2007-03-21

Does eating a banana backwards disprove the existence of God?

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by Neil Godfrey

A bit of fun here over GodTube

http://blog.wired.com/tableofmalcontents/2007/03/the_best_of_the.html

From the site: Continue reading “Does eating a banana backwards disprove the existence of God?”


2007-03-09

Review of “Existential Jesus” by John Carroll

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by Neil Godfrey

For a little more on where John Carroll is coming from as the author of the Existential Jesus;

and for a link to a review (not a deep one — one of those by a regular newspaper reviewer) of Carroll’s Existential Jesus by Andrew Rutherford —

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21275645-25132,00.html (Link is preserved on Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine)


2007-02-14

Simon of Cyrene & Golgotha (Tarazi)

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by Neil Godfrey

Hoo boy, looks like Simon of Cyrene is as mutable as Proteas, and like the man in the raincoat at the funeral in James Joyce’s Ulysses — not to mention the young man fleeing naked in Mark (Kermode), with no end of attributable meanings.

Paul Naradin Tarazi in Paul and Mark sees a play between the Greek words for Cyrene and two other words, one of which is Gologotha (this seems so obvious when he points it out I suspect he’s not the first to notice this — but someone please correct me if I’m wrong).

“Of Cyrene/a Cyrenian” is the Greek Kyrenaios. Tarazi links this with the Hebrew qeren meaning horn, connoting power and leadership, including that of a messiah, and cites a string of verses from 1 and 2 Samuel, Job, Psalms, Jeremiah, Lamentation, Ezekiel and Daniel.

Tarazi sees in this the author of Mark calling on the apostle Peter (Simon) to accept the Pauline gospel of the cross in order to become the new leader of the true Christian community, the Pauline gentile churches. While I find the symbolic meanings and puns of interest in what I see as primarily a work of literature I have some problems with Tarazi’s interpretation here. Elsewhere in this commentary Tarazi sees Peter rejecting Paul’s theology. Tarazi writes that the fact that Simon here was “compelled” to carry the cross allows for the difference here. (I’m tempted to dismiss the Hebrew pun in a Greek text for a non-Jewish audience, but there are other places in this gospel where there seem to be rather telling links between the Aramaic and Greek and will have to shelve this question for a future “to look at” date.)

But there is another pun or consonant play. Golgotha, where the crucifixion with Simon’s cross takes place, is translated in Mark as “the place of the skull” — kraniou topos.

Now that one looks interesting. That is surely an intentional link (in adjacent verses) being pushed before the readers in the form of an explanatory note. Kyrenaios – kraniou.

Now they compelled a certain man, Simon Kyrenaios, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear his cross. And they brought him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, kraniou topos. (Mark 15:21-22)

Okay Michael Turton, where are you when we need you? You once had much to write about Golgotha being some sort of metaphor for the Roman Capitol (Head/Skull).

One can also see Schmidt’s article online that I understand was initially responsible for seeing Mark’s crucifixion procession as a mock Roman Triumph culminating at the Temple on the Roman Capitol.

I have in another post here suggested that Simon of Cyrene was described by Mark as “coming from the country” in order to more directly link him with the role of executioner in that triumph.


2007-02-10

Questions liberate. Answers bind.

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by Neil Godfrey

Richard in his first comment responding to my Bauckham 4a post took me to task for asking questions but not answering them: “You raise some interesting questions, but do not really answer them. It is not enough to wave a magic wand of doubt . . . ”

I have been looking back over old posts of mine that I am preparing to add here to my blog and cannot avoid the fact. Yes, it’s true, I plead guilty. Continue reading “Questions liberate. Answers bind.”


Little Apocalypse and the Bar Kochba Revolt

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by Neil Godfrey

Mark 13 is often called the Little Apocalypse or the Mount Olivet Prophecy. Many scholars use its content to calculate that the gospel of Mark must have been written either during the siege of Jerusalem in 70 ce or shortly afterwards. (A minority see in this chapter evidence to date the gospel much earlier, to the 40’s ce, but I will be discussing this view in a later post.) Dr Hermann Detering has a different view that I find quite persuasive. He places this chapter in the time of Hadrian and the Bar Kochba war of 135 ce. He does not date the gospel of Mark so late, but sees this chapter as a later redaction.

I posted the following on the JesusMysteries discussion group in 2001 and, as previously indicated, am adding it here as part of my efforts to collate things I have composed over the years. Unfortunately I don’t read German and used a machine translator to work out the main gist of his article. Happily since then his article has been translated into English by Michael Conley and Darrell Doughty and is available online here. So if you have any sense you will dismiss the rest of this post and go straight to the real thing, here (again). Continue reading “Little Apocalypse and the Bar Kochba Revolt”


2007-01-08

Is the New Testament a root of antisemitism?

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by Neil Godfrey

The gospels of Matthew and John and other passages in the NT letters no doubt contain virulent anti-semitic expressions but most of us surely know from personal experience that those expressions have not turned (most of) us into raving anti-semites. Rather I suspect most of us have felt a little discomfort at times when reading these, much the same way many of us respond with some discomfort over passages forbidding women to speak in church assemblies.

Biblical “memes” need to find rich manure to do their dirty work, and surely those who find visceral excitement in passages like Matthew 27:25, John 8:39,44 and I Thess.2:15-16 are bent quite independently of those passages.

It helps to remember Jews have not been the only victims but Romanies (Gypsies) have been lumped with them for similar treatment from olden to modern times — variously along with witches and homosexuals et al. Singling out Jews at the expense of these surely risks serving sectional political interests today at the expense of these other minorities by failing to address racism per se.

Edward Said’s valuable contribution to this debate (in his classic Orientialism) was the observation of how since the holocaust of WW2 anti-semitism has bifurcated into the guilt-response cum displacement equation of jews:good::arabs:bad — both sides of the expression of course being unhealthy unrealistic mythical nonsense. I suspect that much of the rekindled expressions of anti(jewish)semitism in recent years has been a reaction, albeit an equally pathological one, against this bifurcation — as it has been expressed via one-sided neo-con policies in the middle east and inability to express any normal healthy criticism of the State of Israel without being accused (and often worse) of anti-semitism.

So what to do about religious or other tracts that promote antisemitism? Well, democracy is by nature often messy. Alternatives are totalitarianism and censorship. I’d rather those not so inflamed by those texts take reponsibility to promote solutions to racism as to any other social problem. It would help to ask also “why now”, “why these people”, “why here”, etc — since it is clear that the world has not seen rabid racism swept along on gales of sayings from sacred texts at all times and all places and among all groups where those sacred texts are venerated.

Neil


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2007-01-07

Fundamentalism defined as Occultism

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by Neil Godfrey

David S. Katz writes in The Occult Tradition (2005) :

But, most importantly, Fundamentalism places a determined emphasis on the ‘realm of the unknown; the supernatural world or its influences, manifestations, etc.’, which situates it firmly within the occult tradition even by the blandest dictionary definition. Fundamentalists believe in the imminent, visible, sensible and dramatic Second Coming of Christ, according to a plan that they have worked out from encoded references in the Bible, and with supernatural implications for everyone living today on earth. (pp.185-186)

Further, on pp.190-191:

Much has been written over the past few years about the increased role that Evangelical Christianity has played in the presidency of George W. Bush. When reporter Bob Woodford asked the president if he consulted with his father . . . the younger Bush replied, ‘You know, he is the wrong father to appeal to . . . There is a higher father that I appeal to.’ The popularity of this kind of decision-making process is not universal in the United State, so Bush often resorts to an esoteric code worthy of seventeenth-century Rosicrucians. This came out very forcefully . . . in his address to the nation on 7 October 2001 . . . He concluded his remarks with the curious phrase, ‘May God continue to bless America’, the single word ‘continue’ instantly transforming an anodyne cliche into a genuine religious sentiment. . . .

Katz tells us that Professor Bruce Lincoln subjected Bush’s 7 October 2001 address to the nation “to a line-by-line analysis” and discovered covert allusions to Isaiah, Job and the Book of Revelation:

The allusions are instructive, as is the fact that Bush could only make these points indirectly, through strategies of double coding. (p.190)

This kind of ‘Bible talk’ enables George W. Bush to communicate with ordinary people, winking at them conspiratorially as partners in a type of Christianity that is based on the careful reading of an esoteric text. (p.191)

Nothing new here. Except it gets scary, well at least confronting, when a spade is called a spade.

Neil


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2006-12-03

Richard Dawkins and God

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by Neil Godfrey

Heard a lecture by Richard Dawkins on God on one of my favourite radio programs — for anyone with an uncompromising rationalist and evolutionary bent like myself it’s a most enjoyable listen and well worth podding. But the pod bit disappears in a few weeks from the site, though the transcript will remain. Check it out here.

Neil


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2006-11-26

The end of faith: religion, terror, and the future of reason / Sam Harris. (Norton, 2005) Review

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by Neil Godfrey

This is a disturbing book principally for its ignorant tirade against Moslems. As an atheist myself I had hoped for something more rational and informative given the enormous popularity of this book in the U.S. but find Harris here is too often little more than a mega-mouthpiece for Western (read American?) ignorance of Moslems and the Moslem world outside the U.S. borders. Continue reading “The end of faith: religion, terror, and the future of reason / Sam Harris. (Norton, 2005) Review”


2006-11-21

American theocracy: the peril and politics of radical religion, oil, and borrowed money in the 21st century / Kevin Phillips (Viking, 2006). Review

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by Neil Godfrey

If the details of the arguments of this work are not always persuasive the author nevertheless achieves his stated purpose: to demolish any illusion among his fellow Americans that the US is in any way “exceptional” in its place and role in the world. Rather, he argues that it is rapidly following in the wake of the demise of past imperial powers Spain, Holland and Britain. The extraordinary rise and influence of extremist religious tendencies; the financialization and extreme indebtedness of the economy as “real wealth production” is outsourced; and the inevitable decline and gradual replacement of the economy’s main fuel resource, are the three main streams that Phillips sees as once having broken their banks over previous leading imperial powers and that are now beginning to deluge the US. Continue reading “American theocracy: the peril and politics of radical religion, oil, and borrowed money in the 21st century / Kevin Phillips (Viking, 2006). Review”


The end of faith: religion, terror, and the future of reason / Sam Harris. (Norton, 2005) Review

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by Neil Godfrey

This is a disturbing book principally for its ignorant tirade against Muslims. As an atheist myself I had hoped for something more rational and informative given the enormous popularity of this book in the U.S. but find Harris here is too often little more than a mega-mouthpiece for Western (read American?) ignorance of Muslims and the Muslim world outside the U.S. borders. I expected to read along with a like-mind since I also see religion and religious faith as a net negative left-over from our evolutionary past that needs to be eradicated just as acceptance of rape as a natural means for reproduction has been eradicated. But I found points of agreement only at a superficial level. It is bad enough that he blames religion as the principle or fundamental root cause of suicide terrorism: he says it was religious belief, belief in a blissful life after death, that enabled the 9/11 hijackers to commit their atrocity. What rot. A slight amount of reflection and simple logic would inform him that if religious belief were the root enabler of suicide terrorism then we would surely have had suicide terrorism for as long as we have had such beliefs in any religion. Pape’s “Dying to Win” is a scholarly research work that amply demonstrates that suicide terrorism is a function of national identity humiliation brought about by foreign occupation and that perpetrators of this form of terrorism since the 1980’s have included both the religious and non-religious and secular, Christian and Buddhist as well as Muslim. Pape’s research pulverizes Harris’s ignorant diatribe. Continue reading “The end of faith: religion, terror, and the future of reason / Sam Harris. (Norton, 2005) Review”