A year or so ago I wrote an essay discussing characterization in the gospel of Mark and attempted to show that the author paradoxically shows as little interest in the earthly person of Jesus as we find in Paul’s letters. A little thought about the way Mark depicts his characters demonstrates, I think, that he is working at a level as far removed from any interest in Jesus’ earthly history as was Paul. At the time I titled it a bit clumsily Notes on the fictive and parabolic character of Mark’s gospel.
A little while ago while trying to trace the evidence for Christian origins one block in the scholarship that frustrated me was the lack of dedicated studies to what was known of the gospel narrative in the mid-second century. There was no lack of resources on the asserted “sayings of Jesus” and supposed “canonical gospel” allusions, but the only way I decided I would find out what a mid-second century Church Father actually knew or understood the gospel narrative about Jesus to have been was to make the time to prepare this table which I have titled Justin Martyr’s Gospel Narrative.
This is a disturbing book principally for its ignorant tirade against Moslems. As an atheist myself I had hoped for something more rational and informative given the enormous popularity of this book in the U.S. but find Harris here is too often little more than a mega-mouthpiece for Western (read American?) ignorance of Moslems and the Moslem world outside the U.S. borders. Continue reading “The end of faith: religion, terror, and the future of reason / Sam Harris. (Norton, 2005) Review”
Have updated and webbed a table to help me keep track of some of the bracket points found in the Gospel of Mark. The opening and closing scenes contain numerous matching “bookends” that are either intended to guide the interpretation of the gospel and/or to help an original oral storyteller recall how the narrative is meant to go (see Shiner’s ‘Proclaiming the Gospel, 2003).
It is not hard to see curious shifting reflections between the lead characters in Josephus and the Gospel of Mark. Judas first, then Simon with James and Simon with John are Jewish rebel leaders and Alexander and Rufus are two Romans responsible for their executions (though John is apparently spared). In Mark we have Judas, Simon Peter, James and John as leaders and Alexander and Rufus named as identifiers of the one pressganged into the execution of their leader. (And the one executed in place of that leader was anciently believed by at least one form of Christianity, and by modern deconstructionists, the author of Mark himself being characteristically ambiguous, to be Simon himself.)
But is there another name also shiftingly reflected between Josephus and Mark that has not yet been remarked on?
“The sons of Judas of Galilee were now slain; I mean of that Judas who caused the people to revolt, when Cyrenius (Quirinius in Luke 2:2) came to take account of the estates of the Jews, as we have shown in a foregoing book. The names of those sons were James and Simon, whom Alexander commanded to be crucified.” (Josephus, Ant. 20.5.2, Whiston trans.) Continue reading “A Cyrenius-Cyrenian link between Josephus and Mark?”
While it is commonplace to think of the Book of Acts as an unfinished work, appearing to end without a real narrative resolution (with Paul left a prisoner in Rome for “2 years” — no trial, no death, no release) , I keep wondering if the real problem is that we are missing something critical about the intent of the narrative. As one small facet of this question I have raised before the possibility that the author of Acts was emulating the conclusion of the Primary History of Israel which ends with the king of Judah a prisoner in Babylon (sometimes later used as a cypher for Rome) and the circumstances of his imprisonment.
Now on reading bits of Josephus again I wonder if another piece is falling into place, Continue reading “Paul’s reception in Italy and Rome: another Josephus link?”
This was the first book I read by an Australian Lebanese academic and I found its discussion of fundamentalism and suicide terrorism most informative. It opened my eyes to seeing how our own Australian nationalism can be seen by non-westerners as just as fundamentalist as any other kind: Continue reading “Against Paranoid Nationalism: Searching for Hope in a Shrinking Society / Ghassan Hage (Pluto Press, 2003) Review”
Earlier this year I wrote up a flyer for distribution at one of our public rallies. Thought I’d share it here — make use of it as you will: Facts about suicide terrorism
I originally posted this elsewhere in 2000:
A New paradigm:
On page 125 of his book Doherty writes: “When any set of assumptions is firmly in place, the evidence is usually interpreted in accord with those assumptions. Yet it is clear that the New Testament epistles present the Christian reader and scholar with difficulties and anomalies at every turn. These have traditionally been ignored, glossed over, or subjected to unnatural interpretations and questionable reasoning in order to force them into the mold determined by the Gospels.
“What is needed is a new paradigm, a new set of assumptions by which to judge the epistles (as well as the other non-canonical documents…), one capable of resolving all those contradictions and uncertainties. That paradigm should be determined by what we can see in the epistles themselves and how we can relate their content to what we know of the spirit and conditions of the time.” This is how Doherty approaches not only the epistles but the gospels and noncanonical writings as well. Continue reading “The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? / Early Doherty. (Canadian Humanists, 1999). Review”
If the details of the arguments of this work are not always persuasive the author nevertheless achieves his stated purpose: to demolish any illusion among his fellow Americans that the US is in any way “exceptional” in its place and role in the world. Rather, he argues that it is rapidly following in the wake of the demise of past imperial powers Spain, Holland and Britain. The extraordinary rise and influence of extremist religious tendencies; the financialization and extreme indebtedness of the economy as “real wealth production” is outsourced; and the inevitable decline and gradual replacement of the economy’s main fuel resource, are the three main streams that Phillips sees as once having broken their banks over previous leading imperial powers and that are now beginning to deluge the US. Continue reading “American theocracy: the peril and politics of radical religion, oil, and borrowed money in the 21st century / Kevin Phillips (Viking, 2006). Review”
Caveat: I am one of 14 contributors to this book. Anti-caveat: I receive no remuneration whatever from this book!
Compiler and commentator academic and aboriginal activist Stephen Hagan is highly controversial, especially in his (and my) hometown Toowoomba which the Bulletin once reported was voted the most rednecked town in Australia. Toowoomba has been the centre of his years-old campaign to have the name “Nigger” removed from a local sporting stadium, a campaign that has taken him to the Australian High Court and even to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Hagan wrote of these experiences as part of his biography in “The N Word” which won a Deadly Award for Outstanding Achievement in Literature at the Sydney Opera House in 2005. With this background one might expect this new book to be a list of the sins of the whites, but Hagan with engaging honesty confronts the racism found among both the blacks and whites on Australia’s iconic sporting fields. Continue reading “Australia’s blackest sporting moments: the top 100 / Stephen Hagan. (Ngalga Warralu, 2006) Review”
This is a disturbing book principally for its ignorant tirade against Muslims. As an atheist myself I had hoped for something more rational and informative given the enormous popularity of this book in the U.S. but find Harris here is too often little more than a mega-mouthpiece for Western (read American?) ignorance of Muslims and the Muslim world outside the U.S. borders. I expected to read along with a like-mind since I also see religion and religious faith as a net negative left-over from our evolutionary past that needs to be eradicated just as acceptance of rape as a natural means for reproduction has been eradicated. But I found points of agreement only at a superficial level. It is bad enough that he blames religion as the principle or fundamental root cause of suicide terrorism: he says it was religious belief, belief in a blissful life after death, that enabled the 9/11 hijackers to commit their atrocity. What rot. A slight amount of reflection and simple logic would inform him that if religious belief were the root enabler of suicide terrorism then we would surely have had suicide terrorism for as long as we have had such beliefs in any religion. Pape’s “Dying to Win” is a scholarly research work that amply demonstrates that suicide terrorism is a function of national identity humiliation brought about by foreign occupation and that perpetrators of this form of terrorism since the 1980’s have included both the religious and non-religious and secular, Christian and Buddhist as well as Muslim. Pape’s research pulverizes Harris’s ignorant diatribe. Continue reading “The end of faith: religion, terror, and the future of reason / Sam Harris. (Norton, 2005) Review”
This review is very difficult for me to write given my past student experience with Alan Jones. I’m too involved emotionally and know it’s not like my other reviews and other reviewers will surely give a more rounded view of the book. But here goes anyway — at least pending the time when I will have another look back on this review of mine and reshape it to give a more objective chapter by chapter overview of the contents, sources and presentations. Continue reading “Jonestown: the power and the myth of Alan Jones / Chris Masters. (Allen & Unwin, 2006) Review”
In 1992 Philip Davies published a monograph that began a heated controversy over the origins of the Bible and what light archaeology shed on this question. Davies criticized conventional biblical scholarship for lacking the rigour found in archaeological studies of sites without theological significance. He argued that the archaeological evidence suggested that the Bible was composed as late as the Persian era and that the stories of Abraham, the Exodus, David and Solomon were mythical inventions. I have begun to summarize the argument of Davies’ book, In Search of Ancient Israel.
Book details: Davies’ In search of ancient Israel (Sheffield, 1997)
bible+archaeology, biblical+archaeology, bible+archeology, biblical+archeology, ancient.israel, bible.history, bible,