Category Archives: Vridar

So far this category is a catch-all for all posts relating to Vridar greetings to readers, to Vridar notices of rules, technical issues, and so forth. Is this category — or the current range of posts it includes — justified? Should Guest Posts be a child of this category?

Facebook group: Historical Jesus and Higher Criticism

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.

For My Dad and Mum: How Great Thou Art

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.

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

[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?

read more »

Repeat notice: Your Comments and Our Spam Problem

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.

Your Comments and Our Spam Problem

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.

update

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.

Wishing Readers the Best for the New Year

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! 🙂

 

 

 

 

Time to Return

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.

Vridar Maintenance

You may have noticed that Vridar has been down from time to time recently. We have some technical issues that I’m going to try to address today. As a result, we may be offline for significant periods.

By the way, thanks to all the Vridarians who have donated to the cause. You have no idea how much it has helped. Thank you!

–Tim


Updated at 17:50 GMT

We have successfully upgraded our server. Thanks to your donations, we were able to add RAM. If we’re lucky, our MySQL instance will behave and stop crashing.

New Pages

In the right hand column I have added links to three new blog pages. They are under the Archives by Topic (Annotated) heading.

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime (or a Buck)?

Dear Vridarians,

Soon there will be a new button on the blog giving anyone so inclined to offer a small donation for the maintenance of this site. When we were on WordPress.com we learned that we were vulnerable to malicious DMCA complaints that could result in a third party shutting us down. Since then we have found our independence but at some cost.

In the grand scheme of things, the cost is not monumental but neither of us belongs to the affluent class, and the costs do add up. Just a couple of bucks here and there would help more than you know.

If by any chance we happen to collect a little more than we need, we might be able to use that excess to buy resources that we believe readers would be interested in reading about.

Best to all and thanks for reading Vridar,

Neil and Tim

P.S. We still refuse to take on advertisers, and we will never publish astroturf reviews.

Vridar Housekeeping

I’m making some sort of progress towards some consistency in the blog’s categories and tags (well into the categories right now having reduced them from around 50 million to a tenth of a million; but have yet to start seriously on eliminating overlaps in the tags). Here are some questions that are bugging me at the moment and maybe some readers may like to comment on them. (I’m too close to it all to think afresh at the moment, I think.)  . . . .

On the Ancient Literature category:

Original intention was to include here all non-Jewish works. Should this separation stand? What of Ezekiel the Tragedian or Artapanus of Alexandria and other similar Jewish authors in a “secular/Hellenistic” world? Is the subsequent breakdown into child categories justified?

read more »

A Blog is Not Ideal for Vridar Posts

Now that I am almost two-thirds of the way through the first round (of 3 to 4) of categorizing and tagging my 3700+ posts here it has become painfully apparent to me that a blog is not the appropriate storage area for many types of posts.

The blog allows for labelling content by categories and tags. Categories are broad conceptual terms while tags are for the many details. I have come to see that this classification system is designed to show readers what sorts of content is mostly found on a blog. That’s all very fine for some purposes, I am sure, but it is not what I want. My problem is that I have an “information science” background and I want to have a system that allows users to see fairly easily and quickly if there is a post here that might be of use to them. The categories and tagging system does not serve that purpose. It only (more or less) tells viewers the main biases of broad conceptual content that dominates a blog. Not the same thing by a long shot.

Categories and tags are fine for alerting web crawlers to what’s what when comparing or harvesting info from different sites, but they are not very useful for alerting viewers if there is something here that is of particular interest to them.

Some people have urged me in the past to separate my political content from my biblical posts so that I run two blogs. Ironically, it is the political side that lends itself more easily to the categories and tagging controls. A political blog focuses more on regular updates and is the sort of thing a blog is designed for. Though I also like to do background research posts on certain political issues and once again those sorts of posts are not ideally placed on a blog.

I am beginning to think that I ought to move, copy or somehow at least link the bulk of my and Tim’s posts to a static website instead — at least one which opens with a clear table of contents that narrows down to multiple indices.

I did have in mind a Topic Map (TAO) — I thought that would be ideal: it would, I thought, enable all sorts of cross-searching of terms, linking concepts, drawing out all sorts of answers along with related possible spin-off options. But I see that Topic Map technology has passed me by and is no longer a bee’s knees thing. I am out of touch and must catch up to see if there is a stable replacement yet available.

But that’s not going to happen before next week, maybe more than a year, even. My first task is to complete the first round of doing a “rough and ready” classification of posts with a crude category and tagging system. It will have many overlapping and grey areas but those will be refined in future iterations and refinements. Going on to 4000 posts is a lot for one person to sort through, but it has to be done, and no point putting it off any longer — as I have been doing for too long already.

 

 

Missing post content: Do any long-time readers have it?

I have lost images from a number of older posts, including this one, Merry Midrash from 2012: https://vridar.org/2012/12/25/merry-midrash/

We had problems with software I once used in connection with uploading images and too many images have simply disappeared altogether, it seems. With the post in above most of them are even missing from the Wayback Machine (archive.org) — which only captured the post once, in 2015, presumably after images were lost.

I know some blog readers have copied older posts. If anyone reading this happens to have a copy of https://vridar.org/2012/12/25/merry-midrash/ I’d very much welcome being sent the images again.

With thanks once again,

Neil