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Monthly Archives: August 2008

Isaiah 7:14

This is the huge mistranslation that Matthew quotes at the beginning of his gospel – the one that speaks about a virgin birth. However, this is the entire thing taken from here in context:

י וַיּוֹסֶף יְהוָה, דַּבֵּר אֶל-אָחָז לֵאמֹר. 10 And YHWH spoke again unto Ahaz, saying:
יא שְׁאַל-לְךָ אוֹת, מֵעִם יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ; הַעְמֵק שְׁאָלָה, אוֹ הַגְבֵּהַּ לְמָעְלָה. 11 ‘Ask thee a sign of YHWH thy God: ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.’
יב וַיֹּאמֶר, אָחָז: לֹא-אֶשְׁאַל וְלֹא-אֲנַסֶּה, אֶת-יְהוָה. 12 But Ahaz said: ‘I will not ask, neither will I try YHWH.’
יג וַיֹּאמֶר, שִׁמְעוּ-נָא בֵּית דָּוִד: הַמְעַט מִכֶּם הַלְאוֹת אֲנָשִׁים, כִּי תַלְאוּ גַּם אֶת-אֱלֹהָי. 13 And he said: ‘Hear ye now, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to weary men, that ye will weary my God also?
יד לָכֵן יִתֵּן אֲדֹנָי הוּא, לָכֶם–אוֹת: הִנֵּה הָעַלְמָה, הָרָה וְיֹלֶדֶת בֵּן, וְקָרָאת שְׁמוֹ, עִמָּנוּ אֵל. 14 Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
טו חֶמְאָה וּדְבַשׁ, יֹאכֵל–לְדַעְתּוֹ מָאוֹס בָּרָע, וּבָחוֹר בַּטּוֹב. 15 Curd and honey shall he eat, when he knoweth to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
טז כִּי בְּטֶרֶם יֵדַע הַנַּעַר, מָאֹס בָּרָע–וּבָחֹר בַּטּוֹב: תֵּעָזֵב הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה קָץ, מִפְּנֵי שְׁנֵי מְלָכֶיהָ. 16 Yea, before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land whose two kings thou hast a horror of shall be forsaken.

Now I’ll put it into plain English:
10: And God spoke to Ahaz and said

11: “Come on and test men, man”

12: “I ain’t gonna do it, God.”

13: Then he said “Come on, King Ahaz. You’re quick to not trust people, but you’re not going to trust God as well?”

14:”God’s gonna give you a sign. Check out this chick right here. The kid she’s bearing is going to be named “Immanuel”

15: “He’s going to eat the finest crap and be a really good kid”

16: “But before he gets hair on his nuts, your enemies will be defeated”

Interestingly, the “lord” in Is. 7:14 isn’t written as YHWH, but is actually ADNY (אֲדֹנָי) – “lord”, possibly implying that it’s a human being that’s providing the sign (getting the woman pregnant) and not YHWH…

Edit: Well I read it again, and it does seem that the “lord” here is YHWH. There are two versions of ADNY, which depend on the vowel points associated with it. (אדֹנִי) is pronounced as “adoni” due to, among others, the vowel point underneath the N that looks like a little dot. (אֲדֹנָי) is pronounced as “adonai” due to, among others, the vowel point under the N that looks like a little “T” or a plus sign.

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Posted by on August 28, 2008 in Adonai, adoni, gospel of matthew, isaiah 7:14

 

More on Paul

So Ireneaus, who was a bishop in the second century, is the one who attributed names to the gospels, since they were all written anonymously. He’s the one who said that what we now know as the Gospel of Luke (gLuke) and Acts were written by Luke, “a traveling physician” and a friend of Paul of Tarsus. But who was Luke?

Not much is known about him, except that Paul writes that he’s a physician who’s “with him” in 2 Timothy 2:14 and Colossians 4:14. Those are the only times that Paul references a “Luke”.

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2008 in ireneaus, luke, paul

 

More on Paul and Gnosticism

So I remember taking a class that had us read Plato’s “Symposium”. Basically the story (with Socrates as Plato’s sockpuppet) about how “love” came to be. Well, an interesting side note is that in ancient Greek society, they practiced a sort of pederasty. 25 – 50 year old men would get a “lover” in the form of a 14 – 25 year old kid. This was the “lover-beloved” paradigm in ancient Greece. Throughout the text, there were references to what was basically “cute boys”.

Aaaah!

How can such a classic novel have such language?!? That’s what earlier translators thought of the book. So in earlier translations of this book, instead of them translating the Greek as “beautiful boys” they translated it as “noble boys”. Just so that the general public wouldn’t know about Greek pederasty. This brings me to a little note about Paul and Gnosticism.

In my earlier post, I mentioned how Christian Gnostics traced their lineage of thought back to Paul. Well, it turns out that in one of Paul’s letters, he describes himself as “έκτρωμα” (ektrwma) literally “abortion” (1 Corinthians 8). That specific word had a special meaning for Gnostics:

Now “the abortion” is a technical and oft-repeated term of one of the great systems of the Gnosis, a term which enters into the main fabric of the Sophia-mythus.

In the mystic cosmogony of these Gnostic circles, “the abortion” was the crude matter cast out of the Pleroma or world of perfection. This crude and chaotic matter was in the. cosmogonical process shaped into a perfect “aeon” by the World-Christ; that is to say, was made into a world-system by the ordering or cosmic power of the Logos. “The abortion” was the unshaped and unordered chaotic matter which had to be separated out, ordered and perfected, in the macrocosmic task of the “enformation according to substance,” while this again was to be completed on the soteriological side by the microcosmic process of the “enformation according to gnosis” or spiritual consciousness. As the world-soul was perfected by the World-Christ, so was the individual soul to be perfected and redeemed by the individual Christ.

Paul thus becomes comprehensible; he here speaks the language of the Gnosis, and in this instance at least it is possible to draw the deduction that the Gnosis in this connection could not, in his opinion, have been “falsely so called.” Paul is speaking to communities who are familiar with such language “He appeared to me just as it were to that well-known imperfect plasm

http://www.gnosis.org/library/grs-mead/jesus_live_100/ch17.html

This is another problem with politics and the Bible – we’re also subject to the political biases of those who translate the Bible for us:

The solution to erasing [anti-semitic] hatred is for bible societies and religious publishers to produce two editions, one for the public, similar to the Contemporary English Version which reduces significantly this anti-Judaic potential, and the other edition for scholars taken from
the Greek text… [t]he stakes are high. People have been murdered because of these words
-H. C. Kee and L. Botowsky (1998 pp 18, 20)

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2008 in gnosticism, greek, paul

 

Politics and the Bible

It’s always been said that “Biology only makes sense in the light of [the theory of] Evolution”. Well, after reading about the history of the Bible, the different time periods the different books were written in and how it was compiled, I’ve come to the conclusion that the “historicity” of the Bible only makes sense in the light of politics. Politics, as we’ve come to know it, is simply about the attainment and consolidation of power. Many stories in the Old Testament are about how the Jews rose and fell ad nauseum in power. What they don’t tell you in Bible class though (unless you’re getting a doctorate in Bible studies) is that archeology doesn’t correspond with the early Biblical account of how things happened.

For instance, who is the “pharaoh” in Exodus? You would think that if Moses went up and talked to that pharaoh to demand he “let his people go” that he would know the dude’s name. Especially if he’s the one who wrote the first five books of the OT. There’s no evidence of 1 – 2 million people being displaced and wandering around the desert in the area between Egypt and modern day Israel. There is evidence of small communities rising and falling with the same trends as the larger kingdoms around them in that area.

King Solomon was said to have a kingdom that spread from modern Israel to Egypt – that’s a huge flippin’ kingdom! A kingdom that size wouldn’t be known in history until Roman times in around 300 – 400 CE. A good 1,000+ years later. How come there’s no record of this kingdom from other kingdoms that we know about? In other words, how come no Egyptian kings from that time period (11,000 – 800 BCE) wrote about this huge Israel kingdom right next to theirs in any of their letters to other kingdoms in that area?

The hypothesis is that these stories were embellished to give solidarity and a sense of history to the early Jews as a means of unifying them under a common banner. Much like the story of King Aurthur for the Saxons. It wasn’t meant as history, but as politics.

And what about the New Testament? First of all, none of the synoptic gospels or the gospel of John names their author. They were all written anonymously – any Bible scholar will tell you that. It’s the equivalent of getting one of those annoying chain mail emails that are written anonymously and one of the forwarders just types in “from Bill Cosby” in the text and then forwards it. In my readings, I oddly enough traced Gnosticism back to Paul of Tarsus, you know – the dude who’s letters make up the bulk of the NT. Valentinus, who’s said to be a student of Theudas, who was said to be a student of Paul, was a major figure in early Christianity. He was a major proponent of Gnosticism for the Gnostic Christians, and a major antagonist for what would become the Trinitarian (the concept of the “Trinity” didn’t exist in 100 CE) Christians. The popularity of the Gnostics was huge in the second century. How come, then, Christians today aren’t Gnostics? Not because of any divine authority, but because of politics. Ireneaus, who is mostly responsible for the modern NT, was highly annoyed and threatened by these Gnostics, so he wrote “Against Heresies” in the second century. In it, he vociferously attacks Valentinus and Gnosticism, and claimed that his church had what was called “Apostolic Succession” – their churches could be traced back directly to the original apostles, while Valentinus and the Gnostics could only be traced back to Paul. If Ireneaus lost his churches to Gnosticism, he would lose his power.

Politics!

Marcion, who was another popular figure in early Christianity, compiled his own “NT” with what he called the Gospel of Truth, which was simply a modified version of the Gospel of Luke (it’s been argued by scholars that the Gospel of Luke might actually be a modified version of Marcion’s Gospel of Truth) and all of Paul’s letters. This is also reportedly where we get a 3 Corinthians from. At the beginning of the second century, there were a crapload of gospels going around – too much to name here – and it’s believed that these gospels were all written in response to other gospels and such and so forth. None of these original gospels survive today. This is the time period that we get the Gospel of John, which isn’t a synoptic gospel. It must’ve been a terrible job to sort through all of the noise to get a “one true” NT during this time period – much like today there are thousands of denominations of Christianity, the same was true back in the first century. There was no one unified church – and all of these churches wanted to be the “one true” church, the universal (“universal” in Greek is “catholic”) church. That one church would get all of the power – politics.

And what about that whole “blaming the Jews” thing? Doesn’t that seem odd – considering that Jesus was a Jew? The hypothesis is that after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE – the Jewish-Roman war, most Jews began to consolidate into what is now Rabbinic Judaism. The Pharisees. The Essenes and the Sadducees pretty much disappeared from the scene due to how closely their spirituality was to the Temple (Sadducees) or how apathetic they were to the Temple (Essenes). Jewish-Christians also fell off the map at this time.

So around 70 CE is when Christians start converting Gentiles in heavy numbers. This is also around the time that the first gospel is actually written down (Mark). So if these new Christians are in majority Gentiles, and they want Christianity to gain more ground with more Gentiles, in Roman territory, how can they blame the death of Jesus on Roman rules? As Pilate is quoted “I wash my hands of this” when he asks whether the Jews want Jesus dead or Barabbas dead. Thus, in order to gain popularity with Romans Gentiles, Jesus’ death is blamed on the Jews.

Politics!

As we all know, Constantine I is largely responsible for the modern incarnation of the Catholic Church. One of his homeboys – Eusebius – was a major adviser in the First Council of Nicaea. Right now I’m trying to find the link between Eusebius and all of these 2nd and 3rd century churches and writings. Why he decided on which books to accept, and which ones he decided to reject – Arianism, Marcionism, Gnosticism, etc. He also could have been responsible for the anti-Jewish, Roman neutral slant of the gospels…

If we look at politics today, there’s a huge joke that an honest politician is a politician that doesn’t exist. We all think of politicians as crooks and liars, only out to get more power. More prestige. Election after election we’re spoonfed biased statistics, half-truths, and only the facts that put the politician in a good light. Dirt from the opposing party’s past is brought up as a means of diminishing the popularity of the other politician. Think about this for a second – we have all of these problems today in an age of the Internet and are supposedly a more informed generation. But we still get people who are like “I’ll never vote for Obama because he stole the Democratic Nomination from Hilary” or “Obama is a child-molesting muslim terrorist – that’s why I’m voting for McCain” or “McCain doesn’t know how many houses he owns – he so out of touch with the regular American.” These are propositions that people are taking seriously in their decision to vote for a president! And this type of stuff happens repeatedly and repeatedly – every election, every year. If we can’t even get a descent noise-to-signal ratio, how would people in the first and second century get a descent noise-to-signal ratio? You can bet the same type of assertions and personal attacks were going on in the first century, second century, 18th century, 3rd century BCE, and all throughout human history. How can we discern any true picture from what politicians write about themselves and their enemies?

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2008 in bible, Christianity, gnosticism, history, politics

 

First Post

This is my first blog entry. I made this blog specifically for documenting my study of various religions.

I guess I should start with a little about myself. I recently graduated from Penn State with a B. S. in Information Sciences and Technology. Right now I’m waiting on the Army to give me a security clearance so I can start work… sometime soon. Anyway, I’ve been interested in religion since I first started seriously and critically thinking about it – which was around when I was 14 or 15. I was wearing a crucifix on the 4 train in NYC and one of my buddies asked if “I really believed that stuff” pointing to my crucifix. I said “I dunno” and then he poignantly rejoined “So why are you wearing that?”.

After that incident, I decided that I wanted find out what I really believed. Since I was (and still am) such a science-minded person, I wanted to verify Christianity – but well aware of human beings’ tendency towards Confirmation Bias (only looking for things that confirm our a priori assumptions and disregarding information that discredits it) I figured that the only way to prove something true was to try to prove it false. If that sounds strange, I’d like to point out that all of us follow that methodology to varying degrees (except when we have an emotional attachment to the outcome). Buying a TV, trying on clothes, doing our homework – the entirety of our school system is designed around the process of doubt. We wouldn’t have tests if that weren’t the case. We wouldn’t have to sit through job interviews if that weren’t the case. Antibiotics, house shopping, doing laundry… anything that we require some form of knowledge about, we go through a process of skepticism prior to arriving at our conclusion. The study of how people know what they know is called “epistemology”. I had no idea about even the existence of such a word in high school, but I did want to know “how people knew what they knew” and the most consistent methodology, as I just wrote, is examination through doubt.

So after high school in 1997, I joined the Air Force. At this time, I was an agnostic about my Christianity and the existence of god(s) in general. It wasn’t until I had full access to the Internet (1999) that my “verification” really started to go full steam ahead, and Christianity unfortunately, didn’t stand up to scrutiny. Most alarming about the concept of epistemology in the Christian paradigm is this concept of “faith”. You have to first have positive belief, and then you know. Which is a wacky epistemology to follow and downright dangerous if utilized in the wrong context. External critique and verification is absurd if “faith” is the ultimate arbiter of knowledge.

As an example of the profound epistemological deficiency of faith, here’s a less dangerous example. Let’s say two students are taking a math test and they finish at the same time. Someone who expresses some healthy skepticism might say “I’ll go over my test again to make sure I made all the right calculations”. Proponents of faith would simply say “I know it’s right, it feels right and I’ll hand in my test” without checking their answers. Naturally, the person who checked their answers before handing in the test would be doing the more rational thing. Most people would agree as well – mainly because there’s no emotional investment in a math test.

A more dangerous example of the intellectual bankruptcy of faith, let’s say two people have guns pointed at their head. The person of faith would say “I have faith that no harm will come to me if the trigger is pulled”. A more reasonable person would say “I want to check the gun first and make sure there are no bullets in the chamber or in the clip before pulling the trigger”. Obviously most people would still side with the more skeptical person and follow their example – except when it comes to religion!

As of this day, that’s always the final answer as to what Christianity boils down to – faith. Which is odd considering that fideism is frowned upon in at least Catholicism. Anyway, I’ll post more about Christianity in subsequent posts, since I’m constantly digging ever deeper into the history of Christianity. But after Christianity, I studied a bit about Islam (ironically in basic training I went to a Muslim church only because it met twice a week as opposed to the other churches that met once a week), some Judaism and eventually moved on to the religions of the “East”. Religions like Shintoism and Buddhism were more intellectually satisfying since they didn’t concentrate on a cosmic entity that cares that you touched a woman while she was menstruating, and more about living harmoniously with your surroundings.

While in the Air Force I became more of an Ontological Naturalist and most religions didn’t stand up to scrutiny once they posited the supernatural. But still, even eschewing the supernatural from Eastern religions didn’t hinder their message, while in Western religions the supernatural is where they derived their power from – right from might. As of right now, I consider myself an Ontological Naturalistic Pantheist of the Spinoza-Einstein variety and do meditate. My meditation, while it might sound sort of woo-woo supernatural-like, there’s definitely a verifiable change in my physiology while doing it, that other friends have been able to take note of.

As for the name of this blog, I named it “five” in Greek (pente – πέντε) because my last name means “five” in Latin, and my website is called deus diapente, which is Latin-esque for “fifth god” – which is ironic because a lot of the information in my website is incompatible with the [Western] view of god.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2008 in Christianity, faith, naturalistic pantheism, skepticism

 
 
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