2020-02-27

If your comment gets lost

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by Neil Godfrey

Repeating this post:

Please accept our sincere apologies if any of your comments aren’t posted to the blog immediately. Recently, we have been weathering a spam tsunami, and our current settings may be triggering some false positives. As we work things out, you could experience delays.

If a significant amount of time goes by, and you still haven’t seen your comment appear, drop us a line via email or ping us on Facebook.

  • Neil: neilgodfrey1 [AT] gmail [DOT] com
  • Tim: widowfield [AT] gmail [DOT] com
  • https://www.facebook.com/vridar/

As always, thanks for reading Vridar. We always appreciate your input and your support.

 


For My Dad and Mum: How Great Thou Art

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by Neil Godfrey

Allow me a moment’s indulgence. This was the favourite hymn of my father (he loved to sing) and was sung at his funeral too many years ago. It was also my mother’s favourite, and today we sang it at her funeral.

It leaves me teary.


2020-02-26

Q debate: some sources

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by Neil Godfrey

For those interested in the Q debate the following is adapted from a footnote in Andrejevs, Olegs. 2019. Apocalypticism in the Synoptic Sayings Source: A Reassessment of Q’s Stratigraphy. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. (p. 1)

For recent arguments against the 2DH, see, e.g.,

For responses to these scholars, see, e.g.,

(for Watson’s rejoinder, see “Seven Theses on the Synoptic Problem, in Disagreement with Christopher Tuckett,” in Idem, 139^47).

For classic comprehensive cases in support of the 2DH, see

For recent investigations demonstrating the viability of the 2DH, see

For additional recent statements by Q scholars, see

While a close discussion of the synoptic problem lies outside the scope of this monograph, it is perhaps worth emphasizing that the solutions of Goodacre and Watson are equally, if not more so, hypothetical than the 2DH.

 


The Assange Hearing

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by Neil Godfrey

What I have learned so far:

— the prosecutor in delivering his opening statements openly stated that he was addressing the media;

— many of the journalists left the courtroom after the prosecution set out its case and did not stay to hear the defence;

— information that has been public knowledge for ten years (published, in the public domain) that Wikileaks and Assange personally went to great lengths to remove sensitive names and sources from their files before they were released to the public means nothing to those in power: they still have the audacity to accuse Assange of not redacting key information and names;

— that the U.S. is allowed to target an Australian for exposing war crimes and the Australian government will not object.


2020-02-24

A Succinct Argument for the Historicity of Jesus

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by Neil Godfrey

I have been asked to address certain arguments on another forum and thought I’d draft out this one here as something of a prep.

. . . I was asked if I am “sure” Jesus existed as a historical figure, and if so why. I tried to give a short answer as follows:

“Sure” is relative. I’m as confident as one can be for a figure in the ancient world who did not mint coins or erect edifices on which he placed inscriptions about himself.

The shortest argument (which, like a short argument for anything, may not seem persuasive unless it is expanded on) is this:

– the anointed one descended from David referred to the king and the restoration of that line to the throne

– being executed by the Romans before establishing one’s throne disqualified one’s claim to be the one to restore the Davidic dynasty to the throne

Therefore

– It is less likely that early Christians invented from scratch a crucified anointed one and went around trying to persuade their fellow Jews to accept him, than that there was a figure that they believed to be this messiah who was then executed, and they managed to maintain that belief despite the cognitive dissonance resulting from this counterevidence.

(From Mythicism and the Bacterial Flagellum, and from the discussion at A Popular Blunder . . . )

McGrath is careful to point out that these few words are only a short form of the argument, but fortunately he had more opportunity in a lengthy discussion to expand on some of the points. To underscore aspects of this argument he elsewhere stated:

Paul was trying to persuade his contemporaries that a crucified man was nonetheless the restorer of the Davidic kingship. . . . 

. . .

The Davidic anointed one was the awaited king that it was hoped would restore his dynasty to the throne and usher in a golden age of one sort or another. Being crucified pretty much disqualified you from being the person in question. Is it probable that a group that was concocting a message about the long-awaited king, which they planned to proclaim to others in order to persuade them to believe, would also invent that this individual was executed and thus at least apparently a failure and a thoroughly implausible candidate for the role? . . . .

. . .

In response to your last question, it is unlikely that if someone is inventing a Davidic Messiah that they plan to ask people to believe in, they will invent a failed one. . . . 

. . .

You hadn’t seemed to yet have grasped my extremely basic point about the unlikelihood of a group having invented a crucified Davidic messiah as the focus of a belief they wanted to convert their fellow Jews to. . . . 

(from the discussion at A Popular Blunder . . . )

Cognitive dissonance indeed! A crucified failure as the conquering Davidic messiah?! It would indeed take a miraculous intervention to get Christianity started from that foundation.

But is not the whole argument based on a misreading or very distorted reading of our evidence?

Let’s start with Paul. I’ll set aside problematic questions of interpolations and authenticity and assume the passages I quote are all genuinely Pauline.

Paul says in Romans 1:3 that Jesus was “having come of the seed of David according to the flesh / γενομένου κ σπέρματος Δαυεδ κατ σάρκα”. Let’s set aside all the known oddities associated with that passage and just accept that Paul was saying that Jesus was born as the principal heir to David.

Now in 1 Corinthians 15 we find Paul making other associations between Jesus and David. Paul applies the Davidic Psalms 110 and 8 to Jesus. In Psalm 110 David sings:

The Lord says to my lord:

“Sit at my right hand
    until I make your enemies
    a footstool for your feet.”

The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying,
    “Rule in the midst of your enemies!”

In Psalm 8 David writes

thou hast put all things under his feet

and Paul applies that passage to the David Messiah’s rule.

Paul makes it clear that Jesus has fulfilled that Davidic hope by multipliers. I Corinthians 15:17-26

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile . . . But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead . . .  when He comes . . . Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 

With 15:25 Paul says, “He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet” (25). The “must” means it is necessary that Jesus reigns. Paul’s wording in verse 25 is a reference to Ps 110:1–2 . . . . 

Paul is interpreting Ps 8:6 both literally and christologically. . . . Corporate personality is in view here. Psalm 8 is addressed to man in a general sense, but since Jesus is the ultimate Man and last Adam, He represents man. As Mark Stephen Kinzer notes, “The psalm is read in both an individual and a corporate sense.” The use of Psalm 8 is further evidence that Paul is thinking of a future earthly reign of Jesus.

Vlach, Michael J. 2015. “The Kingdom of God in Paul’s Epistles.” The Master’s Seminary Journal 26 (1): 59–74.

Paul did not pick up on the “cognitive dissonance” of the first apostles. What was being preached was that Jesus, through death and resurrection, had become the ultimate fulfilment of the all-powerful and cosmos-ruling Davidic Messiah.

When we come to the gospels “fleshing out” a Jesus narrative we find that even the lead up to the crucifixion is thoroughly Davidic.

The evangelists appear to have modelled Jesus on the David who was first and foremost a pious exemplar who suffered. David was renowned as the psalmist who suffered for righteousness. It is in that capacity that Jesus quotes David’s words. David was God’s anointed (messiah) but notice what this meant for him —

In the Psalms attributed to him, he cries out to God as one forsaken and persecuted. (Pss 18, 142). In Psalm 22 he cries out in pious agony, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

David’s career is one of fleeing from persecution. He is the chosen and pious, righteous sufferer. His persecution is a badge of his honour, not shame, in the eyes of all who look to him as a model of piety. He is betrayed by his closest followers and ascends the Mount of Olives to pray in his darkest hour. He prepares for the building of the future temple after his death. If early Christians ever thought to apply the Davidic motifs to Jesus, they surely did so with remarkable precision. David may have ruled a temporal kingdom, but Jesus demonstrated his power over the invisible rulers of the entire world. Even though ruler over the princes of this world, he was still betrayed, deserted and denied by his closest followers. He ascended the Mount of Olives in prayer at his darkest hour. And he suffered the injustice that the righteous have always proverbially suffered, even crying out with David, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? But as in the Psalms God delivered David from the depths and pits of hell to exalt him in vindication before his enemies, so did God deliver and exalt Jesus. What was the suffering of humiliation in the eyes of his enemies has always been the badge of honour in the eyes of God and devotees.

Conclusion

So did the first disciples struggle with cognitive dissonance over attempting to maintain a belief that a failed, dead, crucified man was the Christ of their salvation? Did they somehow manage to convert enough followers to start a new religion by preaching that a dead failure was the Christ?

Is that really an argument to make one “sure” of the historicity of Jesus? That a man had such power that he could persuade his followers to believe in him and convert others to that same belief even though he clearly failed in his mission?

Certainly, “– being executed by the Romans before establishing one’s throne disqualified one’s claim to be the one to restore the Davidic dynasty to the throne” would disqualify a messianic claimant. But that’s not what Paul of the first Christians appear to have believed for a moment. They believed that it was through crucifixion that Jesus conquered the powers of death and would come to finish the task by conquering his human opponents in the final judgement. Rather, crucifixion qualified Jesus and this was proven by his resurrection.

Now, back to the question of historicity.

No one argues that the story was “invented from scratch”. The evidence points to a story coming together as a result of emerging Second Temple era interpretations of Jewish scriptures (e.g. the evolution of a suffering servant and son of man messianic figure from Isaiah to Daniel to Enoch). The first believer we have a record of boasts that his belief came about entirely through visions and from that foundation he made converts. Only decades later does a “fleshed out” story in our gospels, set in a time and place no longer accessible to most readers, emerge.

That does not prove Jesus was not historical. But it sure leaves the door to the question somewhat ajar.

 


We may be paddling through a bend in the river of history

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by Neil Godfrey


2020-02-18

Historical Jesus Scholarship and Mythmaking

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by Neil Godfrey

Excerpts from Philippe Wajdenbaum’s Argonauts of the Desert (related to an earlier post, Biblical Scholars, Symbolic Violence, and the Modern Version of an Ancient Myth) where he draws upon the study of structures of myths by anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss:

. . . to give an interpretation of a myth is to create a new variant of it. (p. 21)

As we have seen from Lévi-Strauss … any interpretation of a myth is a new variant of it. (p. 28)

We have seen that many myths come to us with all sorts of variations. Each variant of a myth is another retelling of the same myth. This includes scholarly recreations of myths:

Most faculties dealing with biblical scholarship are theology faculties; therefore they seek a rational version of the divine inspiration of the Bible. (p. 28)

To quote from Lévi-Strauss directly:

[A] myth is made up of all its variants, [therefore] structural analysis should take all of them into account. (p. 435)

On the other hand, it cannot be too strongly emphasized that all available variants [of a myth] should be taken into account. . . . There is no one true version of which all the others are but copies or distortions. Every version belongs to the myth. (p. 436)

That is, Bart Ehrman’s apocalyptic Jesus, Morton Smith’s magician Jesus, Stevan Davies’ shaman healing Jesus, Crossan’s cynic philosopher Jesus, Sara Parks’ feminist Jesus, are all variants of the biblical Jesus myth and stand alongside the Gospel fo John’s divine Jesus, Matthew’s new Moses Jesus, Mark’s mysterious unfathomable Jesus, Thomas’s gnostic Jesus, and so on. There is a Jesus for every ideology, for every whim, for every value: violent warrior, pacifist victim, defender of the oppressed, merciless judge of all who defy him, a presence always with us, a distant being who will be present in the future, etc etc etc.

How is it that the Jesus stories have captured imaginations all through these past two millennia?

Wajdenbaum proposes that the reason for their durability is that “they help maintain the Bible’s sacred character”

Most scholars still view the Bible from a theological perspective. We could even say that as long as modem society, which claims to be secular, has not recognised the Hellenic character of the Bible, that secularisation is not complete. Behind a so-called liberty, the biblical monument remains untouchable. Anything said about it must contribute to its mystique. ‘To uncover its nakedness’ would be the most terrible assault on Judeo-Christian decency. (p. 29)

Wajdenbaum, not unlike Russell Gmirkin and M. David Litwa, identifies Hellenistic or Greco-Roman myths as having spawned much of the biblical characters and narratives.

From the point of view of scientific epistemology we can try to understand why a systematic and we profound comparison of the Bible with classical Greek literature has not been published until today. Again, the answer is simple: the Bible could not resist such an analysis as it demonstrates how almost every biblical narrative finds accurate parallels with Greek myths. If believers of Jewish and Christian faiths were aware of this, then the Bible could lose its credibility. Biblical scholarship has done all it could to maintain the Bible as a sacred text that is still relevanl to modern society, as Hector Avalos argues. In his polemical book he calls for an end to modem biblical studies. Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu has explained how university scholars use symbolic violence to ensure their authority in their field. By presenting themselves as a legitimate institution, university scholars impose an arbitrary knowledge that is recognised by the masses as legitimate. But this intellectual domination is not completely passive; It comes from the demands of society. As both Avalos and Bourdieu (in their respective works) have put it, the media industry—the press, movies and television—plays an important role in the continuation of either the sacred character of the Bible or symbolic violence. The biblical field created theories that have allowed the Bible to survive only because masses of believers wanted it to.

So is it possible to do historical studies without creating another variant of biblical myth? I’ll address that question in a future post.


Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1955. “The Structural Study of Myth.” The Journal of American Folklore 68 (270): 428–44. https://doi.org/10.2307/536768.

Wajdenbaum, Philippe. 2011. Argonauts of the Desert: Structural Analysis of the Hebrew Bible. London ; Oakville: Equinox Pub.



2020-02-17

Q: Where scepticism is really hip right now; and other thoughts on historical Jesus studies methods

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by Neil Godfrey

I have recently caught up with Sara Park’s PhD contribution to New Testament studies, Spiritual Equals: Women in the Q Gender Pairs. I understand that Parks has rewritten much of the thesis to make it more palatable for a general readership: Gender in the Rhetoric of Jesus: Women in Q.

James McGrath interviewed Sara Parks about her book:

Parks is a new scholar in the field and I found some of her discussion interesting insofar as it might shed some light on “the making” of a biblical scholar. (I have engaged with Sara Parks going by the blog name of Dr Sarah in comments on this blog but had not known at that time that she was a scholar of religion.)

Foundations

A question that struck me as I began to read the thesis was how one could justify using a hypothetical document as a primary source for reconstructing slithers of a historical Jesus and his earliest followers. James McGrath raised the question that Q sceptics are going to ask: Does her book fall to pieces if there is no Q? Parks answers that question in her thesis and its published book version:

The gendered pairs form part of what Jesus scholars deem to be authentic material that dates back to his Galilean career. With or without Q the parallel parable pairs are sayings that text critics, redaction critics and historical Jesus scholars connect with Jesus. Their importance as deliberately gender-aware and in their way a gender levelling evidence remains.

[My transcript of Sara Parks podcast reading from her book]

Or more technically, from her thesis:

. . . [T]his project is significant whether one goes so far as to stratify Q in the footsteps of Kloppenborg, or doubts its very existence in the footsteps of Goodacre. As Schottroff writes of her work on women in the Q pairs, “the results should be equally useful for those who presume a distinction between Q1 and Q2 and for those who doubt the very existence of Q. They all may read the following discussion as a description of some central elements of the Jesus movement or of the message of Jesus.” 383 The present project is the first book-length work in English to treat the parallel parable pairs of Q with a view to the ways in which these pairs not only uncover some realities of women in the earliest Jesus movements, but also something of Jesus of Nazareth’s attitude toward them. Its findings concur with those of the French monograph to examine the pairs for this purpose, wherein Denis Fricker concludes that a pairing of female figures with male figures is a process undertaken by Jesus himself384 and that the pairs “seem to have been an original and remarkable mode of expression in the discourse of the historical Jesus.” 385 However, my findings diverge from Fricker’s where he finds the pairs “firmly rooted in Semitic poetry” and “their argumentation … in Hellenistic rhetoric. 386 I assert instead that the pairs achieve clear rhetorical uniqueness.

383. L. Schrottoff, “The Sayings Source Q” ; 384, 385, 386. Fricker, Quand Jésus Parle au Masculin-Féminin, pp. 377, 380, 79

(Parks’ thesis, 158f)

To my way of thinking it seems, then, that Q is not necessary for Parks’ exploration of Jesus’ thoughts on women as spiritual and intellectual equals with men. The addition of Q surely is an unnecessary hypothesis if scholars are convinced that the same sayings are authentic to Jesus even without Q. Yet note that even without Q there is said to be a consensus of some certainty about what Jesus actually said. It is what lies at the foundation of that confidence that strikes me as setting biblical studies apart from other historical studies.

As Parks’ thesis entered into a survey of Q sceptics, in particular Mark Goodacre, I began to anticipate a presentation of her reasons Goodacre and any revival of the Farrer thesis was mistaken. But the work has already been done according to Parks and there was no need for her to repeat it. She writes:

Goodacre has been refuted point by point by a number of scholars, including J. Kloppenborg (e.g. “On Dispensing with Q: Goodacre on the Relation of Luke to Matthew” NTS 49 [2003]: 210–236.

(p. 36)

“Refute” is an ambiguous word. It can mean either to prove a statement is wrong or it can mean to argue against a statement. Does Parks mean the former? The “point by point” phrase seems to indicate Goodacre’s case has been demolished brick by brick. If so, one might reasonably respond that Kloppenborg’s refutation has been equally “refuted point by point” by Stephen Carlson in a series of posts on his blog Hypotyposeis beginning in September 2004. Ongoing publications challenging Q in recent years additionally indicates that Kloppenborg has not “refuted” Goodacre in the sense of “disproving” the Farrer thesis.

What interests me here is a scholar’s confidence in academic consensus as if consensus itself is a secure enough foundation for one’s work. No doubt consensus on certain foundations is important when it comes to expecting one’s work to find peer acceptance. Yet many lay outsiders, at least, want the scholars to explain how we know certain things, or what is the logic and evidence that underlies a consensus. Too often too many biblical scholars at this point resort to telling the unwashed of the necessity to learn several ancient languages and undertake years of training in specialist qualifications. But I submit that we don’t get those sorts of answers when it comes to questions about history in nonbiblical areas. We have, for instance, very good reasons (certain kinds of independent and contemporary writings) for believing Socrates existed and taught as some kind of “sophist”. The evidence is not bedrock solid (the surviving manuscripts are late, for example) and a few have at times raised the question of his existence but on balance (especially when we factor in the explanatory power of subsequent literary references on top of the earlier sources) we can say that multiple independent and contemporary sources testify to his historicity. That sort of evidence is strong enough to allow us to overcome scepticism for the moment and accept Socrates’ historicity. Scepticism demands good, clear answers. Scepticism has served us well since the Enlightenment, I think. (I’ll address certain appeals to postmodernist challenges below.)

Where scepticism is really hip right now

So my ears pricked when I heard Sara Parks and James McGrath appearing to belittle the role of scepticism. Continue reading “Q: Where scepticism is really hip right now; and other thoughts on historical Jesus studies methods”


2020-02-15

Jesus Came (End of Story?)

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by Neil Godfrey

A little detail in the previous post has kept me awake at night (maybe as long as a minute), wondering. It is Matthew 28:18-19

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . .

Why hadn’t I noticed before now the link Jeffrey Peterson makes with Daniel 7:14?

He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

The connection brings me back to a question that keeps coming back to me: Is it possible that the apocalyptic prophecy we read Jesus pronouncing in Mark 13 and Matthew 24 was couched in metaphor that only the “spiritually blind” would mistake for literal meaning. The language was taken from the prophets. Isaiah 13 portrays the fall of Babylon in terms of the darkening of the sun, moon and stars. The cosmic images were metaphors. They were “fulfilled” when the city fell to enemy forces. David speaks of God coming down to earth in clouds to rescue him from certain death at the hands of his enemies. I don’t believe the psalmist expected anyone to read of God’s descent to earth literally any more than we are to imagine literal “cords of death” binding the psalmist or to believe that the psalmist was literally in “deep waters”. Psalm 18 . . .

The cords of death entangled me;
    the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
    the snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called to the Lord;
    I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
    my cry came before him, into his ears.
The earth trembled and quaked,
    and the foundations of the mountains shook;
    they trembled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils;
    consuming fire came from his mouth,
    burning coals blazed out of it.
He parted the heavens and came down;
    dark clouds were under his feet.
10 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
    he soared on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—
    the dark rain clouds of the sky.
12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
    with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
13 The Lord thundered from heaven;
    the voice of the Most High resounded.
14 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
    with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
15 The valleys of the sea were exposed
    and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at your rebuke, Lord,
    at the blast of breath from your nostrils.

In the trial before the priests Jesus declares that the high priest will see the “second coming” or the coming of Jesus as the Danielic Son of Man. Matthew 26:63-64 . . .

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

“You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

I am pretty sure that the priest was dead before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

What were the authors of the gospels of Mark and Matthew thinking? It’s probably worth keeping in mind that not even the author of Daniel thought of his scenario of a heavenly Son of Man coming in clouds before the Ancient of Days was was a literal event. That was a metaphor for the rising up of the Maccabean kingdom on earth.

I think it’s as if they were thinking that the coming of the kingdom of God was ushered in with the death and resurrection of Jesus. Matthew 28 seems to assure us of this interpretation when we read there that Jesus announces, in effect, that he is the Son of Man who has from that point on been given the power and authority to lead his appointed apostles in beginning to bring in more converts to his kingdom.

The Pauline epistles likewise speak of Christ victory over the cross representing the victory over the demon-ruled cosmos. The demons in Mark and Matthew knew their days were numbered the moment they saw Jesus appear in Galilee. Some Church Fathers also spoke of Christ “reigning from the cross”.

Paul’s letters — all of the NT letters — speak of a coming of Christ, never of a “second coming”. The first evangelists to weave together a story of the Son of Man out of the verses of the Jewish Scriptures and other literary and imperial allusions likewise spoke of his coming as the critical event. (I have coloured the passage in Psalm 18 that one might relate directly to classic baptism scene of Jesus in Mark and Matthew.) If his arrival in Galilee marked the “nearness” of the time then the empty tomb was the sign that that time had begun. Is there any room at all for a “second coming” in the original tale?

But this interpretation raises as many questions as it seems to resolve. As I said, it sometimes keeps me awake at night . . . for a moment, sometimes.


2020-02-14

How Luke Reworked Matthew’s Conclusion?

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by Neil Godfrey

Continuing here from the previous post that looked at evidence that Luke was reworking Mark’s conclusion. The following tables distil and simplify key points from Jeffrey Peterson’s chapter in Marcan Priority Without Q: Explorations in the Farrer Hypothesis. 

.

Matthew 28

Luke 24

Comments

16. Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.

9. When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. . . .

33. They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them. . . .

M has related the death of Judas so his change from Twelve to Eleven is explained.

But L has not yet spoken of Judas’s death; follows Matthew with the eleven?

17. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but [also] doubted.

In the absence of an introductory οί μέν, this is a better rendering than nrsvs ‘they worshiped him; but some doubted’ . See Ulrich Luz, Matthew 21-28: A Commentary (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Augsburg, 2005), pp. 622-3; P. W. van der Horst, Once More: The Translation o f hoi de in Matthew 28:17’, JSNT21 (1986), pp. 27-30.

(Peterson, p. 153).

37. They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. . . . 41. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement . . . 52. Then they worshipped him . . .

Worship combined with disbelief, though the doubts in L arise from joy.

18. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . . 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you . . .

44. He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you . . .

47. and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. . . .

Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45. Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written:

M’s conclusion points to new phase; from Israel to the gentiles.

L’s conclusion points to promises fulfilled in next volume, Acts.

M quotes Daniel 7:14 [= He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshipped him] as fulfilled by Jesus;

L is more explicit, informing readers that prophecy has been fulfilled in Jesus.

In both M and L Jesus commands disciples to convert all nations, with reference to what he has told them while on earth with them.

20. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. 49. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high. . . . 51. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. M refers back to 18:20 [= For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them]. Luke avoids possible confusion by depicting Jesus ascending to heaven and having disciples wait for him to be with them through the Holy Spirit.

.

Further on the question of Luke’s knowledge of Matthew, Peterson draws attention to the matching details Luke and Matthew add either side of the core narrative that is based heavily on Mark. Both start at the same point and both conclude at the same critical juncture with comparable sayings. Continue reading “How Luke Reworked Matthew’s Conclusion?”


2020-02-13

How Luke Reworked Mark’s Ending

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by Neil Godfrey

This post looks at the evidence for Luke having reworked Mark’s ending. (The Gospel of Mark appears to have originally ended with verse 8 with the women fleeing from the tomb in fear.) The next post will identify the evidence for Luke having simultaneously used and changed Matthew’s ending. One step at a time.

 

 

What about the famous Emmaus Road encounter in Luke? Recall how Jesus appeared, unrecognized, alongside two disciples on the road, was invited in but disappeared before their eyes as soon as he broke bread.

That brings us to that highlighted section in Mark 16:7 … Jesus is promised to go before his disciples on the way back to Galilee . . . . Continue reading “How Luke Reworked Mark’s Ending”


2020-02-12

Understanding Why Hamas Refuses to Recognize Israel

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by Neil Godfrey

As a follow on from the previous post it seems appropriate to post one more piece from Alastair Crooke. As a diplomat Crooke had direct meetings with Hamas leaders so what he writes should have some credibility. The following is from his 2009 book Resistance: The Essence of the Islamist Revolution. I hope some readers find this discussion informative. All bolded highlighting is my own.

Refusing Recognition

The refusal to recognise and to acknowledge special rights or a hierarchy of identity is filtered through the prism of Euro-centrism when westerners contemplate a movement such as Hamas: refusal to recognise Israel is perceived not as an act of resistance but the obduracy of fundamentalism. It is a further signal of being held fast by religious or cultural instincts – it demonstrates the inability to embrace change.

‘Plainly Israel “exists”, and to deny it, is obdurate perversity … All they have to do is say those three words: We recognise Israel’, an editorial board meeting at Ha’aretz, the Israeli daily newspaper repeatedly and wearily emphasised in a discussion with the author – with heads shaking in disbelief at Hamas’ inexplicable refusal to say the three words.

That is surely the widespread assumption among most Westerners today. So what is Hamas’s explanation? What is the point of resistance against such overwhelming power?

Hamas is not only refusing to ‘say the three words’. It refutes a Jewish-Israeli exclusionary identity, one that has never acknowledged Palestinian rights, and which has never accepted any parity of rights between the Jewish people and the Palestinian people.

Khaled Mesha’al, the political leader of Hamas, speaks of resistance as an attempt to bring about a ‘balance’. He was clear that the aim of this was to effect a psychological change on the part of the occupier – rather than to inflict a military defeat in terms of conventional military tactics:

Khaled Mesha’al

The problem is that they believe that they can dictate to the weaker party. This is not an approach that will lead to peace. A few years ago in 2003 we were ready to be flexible. We offered a new initiative – the truce, or hudna, of 2003 – but Israel did not respond positively. It did not result well.

Israel still, at this time, plainly does not feel the need to pay any price … It wants to impose its pre-conditions of required Palestinian ‘good behaviour’; it then demands the right to evaluate for itself that ‘good behaviour’, and thinks that is enough. It is never willing to offer gestures on its own initiative. This unbalanced approach will fail: it needs to understand that in Hamas there is a tough negotiator; but one, that, unlike others, stands by its commitments when given.23

23. Khaled Mesha’al in an interview with the author, 2007.

Justice? Compromise? But without respect for the rights of the other?

And in a later interview:

They want neither a peace based on justice nor a peace based on compromise. They want to keep the land, they want security for themselves and they want to be the masters of the whole region, without recognising the rights of Palestinians. Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas tried to pursue a compromise. Did they achieve peace with the Israelis? So, the obstacle to peace in the region is Israel – and American bias.24

24. Interview with Hugh Spanner in Damascus, May 2008.

What Hamas is doing – in dramatic fashion – is to put a finger on a key failure of the Israeli–Palestinian political process since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 – which is the singular omission of any clear outline of Palestinian rights.

A people’s narrative is their identity. It is at the heart of their self-respect, dignity. It is true of large groups as well as of individuals.

What the Hamas leaders are stating is that while the West repeatedly honours the Jewish narrative of injustice, it feels no parallel need to recognise or acknowledge the Palestinian narrative of injustice that Palestinians feel in respect to the events of 1948, when villages and houses were destroyed, many were killed and thousands fled to refugee camps beyond Palestine’s borders. Continue reading “Understanding Why Hamas Refuses to Recognize Israel”


2020-02-11

Jewish Zionism . . . an Old Testament Project (for the USA, too)

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Alastair Crooke

From an article by British diplomat Alastair Crooke, Israel in the Middle East — A Civilisational and Metaphysical War. Crooke essentially links the recent Trump “Deal of the Century” Peace Plan to the historical visions of both American “manifest destiny” and Israeli Zionism.

* Mr President … you became the first world leader to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over areas in Judea and Samaria that are vital to our security and central to our heritage. . . . For too long — far too long — the very heart of the Land of Israel where our patriarchs prayed, our prophets preached, and our kings ruled, has been outrageously branded as illegally occupied territory. Well, today, Mr. President, you are puncturing this big lie. (Applause.) . . . . These, as the distinguished pastors who are here know very well — these are places inscribed in the pages of the Bible. These are places carved into the bedrock of our common civilization: the sacred tomb in Hebron where the fathers and mothers of the Jewish people are buried; Bethel, where Jacob dreamed of a ladder ascending to the heavens; Shiloh, where the Ark of the Covenant that held the Ten Commandments … for centuries. That’s what happened in Shiloh.Netanyahu’s speech (Times of Israel)

Jewish Zionism, as expressed by Netanyahu this week*, though ostensibly secular, is not just a political construct: It is, too, as it were, an Old Testament project. Laurent Guyénot observes [link is to Zionism, Crypto-Judaism, and the Biblical Hoax by author of From Yahweh to Zion], that when it is asserted that Zionism is biblical, that doesn’t necessarily mean it to be religious. It can, and does, serve as key leitmotiv for secular Jews too. For secular Zionists, the Bible is on the one hand, a ‘national narrative’, but on the other, a particular civilizational vision, bound around a modern state (Israel).

Ben-Gurion was not religious; he never went to the synagogue, and ate pork for breakfast, yet he could declare: “I believe in our moral and intellectual superiority, in our capacity to serve as a model for the redemption of the human race”. Dan Kurzman, in his biography (Ben-Gurion, Prophet of Fire, 1983) writes that “[Ben Gurion] was, in a modern sense, Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, a messiah, who felt he was destined to create an exemplary Jewish state, a ‘light unto the nations’ that would help to redeem all mankind”. This is the inner Universalist vision (tied to a state). These backstage, half acknowledged, convictions – of being ‘elect’, as an example – clearly do condition political actions, (such as disregarding legal norms).

If you don’t have a subscription to Haaretz (your library may have an online subscription) you may not be able to read what Alastair Crooke means by “disregarding legal norms”. I’ll quote pieces from the Haaretz link. It is an opinion piece by Gideon Levy discussing the recent Trump-Netanyahu “peace plan”. Levy begins with “the good news”: the plan puts a decisive end to any hopes for a two-state solution. That was never a serious option, Levy writes, it was never going to be allowed by Israel. Levy calls this “good news” because it forces the world to acknowledge that the only positive option available is to work towards a single democratic state “between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.” That, of course, also implies the end of the “Jewish state”. The alternative is the acceptance of a new apartheid state.

Disregarding legal norms

So Levy writes of what the “peace plan” means for legal norms:

With the Jordan Valley and most of the West Bank settlements under Israeli sovereignty, the Palestinians are guaranteed not to have a state, half-state, city government or neighborhood. Nothing but a penal colony. With the Jordan Valley and most of the settlements annexed, Donald Trump makes official the establishment of the apartheid state to be known as the State of Israel. What Herzl began in Basel, Trump finished in Washington. . . . Trump’s news and the world’s capitulation, however, is much more portentous. Trump is creating not only a new Israel, but a new world. A world without international law, without honoring international resolutions, without even the appearance of justice. A world in which the U.S. president’s son-in-law is more powerful than the UN General Assembly. If the settlements are permitted, everything is permitted.

Levy, Gideon. 2020. “Opinion  One Person, One Vote for Israel-Palestine.Haaretz, January 26, 2020. (Highlighting is my own in all quotations)

Ben-Gurion was not a special case

Continuing Crooke’s article:

Ben-Gurion was in no way a special case. His immersion in the Bible was shared by almost every Zionist leader of his generation, and the next. And the Israel of today, is no longer as secular as it once was, but rather, is in transit back towards Yahweyism — which is to say, away from the law of a secular state founded by the Zionists, towards traditional Hebraic law as revealed in the Tanakh (the Old Testament of the Christians). Netanyahu implicitly reverts to Hebraic tradition (from secular norms), when he states flatly that as ‘leader’, he should not be removed from power. In other words, Israel is becoming more, not less, ‘biblical’.

Securing “Israel’s destiny” … as outlined in the Bible

Continue reading “Jewish Zionism . . . an Old Testament Project (for the USA, too)”


2020-02-10

The New Propaganda

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

An alternate information ecosystem was taking shape around the biggest news story in the country

The story that unfurled in my Facebook feed over the next several weeks was, at times, disorienting. There were days when I would watch, live on TV, an impeachment hearing filled with damning testimony about the president’s conduct, only to look at my phone later and find a slickly edited video—served up by the Trump campaign—that used out-of-context clips to recast the same testimony as an exoneration. Wait, I caught myself wondering more than once, is that what happened today?

As I swiped at my phone, a stream of pro-Trump propaganda filled the screen: “That’s right, the whistleblower’s own lawyer said, ‘The coup has started …’ ” Swipe. “Democrats are doing Putin’s bidding …” Swipe. “The only message these radical socialists and extremists will understand is a crushing …” Swipe. “Only one man can stop this chaos …” Swipe, swipe, swipe.

I was surprised by the effect it had on me. I’d assumed that my skepticism and media literacy would inoculate me against such distortions. But I soon found myself reflexively questioning every headline. It wasn’t that I believed Trump and his boosters were telling the truth. It was that, in this state of heightened suspicion, truth itself—about Ukraine, impeachment, or anything else—felt more and more difficult to locate. With each swipe, the notion of observable reality drifted further out of reach.

What I was seeing was a strategy that has been deployed by illiberal political leaders around the world. Rather than shutting down dissenting voices, these leaders have learned to harness the democratizing power of social media for their own purposes—jamming the signals, sowing confusion. They no longer need to silence the dissident shouting in the streets; they can use a megaphone to drown him out. Scholars have a name for this: censorship through noise.

From —
Coppins, Story by McKay. 2020. “The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President.” The Atlantic. Accessed February 10, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/03/the-2020-disinformation-war/605530/.