Monthly Archives: September 2007

Dysfunctional fundamentalist families (3): Power and Control


What is wrong with the following maxim?

Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)


It’s not true. At least, the second part does not does not necessarily — and sometimes it will never — follow from the first part.

Parents are vain egocentric creatures who are so quick to believe they have far more power over their children than they really do. (I speak as a parent.) On the other hand, when parents attempt to enforce the power they believe they ought to have, or do have by divine fiat, they can too easily influence the children’s development, yes, but not in the way they intend.

Continuing here notes and comments from the work introduced earlier. read more »

Demonocratic Iran — threat to the Free(-oil) world

There’s an excellent radio series now available online (mp3 podcast, live-stream or transcript) that some may find enlightening. At least the first of a two part series is currently available. read more »

Ananias and Sapphira: tradition or borrowing?

It can be said that the author of Acts knew the story of Ananias and Sapphira as “a piece of floating tradition” and so added it to his novelistic history of the church. But we have no evidence for any such “floating tradition” — this is an assumption based on particular model or hypothesis about the origins of the canonical texts.

It can also be said that the author of Acts got the idea for the story from 1 Corinthians and shaped it to be like a similar story in Joshua. If there is textual evidence for a such a relationship between these accounts, then we have a more economical and preferable explanation for the origin of this story in Acts than the one that assumes a “floating tradition”.

The following is (again) from Pervo: read more »

4 things Luke knew — but did not say (or hardly said)

Richard Pervo offers much to think about in his work Dating Acts: between the evangelists and the apologists. Justice is not done to Pervo’s arguments by summarizing any small section of them in dot-point form. The dot-point notes that I’ve already presented from this book —

— are intended to pique interest and thought only, not to present “the whole argument” by any means.

Summarizing here one more nugget in that book with occasional other comments. This one is headed Matters About Which Luke Is Silent but Not Ignorant (pp.133-135). . . .

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Dysfunctional fundamentalist families (2): the Shame Burden

Continuing notes from Marlene Winell‘s Leaving the Fold:

The Burden of Shame (pp. 118-119)

Biblical passages lie at the base of it. But there are modern adaptations of these passages that parents use in the process of disciplining their children and that drag down a child’s self-esteem (Winell’s list, p.119) — read more »

Dysfunctional fundamentalist families (1)

One of my helps when I had decided to leave religion was hearing a radio interview with psychologist Marlene Winell (link is to her website) and subsequently reading her book, Leaving the Fold. In her book Marlene makes the disturbing claim that the dynamics found in a fundamentalist family are often the same as those at work in other dysfunctional families, including those of alcoholics.

I could not deny her observations. They probably relate to the well-known fact that many areas noted for their religiosity rank higher than average in rates of child abuse, unwanted pregnancies, domestic violence, rape, and other crime. (I’m sure it has a bit to do with the way many fundamentalists react with arrogance and judgmental disdain towards anyone who seriously questions their beliefs.)

The following comments, and in particular her lists of characteristics often found in common among dysfunctional families — whether families of alcoholics or fundamentalists — are from her book (with her permission). The list summarizes the work of Bradshaw (1988), Satir (1972), Whitfield (1987) and Marlene’s own clinical experience. (p.129)

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Doing history, not theology

Historians — at least the historians I am most used to reading — attempt to explain facts by demonstrating their relationships with other facts. read more »

eyewitness tales (Ms Head vs Bauckham)

I am not interested in “disproving the Bible”. My interest is in understanding it and its origins. I do not believe that that interest — or any longterm worthwhile interest — is served by taking it at face value and rationalizing the contradictions that inevitably arise when we do that. Nor does graphical detail establish eyewitness testimony.

The point of this post is to offer one of many possible demonstrations of the fallacy of the taking the bible at face value or assuming graphical detail arises from eyewitness reports. So I’m tossing out here, for comparison with assumptions made about the Gospels, a few passages from a report of the eyewitness tale by Ms Head that The New York Times has exposed as a fabrication.

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The Jesus Genealogies: their different theological significances

A late date and anti-Marcionite context for Luke-Acts not only has the power to explain why Luke may have rejected Matthew’s story of the birth of Jesus, but even more directly why Luke’s genealogy of Jesus is so different from Matthew’s. (The common belief that Luke records Mary’s family line and Matthew Joseph’s is a simplistic rationalization that defies the textual evidence.)

Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus goes back to Abraham and is traced through Solomon. Luke’s bypasses Solomon and traces back to Adam and God himself. read more »

A reason Luke might have rejected Matthew’s nativity story

There are arguments for and against Luke having known and used the gospel of Matthew, but one of the stronger arguments against him having done so is that his nativity story appears to owe nothing to Matthew’s – indeed appears to have been composed in complete ignorance of it. Matthew tells the story of the star, the visiting Magi, the infant Jesus being whisked off to Egypt to escape the Herod’s massacre of the infants, and eventual settlement in Nazareth. Luke’s story is as much about the miraculous birth of John the Baptist as it is about Jesus, involves shepherds instead of Magi, no Herodian massacre, and a presentation at the Jerusalem Temple rather than a flight to Egypt.

If Luke as we have it was, with the book of Acts, a response to Marcionism (or even an attempt to baptize Paul into orthodoxy quite apart from Marcionism), then it would seem he would have every reason to dismiss the Matthean nativity totally. read more »

Luke’s Prologue: the How question. (A question only)

Luke 1:1-4

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

I am not an expert in biblical Greek. I rely on tools such as lexicons and grammars and dictionaries. But till then my use of those tools has led me to ask the following:

Is there anything in the prologue of Luke that discounts the possibility that he is speaking of written transmission exclusively?

The author begins by reminding readers that many before him have written a gospel-like narrative.

He then says that those who were there from the beginning, the eyewitnesses, “delivered the data” to us. That “delivered” work in Greek is the same as used elsewhere for Christ being delivered up for us, sinners being handed over to Satan, and Paul delivering the decrees from the Jerusalem council to his churches. It doesn’t seem to me to be related in any way at all to a method of delivery, but rather to a fact of delivery, method immaterial.

Is there anything in this prologue that denies the possibility, even plausibility, that the original eyewitnesses were believed to have passed on their understanding through a written narrative?

The Greek-English Lexicon of the NT ….. 4th ed of Bauers’s …. includes a meaning for the word for “delivered” the following:

3. of oral or written tradition hand down, pass one, transmit, . . . .  (p.615)

That sounds to me like a prima facie argument for the eyewitnesses handing on the tradition whether orally or in written form….

Then the author of Luke’s Prologue says it seemed a good idea for him to do the same thing as had been done up to the point of his own experience. To add another link to the chain to give some confidence to his own readers that the past was still present.

The strongest argument against this question that comes to mind is later belief that the original eyewitnesses did not write their of their own experiences. (Except maybe for Matthew for some, and John for others. — but these are not majority views.)

But we cannot without good reason judge the intended meaning of the author of Luke’s prologue by how later generations interpreted it. What does the Prologue itself actually say and what are the plausible interpretations of what it says in its own right quite apart from later interpretations?

Is it reasonable to think that the author of the Prologue was speaking of a chain of written documents — which of course stretches even further the possible time gap between the original events and his own time?

Learning about flagella and ID in a history book

(There’s a YouTube video discussing the following in more depth. Also an article here.)

I am loving a history by William Rosen, Justinian’s Flea: Plague, Empire and the Birth of Europe, “eccentric” though one reviewer might label it.

But I took time out to read this book to give myself a relaxing diversion from my usual diet of socio-political, ethical and religious tomes and tracts.

So I was caught off-guard when I came to page 203 and a discussion about Darwinian selection, ID (Intelligent Design), and what’s attached to the Yersinia pestis cell membrane. In case you were wondering “What the . . . is a Yersinia pestis?” this is the Wikipedia’s definition:

Gram-negative facultative anaerobic bipolar-staining bacillus bacterium belonging to the family Enterobacteriaceae.

Now that that has been cleared up 😉 we can continue. read more »

When Popeye David beat flabby Goliath and called it a ‘miracle’

Since we’re the good guys we’ve done nothing so bad as to deserve all the headaches we have to put up with from Islamic terrorists and the bad guys in the Middle East. When the bad guys wearing the dark skins and having the wrong religion say that the root cause of all the strife in the Middle East – at least till the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 – is “the Palestinian question” and the occupation by Israel of the West Bank and Gaza since 1967, we can be sure that that is just as fatuous as an armed bank robber appealing for sympathy by telling the judge that he needed the money to pay for his gun and getaway car. read more »

Odysseus, Moses and Jesus in Gethsemane

The Jesus in Gethsemane story has always been one of the most moving episodes in religious movies. It is also a literary motif that has a long pedigree and would have been well known to any author who had learned to read and write Greek and who knew Jewish writings.

The basic structure and thematic units of the story are prominent in both “classical” Greek and Hebrew literature. It is quite likely one of those stories that may have fallen easily into place in an author’s mind without necessarily consciously imitating another — like a modern superhero drama can be unconsciously built on the motif of a Jesus-like saviour figure.

There are approx ten or more significant sequential parts that make up this motif: read more »