Updated file

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by Neil Godfrey

Since uploading the translated file of Gustav Volkmar’s Mark and the Synopsis of the Gospels I have made a few additions, corrections and clearer translations to it. I will be regularly updating this file over the next however long so check regularly for the latest version if you are reading or consulting it. The latest version is updated today, 28th September. There will be more updated versions. You may need to clear your cache each time to be sure you open or download the most recent version.





Very Sad News — The passing of Danila Oder

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by Neil Godfrey

Danila Oder

I was shocked this morning to find the email below in my inbox. I know many readers here will also be very saddened. Danila Oder took a fresh and cross-disciplinary approach to the Gospel history and was always a pleasure to engage with. Her argument for the earliest gospel being intended for dramatic performance was thought provoking and I often found myself returning to the possibility and rethinking through the evidence she had set forth. Others have raised the possibility of the Gospel of Mark having been composed for performance but Danila was the one who explored that possibility in step by step detail.

a note for Vridar: the passing of author Danila Oder + copies of her book The Two Gospels of Mark

Dear Mr. Godfrey,

I write to inform you and your readers of the passing, on July 20, of my sister Danila Oder, an independent scholar and author of the book, The Two Gospels of Mark: Performance and Text, which was discussed in this March 2020 Vridar posting. I know she held Vridar in high regard.

Her obituary is here.

Before she passed, Danila ensured that her website and book would be preserved in the Internet Archive.

Also, if any of your readers are interested in a free copy of the printed book (for personal use or donation to a library, not for re-sale), I have a few available.

Please have them contact me by email [normanps@hotmail.com] with their mailing address, using the subject line “Danila Oder book request.” I then can ship by Media Mail.

Thank you,
Norman Oder
Brooklyn, NY

Danila most recently contributed to the Vridar blog in comments here and here.

It is very sad news. She will not be forgotten.


Update on posts

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by Neil Godfrey

All of the posts on Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts are now listed in the Archives By Topic (Annotated) section in the right-hand column of this blog. I have added brief notes against the respective titles to guide readers on the contents of each post.

Scroll down the alphabetical list to near the bottom where you will see Plato and the Biblical Creation Accounts (Gmirkin)




Cutting Ties with Robert M. Price

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by Tim Widowfield

As an affirmed denier of all things supernatural, I must consider my recent deep dive into Critical Race Theory and Bob Price’s latest “troubles” to be entirely coincidental. To show you how far out of the loop I’ve been, I hadn’t the slightest inkling something was amiss in Priceland until I saw his rebuttal to Derek Lambert on Facebook. Oh, look. He’s being “canceled” again. Dear me.

First, I need to apologize to any and all for trying to compartmentalize for so long — gaining insights from Price’s religious research while ignoring his extremist authoritarian political, economical, and social views. I had held Price at arm’s length for many years, having at first approached him by email and then by phone, with the hopes of learning at the feet of the master.

He gave me a list of books to read, and we worked out a preliminary syllabus. At the time, I was working a lot on the road, which made things difficult, and then, late in the year, my mother’s health took a turn for the worst. She had been battling multiple myeloma. In 2010 I took a great deal of time off work to look after her. I fell into a profound melancholia. Continue reading “Cutting Ties with Robert M. Price”


We’ve Been Published — Varieties of Jesus Mythicism

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by Tim Widowfield

Varieties of Jesus Mythicism

In the newly published volume — Varieties of Jesus Mythicism: Did He Even Exist? — you will find that the two closing chapters were written by Neil and me. Neil’s essay, entitled “A Rejoinder to James McGrath’s Case for Jesus” forms the penultimate chapter. Mine, “‘Everything Is Wrong with This’: The Legacy of Maurice Casey,” come in last. Our essays don’t necessarily advocate for mythicism (in any of its varieties), but instead, focus on the mistakes people have made and continue to make when arguing for the historicity of Jesus.

We’ll have more to say about it in the future. But for now, if you’re interested, the book is available at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.


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


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.





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




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.



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


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



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.


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.


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]


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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”