Though I refer to “lazy historians” here, this piece is really written for “lazy readers” of “biblical history” — not that many are really lazy. But not all are aware that modern critical techniques applied to the Bible are not a reflection of anti-religious bias but are rather an application of modern critical historical tools to biblical texts. It is the biblical apologist who is often the one wanting specialist treatment of his texts, not the secular critic.
“Laziness is common among historians. When they find a continuous account of events for a certain period in an ‘ancient’ source, one that is not necessarily contemporaneous with the events, they readily adopt it. They limit their work to paraphrasing the source, or, if needed, to rationalisation.” — Liverani, Myth and politics in ancient Near Eastern historiography, p.28.
Continue reading “Lazy historians and their ancient sources”
Yet one more classic on ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind series with Natasha Mitchell:
See Burma: ‘I resist in my Mind only’ — Podcast and live-streaming now available; transcript online soon.
Continue reading “Psychology of people under Burmese dictatorship”
Ancient myths and the gospels are not modern novels but it’s tempting to ask questions about their characters and plots as if they were. Questions like, Why did such and such a person do this and not that? Are there not too many unlikely coincidences in this story to make it plausible? Ancient myths are not concerned with the psychological motivations and development of characters the way modern novels are. Nor do their parts have to hang together in the same unifying way.
Characters can be introduced without any explained motivation for their arrival or the actions they perform. What matters is the consequences they effect.
It is the same with reading the gospel of Mark. But before discussing that, a look at Mario Liverani’s chapter on the myth of Adapa (I know, Adapa is eons removed from the gospel, but the tools required for interpreting it are more applicable to the gospels than are the tools required for modern literary criticism): Continue reading “The wrong questions to ask about myths — and the gospels”
Judas was not much worse than the other disciples in the earliest gospel but by the time we read about him in Matthew, Luke and John he has become the arch villain. In the first gospel a case could be made that Judas was not singularly worse than the rest of the Twelve. Continue reading “Why Judas was singled out after Mark’s gospel”
Two excellent interviews today on Radio National‘s The Spirit of Things program, one with cult counsellor Steven Hassan discussing the techniques of mind control and recruitment used for certain suicide and Islamic cults, comparing them with more traditional cults such as the Moonies; another with Abdel Bari Atwan, Editor-in-Chief of the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi, who first interviewed Osama bin Laden in 1996, discussing the desperation and indoctrination that leads people to join these groups.
Link to the interviews (podcast, livestreaming … transcript soon) and background details of the interviewees.
Points of interest that struck me with the interviews — Continue reading “Death cults and indoctrination”
“Epilepsy is regarded as demon possession in the same book people use to condemn homosexuality.
“We have not brought biblical scholarship to people in the pews. I guess the clergy are scared to let the genie out of the bottle.”
That’s from a recent newspaper article.
This is what I liked about Spong when I first discovered his books and then had a chance to meet him soon afterwards. (It’s also one of the reasons for this blog.)
Biblical scholarship has too few of the sorts of books that science has, books that popularize without cheapening the findings of modern research for lay readers. Continue reading “keeping biblical scholarship from the people”
Yep, it’s a propaganda video and transcript. But until we begin to listen to all sides are we not doomed to be at war without end / to the end?
A message (in English) from the Iraqi resistance
(How many in the west fed on mainstream media — that for economic and nationalist reasons tend to be megaphones for official government or corporate press releases — even know who their governments are fighting in Iraq?)
Any deviation from the one set of “true answers” in fundamentalist families is generally stifled by calling upon the infallible authority of their belief system.
Marlene Winell writes in Leaving the Fold:
In authoritarian families, children grow up resentful, and they learn to conform in order to get approval. They often have difficulty forming and expressing personal opinions later in life. (p.120)
Continue reading “Dysfunctional fundamentalist families (4): Stifling independent thought”
Last month Richard Dawkins was interviewed on The Science Show as part of the Sydney Writer’s Festival and transcript is now available — also the podcast and streaming audio for a short while longer.
The radio blurb:
The author of The God Delusion answers questions about his dismissal of God in front of an audience at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. Where does religion come from? Why should children be spared religious labels? Can we have ethical systems without God? And what if evidence was found that God does, indeed exist, would Professor Dawkins chuck a U-turn? This satellite discussion with Richard Dawkins in Oxford is chaired by Robyn Williams in Sydney.
Some issues that come up in the interview: Continue reading “Richard Dawkins discusses The God Delusion and other things”