Category Archives: Uncategorized


2015-01-24

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 »


2015-01-22

Marcus Borg

by Neil Godfrey

Unlike so many other writers in the field of religion (on both ends of the spectrum), Marcus was humble.  Once one of my parishioners asked him during Q&A, “But how do you know that you’re right?”  He paused, looked at her thoughtfully, and said, “I don’t know.  I don’t know that I’m right.”

From http://www.episcopalcafe.com/breaking-marcus-borg-has-died/

read more »


2015-01-21

Historicity of Jesus: Live Q&A

by Neil Godfrey

This Sunday 25th January Richard Carrier is doing a live Q&A on the historicity of Jesus.

You can post your questions in advance. See his Historicity of Jesus: Live Q&A page for details — and other upcoming debates/discussions.

Also at Lanyrd.com  Questioning the Historicity of Jesus: Commentary and Q&A by Dr. Richard Carrier

 


2015-01-15

Bible Prophecy Only In the Eye of the Beholder

by Neil Godfrey

Here’s another piece of recommended reading. It’s the sort of article I wish I had thought to write. So thanks to Gavin Rumney of Otagosh for

The Prophecy that Wasn’t

He addresses the Christian tendency to read into God’s curse on the serpent in the Garden of Eden a prophecy of Jesus Christ one day coming to destroy Satan through his own death (symbolized by a snake-bite on the heel).

Gavin introduces the key term metanarrative into his discussion. That’s another useful expression I am sure to borrow for Vridar in future. So read Gavin’s post so you’ll be prepared. But since you’re here now here’s a preview (but you have to promise to read Gavin’s article, too) and some additional thoughts of my own: read more »


New Online Course: Intro to Biblical Scholarship on NT

by Neil Godfrey

Richard Carrier is offering a month-long course online this February. From his blog description of the course:

Official Course Description:

Richard Carrier (Ph.D.), who has years of training from Columbia University in paleography, papyrology, and ancient Greek, will teach students the basics of how to investigate, criticize, and study the New Testament from the perspective of how its text is constructed from manuscripts, as well as how to work from the original Greek without learning anything more than the Greek alphabet and the international terminology of grammar, and how to investigate and make the best use of academic and peer reviewed biblical scholarship.

Students will learn how to: locate words in the Greek text of the Bible, and find their definitions using online resources, and to use that skill to critically examine English translations; check if the manuscripts disagree on what the text says at that point, and what to make of that if they do; talk and reason about disagreements in the manuscripts, as well as the differing valences of words between modern translations and ancient originals; discern what kinds of errors and deliberate alterations are common in the biblical manuscripts; and how to use scholarship on the New Testament critically and informedly.

This course will also be a basic introduction to the contents of the New Testament and its composition, textual history, and assembly. After a month you will have a much better understanding and skill-set for studying, discussing, and arguing over, the content and history of the Christian Bible, as well as learn fascinating and interesting things about ancient history and how we know what we know about it from the perspective of how all ancient writing has been preserved yet distorted in transmission.

As usual, these courses are one month long, and you learn at your own pace and on your own time, and participate as much or as little as you want (many just lurk and read the assigned readings and resulting discussion threads).

Registration details.

Looks interesting.

 

 

 

 


Interview with Robert M. Price

by Neil Godfrey

Today on Ed Brayton’s blog, Dispatches from the Culture Wars (Thoughts from the Interface of science, religion, law and culture), there is “a guest post by Kile Jones, a grad student at Claremont School of Theology, creator of the Claremont Journal of Religion” interviewing Robert Price:

In this interview I got to ask Dr. Robert Price (a.k.a. “The Bible Geek”) some questions about his life and how religion and the Bible played a part in it. His new book, “The Human Bible New Testament” should be available on Amazon shortly.

Here is a link to the interview.

 

 


2015-01-13

Explaining Christian Origins Without Any Theological Baggage

by Neil Godfrey
s200_james_constantine.hanges

James C. Hanges

I wasn’t sure at first what to make of an unusual article currently being hosted on the Bible and Interpretation site. It’s header is certainly interesting enough –

Looking to the Future of the Study of Christian Origins

But then it continues with reference to something that definitely has very little interest for me — that word “ecstasy” in a religious context:

The Ecstatic Perception of Evolving Complexities

Tongues? Trances? No thanks. But what’s the catch with that “future” word? I do like studies of visionary experiences to explain texts and certain belief systems but am less enthusiastic about the wider world of “religious ecstasies”.

It begins with reference to postcolonial studies. Suspicion deepens. Another anachronistic model being applied to the ancient world? Is this going to be something like a Marxist interpretation of Shakespeare?

But then the author, Professor James Constantine Hanges, writes something scandalous. (Scandalous, at least, to most contemporary biblical scholarship I have read.) He seems to be saying that scholarship should be studying early Christianity as something that emerged from within not only a Jewish world but also a pagan context. The pagan world should be seen as a matrix of Christianity’s emergence, not as “the other” against which early Christianity fought tooth and nail:

Smith’s razor sharp point in the book is that the history of modern Euro-American study of Christian origins . . . was never a genuine attempt to acquire new knowledge and to more accurately describe and understand the formation of earliest Christianity. Rather, modern Euro-American biblical scholarship has been simply an exercise in apologetics, using comparison to shore up the uniqueness of Christianity against a so-called “parallelomania” for ancient polytheistic cultures. 

read more »


2015-01-12

The Ostrich War On Mythicism

by Neil Godfrey

head-in-sand-1024x808After opting to respond to Raphael Lataster in a less than fully civil or professional manner for daring to publicly raise legitimate questions about the evidence for the historical existence of Jesus, Christian gentleman and scholar Michael Bird has followed up with a two minute video-clip of Bart Ehrman addressing a mythicist’s question. Needless to say Bart Ehrman is once again vague and lost in his reply, doing nothing more than appealing to authority, incredulity, disinformation and false analogies to “make his case”.

If you have been wondering how Bart Ehrman has been able to avoid engagement with mythicist questions since his book Did Jesus Exist? so emphatically demonstrated that he had not even read with any seriousness the mythicist books he claimed to be addressing you can find his explanation for this disengagement in his most recent post, Defending Myself.

Ehrman simply keeps himself shielded from any serious critique that does not come through channels he modulates himself. His blog is set up to ensure mostly sympathetic readers only will engage with it and he chooses to avoid public engagement with critics as a rule. Curiously he can say that though he by and large avoids any serious communication with mythicists (he apparently will read the odd email from one, it seems) he can nonetheless affirm that:

And I know that the attacks by these conservative Christians pale in comparison with the attacks by the mythicists

read more »


2015-01-11

Ideological Archaeology in Israel, Greek beauty, Coffee and the Paranormal

by Neil Godfrey

Some articles I’ve found interesting this past week:

The Connection Between Archaeology and Ideology in the Middle East in Counterpunch (h/t Otagosh)

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a speech/article by Uri Avnery. In the desperation to find confirmation of the Biblical stories after the 1967 war Moshe Dayan and others swept away all the top layers of Ottomans, Arab/Crusader, Byzantine, Roman, Greek and Persian eras and found nothing. They had very likely pushed aside their real history. Excerpt:

Even if one would like to believe that the Bible only exaggerates real events, the fact is that not even a tiny mention of the exodus, the conquest of Canaan or King David has been found.

They just did not happen.

IS THIS important? Yes and no.

The Bible is not real history. It is a monumental religious and literary document, that has inspired untold millions throughout the centuries. It has formed the minds of many generation of Jews, Christians and Muslims.

But history is something else. History tells us what really happened. Archeology is a tool of history, an invaluable tool for the understanding of what took place.

These are two different disciplines, and never the twain shall meet. For the religious, the Bible is a matter of belief. For non-believers, the Hebrew Bible is a great work of art, perhaps the greatest of all. Archeology is something entirely different: a matter of sober, proven facts.

Israeli schools teach the Bible as real history. This means that Israeli children learn only its chapters, true or fictitious. When I once complained about this in a Knesset speech, demanding that the full history of the country throughout the ages be taught, including the chapters of the Crusades and the Mamelukes, the then minister of education started to call me “the Mameluke”.

If that’s too political for you you might prefer more philosophical reading. Salon.com has an extract from David Konstan’s book, “Beauty: The Fortunes of an Ancient Greek Idea” :

The secret history of beauty: How the Greeks invented Western civilization’s biggest idea — (People think of beauty as universal to the human experience. But the truth is actually much more complicated)

Conclusion — some interesting openings into understanding the breadth of human experience: read more »


2015-01-07

People have been murdered in Paris: This is what I don’t want to discuss…

by Neil Godfrey

There’s nothing I can say that would be of any worth. I can only link to the one comment that sits alongside my own feelings. It’s on Tauriq Moosa’s The Indelible Stamp Freethought Blog:

Harmless people are dead. Gunned down in one of the most prosperous cities, in one of the most stable countries in the world. What we know is that the gunmen are scum and thugs, that Paris is on lockdown, that people are dead.

We know basically nothing else.

Here’s what I don’t want to discuss:

  • How evil Islam is

I am an apostate. An ex-Muslim who, for many, deserves death for abandoning Islam. I know very well what Islam is, firsthand. I don’t want to talk about how evil you say Islam is, how terrible you think Muslims are, how dumb you think religion is. Talk among yourselves,  but don’t expect me to be alongside when I’m interested in conveying solidarity and waiting for more information. read more »


2014-12-31

Archaelogical Finds 2014 — But Beware Christians Bearing Gifts

by Neil Godfrey

We feed your body and take your soul!

Much has happened in the world of archaeology this past year but little of it has been related to themes biblical. Two interesting pages are up for comparison and review. The advertisement that appears on the biblical one is obnoxious. Try not to get distracted (though I won’t help at all by re-posting the offending images here) but then finish up with the page listing some really interesting discoveries of wider relevance and interest.

The boring list of “bible-related” archaeological finds:

Biblical Archaeology’s Top Ten Discoveries of 2014 by Gordon Govier, on Christianity Today.

This includes the tomb of St. Stephen (who almost certainly was a myth) and the theatre where Polycarp was (very likely not) martyred.

No, I lie — there is something there of a little interest after all. Something about Noah’s ark being round like a giant version of one of those bath-tubs. And the animals going in two-by-two even on a Babylonian text. (Add it to your trivia list.) The curator of the tablet wears a beard to suit the part, too.

But this shameless plug on the page smacks your face:

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The link takes you to a list of all the things your donation can do: provide clean water, a bible in his language and the good news of Jesus. And don’t forget that by giving to this child you are really giving to God himself so you’ll get a really great reward in heaven.

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That sort of “compassion” I can do without.

There’s a similar boring list at Bible History DailyTop 10 Biblical Archaeology Discoveries in 2014 by Robin Ngo. This one has more interesting graphics for the Noah’s ark story here. And it does not have obnoxious ads telling you how to exploit the sufferings of others or how to get a bigger reward in heaven.

But let’s get real. The most interesting archaeological news for the past year is at Coolest Archaeological Discoveries of 2014.

The biggest one is, of course, the tomb from the era of Alexander the Great. Then there’s the Richard III find, more news from Stonehenge, the glamour and cheese mummy in China, the mummified erection of King Tut in Egypt, and most interesting of all (well, to me anyway) is the indication that homo erectus produced some form of “art” designs half a million years ago.  read more »


A Hi Turnover 14/15

by Neil Godfrey

Just to say Hi to readers, glad you stopped by whether to comment or just lurk, and wishing you well for the coming year.

 

 


2014-12-30

If your comment does not appear

by Neil Godfrey

If your comment does not immediately appear the reason is very likely that it has been caught up in moderation for some reason (probably an unfathomable one) — Apologies to those whose comments I have just discovered and released from there only now.

 


The Churlishness of a Christian Soldier Scholar

by Neil Godfrey
John Dickson

John Dickson

I was appalled to read the following on Raphael Lataster’s Facebook page just now. Raphael Lataster, we recall, was the author of the Washington Post article questioning the existence of Jesus. The article was also on the scholarly blog, The Conversation. See The Jesus Myth Question Comes to The Washington Post. John Dickson is a reasonably well-known Australian Christian evangelical apologist who once taught Raphael in a class on “The Historical Jesus to the Written Gospels” at Sydney University.

Incensed, John Dickson wrote a piece for the Australian national broadcaster, It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas … Mythicism’s in the Air.

In response James McGrath predictably jumped on the opportunity to fan more flack against mythicism with A Professor on His Mythicist Former Student. He singled out this little misleading piece:

As his former lecturer, I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that Raphael’s 1000 words on Jesus would not receive a pass mark in any history class I can imagine, even if it were meant to be a mere “personal reflection” on contemporary Jesus scholarship. Lataster is a better student than his piece suggests. But the rigours of academia in general – and the discipline of history, in particular – demand that his numerous misrepresentations of scholarship would leave a marker little choice but to fail him.

Misleading? Raphael was not writing a “history” essay and he was not so much addressing “scholarship” as he was unaddressed questions relating to the evidence. But Tertullian-like misrepresentation is par for the course in this business. (I have read two of Dickson’s books on “history” and have found them too shallow and trite to bother posting about here. Maybe I should.)

Anyway, this is the disturbing development I have just read on Raphael’s Facebook page: [* 8th January 2014 I was notified the following was a misunderstanding; John Dickson had not defriended Raphael as it appeared. See comment by Andy.]

Raphael Lataster
December 26 at 8:13pm ·

John Dickson surprisingly (we have always been very friendly) defriended me after he wrote a (grossly inaccurate) reply article to my own on Jesus’ possible ahistoricity, and continues to refuse to debate with me on Jesus’ resurrection (i.e. the Jesus he actually believes in). I would think that believers would relish the chance to show their courage and defend their faith. I’m not that scary… If anyone would like to see this debate happen, do let John and I know. John’s contact: read more »