Daily Archives: 2009-06-27 18:28:13 GMT+0000

Reporters on Iran: FACTS, please.

ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission)’s correspondent, Ben Knight, has an article for the national news detailing his “expulsion” from Iran.

Here is the critical passage:

Then, on the day after the eight civilians were killed, our Iranian translator took a phone call with a message from the Ministry of Islamic Guidance, which oversees the foreign media in Iran.

All press cards had been cancelled; journalists were banned from covering any unauthorised gatherings; and we were to work only in our offices or hotels.

The message was clear enough. But then this bit was added on the end: ‘The police are no longer in charge of the city; it is now under the authority of the Revolutionary Guards.’

It was obviously sheer intimidation. And to be brutally honest, it worked.

Now I have not read as much as many others have about the details of expulsions of reporters from Iran. I would not be surprised if many representing mainstream news outlets have been expelled. But the reason I say that is that from the coverage I do read — from a miscellany of independent reporters on the ground in Iran — that there have been strong indications of pro-government demonstrations and other indications of even perhaps majority support for the present government, while the mainstream media only seems to report the anti-government evidence.

I cite Ben Knight’s reporting above as an example of the sort of confusion that is being fed the western audiences.

The sole source of Ben Knight’s directive to leave Iran under “government orders” was an Iranian translator relaying what he/she said they heard on a phone call claiming to be from the Ministry of Islamic Guidance. Knight confesses he had been scared enough not even to check out the veracity of that phonecall, but to get out of the country immediately. Admittedly he had only one day left on his visa, and for that reason did not want to risk any other activity. But I would be interested to know if since his return he has reapplied to enter, or if any ABC reporters have applied to enter and what the response has been from Iran.

But we are not told anything like this.

All we are left with is the impression — the impression — that the Iranian authorities had expelled Ben Knight. We do not know from the evidence he cites if it was true or not. Nor can Knight know, if we take his report at face value. Was Ben Knight really targeted for intimidation? If he was, we have questions about why Robert Fisk can continue, with other reporters, to send back critical messages of Iran’s government and the heroism of its people.

Ben Knight in his original article (see the link above) refers to police on motor cycles, but he does not give us evidence to enable readers to affirm that in every case motor-cycle riders were indeed police, and in a previous post there was a picture of Iranian civilians riding motor-cycles through streets showing evidence of rioting/destruction. So what can a thoughtful reader to conclude if anything? Knight also refers to civilians mobbing his team because of their camera, and even refers to a hand being placed over a lense — but again there is no way of knowing from his report if this was a civilian’s hand or a policeman’s.

Now when I compare all that with previous posts here of Robert Fisk being allowed to continue reporting in Iran, and even relaying in his reports discussions he has with other reporters in Iran — SINCE BEN KNIGHT’S departure — I can only be left with questions in my mind.

Mainstream media clearly cannot be relied on as a sole source of information coming from this country at this moment.

A Gospel of John Link to the Book of Enoch – and a Meaningful Death without a Resurrection

My previous post discussed John Ashton’s observation that the Prologue of the Gospel of John owes something to the ancient noncanonical Jewish beliefs about Wisdom as expressed in Ecclesiasticus or The Wisdom of Ben Sira. This post is intended to be read as a part of that post.

ashtonWithout wanting to misrepresent the central themes of John Ashton’s book, Understanding the Fourth Gospel (2nd ed) — it is NOT about the noncanonical sources of the Gospel of John as I might appear to be suggesting here — there is the other side of the message of the Prologue that Ashton also addresses, and that is the return of the Logos from earth back to heaven.

The Prologue concludes with Jesus returning to the bosom of the Father in heaven:

No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten [. . . varying MSS lines for God or Son . . .] who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him. (John 1:18)

As Ashton remarks, with the return of the Son of God to the Father at the end of the Prologue, the story is in effect over before it begins.

But the theme of Jesus returning to the Father is picked up again later in the Gospel. Jesus’ death is depicted by the evangelist as an ascent to heaven, a return to the Father who sent him, an ascent back to his original home in heaven with the Father:

Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away . . . Where I go you cannot come” . . . Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know . . .” (John 8:21, 28)

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all . . . to myself” (John 12:32)

“I am going to the Father (John 14:12, 28)

If the Wisdom of Ben Sira expresses a Jewish belief that “Wisdom” was sent into the world but was rejected by the world, with the result that only a chosen few (Israel) received Wisdom as their own where she could dwell (until rejection and failure to recognize her set in), another noncanonical Jewish book, 1 Enoch, completes this thought by declaring that after Wisdom had been sent she returned to her place in heaven.

Wisdom found no place where she could dwell, and her dwelling was in heaven. Wisdom went out in order to dwell among the sons of men, but did not find a dwelling; wisdom returned to her place and took her seat in the midst of angels. (1 Enoch 42:1-2)

This is the conclusion of the Prologue and it is also the conclusion of the Gospel of John. (The resurrection and epilogue are clumsily added end-tags that add nothing to the message and meaning of the Gospel.)

Jesus, after having been sent by the Father from heaven with a revelation from God — a revelation that is expressed in the Gospel narrative’s Works, not Words, since the words themselves “reveal” nothing more than that Jesus was the revealer (Ashton building on Bultmann) — returns to his home in heaven and to the Father who sent him.

Thus Jesus, like Wisdom as attested in noncanonical Jewish scriptures, is sent from heaven, descends therefore from heaven, is rejected on earth, finds a dwelling place among a few, then ascends back to heaven.

As Ashton remarks, (from memory) if this is not gnosticism, it is (nonetheless awfully) close.

This notion of descending from heaven and ascending back to heaven is also a Son of Man motif in the Gospel. This is established from the beginning when Jesus tells Jesus that Nathaniel will see the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man (1:51).

The descending and ascending motif is also a noncanonical Wisdom motif. If (as is argued elsewhere and by others) the Son of Man is associated with the cult of royalty, kings, in Israel (compare the development of the notion of “Son of Man” from the original Aramaic text in Daniel where a kingdom of Israel is to replace the kingdoms of gentiles represented by beasts), then it appears that the Gospel of John represents an attempt to merge this royal Son of Man with the idea of the Logos, the true Wisdom that is replacing the Law of Moses (1:17), descending and ascending in relation to its home in heaven.

We thus see here in the Gospel of John how a death of the heavenly messenger, the Christ even (though this title is not overly emphasized, apparently, in the original strata of the Gospel of John) is seen as a positive event in its own right, and requires no resurrection sequel to touch it up with extraneous “hope”. In the Gospel of John the death of Christ is equated as a glorification of Jesus, an ascent to heaven, a return to the Father.

In addition to the above passages cited from GJohn, we have:

And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. (John 12:23-24)

Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified . . . (John 13:31 in context of Judas going out to betray Jesus and initiate the events leading to his death)

These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son,  . . . .
And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
(John 17:1, 5)

For the Johannine school of Christianity, the death of Jesus was in and of itself a glorious thing — it was Jesus’ return to heaven and the Father. His being “lifted up” by crucifixion was paradoxically actually a “lifting up” back to heaven!

One can begin to see how the gospel’s inclusion and rewriting of resurrection appearances of Jesus can be argued as superfluous. There are several reasons for thinking that they were never part of the original text quite apart from the above. Examples: angels appear to deliver one-liners without waiting for answers; the appearance of Jesus to the disciples fearfully locking themselves in a room knows nothing of the next scene where we learn that Thomas was missing; etc. Indeed, as Gregory Riley argues in Resurrection Reconsidered, someone was using the Gospel of John’s turf to argue against other Christians who followed Mary, Peter and Thomas as their lead-disciples.

One conclusion:

John Ashton’s Understanding the Fourth Gospel is not about noncanonical sources of the gospel. But he does offer enough evidence to remind us that understanding Christian origins requires a broader outlook than seeking to relate everything in the New Testament gospels back to something in the canonical Jewish literature, or Old Testament.

Image from http://comingflood.com/ancient-texts
Image from http://comingflood.com/ancient-texts