2018-11-09

Billionaire Logic and the Death of JFK / 2 —

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by Neil Godfrey

This is part 2 of the interview with John Curington. See Billionaire Logic and the Death of JFK for the introduction and background this series. (Greg Doudna has posted a link to the full interview on his academia.edu page.)

It is interesting to compare today’s events with “fake news” and its correlation with criminal violence.

~ ~ ~

GD: So then we come to—Kennedy is assassinated.

Mercantile Bank, Dallas

JC: Yeah. At the time Kennedy came to Dallas in November ’63, our offices—when I say our I mean Hunt Oil company offices—were in the Mercantile Bank Building there in Dallas. And the Mercantile Bank Building had windows that were about four by six foot in dimensions, and you could raise them up and be exposed without a screen or anything. And when the Kennedy caravan passed our offices on the day of the assassination, Mr. Hunt and I were in the window looking out, and John Connally was in the front seat of the limousine in which Kennedy was a passenger. He turned up and looked at our building and recognized Mr. Hunt, and he turned around and made a comment to Jack Kennedy. And Kennedy in turn turned up and waved to Mr. Hunt there. So I think there was a recognition of Mr. Hunt on the parade route looking out his office window and being recognized by both John Connally and John Fitzgerald Kennedy there.

GD: You were standing right there with Mr. Hunt?

JC: Yeah, he and I were—in fact I’ve seen one clip, that I can recognize myself in that window and Mr. Hunt is standing by me there. But it has to be <unintelligible> personal recognition, which was more of an important issue there.

He and I were looking at—then I received a telephone call, I would say within three or four minutes of the shooting. And the person that called me stated that they had just heard that there had been a shot fired at John Kennedy. And I told that person that was impossible, because I had just seen him pass the window three or four minutes before, and that was impossible. But I had a TV in my office, and I did go over to my office and turn the TV on. And after a few minutes there was an interruption in the program, and it, the interruption, stated that yes there had a been a shot fired, and they at that time did not know where the shot was fired, who was hit, or what was involved with it, but as the story unraveled it became clear that yes, Kennedy had been shot, and yes, it was a fatal shot.

GD: Do you recall Mr. Hunt’s reaction to the news?

JC: I don’t think there was any visible reaction. He shared the same view that I did. He did not have a TV in his office. But after the program began to get interrupted with the story, then Mr. Hunt did come into my office and did sit down in a chair and watch the news. But I don’t remember him making any comment one way or the other, as to what was happening or not happening.

GD: But you said he did not make comments very much on things—

JC: No, no.

Officer J.D. Tippit

GD: Then—Officer Tippit was shot, and Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in the movie theatre, and this was on a Friday afternoon—

(J. D. Tippitt, 1924-1963, was a Dallas police officer who was shot to death in another part of the city an hour after the Kennedy assassination, by an assailant described as matching Oswald’s description near to and immediately prior to Oswald’s arrest in a movie theatre.)

JC: Yes.

GD: And then the Dallas police—he was being questioned by Captain Fritz—

JC: Yeah. Will Fritz, he was Captain, head of the Homicide Division of the Dallas Police Department.

GD: Did you know Captain Fritz?

JC: Yes. I knew him, was on a first-name basis with him.

GD: Did you know others in the police department pretty well?

George Butler

JC: Well, I guess my best contact, we tried to keep pretty good contact with all the law enforcement people, but I guess my best contact would have been Lieutenant George Butler. He was a frequent visitor to our office, and I was able to do some things for George Butler that he was appreciative of me being able to do, that—nothing illegal or unethical about it—but we just developed a pretty close working relationship. And I was able to call upon him for information, or his assistance on anything that I needed a little help on.

8 Ray Zauber, “George Butler: His Word Was Law,” Oak Cliff Tribune, Jan. 10, 1980, 1-2.

(“A friend of the late H. L. Hunt, Butler was a confidante of the famed oil tycoon and handled personal investigative assignments for Hunt Oil.”8 Butler is said to have been the officer in charge, under Captain Fritz, of the Oswald transfer in the basement of the Dallas Police Department in which Oswald was killed on Sunday morning, Dec. 24, 1963.)

GD: Then there’s the story that’s been partly reported in the past, that Mr. Hunt asked you to go to the police station and check on the security of Oswald.

JC: Well, there’s a little bit more to that story than just, you know, going down to check on security. Of course at that time Mr. Hunt was a very well-known person, in wide circles, but was well known in the Dallas area, and was well known by a lot of people who listened to his political views. And when the accident happened with John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Mr. Hunt immediately started getting threatening, what I would call threatening telephone calls, in the sense that they would be badmouthing Mr. Hunt for badmouthing the President on previous Life Line programs. Nothing more than what I would say random calls from people who shared different political views. But after you get several of those over a short period of time you become a little bit concerned with what their next step might be there.

GD: So Mr. Hunt was getting threatening calls—

JC: Yeah.

G: And did that have anything to do with him asking you to go check the security of Oswald?

JC: Well, I think so. Because immediately after the assassination, everything started off in slow motion, as far as publicity and information being distributed. On a minute-to-minute basis that information was being upgraded, changed, altered, but presented in a different light. So I think that continuous new information just encouraged people to more and more call Mr. Hunt, expressing their frustration that, one, could he have been involved in the assassination? And two, did he feel any remorse by putting out programs that were detrimental to the Kennedy political agenda there? So Mr. Hunt was nothing more than a person that people could and would express their indication, you know, their concern over him being involved in anything that could have affected the president there.

In my opinion it was nothing more than a normal reaction, you know, to any given set of an event that had worldwide exposure, and of interest to almost every person in the United States.

GD: In Mr. Hunt’s view did he maybe wonder if his Life Line program had incited the assassination?

read more »


2018-11-08

Billionaire Logic and the Death of JFK

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by Neil Godfrey

I am going to post in installments an interview that relates to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Since reading the interview I have followed up some of the information and names mentioned and the more I learn the more questions I have. The interviewer, Greg Doudna, has kindly agreed to write an introduction. (I have previously posted on some of Greg’s work — a totally different subject from this interview.)

John Curington

The following is an interview with John Curington, former right-hand man of Texas oilman H.L. Hunt of Dallas, Texas, concerning the John F. Kennedy assassination.

In June 1977 the American tabloidNational Enquirer published a story reporting unusual information related by Curington relevant to H. L. Hunt and the JFK assassination. Despite its significance and relevance to an understanding of the JFK assassination, Curington’s story attracted little further notice. Curington himself did not seek further publicity, living quietly in the intervening decades in rural Texas in obscurity as a small rancher and country lawyer. As an illustration of how under-the-radar Curington has been, the most encyclopedic compendium of JFK assassination information available, former Los Angeles County deputy district attorney Vincent Bugliosi’s The Assassination of President Kennedy (2007; 1632 pages print plus an additional 1125 pages of footnotes on an attached CD-ROM), does not mention Curington’s name, according to the index. 

My interview with Curington came about by accident, through a long-time acquaintance who I belatedly learned is a friend of Curington’s. I had read the National Enquirer article about Curington long ago and recognized who he was. I was surprised to learn he was still alive. This interview is the result.

By the time I met Curington he had prepared an unpublished manuscript of memoirs of his years with H. L. Hunt, which went well beyond the brief account inNational Enquirer of 1977. Curington’s manuscript is now published (John Curington with Mitchel Whitington, Motive and Opportunity: The Means by which H.L. Hunt Influenced the Assassination of JFK, King, Bobby & Hoffa, 2018, available on Amazon).

This interview is appearing first onVridar, and to my knowledge is the first publication of a full interview with Curington. Many view the current political climate in the United States with foreboding. I believe it is instructive to recall an earlier time in American history with, in certain respects, parallel issues.

–Greg Doudna

 

Billionaire Logic and the Fate of JFK

Interview with John Curington,

Right-hand Man and Attorney to H. L. Hunt of Dallas, Texas

(the Richest Man in the World in 1963),

Concerning the Assassination of President Kennedy

by

Gregory Doudna

H. L. Hunt

Texas oilman H. L. Hunt (1889-1974) of Dallas, Texas, was the richest man in the world in the 1960s—oil, natural gas, land, companies producing food and energy, worldwide.

Mr. Hunt was also America’s pre-eminent producer and purveyor of conservative, anti-communist ideology, through a daily radio program broadcast, at its peak, on over five hundred radio stations across America called Life Line. Hunt backed politicians who held political views he thought were best for business and for the country, and he was a close associate of J. Edgar Hoover, the long-time director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Hunt had a special phone line to Hoover and they talked frequently back and forth, on matters affecting the nation’s business.

Hunt’s Life Line program was relentlessly critical of President John F. Kennedy—for “creeping socialism,” for being soft on America’s enemies abroad and their fellow-travellers domestically, for cozying up to the satanic United Nations and the one-worlders behind that organization intent on America’s destruction.

One of Hunt’s sons, Bunker Hunt, helped pay the cost of a black-bordered full-page newspaper ad accusing Kennedy of traitorous actions. Its headline was: “Welcome Mr. Kennedy: Why Are You a Communist?” The black borders were like a funeral notice. This ad appeared in the Dallas Morning News on Friday, November 22, 1963. It was seeing that ad which prompted Kennedy to remark to Jacqueline at their hotel that morning, “We’re heading into nut country.”

November 22, 1963 was the day President Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy visited Dallas, overriding futile private pleas of people like Adlai Stevenson and Sen. William Fulbright to Kennedy not to make that trip, out of concern for his safety. But the trip had been planned and was regarded as politically necessary in the runup to the 1964 presidential elections. H. L. Hunt’s political ally and fellow Texan, Vice-President Lyndon Johnson—at that moment under investigation in Congress for a corruption scandal with a growing likelihood of being dumped from the Kennedy ticket in 1964 and ending up in disgrace—had spent the preceding month at his Texas ranch preparing for Kennedy’s visit to Texas.

And so it was that the President and First Lady waved to the crowds from their open limousine as it took its fateful slow hairpin turn in front of the Texas School Book Depository on Elm Street. Moments later shots rang out and part of Kennedy’s head was blown off. The motorcade sped to nearby Parkland Hospital but it was hopeless; Kennedy was dead. Texas Governor John Connally also was shot but survived. Two hours later Vice President Johnson, riding in the same motorcade two cars back, was sworn in as the new President of the United States as a nation reeled in shock and grief. To this day, every American of a certain age and unimpaired memory remembers where they were when they heard the news.

An hour after the assassination, Texas School Book Depository employee Lee Harvey Oswald, an ex-Marine and returned defector to the Soviet Union with professed communist sympathies and associations (but oddly not a single known communist friend), was arrested and later that evening charged with the murder of a police officer and of President Kennedy.

1 In 1997 handwritten notes of Will Fritz from his Oswald interrogations were conveyed by an anonymous donor to authorities and released publicly after the donor had been in possession of them since Fritz’s death in 1984. Fritz’s claim to have taken no notes is in his testimony to the Warren Commission (“I kept no notes at the time”).

Oswald was denied a lawyer despite repeated requests heard by reporters. When a delegation of attorneys from the Dallas Civil Liberties Union appeared at the police station intent upon ensuring that Oswald had access to counsel, they left without seeing the prisoner after being told that Oswald had made no specific request to see them (Oswald had not been told they were there). Veteran Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz questioned the accused assassin of the President for twelve hours over two days without recording any of it (there was no tape recorder handy in the police station, he later explained) and also, he claimed, without taking any notes.1 Oswald’s story would not come out in court. Less than 48 hours after his arrest, on Sunday morning, November 24, 1963, Oswald was shot and killed while in police custody by Jack Ruby, a Mob-connected Dallas strip club operator friendly with Dallas police.

Veteran Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz – image from Mary Ferrell Foundation

Within hours of the assassination the Federal Bureau of Investigation under Director J. Edgar Hoover, in consultation with the new president, took over control of the investigation from the Dallas Police Department. The FBI immediately assured the nation in definitive terms that the assassination had been done by Oswald acting alone, following which the investigation got underway.

Others however, such as some U.S. intelligence insiders seeking a cause of war for a desired invasion of Cuba, wanted it to be believed—and privately Johnson himself let it be known to a few trusted friends and media sources on a strictly confidential basis (such as CBS television news anchor Walter Cronkite), that he too believed—that Castro and/or the Soviet Union were behind Oswald’s action.

But publicly Johnson appointed the prestigious President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, better known as the Warren Commission, to investigate. The Warren Commission relied in large part upon the FBI’s investigation. One of the Warren Commission’s seven members, Congressional Representative (and future president) Gerald Ford, secretly informed Hoover’s FBI on an ongoing basis via a back channel of the activities of the Commission and the thinking of its members. Another member of the Warren Commission, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief Allen Dulles who had been fired by Kennedy, is believed to have functioned on the CIA’s behalf to shield certain areas of inquiry from the Warren Commission’s attention, such as a covert assassination program directed at (foreign) heads of state, which had been run by Dulles, that would later come to light in 1970s Congressional investigations.

Evoking a threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union, President Johnson and members of his administration persuaded Commission members—most notably Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and respected liberal icon Earl Warren who headed the Commission—that it was imperative for the noblest of motives to find sole and complete responsibility for the JFK assassination began and ended with the dead Oswald.

And so it was that the lone-nut explanation of the JFK assassination became the conclusion of the Warren Commission in its final report issued on September 24, 1964, signed unanimously by all seven Commission members, even though at least three of those seven disagreed with the lone-assassin-without-assistance conclusion (Boggs, Cooper, Russell). Meanwhile, the question of Oswald’s motive was left unexplained: it was a “mystery.”

2 Interview in “Richard Russell: Georgia Giant,” a documentary aired Feb. 11, 1970 on WSB-TV, Atlanta, Georgia. Donald E. Wilkes, Jr., “Sen. Richard Russell and the Great American Murder Mystery” (2003). http://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/fac_pm/133.
Richard Russell

One of the seven Warren Commission members, Senator Richard Russell, said in a television interview in 1970, the year before he died, that he “never believed that Lee Harvey Oswald planned that altogether by himself … [T]here were so many circumstances there that led me to believe that you couldn’t just completely eliminate the possibility that he did have some co-conspirators … I’m not completely satisfied in my own mind that he did plan and commit this act altogether on his own, without consultation with anyone else. And that’s what a majority of the Committee wanted to find.”2

A majority, he said? Disagreed with their own unanimous conclusion? They wanted to find differently than they did? Welcome to the surreal world of American politics of the 1960s.

~ ~ ~

The “lone nut” conclusion of the Warren Commission was not the assessment of intelligence services of some other nations. Within the first months following the JFK assassination, the KGB (intelligence agency of the Soviet Union) as well as some European intelligence agencies concluded that the assassination appeared to have been a coup and that the deed had been pinned on the former USSR resident Oswald for the purpose of blaming the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

3 Christopher Andrew and Vasali Mitrokhin, The Sword and the Shield (New York: Basic Books, 1999), 225.

[Soviet Premier] Khrushchev seems to have been convinced by the KGB view that the aim of the right-wing conspirators behind Kennedy’s assassination was to intensify the Cold War … The choice of Oswald as Kennedy’s assassin, the KGB believed, was intended to divert public attention from the racist oil magnates and make the assassination appear to be a Communist plot.”3

~ ~ ~

Attorney John Curington (1927- ), whose interview follows this introduction, was H. L. Hunt’s right-hand man from 1960 to 1969. Curington’s office immediately adjoined Hunt’s office in Dallas’s downtown Mercantile Bank Building.

Curington grew up in Farmersville, Texas, and graduated from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, followed by law school at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. In 1954 he began working as an attorney for Hunt Oil. By 1960 Curington was working directly for Mr. Hunt, doing things ranging from (as described by Curington) “running HLH Products (the ‘food division’) to covering up tax-evasion schemes, collecting gambling debts, handling matters involving Hunt’s secret family [of which Hunt had two in addition to his public family in Dallas] … and carrying out covert political operations.”4

4 Harry Hurt, Texas Rich: The Hunt Dynasty from the early Oil Days through the Silver Crash (New York: Norton & Co., 1981), 188-89.
5 For fuller details see Hurt, Texas Rich, 276-308. After years of legal wrangling, Curington and another aide were convicted on three federal counts of mail fraud with a suspended sentence (“Hunt Aides Plan Appeal,” San Antonio Express, April 19, 1975, p. 6).
6 Martin Waldron, “Family Fight Texas Style,” New York Times, April 15, 1973, p. 173.

In 1969 during acrimonious disputes between Hunt’s public family and his two other families, Curington left Hunt’s employ. As the family feud escalated, Curington and other aides, having sided with one branch of Hunt heirs, were charged by rival family members with embezzlement.5 To give an idea of the world in which Curington operated in that era, here is a description from a 1970s legal brief:

The attorneys said that the two men [Curington and John K. Brown] ‘have been H. L. Hunt’s closely associated subordinates all through such periods during which, at his instance, or at the instance of members of his family authorized by him, they have engaged in many confidential and clandestine transactions for him with other persons such as holders and seekers of public office, labor leaders, actual or potential competitors, influential job holders in commercial contracts, professional sports figures and nonbusiness social persons.’”6

In this context a President was killed in Dallas. Five and a half decades later Curington has a story to tell.

Curington’s story comes in the form of a new book, written with Texas regional author Mitchel Whitington, entitled Motive and Opportunity: The Means by which H. L. Hunt Influenced the Assassination of JFK, King, Bobby & Hoffa (2018, published by 23House, available on Amazon). In addition to vivid day-to-day portraits of what it was like to be the right-hand man to H. L. Hunt and how billionaire power worked in the 1960s, Mr. Curington maps out his firsthand account of H. L. Hunt’s political dealings, and how and why he believes his former boss was involved in the assassinations of JFK (1963), Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968), and Robert F. Kennedy (1968).

Thanks to having a mutual friend in common and after he had seen a book I had written with a Texas theme, Mr. Curington granted me a rare recorded interview.

Although Curington is ninety, one would not know it in meeting him. I found Curington to be alert and active, of sharp and sound mind. In person Curington is lean, with a mustache and ten-gallon hat, looking like he could have just walked off the set of an episode of the old television show Bonanza. He walks unaided, no walking stick or cane or slow movements, and his hearing and vision are good. Before I met him I returned a phone call from him. A woman who answered said Curington could not come to the phone “because he is out hauling hay.” Was that just Texas or was it genes? In favor of the genes theory: Curington told me his grandmother lived to age 116.

The interview that follows took place March 1, 2018, in east Texas, and focuses on the JFK assassination. I have added a few notes to explain names and contexts. Mr. Curington has seen and approved this transcript. Here is this living voice of history, Mr. Curington.

~ ~ ~

GD: Good morning Mr. Curington. I have read the manuscript of your book written with Mitchel Whitington, Motive and Opportunity: The Means by which H. L. Hunt Influenced the Assassination of JFK, King, Bobby & Hoffa. I would like to focus on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. You were Mr. Hunt’s right-hand man in those years, right?

JC: Yes. My story goes back to 1960 at the Democratic convention in Los Angeles, California. At that time Lyndon Johnson was going to run for President of the United States. Lyndon was the most powerful politician in Washington. But he was under the guidance of Sam Rayburn, who was a Congressman from Texas and also Speaker of the House for many years.

(Sam Rayburn was a Democratic Representative to Congress from east Texas 1913 to 1961. He holds the record for longest tenure as Speaker of the House, over seventeen years.)

Sam Rayburn thought he had complete control of the Democratic convention. Lyndon Johnson thought he was completely in charge of the election and would be nominated. But after two or three days—uh no, I’d say within a half a day—of Mr. Hunt and I being at the Democratic convention, I reached the conclusion, and Mr. Hunt reached the conclusion, that Lyndon Johnson was not going to receive the nomination.

Lyndon Johnson would not accept that explanation from Mr. Hunt or anybody else. If you mentioned it to him there would be a loud cussing tirade, that, you know, we were wrong and he was right, and he was going to get the nomination. After a few hours period of time it became obvious to Lyndon Johnson that he would not get the nomination, and that John F. Kennedy would. At that time Mr. Hunt came up with the idea or the suggestion that for he, Mr. Hunt, to salvage his own business empire he had to have Lyndon Johnson in office, even if it meant him accepting the Vice Presidency. And the reason for that—Mr. Hunt had enough confidence in Lyndon Johnson, that he, Lyndon, could influence John Kennedy as president and still get what Mr. Hunt wanted, and protect Mr. Hunt’s interests in all government activities there.

But at that point the situation is, Lyndon Johnson didn’t want the vice-presidency, and the Kennedys didn’t want Lyndon Johnson to accept it. But politics make unusual bedfellows, and to convince each other that both were needed, it was necessary to sell and convince Lyndon Johnson that he had to take the vice presidency. Mr. Hunt’s selling point on that was, without making any direct accusations or finger-pointing, that there were a lot of things that could happen to John Fitzgerald Kennedy while he was in office. Kennedy’s health was not good. He had medical problems. He was in a high profile situation where he would be subject to people that wanted him out of office for one reason or another.

But without assuring Johnson in direct words that Kennedy would not live through the first four years, it was certainly put in a language that Lyndon Johnson could understand.

And that was an acceptable explanation as to why he finally agreed to take the second spot, on the theory that Mr. Hunt, I think convinced him that he could still pretty well run Washington, and that he, Johnson, could control Kennedy, and in the event if something did happen to Kennedy, then in that event Johnson would move into the presidency. And if it was late in the presidency, then Johnson would by all means be elected for four more years. In 1964 that would ensure Mr. Hunt of having control of his business activities through a Washington contact for the next several years.

GD: And you were there at those discussions in 1960?

JC: Yes, I was present there when those discussions were made. read more »


Looks like it’s about to get messy….

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by Neil Godfrey

Within 24 hours of losing the House . . .

Strike One….

—o0o—

Strike Two….

—o0o—

Strike Three….


2018-11-07

Academic Consensus and Jesus Mythicism

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by Neil Godfrey

I know many readers will be interested in the following.

R. G. Price (whose book I recently wrote about) has posted thoughts on the relationship between academic consensus and the question of the historicity of Jesus: Academic consensus is important, but it’s not always right.

His discussion segues into another related page, On the Origin of Jesus by Means of Mythical Propagation.

 


The Manichean View of the World, and Others

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by Neil Godfrey

Sometimes I am reminded that not everyone thinks the same way as I do; sometimes I am reminded that some others believe I think the “West” (including Israel) is bad or evil; that I support or sympathize with antisemites and terrorists; that I am soft on religion, especially when inhumane abuses are associated with religion; and so forth. I have been accused of all of these things and more (one forum even found some way to accuse me of being homophobic) and I would like to think that I do try to keep the conversation cordial, though I think I have kept finding room for more improvement over the years in that regard. The criticism sometimes extends even to academic topics such as Christian origins: then I am accused of being bitterly anti-Christian or bigoted against alternative explanations like astrotheology, and so forth.

Sometimes such perceptions remind me of what I once read of the Manichean mindset quite some time ago. I have copied the section below.

Re-reading it now I can’t help but associate the same analysis with political attitudes on the right, but the more I think about it I see some on the left falling into the same dark box. I also wonder if it’s possible for the two sides to have any common ground for discussion of who and what falls into the Manichean category. Would not the “essentially Manichean” minds reflexively accuse the “moderates” and “compromisers” of being the Manicheans, thinking that if X is not unequivocally and totally against Y then X must really be deceptively all but totally with Y?

One reason why the political intelligence of our time is so incredulous and uncomprehending in the presence of the right-wing mind is that it does not reckon fully with the essentially theological concern that underlies right-wing views of the world. Characteristically, the political intelligence, if it is to operate at all as a kind of civic force rather than as a mere set of maneuvers to advance this or that special interest, must have its own way of handling the facts of life and of forming strategies. It accepts conflict as a central and enduring reality and understands human society as a form of equipoise based upon the continuing process of compromise. It shuns ultimate show downs and looks upon the ideal of total partisan victory as unattainable, as merely another variety of threat to the kind of balance with which it is familiar. It is sensitive to nuances and sees things in degrees. It is essentially relativist and skeptical, but at the same time circumspect and humane.

The fundamentalist mind will have nothing to do with all this: it is essentially Manichean; it looks upon the world as an arena for conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, and accordingly it scorns compromises (who would compromise with Satan?) and can tolerate no ambiguities. It cannot find serious importance in what it believes to be trifling degrees of difference: liberals support measures that are for all practical purposes socialistic, and socialism is nothing more than a variant of Communism, which, as everyone knows, is atheism. Whereas the distinctively political intelligence begins with the political world, and attempts to make an assessment of how far a given set of goals can in fact be realized in the face of a certain balance of opposing forces, the secularized fundamentalist mind begins with a definition of that which is absolutely right, and looks upon politics as an arena in which that right must be realized. It cannot think, for example, of the cold war as a question of mundane politics—that is to say, as a conflict between two systems of power that are compelled in some degree to accommodate each other in order to survive—but only as a clash of faiths. It is not concerned with the realities of power—with the fact, say, that the Soviets have the bomb—but with the spiritual battle with the Communist, preferably the domestic Communist, whose reality does not consist in what he does, or even in the fact that he exists, but who represents, rather, an archetypal opponent in a spiritual wrestling match. He has not one whit less reality because the fundamentalists have never met him in the flesh.

Hofstadter, Richard. 1966. Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. New York: Vintage. pp. 134f

 


2018-11-06

The Different Meanings of “Fishers of Men”

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by Neil Godfrey

Since we have been talking about “fishing for men” and how it can be interpreted in different ways . . .

  • Jindrich Mánek postulates that Jer 16:16 and cosmological myths involving the sea elucidate a sense of rescue in the expression [i.e. “fishers of men”].
  • Charles W. F. Smith argues that the dark motif of judgment in the Hebrew prophets and Qumran literature supplies the expression with an ominous ring.
  • Wilhelm Wuellner suggests that the multivalent usage of fishing in antiquity informs the call of disciples as one denoting partnership in Jesus’ eschatological mission.
  • And J. Duncan M. Derretí posits that the expression is derived from Ezekiel 47.
  • More recently, Joel Marcus has synthesized much of the relevant scholarship:

There may not be any need to choose among these different interpretations; the disciples’ fishing for people is probably a multivalent image that includes their future missionary preaching, their future teaching, and their future exorcisms (cf. 3:14-15; 6:7,12-13, 30; 13:9-10), all of which are understood as a participation in God’s eschatological war against demonic forces; this war, moreover, recapitulates God’s redemption of Israel from Egyptian bondage.

(Wassell 637, my formatting; my bolding in all quotations)

There was once a time when I thought the idea of “fishing for men” was not a particularly irenic image, certainly not for the fish or for comparing people to fish being pulled, gasping, out of the water to die a slow death. I recall trying to rationalize the metaphor. We are “alive in our sins in the world” today and have to “die” or “mortify the flesh” in order to live a new life in a new kingdom. But that didn’t really work because the image offers no pleasant lease of life for the fish.

There was once a time when I felt that the original metaphor as found in Jeremiah 16:16 was more judgmental than pastoral. Sure, if one reads the verse in the context of the previous two or three it does sound quite positive, presenting Jeremiah’s readers with a scene of drawing lost Israelites back from captivity to a restored happy kingdom:

14 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;

15 But, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.

16 Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them;

Reading in context

But when I studied the Book of Jeremiah more attentively I had to discard that shallow interpretation. In its fuller context the image is one of judgement.

10 And it shall come to pass, when thou shalt shew this people all these words, and they shall say unto thee, Wherefore hath the Lord pronounced all this great evil against us? or what is our iniquity? or what is our sin that we have committed against the Lord our God?

11 Then shalt thou say unto them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith the Lord, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, and have forsaken me, and have not kept my law;

12 And ye have done worse than your fathers; for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me:

13 Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye nor your fathers; and there shall ye serve other gods day and night; where I will not shew you favour.

Verses 14-15 are in interpolation from Jeremiah 23:7-8 7

14 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;

15 But, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.

16 Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.

17 For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes.

The image of fishing is associated now with the image of pulling people out of their land and exiling them to “a land they know not”. It is no longer an image of salvation but an image of judgment.

Contrast the Gospels of Luke and John

But in certain of the gospels it clearly is an image of salvation. read more »


2018-11-05

Does Josephus intend to bring to mind an image of “fishing for men”?

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by Neil Godfrey

This post is a post-script to Why Joseph Atwill’s Caesar’s Messiah is “Type 2” mythicism

The synoptic gospels depict Jesus calling disciples to become “fishers of men”. The context indicates that Jesus wants them to gather people to Jesus, to have many Israelites repent and follow Jesus. The most obvious source for the image is Jeremiah 16:16. Look at it in context:

14 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;

15 But, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.

16 Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.

We know the authors of the synoptic gospels drew upon the “Old Testament” writings for many of their images and ideas.

Joseph Atwill, however, introduces an alternative explanation for the image of the disciples being called to fish for men in Caesar’s Messiah. Atwill sees “fishing for men” in the gospels as a cynical re-write of an actual battle on the lake of Galilee between Romans and Jews, and argues that the slaughter of Jews in that context was the original source for the concept of Jesus (a cipher for a Roman emperor) telling his followers to “fish for men”. Below I have copied his suggested source as Josephus narrates the battle along with my commentary on how it might relate to Atwill’s thesis. I have additionally raised a few questions about the narrative that I would be interested in following up — how much was Josephus fabricating the scene? The section is from the Jewish War 3:10

But now, when the vessels were gotten ready, Vespasian put upon ship-board as many of his forces as he thought sufficient to be too hard for those that were upon the lake, and set sail after them.

The battle on the lake of Galilee is about to begin. The Romans prepare in numbers to take on the Jews who had fled into the lake on their small boats.

[Question: Whose ships were the Romans boarding if the Jews had already fled in available ships?]

[Update 15th November 2018: My first question was based on the Whiston translation. Another translation speaks of “rafts” and I suspect that would be correct since it makes better sense in the context.]

Now these which were driven into the lake could neither fly to the land, where all was in their enemies’ hand, and in war against them; nor could they fight upon the level by sea, for their ships were small and fitted only for piracy; they were too weak to fight with Vespasian’s vessels, and the mariners that were in them were so few, that they were afraid to come near the Romans, who attacked them in great numbers.

The Jews who had fled in the ships were now isolated, unable to return to land because of the Roman forces there. Their ships were too small to take on the Roman forces, and they were too few in number, so they attempted to keep their distance from the Romans who were coming towards them in larger ships and greater numbers.

[Again, where did the Romans’ ships come from? It appears from the account that the Romans had larger ships than those of the Jews. If correct, did the Romans take time to build them? If they did, then could not the Jews in the smaller ships have sailed well away to some other part of the lake? Or were they completely surrounded? And if they were surrounded, then what need was there for the Romans to go to the trouble of building larger ships to pursue them? Why not simply let them die there?]

[Update 15th November 2018: As above — My first question was based on the Whiston translation. Another translation speaks of “rafts” and I suspect that would be correct since it makes better sense in the context.]

However, as they sailed round about the vessels, and sometimes as they came near them, they threw stones at the Romans when they were a good way off, or came closer and fought them; yet did they receive the greatest harm themselves in both cases.

They catapulted (presumably, rather than threw by hand) stones at the Romans. Some came closer to a Roman ship to engage in combat but only for the worse.

[Presumably the Romans in fact came up to the Jewish ships when they could catch them. Where did the stones that the Jewish forces threw come from? Did they gather them up before boarding? Did they have supplies for the light infantry slingers left over that they took with them?]

As for the stones they threw at the Romans, they only made a sound one after another, for they threw them against such as were in their armor, while the Roman darts could reach the Jews themselves; and when they ventured to come near the Romans, they became sufferers themselves before they could do any harm to the ether, and were drowned, they and their ships together.

Here we have an extension of the previous sentence. The significant difference of detail added this time is that Josephus tells us that those Jewish forces who made contact with the Romans in their ships were slaughtered. The Romans were able to sink their ships and fend off any Jewish attacker so that all the Jewish soldiers on board were killed by direct Roman action or indirectly by drowning.

Here we finally come closest to any conceivable image of “fishing for men”. For the first time “men” (Jewish) are said to be in the water, but drowned. They are not “fished” for in any sense that I can imagine.

As for those that endeavored to come to an actual fight, the Romans ran many of them through with their long poles. Sometimes the Romans leaped into their ships, with swords in their hands, and slew them; but when some of them met the vessels, the Romans caught them by the middle, and destroyed at once their ships and themselves who were taken in them.

Again we have an expansion on the previous image. Sometimes the Romans soldiers were able to leap into the Jewish ships and begin their slaughter; other times the Roman ships rammed and broke up the Jewish ships.

And for such as were drowning in the sea, if they lifted their heads up above the water, they were either killed by darts, or caught by the vessels; but if, in the desperate case they were in, they attempted to swim to their enemies, the Romans cut off either their heads or their hands;

Here we continue the extended elaboration of detail of the contact between the Romans and Jews on the lake. We have seen how the Jewish forces were overwhelmed by the ramming Roman ships so that many were struggling to stay alive after their ship was wrecked and they were left in the water. Some of the desperate Jews swam towards whatever ship they could see only to find that they had approached a Roman ship. They were duly dispatched.

One can understand “fishers of men” referring to a gathering of people in a way fish are gathered in nets. And that’s the image that comes to mind in Jeremiah 16:16. But I suggest the image is far removed from Josephus’s account. Simply hacking at drowning remnant of a force doe not strongly bring to mind an image of “fishing”. read more »


2018-11-04

Κέλσος hiatus

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by Neil Godfrey

Matthew Ferguson, who has produced some of the best blog material I have read, has posted an explanation for why he is taking a break. I would love him to return when he feels the time is right.

He makes an interesting comparison about the tone of disagreements in biblical studies (so much bitter acrimony on both sides) and the atmosphere in Classics (a more enjoyable place to function). Amen. Over the years of this blog I have had the good fortune of “meeting” a number of classicists and scholars from other fields online and they actually sound cordial, friendly, positive, even the ones who say they believe their was a historical Jesus. Of course there are biblical scholars who are also quite pleasantly human, too, but if one wants to witness a serious blood sport of serious knifings and poisonings and bludgeonings one cannot go wrong by entering the arena of biblical scholarship. Or even the amateur arena where lay folk argue over the same topics that bring out the worst among scholars.

I was not very well prepared for it when I began blogging and it has taken me some time to figure out the best ways of handling it.

The good side of Matthew’s news is that I hope to be able to catch up with many of his past posts that I have only been able to skim so far — before he writes too much more. No doubt I am only one of many who will like to keep an eye on his future progress in studies and publications, and hope he will return to sharing his learning on the blog once again.

 


Is Luke’s Silence Evidence of Ignorance?

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by Tim Widowfield

The Apostle Paul

When reading scholars’ arguments about determining the dates of books in the New Testament, I often come away feeling as if I know less than when I started. Their works frequently leave me with a dull headache.

Many current scholars have placed all their eggs in the internal evidence basket, admitting that all the external evidence we have is, at best, inconclusive. They focus on what the writers said and didn’t say, compared to what they assume a writer would say — or would not say — at any given period or with any given theological bent.

You might expect that the loss of all external corroboration would bring with it a concomitant drop in reliability. Or, to put it another way, the confidence interval (i.e., the range of dates between which a book was probably written) would now necessarily be quite large. However, you must recall that we’re dealing with NT scholars. Their lack of evidence is more than offset by their brimming self-confidence.

Because mainstream scholarship has generally concluded that the authors of Matthew and Luke used the gospel of Mark, we have a chain of dependency. We can say, for example, that if Luke depended on the availability of Mark’s gospel then Luke must have written his gospel and the Acts of the Apostles (assuming the same author wrote both) later than Mark.

Beyond that, if we could peg the dates for Luke and Acts at a certain point, then we would in the same stroke have defined the terminus ad quem for the writing of Mark. Using this logic, conservatives and apologists point to the fact that we never learn about Paul’s death in Acts. He arrives in Rome. He’s under house arrest. Then, silence. What does it mean? read more »


2018-11-03

Why Joseph Atwill’s Caesar’s Messiah is “Type 2” mythicism

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by Neil Godfrey

Joseph Atwill, author of Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus, from time to time challenges some of my points on this blog and I have tended to respond only in generalities. A week ago I posted what I see is the difference between two types of mythicist arguments: There are two types of Jesus mythicism. Here’s how to tell them apart. Type 1 I described as scholarly; it is one that engages in depth with the scholarly output of biblical studies and strives to follow the best in historical methods and logically valid argument; Type 2, on the other hand, I described as non-scholarly because it does none of those things.

I think all arguments that are taken seriously by others ought to be addressed seriously, and that applies to creationist arguments, holocaust denial arguments, and Joseph Atwill’s conspiracy theory argument. Is not the aim of any argument to try to persuade? So why not, at least at some point, try to set out a persuasive argument against a view that is embraced by others but that we consider to be flawed?

I will only focus on one particular argument in Caesar’s Messiah in this post. Hopefully that will be enough for now to prompt maybe one person at some time to think through afresh one explanation for Christian origins that they may have been wondering about.

The opening of chapter 1 announces the main argument:

I shall show that intellectuals working for Titus Flavius, the second of the three Flavian Caesars, created Christianity. Their main purpose was to replace the xenophobic Jewish messianism that waged war against the Roman Empire with a version of Judaism that would be obedient to Rome.

One of the individuals involved with the creation of the Gospels was the first-century historian Flavius Josephus. (p. 12)

In chapter 2 Joseph Atwill begins first serious comparison between the gospels and the works of Josephus in order to demonstrate that the gospels are a coded satire of Titus’s march on Jerusalem.

In Matthew 4:18-19 and Luke 5:9-10 we read how Jesus, while walking along the “Sea” of Galilee, called disciples to become “fishers of men”. Later in Matthew 11:23 (also in Luke 10:13f) Jesus prophecies doom for Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum for rejecting his word.

Joseph Atwill argues that Jesus’ calling his disciples to become “fishers of men” and his pronouncement of doom upon Chorazin are satires of a slaughter by Romans of rebellious Jews in the lake of Galilee.

In support, he quotes the following sections from Josephus’s War, Book 3, chapter 10:

This lake is called by the people of the country the Lake of Gennesareth . . . they had a great number of ships . . . and they were so fitted up, that they might undertake a Seafight. But as the Romans were building a wall about their camp, Jesus and his party . . . made a sally upon them.

. . . Sometimes the Romans leaped into their ships, with swords in their hands, and slew them; but when some of them met the vessels, the Romans caught them by the middle, and destroyed at once their ships and themselves who were taken in them. And for such as were drowning in the sea, if they lifted their heads up above the water, they were either killed by darts, or caught by the vessels; but if, in the desperate case they were in, they attempted to swim to their enemies, the Romans cut off either their heads or their hands . . . (p. 39)

The passage reads like a single unit about a sea battle but the thee dotted lines at the beginning of the second paragraph represent over 3000 words of Whiston’s translation. The main thrust of the story is omitted. To see the full passage see below where I have copied the totality between “The lake is called by the people . . .” to “their heads of their hands.”

Atwill introduces the above words of Josephus with a comparison to “fishing for men”:

In War of the Jews, Josephus describes a sea battle where the Romans caught Jews like fish. The battle occurred at Gennesareth, where Titus attacked a band of Jewish rebels led by a leader named Jesus. (p. 39, my bolded emphasis in all quotations)

If you have not read the Josephan passage do so now. Josephus makes no comparison at all with the Romans catching Jews like fish. The image never surfaces in Josephus’ account of the battle. If one reads the passage in full (as I have copied below) one encounters a grisly image of slaughter of desperate humans struggling in the water. Heads and hands are cut off. Victims are not “caught like fish” but are stabbed with spears, shot with arrows, cut with swords.

Atwill has transferred the image of “fishing for men” from the gospels and gratuitously injected it into the passage in Josephus.
read more »


Heroic Evangelicals Meet the King of Saudi Arabia

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by Neil Godfrey

This story reminds me of my old Worldwide Church of God days when we were thanking God for opening doors for God’s end-time Apostle to go before the leaders, kings, presidents, prime ministers of the nations to preach the gospel, to bear witness of the good news of Jesus Christ and his soon-coming return to this earth to judge all evil-doers and exalt the righteous who would rule this earth in the “wonderful world tomorrow”.

Trump’s evangelical advisers meet with Saudi Crown Prince and discuss Jamal Khashoggi’s murder . . . . The Washington Post

Except that that “end-time Apostle”, Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA), never preached that gospel to them but always explained to his flock that he had first of all to establish credibility with these leaders, in effect to show he was not some street corner nutter preaching the end is nigh, but that the time would come when he would be in a position to preach the gospel “in all its power” to these leaders, and hence to the world’s nations. Because, you see, when God said the gospel would be preached to all nations, one had to understand that in the Bible the king was synonymous with the nation, so one did not need to preach to all the poor populace and give them all a chance to repent; the apostle only needed to preach to the leader to fulfill the prophecy.

But notice how these evangelicals are not mere preachers, they are advisors to the President of the United States! And look at their PR statement …. how powerful….

PR executive A. Larry Ross, who was in the group, told the Post that the question of human rights and Khashoggi were the first the group raised with the prince.

“We even returned to it a second time later in the discussion because of its importance, and were encouraged by the Crown Prince’s candor in his response,” Ross wrote.

“We came in the spirit and name of Jesus, to lift up His name. We don’t judge and hope not to offend, but rather to demonstrate a great faith in God’s love and leave the results to Him. In the pr>ocess, we were able to explain the meaning of an Evangelical and what we believe,” Ross wrote the Post.

Can’t you just imagine how it went? I’m sure it was something just like out of the Bible, like this, for instance, after the king of Israel’s wife killed the innocent Naboth:

Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,“Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who is in Samaria; behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. And you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Have you killed and also taken possession?”’ And you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood.”’”  (1 Kings 21:17-19)

Of course it didn’t. Somehow I cannot imagine any of those evangelicals putting their own lives at risk by publicly denouncing the crimes of those whose company can enhance their prestige.

No, prestige will be enhanced if they can tell their followers that they were witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ, “lifting up his name” (whatever that means) and demonstrating just how godly they are by “not judging”.

HWA and Mubarak of Egypt


2018-11-01

Why Anti-Muslim hostility is comparable to Anti-Semitism

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by Neil Godfrey

Justifying a view of Muslims as essentially untrustworthy and potentially violent by quoting the Koran has an interesting historical analog.

Johann Andreas Eisenmenger

In 1700 Johann Andreas Eisenmenger collated and published a comprehensive account of the reasons Jews posed a threat to Christian society. Translated, the title was Judaism Unmasked. The Jewish religious texts, Eisenmenger warned, were the evidence that the Jews hated and sought the harm of non-Jews. He brushed aside contemporary Jewish intellectuals who interpreted their own writings more in accord with modern values and went straight to the sources themselves.

. . . casting aside the interpretations accepted by his contemporary Jews in his quest to reconstruct the world of Judaism by studying the sources themselves.

From a range of Jewish texts he set out

to prove the worthlessness of the Talmud to which the Jews attribute religious authority close to that of the Bible. Five chapters are devoted to Jewish beliefs regarding the Messiah and to eschatology and resurrection. All this is intended to prove that the Jews are ingrained with superstitions and illusionary conceptions.

However, Eisenmenger attacks Judaism principally for its attitude toward other religions and their adherents. The point of this attack is to show that the Jews are commanded by their religion to abuse that which is sacred to all other religions, and above all that which is sacred to Christian­ity. The Jewish tradition prohibits robbery, deceit, and even murder only in relations between Jews, while the property and even the life of the Christian are as good as outlawed. If that is the tenor of the tradition into which Jews are initiated from childhood, one should not be surprised by their actual behavior should they be found abusing articles of Christian worship, that is, desecrating the host, or be caught in deceit, robbery, or even murder. (Katz, 17-18)

He supported his belief with Jewish texts saying that the Jews were commanded by their religion to commit the very crimes he accused them of.

Eisenmenger . . . wanted to demonstrate that everything derogatory or discriminatory that appeared in the Jewish tradition regarding any people whatsoever was seen by the Jew as applicable to his Christian contemporaries. The Christians are identified with the minim of whom it had been said, “Lowering down, but not raising up”; with Amalek, whose memory the Jews are commanded to blot out; and even with the seven nations whom the conquerors of Biblical Canaan were commanded to destroy. In the future, in the Messianic age, the com­mandment of destruction would apply to all mankind save the Jews. As the Jews awaited their redeemer every day, it stood to reason that they would carry out the commandment of destruction even in the present on those whom it was within their reach to injure and harm.

Eisenmenger’s point of departure was the belief that the Jews were habitually robbing and murdering their Christian neighbors. He believed the tales of ritual murder, of the desecration of the host and the like, regardless of whether they stemmed from folklore or from medieval chroniclers who failed to distinguish between fact and fancy. He supported his belief with Jewish texts saying that the Jews were commanded by their religion to commit the very crimes he accused them of. In his attempt to make this point, Eisenmenger drives his interpretation to the height of ab­surdity. In every case where he found such expressions as “deserves death” . . . he explained them as requiring a death penalty to be imposed by human hands. . . . Jewish scholars would also interpret metaphors and figures of speech literally whenever the conclusions to be drawn from such interpretations corresponded to their views. . . . To anyone who is knowledgeable in traditional Jewish literature, Eisenmenger’s interpretations read like a parody of both the legal and homiletic literature. . . . . [F]or the reader who is unfamiliar with that literature: he may fall for Eisenmenger’s conclusions, not knowing that they are no more than the very assumptions that preceded the writer’s examination of the material. He may accept the image of the Jews as a community of superstitious fools, hostile to those around them and despising whatever is holy to their neighbors. Completely unscrupulous in their behavior toward the stranger outside their community, therefore they cheat and wrong those who have business contacts with them, and this they do by command of their religion. If they are brought to court, their oaths are not to be trusted because they regard lying under oath of little consequence when their fellow litigant is a non-Jew. Their loyalty to the state is no more than lip service; and, in fact, they violate the law with impunity and are willing to betray their king and serve his enemies as spies and secret agents. The Jew cannot even be trusted in matters of life and death, and Christians who take treatment from a Jewish doctor endanger their lives. Eisenmenger fully believed the reports, in Christian chronicles and folk tales alike, that many a child had died at Jewish hands in order to satisfy ritual needs. Eisenmenger tried to gain the reader’s confidence by quoting chapter and verse demonstrating that the absolutely unethical behavior of the Jew derived from that decadent source of his religion, the Talmud and Rab­binical literature.  (19-20)

According to […], Islam does not develop, and neither do Muslims; they merely are. . . .

Edward Said, see How anti-Muslim hostility has replaced the old anti-Semitism

Jewish history was also conceived as a single historical unit both by Jewish tradition and by Christianity, the latter, of course, regarding the ap­pearance of Jesus as a decisive turning point. However, while the tradi­tional concept, Jewish or Christian, was that the unity derived from a divine mission, Voltaire explained it in terms of permanent qualities deeply rooted in the spirit and character of the people. Evidence of these characteristics could be taken from any period in the history of the people: after all, periodization is essentially an external matter, and time creates no barriers between generations. Consequently, Voltaire’s method allowed him to transfer his data from one period to the next and to attribute the basic characteristics of the Biblical people to later generations. Likewise, it is hardly surprising to find the converse: qualities discovered in later periods are attributed to Biblical Jews. That Jews are drawn to money and that they deal in business transactions and usury could be postulated in the light of their occupation in the Middle Ages and modern times, and Voltaire projects this stereotype back to the Biblical age. For example, the Bible does not indicate explicitly any desire on the part of the Jewish people to rule over other nations, but in the Talmudic and medieval periods deluding images of the Messianic era did arise. These were the basis for the Christian polemic contending that the Jews sought world domination. Ex post facto, polemicists found supporting material for this view in the Bible as well; Voltaire accepted their Christian accusations and incorporated them in his rationalistic indictment. (42-43)

Katz describes a list of other prominent names through history who followed the arguments and methods of Eisenmenger and Voltaire, too many to cover here in any sort of detail. The point is clear:

The reference to the Talmudic sources, usually based on Rohling’s Talmudjude, became a steady feature of anti-Semitic propaganda.

Or if not the Talmud, it was the Old Testament that rang out the warning:

Duhring, on the other hand, held, as we have seen, the Old Testament’s teaching responsible for Jewish immorality and regarded the “recent citation of Talmudic instances” to be superfluous. (267)

One dramatic scene . . .

In a gathering of some five hundred participants in April 1882, a speaker named Franz Holubek declared that “The Jews have not shown themselves worthy of emancipa­tion . . . The Jew is no longer a co-citizen. He made himself our master, our oppressor . . . Do you know what gives these people the right to put their foot on our neck? The Talmud, in which you Christians are called dogs, donkeys, and pigs.’’ This invective provoked an uproar in the au­dience, causing the police to dissolve the meeting. Holubek was indicted for interreligious incitement but in the ensuing trial, defended by Pattai, he was found innocent. The line of defense was that the alleged invective conformed to scholarly established truth as stated in the learned treatise The Talmudjude, by August Rohling, professor of Hebrew literature at Charles University in Prague. (285)


Katz, Jacob. 1982. From Prejudice to Destruction: Anti-Semitism, 1700–1933. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.


 


The Myth of Jewish Pining for Return to Palestine

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by Neil Godfrey

For readers interested in a few notes from The Pity of It All by historian Amos Elon.

Herzl envisaged a modern Exodus organized on a “scientific” basis. He would go to the kaiser and say, “Let us depart! We are strangers here. We are not allowed to merge with the Germans, nor are we able to. Let my people go!” The kaiser would understand him; he was trained to understand great things. The Jews would depart, taking the German language with them; it would flourish in the new land, wherever that would be. Herzl was neither sentimental nor nostalgic when it came to the choice of a suitable territory: the homeland could be Argentina or elsewhere, preferably far from the imperial rivalries of the European powers. The place would be chosen by a committee of rational, scientific geographers and economists; the mass of Jews, how­ever, would settle for whatever place they were offered. The new national home would not be “Jewish” but a multicultural, multilingual state like Switzerland, even though most citizens would probably con­ tinue to speak German. (285-86)

And the reaction to Herzl’s plan?

Bismarck never answered Herzl’s letter. Herzl was not surprised. . . . The reaction of most German and Austrian Jews to Herzl’s plan was hardly more forth­ coming. A Lovers of Zion movement of a few small, loosely organized proto-Zionist groups had existed, mostly in Russia and Romania, since the pogroms of 1882. In the West it counted no more than a dozen or so sympathizers in Cologne and a few romantically inclined Viennese Jews of Eastern European origin whose purpose was to help settle Russian and Romanian Jews as farmers in Palestine on a nonpolitical basis. . . . Nevertheless, in the fifteen years since its inception the project had attracted few candidates and was an eco­nomic failure. (286)

The reaction among Jews to Herzl’s plan ranged from ridicule to ignoring it to outright hostility.

Opposition to Herzl’s Zionism seemed more vehement in Germany than elsewhere in Europe. It was certainly more shrill. His program seemed to threaten German Jews to their very core, and German Zion­ists remained few and isolated for many years. Herzl tried in vain to interest Walther Rathenau in his cause. “The Jews are no longer a nation and will never become one,” Rathenau responded. German Jews were now a German tribe like Saxonians and Bavarians. “Zionist aspira­tions are atavistic. (288)

The myth of an empty land waiting for a people without a land had not yet been born.

In Cohen’s opinion, the Jews’ task was “to go on living among the nations as the God-sent dew, to remain with them and be fruitful for them.” The Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums reproached the Zionists for assuming that the Arabs of Palestine would welcome an influx of Jews — one of the earliest warnings against the widespread assumption that Palestine had, in effect, no politically conscious native population; as a land with­ out people it was thought to be ideally suited for a people without a land. (289)

Up till 1909 nothing really changed.

With few exceptions, even those who were registered Zionists were “third-party Zionists,” that is, one Jew soliciting funds from a second so that a third might be able to settle in Palestine. German Zionists continued to be ardent German patriots. Their love of the fatherland was only “enhanced,” they proclaimed, by their love of the ancient Palestinian homeland: what they had lost there they had found again in Germany. The noted economist Franz Oppenheimer joined the Zionists despite the fact that his emotional and intellectual makeup, as he put it, was “ 99% Kant and Goethe and 1%Old Testament via Spinoza and Luther’s translation of the Bible.” In sum, few were touched personally by the cause, and even when they were, it was pri­marily as an activity “German Jews would lead and direct but in which the Jews of Eastern Europe must be the actors. (289-90)

From 1909 a new Jewish generation reacted differently to an evolving social situation in Germany but that’s another story.


Elon, Amos. 2002. The Pity of It All a Portrait of Jews in Germany 1743-1933. New York: Picador.


 


2018-10-31

Changes

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by Neil Godfrey

I’ve been bringing myself up to date with the way the world has been changing these past few and more decades, beginning with the 1960s. I am constantly reminded of two quotes, one I heard by Sting quite a few years ago, and another more recently from my mother.

Sting was talking about his boyhood and how everyone listened to the same radio programs, the range of entertainment and recreation and things were more limited but that meant you shared a lot more with everyone in society. He said he thought it was better then. I asked myself if that was just a typical opinion of anyone looking back and thinking things were better in the old days, but I did have to wonder if he was also right.

My aged mother was reflecting on the years of the Second World War and those following, and saying how she remembered society as being less divided than it is today. Obviously, I thought, during total war a nation is going to pull together. And certainly there were serious conflicts afterwards as different sections found their new places with respect to each other afterwards. But I also remember learning at school or soon afterwards how Australia was one of the most egalitarian countries in the world with one of the narrowest gaps between rich and poor. And in the late 60s and 70s there was certainly more hope despite our youthful naivety about what it would take to bring about real change. Perhaps since then we have lost that naivety and come to understand how power works and cannot be so easily changed.

But surely it is true that there is less optimism and less social cohesion today in Australia, and I can only imagine as an outsider from what I hear in the news about America what the divisions are like in the U.S.

One of the truisms Karl Marx pointed out (oh how I must be showing my ancient past to be citing Marx today!) was how the capitalist system produced workers who were alienated from their jobs. Today I notice that businesses and institutions seem to try to make up for that loss by artificially creating communities and personal meaning through human relations programs to offer workers some sort of personal group identity and meaning in their work places. But the alienation, I think, has meanwhile been extended beyond the workplace to the consumer society as a whole. Targeted products, especially via the new technologies, have enabled services and products tailored for ever more fragmented groups.

We’ve come a long way from the days when I could go to school and talk about the latest black and white Batman short that was showing at the local cinema and expect others to know what I was talking about.

I don’t think such changes are the imagined product of wishful nostalgia, either.