in the assassination? And two, did he feel any remorse by putting out programs that were detrimental to the Kennedy political agenda there? So Mr. Hunt was nothing more than a person that people could and would express their indication, you know, their concern over him being involved in anything that could have affected the president there.

In my opinion it was nothing more than a normal reaction, you know, to any given set of an event that had worldwide exposure, and of interest to almost every person in the United States.

GD: In Mr. Hunt’s view did he maybe wonder if his Life Line program had incited the assassination?

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