Monthly Archives: April 2007

Stephen, Philip and Barnabas (link fixed)

I’ve just begun to catch up with “Parallel Lives: The Relation of Paul to the Apostles in the Lucan Perspective” by Andrew C. Clark and, well, I’m biased since I love almost any book helping me explore how texts work. The work is mainly about how and why the author has set up Peter and Paul as parallel lives, but the discussion begins with comparisons of Jesus and John the Baptist in the first few chapters of Luke, and also has a closer look at Plutarch’s Parallel Lives.

But one set of details I was not expecting to see discussed here was the function performed by the characters of Stephen, Philip and Barnabas. I had seen at least the first two as something of transition figures to advance the plot of Acts, but Clark has helpfully filled in the mass of detail needed to explain exactly how they work as such. read more »

Ancient historians’ accounts of shipwrecks

Some of my recent posts on the shipwreck scenes in Acts have been referred to another site where they have been critiqued without link to this site thus making it impossible for my original pieces and their contexts to be crosschecked against that review. (Why do some sites do that? Seems the essence of unethical netiquette to me!) read more »

Finding Home

I last night read a biographical account of a young sceptic returning to his old religion and what hit me was his description of it as “finding home” at long last. It hit me because those words were the same that came to my mind when I found a faith and a people sharing that faith years ago. And years later after leaving that faith and looking back I saw how that’s what I had been wanting. Home. And even after leaving the faith I still felt the ‘at home’ feeling with some of the people who remained behind. read more »

Is “intellectual parasite” too strong a term?

A “no-no” in any genuine intellectual enquiry is to pick selectively only the data and research that supports your hypothesis and giving scant attention to whatever denies it. By “scant attention” I mean ad hoc rationalization, routine focusing on only those articles that point to limitations of the problematic data and its interpretation, or simply opting to ignore it.

This, of course, is an obvious truism, so how could one possibly do this? One answer: by working with a hypothesis that is ultimately rooted in a “faith” or “belief” as opposed to hypothesis that is methodically or intuitively worked out through a grappling with tests, data, research and the methods and values that underpin the selection and understanding of these. Add to this a failure to appreciate the next step: a hypothesis is just a hypothesis and needs to be thoroughly tested, not rationalized or selectively supported.

This is why there is no place in true scholarship for a “biblical scholar” selecting a hypothesis that coheres with their faith and backing it up with whatever evidence respectably does the job. Michael Fox states what should be obvious:

Faith-based study is a different realm of intellectual activity that can dip into Bible scholarship for its own purposes, but cannot contribute to it. read more »

A ship of Adramyttium

Paul leaves for Rome initially in a ship from Adramyttium — a port city in the Troad, at the base Mount Ida, the gods’ grandstand from where they viewed the action of the Trojan war. This means that every “we” passage in Acts begins with a sea voyage associated with Troy. read more »

faith based “scholarship” — afterthought

faith-based scholarship? doesn’t that mean believing on faith, and then seeking the evidence to support that faith, which means the undermining of faith, because faith is only faith where there is no evidence? Or is it really just a game of “ha! ha! we got here first!” . . . read more »

Gallipoli and the Armenian Genocide

ABC’s RN had the good sense to play a repeat of a Hindsight program on Anzac Day — a lecture by Robert Manne disussing the direct link between Gallipoli and the Armenian Genocide. It’s talks like these that remind me why I’m an internationalist, not a nationalist.

No transcript or podcast of the talk, but in the same month as the original broadcast Manne had an article based on the talk published in The Monthly.

read more »

The shipwrecks of Josephus and Paul (Part 3)

Let’s get some Jewish and historical balance to my notes on Paul’s shipwreck. Paul was not the only Jew sailing to Rome who suffered shipwreck. Compare historian Josephus’s description of his own voyage, from his Vita (Life): read more »

Acts 27-28 an eyewitness account? (Part 2)

Why does the Christian author of Acts bother to tell readers (in 28.11) that Paul’s ship had the figurehead of two pagan gods?

Why does the author of Acts use words that are only elsewhere found in fictional shipwreck stories in Homer?

Is there anything truly distinctive about Paul’s shipwreck to set it apart from fiction? Is Paul’s adventure at sea anything other than stereotypical? read more »

Why I always have misgivings every ANZAC Day

My childhood memories of school Anzac services are still very strong. I have never forgotten the grim tones of dark-suited men standing beside canon and soldier-statues in the park opposite our school warn us of the horrors of war. Their message was “Lest We Forget” but what was not to be forgotten was the horror of the battles that had brought us together that day.

It is not the same today. Or maybe my childhood experience or memory was limited. Today the government invests huge budgets in funding Anzac memorial services. The message is “Lest We Forget” but there has been a slight detour of direction. Today we are admonished never to forget the sacrifices that bought us our freedoms. Today, the message is that war is a necessary sacrifice to maintain our freedoms. In this way Anzac Day is used to justify with political spin the government’s current wars.

Anzac Day is being used to perpetuate and even increase national lies. No-one died at Gallipoli to protect our freedoms. No-one died in Vietnam to protect our way of life either. Wars have mostly been part of imperial ventures, not desperate acts to save our nation.

Is this also why there is so much emphasis now on “character”, “mateship”, “heroism”? Is this focus meant to ameliorate the horror of the reality? To justify war as an everpresent necessary act of government policy?

I can’t think of a better time than Anzac Day to ask Why our governments sent anyone to their murderous deaths and maimings. That, of course, would be sacriligious in today’s climate. But it would also surely do a lot more for reminding the nation to put a break on their government’s war policies whitewashed by their political spin.

Beside the wreaths and medals on the monuments, let’s start to place images of severed limbs and heads with their brains and eyesockets falling out and bring out for “show” some living victims from the less public institutions. “Lest We Forget”.

Would it really be a problem if there were no historical Jesus?

Some years ago (around the time I seized the opportunity to personally thank Bishop Spong for helping me on my way to atheism 😉 ) I asked a well respected anglican cleric what his response would be if it could be reasonably established that Christianity did not begin with a real historical Jesus. My query was via email so he had a little time to think before responding. His words in effect were: read more »

faith based “scholarship”

Passing on here notice of an article currently being discussed on the iidb site. read more »

The sea adventure of Acts 27 an eyewitness account?

This post is in response to a lengthy citation from a work by Loveday Alexander arguing reasons for believing that the sea travel story of Acts 27 was an eyewitness account. Against that one point the following demonstrates that Alexander’s reason is relatively weak when balanced against the weight of other literary factors worthy of consideration in this chapter. read more »

messy gospel births

Births can be messy things and it appears to have been no different with the gospels.

One speculation to suggest why the authors of the canonical gospels did not attach their names to them is that the gospel story was so commonly well known at the time that there was no need for such authentication.

To take just one facet of this argument here: read more »