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Monthly Archives: October 2009

The Messiah Before Jesus (Gabriel’s Revelation)

This was posted in spin’s blog at FRDB three days ago, and is a bit more (not by much lol) in depth explanation of my post on the introduction to the history of early Christianity back in April, where I explained that the messiah claimant here might have been a slave of Herod the Great’s named Simon (Josephus, Antiquities 17.10.6).

An Israeli scholar named Israel Knohl wrote a book called “The Messiah Before Jesus”. It was a bit thin, but proposed that the notion of a suffering messiah already existed in Jewish tradition. Recently (July 2008) an inscription came to light, sold some years before to a person living in Zurich by a Jordanian antiquities merchant through a London newspaper.

The Israeli epigrapher Ada Yardeni was approached about the inscription, resulting in its publication in a Hebrew journal, then in BAR. Yardeni called the inscription “Hazon Gabriel” (“the vision of Gabriel”). Although the stele is unprovenanced, it has been examined by Yuval Goren, the scholar who exposed the James Ossuary, and Goren could find nothing wrong with it. It is thought to have been a grave monument from an ancient Jewish tomb in Jordan and has been dated to the early first century BCE.

When Knohl came across the article and found a line “after three days…, I Gabriel…”, he examined the lacuna after “three days” and found that a word could be seen, the verb “live”, a reading that Yardeni later confirmed upon further examination. This find lends support to the existence of a tradition of a messiah who was resurrected after three days.

Early in the inscription there is mention of both David and Ephraim (son of Joseph):

My servant David, ask of Ephraim [that he] place
the sign; (this) I ask of you. — (Knohl’s translation)

The context is apparently apocalyptic, making the reference to David messianic, yet Ephraim is taken to be part of the messianic tradition here as well, a notion that is strongly supported by a passing passage in the Babylonian Talmud tractate Sukkah 52a, referring to “the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph”.

Three essential parts of the Jesus tradition are already in circulation before the end of the 1st c. BCE:

  1. son of Joseph;
  2. his slaying; and
  3. his resurrection after three days.
 
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Posted by on October 30, 2009 in ephraim, gabriel's revelation, jesus, son of joseph

 

YHWH vs. El

It is very common for people to point out the fact that “Elohim” is a plural, and therefore claim that all the places in the Torah where the word is used must be referring to multiple gods rather than a single god.

This is naive and wrong.

Similarly, it is also common for people to say that although “Elohim” is a plural, its use is like that of the “royal we” (for example Queen Victoria’s famous “We are not amused” quote) and refers to someone who is important enough to speak about themselves in the plural. Therefore, any usage of the word Elohim must be referring to a singular god – the God of the Christians.

This is also naive and wrong. The Hebrew language does not have such a grammatical construction.

So how should the word be treated?

The word is grammatically a plural, and as such it demands plural verb forms. However, the same word is used as a singular.

The best way to think of this is like the English word “Scissors”. We never talk about “a scissor”. Even when referring to a single item, we still refer to it as “some scissors”. We use plural verb forms too – for example we say “The scissors are over there” rather than “The scissors is over there”.

It is not quite the same, since we can also refer to scissors as a pair of scissors, but hopefully the similarity is enough to make the analogy work.

So how do we know whether to translate “Elohim” as “gods” or “god”? The simple answer is that we don’t. Again, this is similar to the English. If someone says “The car is over there”, you know that they are only talking about one car. If they say “the cars are over there” then you know they are talking about more than one car. However, if someone says “The scissors are over there” you don’t know if they are talking about one pair of scissors or many pairs.

We must use the context in which the word is used. If the verse(s) in question talk about “Elohim” and then say that “he” did or said something then it is safe to assume that it is talking about a single god. If the verse(s) talk about “Elohim” and then say that “they” did something then it is safe to assume that it is talking about multiple gods.

Of course, in the Torah, there are many places where neither assumption is safe…

Anyway, on to actual references.

Here is Psalm 82, in the ASV translation:

82:1 God standeth in the congregation of God; He judgeth among the gods.
82:2 How long will ye judge unjustly, And respect the persons of the wicked? Selah
82:3 Judge the poor and fatherless: Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
82:4 Rescue the poor and needy: Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.
82:5 They know not, neither do they understand; They walk to and fro in darkness: All the foundations of the earth are shaken.
82:6 I said, Ye are gods, And all of you sons of the Most High.
82:7 Nevertheless ye shall die like men, And fall like one of the princes.
82:8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; For thou shalt inherit all the nations.

Now this passage already has polytheistic themes in it, with the talk of God “judging amongst the gods”.

However, it is obvious from reading this that the translation of verse 1 is somewhat tortured – as if someone is trying to find a monotheistic interpretation of it.

If we look at the Hebrew, a direct translation would be…

‘Elohim’ stands in the council of ‘El’ and judges the ‘Elohim’

Here, the first “Elohim” is fairly clearly supposed to be “God”, and the second is fairly clearly supposed to be “gods”. So a better translation would be:

“God stands in the council of El and judges the gods”

This is clearly polytheistic. Particularly if we look at verse 6 too.

This psalm actually shows Canaanite polytheistic belief and their pantheon. The archaeological records that we have from various other Canaanite tribes (of which the Hebrews were one) shows that they had a pantheon consisting of El, the chief god, and his children, which included Baal, Dagon, Chemosh, As[h]arah, Mot, YHWH and others.

Interestingly, Ugarit inscriptions from the time show Asarah as being YHWH’s wife, as well as his sister. Which is a strange coincidence being that Abraham’s wife was also presented as his sister, and the difference between the names of the two being the letter “aleph” (ASRH אשרה [aleph-shin-resh-he] “As[h]arah” and SRH שרה [shin-resh-he] “S[h]arah”).

The Hebrew tribe(s), being native to Canaan (there was no Exodus), had YHWH as a patron, and this psalm appears to show YHWH standing in his father’s court judging his siblings. The “Most High” in verse 6 is “El-yon” or “El most high”.

A similar view (where El is the chief god and YHWH is one of his children) is shown in Deuteronomy 32:8-9

32:8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, When he separated the children of men, He set the bounds of the peoples According to the number of the children of Israel.
32:9 For Jehovah’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.

Again, the reference is to to “El-yon” translated here as simply “the Most High”. This verse shows El portioning off the various tribes amongst his children, specifically giving Jacob’s tribe to YHWH.

This is the standard reading of the traditional Hebrew text, which we refer to as the Masoretic (MT). It is the basic translation that will be found in the King James Version. However, scholars have known for centuries that in the Septuagint (LXX) version, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament or Tanakh made in the 2nd century BCE, the last phrase reads quite differently:

‘When the most High divided the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam (or man), He set the bounds of the people, according to the number of the sons of God (NOT “Israel”!).’

Obviously, the meaning is quite different, and might even have some important theological implications. As it turns out, to the surprise of us all, the Dead Sea texts of Deuteronomy, which date from before the time of Jesus, agree with the Greek LXX version, against the traditional Hebrew text (Masoretic)! In fact, the exact Hebrew of the Dead Sea texts is most interesting, it reads literally, ‘according to the sons of El.’ This divergence from the traditional text is rare, but when it occurs it is surely significant. This means that Jesus and the other Jews of the first century read copies of Deuteronomy that read ‘according to the sons of El,’ rather than ‘according to the number of the sons of Israel.’

Apart from these passages, which support the henotheistic views that we have from inscriptions left by the other Canaanite tribes, there are other clearly polytheistic statements in the OT, such as…

EX 15:11 Who is like unto thee, O Jehovah, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders?

EX 18:11 Now I know that Jehovah is greater than all gods; yea, in the thing wherein they dealt proudly against them.

DEUT 32:12 Jehovah alone did lead him, And there was no foreign god with him.

PS 86:8 There is none like unto thee among the gods, O Lord; Neither `are there any works’ like unto thy works.

PS 95:3 For Jehovah is a great God, And a great King above all gods.

Which explicitly compare YHWH with other gods and give no indication that the other gods are seen as false, only that YHWH is the best god around.

Exodus 22:28 is usually translated as a singular…

EX 22:28 Thou shalt not revile God, nor curse a ruler of thy people.

However, here the word used is not even Elohim. It is Ha-Elohim – the gods. This must be taken as a plural, not a singular. The correct translation of this verse should be “Thou shalt not revile the gods…”

Additionally, there is the story of the Exodus. In this, YHWH is explicitly described as smiting the Egyptian gods…

EX 12:12 For I will go through the land of Egypt in that night, and will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am Jehovah.

Now firstly this allegedly coming from YHWH’s own words – so it can’t be explained away as simply that some of his followers believed in other gods that didn’t really exist. Secondly, the apologetic that he was actually talking about smiting the statues or idols of Egypt flies in the face of the Hebrew, which uses the word “Elohim” to describe the Egyptian gods, not any of the Hebrew words for statues or idols.

It is clear that (at least to the writer of the passage) YHWH is smiting other actual gods – the gods of Egypt (whom he has already bested in “miracle competitions” to prove that he is more powerful than them).

There is also the fascinating story in 2 Kings 3 where the Moabites (who worshipped Chemosh – another son of El) are being fought by the Israelites makes a sacrifice to Chemosh and Chemosh has a “great wrath” against the Israelites and drives them back – demonstrating the henotheistic belief that each god is powerful when on his home turf.

3:26 And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him, he took with him seven hundred men that drew sword, to break through unto the king of Edom; but they could not.
3:27 Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt-offering upon the wall. And there was great wrath against Israel: and they departed from him, and returned to their own land.

Of course there is finally the classic first commandment…

EX 34:14 for thou shalt worship no other god: for Jehovah, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:

…where YHWH does not claim to be the only god, he merely says that he is the only god who should be worshipped. He does not say “Worship me because I am the only god”. He says “Worship me because I am jealous”.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2009 in asarah, el, henotheism, monotheism, polytheism, torah, YHWH

 

Good News in the Tanakh

Just for my own edification, I’ve compiled all of the places where “good news” or “good tidings” (ευαγγελια, i.e. “gospel” in Greek) occurs in the Tanak:

2 Samuel 4:10; 18:25; 18:26; 18:27; 18:31
1 Kings 1:42; 2 Kings 7:9
Isaiah 40:9; 41:27; 52:7; 61:1
Nahum 1:15
Proverbs 15:30

For some reason, besides Nahum and Proverbs, these are all post-exilic books; at least their final forms are. 1 and 2 Samuel are technically 1 and 2 Kings, whereas 1 and 2 Kings are really 3 and 4 Kings – they are all the same “book”. Isaiah 1-39 were probably written before or during the exile (though their final forms are post-exilic), whereas 40-66 were written after.

In 2 Sam 18:26, 18:31 and Isaiah 40:9; 52:7 the word is one of the other forms of the noun (ευαγγελιζομενος, ευαγγελιζομενου) “good news”. Nahum 1:15 (2:1 LXX) and Isaiah 61:1 use a form I’ve never seen before (ευαγγελισθητω and ευαγγελισασθαι respectively) but in English the phrase is “one who brings good news” and “preach good news”. In the New Testament, “preach good news” is rendered as ευαγγελιζω (eua[n]ggelizo) which would be “I preach good news” or “I bring good news” (later Christians translate it as “I evangelize”).

Proverbs 15:30 seems to use the word καλα (good) instead of ευαγγελια before the phrase “cheering up” (ευφραινει). 1 Kings 1:42 uses the phrase αγαθα ευαγγελισαι. Which to me seems redundant, since agatha means “good” and euaggelisai means the past tense of the verb form of “bring good news”. 2 Kings 7:9 uses the word ευαγγελιας, another form of the phrase “good news”.

As a slight digression, the king named at 1 Kings 1:42 who is using the phrase αγαθα ευαγγελισαι is transliterated in the Greek as αδωνιας (Adonias). To me, this looked suspiciously like “Adoni” (lord in Hebrew) so I looked up the passage in English and the king’s name is Adonijah. This name means “My lord [is] Jah[ovah]”.

Anyway, I looked on Wiktionary about the Greek verb Ευαγγελίζω and it lists all of the variations of “good news”. There are at least a hundred from my brief estimation.

Another interesting thing is that, besides Proverbs, these are all books of Nevi’im (Prophets). Which would make sense of all the uses of the phrase “good news”.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2009 in good news, neviim

 

Josephus’ enemy – Justus

Since the article in Wikipedia on Justus is short, I thought I would just post it here:

Justus of Tiberias was a Jewish author and historian living in the second half of the 1st century CE. Little is known about his life, except as told by his political and literary enemy Josephus Flavius.

Justus was born in Tiberias, a highly Hellenistic Galilean city and was a man of learning. He was close to the Tetrarch Agrippa II and became a leading citizens of his hometown.

During the First Jewish-Roman War (66-73), he ran into conflict with Josephus, the leading Jewish general in Galilee. When the Romans had reconquered Galilee, Justus sought sanctuary with the Tetrach Agrippa. Vespasian, who led the Roman troops, demanded that Justus be put to death, but Agrippa spared him and merely imprisoned him. The tetrarch even appointed Justus as his secretary, but later dismissed him as unreliable.

Justus wrote a history of the war in which he blamed Josephus for the troubles of Galilee. He also portrayed his former master Agrippa in an unfavourable light, but did not publish the work until after Agrippa’s death. Justus also wrote a chronicle of the Jewish people from Moses to Agrippa II. Both his works only survive in fragments.

Flavius Josephus, Justus’ rival, criticized the Tiberian’s account of the war and defended his own conduct in the Autobiography, from whose polemical passages we derive most of what we know about Justus’ life.

Now on to my point:

Justus’ history of the Jews was still extant by the ninth century. Photius (c.810-c.895 CE) the Patriarch of Constantinople read it and recorded, in his still extant Bibliotheca, a summary of its contents. In this he states that “suffering from the common fault of the Jews, to which race he belonged, he (Justus) does not mention the coming of Christ, the events of his life, or the miracles performed by him.” (Bibliotheca, 33). How would Justus, who lived in Galilee, have missed out on recording the ministry of Jesus?

And Photius called this a “common fault of the Jews” who lived at this time. Meaning that it was common for Jews to have not written about the Jesus of Christianity. I take that as another strike against the historicity of the gospel accounts.

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2009 in jesus myth, josephus, justus, photius

 

Exodus 3:14 (Redux)

(This is a redux of my slight digression in my post in the history of early Christianity here).

The book of Exodus (along with the majority of the Pentateuch), according to the general scholarly consensus, was written or re-written sometime after the Jews’ return from exile around 500 BCE. But for this post I’m going to focus on what’s probably the most famous passage in the entire Tanakh. Which is YHWH’s response to Moses when Moses asks who he should say sent him. Exodus 3:14.

On the face of it, in our English translations, YHWH simply blows Moses off. But this doesn’t really make sense considering that YHWH does say his name (YHWH) in Exodus 3:15, but in our English translations it say the word LORD. Without going into the digression about HaShem and the Hebrew word(s) for “Lord”, it suffices it to say that “Lord” is not YHWH’s name. But back to Ex 3:14:

14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am . [a] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ “

Footnotes:
[a]Or I will be what I will be

Is “I am who I am” a fair translation of the Hebrew? English didn’t exist in 500 BCE when this was written, so who knows what was lost in translation. Here’s the “I am what I am” in Hebrew:

אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה;
EHY’H ASHR EHY’H

Since Hebrew has no “tenses” there are varying interpretations of this phrase. EHY’H comes from the Hebrew verb “To Be”. Without going into the many possible interpretations, let’s look at how this phrase was translated by Greek speaking Jews 200 years later. Now, if the English phrase “I am what I am” were what the original Hebrew authors intended, we should find the same exact phrasing in Greek:

εγω ειμι ο ων
egw eimi [h]o wn

So what does “ego eimi ho on” mean in Koine Greek? It most closely means “I am the Being”. “I am what I am” would look more like εγω ειμι ποιο ειμι::I am what/which I am. I picked Greek because it was the second language that was used to translate this passage, and is a language not very much younger than Hebrew. ΩΝ (wn) is the present participle (-ing) Greek version of the Greek ontos, which is the prefix for the word Ontology, or the study of what it means to “be” (exist).

But… most English translations come from Jerome’s (c. 400 CE… 600 years later!) Latin. This is what the passage became in Latin:

ego sum qui sum

This means I am what I am, which is what we have in English. It should be no surprise, since English is a [Roman]ce language. So why the difference between the Greek and Latin? I’m showing my bias here, but the Latin was not translated by a Jew whereas the Greek was. So I’m going to defer to the Greek as the more intentional translation. So why would the Greek say “I am the Being”? To understand that, you have to understand HaShem and the verb “To Be”.

Out of respect for HaShem, “YHWH” is not pronounced. But YHY and HYH are both causative forms of the verb “to be”. HYH means “existed” or “was”; YHY means “may” or “will be”. Therefore The Name might have simply been making a play on The Name and its grammatical relationship to the verb “to be”, with the last two letters of AHYH (ehyeh – I shall be) and HYH (heyeh) containing the first two letters of YHY (yahey – I may be) and thus YHWH. The other interpretation being “I shall be what I shall be” which would have been rendered in Greek something like εγω εσομαι ποιο εσομαι::I will be what/which I will be. εσομαι (I will be) is used in the Greek version of Ex. 3:12 (εσομαι μετα σου::I will be with you).

“I am the Being” (or even “I am existence” would work) is probably the closest the Greek speaking Jews could come to describing the pun that only makes sense in Hebrew. The pun being between the grammatical/phonetic relationship between The Name “YHWH” and instances of the Hebrew verb “to be”. Though in my opinion this is straddling pretty close to pantheism (which is my theology).

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2009 in ehyeh asher ehyeh, exodus 3:14, Hashem, I am that I am, LXX, pantheism

 

C. S. Lewis’ Trilemma

C. S. Lewis’ trilemma is really easy to refute, since it rests on quite a few unfounded premises. The simplest refutation of Lewis’ trilemma is “It’s still possible that Jesus could have been crazy and/or a liar and still had a few good moral teachings. I don’t see how those are mutually exclusive. He could have been a mostly good guy who was a little nuts, or could have believed that lying to get people to accept his moral teachings was a noble lie.” For some reason, Lewis thinks in black and white – either he was a great moral teacher AND god, or he was a liar/madman or a demon. Since Jesus being a moral teacher is “not one of the options”, that only leaves God, demon, or madman. Since people like the character of Jesus they don’t want to concede that he’s a madman or a demon, so the only option left, according to Lewis’ false trilemma, is the God of the Jews. Of course, there are two other options – Jesus was mistaken, or Jesus was a legend. Jesus could have been all too human and simply mistaken, or Jesus could have had words put in his mouth by his non-Jewish followers decades later. My conclusion is the latter:

From Mere Christianity Chapter 8 – “The Shocking Alternative”

1. That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended-civilisations are built up–excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin. In fact, the machine conks. It seems to start up all right and runs a few yards, and then it breaks down. They are trying to run it on the wrong juice. That is what Satan has done to us humans.

I agree with this part of his argument. Except that since the [Christian] Satan doesn’t exist (which is a different being than the Jewish Satan), that part falls flat. We live in the darkness of a demon-haunted world, creeping with trepidation and fear at the shadowy images just outside of our peripheral vision. They seem to mirror our movements; they rise when we rise and are right at our side when we fall… looking right at us, never once extending a helping hand. However, when certain people light the candle of reason, we see that there were no demons at all – merely a mirror. Our own reflection. They are ourselves. Those “demons” were just us looking back into ourselves via silhouettes floating in the mirror in the dimly lit room of our superstitions.

2. And what did God do? First of all He left us conscience, the sense of right and wrong: and all through history there have been people trying (some of them very hard) to obey it. None of them ever quite succeeded.

“God” seems to have done the same for chimps. Chimps have been known to drown themselves trying to rescue fellow chimps in a moat, or starve themselves when they realize that when they press a button to get food, they shock a fellow chimp. What’s going on here? Chimps, just like ourselves, are social creatures. Social creatures can only survive if they work in unison – which can only work if you have some inclination of how your fellow [being] feels. We call this “feeling” empathy; and empathy is godless.

3. Secondly, He sent the human race what I call good dreams: I mean those queer stories scattered all through the heathen religions about a god who dies and comes to life again and by his death, has somehow given new life to men.

Somewhat true, but:

4. Thirdly, He selected one particular people and spent several centuries hammering into their heads the sort of God He was–that there was only one of Him and that He cared about right conduct. Those people were the Jews, and the Old Testament gives an account of the hammering process.

For some reason, Lewis fails to account for the Jews and their constant struggles against idolatry – one of the most idolatrous crimes was a human being declaring themselves to be a god. Jews have absolutely no tradition of worshipping any of their kings or high priests as a god, let alone YHWH himself. This concept is completely foreign to Jews. All throughout Jewish history, YHWH has come down to Earth to interact with his chosen people directly. This is in direct opposition to Lewis’ later claim of Jesus being YHWH himself, and YHWH all of the sudden needing a mediator to interact with his chosen people – any Jew who claimed that he was YHWH in the flesh would be desecrating the monotheism of the Shema, which incited Jews to rebellion in other historical contexts that Lewis seems to be ignorant of: the Maccabean Revolt of 164 BCE, the Jewish-Roman war of 70 CE, and the Bar-Kockba Revolt of 132 CE.

5. Then come the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time.

This depends on which “Jesus” you’re talking about. The Jesus in Mark (the first gospel written) most certainly never claimed he always existed, and is ultimately unsatisfied with Peter. He is basically a nobody until the holy spirit possesses him, adopts him as his son, and forces him into the wilderness. Mark’s Jesus is subtly Gnostic; only demons and unnamed people recognize Jesus as the Savior and exonerator of sin. Jesus’ disciples and the Jews are completely clueless. Any time Jesus does a miracle on one of these unnamed, he asks the recipient to not tell anyone, yet they do the opposite. Mark’s story is filled with lovely Greek irony – only the reader, demons, and unnamed people recognize Jesus as the Christ. At the end of Mark’s gospel, the clueless women (who he names) come to anoint the dead body, but are told by the anonymous young man that Jesus has risen. No longer should Jesus’ status as salvation be kept a secret, but proclaimed from the mountaintops. The named women of course do the opposite – just like everyone else in this gospel. They don’t recognize Jesus as the Christ, they run away scared and don’t tell anyone – and this is how Mark’s gospel ends which is how it is in history. No one knew that Jesus was the messiah, except the lucky initiate who is blessed with esoteric knowledge. Subtle Gnosticism, which is/was the beauty of the original ending. Of course, depending on which Bible you read, “Mark” then has Jesus appear to Mary Magdelene and drives several demons from her, but everything after 16:8 is unoriginal to Mark.

This Jesus is different from the Jesus in Matthew, who seems to like Peter and is the literal son of God. The Jesus in Matthew/Luke, as opposed to Mark, actually teaches some moral values (the Sermon on the Mount and the Olivet Discourse). In another respect, the Jesus of Mark never once claimed that he was coming back to “judge the world”; that sentiment is more Pauline than any of the Synoptics. The Jesus in Thomas never declares himself to have any special relationship with YHWH; as a matter of fact, he says that if you “drink the same cup that [he] drinks, you can become like [him]”. If the Jesus of Thomas thought he was god, imagine how much more radical it would be for god to say that you too could become god?

Of course, Lewis seems to only have the Jesus of John in mind when he writes this premise. He doesn’t seem to understand the history of early Christianity. There were many “types” of Jesus’, all believed by the many different Christian sects. The Ebionite Jesus differed from the Valentinian Jesus. The Valentinian Jesus differed from the Basilidean Jesus. The Basilidean Jesus differed from the Marcionite Jesus. The Marcionite Jesus differed from the proto-Catholic Jesus. The Arian Jesus differed from the Athanasean Jesus. John was originally the choice gospel of the Gnostics which was reappropriated by the [non-Jewish] writer of the Johannine epistles sometime in the early 2nd century. It suffices it to say that if Jesus was a Jew, there’s no way he would have said anything remotely like what the Logos of John said. The Jesus (the Logos) of John is unattractively arrogant and likes to speak in longwinded speeches like the philosophers of the day. Simply philosophizing about his awesomeness and never giving any moral lessons. This is markedly different than the Jesus in the Synoptics, who is trying to teach his Jewish followers how to improve the world for the coming kingdom with short parables. Not once does the Jesus of John speak in parables and he only once mentions the “Kingdom of God” – hence the deliniation in scholarship between the Synoptic Gospels and the gospel of John, which stands alone as an aberration.

6. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it.

True.

7. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world, who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else.

Again, which Jesus? The Jesus in Mark, Matthew, Luke, and Thomas never claimed to be YHWH. This only happens in John. Not only does John’s Jesus claim that he and the father are one, but he’s also said to be the “Logos” of Stoicism in the opening hymn. John’s Jesus is as Jewish as a bacon-burger.

8. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.

Not quite. We have two months out of the year that were named after people deified. July and August. Caligula attempted to have himself deified and a statue of himself set up in the Jewish Temple around 40 CE but was eventually assassinated. If he had carried through with that act, the Jews would have went to war with Rome immediately, instead of waiting 30 years.

9.One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is God, this is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toe and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct.

This, again, is ignorant of Jewish history. All Cohenim Gadol (High Priests) can forgive sins. That is their primary role in 2nd temple Judaism. Ironically, all High Priests are “Christs” in that they are anointed with oil once taking office. The anonymous author of the epistle to the Hebrews knew this, and presents Jesus as a heavenly Christ who forgives sins in heaven. This is strangely analogous to the Jewish philosopher Philo’s “Logos”, who he reappropriated from the Greek Stoics and added some Jewish flavor. Philo’s Logos (Word) was a second power in heaven who stood on the confines between the Father and humanity, being both uncreated like the Father and suffering like man. Philo’s Word was a paraclete, taking in the sins of mankind and negotiating in favor of humanity just like epistle to the Hebrews’ Christ. Of course, Philo was born 20 years before Jesus, and was teaching his Logos/Word as a divine paraclete and “second power” in heaven while Jesus was a pre-teen.

How odd it is that Philo never once writes a word about his contemporary Jesus – who was supposed to be the living embodiment of his Logos, yet writes quite disparagingly of his other contemporary Pilate.

10. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences.

Of course, this assumes that Jesus actually said this! Considering that the documents that describe these scenes were written in third person already throws some doubt into the “eyewitness” claim. The fact that the vast majority of New Testament scholarship conclude that the gospel narratives were written by anonymous Christians far removed from their Judaean/Galilean context means that the depth of Lewis’ argument here becomes incredibly shallow.

No, what the authors of the gospel narratives wanted to do was demonstrate, just like the author of Hebrews, that a Jesus was a new “High Priest” in town, giving people hope that their sins could still be forgiven after the official office of the High Priesthood, the Sacrificial System, and the 2nd Temple had been destroyed in 70 CE – evidencing the near scholarly consensus that these stories were written in a post-2nd Temple (70 CE) era.

11. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin.

Considering actual New Testament and 2nd Temple Judaism scholarship on the issue, it really makes no sense at all.

12. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history.

Just about every king in the pagan world was deified after death. Having a story where a Jew starts making the same claim as other pagans must mean that this story was written by non-Jewish pagans. And of course like I wrote earlier, High Priests absolved sin via the Sacrificial System. Lewis’ claim of being unrivaled is emphatically over-stated.

13. Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less so unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is ‘humble and meek’ and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings.

I agree. Humility and meekness are not any of Jesus’ traits in the gospel narratives… but who knows what Jesus really said and did? I have to wonder who these “enemies” who read the gospel narratives are though. Maybe the author of the Toledot Yeshu? But there are quite a few people who read the gospel narratives and find silliness. I have yet to meet someone who read the gospel narratives and then was convinced it was true. Either people who are ambivalent or agnostic to Christianity read them and blow them off, or Christians who want to confirm what they already believe read them and find them to be earth-shattering genius.

14. I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

I really don’t see how this follows. Of course Jesus said some things that are morally upright, yet he also said quite a few things that are morally repugnant. Off the top of my head, calling a “Syro-Phonecian” woman a dog (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30) and his rant against the caricature of the Pharisees in Matthew and Luke. Though I highly doubt Jesus’ rage against the Perushim was historical, since the Pharisees weren’t the Jews in power during the tenure of Pilate. The Sadducees were actually the legalistic Jews who were also the ruling class of 2nd Temple Judaism since the time of the Maccabean Revolt. The Pharisees were actually more interested in practical application of the Law unlike the Sadducees; the Sadducees (much like the modern Karaite Jews) rejected the Oral Law that the Pharisees said expounded on the written Law and made it less restrictive. The Pharisees started gaining clout in Judaism after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, since the Temple was the power base of the Sadducees; meaning that Jesus’ ranting against the “legalistic” Pharisees is an anachronism of a writer describing post 70 CE conflicts in 33 CE.

15. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.

What’s wrong with being human? We all say some things that are cogent, but also say things that are offensive. The claim of being “god” dishearteningly common.

15. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

The author of the gospel of John most certainly didn’t leave that option open. However, there’s no reason to think that there’s any history in that gospel. Lewis’ argument can only function on the absolute historicity of that gospel. Ironically, Jesus doesn’t give any great moral lessons in that gospel; that only happens in the Synoptics. The biggest mistake is assuming the καθολικος catholicos (wholeness) of the four gospels.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2009 in c. s. lewis, gospel of john, logos, mere christianity, trilemma

 

AnswersInGenesis.org "Statement of Faith"

“Answers In Genesis” is the leading Creation “science” and “research” Christian think tank (along with ICR and the Discovery Institute). I’m not sure of their current involvement with the “Intelligent Design” movement, but they probably support some manifestation of it. I actually agree with their “statement of faith”, which is why Christianity is ultimately incompatible with modernity. Their statement of faith from here:

Section 1: Priorities

  1. The scientific aspects of creation are important, but are secondary in importance to the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ as Sovereign, Creator, Redeemer, and Judge.
  2. The doctrines of Creator and creation cannot ultimately be divorced from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Section 2: Basics

  1. The 66 books of the Bible are the written Word of God. The Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant throughout. Its assertions are factually true in all the original autographs. It is the supreme authority in everything it teaches. Its authority is not limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes but includes its assertions in such fields as history and science.
  2. The final guide to the interpretation of Scripture is Scripture itself.
  3. The account of origins presented in Genesis is a simple but factual presentation of actual events and therefore provides a reliable framework for scientific research into the question of the origin and history of life, mankind, the earth and the universe.
  4. The various original life forms (kinds), including mankind, were made by direct creative acts of God. The living descendants of any of the original kinds (apart from man) may represent more than one species today, reflecting the genetic potential within the original kind. Only limited biological changes (including mutational deterioration) have occurred naturally within each kind since creation.
  5. The great Flood of Genesis was an actual historic event, worldwide (global) in its extent and effect.
  6. The special creation of Adam (the first man) and Eve (the first woman), and their subsequent fall into sin, is the basis for the necessity of salvation for mankind.
  7. Death (both physical and spiritual) and bloodshed entered into this world subsequent to and as a direct consequence of man’s sin.

Section 3: Theology

  1. The Godhead is triune: one God, three Persons—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
  2. All mankind are sinners, inherently from Adam and individually (by choice), and are therefore subject to God’s wrath and condemnation.
  3. Freedom from the penalty and power of sin is available to man only through the sacrificial death and shed blood of Jesus Christ and His complete and bodily resurrection from the dead.
  4. The Holy Spirit enables the sinner to repent and believe in Jesus Christ.
  5. The Holy Spirit lives and works in each believer to produce the fruits of righteousness.
  6. Salvation is a gift received by faith alone in Christ alone and expressed in the individual’s repentance, recognition of the death of Christ as full payment for sin, and acceptance of the risen Christ as Savior, Lord, and God.
  7. All things necessary for our salvation are expressly set down in Scripture.
  8. Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.
  9. Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead, ascended to heaven, and is currently seated at the right hand of God the Father, and shall return in person to this earth as Judge of the living and the dead.
  10. Satan is the personal spiritual adversary of both God and mankind.
  11. Those who do not believe in Christ are subject to everlasting conscious punishment, but believers enjoy eternal life with God.
  12. The only legitimate marriage is the joining of one man and one woman. God has commanded that no sexual activity be engaged in outside of marriage. Any forms of homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, incest, fornication, adultery, pornography, etc., are sinful perversions of God’s gift of sex.

Section 4: General

The following are held by members of the Board of Answers in Genesis to be either consistent with Scripture or implied by Scripture.

  1. Scripture teaches a recent origin for man and the whole creation, spanning approximately 4,000 years from creation to Christ.
  2. The days in Genesis do not correspond to geologic ages, but are six [6] consecutive twenty-four [24] hour days of creation.
  3. The Noachian Flood was a significant geological event and much (but not all) fossiliferous sediment originated at that time.
  4. The gap theory has no basis in Scripture.
  5. The view, commonly used to evade the implications or the authority of biblical teaching, that knowledge and/or truth may be divided into secular and religious, is rejected.
  6. By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.

All of the parts in bold I think are essential to Christian doctrine. If there was no literal Adam, then there was no fall and no Original Sin. No OS means that there was no point for a Jesus sacrifice, as I argued in this earlier post. At this website [I think is ironically] called “not religious” a post made by someone said that if science says that Genesis is wrong, then Genesis has to be allegory. I agree. Genesis is typical Semitic mythology. But this is being selective – science also says that people aren’t born from virgins and can’t bodily ascend to heaven. Thus would this Christian say that Jesus was born by normal means and didn’t ascend into heaven? Of course not. He would hold on to his faith in spite of scientific methodology.

Science says that demon possession isn’t responsible for sickness, but is actually due to the Germ Theory of disease. Thus this Christian would change the text and say that Jesus was really removing germs and not sentient demons. If Jesus’ resurrection is incompatible with science, would he say that the resurrection was also allegory? I highly doubt it, since that is essential Christian dogma.

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2009 in dogma, genesis, original sin

 
 
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