2021-06-07

Yes, Vridar Was Hacked!

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by Tim Widowfield

As far as I can tell, the break-in was confined to a single author account. Thanks to David Fitzgerald for alerting Neil and me.

We seem to be back to normal. Let us know if you see anything odd!

widowfield [at] gmail [dot] com


2021-01-31

Vridar posts delay

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by Neil Godfrey

For anyone wondering why I have not posted anything for a little while, — I’ve been in catch-up mode. When I posted something about the Gospel of Mark in relation to Vespasian and the Serapis cult I became focused on finding more about the Serapis cult, where and when and in what modes it functioned. I had to wait for some of the resources to arrive from overseas, and then I have to translate some of them into English. All of that just to see if there is anything relevant to learn in relation to the context of early Christianity and the Gospel of Mark in particular.

Meanwhile, I am still exploring Yanis Varoufakis’s Another Now as it leads me to other works on alternative economic and social models. One detour that I have been led on is a new focus on North American history from the perspective of the “lower classes” from the seventeenth and eighteenth century, with a particular interest on the nature of work and civic identities. It’s an interesting contrast to early Australian and revolutionary French contexts with their British penal system and their grappling with “the ancien regime” while trying to forge a new society.

And Noam Chomsky in a recent interview happened to mention the name of Rana Foroohar in a context that led me to follow up her book, Don’t Be Evil: How Big Tech Betrayed Its Founding Principles — and All of Us, which I’m still reading. And that has led me to some other titles I have had to put in my in-tray beside me here.

Another primary focus of mine has been trying to catch up with what I don’t know about modern USA and the various movements and wider culture that lie behind what looks from here to be a very unstable and crazy place right now. One scholar says it’s all predictable and nothing to worry about in the long-run, while others are not so sanguine. One historian of Trump in the context of American populism generously sent me an electronic copy of his book that I have still to complete. But how times change so fast. It was not long ago I was reading specialist research in Islamism and Islamist terrorism and now I’m having to focus on the culture and groups on the side of the incomprehensibly extremist Republican Party right now.

Meanwhile some more French works that Nanine Charbonnel cites quite frequently have arrived so I can no get a better grasp of the context of some of her thesis points for my series on her book, Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier.

And I still haven’t really caught up with all I need to on John the Baptist. I have meanwhile requested an interlibrary loan of Rivka Nir’s book The first Christian believer: in search of John the Baptist that I want to read alongside some other works before commenting or posting again.

A couple of people have recently reminded me of James McGrath’s online presence and I see that he has posted several teasers to encourage readers to order his new book on what Jesus learned from women. I read some of his advertising posts and see that it looks like an admirable addition to any Sunday School teacher’s collection of church-classes and sermon ideas.

Another delay has been occasioned by my taking time out to read James Fallows’ Breaking the News: How the Media Undermines American Democracy. It was published in 1996 but is so depressingly relevant to today — it has made me want to scream at journalists on TV and elsewhere when they focus on political tactics instead of political substance. Have none of the journalists read that book or do they flatly disagree with it, and if so, why?

All of that [and isn’t it a law that real reasons are stated last?], along with some more than usual high-stress happenings in the “real world” around me outside books and internet, are behind the more-quiet-than-usually quiet status of the blog lately.

Oh — and I can now add one more interesting bird that has shown itself flying over my house, the black cockatoo, three of them. They are common enough in some other parts of Australia, not so much here. I recall at Darwin how they made an atrocious mess of pathways beneath the trees where they fed. They’d rip out leaves, branches, flowers, sharp seeds and scatter them everywhere and those seeds punctured bicycle tyres.

 

 

 


2020-12-21

Document Request: Jonathan Z. Smith’s Dissertation

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by Tim Widowfield

Greetings, Vridarians.

We have a humble request. Does anyone out there have a PDF copy of Jonathan Z. Smith’s doctoral dissertation, The Glory, Jest and Riddle. James George Frazer and The Golden Bough (1969)? I thought I’d found it today, but it’s incomplete. This appears to be one of those oft-cited, rarely read works.

Here’s the WorldCat URL:  https://www.worldcat.org/title/glory-jest-and-riddle-james-george-frazer-and-the-golden-bough/oclc/315509294/editions?referer=di&editionsView=true

Thanks!

–Tim


2020-06-19

Notice: Site Maintenance

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by Tim Widowfield

Hi, everyone. I just wanted our readers to know that we’re going to make the transition to a different WordPress theme today. You may see some odd behavior from time to time as we adjust the new theme to have a similar look and feel to the old theme.

If all goes well, you will finally see a much better, more readable mobile version of Vridar. (Our old version was not mobile-friendly at all, and we apologize for that.)

Thanks for your patience, and thank you for reading Vridar.

–Tim


2020-06-13

Vridar Goes to Poland with Russell Gmirkin, Plato and the Hebrew Bible

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by Neil Godfrey

. . . with Russell Gmirkin’s book, Plato and the Hebrew Bible

https://testimonia.pl/

These three Vridar posts have been translated into Polish and posted on the Testimonia blog:

1. Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible

2. The Pentateuch’s Debt to Greek Laws and Constitutions — A New Look

3. David, an Ideal Greek Hero — and other Military Matters in Ancient Israel

. . .

Not that we will ever lose our affection for our Greek friends:

To the Greeks, Vridar in a Greek publication

Nor our Spanish ones:

Vridar Posts in Spanish

 


2020-03-04

Facebook group: Historical Jesus and Higher Criticism

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by Neil Godfrey

If any readers here are members of the Facebook group Historical Jesus and Higher Criticism I would appreciate it if you could go to that group to see if I have been banned or somehow had my membership of that group deleted. I was in mid-conversation with someone there over whether Josephus depicts messianic movements in the first century CE and was taken aback to be met with a quite hostile response, laced with personal insults and put-downs, and suddenly, poof, I no longer have access. Maybe, hopefully, the hostile tone was only a coincidence and a passing thing and that my loss of access was nothing more than a technical hitch and we can resume cordial and civil discussion.


2020-02-27

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.


2020-01-31

Guest Post: Further Thoughts on the “We Passages” in Acts

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by Greg Doudna

[I have copied the following comment by Greg Doudna to a post here so the thoughts do not get lost in the comments section and are easier to read and engage with. Format slightly changed — Neil]

–o–

The argument that the “we” passages of Acts are an origin story of the church at Rome starting from Troy, sort of like the way (here in the northern hemisphere) the Pilgrims on the Mayflower is a foundation story told each Thanksgiving of how “we” Americans came to North America from Europe . . . is intriguing. Without gainsaying the intriguing positive part of your argument, an objection is that in its present form, Acts does not make a point of starting from Troy. Yet the “we” from Troy to ending up in Rome is sufficiently striking that it seems there must be something to what you suggest, here and in your previous series on this on Vridar (all of which I went back and read). That is, on the one hand, something seems to be there, but on the other hand it seems so subtle it seems questionable that the author of Acts intended it or that ancient first readers would have noticed. Therefore let me make some probings that might address this objection, basically in terms of a source interpretation.

1.

First, that the “we” is the final author of Acts, despite the presentation of Acts that that is the case, cannot be correct on chronological grounds of the dating of Acts. Much literature and argument here with which you and most here are familiar, but here is one that I have not seen cited here or receive much attention anywhere yet, but which appears solidly and independently to argue for, indeed may establish, a mid-second CE dating of Acts: Laura Nasrallah, “The Acts of the Apostles, Greek Cities, and Hadrian’s Panhellenion”, JBL 127 (2008): 533-566. Also and separately arguing for the same mid-2nd CE dating, David Trobisch, “The Book of Acts as a Narrative Commentary on the Letters of the New Testament: A Programmatic Essay”, pp. 119-127 in Gregory and Rowe, eds, Rethinking the Unity and Reception of Luke and Acts. Andrew F. Gregory, C. Kavin Rowe (University of South Carolina Press, 2010).

2.

Second, that the “we” reads as the author or the author’s circle inviting readers’ identification vicariously–an inclusive authorial “we”–is the portrayal, yet that cannot be correct historically, therefore it is deception on the part of the actual author. Third, while earlier comments you have made show well that Acts is not history in the sense of Thucydides or Josephus, and is fiction-like, at the same time I question that it is properly called fiction either. Were not ancient romances and actual ancient fiction understood by readers to be just that–entertaining stories, not to be taken too seriously, not history? (Like Jesus’s parables or Aesop’s fables.) But Acts reads as intended by first authors and readers to be understood as history, tendentious history, but history, analogous to the way colonists’ might answer outsiders if asked “where do you come from? how did you get here?” Acts seems to be analogous to conscious writing of a foundation story, constructed history, not meant to be objective but to establish a shared foundation story understood emically as history . . . “our history”, “history as we have decided it to be” . . . in a text which explains–as a claim of history–why salvation history has come to where it now is, in Rome. (With the harmonization of Peter and Paul founding figures and the golden age of the first generation all part of this.) The “we” device works with this in Acts’ final form literarily.

3.

From here I now move to increasingly tentative conjecture. The starting point is the “we” passages may be from a source reworked. It is generally understood that Acts has worked from and reworked other sources, such that it is not unreasonable to suppose the “we” itinerary may be one more. I am not going to try to prove that, but assume that for purposes of conjecture going forward, in which, if that assumption is correct, some interesting possibilities may or may not emerge.

4.

Fourth, it has been brought out (Hyldahl, Justin Taylor and others) that the “we” passages connect together in what reads as originally a single itinerary, despite reading in present-form Acts as separated in narrative over a period of years. The conclusion seems to be that an original itinerary has somehow been “exploded” with narrative filler in between sections of an original connected “we” source itinerary.

5.

Fifth, though I do not have space to go into this point here, suffice it to say I am convinced the ship voyage from Jerusalem to Rome of Acts, and the ship voyage of Josephus to Rome in Vita, are the same ship and shipwreck. I do not find fully convincing that the similarities in details are explicable in terms of literary tropes; instead, it is two versions of the same ship and voyage. I perceive that the only reason this is not more recognized is because of a perception of a chronological discrepancy of ca. two years. Yet the dating of Paul’s voyage to Rome in Acts depends on the datings of the Felix/Festus and Festus/Albinus accessions which continue to be recognized as problematic, uncertain, and debated as to specific years. The argument for identity of the two ship voyages seems to me to be sufficiently strong as to itself justifiably introduce weight on the still-unresolved issues of the dating of the Felix/Festus accession.

6.

Continuing, sixth, the strong study of William Sanger Campbell, The “We” Passages in the Acts of the Apostles: The Narrator as Narrative Character (Leiden: Brill, 2007) is of interest, in arguing that “we” replaces the role of Barnabas narratively. As Acts has it, Barnabas exits the picture at 15:39 before the “we” narratives begin at 16:10, but Acts has arguably mixed up and rearranged story fragments and doublets in its narrative construction. I suggest (this is not Campbell) that the long-disputed mystery of who “we” is may be resolved as: it is the voice of Barnabas. The voice is that of Barnabas, of the original source where we read “we” in the second part of Acts.

7.

This then raises the question of who was Barnabas? I suggest consideration, seventh, that Barnabas could be none other than Josephus, and that the “we” source, which ends at the point of Paul’s trial in Rome, could be something of an ancient account, in first-person voice, of a legal advocate for Paul, namely Josephus, somehow related to Paul’s trial in Rome.

Begins and ends with Josephus?

Continue reading “Guest Post: Further Thoughts on the “We Passages” in Acts”


Repeat notice: Your Comments and Our Spam Problem

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by Neil Godfrey

Repeating this post for any commenters who may have missed it the first time. We are still experiencing the spam tsunami and sometimes genuine comments get caught up in trash but be patient and I will get to them even if it takes some hours. Otherwise, do contact us if your comment does not appear after “a significant amount of time.”

Tim posted a fortnight ago:

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.


2020-01-15

Your Comments and Our Spam Problem

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by Tim Widowfield

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.


2020-01-10

update

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by Neil Godfrey

I posted my Review parts 7 & 8 too soon. I have since added to the post a detailed discussion of what Xenophon was doing with his Cyrus figure: — specifically, I have added Tomas Hägg’s analysis that I think is correct: the work is not history even by ancient standards. I also think what Xenophon was doing with Cyrus the evangelists were doing with the Jesus figure, only in a different medium or genre.

. . .

One more thing, on another matter:

If anyone has been getting spam emails that appear in some way to be related to having made a comment on Vridar please do let Tim or me know.


2020-01-01

Wishing Readers the Best for the New Year

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by Neil Godfrey

Thank you for keeping Vridar on your reading list.

I’ve been too much out of touch with Vridar for some weeks now with a series of hospitalizing mishaps (ranging from illness to accidents (plural) to acts of the thunder god Zeus (yes, he does exist) blowing out various power and internet connections) and various family responsibilities (including assisting with help for my 93 year old mother some distance from where I normally live). Here’s hoping I have served as the scapegoat for Vridar readers so may none of these misfortunes fall upon any of you in 2020.

And thanks to Tim, too, for the tech work in putting the blog on a more reliable server to eliminate those outage times. And thanks, too, for those who have assisted financially to maintain a more reliable online presence.

Only six more weeks left to master the use of crutches with this leg. I’ve already fallen over twice learning to use those things but thankfully someone was nearby to help me back up on my good leg. So save your happy new year wishes for me till mid-February! 🙂

 

 

 

 


2019-10-12

Time to Return

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by Neil Godfrey

Street Art — Pixabay

I took some leave from blogging, quite unplanned, but it was a compulsive digression. I have been reading, almost non-stop, book after book and article after article, trying to get a firmer handle on what has been happening to make the world (specifically, our “democracies” in the USA, Europe, Australia) what they are today. I knew something big was changing back in the 1980s and then through the 1990s but you know what it’s like, one is busy getting on with life and carries on like all the other frogs (cooking, washing, driving, working, watching tv) who are in the pot that is slowly coming to a boil.

It all started when someone here posted a video of an interview with Noam Chomsky. I had seen the video before but this time for some reason I took notice when Chomsky directed his interviewer to a study on the influence of corporate dollars on the political system. So I looked it up. It was a book published way back in 1995 by Thomas Ferguson, Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems.

The central argument of the book is that political parties are not primarily out there trying to win most votes. That’s a secondary exercise and one that falls into place after achieving their first priority: winning the financial backing of whoever can financially back them the most. In its simplest form the idea can be illustrated this way. (I use the issue of unionized labour because that was Ferguson’s illustration; I thought of changing it to the question of carbon emissions and global warming.)

Imagine 97% of the electorate want strong labour unions to ensure job security and fair compensation. These are the ordinary people with only the basic incomes to get by reasonably happy.

Now imagine 3% of the electorate oppose unionization of labour entirely. These are the rich factory owners who employ everyone else.

Election time comes. None of the 97% has the private means, the money, to stand for election. It costs money just to get around from venue to venue and more money to take care of basic income to support one’s family while doing that, etc etc. But one person hits on an idea of how to get money to do everything necessary to campaign for votes. The only people with the money are the 3%. So our would-be candidate asks them to fund the campaign. Some of that 3 % are willing to do so but only on the condition that the candidate promises not to support unionization, but even oppose the idea.

Another would-be candidate finds a few among the 3% who are willing to allow just a small amount of unionization, say for only 5% of the workforce.

Come election day, assuming the two candidates had equal advertizing and equal coverage of the electorate, that is, they each had the same amount of funding, the best that the 97% of the electorate would get out of the election is a representative who will support no more than the unionization of 5% of the workforce. They would not even be likely to get that candidate if he or she only got a fraction of the campaign contributions as their rival.

Obviously real life is more complex than that simplest of models but Ferguson and his colleagues who study the complexities of funding find the rule works essentially every time: to understand who rules look for who has the gold. That’s the golden rule.

Earlier I posted on what I believed to be an insightful article by Nancy Fraser, From Progressive Neoliberalism to Trump — and Beyond. Thomas Ferguson’s work is coming from the same direction. But Golden Rule is old. Published 1995. So I looked for more recent work. And that’s where I’ve been the past several days, reading and following up more recent studies by Ferguson and by others he cites and others who appear to be working from the same datasets of evidence.

The most dramatic shifts have happened with the emergence of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, of course, and that’s where I have been trying to catch up with. What the hell is going on? It’s not completely alien to human experience, though. One recent study even sent me back to reading the 1973 edition of Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism (first published 1948). (That was to revisit other historical alliances of what Arendt calls “the alliance between mob and capital”.)

It’s been a fascinating, though troubling, journey, covering shifts and divisions in the corporate class, propaganda manipulations, and, I think, a deeper understanding of how this complex and confusing world works. Once again one finds scholarly research tackling questions that have traditionally been forbidden in their field and the need for those pioneers to branch out into interdisciplinary studies before eventually making significant inroads into the conventional wisdom.

I expect to be posting more along the lines of these sorts of studies.