(Why are) Biblioblogs Silent on the Julian Assange Arrest?

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by Neil Godfrey

I subscribe to a wide range of biblioblogs and have been surprised to see no post (with one exception) on the Julian Assange business. Not even anything by James Crossley who has posted and written about political and ideological issues at length, but he has been quiet more generally lately. It’s not a biblical topic, you might say, and I don’t expect most biblioblogs to touch it, but a substantial number do comment on current affairs of note from time to time.

If you know of any biblioblog which has touched on the topic do please leave me a note below.


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.



Two interesting blogs

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by Neil Godfrey

Both address topics dear to my own heart:

The first, by Omri Van Peer, Cleverly Devised Myth? Omri has put in an enormous amount of work identifying possible links between the Gospel of Mark and the Septuagint (=Greek) version of the Old Testament. One does not have to agree with all of his inferences or connections to appreciate the abundance of though-provoking observations he makes. As Omri himself points out, best to start at the beginning: http://cleverlydevisedmyth.blogspot.com/2018/07/cleverly-devised-myth-is-marks-gospel.html

The second, Jonathan’s Musings, is not so new but it has moved from the Freethoughtblogs base. John’s interests overlap with those I sometimes post about, especially posts on the literary/biographical character of the gospels.



Society needs to know what Christian academics and academic biblical scholars have to say

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by Neil Godfrey

Jim West indicates that because of his training and guidance by the holy spirit he speaks with a true understanding of the Bible. All others, he infers, inevitably fall into error or fanaticism. The Bible according to the trained (at an unaccredited seminary) and spirit led Jim is not simply an collation of historical documents but is imbued with magical powers, being

incapable of causing believers to err or stray from the revealed will of God. The Bible reveals the truth about the Divine and the Human. Believers who adhere to that revelation are kept safe from errant behavior or belief and the Scriptures do not err in teaching said proper behavior or belief.

I’m reminded of belief in the curse of the pharaohs and the healing powers of a murderer’s corpse. Jim does insist that the secret to drawing on this saving power from the Bible is that it be “correctly understood”. Hence only a person with both training and God’s spiritual presence can properly divine the true mantic meaning of the sacred magical words.

Jim West is also one of the pioneers of biblioblogging and today he laments what he sees as the decline of informed blogging about matters pertaining to biblical scholarship: Continue reading “Society needs to know what Christian academics and academic biblical scholars have to say”


Atheism, Vridar and Blogging Research in Religion, History, Politics, Science. . . .

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by Neil Godfrey

With Vridar’s addition to the Top 30 Atheist Blogs it is apropos to discuss my position on atheism and religion.

The Feedspot site Top 30 Atheist Blogs And Websites Every Atheist Must Follow updates atheist blogs regularly. From the site:

The Best Atheist blogs from thousands of top Atheist blogs in our index using search and social metrics. Data will be refreshed once a week.These blogs are ranked based on following criteria

  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts.
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review

The name Vridar originated as a pseudonym for the American writer Vardis Fisher who explored his personal journey from Mormonism to atheism in the two part novel Orphans of Gethsemane. From Wikipedia:

This is a book about what has led us to be the way we are, and makes sense of our male-dominated, Judeo-Christian western society, its families, its values, and its wars. The book is semi-autobiographical. The work is divided into two parts – For Passion, For Heaven and The Great Confession. The first novel deals with the Western, pioneer influences and especially the sexual evolution (and psychological implications) for ‘Vridar’ (Vardis). His actual life was tragic with divorce and suicide. The second book describes an intellectual journey, in particular the research, reading and discussions undertaken before writing the Testament.

Since I identified with so many aspects of the life portrayed in the first part of that novel and then again with his intellectual journey in the second, I chose the author’s fictional name, Vridar, for a blog where I discuss my own intellectual journeys, including lessons drawn from a religious background. (Thanks to Earl Doherty for introducing me to Vardis Fisher’s work, especially his Testament of Man series.)

Like Vardis Fisher what interests me is an exploration into what the scholarly research seeks to uncover about the nature of religion itself and why people embrace religious ideas. Simply attacking religion in today’s world “because it is irrational and bad” does not strike me as a carefully thought-through plan. Rather than react viscerally to religion I am inclined to believe that a more productive exercise is to find out what we can “know of our enemy”. That means serious engagement with the specialist research. That’s why I find myself so often at odds with Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne and others: they demonstrate over and over that they have not done their homework and instead of contributing towards public enlightenment they are doing more to fan public ignorance and bigotry. But don’t get me wrong. There’s certainly a place for exposing the dangers of particular religious groups and arguing for a more enlightened world, but let’s do it with some genuine understanding of what we are talking about and the psychology involved.

For a brief while after leaving religion and still raw with the pain I had both experienced and observed I was feverishly hostile to the very idea of any religious faith. My bias was obvious to others and I could scarcely ignore it myself. A more productive path, I soon enough decided, was to try to understand why people embrace all kinds of religious ideas. It was not enough to simply say faith and beliefs in unseen powers are irrational and therefore stupid and dangerous. If religion is the opiate of the masses as Marx wrote then it is difficult to accept that every religious person is partaking of the same doses. Some are best described as being on mild aspirin, others on heavy narcotics. There is a range. Does a single explanation really cover it all?

As for the posts on the Bible, ditto. There’s nothing “anti-Christian” or hostile about any of those studies. Again, what does the research tell us about the origins of our Judea-Christian heritage? That’s what interests me.

Then we have politics, history, science — all from the same perspective of wanting to understand what’s going on. I have learned enough about history and the media to know that news reports very rarely provide an understanding of the issues. News reports tend to act more like buttons that switch on public prejudices. National identities are often grounded in myths, the exposure of which can have the potential to foster more civil societies. To understand what’s going on and how we got to where we are is the main preoccupation of this blog.

I’m looking forward to a personal change in circumstances soon that will enable me to devote more time to reading and blogging ideas that should not be confined to the limited readership of academia.



The Politics of the Bibliobloggers

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by Neil Godfrey

jesusterrorA number of readers have on occasion requested that I remove my political content to another blog and leave Vridar as a standard biblioblog. These requests always bring to mind “The Politics of the Bibliobloggers”, a chapter in Jesus in an Age of Terror: Scholarly Projects for a New American Century (2008) by James Crossley. Excerpts follow.

Concluding the chapter Crossley writes:

[W]e have now seen how contemporary New Testament and Christian origins scholarship, though in the broader context of biblical studies scholarship, is also tied in with some of the key political issues in Anglo-American mainstream media. The decision to focus [in this chapter] on blogging was deliberate because here we have the perfect medium for scholars to air their opinions explicitly. It is clear that the views of New Testament and Christian origins scholars on the internet are in many ways self-censoring, pushing anything too dissenting away from the spotlight, and tend to match effortlessly the agenda of Anglo-American foreign policy.

This now gives us a firmer foundation upon which to analyse the implicit assumptions of scholarship in the more conventional printed form (books, journal articles, etc.). . . . [T]here has [sic] been gaps in arguments that ought not to be there if as much evidence as possible were genuinely being discussed. So before we look at New Testament and Christian origins scholarship in more detail we need to examine in further depth the kinds of broad political and intellectual currents that dictate the gap-making in scholarship, how they are seriously problematic, and how they are intimately tied in with the agendas of mainstream intellectual, political and cultural power. (pp. 51-52)

Examples of the above from earlier in the same chapter:

Crossley on the Herman-Chomsky propaganda model:

Any group dominated by people with overarching similar interests will obviously have such interests reflected in its literary and rhetorical output. Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky showed this with reference to intellectuals and the mass media in their development of a “propaganda model.” . . .  Disagreements reflect disagreements among the elites. Although individuals may hold very different views from the agenda of the mass media, these views will not be seriously reflected in the overall agenda or agendas. Fundamental dissent is largely missing from the press: it is more likely to be squeezed towards the back pages or left to some marginalized press. Censorship, then, effectively becomes self-censorship behind the rhetoric of free and open debate. . . . 

As this analysis is focused on the media, I will apply and modify it in the next chapter on biblical scholars as bloggers. However, Herman and Chomsky’s work is obviously applicable to a variety of areas, including scholarship, particularly as it analyses how dominant groups control the presentation of data. . . . I have also analysed the ways in which the results of New Testament scholarship reflect the interests and ideology of the dominant participating groups. Moreover, while Chomsky’s work may have focused most heavily on the elite media, he has also shown that propagandistic tendencies are present in intellectual scholarship . . . (pp. 3-4)

Biblioblogging is important for the topic at hand for two main reasons. First, unlike academic books and articles, the blog format provides a medium whereby scholars can voice their political (and other) opinions explicitly. This makes it much easier to outline the ways in which contemporary ideologies impact contemporary biblical studies and form a basis for, and further support for, the subsequent analyses of contemporary scholarship in this book. Secondly, the internet format is arguably more closely related to Herman and Chomsky’s propaganda model (see Chapter 1), and it is notable that numerous mainstream newspapers now run their own blogs, as do many mainstream journalists independently of the newspapers for whom they work. Consequently, we might expect bibliobloggers to conform to the same kinds of patterns Chomsky and Herman found in their analysis of the mainstream media. (p. 22)

[B]logging is intimately tied in with the world of the mainstream media, suggesting that it may well be replicating its patterns. More specifically, the biblioblogging world is intimately tied in with the world of the mainstream media (p. 23)

[N]otice how Davila has focused most heavily on correcting basic facts and ideological problems with Arab and Muslim presentations. There is no concern to provide any kind of alternative media that would challenge the ideology of the Western media too much. On the contrary, as would be logically expected from his arguments, Davila appears to want to be part of it and strengthen it. (p. 24)

I should now confess that I have run a blog since the summer of 2005. Like Davila, my main reason involved the media but, unlike Davila, my main reason also involved questioning the very basis of mainstream ideology of the Western media. What I noticed when reading the biblioblogs was that the general political views of bibliobloggers were very much akin to the political views reflected in the mass media. In an interview, I discussed why I started to blog. The reasons given were more tied in to academics but it equally applies to the mainstream media:

One key reason was political, and in different senses of the phrase. It now seems naïve to me at least, but I once thought there were more politically radical people in scholarship, though I don’t think that anymore. This disappointed me when it hit home and it disappointed me in terms of blogging because there, I thought, more than anywhere in biblical scholarship, would such views be found. The situation is quite the opposite, I think.  (p. 24)

In the opening quotation (from Crossley’s conclusion to the chapter) reference was made to “gaps”. . . . Continue reading “The Politics of the Bibliobloggers”


Celebrate at the Biblical Studies Carnival

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by Tim Widowfield

The float of the King carnival parading in Pat...
The float of the King carnival parading in Patras, Greece in Georgiou I square. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over at the Reading Acts blogPhillip J. Long has announced the Last Call for Biblical Studies Carnival Links for October 2015.

I invite you to email me suggested links (plong42 at gmail.com) or a direct message via twitter (@plong42). What have you read this month that was challenging, simulating, or maybe even a bit strange? This is a good time to promote a less well-known blog you enjoy, or you can send a link to your own work. Sometimes you just need to flog your own blog to get it noticed.

If you read anything on Vridar this October that struck your fancy, why not drop Phillip a line and let him know about it? Neil and I would appreciate it very much. And thanks again for reading Vridar.


Biblioblog Commendation: Apocryphicity

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by Neil Godfrey

Tony Burke’s blog Apocryphicity is a first rate blog for anyone interested in critical studies of early Christianity and its literature. Coincidentally the blog has been running as long as Vridar (since November 2006) yet I only discovered its treasures a day or two ago.

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Here’s what I have gained from reading it in just that short time.

Tony Burke played a significant role in the translation of The Story of Joseph and Aneseth so central to the popular controversial publication this year of The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text that Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary the Magdalene (Harper Collins, 2014) by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson.

lostgospelHe explains his role, the reasons he undertook the task and his experience of peer pressure to refrain in Translating Joseph and Aseneth: My role in Jacobivici and Wilson’s “Lost Gospel”. I found this paragraph quite a refreshing read at a number of levels:

Throughout the process Barrie and Simcha warned me that I might be criticized for working with them on the book; other scholars have shied away from participating on Simcha’s projects out of fear of damage to their careers, others because they worry that their views will be misrepresented, as often happens in documentaries. I think Barrie and Simcha’s decision not to tell me about their argument was motivated, at least in part, by a desire to prevent my scholarly reputation from being damaged.

I am not one to shy away from controversy and believe that no argument—even if it is highly speculative, even if it is presented outside of scholarly circles—should be silenced. It has been frustrating to see other scholars and the media dismiss the book without having read it or fully engaged with its arguments. I don’t expect Barrie and Simcha’s position on Joseph and Aseneth to convince many on the origins of this text, but there are aspects of their work that are of interest for the study of Syrian Christianity. (my bolding and formatting as in all quotes)

Why do so many scholars seem to think that rubbishy and ignorant dismissals of ideas they find offensive will teach and inform anybody? Why do so many public intellectuals treat the public with contempt?

Tony Burke sounds like someone you can talk to, who will defend his views and who will give you something substantial and valid to think about that may lead you to revise your own thoughts.  Continue reading “Biblioblog Commendation: Apocryphicity”


One More Worthy Biblioblog

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by Neil Godfrey

And it’s not even in the list of Top 50 as far as I can see. But it looks so good it could be thought to be a sibling of Vridar at its best.

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Is That in the Bible? Exploring the Judeo-Christian scriptures

Articles are well researched, attractively presented, informative, including recommended resources. Their author is

. . . Paul Davidson, a professional Japanese-English translator living and working in Japan. Paul also studies part-time in the Humanities program at the Open University of Japan, with a focus on language, archaeology, and Mediterranean history. At present, biblical studies is purely a personal interest of his.

Of particular interest to me: Continue reading “One More Worthy Biblioblog”


OTAGOsh — Another blog I have too long neglected (till now)

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by Neil Godfrey

Otago Region within New Zealand
Otago Region within New Zealand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OTAGOsh” made himself known to me a few years ago in the blogging world but only since finally getting serious with an rss reader this week have I discovered the extent of his brilliant and humorous posts. The name behind the blog is Gavin Rumney and he looks like a kindred spirit with respect to our religious background (we were both members of the Worldwide Church of God) and current views (even politically green ones!) I know I can come across here as far more serious and dogmatic than I am in reality so I like Otagosh’s line forewarning his readers:

I hope you enjoy your time here.  If it’s any consolation, in real life I’m much less opinionated!

Otagosh/Gavin’s posts are a real tonic. He knows how to write. And he knows exactly how to handle Robert M. Price, for example:

What does Bob Price have in common with Martin Luther?

They both got more crotchety as they aged. . . . . . .

As you might already suspect, I’m I big fan of Bob (Dr. Robert M. Price). Not of his politics, I hasten to add, but of his honesty, directness and humour in his chosen field of biblical studies. Again, not that I agree with him on everything, but his ‘take’ on the Bible and religion is always worth considering. He’s not called “the Bible Geek” for nothing.

My favourite line in I Slam Islam is his description of Martin E. Marty as “the very poster-boy for namby-pamby, “standing for nothing, offending no one” liberal Protestantism”.

And there’s much more polemic where that comes from.

Bob is of course a thorough conservative when it comes to politics, somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun, which bizarrely puts him at the other end of the spectrum to most of his admirers in the world of atheistic biblical study.

I could read Otagosh for hours. He brings back memories of my old cult days in a way that leaves me with a grin on my face. Some favourites: Continue reading “OTAGOsh — Another blog I have too long neglected (till now)”

P.OST — Another Scholarly Biblioblog Well Worth Reading

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by Neil Godfrey

Its author, Andrew Perriman, describes himself as an evangelical. He sets out his agenda for all to see in plain view. Though we are in opposing camps I find his blog to be one of the most informative and interesting I have yet discovered. I wish I could address more books and ideas the way Andrew does, but then I suppose Andrew is doing a fine enough job and does not need a replica.

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The first post of his that I read was about an author I have also posted on here, Richard Hays. His post, Richard Hays and the God who walks on the sea, questions head on an interpretation I have adopted for some time now — that the Jesus of the Gospel of Mark was depicted as God or some sort of hypostasis of God (whatever that really means). AP spells out the arguments in favour of this interpretation and then sets out why he disagrees. (That such a method in a public blog deserves comment is itself a great shame — it should go without saying, of course.)

One phrase AP uses pulled me up short:

I’m not saying that the idea does not occur, in some form or other, elsewhere in the New Testament, or that the later church was wrong to construct its theology in formal trinitarian terms. I am well disposed towards the view that the divine emperor paradigm was a significant factor in the development of the “kingdom” argument. . . . But I am concerned that in our zeal to establish an early high christology we risk misrepresenting what is actually happening in the Synoptic Gospels . . . .

I have been aware of Larry Hurtado’s and Richard Bauckham’s personal theological bias when they argue for a very early high christology but for some reason I had not quite gone so far as to connect it with a defence of the doctrine of the trinity. I am also reminded of my own “zeal” to see a very early high christology for other reasons: it seems to me that this is inevitable if we are transitioning from Paul and the other epistles to the gospels. But that’s another question entirely. The point is AP’s reminder of the need for scholarly caution. Continue reading “P.OST — Another Scholarly Biblioblog Well Worth Reading”


A Great Blog For Anyone Abused by a Church

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by Neil Godfrey

Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome (with Reba Riley) looks like  is an inspiring and reassuring resource for anyone who has been damaged by a church that abuses. I’m speaking of psychological abuse, mental and emotional scarring that too often comes with a history of damaged families and relationships and even physical and economic ruin.

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Visit Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome (with Reba Riley)

I’ve referred to my own story a few times but Reba Riley’s experience and exodus is fresher reading. Reba has authored a book, Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome: A Memoir of Humor and Healing in 30 Religions to share her experiences with others. The book that helped me much was psychologist Marlene Winell’s Leaving the Fold — a work I still find myself returning to from time to time. Reba’s book looks similar in some ways but less of a manual. From her page advertising it:

Written for everyone who crashes into religion when they go looking for peace, and for all those who value transformation of spirit and body, this poignant, funny and ultimately inspirational memoir reminds us healing  is possible, brokenness can be beautiful, and that –sometimes– we have to get lost to get found.  

A beautiful feature of Reba’s blog is the way her understanding and compassion for others shines through. She has learned a depth of self-understanding as a result of her experiences and is far more aware of the meaning of our shared humanity than some of us who haven’t suffered in the same sorts of ways. Anyone who says “once a fundamentalist always a fundamentalist” is pig-ignorant.

Compare her response to the recent public release of information about torture practices with another by a respected colleague of the biblical scholarly establishment, both posted on the same day. Give me an ex-fundamentalist any day. (At least one who was one of the laity, one of the fleeced flock. I am not so sure about some of those who were once in the higher echelons of the power pyramids. To date I have been disappointed when I have met any of our former “shepherds”.)

Reba’s first post will resonate with those anyone who has struggled to break free from such a past. It begins: Continue reading “A Great Blog For Anyone Abused by a Church”


A Scholarly Biblioblog Doing it Right: Diglotting

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by Neil Godfrey

IesusDeus1Kevin Brown of the Diglotting blog posts about some very interesting books. One of these is Iesus Deus: The Early Christian Depiction of Jesus as a Mediterranean God which, being available on Kindle, meant I splurged on the spot and now have it waiting impatiently on my desktop to be read. But investigating this book led me to another by the same author, M. David Litwa. (An initial appeal of Litwa, by the way, lies in his being a historian and teacher of Greek rather than a theologian.) That other title is We Are Being Transformed: Deification in Paul’s Soteriology. I may read this one first though it’s only available on a database at the university where I work.

Here is part of Litwa’s conclusion to that book (and one of the big reasons I am keen to read it):

The argument of this book has been that aspects of Pauline soteriology fit the basic pattern of deification in the Greco-Roman world. I defined this basic pattern as sharing in the divine qualities which are constitutive of (a particular) divine identity.

In chapter 1, I narrowed these qualities down to two: immortality and power.

In chapter 2, I tried to show that (1) deification was a pervasive and multi-faceted idea in the Greco-Roman world, and (2) that it sometimes featured human beings as assimilated to specific Gods.

It was the burden of chapter 3 to show that deification (so defined) was not an idea foreign to the Judaism of Paul’s time. The Greek Bible already recognizes immortality as constitutive of deity (Gen 3:20; Ps 81 [82] :6), and calls Israelite kings “God” (Ps 44[45]:7) and “son of God” (Ps 2:7) as vice-regents of God. At the center of Jewish thought, there was thus always an analogy between theomorphic human beings and an anthropomorphic deity (Gen 1:26; Ezek 1:26-28). In Paul, this analogy was centered on Christ, the divine Messiah and image of God (2 Cor 4:4) to whom believers assimilate to regain their theomorphic status. Nevertheless their “theomorphicity” went far beyond what was imagined for original humanity. It involved sharing in Christ’s divine immortality ׳ and universal rule. These are the qualities, I argued, which constitute the divine identity of Christ. Continue reading “A Scholarly Biblioblog Doing it Right: Diglotting”



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by Neil Godfrey

Have added a new Blogroll link on right margin – below the comments lists. The ** Biblioblogs ** link is intended to be a regular monthly update of biblioblogs.