2007-02-07

Pastoral Epistles and the Acts of Paul

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by Neil Godfrey

The main point of the following is to present reasons for understanding the author of the Pastoral Epistles was not drawing on our canonical Acts for his Paul’s biographical data but on popular oral legends circulating about Paul and that became incorporated into the Acts of Paul. (I do not discuss the discrepancies between the Pastoral Epistles and our canonical Acts assuming they are well enough known already.)

I have compiled a list of similarities between the Pastoral Letters of Paul (mostly 2 Timothy) and the Acts of Paul from Dennis MacDonald’s The Legend and the Apostle: The Battle for Paul in Story and Canon. MacDonald discusses three possible models to explain these similarities. (Note that I do not refer to all of MacDonald’s discussion points. There is more in his book. So presume any weaknesses here are the fault of the transmitter, not the original author.) Continue reading “Pastoral Epistles and the Acts of Paul”


2007-02-06

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 5b

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by Neil Godfrey

Symbolic Status & Authoritative Status
Having passed over any need to argue that the Twelve really were an entity selected by Jesus B proceeds to explain the symbolic and prophetic significance of this group, symbolic of the hope of restoration of an idealized Israel, and prophetic of what God was doing through Jesus. Continue reading “Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 5b”


Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Other, 2

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by Neil Godfrey

Way back on another website I summarized a few very basic principles to keep in mind when analyzing biblical texts — specifically for Old Testament texts but the principles apply to historical analysis of any texts — gospels included.

Till I get to finishing off chapter 5 this might be an appropriate place to stick a link to these basics (The Bible: History or Story?) because they are also a clear flag to show where I am coming from in my reading of the gospels and biblical studies. They all apply to B’s assumptions (not only his of course) except that the 4th listed in B’s case should be nuanced from “many generations” to “a single generation”.

They are far from comprehensive, they are basic “common” sense, they do not presuppose which way to read texts, and they help guard against bringing unconscious presumptions into the texts we read. We need to find evidence (not more assumptions or hypotheses) before deciding which way to read texts.

The link above is from my In Search of Ancient Israel.


2007-02-04

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 5a

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by Neil Godfrey

5. The Twelve

The role of named individuals in the formulation and transmission of traditions of Jesus’ words and deeds largely disappeared from the normal awareness of New Testament scholars as a result of the form-critical movement in Gospels scholarship in the early twentieth century. (p.93)

Bauckham continues with Birger Gerhardsson’s dismissive tone of critics who “did not think much of the information which the ancient church provides concerning persons behind the Gospels”. This is quite astonishing given what is known about the methods and agendas and selective survival of writings of ancient church authors. Continue reading “Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 5a”


2007-02-03

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses Ch 4/WIFTA

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by Neil Godfrey

More afterthoughts, oversights, erratum, from the chapter 4 posts:

4th Feb 07, 9.00 am Continue reading “Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses Ch 4/WIFTA”


Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 4b

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by Neil Godfrey

Speculative digressions

Bauckham follows with a speculative set of digressions suggesting possible reasons why some names were more popular than others. Some, he suggests, were popular because they recalled names with anti-Hellenistic associations of liberation or conquest (e.g. Hasmonean names); others were popular for the opposite reason — because they jelled so easily with similar sounding Hellenistic names (e.g. Simon/Simeon)! Continue reading “Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 4b”


Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 4a

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by Neil Godfrey

4. Palestinian Jewish Names

This chapter “temporarily steps aside from our investigation of the eyewitnesses” to explore a topic that “will usefully inform” that study when resumed (p.67). Unfortunately Bauckham does not clarify with any precision his terms here or offer cogently supported rationales for accepting some names and rejecting others from the lists he works with. I was left wondering if he was trying to establish a point about the gospels with tools that were simply not designed for the job. Continue reading “Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 4a”


Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Other, 1

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by Neil Godfrey

Have updated my collected after-thoughts on my chapter 1 /WIFTA In brief, I remark that there is simply no such “phenomenon” as “named and unnamed characters” in the bulk of literary fiction and nonfiction stories that “cries out for explanation”. That an author does not name every single character making an appearance is simply to avoid the clutter of overburdening an audience with too much pointless detail. In the case of the first written of our gospels, Mark, it is clear that when the author does decide to employ a name for a character it is for the mnemonic/theological/message point of aligning an event with a name representative of that event. Thus in a healing of raising a girl “from sleep” we have the name “enlightened/awakened”, Jairus; in the restoring of a man from the shame of begging to following the royal “son of David”, we have the Son of Honour, Bartimaeus; and others I have also mentioned in earlier posts.

Meanwhile, another thought here: Continue reading “Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Other, 1”


The Myth of an al Qaeda Takeover of Iraq

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by Neil Godfrey

Related current article: The Myth of an al Qaeda Takeover of Iraq


2007-02-02

Part 5 of “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror”

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by Neil Godfrey

Continuation of notes from Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror by Jason Burke.

2nd element: “a network of networks” — a wider circle consisting of other militant groups linking with al-Qaeda

What these links are not:

  • They are not a vast international network of groups answerable to bin Laden or the al-Qaeda inner hardcore.

There are in fact scores of militant groups around the world, each separate with local goals and acting independently. They may see bin Laden as an inspirational figure or a symbol of their collective struggle, but reject his or his inner circle’s leadership and goals. (Compare the many groups in the West who demonstrate with pictures of Che Guevera.)

What these links are:

  • Some members of some militant groups who trained in al-Qaeda camps since 1996;
  • Some leaders of some militant groups who have had contact with senior figures in the al-Qaeda hardcore;
  • Or received funds;
  • Or training;
  • Or other help from bin Laden himself or from his associates
  • Such links are not unique with al-Qaeda. All Islamic militant groups have similar links with others.
  • These links are always tenuous and compete with other sources of training, expertise and funding.
  • The groups and individuals involved generally have multiple associations and lines of support.
  • Their interests are often deeply parochial and they will not subordinate their leadership to any outside leader or organisation, including al-Qaeda. — e.g. Lebanese Asbat ul Ansar & Islamic movement of Uzbekistan
  • Many have long been openly hostile to the tactics and goals of al-Qaeda. As many are in rivalry with al-Qaeda as are allied with al-Qaeda.
  • At various times some groups – or some individuals within different groups – will cooperate with bin Laden if they feel it suits their purpose.

Within individual movements different factions can have different relations with ‘al-Qaeda’
One example: The Ansar ul Islam is one movement but with 3 differ relations to ‘al-Qaeda’:

  • Ansar ul Islam group in Kurdish Northern Iraq in northern Iraq emerged autumn 2001 with 3 different factions. 2 of these factions went to Afghanistan to meet senior al-Qaeda leaders spring 2001;
  • the 3rd faction rejected dealing with bin Laden or those around him;
  • By the end of 2001: Arab fighters fleeing US invasion of Afghanistan – some of these had been close to bin Laden.

In addition to the above there is also a 4th relationship. Ansar ul Islam consisted of others not interested in any broader agenda beyond Kurdistan. (1 failed suicide bomber told the author, Jason Burke, that he did not want to go to Afghanistan simply because he was not interested in travel and was focused only in affairs of his own country.) – these people did not care for bin Laden or his vision of an international struggle.

Others have rebuffed bin Laden’s advances:

  • Algerian GIA in early 1990’s rejected bin Laden because his agenda was very different from theirs.
  • GSPC (a GIA splinter group) refused to meet bin Laden emissaries summer 2002
  • The leader of the Indonesian Lashkar Jihad group refused to ally with bin Laden because that would significantly impinge on autonomy
  • At least one Palestinian Islamic group has rebuffed his advances concerned about such a link to its image at home and overseas.

Like the anti-globalisation movement – some groups aims and methods coincide, often they do not.


3rd element: to be continued………..


2007-01-28

Part 4 of “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror”

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by Neil Godfrey

continuing my notes from Jason Burke’s “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror” . . . .

Al-Qaeda’s “mature years”: 1996-2001
Bin Laden provided “a central focus for many . . . disparate elements. This was not a formation of a huge and disciplined group, but a temporary focus of many different strands within modern Islamic militancy on Afghanistan and what, in terms of resources and facilities, bin Laden and his three dozen close associates were able to provide there.” (p.12)

The resources he offered: training, expertise, money, munitions, safe haven. He was providing a safe haven and “department store” array of support for different groups who had been looking for some such “service” since the end of the Afghan war.

The 3 elements of al-Qaeda

The al-Qaeda hardcore (approx 12+100) consisted of:

  • The dozen or so associates who had stayed with him since the 1980’s.
  • Pre-eminent militants who had difficulties operating in their own countries came to join bin Laden for the safe haven and the resources he could offer: recruits, money, ideas, knowledge.
  • Many of these were Afgan war veterans. Many had fought in Bosnia and Chechnya.
  • They totalled about 100.
  • Many had at some stage taken an oath of allegiance to bin Laden.
  • They acted as trainers and administrators in Afghanistan.
  • Occasionally they were sent overseas to seek recruits; more rarely, to carry out a terrorist operation.
  • But they were not a monolithic group: among them are significant divergences of opinioin over methods, tactics, political and religious beliefs.

2nd element: a wider circle consisting of:

(to be contd.)


Part 3 of “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror”

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by Neil Godfrey

continuing my notes from Jason Burke’s “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror” . . . .

1993 New York World Trade Center bombing
Ahmed Ajaj was detained for this attack and in his bag was a manual titled “Al Qaeda”. American investigators translated this (correctly) as “the basic rules”. It was not a group.

American intelligence reports in the 1990’s do not use the term “al Qaeda” in any of their reports about Middle Eastern extremists. After the 1993 NY bombing FBI investigators knew of bin Laden but only “as one name among thousands”.

During the 1995 trials of the WTC bombers bin Laden was mentioned by prosecutors once, but al-Qaeda was not ever mentioned at all.

1997/8 CIA and State Dept memos
al-Qaeda is mentioned only once and only in passing as “an operational hub, predominantly for like-minded Sunni extemists”.

1996 bin Laden returns to Afghanistan
With 50 to 100 experienced militants bin Laden was able to build his first real terrorist group. But it was far from being “a coherent and structured terrorist organisation with cells everywhere.” (p.11)

1998, FBI “creates” the al Qaeda terrorist organization
In August 1998 bin Laden was implicated in the double bombings of American East African embassies. Clinton retaliated by bombing “the network of radical groups affiliated with and funded by Usama bin Laden, perhaps the pre-eminent organizer and financier of international terrorism in the world today.” (p.11)

FBI sought to prosecute bin Laden, but the relevant laws were designed to deal with tightly organized and structured criminal gangs to which membership was clear cut. Bin Laden was part of a loose network or politico-religious movement where reponsibility for any single act is difficult to pin down. But if bin Laden could be made the member of a structured organization he could be more successfully prosecuted. It is from this time on that FBI documents now speak of a tightly organized al Qaeda organization to which members must swear an oath of allegiance. This completely misrepresented the actual situation but was legally convenient for a prosecution to succeed.


Part 2 of “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror”

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by Neil Godfrey

continuing my notes from Jason Burke’s “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror” . . . .

Bin Laden enters
Sometime between 1988 and 1989 bin Laden set up a militant group in Peshawar. It consisted of no more than a dozen men. The group was inspired by the teachings of Azzam and were distressed by the disintegration of the international forces who had come to aid the Afghan resistance after the Soviets were expelled. There were scores of such small groups forming at this time in Afghanistan, bouyed with the same hopes after feeling they had defeated the mighty Soviets, had the same concerns and dreams of uniting once again all those who had come together, this time to work together to fight corrupt regimes ruling Moslem peoples elsewhere in the Muslim world and restore an ideal society. Larger groups who formed dedicated themselves to attempting to overthrow their local governments.

Some activists in Peshawar at the time say they knew of a group attached to bin Laden around 1990 known as “al-Qaeda” — but others say they never heard of the term. The 11 volume “Encyclopedia of the Jihad” compiled in Pakistan between 1991 and 1993 never mentions al-Qaeda although it does thank Azzam’s group, Maktab al-Khidamat (offices of services).

and departs
1989 bin Laden left Pakistan for Saudi-Arabia (his homeland)

1990 bin Laden and other Afghan vets offered to form an army to help protect Saudi Arabia in response to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait

bin Laden’s offer was rejected so he spent his time attempting to reform Saudi Arabia

1991 bin Laden fled Saudi Arabia, via Pakistan, to Sudan — until 1996.

In Sudan he was just as interested in arboriculture and road construction as in creating an international army of Islamic militants. His own group was still no more than approx a dozen. He was still reliant on larger militias for resources and know-how. He was not connected with any of the attacks that occurred during this period, 1991-1996.


Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 4-Tables

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by Neil Godfrey

Have now completed reading Chapter 4, Palestinian Jewish Names. Had feared it would be more technical and complex than the effort was worth but as questions arose I got drawn into far more than I ever expected. There is much more of interest in this chapter than I anticipated and look forward to writing up my notes on it.

With magical electronic spreadsheet technology and open source conversion software I have been able to prepare my own tables extracted from Bauckham’s — which on first glance look to me like they invite a different hypothesis from B’s for the selections of names. The hypothesis I am thinking of has been suggested several times by others already although I understand it has not found ready widespread support in mainstream scholarship. In a few days I hope to re-emerge from real life work and get my commentary on chapter 4 up here. Meanwhile, for those who like tables here is what I will be basing some of my commentary on….. (They are all pdf files.)

Names in Mark

Download (PDF, 41KB)

Names in Matthew

Download (PDF, 41KB)

Names in Luke

Download (PDF, 42KB)

Names in John

Download (PDF, 40KB)

Names in Acts

Download (PDF, 42KB)

There appear to be some errors in the tables in B’s book which I have not always corrected, and no doubt there will be some errors in my own. I also am aware that I have not been consistent in listing only those names B selects according to his criteria. And I also realize I have listed Simon Peter as both Simon and Peter. But feel free to point out any obvious errors and oversights.