2021-03-09

Enough Money and Fantasy to Abandon — and Punish — Reality

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

by Neil Godfrey

How is your boycott of Amazon going? I didn’t realize I viewed Amazon so much until I made a conscious effort to avoid it and always use the alternatives I listed in Boycott Amazon Week. If you are looking for a tad more incentive to keep this side of the picket line read this:

Jeff Bezos’s Vision of the Future Is Basically Blade Runner

Jeff Bezos (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

It’s by Paris Marx and published on the Jacobinmag site. What a combo of names. The names alone inspire action — or inaction to avoid Amazon in solidarity with Amazon’s workers.

In May, Jeff Bezos unveiled his long-term vision for humanity’s future. During an hour-long presentation in Washington, DC, the Amazon billionaire described how humans will need to leave Earth if we’re to maintain “growth and dynamism” in the future.

For Bezos, our future is a series of free-floating space colonies called O’Neill cylinders in close proximity to Earth. This proximity, he argues, will help the planet to avoid exceeding its capacity as the population swells into the trillions. Such a development, argues Bezos, will allow us to produce thousands of “Mozarts and Einsteins.” But what about everyone else?

The richest man in the world with an intent to “save the Earth,” Bezos has claimed that space travel is “the only way” he can see to effectively deploy his enormous wealth — a statement he saw fit to make while simultaneously working to defeat a small tax increase in Seattle that would have bolstered programs to help the city’s soaring homeless population.

The quest for space habitats is essential, Bezos argues, because we’re destroying the planet. He says this as he nonetheless courts the oil and gas industry. Amazon workers have demanded their boss take stronger measures to address the company’s environmental footprint, but even his renewed pledge doesn’t go far enough. Its inaction is of course motivated by the logic of profit maximization — at the expense of planetary destruction. This is the same imperative that has driven Bezos to look to the stars.

Bezos is convinced that humanity will fall prey to “stasis and rationing” if we remain on Earth. The Jeff Bezos brand of never-ending growth will require constant population gains, increased energy use, and more resources than our planet can provide — so, into the stars we must go.

As is so often the case with the analyses of billionaires, a lot gets left out of the picture. The utopian future put forward by Bezos has blind spots so big you could pilot a starship through them. When they’re filled in, Bezos looks a lot more like Niander Wallace, the replicant manufacturer in Blade Runner 2049, than the savior he thinks himself to be. . . . 

The article is studded with sub-headings like Hero Complex, Sci-Fi Glimpses of an Unequal Future, Disposable Humans in a Billionaire’s World.

Paris Marx wrote another warning about Bezos in 2019. It begins:

Imagine, for a moment, that you’re a billionaire who’s read science fiction your whole life. Your mind, deluded by your immense wealth, thinks that the only way to “deploy this much financial resource” is to invest in space instead of paying taxes so we can collectively solve the problems on Earth. When a fictional television show about space colonization is canceled in its third season, you swoop in to save the day because not only do you fund a space company, but you also own a massive streaming platform — and it needs content. After chatting with some of the cast, you email your team asking to announce the show’s renewal, and — ten minutes after they reply — you take the stage and are lauded by sci-fi fans across the internet for saving the day.

This is exactly what happened when The Expanse was canceled by Syfy and quickly scooped up by Amazon Prime Video for a fourth season after a personal intervention by CEO Jeff Bezos. It’s hard to imagine having so much money that you could both fund a space race and the media that could inspire it all at the same time, but that’s exactly what he’s doing.


Early Thoughts on Authenticity of the John the Baptist Passage in Josephus

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

by Neil Godfrey

Continuing Rivka Nir’s case for questioning the authenticity of John the Baptist in Josephus’s Antiquities…. (First post is here.)

Nir informs us in The First Christian Believer,

By the nineteenth and early twentieth century, historians were suggesting that this passage was a Christian interpolation. (p. 42)

As a general rule, I like to follow up and check the grounds for statements like that. For readers who also would like to know who these early historians were and what they actually said I post here quotations from the sources cited by Rivka Nir.

Heinrich Graetz

This sentence translates as…

Meanwhile, the point is easily settled. Josephus’s narrative [account] about John [the Baptist], his capture and his death (das. 2, 2), is a brazen interpolation like that about Jesus (das. 3, 3), which is has now generally come to be viewed as a forgery.

Graetz, Heinrich. “Von dem Tode Juda Makkabi’s zum Untergange des judäische Staates.” In Geschichte der Juden : von den ältesten Zeiten bis auf die Gegenwart, 3:278 (note 3). Leipzig, Leiner, 1888. https://archive.org/details/geschichtederjud03grae/page/276/mode/2up

-o-

Samuel Krauss

Translation:

The question of the authenticity of the Johannes passage in Josephus has not yet been definitively answered; it is at any rate suspect.

Krauss, Samuel. Das Leben Jesu nach jüdischen Quellen. Berlin: Georg Olms, 1902. p. 257 https://books.google.com.au/books?id=Tu9dpJx1M2oC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false.

-o-

Next is that passage I asked for help to translate.

Emil Schürer

Die Echtheit der Josephusstelle ist nur selten angefochten worden (auch Volkmar setzt sie ohne weiteres voraus ; gegen dieselbe : J . Chr . K . v . Hofmann , Die heil . Schrift Neuen Testaments , VII . Thl . 3 . Abth . Der Brief Jakobi 1876 , S . 4 f . ) Zu ihren Gunsten spricht allerdings, dass die Motive für die Gefangensetzung und Hinrichtung des Täuters so ganz anders angegeben werden als in den Evangelien. Da aber Josephus an anderen Stellen sicher von christlicher Hand interpolirt worden ist, so darf man auch hier nicht allzusehr auf die Echtheit vertrauen. Bedenken erweckt namentlich das günstige Urtheil über Johannes, der doch nur nach gewissen Seiten hin dem Josephus sympathisch sein konnte, nämlich als Asket und Moralprediger, aber nicht als der das Volk mächtig aufregende Prophet des kommenden Messias.

Translation with thanks to all those who contributed via email, Facebook and this blog.

The authenticity of the Josephus passage has only seldom been challenged (Volkmar also assumes it without further ado; against the same: J. Chr. K. v. Hofmann, Die heil .schrift Neuen Testaments, VII. Thl. 3rd Abth Der Brief Jakobi 1876, p. 4 f.) In their favor, however, the fact that the motives for the imprisonment and order of the masters are given so completely differently than in the Gospels. But since Josephus was certainly interpolated by a Christian hand in other passages, one should not trust too much in the authenticity here either. The favorable judgment about John arouses concern, who is only sympathetic to Josephus in certain respects could, namely as an ascetic and moral preacher, but not as the prophet of the coming Messiah, who might excite the people.

Schürer, Emil. Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Christi: Einleitung und politische Geschichte. Vol. 1.364 (note 24). J. C. Hinrichs, 1890.

https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=KMTIX-nJwusC&hl=en&pg=GBS.PA364

Rivka Nir stated that Schürer thought Josephus’s positive attitude towards John was suspicious. But when I read the revised English translation of Schürer’s volume I met a different conclusion:

The passage of Josephus was known to Origen (c. Cels. I, 47). Eusebius quotes it in full (HE i 11, 4-6; DE ix 5, 15). Its genuineness is rarely disputed. In its favour is the fact that the motives for the imprisonment and execution of the Baptist are entirely different from the Gospel version. But since the text of Josephus has certainly been retouched by Christian scribes in other passages, the theory of an interpolation cannot be absolutely excluded. Suspicion is aroused by the favourable verdict on John, but against this it should be borne in mind that as an ascetic and moral preacher, he might have been viewed sympathetically by Josephus.

Schürer, Emil. The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, Vol. 1. Revised and edited by Geza Vermes & Fergus Millar. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1973. p. 346 https://books.google.com.au/books?redir_esc=y&id=p75tWhrwGT8C&q=known+to+Origen#v=onepage&q&f=false

Vermes and Millar introduce an emphatic statement that Origen knew the passage in Josephus about John the Baptist, yet Origen’s testimony is ambiguous at best as we saw in the previous post.

Vermes/Millar further make the positive suggestion that “the theory of an interpolation cannot be absolutely excluded” but the intent of the original words is in fact negative according to the several translations generously offered by those who responded to my request:

  • given that other passages in Josephus were doubtless interpolated by Christian hands, one cannot place blind trust in authenticity.
  • since Josephus is interpolated by Christian hand in other places, one cannot trust its authenticity all too much in this case
  • one can’t completely trust this translation either (as it was influenced by a Christian perspective)
  • since Josephus was certainly interpolated by Christians (a Christian hand) in other places, one should not trust too much in the authenticity here either
  • since Josephus has clearly been interpolated in other places, one must not be altogether trusting of the genuineness of this passage

The Vermes/Millar revision presents an opposite idea, leading readers to think that, “Okay, theoretically there is some small chance it is an interpolation”; while other translations suggest, “Given what we know of Christian editing elsewhere we need to be cautious and not be too quick to assume authenticity here.” Continue reading “Early Thoughts on Authenticity of the John the Baptist Passage in Josephus”

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