2012-01-08

Palestine 1896 (beautiful)

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by Neil Godfrey

From Gilad Atzmon.


2012-01-07

Paul’s Christ and Hercules Compared as Moral Examples

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by Neil Godfrey

Epictetus

Niko Huttunen has extended Troels Engberg-Pedersen’s work on showing how the apostle Paul’s thought was in many respects a mutation of ancient Stoic philosophy: Paul and Epictetus on Law: A Comparison.

One detail of a more general interest (I think anyway) is Huttunen’s concluding discussion of comparisons of the philosopher Epictetus‘ use of Heracles (Hercules) as a role model and Paul’s similar treatment of Christ.

Epictetus found examples of perfect morality in Diogenes, Socrates and Heracles. They were fully obedient to the divine law. . . . Heracles had a special position compared with Socrates and Diogenes. Heracles was more than a moral example; he was a demigod still living and actively affecting life in the world. Though this side of his figure is downplayed in Epictetus’ descriptions, the remnants of it are still present. This makes him a closer analogy to the Pauline Christ than to Socrates or Diogenes. (p. 150, my emphasis)

Both Heracles and Christ are in a class above mortals since they are both designated sons of God in a special sense:

But nothing more dear to him than God. For this reason it was believed that he [Heracles] was the son of God, and he was. (Disc. 2.16.44)

for neither did [God] supply [much to] Hercules who was his own son (Disc. 3:26.31)

Like Christ Heracles was a moral exemplar by virtue of obedience to God and his law. Continue reading “Paul’s Christ and Hercules Compared as Moral Examples”


If Adam and Eve are metaphors why not . . . . ?

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by Neil Godfrey

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If my good nemesis can re-use one of my posts I suppose I can pinch from one of his that is recycled from James Spinti’s blog.

Whoever wrote the Adam and Eve story in Genesis was “clearly inviting” his readers to understand it as a metaphor.

[The names Adam and Eve] literally are ‘Humanity’ and ‘Life’. Few readers of the English Bible are aware of this connection, and thus they fail to realize how the text itself invites them to see these characters less as historical figures and more as metaphorical representations of the human race. Once one understands the driving metaphor we are expelled from paradise, however, suddenly the remainder of Genesis and even our own lives make much more sense.

Agreed wholeheartedly.

Now consider our earliest Gospel, that of Mark: Continue reading “If Adam and Eve are metaphors why not . . . . ?”


2012-01-05

How did Noah “do it” ? (Isabella Rossellini tells asks all)

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by Neil Godfrey

What did Noah do with hermaphrodite, transexual, transvestite, transgender, polygamist, monogamist, homosexual, bisexual animals? (oh, and heterosexuals, too?)


Syria: What we are not being told

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by Neil Godfrey

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Asia Times has a thoroughly documented article, A Mistaken Case for Syrian Regime Change, by Beirut based Aisling Byrne, a Projects Co-ordinator with Conflicts Forum. It is depressingly predictable reading.

In the last some weeks or more I have been only half-listening to any news of Syria I hear on the mainstream media for the simple reason that I have grown tired of hearing vague reports, unsubstantiated and contradictory reports, especially noticeable after I ever chanced to hear interviews in documentary type radio news programs, even on Al Jazeera, that all I have been sure of is that we are not being informed about what is happening there.

And Aisling Byrne’s article shows us why the news has been so unclear and incoherent. Except for the headlines that continually bombard us with the singular theme of genocidal tyrannical regime massacring its own people. I try to listen beyond the headlines and pick up some sourced facts and that’s where the headlines begin to turn into knotted strings beyond hope of unravelling. That leaves me suspicious that the headlines are a smokescreen for something. I eventually gave up listening because the detail was never there or never confirmed.

Read Aisling Byrne. It’s the same story as we experienced with the massaging of the Western publics to support the invasion of Iraq and then the humanitarian bombing of Libya. (Aisling has a little to say about that, too.)

Our mainstream Western media has for too many years now been the main cheerleaders for warmongering ventures of our governments acting on behalf of “our national interests”. (Translation of “national interest”: those specific interests within a nation that have the money and the power.)

Bush did it all wrong. He provoked ten million protestors to come out into the streets worldwide to try to stop a war. Ten million protestors don’t represent “national interests” so it would not do to make that mistake again. Libya showed a better way that became possible through exploitation of the Arab uprisings. Select target states (Libya and Syria) quickly found their peaceful civilian demonstrator replaced by armed gangs soliciting western military support. Curiously the same did not happen in states where popular protests threatened Western interests (e.g. Bahrain). Coincidence, of course.

Aisling Byrne’s article begins with the evidence that what is happening in Syria is the first chapter of a war on Iran, or at least regime change in Iran. This is confirmed by Under Secretary of State for the Near East Jeffrey Feltman and other sources.

What we are seeing in Syria is a deliberate and calculated campaign to bring down the Assad government so as to replace it with a regime “more compatible” with US interests in the region.

Remember that infamous Project for a New American Century? Well some of the same people behind that have been busy with a new document, Which Path to Persia? This is the “blueprint” for regime change in Iran produced by the neo-con Brookings Institute. A more recent appendix to this book is Towards a Post-Assad Syria produced by two neo-con think-tanks. It illustrates

how developments in Syria have been shaped according to the step-by-step approach detailed in the “Paths to Persia” report with the same objective: regime change. Continue reading “Syria: What we are not being told”


Historical memory in the Gospel of Mark: a radical twist

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by Neil Godfrey

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On my way to post something on the Old Testament again I met a strange idea in a very old book, one published in 1924 and with an introduction by the renowned if obsolete Sir James Frazer.

Now I happen to think the best explanation for the source of those miracles by Peter in the Book of Acts — those where he heals the paralyzed Aeneas and raises the deceased Dorcas — is that they were borrowed and adapted from the Gospel of Mark’s accounts of Jesus healing the paralyzed man and raising the daughter of Jairus.

But Paul-Louis Couchoud long-ago published an idea that had not crossed my mind before, or at least one I had quickly forgotten if it had.

To introduce this arresting idea Couchoud accepts as “very probable” the ancient rumour that circulated about Mark writing down from memory the things Peter had told him.

According to an Ephesian tradition dating from the early part of the second century, Mark had been the dragoman of Peter (whose only language was doubtless Aramaic); and Mark wrote down later from memory, but without omission or addition, all that he had heard from Peter about the oracles and miracles of the Messiah. This is very probable. Only one might suspect Peter’s conversation of having been revised under Paul’s influence. For if, in Mark’s Gospel, Peter and the Galilean Apostles are everywhere in the limelight, it is only to play the parts of totally unintelligent and cowardly persons, who are in striking contrast to the ideal figure of the Messiah. Yet, after all, Peter, with whom we are unacquainted, may have been capable of representing things in this piquant and modest manner. (p. 42)

I have a more literary take on the Gospel of Mark and see little reason to think of it as a collection of memoirs. But sometimes other ideas contain germs of concepts that may be developed in new directions.

But then Couchoud gets closer to his radical idea. Continue reading “Historical memory in the Gospel of Mark: a radical twist”


2012-01-04

When it is wrong to be right as a Christian or other God-fearing believer?

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by Neil Godfrey

I’m not saying it is right to be wrong, either, by the way. The following is a stream of consciousness thing, thinking aloud . . . I have never really tested the thoughts before to know if they do hold.

I have sometimes said that I see the mainstream orthodox versions of religious faiths as sharing a responsibility for the extremists associated with their brand of religion: the murderers of abortion doctors and manslaughterers of those needing medical care and murderers of those of the wrong ethnicity, faith, politics and real-estate. I still think that is the case.

At the same time I have found myself feeling a tad uncomfortable working with mainstream religious groups in social justice causes. Not that I dislike the people involved. Many of them are fine and sincere and good company and it’s encouraging to see them doing more than just praying.

But there’s still something wrong and a line in Gilad Atzmon’s The Wandering Who? caught my attention and reminded me of part of why even mainstream religion is not a healthy thing and why its perpetuation gives respectability to the same ways of thinking and valuing that can be turned so easily to criminality.

The ethical subject is engaged in a constant dynamic ethical exercise rather than a symbolic acceptance of a given rule. (p. 63)

That is, when we live by principles, or rules, that are inculcated or imbibed from a source external to us, we are not living a truly ethical life. It comes down to the old adage, Principles or People. If we choose to live by external sets of precepts we are failing to the ethical life of self-reflection that leads us into identifying ourselves with fellow-humanity and acting accordingly.

Likewise mainstream religion gives social respectability to faith in the occult. Occult technically means things hidden, such a spirits or a God. Once we accept such a faith as socially respectable there remains no way to control the nature of some of the gods that some people will embrace. We are giving respectability to irrational beliefs that can have dire consequences.

What I found slightly discomforting about our mainstream religious partners who joined with us in some of our activism was that they were clearly acting “as Christians” because it was their “faith” to do so, and their obligation to “perform good works”. There seemed to be a certain patronizing at work. It was as if they were needed in order to be sure the genuine ethical message was broadcast. We were simply doing it because we felt and cared for those we were trying to help. We had no thought of being “a light” to “witness” to “God’s/our love”. That was self-serving bullshit and in a sense hypocritical.

 


2012-01-03

The earliest gospels 6(c) – Luke’s Gospel (Couchoud)

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by Neil Godfrey

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Continuing the series archived here: (I have also marked the name Josephus in bold for easy reference for any interested in the study of Luke’s use of Josephus.)

Irenaeus is the first to speak of Luke as the author of our Gospel and Acts dedicated to Theophilus (Haer. iii.1,2). Before Irenaeus we read in Colossians 4:14 of a Luke with the epithet “the beloved physician” having been interpolated into the original; and in the fictitious 2 Timothy 4:11 we read “Only Luke is with me.”

Following is an outline explication of the Gospel of Luke from Couchoud’s perspective of it having been composed around 142 c.e. by Clement of Rome.

The prologue refers to a number of Gospels and Acts already in existence and leads readers to infer that the author is collating his information from these earlier sources while also being in a unique position to offer more authoritative insights and a more coherent narrative of the whole.

With an acrobatic leap he passes from the fine style of a Greek rhetor to that of Biblical narrative. (p. 275)

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea,
A certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abijah:
And his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.

And they were both righteous, walking before God
In all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
And they had no child, because that Elizabeth was barren;
Both were well stricken in years.

Couchoud then outlines the narrative we know from Luke 1:8-38 and that I won’t repeat here. Continue reading “The earliest gospels 6(c) – Luke’s Gospel (Couchoud)”


Atheist writers respond

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by Neil Godfrey

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Professor R Joseph Hoffmann has a reputation for his pompous diatribes against the “New Atheists”, very often written in a style so pretentious they are (probably deliberately) incomprehensible to most readers. The professor has kicked off the new year with another Re-made in America: Remembering the New Atheism (2006-2011) and this time some of his targets have responded.

PZ Myers has posted a Nice List on Pharyngula of the names Hoffmann despises and that is therefore “a rather useful guide . . . to who’s cool in the atheist movement”.

Richard Dawkins is found among the commenters responding to Myers’ list: see comments #47 and #54.

Eric MacDonald has also written a lengthier but more analytical response, Spleen, on his Choice In Dying blog. MacDonald shows how Hoffmann’s piques are so completely off the mark, missing the point and substituting his own straw men, etc. He points out that Hoffmann appears to be most upset over the fact that religion and atheism really are issues that every layperson has a right to discuss for the simple fact that religion really does do an awful lot of damage to lots of people.

The comments on these blog posts are also recommended reading.

Spleen @ La Maroquineri. Image by LeShamrock on Flickr

2012-01-02

The earliest gospels 6(b) – Luke (à la Couchoud)

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by Neil Godfrey

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Continuing with the series archived here.

Couchoud suggests that the author of the Gospel we attribute to Luke may quite likely have been Clement of Rome. But he sees the contribution of this person as of far greater significance than the simple composition of the works we know as Luke and Acts. First, however, the outline of Couchoud’s views of who this major author was. This p.ost should be read in conjunction with the previous one, 6(a).

The popular Shepherd of Hermas written about this time (mid second century) informs us that it was Clement’s duty to send to the other churches the edict of remission of sins which the prophet Hermas learned of in a vision:

Clement will address it to the other towns for he is charged with this duty. (Hermas Vis. 2.4)

The prophetic work of Hermas indicates that prophets were strongly influential in the Roman Church, most likely with wielding power as the Spirit whimmed them. When their authority was replaced by Elders it is suggested that Clement kept his old office as a Church Secretary and increased his authority. He may even have been one of the persons Marcion debated against when in Rome. Clement clearly had some importance among the ruling Elders when he (presumably) wrote his letter to the entire Corinthian Church admonishing them to restore the rule of the Elders they had deposed, “no doubt in order to vest authority in the bishop alone, and to wrest that Church from the Marcionite enemy.”

He was probably born a gentile. He was widely read in Greek and Latin literature and the Hebrew Bible in Greek translation, as well as the Book of Enoch and other Jewish apocryphal and apocalyptic writings. He also knew the works of Philo and Josephus. Continue reading “The earliest gospels 6(b) – Luke (à la Couchoud)”


2012-01-01

The earliest gospels 6(a) – on the cusp of Luke (à la Couchoud)

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by Neil Godfrey

Now this time I might add more detail than usual since I find Couchoud’s views on the Gospel according to Saint Luke (at least as covered across several posts here and not necessarily confined to any one in particular) not very distant in many respects from the notions I have been thinking about, though not entirely without the support of a few scholarly publications. I had not realized when I began to share these few chapters of The Creation of Christ that the author continues on to discuss the creation of the Book of Acts and the remainder of the New Testament epistles after Paul’s. It’s an interesting read. I have to share those thoughts in future posts, too. The complete series of these posts is archived here.

Back to Marcion

Couchoud returns at this point of his discussion to Marcion. He imagines a setting where Marcion is seeing the Syrian churches (with their Gospel of Matthew) and the Asian churches (with their theology of John) all opposing him. According to one account when Marcion visited Ephesus the author of the Gospel of John rebuked him as the Deceiver and Antichrist. When he visited Smyrna the bishop Polycarp rebuffed him with the words, “I recognize thee as the first-born of Satan.” Paul, meanwhile, had long since consigned the great apostles themselves to Satan (Irenaeus, Haer. iii. 3-4).

Marcion, with followers as widespread as Africa (Carthage), Gaul (Lyons) and Rome itself, hoped to reverse the mounting conflicts in the East by securing Rome’s approval of his doctrines. Rome’s Christians, like Marcion’s, had no time for Jews and celebrated “Easter”, as did Marcionites but unlike “John’s” churches in Asia, at a time other than the Jewish Passover. Both Rome’s devotees and Marcion’s fasted on the Jewish sabbath (allowing for a typo in the translated work of Couchoud) to spite the Jews. The Roman Gospel of Mark was as neo-Pauline as was Marcion’s and differed from Marcion’s only in respect to the identity of the highest God. Continue reading “The earliest gospels 6(a) – on the cusp of Luke (à la Couchoud)”


Have a good 2012 everyone

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by Neil Godfrey

But don’t be too flighty. Be sobered by the inevitable.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dates_predicted_for_apocalyptic_events

On the other hand, think of a higher species evolving — does that mean God will have to send his son as a higher than human life form to die for their sins?

 


Scientific and Unscientific Dating of the Gospels

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by Neil Godfrey

It seems obvious to most scholars that our estimate of the age of a certain book . . . must be founded on information contained in the book itself and not on other information, and the estimate should certainly not be based on the existence of a historical background that may never have existed.

The above passage is from a chapter in Did Moses Speak Attic? by Professor Niels Peter Lemche of the University of Cophenhagen. The . . . omitted words were “of the Old Testament” but I omitted them in order to suggest that the same logic applies equally to books of the New Testament, in particular the Gospels.

The passage continues:

Although seemingly self-evident, this method is not without fault, and it may easily become an invitation to ‘tail-chasing’, to quote Philip R. Davies. By this we intend to say that the scholar may soon become entangled in a web of logically circular argumentation which is conveniently called the ‘hermeneutical circle’ . . . .

I have outlined Davies’ straightforward arguments for circularity at http://vridar.info/bibarch/arch/davies2.htm

There is another key and closely related point that is, I believe, at the heart of the dating of the Gospels.

Another points is that it is also supposed that the reading of a certain piece of literature will automatically persuade it to disclose its secrets — as if no other qualifications are needed. Continue reading “Scientific and Unscientific Dating of the Gospels”