2012-05-29

The Three Brusque-Fakirs — The Jesus Process© Hits the Web

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by Tim Widowfield

Welcome to the Blogosphere!

Processed cheese Druzhba monument in Moscow, R...

Processed cheese Druzhba monument in Moscow, Russia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like mass-marketed, heavily processed food. Gosh, I do love it. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a huge fan of Velveeta®, Cheez Whiz®, etc., so R. Joseph Hoffmann’s announcement about a blog dedicated to . . . Huh? What’s that? Oh. Processed Jesus. Well, that’s very different.

First things first. I mustn’t forget my manners. Welcome new bloggers! Welcome Blogger Hoffmann, Blogger Fisher, and Blogger Casey! We extend our warmest wishes to the new blog, The Jesus Process©™®, and its founding members. I can say without reservation that I look forward to our future dialogues in which we point out where we disagree with you and you tell us why we’re incompetent, evil, and insane. It’s this kind of honest, cordial give-and-take that makes me happy to get up in the morning.

Origins

I was fortunate enough to grow up during the heyday of Marvel comics, so I know a little something about the thrill of an “origins” comic. The troika at The Jesus Process©™® bring back that same excitement I felt as a 12-year-old boy, growing up in a small town in Ohio back in the 1970’s. Each character is so well-defined, so fully realized. We’ve got the arrogant, unhappy leader (R. Joseph Hoffmann), the arrogant, unhappy mad scientist (Maurice Casey), and the arrogant, unhappy ingénue, Stephanie Louise Fisher. I can’t wait to see their costumes. It’s too early to say where they’ll end up, but they’re off to a cracking good start!

While coming from disparate backgrounds, Joseph, Maurice, and Steph share a common belief in their own intellectual superiority combined with a great deal of impatience for anyone who disagrees with them. This unshakable self-assurance leads them to write the most astonishing things. They’ll present controversial points as if they are facts, and ridicule anyone who doesn’t know that they’re facts.

R. Joseph Hoffmann

After a long and laborious web search, I’m fairly confident that the “R” in “R. Joseph Hoffmann” stands for the letter “R.” Who knew? Hoffmann is the head honcho in this holy triumvirate. He’s the glue that binds the three together. He puts the “hot” in “Hottentot.” He puts the “ape” in “apricot.”

In his inaugural essay (what we commoners call a blog post), Hoffmann offers some curious assertions. I’m going to quote from Joe now. Please note that copying small parts of copyrighted material in a blog is considered fair use, as long as you’re accurate and provide correct attribution. The following excerpt comes from “The Jesus Process: A Consultation on the Historical Jesus,” copyright 2012 by R. Joseph Hoffmann. While dismissing Arthur Drews, he writes:

Then, into the tortured syntax of 1 Corinthians 9.5, he inserts a relative construction missing in the Greek, to justify his belief that “sister” is being used as a circumlocution for “believer.” μὴ οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν ἀδελφὴν γυναῖκα περιάγειν ὡς καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ ἀπόστολοι καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ τοῦ κυρίου καὶ Κηφᾶς; The more obvious meaning of course is “a sister,” [or] “a wife” (i.e., a woman), which has, in fact, become the majority translation.

Here Hoffmann is in the middle of a tirade about the usage of the words “brother” and “sister” in the NT and when, if ever, one should not translate the words for sibling literally, but rather as “believer” (i.e., “fellow believer in Christ” or coreligionist). I find it curious that Joe thinks “a sister,” [or] “a wife” is more obvious than “sister as wife.” I happen to own both Translator’s Guide and the Translator’s Handbook on Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians from UBS. Conservative as they are, they still admit the text seems to say “sister as wife,” but they insist it should be translated as “believing wife.”

The translators of the NASB also prefer the term “believing wife,” adding a footnote that says it literally means “sister as wife.” The old KJV translates it as “a sister, a wife,” which is close to Joe’s preferred “sister [or] wife.” However, the ASV uses the bulky phrase “a wife that is a believer.” Perhaps surprisingly, the ESV, with its close kinship to the ASV and KJV, boldly admits in a footnote that the literal translation is “sister as wife,” but their translators went the traditional safe route with “believing wife” in the text.

All manifestations of the NIV have “believing wife.” Many if not most of the awful, paraphrastic, non-literal Bibles use the gratuitous “Christian wife,” which is as misleading as it is comforting. Martin Luther actually translated it as “Schwester zum Weibe” — “sister as wife.” Tyndale rendered it as “sister to wife,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.

The point, of course, is that if “sister [or] wife” is “more obvious” than “believer,” you wouldn’t know it from the major English translations. In his recent commentary on 1 Corinthians, Anthony C. Thiselton remarks:

[A]ll of the major modern translations rightly interpret ἀδελφὴν to mean Christian (REB, NJB, Collins) or believing (NIV, NRSV). For αδελφή occurs in the sense of Christian (sister) in 7:15 and in, e.g., Rom. 16:1 and Philem 1. (p. 680)

Clearly, “wife or sister” is not and has never been the most obvious meaning of ἀδελφὴν γυναῖκα, nor has it “become the majority translation.” Hoffmann is so sure of his own opinions that he assumes every intelligent person must agree with him, and that anyone who doesn’t is either an incompetent fool or a dishonest charlatan. Don’t get me wrong. Drews was wrong about a lot of things. My point is that the J.P. trio frequently demonstrate an astonishing degree of certainty about their own peculiar views, presenting opinions as hard facts, and accusing anyone who contradicts them of idiocy and mendacity.

Stephanie Louise Fisher

(Note: I’m in somewhat of a quandary as to how I should refer to Ms. Fisher. She might not like “Ms.” I think she’s a “Miss,” but that might sound condescending and presumptuous. “Fisher” sounds rude. I’ll stick with Stephanie or Steph, since that’s what Hoffmann calls her in the J.P. introduction.)

In Stephanie’s first blog post, she promises “An Exhibition of Incompetence,” and boy does she deliver. It’s a wonderful thing for people to be so unaware of irony — they provide us with countless hours of amusement. Who’s incompetent in Steph’s eyes? Let’s see . . . we have Richard Carrier, Burton Mack, Tom Verenna, Neil Godfrey, Steven Carr, and anybody else who disagrees with her.

I’ll leave it to Neil and Carrier to dismantle her “arguments” against Bayes’ Theorem with respect to historical method. My particular interest is in language. (Just a short autobiographical digression here — I was a Russian linguist for the USAF many years ago. I’ve forgotten a lot of it, but I’ve had a continuing interest in languages ever since, which complements my love of history.) So when I see people make dogmatic statements that a peculiar translation is the “best” translation, implying that any fool should know it, I sit up and take notice.

I’m going to quote Stephanie now. Steph, in the unlikely event that you are reading this, I am not quoting you out of context. Here is the context. Carrier presented an example of how to apply Bayes’ Theorem to historical research by trying to assess the probability of Judas’ betrayal. Steph thinks he’s all wet. She writes:

Mark reports the possible mob scenario events with precision, but Carrier, despite presenting himself as a competent historian of the ancient world, seems to have depended on a traditional English translation. He announces that for the authorities to have arrested Jesus would not only be ‘politically suicidal’, but also that the idea that the ‘Jewish elite would be that stupid is vanishingly small (a fact fully admitted by Mark, cf. 14.1-2, who nevertheless has them stupidly contradict themselves in the very next chapter…’). This supposed contradiction depends on a traditional translation of μὴ ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ, (Mk 14.2) as, e.g., ‘Not during the festival’ (NRSV). Jeremias long ago pointed out that the Greek heortē also means ‘festival crowd’, as standard secondary literature intermittently repeats. Moreover, Mark’s Greek will represent the chief priests saying in Aramaic al behaggā, which also means ‘not in the festival crowd’. This is why Judah of Kerioth led a party to arrest Jesus in a garden at night. They were then able to hand him over to Pilate, the Roman governor, early the following morning, so that he could be crucified outside the city walls at about 9 a.m., when his disciples had fled and there were no crowds about. (Steph’s exact words, with my added emphasis.)

Carrier, she asserts, is incompetent, because he relies on English translations, which are all bad. Although he presents himself as a credentialed, competent ancient historian, Steph knows he is not, because he didn’t know that Joachim Jeremais said μὴ ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ referred not to the festival but to the festival crowd. This the is only correct translation for Steph, because it’s the one she likes.

However, regarding these exact same four words, which Matthew copies verbatim in 26:5, R.T. France writes in his commentary on Matthew (The Gospel According to Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary):

Jeremias (EWJ, pp. 71-73) suggested that en tē heortē means ‘not during the feast’ but ‘among the festival crowd’; i.e., they wanted a less public opportunity to arrest Jesus. This translation is improbable, but it correctly points up their dilemma; an arrest was possible only during the feast, and yet it was bound to cause trouble unless it could be done by stealth (v. 4). (p. 361, my bold emphasis)

France disagrees with Steph. Would that by definition make him incompetent? For that matter, no NT translation that I could find follows Jeremias’ suggested translation. Are their translators incompetent?

Steph, of course, is following in Casey’s footsteps. In Jesus of Nazareth (p. 416), he “correctly” translates en tē heortē using “in the festival crowd,” which matches up well with the Aramaic beḥaggā. (Note: Steph’s transliterated chet didn’t come across well, hence the generic “box” character we see in Hoffmann’s blog pages.) Casey says this is a “normal meaning of these words in both languages.”

Casey never misses a chance to reconstruct Mark’s Aramaic sources. Steph pushes the theory slightly further by implying that Mark is translating a quotation from the chief priests themselves. I’m not saying this interesting conjecture is impossible; however I do think that if a simpler answer exists, we should probably go with it instead.

One primary example of Greek composition and construction that Mark had at his disposal was the Septuagint. We can theorize about his knowledge of Homer or any of the classical writers, but we actually know for certain that Mark was familiar with the LXX, because he quoted from it. For example, in Mark 7:6 he quotes Isaiah 29:13: “This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (KJV) This quotation is clearly from the LXX and not the MT (or its antecedents).

If we know Mark had access to the LXX, then it makes sense find out if en tē heortē exists in the Greek OT, and what it meant to the to the LXX’s translators. I was able to locate seven instances. For example, in 2 Chronicles 5:3:

καὶ ἐξεκκλησιάσθησαν πρὸς τὸν βασιλέα πᾶς ἀνὴρ ισραηλ ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ οὗτος ὁ μὴν ἕβδομος (LXX)

And all the men of Israel assembled before the king at the feast that is in the seventh month. (ESV)

People have had issues with the translation of Mark’s ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ as denoting a stretch of time (during the festival), because they think it makes more sense for it to be understood in a locative sense. Well, I think the LXX gives us a precedent for such a translation. In almost every case, ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ means either “in” or “at” the festival. Hence, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that Mark’s intended meaning was:

For they said, “But not at the festival or the people may riot.”

In other words, by guile and treachery they need to catch Jesus away from the festival — that is, away from the central location of the feast, not after the festival. In the end, I agree with Steph and Casey that the implied meaning is locative and not temporal. However, I can see no justification in imagining an Aramaic source for Mark’s wording when we have a real, much more likely source — the Septuagint.

Finally, calling Carrier an incompetent lout simply because he doesn’t saddle up and ride Steph and Casey’s hobbyhorse is unwarranted. He is following the overwhelming majority of scholars in the translation of Mark 14:2. And to present as fact the improbable theory of an Aramaic “source” with an idiomatic sense of “in the festival crowd” for the Greek and Aramaic is less than honest.

Maurice Casey

Maurice is one smart guy. It’s too bad his temperament doesn’t match his intellect. Like his two J.P. soul mates, one of Casey’s super powers is that he’s impervious to irony. Hence in his screed about Neil (aka, “Blogger Godfrey”) in which Maurice remotely psychoanalyzes him, accuses him of being a dogmatic atheist with an ax to grind, calls him incompetent, dishonest, incapable, etc., he lists as one Neil’s sins: “gross personal rudeness.”

Casey doesn’t suffer fools well. And while I normally admire that trait in a person, for Maurice everyone who disagrees with him is a fool. He’s also a chronic “labeler,” which is why we learn the personal history of each person he decides to vivisect. You can ignore Neil, because he was in a fundamentalist cult. (The fact that he escaped with his wits intact doesn’t matter to Casey.) You can laugh at Doherty, because he doesn’t have the proper credentials — he’s an “amateur.”

Let’s compare the reactions of two scholars to R.H. Stein’s questions about why Luke didn’t incorporate Matthew’s nativity or passion narratives. I recognized the quotation cited by Casey from its appearance in Mark Goodacre’s The Case Against Q (see p. 55 ff.). Goodacre remains civil. He calls Stein’s argument “problematic,” and explains where he did not adequately address all the questions at hand. And Kloppenborg’s rejoinder, “On Dispensing with Q” (2003), is equally civil, cordial, and conciliatory.

On the other hand, Casey’s response is a full-powered, frontal attack. Naturally, we first are told that R.H. Stein is a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Why do we need to know that? Because for Casey, the genetic fallacy isn’t a fallacy at all, but a way to get at the “truth” — a way to apply a label to an incompetent fundamentalist whom we can ignore. How does Casey answer Stein’s questions? How does he counter Stein’s claims? By insulting the messenger, of course. He writes:

This is fundamentalism, or simply amateur forensics, not critical scholarship or historical research. 

Nice. Really nice. Oh, to be sure, Maurice follows up with a half-hearted logical argument to counter Stein’s implications. But you have to wonder, what makes Casey think a series of insulting labels is tantamount to a reasoned argument? Has Casey forgotten who said what? Is he so focused on assassinating Doherty’s character that he accidentally pointed his flame-thrower at R.H. Stein? Or is he so full of himself and so sure of his superiority that he thinks it’s all right to slander everyone who’s stupid enough to get in his way?

I’ll leave it to you to figure out Maurice’s motivations. But for now, all I can say is that Casey — mighty Casey has struck out.

Conclusion

What is there left to say? I suspect that the J.P. threesome will quickly disband. There’s not much future in sitting around and griping about how everyone is so much dumber than you. And that’s a real pity, since there’s nothing like full-on, in-your-face arrogance from people like Blogger Joe, Blogger Steph, and Blogger Maurice to give us blog-fodder for years to come. I beg of you, please, please stay together, don’t ever change, and keep publishing your delicious processed blog posts!

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63 Comments

  • 2012-05-29 23:54:27 UTC - 23:54 | Permalink

    I was a Russian linguist for the USAF many years ago

    Wow, were you a cryptologic linguist? Did you go to the language school in Monterey?

    • 2012-05-29 23:56:28 UTC - 23:56 | Permalink

      Yes I was, and yes I did.

      • ROO BOOKAROO
        2012-05-30 04:41:42 UTC - 04:41 | Permalink

        Am I hearing a faint echo of the “Three Musketeers”?
        That was a noble, but tortured effort. Still, congratulations for trying.
        Brusque ~ rude, obnoxious, cantankerous, and fakirs ~ fakers, fabricators
        Far-fetched, but an impressive production for a language-lover.

        I was astonished by the virulence of their outbursts.
        Then I came across this posting that made it clear that this extreme hostility was their natural style of communication.
        http://advocatusatheist.blogspot.fr/2011/04/r-joseph-hoffmann-needs-to-apologize-to.html

        • 2012-05-30 04:58:23 UTC - 04:58 | Permalink

          Yes, you heard the faint echo. I blame listening to My Word! when I was a kid.

          Thanks for the link. For anyone out there who, like me, gets a headache reading web pages with odd color combinations (e.g., bright white on chocolate brown), I recommend Readability.

        • 2012-05-30 05:17:48 UTC - 05:17 | Permalink

          Hoffmann’s stance on “New Atheism” reminds me of the people I see on discussion boards everywhere. For every popular band, television show, author, computer game, electronic gadget, etc. with a growing fan base, there are a certain number of early adopters. If you hang around the boards long enough, you’ll find out that the “original fans” are not happy about all the stupid newbies.

          At some point, you’ll start seeing messages that say, “I was a fan before it was cool.” People will claim that they used to like “X” back when it was good. “They’ve really gone down hill.” And certainly the new fans “just don’t understand ‘X.'”

          The problem, I think, is that part of the coolness was the exclusivity. No one is immune. I actually watched and liked the very first episode of Saturday Night Live. I tried in vain to get my friends to watch it. But when people finally did start watching it, I don’t think I was all that happy. After all, it was my personal thing. It spoke to me, because (like Hoffmann) I was really clever and understood things very few people did. Once it seemed that everybody was watching it, I found myself saying stupid things like, “I remember when it was really good and edgy.”

          I can’t say for sure that this is the reason for the now famous Hoffmannic tirades. However, I do think it’s pretty clear that he thinks he came to his view of atheism in a rational, clever, well-considered way — “not like those New Atheists!

          • Blood
            2012-05-30 11:07:18 UTC - 11:07 | Permalink

            “…part of the coolness was the exclusivity.”

            Nail. Head.

            Except I would say that exclusivity was 100% of the “coolness.” The mainstream is just mindless drivel for the ignorant, rum-soaked masses. But we’re connoisseurs! We seek out the exotic and unknown. We’re way above the rest.

            It’s perfectly normal to foster this delusion while you’re in your 20s. Beyond that, it’s pathetic.

            Hoffmann does indeed sound like he thinks atheism was great back in the old days, when it was underground, edgy, and had “real” intellectuals around to defend it. Now it’s just a pop trend and he doesn’t like that at all. You’re supposed to struggle with your faith for 30 years before you arrive at atheism, not simply toss YHWH aside like yesterday’s newspaper.

      • 2012-05-30 05:14:33 UTC - 05:14 | Permalink

        Heh, I guess that’s where I got my bug for learning languages at too.

        • 2012-05-30 05:20:13 UTC - 05:20 | Permalink

          You’re a DLI “alum”?

          • 2012-05-30 05:21:50 UTC - 05:21 | Permalink

            Yeah, small world ain’t it? Though I was there from ’97 to ’98 and switched languages midway.

            • 2012-05-30 05:24:27 UTC - 05:24 | Permalink

              You just have to flip the first number for me — ’79. Which languages?

              • 2012-05-30 06:45:24 UTC - 06:45 | Permalink

                Turkish and Spanish. I don’t speak either languages today 🙂

  • 2012-05-30 00:26:34 UTC - 00:26 | Permalink

    … birds of a feather …

  • 2012-05-30 01:29:28 UTC - 01:29 | Permalink

    A fundamental statement against the legitimacy of the mythicists case, a quote from Doherty’s Neither God Nor Man: “The advent of the Internet has introduced an unprecedented “lay” element of scholarship in the field . . . has meant that the study of Christians origins is undergoing a quantum leap in the hands of a much wider consistency than traditional academia.” As nonsensical as saying: “The advent of a recent phenomenon has introduced an unprecedented “lay” element of scholarship in the field . . . has meant that the study of origins of the Universe is undergoing a quantum leap in the hands of a much wider consistency than traditional academia of Quantum Physics!”)
    A viable historical solution to the “Jesus Puzzle” has taken place within the Guild of NT studies, the only discipline capable, not only of identifying our primary Scriptural source of apostolic witness, but of appropriately interpreting this source as well. However, “few are they who find it” even among well-known NT scholars. Finding it, this historical solution, is “a task to which specialized knowledge in the areas of philology, form and redaction criticism, literary criticism, history of religions, and New Testament theology necessarily applies.” (Hans Dieter Betz). “Over the last two centuries, there gradually emerged a new access to Jesus, made available through objective historical research.” (James M. Robinson). Under the force of present historical methods and knowledge this new access was brought to a highly creditable understanding during the 1980’s. Schubert Ogden: “We now know not only that none of the Old Testament writings is prophetic witness to (Jesus), but also that none of the writings of the New Testament is apostolic witness to Jesus as the early church itself understood apostolicity. The sufficient evidence for this point in the case of the New Testament writings is that all of them have been shown to depend on sources, written or oral, earlier than themselves, and hence not to be the original and originating witness that the early church mistook them to be in judging them to be apostolic. [“the sufficient evidence” without the agonizing detail of what the writings of the NT does contain which now supplies the grist for the blogosphere mythicists’ mill] – – the witness of the apostles is still rightly taken to be the real ‘Christian’ norm, even if we today have to locate this norm, not In the writings of the New Testament but in the earliest stratum of (Scriptural) witness accessible to us, given our own methods of historical analysis and reconstruction. Betz identifies this earliest stratum to be the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3-7:27). “This source presents us with an early form – deriving from (the Jerusalem Jesus Movement) – which had direct links to the teaching the historical Jesus and thus constituted an alternative to Gentile Christianity as known above all from the letters of Paul and the Gospels, as well as the later writings of the New Testament. [All are written in the context of imaging the Christ of faith, not the man Jesus]. If the Sermon on the Mount represents a response to the teaching of Jesus critical of that of Gentile Christianity, then it serves unmistakably to underline the well-known fact of how little we know of Jesus and his teaching. The reasons for our lack of knowledge are of a hermeneutical sort and cannot be overcome by an access of good will (apologetics). The Gentile Christian authors of the Gospels transmitted to us only that part of the teaching of Jesus that they themselves understood, they handed on only that which they were able to translate into the thought categories of Gentile Christianity, and which they judged to be worthy of transmission.” (More to the point they included no more than they felt to be sufficient to lend historical credence to their Pauline Christ of faith myth). This calls for a new reconstruction of post death Jesus traditions. Ed Jones Dialogue -Vridar is such an attempt.

  • David Hillman
    2012-05-30 06:33:56 UTC - 06:33 | Permalink

    There is no evidence at all that the sermon on the mount is directly linked to the teachings of an historical Jesus. Whether copied from Q, or written by Matthew and then used by Luke, it seems to be based on earlier writings of Pharasaic type hedging round the Torah then given an extra edge saying we must do even better than the scribes and Pharisees, and certainly not eschew the Law.That it can seem sublime to those modern secularists of a liberal or socialist bent, brought up in a christian non-conformist tradition is no accident for it hit the spot for those challenging authority, witnessing against overwhelming force. I see no reason why ideas could not be thrown around between Pharisees, Essenes, Cynics and used freely for the purpose of filling out the teaching.Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Homer, Egyptian proverbs all played their part in the invention of the teaching of Jesus.

    • ROO BOOKAROO
      2012-05-30 08:54:49 UTC - 08:54 | Permalink

      Egyptian proverbs? How come? In hieroglyphs (which nobody knew except the trained monks in temple schools)? Or straight from Alexandria where everybody used Greek and never resorted to “Egyptian proverbs”. Does Philo mention many such proverbs?
      Just curious and skeptical.

      • David Hillman
        2012-05-30 18:21:48 UTC - 18:21 | Permalink

        Well certainly in the times when the Wisdom literature of the Bible was written, Egyptian hymns and proverbs were availlble to writers in Palestine. A whole section of the book of proverbs was based on a collection of Egyptian proverbs, and one of the psalms is based on a hymn of Akhenaten of many years earlier. I would posit that a world literature existed amongst the literate of the ancient Near East, from neoBabylonian to Hellenistic times, incorporating all the old Akkadian, Hittite, and Egyptian lists and stories and accesible even in Greece and Palestine at those times when they had literate scribes.
        Egyptian proverbs were shrewd and realistic, not countercultural (accepting that the world was quite unfair) but would be usable for filling out countercultural teachings: if you go to a rich man’s house it’s better to start off sitting in a lowly place and be called to a higher place than the reverse

        • ROO BOOKAROO
          2012-05-31 18:26:12 UTC - 18:26 | Permalink

          Since the third century BC, the language of Egypt was Greek.
          Again, where did those famous “Egyptian” proverbs come from? In what language? Demotic? Were they translated into Greek? Greek scholars in Alexandria had little interest in the native Egyptian culture, considered barbarian.
          Anything the original Christian writers read or wrote was in Greek
          All the texts were on brittle, fragile papyrus scrolls. Where did this “world literature” exist in the Ancient Near East?Jewish scribes were using Hebrew and Aramaic. How could the ancient Jewish scribes in Babylon or Jerusalem have access to Egyptian papyrus scrolls? Could they read Demotic?.
          Where did you get all this information? Is it credible? Or just invented speculations from an amateur?

          • Malcolm
            2012-05-31 19:15:57 UTC - 19:15 | Permalink

            “Since the third century BC, the language of Egypt was Greek.”
            Really? Then why do we have Gospels unearthed from the sands of Egypt in Coptic?

            • ROO BOOKAROO
              2012-05-31 19:36:36 UTC - 19:36 | Permalink

              Sure, hieroglyphs, demotic, coptic continued in Egypt in their specialized areas after the conquest by the Greeks, and later by the Romans.
              But the civil, administrative and daily language remained Greek, at least in the major centers of Egyptian life, like Alexandria.
              The Jewish scribes preparing the Hebrew or Christian writings in Babylon, Jerusalem or Alexandria had no access to those mysterious Egyptian proverbs, could not read the original languages (transcribed on fragile papyrus scrolls), and didn’t care for them.
              That those Christian writings were later translated into Coptic for local usage in the back country is no evidence of the import of “Egyptian Proverbs”, which you maintain ” played their part in the invention of the teaching of Jesus.” The process of influence (language? Scrolls? Transportation? Translation?) is dubious.
              Again, who are the sources of such assumptions?
              I am a bit lost. I cannot understand how the discovery of Coptic Gospels in remote areas of Egypt had any connection to the use of Egypt Proverbs in the original Christian texts.
              If this comes from known authors, please mention them. Could it be Dorothy Murdock, by any chance?

              • Malcolm
                2012-05-31 20:06:49 UTC - 20:06 | Permalink

                ‘That those Christian writings were later translated into Coptic for local usage in the back country is no evidence of the import of “Egyptian Proverbs”, which you maintain ” played their part in the invention of the teaching of Jesus.”’

                Look carefully at the authors of the previous comments. I made no such claim. I am not agreeing with David.

                Although I will add in defense of his first couple of sentences, that Proverbs and the wisdom literature were originally written in Hebrew, not Greek, and predate Alexander’s conquest of Egypt by centuries. I have heard before about some of the OT having an Egyptian origin, but know nothing about this myself.

          • mP
            2012-06-04 00:41:59 UTC - 00:41 | Permalink

            The lang of the ptolemies and their courts may have been greek, that however says little about the common subject. They would probably continue w/ their original tongue. We see the same in britain when the normans invaded and began to rule. The nobility spoke french but the locals continued unchanged. Over tine they assimilated new french words but they didn’t abandon their proto english.

    • ROO BOOKAROO
      2012-05-30 18:51:36 UTC - 18:51 | Permalink

      Not disputing. Just asking: Egyptian proverbs? How come? In what language? How was the transfer materialized?
      “One of the psalms is based on a hymn of Akhenaten of many years earlier”: Many years or more exactly 1,000 years? Akhenaten’s Aten, 18th Dynasty, 14th century BC. How did the transfer of texts take place? What was the original form of the hymn to Aten? Inscriptions on a Temple Wall? Who copied it, who translated the hieroglyphs into Hebrew or Aramaic, or Greek?
      This didn’t happen with ideas “floating in the air” as some imagine the diffusion of mythical themes in antiquity.
      What are the primary sources for all these assertions? Who’s the original writer for all this info? Any expert Egyptologist? Does Philo mention many such Egyptian proverbs?
      I’m fascinated. Just curious and skeptical. Please mention the sources.

      • Lay Man
        2012-05-31 19:36:55 UTC - 19:36 | Permalink

        I wouldn’t begin to know the answer to all of your questions there, but at least concerning the Akhenaten hymn influencing one of the Psalms, that is commonly passed aound in scholarly circles. At least one example I can give is Egyptologist Dr. Robert Brier in his lecture series for The Teaching Company, specifically the one on Akhenaten. I think the title was “The Heretic Pharaoh”. He reads the relevant hymn and compares it to the Psalm, and there is some compelling similarity.

        • ROO BOOKAROO
          2012-05-31 20:33:44 UTC - 20:33 | Permalink

          Forget “compelling” wich is overused in commentaries of biblical studies. As if the feeling of “compellingness” equated to proof or evidence.

          Look up “Aten Hymn Psalm 104” on Google, and you’ll get dozens of essays on the question (among 19,300 results). So it is a favorite sport of popular culture. Anyway, there’s plenty to read and have great fun with this sport.

          Let’s not forget that the comparison bears on a modern English translation from a hieroglyph text found on a stone from ca 1350 BC and a modern English translation of a Hebrew text from ca 600-400 BC, separated by nearly 1,000 years.
          Does what one commenter calls a “vague” similarity imply a direct influence, concretized by a physical transmission of documents (what kind? no papyrus in those days), translation and adaptation from hieroglyphs into Hebrew?
          Read about the ingenious inventions to explain this extraordinary transmission of ideas about the sun. (One clever commenter invents Egyptian fugitives who keep singing the Aten Hymn while crawling through the desert until they reach Palestine, where the hymn is sung for another 600-1,000 years till the Psalm 104 writers are ready to use it in Babylon or Jerusalem. This reads like a comic book.)

          As if the mystical Hebrew prophets were not capable to find their own images to describe the sun? After all, there were not one hundred ways to describe the sun’s actions. And their mystical brains were all overheated by the same brilliant sun that shone on Akhenaten.

          Sigmund Freud has his own sophisticated solution: Moses was a high Egyptian official of Akhenaten, and left Egypt carrying the main themes of the Aten cult, which became the foundation of the monotheism cult of Yahweh (Moses and Monotheism, 1937).

          • Lay Man
            2012-06-01 16:14:06 UTC - 16:14 | Permalink

            “Forget ‘compelling’ wich is overused in commentaries of biblical studies. As if the feeling of ‘compellingness’ equated to proof or evidence.”

            Right it certainly doesn’t equate, and I certainly didn’t make such an equation. It was the “evidence” itself that I found compelling, and by “evidence” I obviously can only mean the similarity and nothing more. So yeah, not much to speak of, but I just wanted to clarify I wasn’t equating the feeling with the evidence, but rather that the feeling was stimulated by the “evidence”.

            “Let’s not forget that the comparison bears on a modern English translation from a hieroglyph text found on a stone from ca 1350 BC and a modern English translation of a Hebrew text from ca 600-400 BC, separated by nearly 1,000 years.”

            Fair point, and since I only no English, I certainly couldn’t comment or contend with that, but I should point out that Dr. Brier, whom I referenced previously, does know both Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and Hebrew (he’s even Jewish, for whatever that’s worth), and he still shares the opinion that there is conspicuous similarity. I don’t recall him explicitly endorsing direct influence though. If I recall correctly, I think he just mentioned that is an opinion in the field, but not that it was his opinion personally. He certainly came across that way though.

            “Does what one commenter calls a ‘vague’ similarity imply a direct influence,”

            I’m not sure what “commenter” you’re referring to, but if it is Brier (the only “commenter” I had referenced), well, in that lecture I mentioned Brier didn’t say the similarity was “vague”. In placed some significance on it. But granted, he didn’t make a big fuss over it either, and as I said previously, he didn’t explicitly endorse direct influence either. Nor would there have to be.

            “concretized by a physical transmission of documents (what kind? no papyrus in those days),”

            That’s a bizarre statement. I don’t know much about the history of writing materials, but I do study Egyptian mythology as a hobby, and the first thing that immediately came to mind when I saw this statement of yours was the Papyrus of Ani, of the Book of the Dead collection. So I looked it up again and it was 13th century BCE, so while close, it was still one century behind Akhenaten, so to give you the benefit of the doubt, I asked myself if maybe papyrus was a recent discovery that took place between Ani and Akhenaten. So I wiki’d “papyrus” and it said it was used in Egypt as early as the first dynasty, so that’s way before Akhenaten. It gave citations for the statement as well. So did you have a different type of writing material in mind? I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, but at the moment it looks like you were just flat mistaken on this particular point.

            “translation and adaptation from hieroglyphs into Hebrew?”

            We do have the surviving Amarna letters of correspondence between Akhenaten’s administration and foreign powers as well as areas under Egyptian control, which happened to include Canaan and Syria. So the inhabitants of Canaan and other surrounding nations were certainly familiar with Akhenaten. Seems unlikely they would be unaware of his radical revolutionary religious views that were becoming a catalyst for decline in Egypt at the time.

            Of course, that doesn’t guarantee they knew of his hymns, but since your inquiry on this specific point seemed to me to be how could transference of Akhenaten’s ideas with foreign cultures have taken place, this seemed relevant to bring up. There was literary correspondence between Akhenaten and Canaan.

            If I recall correctly, most of the letters were in Akkadian, allegedly one of the diplomatic languages of the area at that time.

            “Read about the ingenious inventions to explain this extraordinary transmission of ideas about the sun. (One clever commenter invents Egyptian fugitives who keep singing the Aten Hymn while crawling through the desert until they reach Palestine, where the hymn is sung for another 600-1,000 years till the Psalm 104 writers are ready to use it in Babylon or Jerusalem. This reads like a comic book.)

            As if the mystical Hebrew prophets were not capable to find their own images to describe the sun? After all, there were not one hundred ways to describe the sun’s actions. And their mystical brains were all overheated by the same brilliant sun that shone on Akhenaten.”

            Yeah, that’s certainly lulz worthy. I don’t see why such imaginative scenarios need to be conjured up to explain something that would not have been an extraordinary occurrence at all.

            There was no iron curtain between these two lands & cultures. In fact, as pointed out previously, the Palestine area was under Egyptian control at the time. So it wouldn’t be anything amazing if traces of influence from the more powerful & influential nation trickled down into later Palestinian culture. So maybe the Psalm writer took inspiration from an Aten hymn. Big deal.

            Of course, this admittedly does not equate to Psalm 104 being a rewrite of the Hymn to the Aten, but the setting certainly would allow for such to take place.

            • ROO BOOKAROO
              2012-06-01 20:25:02 UTC - 20:25 | Permalink

              “So the inhabitants of Canaan and other surrounding nations were certainly familiar with Akhenaten. Seems unlikely they would be unaware of his radical revolutionary religious views that were becoming a catalyst for decline in Egypt at the time.”
              This is the kind of assumption I find unwarranted and a bit of an illusion.

              First of all, we don’t know how successful Akhenaten was in eliminating the worship of hundreds of local gods in the whole of Egypt. We do know that he met with resistance, and that the priestly class was opposed to this change of cults. They had everything to lose. The fact that Akhetaten, the new center for the new cult, was immediately obliterated after Akhenaten’s death and the new cult erased is a proof that the priestly class survived with constant opposition to the new cult.

              It is not sure that all the Egyptian population was aware of such a radical change. It certainly radiated geographically from the new center, but how far did it penetrate all the other regions of Egypt? Akhenaten had only 16 years to operate this colossal undertaking of a very slow-moving civilization. With the slow communications of the time, this does not seem long enough to operate a radical transformation of the whole country’s religious practices.
              Egyptians were known to be strongly attached to their local ancestral gods. There may have been large swaths of population still ignorant of such a change of cult or hostile to it.

              The famous Amarna letters were on clay tablets, not on papyrus. There’s no evidence that papyrus missives were sent to Palestine in the 14th century BC to broadcast the news. It is a stretch to assume that papyrus was universally used in those early times.

              So to imagine that miraculously the primitive ancestors of Hebrews living in Palestine in the 14th century BC were made aware of the “radical revolutionary religious views” in Akhetaten seems like an untenable fantasy, a pure modern illusion.
              We are projecting our modern encyclopedic knowledge back on those wretched souls, where only a few priests and scribes could read and write. Such social changes disappeared in Egypt so quickly that they barely left a trace in the country itself, and it is highly unlikely that the Palestine people were made aware that such a religious revolution was taking place over the space of 16 years. This is assuming quick communication of global social facts that became known only at the end of the 19th century.

              Did Greek historians — much more literate and curious about the world than ancient Hebrews, and who appeared much later — ever recorded anything relevant to this revolution in Egypt? This would be a good question for historian Richard Carrier.
              All this hypothesizing about Palestine receiving the latest news about the foundation of Akhetaten and the creation of a a new worship of Aten in the 14th century BC, is a good game for scholars, but totally unconvincing. And certainly not “compelling”.

              • Lay Man
                2012-06-02 01:15:02 UTC - 01:15 | Permalink

                Am I not communicating my points clearly?

                Let me get the most bizarre comment out of the way first. You wrote: “The famous Amarna letters were on clay tablets, not on papyrus. There’s no evidence that papyrus missives were sent to Palestine in the 14th century BC to broadcast the news. It is a stretch to assume that papyrus was universally used in those early times.”

                Wow, I for one NEVER even so much as hinted at the Amarna letters having been written on papyrus or that papyrus missives were sent to Palestine or used universally, etc. So did you just throw this bit in for bystanding readers? Because this certainly was not targeted at anything I wrote, or if it his, then you have either greatly confused yourself even though I was quite unambiguous with my writing, or you are trying to produce one of these “strawmen” I hear so much about on the internet.

                I had simply pointed out that your statement that there was “no papyrus in those days” is apparently mistaken. You have still not contested that point, so I assume you concede that this was an error on your part? But regardless, that was the only place where I brought up papyrus. After that it was dropped and I moved on to the next point.

                And my bringing up of the Amarna letters was because of your inquiry about how transmission might have occurred. That’s all. The Amarna Letters transmitted data. So if you’re looking for avenues of transmission of ideas at the time, there’s one example and one avenue of possibility. You trying to mingle that in with the papyrus bit, that’s your own thing, independent of anything I wrote.

                Moving along,
                you wrote: “First of all, we don’t know how successful Akhenaten was in eliminating the worship of hundreds of local gods in the whole of Egypt”,
                and so on.

                I the success of Akhenaten in enforcing his monotheism was never an issue I brought up. The inhabitants of Canaan and other areas would not have to have been Atenists (whether voluntary or forced) in order to have simply heard that the new Pharaoh has flipped his lid and is promoting all these strange new religious ideas, etc.

                So on this point you’re just going after red herring.

                Moving on, what is an illusion here is this iron curtain you seem to be insinuating was insulating this situation from the rest of the “world”, especially that which was under Egypt’s control.

                It’s one thing to suggest it’s unlikely that an area with no contact would have not have heard of the situation, but to suggest that areas that we know had contact with Akhenaten himself, and in their letters even pay lip service to his sun god, would not be aware of what was a very significant situation, which as I said (and I’m getting this from Dr. Brier) ultimately caused a significant decline in Egypt’s power. As Brier explains it, one of the recurring themes in the Amarna Letters if that foreign powers are attacking some of the areas under Egypt’s control, and the leaders of those areas are writing to Akhenaten pleading for him to send help and rescue them from the attackers, but Akhenaten was too pious and preoccupied with his religion to give a shit about those kind of situations. The invaders were obviously aware of the situation and taking advantage of the king’s disinterest. Now, of course, to what extent they knew of the details of his religion is certainly unknown, but to suggest, as it seems to me you are, that such a news worthy thing that was having a very tangible effect on the rest of the empire (according to Brier) was kept exclusively inside this iron curtain you imagine surrounded Amarna, is something equally lacking evidence, and is even against parsimony.

                I have to wonder if an Egyptologist would entertain such a notion, that this was not news worthy stuff and remained within the walls of Amarna or whatever else or however else you want to put it. It just seems succinct to think that significant paradigm changing events draw significant attention. That’s not a law or anything, but it does seem succinct and is not unreasonable to think. Perhaps I contact a few Egyptologists and inquire if they find it unlikely that these folks in contact with Akhenaten would have been ignorant of the major religious changes he was trying to make and of the effect his religious views were having on how he ran his empire and on the success of the empire at large. i know of a few who frequent some internet forums about Egyptology. How soon they would reply back though, I don’t know.

                Moving along,
                indeed, subsequent generations of Egyptians did there best to stamp out the memory of Akhenaten, but just as you ask to what degree was Akhenaten successful at enforcing his monotheism, one likewise has
                to wonder to what degree the Egyptians were successful in stamping out the memory of Akhenaten, not only within their own borders, but I have to wonder how they could have executed such a thing over the foreign nations not under their power, ones we know knew of and communicated with Akhenaten. If they weren’t under Egypt’s control, how could the Egyptian’s have made them erase any trace of Akhenaten, that is what I wonder.

                As for any Greek historians who recorded anything about it, a good question indeed. But were the Greeks really recording such data in Akhenaten’s time? He pre-dates even Homer, and as far as I’d ever heard, the type histories I’m thinking of started with Herodotus who was even later than Homer. And since I’m not well read in Greek history myself, I certainly wouldn’t know the answer to your question, but I do know that some, not all, but some Egyptologists do claim that Manetho made reference to Akhenaten, such as the aforementioned Jan Assman, or Dominic Montserrat. Although, he was a Ptolemaic Egyptian, so I don’t know if that would qualify as a “Greek historian”. How Manetho came to such information, I also do not know, and that would be a question for those Egyptologists claiming as much. But there it is for whatever their opinion is worth.

                It’s worth more than mine, that’s for sure.

              • ROO BOOKAROO
                2012-06-02 02:44:54 UTC - 02:44 | Permalink

                Lay Man:

                You do make your points very clearly. And nobody disputes Robert Brier’s competence. He is primarily known as a mummy and mummification expert.

                I would still disagree with the assumption that big social and religious news that are so clear to us now were so easily broadcast in the Near East word of the 14th century BC. I have not read the transcription of the famous 380 tablets, and I don’t know to what extent they give the lowdown of Akhenaten’s religious policy and provide a sketch of its impact on his foreign policy. It may have contributed to Egypt’s power decline, but that is not the point. (A strange similarity with the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire once the Roman Emperor Theodosius managed to annex the Catholic Church and establish it as the official religion of the Empire. The Western Empire collapsed in barely 100 years.)

                Who would have received those news in Palestine? One or two top leaders of the community. In what language? On tablets again? What were the Jews doing in the 14th century BC? Did they even exist as such? Were they already identifiable as Hebrews? The Hebrew script was even assumed not to have been constituted at that date. What language were they using? Some proto-Hebrew? This is a muddy picture.

                [As an aside, in the mythological scenario of Moses leaving Egypt with his millions of slaves, what language were they using? Some form of Egyptian vernacular, certainly not Hebrew. And when Moses received the Ten Commandments on his own tablets (no papyrus, no clay, only stone for Moses), in what language? Hieroglyphs (appropriate for such a godly occasion) or more prosaic cuneiform? The Hebrew scribes writing the story in the 6th century never thought of that question. For them, everything was in the Hebrew they were using at the time of composing the story. Even Freud didn’t pay attention to that point.]

                What would have been the impact of such clay tablets received in the 14th century BC on the writing of the Tanakh, which may not have happened until the 6th to 4th century BC, nearly 1,000 years later? I think the connection is preposterous.

                Yes, there’s some similarity of images for the sun in Psalm 104 compared to the Great Hymn of Aten. Savitri Devi did warn that you can’t speak of the sun without resorting to similar images.
                But who on earth would have carried the Great Hymn to Palestine? In the 14th century BC? Because right after Akhenaten’s death (not “generations”) the city was abandoned and destroyed, the tombs emptied (no bodies were found) and the engravings on the wall buried for ever.
                Until the engravings were copied in 1883-4. And even then only one copy of the Great Hymn was found in the tomb of Aye, and only five of the shorter version.
                How would the Great Hymn of 1350-1330 BC find its way to the hands of the scribes writing in Hebrew in the 600-400 BC period? Mind-boggling. Even if the Hebrew priests had it (miraculously) in their hands (preserved tablets over 1,000 years), they could have never understood it.

                Here is a reproduction of the hieroglyph text of the Great Hymn to Aten of Aye found and copied by Urbain Bouriant in 1883-4. The whole world had never heard of it until then.
                http://www.maat.sofiatopia.org/davies.htm
                Could it have been miraculously translated into some vernacular, Akkadian, Egyptian, whatever, and retranslated for use by Hebrew scholars 1,000 years later? Were there such translators in Babylone or Jerusalem at that time. How would they have preserved the tablets?
                This whole scenario is grotesque, possible yes, as we can imagine all kinds of scenarios, thinkable perhaps, barely plausible and highly improbable. What is possible, or plausible is very far from being necessarily probable. We’ve got to use our new little toy of Bayes’s Theorem.

                We have to accept the notion that Near East scribes were poetic enough and capable to find similar images describing the sun’s effects to those of the writer of the Aten Great Hymn. But, as I commented below, the sun never had for the priests of Yahweh the religious significance that it had for Akhenaten of being the Creator God Aten.

                So we are very far of putting our finger on the influence of “Egyptian proverbs” on the make-up and the teaching of Jesus Christ, who came along 1,400 years later.
                You have to count me among the skeptics. There’s enough visible influence from Jewish and Hellenistic sources in the story of J.C. to need a distant connection to Amarna for the spicy addition of “Egyptian Proverbs” to the cultural mix.

                By the way, you could very well send a couple of emails to Brier, and discuss the various points with him and report to us. He is retired and has all the time in the world. He would probably be delighted to see his expertise called upon.

        • ROO BOOKAROO
          2012-05-31 21:18:54 UTC - 21:18 | Permalink

          See also:

          http://www.seanet.com/~realistic/psalm104.html (one of many constructions)

          More significantly on Akhenaten, Aten, and his Hymn
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Hymn_to_the_Aten
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atenism

          “Link to Judaism: Because of the monotheistic character of Atenism, a link to Judaism (and subsequently the monotheistic religions springing from it) has been suggested by various writers. For example, psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud assumed Akhenaten to be the pioneer of monotheistic religion and Moses as Akhenaten’s follower in his book Moses and Monotheism (see also Osarseph).”

          See Akhenaten and Judeo-Christian monotheism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akhenaten#Akhenaten_and_Judeo-Christian_monotheism
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judaism_and_ancient_Egyptian_religion

          “It is generally accepted that some of the texts of the Hebrew Bible have precedents in earlier (Bronze Age) Ancient Near Eastern religions and mythology, especially Mesopotamian (see Panbabylonianism), but to a lesser extent also Ancient Egyptian. For instance, material from the Book of Proverbs derives directly from the Instruction of Amenemope.

          The religion of the ancient kingdom of Judah was an amalgamation of local Canaanite traditions. Yahweh was in origin a Moabite deity, Elohim was a group of deities from Ugaritic religion, Jerusalem was in origin a Jebusite city with the tutelary deity Tsedek. These Canaanite traditions which gave rise to Israelite and ultimately ancient Jewish religion were in turn influenced by older Mesopotamian and possibly also Egyptian traditions.

          The consensus of modern scholarship is, however, that there was little or no direct influence of Ancient Egyptian religion on early Judaism. Sigmund Freud’s theory deriving Israelite monolatrism from Egyptian Atenism, put forward in his Moses and Monotheism of 1939, has little support among modern scholars.”

          • Lay Man
            2012-06-01 16:24:24 UTC - 16:24 | Permalink

            Well if that’s the majority opinion, then I won’t contend the point, though I haven’t done a tally to see if that holds up. I know Jan Assmann is a leading scholar of Egyptology and one of his more significant work was Moses The Egyptian which takes another look at the subject of Egyptian influence, and especially that of Amarna monotheism, on the development of Judiasm.

          • ROO BOOKAROO
            2012-06-01 18:40:56 UTC - 18:40 | Permalink

            This whole discussion raises the critical question “Can parallels in religions and myths imply direct influences?”.

            In her book on “Akhnaton’s Eternal Message” (published in Calcutta, 1940), Savitri Devi had issued a warning, when comparing myths, about assuming influences after detecting parallels: “Without systematically denying the possibility of such early influences, it seems to us that one should not overestimate them. Parallels are easy, and any two solar symbols, if not too far-fetched, are bound to have something in common.”

            The extraordinary Savitri Devi (1905-1982) was an English-Greek woman born in France, who became a Hindu in India, married a Brahmin, and adopted a Sanskrit name, “Savitri Devi” (“Sun-rays Goddess”), (thus setting a precedent for Dorothy Murdock’s “Acharya”).
            She wrote profusely about Egyptology, Hinduism, and virulently against Judeo-Christianity. She dabbled with Theosophy, astrology, and was fascinated by the great spiritual gods of antiquity, including the extraordinary pharaoh Akhenaten (1352-1334) — who instaured the monotheistic cult of the sun-god Aten.

            The alleged Egyptian influence on Christianity has been the object of a long speculation going back to the pioneers Godfrey Higgins and Robert Taylor. It has been romanticized and popularized by sensational and “spiritual” writers like Kersey Graves, Helena Blavatsky, Gerald Massey, G.R.S. Mead, Alvin Boyd Kuhn, and closer to us, Tom Harpur (“The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light”, 2004) and Dorothy Murdock (“Christ in Egypt”, 2009).

            But the demonstration of such direct influence usually remains impossible to establish with certainty. It is guessed by intuition and imagination, and hypothesized. That is the great fun of studying ancient religions and mythologies. All possibilities can be imagined and explored.

            One commenter about the Aten/Psalm comparison pertinently remarks that Psalm 104 is directly influenced by Genesis 1, which is a story of creation.
            And the Aten Hymn is also a story of creation. But Aten is called the only god, the creator of the universe:

            “O sole god, like whom there is no other!
            Thou didst create the world according to thy desire”

            Whereas in Psalm 104, the Lord is not the sun, he is only decked with the attributes of the sun as a garment:

            “Lord my God, you are very great;
    you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
            The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment.”

            The images of the sun are pretty natural, but the religious core is different.

            Another scholar also comments that the city of Akhetaten, founded by Akhenaten, was completely destroyed immediately after his death, and the cult of Aten effectively erased and abandoned. The priesthood was adamant to return to their ancestral pantheon of hundreds of gods and restore their own prestige and status.
            As a result, Aten and his Hymn lay unknown and forgotten for 3,200 years. Amarna was rediscovered by Napoleon’s scholars in 1799, Akhenaten in 1851 (Karl Lepsius), his tomb in 1881-2, and the Great Hymn copied from the tomb of Aya in 1883-4 (Urban Bouriant), and studied by James H. Breasted in 1895. This is when the world became aware of the Aten Hymn. The long version is very beautiful. A shorter version was discovered in five Amarna tombs.
            See “The Great Hymn to the Aten”, a thorough expostion by Wim van den Dungen trying to penetrate the ancient Egyptian mind, and his final section “6.3 The Mosaic revelation, YHVH Elohîm and the elimination of the figural & the inert.”
            ANCIENT EGYPT : Great Hymn to the Aten

            There’s no reason whatsoever to hypothesize that this Aten hymn which lay buried since the destruction of Akhenaten had ever made its way to Palestine or Babylon for the authors of Psalm 104 to use as a model. The natural similarity of images corresponds to what Savitri Devi had assumed. It is no evidence of direct borrowing.

            Amazingly, by twisiting dates, some very clever commenters want to imagine that the reverse took place, the Aten Hymn plagiarized Psalm 104!

            Further, to come back to the initial point, it is hard to see how “Egyptian proverbs” contributed to Jesus’s teaching, since all his wisdom was borrowed and adapted from the Greek Septuagint. And it is hard to see where and how those “Egyptian proverbs” found their way in the old Tanakh, and in its Greek translation.
            It’s fun to invoke “syncretism,” that all the mythological figures of known antiquity somehow had their role in fashioning the final figure of Christ, but practically this boils down to pointing out resemblances and similarities, parallels as perceived by our modern minds. Without any guarantee that ancient minds, which functioned in their own different mental universe, understood the similarities in our own way.

            • ROO BOOKAROO
              2012-06-01 19:25:13 UTC - 19:25 | Permalink

              For some reason, the link to the Aten article by Wim van den Dungen didn’t show up. Here it is again:
              http://www.maat.sofiatopia.org/aten.htm
              It is worth reading in its entirety, if you have the interest and stamina to do so.

        • ROO BOOKAROO
          2012-06-01 02:56:15 UTC - 02:56 | Permalink

          For those who have time and curiosity, here is a most entertaining and simplified slide show on Akhenaten, his God Aten, the 18th dynasty, the new capital of Akhetaten, and how quickly the new cult disappeared from Egyptian history:
          http://www.usu.edu/markdamen/1320Hist&Civ/PP/slides/10akhen.pdf
          with the famous question: did Egyptian Aten-worship influence the development of Hebrew monotheism?
          This depends on the answers to two crucial questions:
          – How alike are Hebrew and Egyptian monotheism?
          – Can the Hebrews have had contact with Akhenaten’s religion?
          with some answers.

          • Lay Man
            2012-06-01 16:41:01 UTC - 16:41 | Permalink

            “Can the Hebrews have had contact with Akhenaten’s religion?”

            Well, if they were already living in the Canaan/Palestine area at the time, then the answer is undoubtedly, yes they could have. Did they? Don’t know. Could they? Absolutely. We know there was not only contact & correspondence with Akhenaten & Canaan, but even subjugation of Canaan to Egypt.

            “with some answers.”

            The answers that slide show gave were from the Biblical description of the Exodus events. In other words, whoever put that slideshow together was treating the Exodus as a historical story, when it is my understanding that most archaeologists on that subject agree that the Biblical story was not a historical event.

            I’m not too familiar with you, but am I mistaken in deducing that you are not a practitioner of a Judeo-Christian and that you do not accept the Bible as a divinely inspired book?

            If I am not mistaken in deducing that, then for you to link to a slideshow that treats the Biblical Exodus story as though historically reliable, then at this point I have to wonder if you are genuinely curious about answering this question of potential influence from Akhenaten on Psalm 104 or if you are just Googling for any little thing you can toss up here that is antagonistic to such a possibility.

            • ROO BOOKAROO
              2012-06-01 19:16:23 UTC - 19:16 | Permalink

              I feel that there is something you miss in the mental progression towards critical thinking.
              Of course, you have to see where the hypothesis of the reality of Moses and the Exodus leads you to grasp the basic components of the story. Sigmund Freud, a more insightful brain than yours and mine, did exactly that. You have to make a mental effort to see the side of the convinced believers, the apologists. Presenting the Bible assumes that you have to respect, at least initially, the conviction that it is presented as a reliable story. Then, you can start scholarly critiques and demolishing. But this is an advanced step that requires the first one.
              So, this Akhenten/Aten story is a complex subject that most people know nothing about. Most people have never heard of the 18th Dynasty and Akhenaten.

              So, of course, this slideshow is for children. It’s like a good Sunday School primer. You missed its intent, and took it too seriously. Its value is in presenting in huge bold letters the key names and concepts, with some cute illustrations, to spark up the interest of ordinary people. In this educational perspective, a simplified, childish presentation of the key concepts is good to help people build up a mental framework for more advanced questions.
              When you read Will Durant’s “Caesar and Christ” you can see that it is exactly what he is doing: simplifying the subject to the barebones so that a child can understand it the thread of the unfolding drama. There’s no pretension at inquisitive scholarly disputations. Durant fascinates by the limpidity of his exposition. The mind has to start somewhere. It’s nearly on a par with the “Reader’s Digest”. You may pooh-pooh it, but it has its educational value.

              And when it comes to Akhenaten, Aten, the 18th Dynasty, and Psalm 104, very few people know anything about the fundamentals. This slide show is a cute joke, but it has its value. I would challenge you to do something better from scratch.
              If I am suggesting such a childish presentation, it is not so much for you, but for the uninformed reader who may become interested in digging further. There’s no point in presenting an advanced version to somebody who knows nothing, or a sophisticated critique that would only drive off genuine neophytes.

              I could dream of presenting Doherty’s mythological view of Jesus in a similar fashion, to help readers understand the key themes of his complex construction.

              My personal interest is not in becoming an amateur expert in Egyptology like you, this is far too vast, but in focusing on the influence of Egyptian ideas on Christianity. When it comes to the details of Egyptology, I refer to the experts, and let them have their say.

              • David Hillman
                2012-06-02 01:29:27 UTC - 01:29 | Permalink

                Oh dear, I have been misunderstood – and its my fault for throwing out my thoughts without backing them up.
                My suggestion, in relation to what pretends to be Jesus’ teaching, is that educated people had many texts availible to use for their own purposes. I’m talking about texts.
                I certainly do not believe that Judaism was formed by any encounter with Atenism. It is doubtful that Aten worship was monotheistic, aand Jewis monotheism developed very late. Much of the Bible is not monotheistic in the sense the majority would understand today.
                The old testament could only be written when there was an educated elite in Palestine. Literacy first gets going to serve the administrative needs of the stae (and temples) which Davies argues against Finkelstein was not until after Josiah’s time, though Finkelsten rejoins that there was not enough of a state in the following Babylonian and Persian period. Whenever it does seem that when there is an educated literate class there is also literature. Any good standard history of the Ancient Near East shows that texts from many places and from much earlier times could be studied in the schools, and known by aristocrats. The Old Testament obviously uses old Babylonian stories (the flood, birth of Sargon and much else) and Egyptian texts (provebs and admonitions). I am also convinced that the similarities between Pslam 104 and the hymn to Aten are too close and detailed to be coincidental. Perhaps you are not convinced. If it is true it shows only that the text of the hymn was availible to the writer of the psalm.
                Similarly a skilled writer, educated in Greek, in “Mark”‘s time would have many sources to use for his own purpose.
                If I may be permitted to make a comparison, in a longish poem I wrote on my 63rd birthday last December I used lines excavated from my own translations of Caedmon and Beowulf, my understanding of Icelandic poetry, of the Odyssey, of Job, of quantum mechanics and cosmology, but all to make philosophical and political points about today. All creative writers do this. Our sources come from all over the place.

              • ROO BOOKAROO
                2012-06-02 09:55:17 UTC - 09:55 | Permalink

                David Hillman:

                Welcome back to the conversation. It’s nice to have a knowledgeable participant.

                And what a wonderful contribution to get the conclusions of James Roger Black’s Ph.D. dissertation concerning the parallels of the Proverbs with the Instructions of Amenemope.

                To come back to the claim of a parallel between Psalm 104 and Aye’s Great Hymn to Aten.
                There’s no disputing about the elite producing the first Christian documents (Paul, epistle writers and Gospel authors) using whatever literature they had available in their libraries.
                But there’s a question of separation by time, language and geography that is not clarified.

                The writers who produced the 1st and 2d centuries Christian texts were Greek-educated elite, and their literature was exclusively Hellenistic, plus of course the Hebrew Bible, but that one too came in a Greek version.

                Since the end of the 19th century and the excavations at Amarna, everybody got excited by Akhenaten and his Great hymn to Aten, discovered only in 1883 (one copy of the long form, five of the shorter version).
                This modern discovery is now used to show a similarity of images (rays, light, traveling through the skies, etc..) with Psalm 104, pointing to a new parallel immediately transmuted as some evidence of direct Egyptian influence in the old Tanakh.

                But again, the demonstration of physical transfer is pretty difficult to establish. When Akhenaten died, his son Tutankhaten was about 10. Within 3 years he abrogated the cult of Aten, re-established the worship of Amun, changed his name to Tutankhamun, moved the capital to Thebes, and abandoned Akhetaten, which was left to fall into ruins. The buildings were raided for construction materials, and even the sacred tombs are believed to have been emptied and transferred (including Akhenaten’s mummy) . The Great Hymn to Aten got buried for ever until it was discovered in Amarna in 1883, a long 3,200 years later.

                So how can we account of its reappearing in a library of some elite priest or scribe when Psalm 104 was written? 104 is considered pre-exilic by some scholars, and post-exilic by others. This sets is a pretty wide range, but still hundreds of years after the abandonment of Akhetaten, a distance in time which could vary from 400 to about 1,000 years.

                What scenario can be invented that would not sound totally improbable? Was a copy of the Hymn saved (in what language, in what form), before the cult was suppressed by Tutankhamun and transported to Jerusalem or Babylon? By whom? Egyptian scribes who fled Egypt? And preserved for hundreds of years until the composition of Psalm 104?
                I remain skeptical of such a fantastic construction, just to explain some pretty obvious description of the sun’s effects, and I credit the Psalm 104 writer to have enough poetic inspiration to find commonplace images for describing the sun as providing vestments for the Hebrew God.

                Indeed, Savitri Devi had well pointed out that hymns to the sun were bound to present some similarity.
                And, for the psalmist the sun was not a god, a creator, but only a source of images for the “garments” of God. The reference would be to Genesis 1 tale of creation much more so than to the ostracized Aten hymn.

      • mP
        2012-06-02 19:32:33 UTC - 19:32 | Permalink

        Theres a lot of Egyptian history and myth embedded in the OT. Many cite several Psalms, i wont comment on that. There are numerous books or even basic history where we can find characters in Egypt most the royal family with names that are very similar to those in the King David and Solomon stories. Hiram the master builder, the tally of gold and more are direct copies of Amenhotep III(!!)…The jews copied many things from Egypt, like everybody else in the ancient world. Theres no shame in copying or aspiring to be great like a great empire that was ancient Egypt.

  • 2012-05-30 07:36:48 UTC - 07:36 | Permalink

    For a look at my dialogue with Hoffman, on his own blog, check the comments to his “Process” intro.

    I think Hoffmann is making a few concessions. He seems to agree that Paul’s comments are rejecting the gospels, and the other apostles. Though his argument is that nevertheless, there is enough evidence to say that he is rejecting an historically real Jesus. We examine a few examples from Paul though, that don’t prove what he asserts: that Paul thought Jesus was real.

    I’m arguing that Historical Jesus study, among other things, is a kind of Neo Fundamentalism; and links to the New Evangelical scholarship, in attempting to establish that Jesus was wholly Jewish; with no influence from specifically, Greco-Roman myth. In spite of huge masses of evidence for Greco-Roman, mythic influence, throughout not just Paul, but even the gospels too. And in spite of evidence that Jesus “himself” seems composed largely of mythic content.

    While “Historical Jesus” studies methodology is so full of holes, that it could be used to “prove” the “real historical existence” of a cartoon character, like Daffy Duck.

    http://rjosephhoffmann.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/the-jesus-process-a-consultation-on-the-historical-jesus/#comments

    See also my and Neil’s remarks in “Mythicism and other Bunk,” and remarks on “Carrier,” on Dr. McGrath’s blog:
    http://networkedblogs.com/x0Msx

  • ROO BOOKAROO
    2012-05-30 08:10:11 UTC - 08:10 | Permalink

    Tim,

    Since you’re such a language specialist, weren’t you a bit perplexed by some of Hoffmann’s literary quirks?
    He does not seem to like a direct style, always preferring some kind of puzzling and confusing embellishment.
    This is the man who says that he talked himself into rereading the God Delusion “under the influence of several spirituous incentives” (“Re-Made in America- Remembering the New Atheism”).
    Many of the commenters complained that they couldn’t get what he was talking about. I had that problem myself quite a few times. I even suspected him of filling lines with empty concepts.

    When readers protested, he said: “Style. I’ll work harder to use shorter sentences and not include so many ideas in a paragraph. I know it is difficult for some readers. In the future I’ll skip the finery and get straight to the insults.”
    He is mistaken, it is not the problem of “many ideas in a paragraph”, it is that he can’t use a direct style. He can’t speak up his mind straight. No Hemingway or Faulkner for him. A spade is not a spade for him, but probably something like “the instrument that will prepare the final resting place of the happily departed” (and I’m sure that this is too straightforward for him).
    He’s driven to using ambiguous phraseology, something I have encountered in many Catholic writers and philosophers. Protestant writers tend to use a much more direct style.

    He himself was a Catholic, he mentioned, and he must have learnt this style in his formative years, probably from reading so much Catholic apologetics. He has remained a dedicated “protector” of religion.
    I came to wonder: Is he a closet apologist, draped in the heavy garments of Religious Studies scholarship? Very often he reads like one.

    I took the trouble of carefully reading his long essay (12, 600 words, plus 135 notes of 9,200 words).
    I must have been the only one to have done so, and I surely needed ” the influence of several spirituous incentives” to go through it, as well as through the notes (a very rich collection by the way, that is where Hoffmann really shines, not in the often mysterious and ambiguous text of his article. He is a formidable “accumulator” of sources).

    But he is not a good communicator. Clarity and elegance are the two values of effective English, according to Robert Graves, but they don’t seem to be his guidelines.
    I transcribed this long essay into Word, scrutinizing it line by line, word by word, and made a lot of notes.
    I am the only one to notice that this paragon of scholarship was missing his note [86]. But he couldn’t acknowledge the mishap and simply deleted my comment when I pointed out the omission.

    The heavy catholicity of this article and its scholarship is remarkable. He defends his beloved Jesus as his dearest friend, and not an imaginary one. He seems protective of the existing churches and their rituals.
    He cannot bring himself to saying “supernatural” (would never mention Cassels’s famous “Supernatural Religion”), or using the word “miracle”. Instead he uses ambiguous fudging cover-ups like the “extraordinary”, or the “incredible”. Nowhere does he mention “syncretism”, only “bead stringing” or “analogue accumulation” or “influence by accumulation”, or “accretion”, etc..

    This essay is a huge exercise in language manipulation and legerdemain to make clear things opaque. He is so skillful at enrobing the nuggets of his thoughts in a lot of complex constructions that it becomes impossible to unravel what he exactly means. Average readers without any special training in reading sophisticated texts (and Catholic scholarship texts) must be completely lost and feel irremediably befuddled.

    This is a man who denies being an “atheist”, but claims to be only an “unbeliever”, etc..playing good mental games reminiscent of those taught by the Jesuits. I even wondered whether he had been trained by them.

    He may complain as much as he likes about Dawkins, Dennett or Hitchens, and everybody else he feels so incompetent compared to his own super excellence, or whom he unfairly vilipends. For instance he accuses Arthur Drews of “proto-Nazi paganism” about his book “The Christ Myth” published in 1909, when Hitler was in his teens, with WWI still very far in a not ineluctable future, and the Nazi movement becoming a reality only around 1925 in Munich.
    But it is sure that his books will never be read by the wide public those famous New Atheists have been able to reach and move and get interested in reading theirs.

    • Grog
      2012-05-30 10:10:58 UTC - 10:10 | Permalink

      Uhhh…wait. I’m Catholic (was, but is it ever really was?), so I guess I will have to watch that!

      • Grog
        2012-05-30 10:13:07 UTC - 10:13 | Permalink

        Addendum: and interestingly, i did read his entire essay and often thought what a good, clear writer he was. That must say something about this Catholic thing.

    • Blood
      2012-05-30 11:16:47 UTC - 11:16 | Permalink

      “The heavy catholicity of this article and its scholarship is remarkable. He defends his beloved Jesus as his dearest friend, and not an imaginary one.”

      Indeed. It seems that the “historic Jesus” has been the consolation prize for ex-believers since the days of Schweitzer. At last, we’ve found the real Jesus! He was an apocalyptic Jewish prophet! Schweitzer was quite forthcoming about his worship for such a figure; perhaps Hoffmann does too.

    • 2012-05-30 13:53:48 UTC - 13:53 | Permalink

      Roo wrote: “Since you’re such a language specialist, weren’t you a bit perplexed by some of Hoffmann’s literary quirks?”

      I’m not a language specialist, really. I’m a perpetual student. It reminds me of what Margaret Barker said about teaching herself Hebrew. You end up with a “garden of weeds.” I’m actually self-taught in C, C++, and Java, and I make my living as a programmer; however, I know the pitfalls of being self-taught in anything. I often find I have vast yawning gaps in my knowledge, and I have to absorb a whole lot of information at once in order to make up for it.

      On the subject of Hoffmann’s prose, perhaps it’s just a matter of taste, but I have to agree that sometimes he uses dense, impenetrable prose for no good reason. I have always admired people who can write simply and directly. I like to take advice from those who write clearly and simply, and well. For example, every time I use a semicolon I hear Vonnegut in my head, chastising me:

      Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.

      I’m sorry; I can’t help it. But in my defense, I learned how to use the semicolon way before college.

      Blogs, of course, are personal creations. For me, it’s a creative outlet I have lacked for too long. So if Hoffmann wants to write in a way that shows he’s “been to college,” then it’s up to him. But there is one quirk I find really odd, and that’s the way he slides between U.S. and U.K. spellings. We get “honour” in one spot, and “defense” in another. He spells judgment with and without the “e.” It’s as if we’re floating aimlessly over the Atlantic.

      I’m not sure if it’s a Catholic thing or not, by the way. I think if you read enough German prose, you start to think five-line sentences with five clauses and six verbs piled up at the end is sort of elegant in its own grotesque way. British prose can be just as thick. I was reading some C.H. Dodd the other night and I was aghast when I realized he had used five languages on one page: English, Greek, German, Hebrew, and Latin. Naturally, he didn’t translate any of the foreign languages, because he didn’t want to insult our intelligence. You know what? Please, insult my intelligence!

      • ROO BOOKAROO
        2012-06-23 12:13:28 UTC - 12:13 | Permalink

        Interestingly, here is an evaluation of Hoffmann’s style by a Biblical scholar. This is by C.P. Bammel, reviewing Hoffmanns’ book on “Marcion: on the restitution of Christianity” (1984) in JTS 39 (1988), p. 227-232

        “His writing bears the mark of an insufficiently pruned dissertation (e. g. rather involved and tortuous argumentation, overloaded and often irrelevant footnotes, copious background information of a rather elementary variety, the attitude that any assertion can be made so long as a footnote follows…Hoffmann’s work is marred by misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the sources referred to…Hoffmann makes elementary howlers…Misprints are too numerous to list in full here, but they involve many proper names as well as errors in Greek, Latin and German quotations, and on occasion render the English text meaningless.”

        Quoted by Sebastian Moll in “The Arch-Heretic Marcion” (Tübingen, 2010), with a whole section devoted to Hoffmann’s book on Marcion, p. 6-8. Hoffmann is described as having “bold vision”, but lacking “a readiness to check any such new insight by careful attention to the detailed evidence.”
        “Hoffmann then managed to undermine his own work further when he tried to defend it by stating that he simply “intended to argue a case (hence the very deliberate use of the word ‘essay’ in the subtitle) rather than to reach firm conclusions”. p. 7

      • mP
        2012-06-23 14:25:45 UTC - 14:25 | Permalink

        Programming languages are by definition include a simple grammar that typically includes just a few dozen keywords, tokens and concepts. Along with that you can get instant feedback from a compiler if its not a dynamic lang and so on. Static computer langs also by definition do not allow ambiguities in the grammar or in the call targets. The rules are fixed, well defined and well known. I m not going to defend the mess of C and C++ as they are different from platform to platform and compiplter to compiler but java runs on all platforms equally the same. For me computer languages should not really be called languages as they are just too different.

        • 2012-06-23 17:20:15 UTC - 17:20 | Permalink

          mP: “Static computer langs also by definition do not allow ambiguities in the grammar or in the call targets.”

          I’ve spent countless hours doing maintenance programming, and I can tell you that, sadly, there are always ambiguities in computer languages that trip people up. I have seen it in every language I’ve worked in — Perl, Python, C, Tcl, C++, C#, Java, VB, JavaScript — you name it. It’s almost always a human problem, in which the original coder simply did not understand the language in which he was writing. However, the same is true for natural languages. How many times every day do we see people use words and grammar constructions that they simply do not understand?

          mP: “Along with that you can get instant feedback from a compiler if its not a dynamic lang and so on.”

          I’m not sure I even understand that sentence. (Isn’t language a funny thing?) Some compilers will still compile dangerously bad source (e.g., with buffer overruns) without even throwing a warning. On the subject of “instant feedback,” Python and Jython come with an interpreter so you can try out code on the fly and watch how it works. That’s really useful.

          mP: “I’m not going to defend the mess of C and C++ as they are different from platform to platform and compiplter to compiler . . .”

          Now you’re hitting a little too close to home. POSIX C is reliable and quite stable across all Open Systems platforms. ANSI C (C89, C90, C99, C11) is also quite stable and reliable on all implemented platforms. It’s true that many dialects of C++ (especially Microsoft’s “innovations”) have made a real mess of things, and . . . well . . . come to think of it, it C++ is a real mess. I can’t defend it, either.

          mP: For me computer languages should not really be called languages as they are just too different.

          For me, computer languages are essentially recipes for building processing machines. They are more like the DNA and RNA of software applications. It isn’t about carrying on a conversation. It isn’t about sharing ideas. Rather it’s about creating blueprints for programs.

          • mP
            2012-06-23 20:18:53 UTC - 20:18 | Permalink

            Tim:
            I’ve spent countless hours doing maintenance programming, and I can tell you that, sadly, there are always ambiguities in computer languages that trip people up. I have seen it in every language I’ve worked in — Perl, Python, C, Tcl, C++, C#, Java, VB, JavaScript — you name it. It’s almost always a human problem, in which the original coder simply did not understand the language in which he was writing.

            mP
            I will disagree with you that programming is a headache often because people use the language in strange ways. The language and computer itself is always following the same rules. The point I was attempting to make was that individual instructions always mean the same operation, while in a lang like English we have overloaded words which by definition mean that some sentences have multiple meanings. Human language is not as fixed in its meanings. One sentence can mean very different things to different people.

            Tim:
            Now you’re hitting a little too close to home. POSIX C is reliable and quite stable across all Open Systems platforms. ANSI C (C89, C90, C99, C11) is also quite stable and reliable on all implemented platforms. It’s true that many dialects of C++ (especially Microsoft’s “innovations”) have made a real mess of things, and . . . well . . . come to think of it, it C++ is a real mess. I can’t defend it, either.

            mP:
            I was more thinking about really simple stuff like what or how big is an int. 🙂

            • 2012-06-24 02:31:28 UTC - 02:31 | Permalink

              mP: I will disagree with you that programming is a headache often because people use the language in strange ways. The language and computer itself is always following the same rules.

              The problem is that for many computer languages clarity is a matter of convention. The original programmer thinks he knows what he’s doing, but writes code that does not do what he intended. It compiles, and sometimes even works; however, it’s a time bomb.

              There are two root causes. First, many people who are not really qualified dive in and start coding. (A related problem is the coder who knows one language, such as Visual Basic, and thinks he can code in C. “How hard can it be?”) Second, many languages give the programmer such a degree of freedom that it’s easy to write code that the maintenance programmer can barely understand. One of my favorite books on the subject of clear, safe programming is called Enough Rope to Shoot Yourself in the Foot — a fine book whose title happens to be one of my favorite mixed metaphors of all time.

              To illustrate my point, there are people who write “bad” (obfuscated) code for fun. Of course, it isn’t always just for fun — The International Obfuscated C Code Contest (IOCC) has some serious goals:

              • To write the most Obscure/Obfuscated C program within the rules.
              • To show the importance of programming style, in an ironic way.
              • To stress C compilers with unusual code.
              • To illustrate some of the subtleties of the C language.
              • To provide a safe forum for poor C code. 🙂
              • mP
                2012-06-24 09:19:03 UTC - 09:19 | Permalink

                Tim:
                The problem is that for many computer languages clarity is a matter of convention. The original programmer thinks he knows what he’s doing, but writes code that does not do what he intended. It compiles, and sometimes even works; however, it’s a time bomb.

                mP;
                Your statements are very much true, but again the problem lies not in the meaning of the tokens in the source but in how we read them. They always work the same, our understanding may be wrong because the source is confusing and so on. My original point is that with human language the very individual tokens themselves can be the source of confusion.

                Tim:

                OSIX C is reliable and quite stable across all Open Systems platforms. ANSI C (C89, C90, C99, C11)

                mP:
                Another interesting point that you highlight is standards of computer languages. Computer languages have standards, human languages dont, we just know whats right and wrong, there are no hard written rules or grammer or AST.

                Its a deservice to use the same term “language” to describe them as it is misleading. This is also a perfect example of how a simple word >language< can mean very different things, and context is everything. Context does change how some directives work in a comp language but the boundaries are always clear and also well defined if we stop and think about it. Human language is again very fuzzy, there are no definitive markers or boundary lines.

          • mP
            2012-06-23 20:26:00 UTC - 20:26 | Permalink

            mP: “Along with that you can get instant feedback from a compiler if its not a dynamic lang and so on.”

            Tim:
            I’m not sure I even understand that sentence. (Isn’t language a funny thing?) Some compilers will still compile dangerously bad source (e.g., with buffer overruns) without even throwing a warning. On the subject of “instant feedback,” Python and Jython come with an interpreter so you can try out code on the fly and watch how it works. That’s really useful.

            mP:
            My point was that computer languages particularly are simpler and more repeatable. Give the same input always get the same output for the same environment. Compilers are a perfect example of this, they will always complain if something is syntactically wrong. Human expression does not have an equivalent. The expressions of one person can mean many things to different people who listen or read. The perfect repeatability is simply not there.

    • ROO BOOKAROO
      2012-05-30 20:44:49 UTC - 20:44 | Permalink

      Interestingly, the famous missing note [86] refers to the question of the critical interpretation of “adelphoi”:

      ” Paul sometimes generalizes the concept of the brothers (adelphoi) to refer to Christian believers, converts or neophytes symbolized in the mystical body of Christ (the “man from heaven”) though Jesus himself does not become (and is never accounted to be) one of these brothers; he is rather the spiritual sine qua non—The Lord–through which the community comes into being.[86]”.

      There’s a wonderfully prolix note [85], then a gap (where presumably former note [86] stood) and a new text squeezed in for what looks like reworked notes [87] and [88]:

      ” [87]Acts 1.13-14; Acts 12:17; Acts 15:13–21; Acts 21:17–18; cf Gal 1.18-20; 2.9-10, 12; 15-3-7; 1 Corinthians 9,5): Usually disjunctive as in 12.17, Ἀπαγγείλατε Ἰακώβῳ καὶ τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ταῦτα. (“Tell these things to James, and to the brothers…”) and at 21.17, adelphoi is inapposite to presbyteroi as being believers of different rank.
      [88] Arthur Drews, The Christ Myth, trans. C.D. Burns (London, 1910), pp. 172-174.”

      This missing note [86] is intriguing, since it was related to an essential point of Hoffmann’s argumentation.
      Deleting twice my legitimate enquiry about restoring the note (an innocent request concerning what could have been just an overlook) only left me with a bitter taste and a loss of respect for this “super scholar” ‘s manipulations.

      • 2012-05-31 01:15:51 UTC - 01:15 | Permalink

        The Google cache of his blog post dates back to 23 May. It appears that the footnote for [86] was missing from the start.

        Checking out the source HTML, I noticed that he used Microsoft Word to compose the post, which is notorious for mangling HTML output. The reason all of the footnote URLs lead to a 404 page is that they point to filesystem locations on Hoffmann’s computer. For example:

        href=”/Documents%20and%20Settings/R%20Joseph%20Hoffmann/Desktop/The%20Jesus%20 Process%20FINAL%20TWIO!.doc#_ednref87″

        That insane URL, by the way, is in no way Hoffmann’s fault. It’s the Word development team’s bizarre notion of the best default behavior for their HTML rendering tool.

        Roo: There’s a wonderfully prolix note [85] . . .

        I could get about halfway through it, but by this time, my lungs were aching for air.

        • mP
          2012-06-23 14:27:09 UTC - 14:27 | Permalink

          Actually MS did a poor job in this case, why couldnt the produced HTML include the footnotes at the bottom of the page, it no sense to include it on another page.

    • Bob Carlson
      2012-05-31 08:05:27 UTC - 08:05 | Permalink

      He is so skillful at enrobing the nuggets of his thoughts in a lot of complex constructions that it becomes impossible to unravel what he exactly means.

      Could this simply be a manifestation of insanity rather than a manifestation of catholicity? Carrier believes the man to be insane.

  • RoHa
    2012-05-30 08:46:15 UTC - 08:46 | Permalink

    “… you tell us why we’re incompetent, evil, and insane.”

    I don’t think I’m incompetent. Am I?

    • 2012-05-30 09:15:18 UTC - 09:15 | Permalink

      You’re at the wrong blog. Go and ask the divinity trinity.

      I notice you didn’t ask about “evil” and “insane.”

      • Grog
        2012-05-30 10:17:56 UTC - 10:17 | Permalink

        “I notice you didn’t ask about “evil” and “insane.'”

        That goes without saying.

  • 2012-05-30 06:54:43 UTC - 06:54 | Permalink

    By the way, the Druzhba (Russian for “friendship”) monument was erected in 2005. I was relieved to discover that the two creatures that are hugging atop the stump are a fox and a crow — not, as I feared, the Mad magazine Spy vs. Spy duo.

    Here’s more info:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20120428213842/http://easteuropepack.com:80/monument-to-processed-cheese.html

    http://a-a-ah.ru/en/cheese-druzhba

  • 2012-05-30 21:58:13 UTC - 21:58 | Permalink

    No matter how you process the cheese there will always remain a percentage of the population that remain lactose intolerant.

    Then the pasteurization and homogenization process will insure that the agape meal remains devoid of transforming proprieties

    A little change in temperature will cause water to be fixed and ridged or loosely associated and flowing and this seems to follow for the Eucharist as well.

  • Pingback: My Work Has Been Serf-Reviewed! « Vridar

  • Reader
    2012-06-02 03:59:31 UTC - 03:59 | Permalink

    “The Instruction of Amenemope A Critical Edition and Commentary

    Prolegomenon and Prologue”

    “The following PDF files are a slightly modified version of my 2002 Ph.D. dissertation. They are Copyright © 2002 by James Roger Black.”

    source:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20131017060014/https://mywebspace.wisc.edu/jrblack/web/diss.html

    Extracts

    “4: Theological Context: Amenemope and the Hebrew Bible”

    “But what has mostly distinguished the research on Amenemope in recent
    years is an extraordinary degree of skepticism, especially on the part of scholars
    who approach the issue from the biblical side. Despite the abject failure of the
    two previous attacks on the Erman Consensus, despite the inability of any other
    approach (including Grumach’s “Alte Lehre” hypothesis) to win a significant
    following, despite the irrefutable demonstration of Amenemope’s chronological
    priority over Proverbs and the many close parallels which have been adduced
    again and again, biblical scholarship—which once embraced the Erman
    Consensus without reservation—has now returned to a verdict of (at best) “not
    proved”.”

    ” As Overland pointed out, the only
    realistic explanation for the retention of such structural features is that:
    the Israelite sage was aware of the way chapters in Amenemope tended to
    be structured, with key sentences appearing toward the beginning and
    end. In view of the structure evident in other parts of Proverbs, it is not
    surprising to find that, when he encountered a foreign document that
    was already structured, the Israelite sage was sensitive to that structure
    and made use of it as he sought to distill foreign material for the benefit
    of an Israelite audience.
    341
    In short, the only way that the first third of the Words of the Wise in the Book of
    Proverbs could have achieved its present form is if the Israelite editor had an
    actual text of Amenemope (or at least structured extracts therefrom) in front of him as he worked.
    And there the matter rests.”

    Extracts from Conclusion

    “What Have We Learned?

    For those of us who do still think it is possible to know things with
    reasonable certainty, it is time to review the results of our investigation:

    • The Instruction of Amenemope is a product of the Ramesside era, in all
    likelihood composed some time between 1240 and 1070 B. C.

    • Its author was the scribe Amenemope, son of Kanakht. His home town
    was Tjeny in the nome of Ta-wer, whose most famous city was Abydos.
    He was the husband of the temple musician Tawosret, who was probably
    also originally from Tjeny. He was the father (or perhaps the step-father)
    of Harmakheru, who became a priest of Min at Ipu/Akhmim.

    • Amenemope himself was a scribe in the civil service at Ipu, with
    responsibilities for the regulation of arable land in the region and the disposition of the grain taxes received from that land, including the provision of foodstuffs for the daily temple offerings.”

    “• Amenemope’s Instruction is a typical product of the “age of personal piety”,
    fully at home in the Egypt of his day both theologically and linguistically.
    While Amenemope was certainly familiar with and influenced by other
    Egyptian didactic literature, as well as the literature of scribal devotion to
    the god Thoth, there is no justification whatever for thinking that he was
    influenced by or borrowed from any sources outside Egypt itself.

    • On the other hand, the evidence is overwhelming that Amenemope’s
    Instruction had a significant formative influence on the composition of the
    “Words of the Wise” in the biblical Book of Proverbs (22:17-24:22). As can
    be seen by a perusal of the parallels listed in Appendix II, this influence
    operates at several levels, including: (1) near-verbatim copying of entire
    lines or groups of lines insofar as such can be accomplished in translation,
    (2) reproducing the ideas of a line or group of lines by paraphrasing rather
    than copying, (3) borrowing individual phrases, motifs, and word clusters
    but placing them in a new context, (4) adopting the general themes of a line
    or group of lines, which are then recast into a more “Hebraic” mold, and (5)
    telescoping a thought unit or an entire chapter by excerpting the opening
    and closing lines of the unit and deleting everything in between.421

    • This last procedure precludes the hypothesis that Amenemope’s influence on
    Proverbs was nothing more than a scribe’s recollection of a few snippets
    from the scribal exercises of his youth, or that the editor of Proverbs only
    had access to a “table of contents” consisting of only the initial line of each
    chapter of Amenemope. At a minimum he was working from an
    “executive summary” consisting of brief synopses or excerpts of the
    individual chapters; more likely he had either the complete hieratic text of
    Amenemope before him, or a semitic translation thereof.

    • Erman’s emendation in Proverbs 22:20 of SilSòm = “formerly” to S£lôSìm =
    “thirty”was undoubtedly correct, despite all subsequent claims to the
    contrary. It is also quite likely that it was the presence of this reference to
    “thirty [sayings]” which governed the large-scale structure of the entire
    “Words of the Wise”, even if subsequent damage to the text in the course of
    transmission has made it difficult to enumerate precisely thirty sayings to
    everyone’s satisfaction.

    • The fact that portions of Proverbs were borrowed from an Egyptian
    didactic text of the Ramesside era proves two important points which have
    long been in contention: (1) the biblical authors and editors did have
    access to documents whose origins go back even beyond the founding of
    the Israelite monarchy; (2) they did not hesitate to use such documents
    (albeit with extensive editing to adapt them to their new context) as direct422
    sources for the biblical text—even when the documents came from the
    hands of “pagans”.

    But the most important conclusion of all is also the broadest. If Amenemope
    teaches us anything, it is that what the West has traditionally been accustomed to
    think of as “Judeo-Christian morality” in fact preceded both Jews and Christians
    by more than a millennium, and that our hybrid Judeo-Christian/Greco-Roman
    heritage is ultimately the heritage of Egypt.

    As James Henry Breasted put it in the final chapter of his monumental work The Dawn of Conscience:
    In law and mythology the Hebrews drew much from Babylonian
    civilisation; but in morals, in religion, and in social thinking in general …
    the Hebrews built up their life on Egyptian foundations. … The
    fundamental conclusions that form the basis of moral convictions, and
    continue to do so in civilised life at the present day, had already been
    reached in Egyptian life long before the Hebrews began their social
    experience in Palestine, and those Egyptian moral convictions had been
    available in written form in Palestine for centuries when the Hebrews
    settled there. … The sources of our inheritance of moral tradition are
    therefore far from having been confined to Palestine, but must be
    regarded as including also Egyptian civilisation.

    With this assessment Amenemope himself would no doubt be pleased; and
    having completed our survey of the evidence, and drawn our conclusions, we may now add our assent to his.”

    For those interested, please do read the entire dissertation again found here:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20131017060014/https://mywebspace.wisc.edu/jrblack/web/diss.html

    P.S
    The author also indicated that there is scholarship for the last 30+ years in German about this topic that he did not cover.

  • Reader
    2012-06-02 04:42:56 UTC - 04:42 | Permalink

    “The Instruction of Amenemope A Critical Edition and Commentary

    Prolegomenon and Prologue”

    “The following PDF files are a slightly modified version of my 2002 Ph.D. dissertation. They are Copyright © 2002 by James Roger Black.”

    source:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20131017060014/https://mywebspace.wisc.edu/jrblack/web/diss.html

    More Extracts

    “So while the fact of Mesopotamian influence on the biblical narrative was
    quickly embraced by the academic community, and indeed spurred something of
    a renaissance in scholarly study of the Book of Genesis, the new Egyptian
    documents received considerably less attention, and their relevance to biblical
    studies was only “hesitatingly admitted.”11 As late as the end of the Nineteenth
    Century it was still possible for such a respected scholar as A. H. Sayce to state
    that while Mesopotamian elements pervaded the Hebrew Bible, “the influence of
    Egypt upon Israel may be described as negative”.
    12

    He explained:

    [Egypt] was a land of culture, it was a land of wealth and abundance,
    but it was also a land of popular superstition and idolatry, and the idolatry and the culture were too closely associated in the minds of the Israelites to be torn apart. In turning their backs on the Egyptian idols, it was necessary that they should turn them on Egyptian civilisation as well.13″

    “Perhaps it was statements like this which drove one respected Egyptologist,
    T. Eric Peet, to complain in 1923 about biblical scholars who “still feel a
    traditional resentment at any attempt to treat the biblical narrative like any other
    ancient document, and to expose it to the full light of modern discovery” and
    therefore “are either unacquainted with, or purposely ignore” the fruits of
    Egyptological inquiry.14″

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