2021-04-17

Paul is Jesus Redivivus in Acts

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by Neil Godfrey

The author of Acts appears to have used the life experiences, trials and death of Jesus as his model for the life and trials of Paul. The following evidence for this claim is taken from a 1975 article by A. J. Mattill, Jr., “The Jesus-Paul Parallels and the Purpose of Luke-Acts”. If one accepts that the source of Paul’s life and adventures was the Lukan account of Jesus then there are implications for the purpose of Luke-Acts and the literary-theological function of Paul himself.

The first-listed parallels may not seem so striking but keep scrolling. The four trials of each are surely worth noting. Mattill fleshes out many of the points with numerous verbal parallels but I have omitted most of those here.

Contents:

 
 

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Jesus and Paul are from their childhood law-abiding Israelites

  • Jesus is circumcised the eighth day (Luke 2:21-24)
  • Jesus and his parents observe Passover (Luke 2:41-42)
  • Jesus teaches that the Law will never fail (Luke 16:17)
  • Jesus is falsely accused of changing the customs of Moses (Acts 6:14)

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Jesus and Paul begin and continue their preaching in the synagogues

A related key parallel:

Zeller’s observation that the remarkable feature in Acts that Paul always is compelled only by the unbelief of the Jews to preach to the Gentiles has its undeniable type in the narrative of Jesus’ rejection in his own home town, the narrative with which Luke so characteristically opens Jesus’ public ministry (Lk. iv 16-30 13).

(Mattill, p. 18)

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The Pharisees who believe in the resurrection affirm the teachings of Jesus and Paul

  • Jesus affirms the Pharisaic doctrine of the resurrection from the dead (Luke 14:14; 20:27-40)
  • Hence Jesus enlists sympathy of Pharisees against the Sadducees (Luke 20:39)
  • Jesus declares “all live in God” (to prove the resurrection) (Luke 20:38)

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Fulfilment of Scripture

The author of Luke-Acts based his narrative around the fulfilment of scripture.

Jesus

Jesus quotes and applies Isaiah 6:9-10 to his work and response (Luke 8:10)

Jesus proves by Scripture that he is

Jesus affirms from Scripture that the Gospel shall be preached

Paul

Paul quotes and applies Isaiah 6:9-10 to his work and response (Acts 28:25-28)

Paul proves by Scripture that Jesus is

Paul affirms from Scripture that the Gospel shall be preached

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Both are God’s ordained servants to fulfil the divine plan of salvation

Jesus is God’s chosen servant (Luke 9:35; 23:35)

Jesus is divinely sent (Luke 4:18, 43; 9:48; 10:16)

 .

Jesus proclaims (Luke 4:18, 19, 44: 8:1)

.

attracting multitudes by the message (Luke 5:1; 7:11; 8:4; 11:27, 29; 12:1; 14:25; 19:48; 20:1; 21:38)

Paul is God’s chosen instrument (Acts 16:17)

Paul is divinely sent (Acts 22:21; 26:17; cf 14:4, 14)

.

Paul proclaims (Acts 9:20; 19:13; 20:25; 28:31)

 

attracting multitudes by the message (Acts 11:26; 13:44; 14:1; 17:4; 19:10)

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Divine necessity (δει) drives the planned careers of both Jesus and Paul

Jesus must be in his Father’s house (Luke 2:49)

He must proclaim the good news (Luke 4:43)

He must go to Jerusalem (Luke 13:33)

He must abide at Zacchaeus’ house (Luke 19:5)

In Jerusalem he must suffer many things (Luke 17:25)

then he must rise from the dead (Luke 24:7, 26)

then he must be received in heaven (Acts 3:21)

Paul is told what he must do (Acts 9:6)

He must suffer many things (Acts 9:6)

He must be delivered from death when cast ashore on a certain island (Acts 27:26)

He must see Rome (Acts 19:21)

In Rome he must bear witness (Acts 23:11)

and there must be judged (Acts 25:10)

and must stand before Caesar (Acts 27:24)

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Spirit, Revelations, and Angels direct, control, assure, strengthen Jesus and Paul

Jesus receives the Holy Spirit at baptism (Luke 3:21-22)

Jesus is “full of the holy spirit” (Luke 4:1)

Jesus is controlled by the spirit — led into wilderness and returns in spirit’s power to Galilee (Luke 4:1, 14)

Revelations and voices directing his ministry:

.

Angel appears to Jesus in Gethsemane (Luke 22:43)

Paul receives the Holy Spirit at baptism (Acts 9:17-18)

Paul is “full of the holy spirit” (Acts 9:17; 13:9)

Paul is controlled by the spirit — forbidden to enter Asia and Bithynia, purposes in the spirit to go to Jerusalem (Acts 19:6, 7, 21)

Revelations and voices directing his ministry:

Angel appears to Paul during storm at sea (Acts 27:23)

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Parallel signs and wonders confirm the teachings of Jesus and Paul

Jesus casts out demons (Luke 4:33-37, 41; 8:26-39; 11:20)

Jesus heals the lame man (Luke 5:17-26)

Jesus cures many sick (Luke 4:40; 6:17-19)

Jesus cures a fever and others stream in for healing (Luke 4:38-40)

Jesus raises the dead (Luke 7:11-17; 8:40-42; 49-46)

. . . after affirming the person was not really dead (Luke 8:52)

Jesus imparts healing power physically (Luke 5:17; 6:19; 8:46)

Those healed provide Jesus with necessities (Luke 8:2-3)

Paul casts out demons (Acts 10:38; 16:16-18)

Paul heals a lame man (Acts 14:8-14)

Paul heals many sick (Acts 28:9)

Paul cures a fever and others stream in for healing (Acts 28:7-10)

Paul raises the dead (Acts 20:9-12)

. . . after affirming the person was not really dead (Acts 20:10)

Paul imparts healing power physically (Acts 19:6, 11-12)

Those healed provide Paul with necessities (Acts 28:10)

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Turning to the Gentiles is a theme of both Jesus and Paul

Jesus is rejected and persecuted by his own people from the beginning (Nazareth) of his ministry (Luke 4:28-29)

and often thereafter (Luke 5:21-30; 6:1-5, 6-11; 7:39; 11:14-23, 53-54; 13:14-17; 14:1-6; 15:2; 16:14-15; 19:39-48; 20:1-8, 19-26, 27-40; 22:2-6, 47-53, 66-71; 23:1-43)

Jesus is taken outside a city (ἔξω τῆς πόλεως) and threatened with stoning, but escapes with his life (Luke 4:29-30)

Audience is enraged when Jesus speaks of gentiles (Luke 4:27-28)

Jews lie in wait (ἐνεδρεύοντες) to kill Jesus (Luke 11:54)

Jesus declares that just as in days of old Jews to be rejected and gentiles accepted

Jesus travels through Samaria (prefiguring Paul) (Luke 9:51-19:44)

Jesus sends out the 70 symbolizing the evangelization of every nation (Luke 10:1-16)

Teaches the rejection of Israel (Luke 20:9-19) and commands the gentile mission (Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8; 22:21)

From the Law and Prophets Jesus proclaims the passion, resurrection and ensuing gentile mission (Luke 24:44-47)

Jesus proclaims repentance is to be preached to all (Luke 24:47)

Jesus is a light revealing salvation to the world (Luke 2:32)

Paul is rejected and persecuted by his own people from the beginning (Damascus) of his ministry (Acts 9:23)

and often thereafter (Acts 9:23-24, 29-30; 13:45-51; 14:2-6, 19; 17:5-15; 18:6-12; 19:8-9; 20:3; 21:27-23:22; 24:1-9; 28:23-28)

Paul is taken outside a city (ἔξω τῆς πόλεως) and stoned by escapes with his life (Acts 14:19-20)

Audience is enraged when Paul speaks of gentiles (Acts 18:47-50; 22:21-22)

Jews lie in wait (ἐνεδρεύουσιν) to kill Paul (Acts 23:21)

Paul declares that just as in days of old Jews to be rejected and gentiles accepted

After first preaching to Jews everywhere (Antioch Acts 13:46-47), Corinth (18:6), Ephesus (19:9) and Rome (28:24-28 — quoting Isaiah 6:9-10, cf Luke 8:10)

Paul travels through Samaria, reporting how gentiles turned to God (Acts 15:3)

.

From the Law and Prophets Paul proclaims the passion, resurrection and ensuing gentile mission (Acts 26:22-23)

Paul proclaims repentance is to be preached to all (Acts 17:30)

Paul is a light revealing salvation to the world (Acts 13:47; 26:23)

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Journey to Jerusalem and the Passion

The two great travel sections: Luke 9:51-19:44 and Acts 19:21-28:31

Luke 9:51-52 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him

Acts 19:21-22 After all this had happened, Paul decided[a] to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” 22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.

A last journey to Jerusalem is a journey toward passion, as prophesied, knowing that he will be handed over to gentiles: (Luke 18:31-33; 9:44)

The ultimate scene of persecution was Jerusalem where the leaders  sought his death (Luke 19:47)

Jerusalem is the place where prophets must die (Luke 13:33)

Jesus is opposed by the Sadducees who deny the resurrection (Luke 20:27)

Jesus is accused by the Sadducean high priesthood (Luke 20:27)

Jesus delivers farewell addresses (Luke 20:45-21:36; 22:14-38; 24: 36-53)

In his last words (Luke 20-22)

Not a hair of your head will perish (Luke 21:18)

The Temple is the setting for the prelude to Jesus’ passion (Luke 21:37)

Jews plot treachery to kill Jesus (Luke 22:2-6)

Jesus is severely tempted to abandon his purpose to die (Luke 22:40-44) — “thy will be done”

Jesus is seized at Jerusalem by the Jews (Luke 22:54)

Jesus expostulates with his opponents (Luke 22:52-53)

A last journey to Jerusalem is a journey toward passion, as prophesied, knowing that he will be handed over to gentiles: (Acts 20:22-23; 21:10-11; 28:17)

The ultimate scene of persecution was Jerusalem where the leaders  sought his death (Acts 25:2-3)

Jerusalem is the place where prophets are expected to die (Acts 21:30-36; 22:22-25; 23:12-22; 25:1-12)

Paul is opposed by the Sadducees who deny the resurrection (Acts 23:8)

Paul is accused by the Sadducean high priesthood (Acts 23:6-8)

Paul delivers farewell addresses (Acts 20:1, 7; 20:18-35)

In his last words (Acts 20:18-35)

Not a hair of your head will perish (Acts 27:34)

The Temple is the setting for the prelude to Paul’s passion (Acts 21:26)

Jews plot treachery to kill Paul (Acts 23:12-16)

Paul is severely tempted to abandon his purpose to be ready to die (Acts 21:13; 20:23; 21:4, 10-14) — the Lord’s will be done”

Paul is seized at Jerusalem by the Jews (Acts 21:27)

Paul expostulates with his opponents (Acts 21:40-22:21)

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Parallel Trials, Charges and Acquittals

Four trials of Jesus

Jesus is accused of

Pilate asks where Jesus is from and then sends him to the authority (Herod) of that region (Galilee) (Luke 23:6-7)

  • appears by order of Pilate
  • before Herod Antipas
  • who happens to be available (Luke 23:7)
  • and can thus have his wish to hear the accused (Luke 23:7-8)
  • Herod Antipas hoped to see Jesus perform a miracle (Luke 23:8)
  • Jews stand and accuse Jesus before Herod (Luke 23:10)

Roman authority Pontius Pilate finds no guilt in Jesus (Luke 23:4)

Pilate exonerates Jesus (“I have found no basis for your charges against this man”) (Luke 23:14)

Roman governor Pilate finds Jesus has done nothing worthy of death (Luke 23:15, 22)

Pilate would have released Jesus (Luke 23:16, 20)

The crowd shout for Jesus’ death (Luke 23:18, 21)

 

Four trials of Paul

Paul is accused of

Felix asks Paul where he is from and then holds him until he can be heard before the relevant authority (Acts 23:34-35)

  • appears by order of Festus
  • before Herod Agrippa II
  • who happens to be available (Acts 25:13-14)
  • and can thus have his wish to hear the accused (Acts 25:22)
  • Felix hoped Paul would give him money (Acts 24:26)
  • Jews stand and vehemently accuse Paul before Festus (Acts 25:7)

Roman authority Claudius Lysias finds no guilt in Paul (Acts 23:29)

Pharisees exonerate Paul (“we find nothing wrong with this man”) (Acts 23:9)

Roman governor Festus finds Paul has done nothing worthy of death (Acts 25:25; 26:31)

Agrippa would have released Paul (Acts 26:32)

The crowd shouts for Paul’s death (Acts 21:36; 22:22)

Jesus was shamefully treated in Jerusalem (Luke 18:32)

Last Supper – take bread, give thanks, break it (Luke 22:19)

The people are numbered, Jesus takes bread, gives thanks, breaks bread, feeds the people (Luke 9:12-17)

Jesus is accompanied by malefactors (Luke 22:37; 23:32)

Jesus kneels to pray (usual posture was to stand) (Luke 22:41)

At his trial Jesus is struck by one nearby (Luke 22:63)

Jesus is brought before the Sanhedrin “the next day” (not night, as in Mark) (Luke 22:66)

Jesus is “delivered up” by Pilate to his captors (Luke 23:25)

A crowd follows Jesus (Luke 23:27)

Paul was shamefully treated at Iconium (Acts 14:5)

Meal aboard ship — take bread, give thanks, break it (Acts 27:33-38)

The people are numbered, Paul takes bread, gives thanks, breaks bread, feeds the people (Acts 27:33-38)

Paul is accompanied by malefactors (Acts 27:1)

Paul kneels to pray (Acts 20:36)

At his trial Paul is struck by one nearby (Acts 22:30)

Paul is brought before the Sanhedrin “the next day” (Acts 22:30)

Paul is “delivered up” by Festus to his captors (Acts 27:1)

A crowd follows Paul (Acts 21:36)

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Deaths and resurrections

Paul’s shipwreck and plunging into the deep are the counterparts to Jesus’ death on the cross (Luke 23:26-49; Acts 27:14-24). . . .

Goulder strengthens the argument for the parallel between “Paul’s shipwreck and deliverance and Jesus’ death and resurrection”. To the Semites “death was like going into the sea …. All the sea is death to the Semite, whether we drown or whether we paddle and come out again …” Paul himself refers to his shipwrecks as “deaths” and his rescues as “resurrections” (II Cor. 1:8-10; 11:23)

Going down in a storm was the metaphor par excellence in scripture for death, and being saved from one for resurrection: when St Paul speaks of his shipwrecks in these terms, how can St Luke have thought otherwise ? He has shaped his book to lead up to the passion of Christ’s apostle from xix 21 on in such a way as to recall what led up to the passion of Christ himself in the earlier book: and as the climax of the Gospel is the death and resurrection of Christ, so the climax of Acts is the thanatos and anastasis of Paul.

(Mattill, pp. 19, 21)

An amazed centurion judges Jesus to be a righteous man (Luke 23:47)

Jesus was three days in the grave (Luke 23:50-56)

Jesus was rescued from death (Luke 24:1-11)

Post-resurrection joy (Luke 24:12-49)

An amazed Maltese judges Paul to be a god (Acts 28:6)

Paul was at rest and peace for three winter months cut off from the outside world (Acts 28:1-10) (28:11 – “3 months”)

Paul was rescued from death at sea at Malta (Acts 27:39-44)

Paul’s voyage to Rome in spring which was Paul’s entrance into a new life (Acts 28:11-16)

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Other parallels though not in Luke

(If Luke was the last written gospel and its author knew the other three, as some have argued…?)

Jesus is said to be out of his mind (Mark 3:21)

Jesus is bound (Mark 15:1)

Jesus is challenged over disrespect to high priest (John 18:22)

Jesus comes before a judge whose wife is mentioned (Matthew 27:19)

Jesus’ judges wish to please the Jews (Mark 15:15)

Earthquake while on cross (Matthew 27:51)

Paul is said to be out of his mind (Acts 26:24)

Paul is bound (Acts 21:11, 33; 24:27)

Paul is challenged over disrespect to high priest (Acts 23:4)

Paul comes before a judge whose wife is mentioned (Acts 24:24)

Paul’s judges wish to please the Jews (Acts 24:27; 25:9)

Earthquake while in prison (Acts 16:26)

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Mattill, A. J. “The Jesus-Paul Parallels and the Purpose of Luke-Acts: H. H. Evans Reconsidered.” Novum Testamentum 17, no. 1 (1975): 15–46. https://doi.org/10.2307/1560195https://www.jstor.org/stable/1560195



2021-04-16

John the Baptist in Josephus — What was his baptism?

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by Neil Godfrey

I conclude* continue here my posts presenting Rivka Nir’s case for the John the Baptist passage in the Antiquities of Josephus being a Christian interpolation. All of these posts are archived at Nir: First Christian Believer. (* I had expected to conclude the series with this post but as usual, checking sources and being sure I get the argument correct takes more time than I usually anticipate). All bolded highlighting in the quotations is my own; italics are original.

Jewish or Christian Baptism? — What did John’s Baptism Look Like?

Nir identifies five defining characteristics of the baptism of John that we read about in Antiquities.

Here is the relevant section from Antiquities 18.116-118 (18.5.2)

John who was called Baptist . . . who was a good man and one who commanded the Jews to practise virtue and act with justice (δικαιοσύνῃ) toward one another and with piety toward God, and [so] to gather together by baptism. For [John’s view was that] in this way baptism certainly would appear acceptable to him [i.e. God] if [they] used [it] not for seeking pardon of certain sins but for purification of the body, because the soul had already been cleansed before by righteousness (δικαιοσύνῃ). . . And . . . others gathered together [around John] (for they were also excited to the utmost by listening to [his] teachings) . . . 

(Translation by Robert Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, p. 32)

Character 1: Christian terminology

Nir submits that the terms used in the Josephan passage “derive from the lexicon of Christian theology.” That certainly appears to be true with respect to the epithet assigned to John, “the Baptist” (βαπτιστής). Though Josephus uses other forms of the word for immersion, dipping or washing elsewhere, “the Baptist” — βαπτιστής — is found nowhere else in Josephus and is specific to the New Testament as an epithet for John.

Mason:

for someone who did not know Jewish tradition or Christian preaching, the rather deliberate statement that this was ‘the wetted’ or perhaps ‘the greased’ would sound most peculiar… Since Josephus is usually sensitive to his audience and pauses to explain unfamiliar terms or aspects of Jewish life, it is very strange that he would make the bald assertion, without explanation, that Jesus was ‘Christ’ (Ant. 20.200). That formulation, “the one called Christ,” makes much better sense because it sounds like a nick-name. . . . [I]t would make sense for Josephus to say, “This man had the nickname Christos,” and he could do so without further explanation. (Josephus and the New Testament, 166)

Nir further posits that we should expect Josephus to explain the meaning of the epithet if he did write it, just as, for example, Steve Mason argues that Josephus would be expected to explain the epithet “Christ” to non-Jewish audiences if he did use it of Jesus. Against this, in my view, and as Nir herself notes in a footnote, Mason further suggests that Josephus would not be expected to explain the meaning if the epithet was introduced as a nickname — e.g. Jesus who was called Christ, John who was called the Baptist.

The problem highlighted by Nir is as follows:

What would Greek and Roman readers unfamiliar with Christian sources understand by this term? They were familiar with the verb βάπτω, which means ‘to dip/be dipped’ or ‘to immerse/be submerged’, and with the verb βαπτίζω, which in classical sources denotes ‘to immerse/be submerged under water’.49 How would they understand a designation referring to someone who immerses others with this particular immersion? How could Josephus use this designation without defining it?50

49. Metaphorically: soaked in wine. See Oepke. ‘βάπτω’, TDNT, I. p. 535.

50. Rivka Nir cites Graetz, Abrahams, Mason and Webb. I have expanded on the difficulties Abrahams raises for Nir’s argument below.

Abrahams argues that the passage overall is genuine but acknowledges the possibility that the epithet “the Baptist” is interpolated:

The terminology of Josephus, I would urge, makes it quite unlikely that the passage is an interpolation. For, it will be noted (a) Josephus does not use βάπησμα which is the usual N.T. form; (6) he does use the form βάπτισις which is unknown to the N.T.; (c) he uses βαπτισμός in a way quite unlike the use of the word when it does occur in Mark (vii. 4) or even in Hebrews (ix. 10). It is in fact Josephus alone who applies the word βαπτισμός to John’s baptism. Except then that Josephus used the epithet βαπτιστής (which may be interpolated) his terminology is quite independent of N.T. usage. (Studies in Pharisaism, p. 33)

Others reply that Josephus does explain the term, if indirectly:

In his first editions Graetz accepted Josephus’ account of John as authentic. But in his later editions of the Geschichte der Juden he strongly contends that the passage is spurious. He urges that Josephus would not have described John as the “Baptist” (τοῦ ἐπικαλουμένου βαπτιστοῦ) without further explanation. Graetz does not see that it is possible to regard these three words as an interpolation in a passage otherwise authentic. But it is not necessary to make this supposition. For it is quite in Josephus’ manner to use designations for which he offers no explanation (cf. e.g. the term “Essene”). And the meaning of “Baptist” is fully explained in the following sentence, Josephus using the nouns βάπτισις and βαπτισμος to describe John’s activity.

(Abrahams, Studies in Pharisaism, 33 — Rivka Nir cites Abrahams but the fuller quotations are mine.)

Abrahams (in both the paragraph above and in the side box) sounds more damning than his argument actually is. Yes, he is correct Josephus uses baptisis (βάπτισις) “which is unknown in the New Testament” and baptismos (βαπτισμός) “in a way quite unlike the use of the word when it does appear in Mark(vii. 4) or … Hebrews (ix. 10).” But what Nir points out is that those words are part of the “lexicon of Christian theology” as witnessed by Athanasius Alexandrinus, Origen and Chrysostom. They are not the words Josephus normally uses (λούεσθαι or άπολούεσθαι — louesthai or apolouesthai) when describing Jewish immersions. Those early fathers testify to the use of those terms in relation to John’s baptism as well as Christian baptism more generally.

Characteristic 2: a collective baptism into an elect group

The key section here is Continue reading “John the Baptist in Josephus — What was his baptism?”


2021-04-15

Hector Avalos has died

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by Neil Godfrey

From Pharyngula

Hector Avalos has died

We corresponded on occasion. He was a very nice person. I read most of his books and gained a lot from him. I’ll miss him.

For Vridar posts on his views about the new atheism and various academic and biblical questions see https://vridar.org/tag/hector-avalos/


2021-04-14

4 Jewish Word Plays behind the Word Becoming Flesh / 3 … (Charbonnel: Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier)

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by Neil Godfrey

This post is detailed. But it is getting down to the nitty gritty of a case for the midrashic creation of the Jesus figure in the gospels.

Performative utterance: In the philosophy of language and speech acts theory, performative utterances are sentences which are not only describing a given reality, but also changing the social reality they are describing.
This post continues a series on Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier by Nanine Charbonnel

Nanine Charbonnel cites four intriguing instances.

A. I Am/I Am He/I and He … and we are all together

Many of us are familiar with Jesus declaring “I am” (ἐγώ εἰμι) which echoes Yahweh’s self-declaration in the Pentateuch; less familiar are the moments when Jesus says, “I am he” (ἐγώ εἰμι αὐτός – e.g. Luke 24:39), and that sentence echoes the second part of Isaiah (אֲנִי-הוּא =  ’ănî = I [am] he; LXX = ἐγώ εἰμι = I am) and liturgies of the Jewish people. (I’ll simplify the Hebrew transliteration in this post to “ani hu” (= I he).

These self-identifications bring us back to Exodus 3:14 where God reveals himself to Moses at the burning bush: “I am he who is”, which in the Greek Septuagint is ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν.

But we need to look again at those words [hu ani] in Deutero-Isaiah:

In Isaiah 41:4; 43:10, 13; 46:4; 48:12; 52:6 we read God declaring,  I am he [ani hu] (=me him) אֲנִ֣י ה֔וּא

We will see that this expression, “I he” is related to the festival of Tabernacles or Sukkoth.

But first, we note that during New Testament times at the Feast of Tabernacles or Tents worshippers walked around the altar each day singing “O Yahweh save us now, O Yahweh make us prosper now”, which is a line from Psalm 118:25

נָּא הַצְלִיחָה יְהוָה אָנָּא נָּא הוֹשִׁיעָה יְהוָה, אָנָּא
na hatzlichah yhwh ana na hoshiah yhwh ana
now prosper us [we pray / beseech you] now save us [we pray / beseech you]

Now in rabbinic literature, in Mishnah Sukkah 4:5, we find another version of this liturgical sentence was said to be used during the temple ceremony.

Each day they would circle the altar one time and say: “Lord, please save us. Lord, please grant us success” (Psalms 118:25). Rabbi Yehuda says that they would say: Ani waho, please save us. And on that day, the seventh day of Sukkot, they would circle the altar seven times. 

הוֹשִׁיעָה וָהוֹ אֲנִי
hoshiah waho ani
save us [taken to be a substitute for the divine name by some scholars – see Baumgarten below] I (Hebrew); (confusingly, ana in Aramaic means “I”. By hearing the original Hebrew ana as the Aramaic ana, the transformation to Hebrew “I” follows.)

Both ani and waho may be considered “flexible” as I’ll try to explain.

  • ani in Hebrew means “I”
  • ana in Hebrew means something like “we pray” as above

Aramaic was the relevant common language in New Testament times, however, and it’s here where the fun starts.

  • ana in Aramaic means “I”

So we can see how the Hebrew “we pray” can become the Aramaic “I”.

If waho, והו, began as a substitute for the divine name it could when pronounced easily become והוא, wahoû, which is the Aramaic for “me”.

NC writes,

qui peut être une manière de dire ‘ani wahoû’, “moi et lui”.

Translated: which can be a way of saying …. “me and him”. (The “wa”  = “and”.)

Not cited by NC but in support of NC here, Joseph Baumgarten in an article for The Jewish Quarterly Review writes,

Mishnah Sukkah 4.5 preserves a vivid description of the willow ceremonies in the Temple during the Sukkot festival. Branches of willows were placed around the altar, the shofar was sounded, and a festive circuit was made every day around the altar. The liturgical refrain accompanying the procession is variously described. One version has it as consisting of the prayer found in Ps 118:25, אנא ה׳ הושיעה נא, אנא ה׳ הצליחה נא , “We beseech you, O Lord, save us! We beseech you, O Lord, prosper us.” A tradition in the name of R. Judah, however, records the opening words as follows: אני והו הושיעה נא. The meaning of this enigmatic formula has occasioned much discussion among both ancient and modern commentators.

In the Palestinian Talmud the first two words in the formula were read אני והוא and were taken to suggest that the salvation of Israel was also the salvation of God.

(Baumgarten, Divine Name and M. Sukkah 4:5 p.1. My highlighting)

The same idea is brought out by NC in her quotation of Jean Massonnet. I translate the key point concerning the “I and he” or “me and him”

This may be a way of closely associating the people with their God on an occasion when the Israelites might surround the altar; it was a great moment of the feast […] In a veiled form, one audaciously asked for salvation for the good of the people and of God, as if God – so to speak – was in distress with his people.

(Massonnet, Aux sources du christianisme…., p. 269, cited by NC, p. 317. My highlighting.)

NC adds, again translating,

we are the emphasing the last sentence. He adds: “the idea that God accompanies his people in distress is […] ancient and widespread”, see Isaiah 63, 9: “in all their distress it is distress for him”. On personal pronouns see Pierre Bonnard, L’Évangile according to Saint Matthew, p. 64, note.

Finally, one point I failed to mention earlier, recall our earlier discussions of the importance of gematria. In that context it is not insignificant that “ana YHWH” has the same numerical value as “ani waho”.

B. Dabar, a Word in Silence Continue reading “4 Jewish Word Plays behind the Word Becoming Flesh / 3 … (Charbonnel: Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier)”


2021-04-12

Jewish Origin of the “Word Became Flesh” / 2 … (Charbonnel: Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier)

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by Neil Godfrey

This post continues an exploration into the origin of the gospel figure of Jesus, in particular the case made by Nanine Charbonnel [NC] in Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier.

[To readers not so interested in the depth of these posts I have added an apology at the end.]

Though Jesus and Christianity appear to most of us as being very different from what we think of as Judaism, NC is setting forth reasons to believe that Christian beliefs about Jesus (that he was God in the flesh) were in fact natural adaptations of certain Jewish beliefs in the Second Temple era and prior to what we now think of as orthodox rabbinic Judaism. The view that early Christian and Jewish beliefs were much closer to each other than we tend to imagine today is not new among scholars. NC, therefore, can quote a critical work of the life of Jesus from the early 1800s in partial support of her argument that the figure of Jesus we read about in the gospels was initially created as a personification of various attributes of God.

Personified attributes of God in certain Jewish traditions

Pre-Christian Jewish thought has long been known to have personified various attributes of God. In 1835 David Friedrich Strauss in his Life of Jesus Critically Examined wrote:

We find in the Proverbs, in Sirach, and the Book of Wisdom, the idea of a personified and even hypostasized Wisdom of God, and in the Psalms and Prophets, strongly marked personifications of the Divine word; and it is especially worthy of note, that the later Jews, in their horror of anthropomorphism in the idea of the Divine being, attributed his speech, appearance, and immediate agency, to the Word (מימרא) or the dwelling place (שכינתא) of Jehovah, as may be seen in the venerable Targum of Onkelos. These expressions, at first mere paraphrases of the name of God, soon received the mystical signification of a veritable hypostasis, of a being at once distinct from, and one with God. As most of the revelations and interpositions of God, whose organ this personified Word was considered to be, were designed in favour of the Israelitish people, it was natural for them to assign to the manifestation which was still awaited from Him, and which was to be the crowning benefit of Israel,—the manifestation, namely, of the Messiah,—a peculiar relation with the Word or Shechina. From this germ sprang the opinion that with the Messiah the Shechina would appear, and that what was ascribed to the Shechina pertained equally to the Messiah: an opinion not confined to the Rabbins, but sanctioned by the Apostle Paul.

(Strauss, Life, Pt II Ch IV §64. Bolding is NC’s re the French translation)

Elijah Benamozegh (Wikipedia)

NC rightly remarks that many aspects of the texts of the New Testament would remain obscure without reference to the later Jewish writings. Talmudic writings, though late, certainly contain ideas, debates, sayings, that were known before the fall of the temple in 70 CE. NC goes further, however, and suggests that even the late Jewish mystical writings of the Kabbalah incorporate ideas much older than the Middle Ages. This is an area I have read too little about so all I can do at this point is repeat NC’s point and attach questions to them, especially when citing a Kabbalist.

In the nineteenth century, Joseph Salvador (in 1838), then especially the rabbi of Livorno Elijah Benamozegh (in a manuscript of 1863 which has remained unpublished, but written in French and having been sent to Paris, and which has just been published), La Kabbale et L’origine des Dogmes Chrétiens, have thrown very interesting light on these questions – if at least one accepts to name Kabbalah all that has not been accepted by rabbinical Judaism, and which must have had much more older than the Middle Ages alone. [machine translation of NC, p. 313. I have ordered a copy of La Kabbale but will have to wait a couple of weeks for it to arrive.]

NC further indicates that, according to Benamozegh, New Testament passages relating to the relationship between Father, Son, Holy Spirit under various metaphors and the incarnation of the Word of God are explained best by certain of those mystical notions, such as the Malkuth. The types of esoteric Jewish beliefs that entertained some of these ideas presumably from as early as the Second Temple era also would go a long way towards explaining the origins of various forms of Christianity (e.g. gnostic) that were delegated as heretical by what became orthodoxy. As mentioned, I know too little at this stage about Kabbalism to comment, although I have to add that the relevance of Kabbalist ideas to NC’s quest is underscored by Daniel Boyarin in Border Lines.

* e.g. Boyarin argues in The Jewish Gospels that the idea of a suffering messiah was a pre-Christian Jewish idea. Compare W. D. Davies in Paul and Rabbinic Judaism who also writes, How far are we justified in finding the same conception [suffering Messiah] among the Rabbis of the first century? Two factors ought to be borne in mind when we think of this question. First, that a methodical consideration is involved. We find an idea well attested in the early second century, and we have pointed out that the concept of the Servant of Yahweh of Deutero-Isaiah had become associated with that of the Messiah before the first century. We are led to the feeling that if the idea of the Suffering Messiah were not a burning issue in Christian theology the evidence before us would have led naturally to the assumption that it existed in the first century despite the absence of specific evidence. Moreover, in the second place, we must presuppose that behind the punning interpretation of והריחו in Isa. 11.3, as the burden imposed on the Messiah, and of חוליא (the sick) and חיורא (the leper) in Isa. 53. 4, there was probably a very long development.
We are now in a position to state the result of our discussion. It has led us to the conclusion which, in view of those ideas of the value of suffering and particularly of the suffering of the righteous and of martyrs which we enumerated above, we should have expected, namely, that the assumption is at least possible that the conception of a Suffering Messiah was not unfamiliar to pre-Christian Judaism. (p. 283)

So returning to Boyarin (with NC), some of whose more fascinating ideas cohere with other works by his scholarly peers*, NC directs us to this section of Border Lines:

This leads me to infer that Christianity and Judaism distinguished themselves in antiquity not via the doctrine of God, and not even via the question of worshiping a second God (although the Jewish heresiologists would make it so, as we shall see in the next chapter), but only in the specifics of the doctrine of this incarnation.78 Not even the appearance of the Logos as human, I would suggest, but rather the ascription of actual physical death and resurrection to the Logos was the point at which non-Christian Jews would have begun to part company theologically with those Christians—not all, of course—who held such doctrines.

78. It is not beside the point to note that, in traditional Jewish prayer from the Byzantine period to now, prayer to the “attributes” of God is known as well as prayer to the Ministering Angels (Yehuda Liebes, “The Angels of the Shofar and the Yeshua Sar-Hapanim,” Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought 6, no. 1-2 [1987]: 171-95, in Hebrew). These prayers were rectified by nineteenth-century Jewish authorities, who saw in them (suddenly?) a threat to monotheism.

[NC quoted the bolded part in the French translation. The passage above is from Boyarin, Border Lines, pp 125 and 294]

In the next section of this post, we will delve further into Boyarin’s discussion on the relationship between early Christianity and Judaism.

Innovative interpretations: theology of the Memra in the Targum

The Word: Logos (Greek); Memra (Aramaic) Continue reading “Jewish Origin of the “Word Became Flesh” / 2 … (Charbonnel: Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier)”


2021-04-09

The Jewish Origins of the Word Becoming Flesh / 1 (Charbonnel: Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier)

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by Neil Godfrey

This post presents key ideas in the first part of chapter 3 of part 2 of Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier by Nanine Charbonnel. All posts are archived here.

So to say that Jesus became flesh the evangelist John can say Jesus “tabernacled” or “tented” among his people just as God once occupied the tabernacle in the wilderness — as we saw in a recent post. But what about the very idea of “The Word (Logos) became flesh” in that same verse, John 1:14?

And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us 

That is surely a more complicated concept. Where did that notion come from? It is surely not “Jewish”, is it, although “Judaic” sounds more correct than Jewish in this context. That was the view of Rudolf Bultmann: for him, the concept was “Hellenistic”, even “gnostic”, as distinct from Palestinian-Judaic. NC’s mention of Bultmann deflected me for a moment to his works from which I quote a couple of passages to underline the old view of a strict divide between Hellenism and Judaism:

It is the language of mythology that is here [The word became flesh – Jn 1:14] employed. Just as the ancient world and the Orient tell of gods and divine beings who appear in human form, so too the central theme of the gnostic Redeemer-myth is that a divine being, the Son of the Highest, assumed human form, put on human flesh and blood, in order to bring revelation and redemption.Bultmann, John, p. 61

The Gospel of John cannot be taken into account at all as a source for the teaching of Jesus, and it is not referred to in this book. . . . [T]hese gospels were composed in Greek within the Hellenistic Christian community, while Jesus and the oldest Christian group lived in Palestine and spoke Aramaic. . . .  [E]verything in the [gospels] which for reasons of language or content can have originated only in Hellenistic Christianity must be excluded . . . Bultmann, Jesus, pp. 12f

That was then.

The Word in John’s and Philo’s works — both Hellenistic AND Jewish?

NC argues that the question is not an either/or one. Either from Hellenism or Judaism. Keep in mind that the label “Hellenistic age” refers to a time of blending of eastern and Greek cultures; it was not a replacement of eastern ideas with Greek ones. NC cites Daniel Boyarin (though I quote him more extensively here) and Boyarin cites several other specialist scholars to affirm that we need to think of the Judaism of the time as a part of Hellenism.

Thus, to put one possible point on this, I and many if not most scholars of Judaism currently do not operate with an opposition between Judaism and Hellenism, seeing all of Jewish culture in the Hellenistic period (including the anti-Hellenists) as a Hellenistic culture.73 (Boyarin, Border Lines, p. 18)

73. “Hellenistic ways of life, thought and expression were integral to Jewish Palestinian culture from at least the mid third century [B.C.] on, and these tendencies affected Pharisaism and later Rabbinic writings. Hellenistic schools were especially influential on Jewish modes of organization and expression. The emergence of definable sects, Pharisees, Sadducees, etc. and more importantly the attention given to them fits most comfortably into the Greco-Roman world with its recognized philosophical schools, religious societies and craft assocations” (Anthony Saldarini, Scholastic Rabbinism: A Literary Study of the Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan [Chico, Calif.: Scholars Press, 1982], 19). My only emendation to this important statement would be to abandon language of “influence” and simply understand that “Judaism” is itself a species of Hellenism. See the formulation in Saldarini, Scholastic, 21, which comes closer, I think, to this perspective. Cf. most recently Lee 1. Levine, Judaism & Hellenism in Antiquity: Conflict or Confluence, The Samuel & Althea Stroum Lectures in Jewish Studies (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998). In this vein, see Erich S. Gruen, Heritage and Hellenism: The Reinvention of Jewish Tradition, Hellenistic Culture and Society 30 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998), esp. 292: “The [Palestinian] Jews were not so much permeated by the culture of the Greeks as they were a part of it.” Also most recently Schwartz, Jewish Society.

and

Granted that in some areas, Asia Minor almost certainly being among them, Gentile converts began to outnumber Christian Jews at a fairly early date, and that they brought with them, almost inevitably, “hellenophile” and then “antijudaistic” tendencies; however, the lion’s share of the Hellenic thinking of early Christianity — and most centrally, Logos theology — was an integral part of the first-century Jewish world, including Palestine. Jewish theology had for centuries been “open to the thinking of antiquity” — whether Persian or Graeco-Roman — and the binary opposition of Judaism and Hellenism (as well as the binary opposition between Palestinian and Hellenistic Judaism) requires major rethinking. As I have pointed out above, Judaism is from the very beginning a Hellenistic form of culture. As remarked by Rebecca Lyman: “Justin’s appeal to the ultimate authority of divine revelation in prophetic texts or to Jesus as the Logos, the original truth sought by human philosophers, is confrontational, but it is potentially powerful precisely because of its Hellenistic, i.e. Greek and Jewish, lineage in establishing truth through antiquity and transcendence.” (p. 92)

Continue reading “The Jewish Origins of the Word Becoming Flesh / 1 (Charbonnel: Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier)”


2021-04-06

“If I were an Australian journalist, I would jump at this.”

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by Neil Godfrey

Recall my post from a week ago, MH370 – still waiting. There I quoted the President of Emirates Airline (the company with the world’s largest fleet of Boeing 777s), Sir Tim Clark, expressing his frustration over the lack of transparency in the supposed references to the data related to the missing aircraft and unanswered questions put to the official “explanation”. Florence de Changy, author of The Disappearing Act: The Impossible Case of MH370, attempted to interview Tim Clark for that book. Here is her account of those attempts:

Another important voice that had gone oddly quiet was that of the highly respected Sir Tim Clark, the President of Emirates Airline. Emirates runs the largest fleet of Boeing 777s in the world, and its chief was clearly not impressed with the ‘disappearance’ narrative. He had initially declared that ‘he would not be silenced’ on the matter. ‘We seem to have allowed MH370 to go into this black hole of “it could be one of aviation’s great mysteries”. It can’t be left like that, never. I’m totally dissatisfied with what has been coming out of all of this. I will continue to ask the questions and will make a nuisance of myself, when others would like to bury it. We have an obligation not to brush this under the carpet,’ he added.

I submitted three requests to meet Clark to follow up on his vigorous initial statements. I even offered to travel to Dubai, or to meet him wherever he might be in order to overcome any logistical issues. But in December 2015, a major codeshare deal was agreed between Emirates and MAS, and his communications adviser let it be known that Clark ‘had nothing to add to what he previously said on that matter’. Yet, Clark has never said that he was now satisfied with this or that explanation, and he seemed so sincere right at the start of the whole affair. For a long time I pondered whether he had been somehow convinced that it was in the best general interest that the truth not be revealed, or whether he had even been forcefully silenced. According to an Australian diplomatic source in the Middle East, it was actually the ATSB, using – or rather, abusing – its leverage as regulator for one of Emirates’ major destinations, who asked him to stop commenting about MH370. Apparently, Clark had no choice other than to comply, but he was so put out that he insisted on registering his annoyance with the Australian ambassador in Abu Dhabi.

(Disappearing Act, pp 337 f)

And a review of Changy’s book, one that I concur with at every point, by Shalini Ganendra at MalayMail.com.


Changy, Florence de. The Disappearing Act: The Impossible Case of MH370. UK: HarperCollins, 2021.


 


2021-04-05

What Did Josephus Think of John the Baptist?

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by Neil Godfrey

Many scholars assert that behind the obviously interpolated words about Jesus in the Antiquities of the Jews Josephus did in fact write something, either mildly positive or neutral in tone, about him. The problem with that assertion is that it is well recognized among scholars of Josephus that the Jewish historian absolutely hated everyone who, they believe, was taken to be some sort of messianic figure. Accordingly, some scholars propose that what Josephus originally wrote about Jesus was indeed a negative assessment. Hence the ongoing slide into imaginary sources so familiar to historical Jesus studies. What we read in the writings of Josephus about Jesus is beyond the scope of Rivka Nir’s exploration of John the Baptist in The First Christian Believer. But what I found interesting was that one of her reasons for questioning the authenticity of the John the Baptist passage in Antiquities falls into the same basket of reasons for questioning the authenticity of the Jesus passage.

Palestine was riddled with prophets in the decades leading up to the War of 66-70 and John the Baptist (and Jesus, too) should be examined in this context, we so often read in the scholarly literature. The usual suspects trotted out are

  • the Samaritan prophet who led crowds to Mount Gerazim in expectation of finding sacred vessels hidden by Moses
  • Theudas who led a large crowd to the Jordan River in expectation of it parting just as in the days of Joshua
  • the Egyptian prophet who led a crowd to the Mount Olives from where they expected to see God tear down the walls of Jerusalem
  • the prophet from the wilderness who took people out into the wilderness

The attitude of Josephus to all of these prophets is well known. He branded them “false prophets, imposters, deceivers, swindlers, deluders” (Nir, 46) and he blamed them, along with “bandits and robbers” and other rebels for the destruction of the temple at the hands of Rome.

How can we reconcile?

So how can we understand writing about John the Baptist so positively? Nir writes:

44 The word στάσις means rebellion or struggle against the governing authorities, or conflict between two civilian groups: see Ant. 18.62.88 . . . ; and νεώτερος conveys the idea of social-political change or revolution: ‘With this significance the term is often used negatively by those supporting the status quo which is being challenged by that which is ‘‘radically innovative”’ (Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet, p. 37 . . .). 

His abhorrence of these prophets is consistent with his opposition to whoever sought to undermine the legitimate government and strove after any kind of change or revolution. In the passage at hand, John is described as contesting the legitimate regime and instigator of revolution: Herod feared that ‘eloquence [John’s] that had so great an effect on mankind might lead to some form of sedition [στάσις]’ and ‘decided therefore that it would be much better to strike first and be rid of him before his work led to an uprising (νεώτερος), than to wait for an upheaval, get involved in a difficult situation, and see his mistake’. The two terms (στάσις and νεώτερος) imply that John’s activity had rebellious overtones and the potential for political ferment.44

How then can we reconcile Josephus’s negative stance toward these rabble-rousers with his sympathy for John? And not only does Josephus describe him positively, he even justifies those Jews who saw the annihilation of Herod’s army as divine punishment for John’s execution: ‘But to some of the Jews the destruction of Herod’s army seemed to be divine vengeance, and certainly a just vengeance (μάλα δικαίως).

(Nir, 46f)

Nir notes that some scholars (Schürer, Meier) raise the possibility that Josephus might have made an exception for John the Baptist because of his asceticism. My response to that suspicion is to ask why Josephus did not breathe a word about John’s asceticism. The asceticism of John is an idea that comes from the gospels where it serves an evident theological function as a foil to the teaching of Jesus. If Josephus thought of John as qualitatively different from the other prophets whom he despised then surely we would expect him to make that difference explicit.

At this point Rivka Nir takes up what she considers the primary reason for doubting the authenticity of the Josephan passage: the description of John’s baptism. We’ll look at that in a later post.

Differences between John the Baptist and those other prophets

Continue reading “What Did Josephus Think of John the Baptist?”


2021-04-04

Earliest Resurrection Reports — John’s and Paul’s

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by Neil Godfrey

The last two from that dimly remembered period in the last century when I was (a) sorting out my investigations into the biblical accounts of the resurrection with an interest in seeing how matching or contradictory they were; and (b) experimenting with new software I had purchased for my primitive Windows PC.

Why I ended up with two by Paul I can’t recall now. Presumably, new info hit me after I wrote up one of them. I have no idea now which was the final one.

but maybe the one below was first and the realization that Paul could point to eyewitnesses (as above) came later.

I’m reminded of newspapers I used to mock up when I was a little boy. Maybe I should have been a reporter.


The Earliest Resurrection Reports – Matthew’s and Luke’s Reports

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by Neil Godfrey

Two more from the last century when I was (a) sorting out my investigations into the biblical accounts of the resurrection with an interest in seeing how matching or contradictory they were; and (b) experimenting with new software I had purchased for my primitive Windows PC. I posted Mark’s report here; two more to follow after this post.

and then, of course, Luke’s


2021-04-03

The Base Tapes — Neo-Nazi Recruitment Drive in Australia

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by Neil Godfrey

Southern Cross and Swastika flag (Wikipedia)

They’re recruiting. Superficially relatively innocuous-looking groups like the Lads Society are their first ports of call. But their conversations have been infiltrated so we can be alerted to the threat:

The Base Tapes – Part 1 From the Background Briefing program (42 minutes)

Transcript page: The Base Tapes

AdvocateCannibalismgot more enjoyment watching Saint Tarrant do his thingbut I’ve eaten several meals watching that.

Will T PowerIt was harder and harder to speak out about it for fear of losing my political career.

ShermanWell National Socialism is the world view of the eternal truth.

Rooreich88I’ve seen and experienced and talked to enough Muslims to just know I f**king hate them.

Nazzaro: So what’s your ethnicity?

AdvocateCannibalismMaster race.

Other information online related to the above podcasts:

“Jason Wilson on The Base (Again).” 3CR Community Radio, 25 Mar. 2021, https://www.3cr.org.au/yeahnahpasaran/episode-202104011630/jason-wilson-base-again.

McNeill, Nick McKenzie, Joel Tozer, Heather. “From One Nation to Neo-Nazism: Australians Being Drawn into Extremism.” The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Mar. 2021, https://www.smh.com.au/national/from-one-nation-to-neo-nazism-australians-being-drawn-into-extremism-20210324-p57dr9.html.

“Revealed: The True Identity of the Leader of an American Neo-Nazi Terror Group.” The Guardian, 24 Jan. 2020, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/23/revealed-the-true-identity-of-the-leader-of-americas-neo-nazi-terror-group.

“The Base: Exporting Accelerationist Terror.” Southern Poverty Law Center, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2020/08/12/base-exporting-accelerationist-terror.

US Neo-Nazi Group “The Base” Is Recruiting Members in Australia. https://www.vice.com/en/article/7k9gja/neo-nazi-group-the-base-recruiting-in-australia.


The Earliest Resurrection Reports – Mark’s Report

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by Neil Godfrey

Another discovery of long-forgotten dabblings of mine, again from the 1990s when I was (a) sorting out my investigations into the biblical accounts of the resurrection with an interest in seeing how matching or contradictory they were; and (b) experimenting with new software I had purchased for my primitive Windows PC. They make me cringe now but they’re my history. Here is the first one.

 

 

 


On John the Baptist per Josephus – and the murder of Zechariah son of Jehoiada

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by Neil Godfrey

Let’s continue looking at Rivka Nir’s proposal that the John the Baptist passage in Antiquities of the Jews was not part of Josephus’s original work. We continue from John the Baptist’s Place in Josephus’s Antiquities. But be warned. I get sidetracked and explore the broader evidence for both Christian and Jewish views on divine retribution for killing prophets and especially focus on the story that appears to have been the paradigm for all such accounts — the murder of Zechariah in 2 Chronicles.

In my previous post the point was made that the John the Baptist passage appears to have been dislocated from where it would more naturally fit. That is, we have this flow of thought ….

  1. Josephus informs readers that Herod and the king of Nabatean Arabia, Aretas, had a quarrel.
  2. This quarrel, Josephus relates, was over Herod plotting to divorce Aretas’s daughter.
  3. Aretas went to war against Herod and defeated him.
  4. Herod then appealed to Tiberius, the Roman emperor, to punish Aretas. Tiberius ordered his general Vitellius to invade Aretas’s kingdom and bring Aretas back to Rome dead or alive.
  5. The John the Baptist passage appears here as the explanation, according to some Jews, for why Herod’s army had been defeated
  6. Vitellius is said to obey Tiberius’s order and his march towards Aretas’s kingdom is described, along with how he pulled back from his venture on learning of the death of emperor Tiberius.

Rivka Nir suggests that the more natural place for Josephus to give the supposed reason for Herod’s defeat would be between #3 and #4 above.

Rivka Nir also points to the discrepancy between the gospel’s dating the death of John to the time of Jesus (presumably about 30 CE or a little before) and the Josephan account that is set at 36 CE. “How could Josephus claim that the Jews credited Herod’s defeat to John’s death, which preceded it by six years?” (p. 44) But I wonder why the gospel timing of JB’s death should be taken as any more authoritative than Josephus’.

Further, the idea that Herod was defeated in war as divine punishment for unjustly killing a figure prominent in the Christian tradition reminds us of later Christian authors — Hegesippus, Origen and Eusebius — blaming the fall of Jerusalem on the unjust execution of James the brother of Jesus. Nir sees both accounts — the unjust murders of John the Baptist and James the Lord’s brother — as “presumably based on the causal relationship created by Christian theology between the Jewish rejection and crucifixion of Jesus and the temple’s destruction.”(pp. 44f)

I was interested in the evidence for the early Christian authors promoting this idea of a causal relationship between the crucifixion of Jesus and the fall of Jerusalem so followed up as many of Nir’s citations as I could. Here is what I found (all bolded emphasis is mine): Continue reading “On John the Baptist per Josephus – and the murder of Zechariah son of Jehoiada”


2021-04-01

Don’t tell me about it, tell God!

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by Neil Godfrey

A word search on this blog will bring up many posts I have written on Marlene Winnell’s Leaving the Fold, one of the books that helped me in my “recovery” to a life after somewhat extreme fundamentalism.

My life paused for a moment the other day when, while sorting out old junk, I came across a little essay I wrote back in 1995 when the pain of my years of cult experience was still somewhat raw. I post it here for anyone else who has been through anything similar (and untold thousands have). It is a bitter tale. It was also written before the post 9/11 upsurge in Islamophobia throughout much of the Western world and I don’t know if I would have chosen a Muslim character if I wrote it after 2001. The point of choosing a Muslim holy man was to try to distance the tale from me emotionally so I could write it in the first place. It is to be read as an allegory, of course. The sexual abuse represents the totality of the authoritarian abusive and life-destroying control experienced in the cult.*  It comes in the wake if gross injustices by power-freaks who try to blind themselves to the suicides, family breakups, other deaths and torments they caused. And no doubt continue to cause behind the public view. A tale of life behind the closed doors of a religious cult and on the moment one learns that one’s friendships in the cult were conditional on your identity as an extension of the cult-leader.

From: Neil Godfrey
To: ’ wcg-forum@netcom.com’
Subject: A story
Date: Friday, June 09, 1995 1:57PM

DONT TELL ME, TELL GOD.
(Or: “So? Tell someone who cares.”)

Continue reading “Don’t tell me about it, tell God!”