Category Archives: Uncategorized


2015-03-04

About time

by Neil Godfrey

About time I catch up with this blog again. Not feeling on top of things health wise lately and have not even read the comments here the last few days. Hopefully back into full swing again soon. Maybe even another post later this evening. Or maybe not quite so soon.

 


2015-02-27

Yep, it’s viral . . . .

by Neil Godfrey

raw


On to Salon.com — Is this going viral?

by Neil Godfrey

First, Alternet, and now it’s on Salon.com

salon


2015-02-26

Alternet

by Neil Godfrey

Valerie Tarico’s article is published in Alternet:


Nine “Facts” You Know For Sure About Jesus That Are Probably Wrong

by Neil Godfrey
Correction (27 Feb 2015): I should have given priority to Alernet's publication of Valerie Tarico's article. It was published on Alternet a day before it also appeared on her blog. 

***

Valerie Tarico last September ruffled a few feathers with her article on mythicism (see Fear in the Heart of a Bible Scholar) and then followed up with an article in The Humanist outlining the views of James McGrath, Raphael Lataster and yours truly. (See Savior? Shaman? Myth? Ink Blot? — Views of Lataster, McGrath and Godfrey).

Valerie’s most recent post is

Nine “Facts” You Know For Sure About Jesus That Are Probably Wrong

It’s not about mythicism this time but it does link to four Vridar posts to illustrate some of her points.


2015-02-13

Once more on Paul Holloway and N.T. Wright’s Honorary Doctorate

by Neil Godfrey

Otagosh: See Theology, hairdressing and Huns

One parenthetical comment in particular caught my eye:

(My impression is that, rather than appealing to hard core fundamentalists, Wright’s following consists of many thoughtful but compromised evangelicals who are looking for a hero, someone who can provide a much-needed intellectually sound defence of their faith. . . .  The writer also points out that this sort of evangelical fan-theology has a long track record. . . .) read more »


2015-02-11

Strange Bedfellows in New Testament Studies

by Neil Godfrey

In my books an apologist includes any academic who defends some sort of privileged status for the veracity or contemporary relevance of the narratives and teachings of the Bible. N.T. Wright uses the historical methods of New Testament scholars to argue for the historical reality of the resurrection of Jesus. That ought to ring alarm bells to any serious academic. Evidently we need to question the reliability of methods that can be used to prove such nonsense; we also need to wake up to the confessional interests of a “scholarly” field that can even tolerate any of its members seriously arguing such a thing.

Scientists do not work with methods that allow one to prove God made Adam and Eve; and their guild would never give professional respectability to a member who member who argued dinosaurs were included on Noah’s ark.

Historians do not work with methods that allow for battles to be decided by mysterious angels appearing in the sky and nor would we expect them to grant professional esteem to a colleague who argued the angels of Mons decided the outcome of World War 1.

But it is quite common in New Testament studies to find scholars being highly respected academically even though their works amount to a litany of “proofs” for their personal confessional beliefs.

There are a few New Testament scholars who do speak out, however. One of these is Paul Holloway, Professor of New Testament at the University of the South. He protested against his university awarding N.T. Wright an honorary doctorate.

My complaint is that Sewanee has recognized Wright as a scholar in my discipline, when in fact he is little more than a book-a-year apologist. read more »


2015-02-04

“Why You Should Take Richard Carrier Seriously”

by Neil Godfrey
Who is Daniel Gullotta? Background info here: “Daniel N. Gullotta is a budding New Testament scholar and early Christian historian committed to the secular study of ancient religion. Daniel describes himself as a friendly agnostic-atheist with humanist values, but with a deep love and obsession with the Bible.”

Daniel N. Gullotta is not a mythicist. He believes in the historicity of Jesus. So his blog post on Richard Carrier’s argument for the Christ myth theory, Why You Should Read Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus, is especially interesting.

Gullotta begins:

Throughout the centuries, the Jesus/Christ Myth has found few, but notable, adherents such as Constantin François de ChassebœufBruno Bauer, and Arthur Drews, noted as the forefathers of the Mythical point of view on the historicity of Jesus. More recently, G.A. Wells[*]Earl DohertyRobert M. Price, and Richard C. Carrier have become the most prominent figures within the school of thought. Now with Carrier’s publication of On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt and Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesushe now stands as the most dominant voice in favor of this thesis.

Daniel Gullotta agrees with Stevan Davies, another “historicist” that mythicism ought to be addressed seriously:

[L]ike Stevan L. Davies, I believe that “the Mythicists have discovered problems in the supposed common-sense of historical Jesus theories that deserve to be taken seriously.” Many scholars have simply opted to completely ignore the Jesus Myth theory (and with some understandable reasons), however I do not think that is the right approach, especially for people who do wish to assert the historicity of Jesus. 

What is special about Carrier’s contribution? read more »


A New Gospel Discovery (For Real, this time!)

by Neil Godfrey

newgospelH/T Archeologia Biblica e Storia della Chiesa, blog of Antonio Lombatti, Scoperto un nuovo vangelo in Copto = A New Gospel in Coptic Discovered . . . 

Newfound ‘Gospel of the Lots of Mary’ Discovered in Ancient Text (article by Owen Jarus in Live Science)

The manuscript is 1500 years old. Reportedly discovered by Anne Marie Luijendijk, a professor of religion at Princeton University.  It’s opening lines:

“The Gospel of the lots of Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, she to whom Gabriel the Archangel brought the good news. He who will go forward with his whole heart will obtain what he seeks. Only do not be of two minds.”

A key word there is “lots”. I’ll explain.

The book is very small. It can fit easily in the palm of one’s hand. It appears to have been used in ways not unlike the way some people read their daily horoscopes:

A person seeking an answer to a question could have sought out the owner of this book, asked a question, and gone through a process that would randomly select one of the 37 oracles to help find a solution to the person’s problem. The owner of the book could have acted as a diviner, helping to interpret the written oracles, [Luijendijk] said.

It would apparently be opened up at random (or by spiritual guidance?) for the right “lot” to be found to advise the reader or inquirer.

Sample oracles:  read more »


2015-01-29

What they’re saying in the world of archaeology

by Neil Godfrey

Some recent news (and not quite so recent) that has come to my attention via the social media —

Arabia_saudita-_Iscrizione_(Imbert)A forest of crosses and names of martyrs in the desert of Saudi Arabia

A Franco-Saudi archaeological team is responsible for the discovery. Prof Frédéric Imbert dated the graffiti to 470-475, a time when anti-Christian persecution began, culminating under the usurper Yusuf. Even the Qur’an refers to it indirectly. The findings show how far Christianity had spread at the time, until the arrival of Islam.

Has anyone seen “First Century Mark”?

By P. J. Williams. He begins

I have had correspondence with Craig Evans and have his permission to confirm that he has not seen the alleged first-century manuscript of Mark and does not know the identity of the scholar or scholars to whom it has (presumably) been assigned for publication.

10 Great Biblical Artifacts at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem

Nothing new, but it’s always nice to visit a museum.

The Walls of Assyrian Nineveh destroyed

This is an Italian site so most of us will need an online translator. No doubt by now there are some sites with this story in English but this is the one that came to me first. From my Google translator:

A source in Nineveh province revealed on Wednesday, that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria “ISIS” terrorist organization has resumed bombing historical buildings and monuments in the province, noting that it has blew up the historic wall in the center of Mosul.

The source, who asked for anonymity told “Shafaq News”, that “ISIS terrorists have destroyed on Tuesday night large parts of the historic wall of Nineveh in Tahrir neighborhood in the left coast of the Mosul area, noting that terrorists have used large quantities of explosives”. 

Ah, how I miss Saddam …

_80397343_closeupXray imaging and the Herculaneum Papyri

This one I can’t wait to learn more about. I suspect the results won’t be known for many years, however.

Hundreds of papyrus rolls, buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD and belonging to the only library passed on from Antiquity, were discovered 260 years ago at Herculaneum. These carbonized papyri are extremely fragile and are inevitably damaged or destroyed in the process of trying to open them to read their contents. In recent years, new imaging techniques have been developed to read the texts without unwrapping the rolls. Until now, specialists have been unable to view the carbon-based ink of these papyri, even when they could penetrate the different layers of their spiral structure. Here for the first time, we show that X-ray phase-contrast tomography can reveal various letters hidden inside the precious papyri without unrolling them. This attempt opens up new opportunities to read many Herculaneum papyri, which are still rolled up, thus enhancing our knowledge of ancient Greek literature and philosophy.

There is an earlier story (again in Italian so keep the translator handy) on Antonio Lombatti’s blog.

Pagan deities in ancient synagogues

I’ve always wondered what to make of these. The author’s attempt to rationalize an explanation with modern sensibilities strikes me as naively amusing. read more »


2015-01-27

Battle Trauma Afflicted Ancient Assyrians, Too

by Neil Godfrey

gallery-ARCHEOLOGY-ARMY AND WAR-2833-Assyrian-armyI’ve often wondered the extent to which ancients suffered the same sorts of traumas we hear so much about today. Did ancient Roman, Assyrian and other soldiers experience post traumatic stress disorders and if so, how were these difficulties expressed, dealt with, etc?

The Italian Archeologia Biblica e Storia della Chiesa blog by Antonio Lombatti has today posted an article Il Trauma Dei Veterani Assiri that my web translator renders as The Trauma of Assyrian Veterans. Antonio links to a Smithsonian.com article by Laura Clark, Ancient Assyrian Soldiers Were Haunted by War, Too. Laura quotes one of the authors of an article in the current issue of Early Science and Medicine: 

“The sorts of symptoms after battle were very clearly what we would call now post-traumatic stress symptoms.

“They described hearing and seeing ghosts talking to them, who would be the ghosts of people they’d killed in battle – and that’s exactly the experience of modern-day soldiers who’ve been involved in close hand-to-hand combat.”

That article takes us to a PubMed page abstract and that’s as far as anyone can go without subscribing — or waiting for the embargo period to end before it is freely available. Damn. The best we can see for now is the abstract:

Herodotus’ account of the Athenian spear carrier Epizelus’ psychogenic mutism following the Marathon Wars is usually cited as the first documented account of post-traumatic stress disorders in historical literature. This paper describes much earlier accounts of post combat disorders that were recorded as occurring in Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) during the Assyrian dynasty (1300-609 BC). The descriptions in this paper include many symptoms of what we would now identify in current diagnostic classification systems as post-traumatic stress disorders; including flashbacks, sleep disturbance and low mood. The Mesopotamians explain the disorder in terms of spirit affliction; the spirit of those enemies whom the patient had killed during battle causing the symptoms. read more »


2015-01-24

Robert Price’s New Book: A Comment

by Neil Godfrey

HistoricalBejeezusIn my previous post I made the following note:

Daniel Gullotta has a more conventional background and approach and recently reviewed Robert Price’s latest volume, Review: The Historical Bejeezus: What a Long, Strange Quest It’s Been. He gives 2 out of 5 stars.

Daniel Gullotta expresses his disappointment over Price giving as much space as he does to some of the more bizarre (and generally obscured from the wider public’s consciousness) Christ myth theories extant today:

Some of these people [reviewed by Price] are household names to Bible geeks, such as John Dominic Crossan, Luke Timothy Johnson, and James D. Tabor, but others are for more obscure and less known. This is where the main problem lies with The Historical Bejeezus.

Some of the writers and theories that Price tackles are simply so minor, so fringe, and so insignificant it is hard to imagine why Price wasted his time and energy writing on them. Some of the chapters that were extremely difficult to finish were the ones related to the works of Hugh J. Schonfield, Joseph Atwill, and Charlotte Allen. . . . 

[D]espite the outlandish claims of Atwill’s conspiracy theory about the origins of Christianity and Price’s own criticisms of Atwill’s work, Price nonetheless calls Atwill “an innovative thinker” and says that Atwill’s theory “does not sound unreasonable on the face of it.”

By contrast, writes Gullotta,

Even Richard Carrier is willing to distant himself from figures like Atwill and Murdoch with far more hard hitting reviews and criticisms, despite their shared overall thesis.

I think I can understand where both Gullotta and Carrier are coming from but I also think it is worth taking note of Price’s own explanation for why he “wasted his time” with such “fringe” authors. From Price’s Introduction:

I take quite seriously even works considered eccentric by the (often dull) mainstream of conventional scholarship. It is only by taking such books seriously, rather than offering facile mockery and disdain, that one can tell the difference between nonsense and brilliant new theories. But I have no wish to defend nonsense, and my book’s title pretty well indicates that I find a good bit of it in several of the books I review. And, again, it is my job to show why they are nonsense if indeed they are. . . . (My bolding) read more »


What they’re saying about Mythicism

by Neil Godfrey

Time to catch up here with blog posts that have appeared in recent weeks addressing mythicism.

There’s now a blog devoted to mythicism: The Mythicism Files. A good many of its articles look like good future reference material. I was worried at first by the the apparently large space that appeared to be devoted to Acharya S (D. Murdock) but relieved to see Quixie’s very fair discussion of her contribution and criticisms it faces. The Otagosh blog addresses questions a number of us will have about the anonymity of the blog’s provenance. If Quixie is a regular contributor, however, that’s certainly a positive attribute. I’ve seen him write good stuff around various discussion groups and blogs (and in comments on Vridar iirc).

Speaking of Otagosh, he also tells us about the current leader of my old cult wading into the mythicist debate. Predictably a pabulum effort from the great apostle or whatever he’s called now.

Peter Kirby has endeavoured to bring some serious balance into the discussion by posting a detailed case, or rather “best case”, for the historicity of Jesus that he thinks can be made. The Best Case for Jesus. This is good to see. So few anti-mythicists [not that Peter himself falls into that “anti” camp — see his comment below] appear willing or able to argue their case with any real awareness of what mythicists actually say. They also seem to fall back on ad hoc responses too often. Comments are welcome in Peter’s blog, of course, but there is also a discussion on the same at the Biblical Criticism & History Forumread more »


A Papyrologist On the Reported Discovery of the 1st Century Gospel of Mark Fragment

by Neil Godfrey

If you are frustrated by Bart Ehrman hiding behind a paywall the views of the only expert in papyrology he has found to comment on the current Gospel of Mark fragment controversy behind his blog’s paywall (An Expert Talks About Mummy Masks and Papyri) I suggest we turn to that expert’s own updated blog page:

Mummy masks, papyri and the Gospel of Mark

Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 10.29.48 am

https://facesandvoices.wordpress.com/

I am not sure now but I think this page was linked from one of the sites I posted here a few days ago.

Roberta Mazza‘s expertise is spelled out at http://robertamazza.com/  read more »