Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Religious Significance of 9/11

The September 11th terrorist attacks happened almost a decade ago. What has changed in the world since then? Since this blog is mainly about my notes or thoughts about religion, I think that I would shine a light on the affect that 9/11 had on religion.

But first, let me go back in time a bit, as is the main focus of my blog: the emergence of Christianity and 2nd temple Judaism.

Judaism as we know it is really a post 2nd temple phenomenon. And as far as I can tell, so is Christianity. But there’s a general trend that I noticed in the major changes in those two religions.

Judaism and Samaritanism split due to a national tragedy: the destruction of the first temple and the exile of the Jewish elite from Judah. Upon their return, the Judean elites put the finishing touches on Judaism and split with their Samaritan bretheren. The Jewish religion before the exile would probably be almost unrecognizable to most modern viewers.

Similarly, another national tragedy happened in 70 CE: the destruction of the second temple, effectively shattering the national pride of the Jews. This national tragedy sparked the more recognizable forms of both Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity.

Now back to the present. My thinking is that the national tragedy of 9/11 will create a similar shift in religious thought in the modern world. It won’t be a new Christianity or a new Judaism. It will be atheism. For most people, 9/11 was encouraged by religious thinking. Without a 9/11, there would have been no “New Atheist” movement.

Of course I’m not exactly the most knowledgable about sociological and historical shifts in religious thought. But the trend in history that I’ve seen is that major religious shifts are brought on by spectacular disasters and shifts in consciousness. The most obvious result of 9/11 to me is the spreading out of atheism, much like the destruction of the second temple in 70 CE led to the spreading out of Christianity.

For good or ill, I think that September 11th 2001 marked the beginning of the rise of atheism.

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Posted by on March 26, 2011 in atheism, september 11


Little Caesar

The love child of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar was named Caesarion by Cleopatra. Caesarion (Καισαρίωνα) in Greek meant “little Caesar”. So it must follow then that -ίωνα is a diminutive suffix in Greek. Of course, I just found out that Marcion's name in Greek is not Μαρκίων, but Μαρκίωνα. As I wrote in a previous post, the suffix -ίων is a comparative suffix. But Marcion's Greek name was not Μαρκίων but Μαρκίωνα.
Inexorably, this means that Marcion (Μαρκίωνα) means Little Mark.
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Posted by on March 16, 2011 in greek, marcion


Gorillas In The Midst

Recently I checked out the NIV 2010 version of Luke 17.21, which is one of my favorite lines from the gospels:

Luke 17.21

21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

Wait, what? In your midst? It seems like the translators are trying to weasel out of the original intention of the phrase, which was that the kingdom of god had already come. Originally it said “the kingdom of god is inside you [guys]”, an idea which seems to have been expanded by gThomas 3. Since our extant version of gThomas is in Coptic (Egyptian using Greek letters), I can't check to see if they share the same word. The W-H Greek of Lk 17.21 reads like this:

21ουδε ερουσιν ιδου ωδε η εκει ιδου γαρ η βασιλεια του θεου εντος υμων εστιν

The offending word is εντος, which means “inside”. The only other time it is used in the NT is at Matt 23.26:

Matt 23.26

26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

26φαρισαιε τυφλε! καθαρισον πρωτον το εντος του ποτηριου [και της παροψιδος] ινα γενηται και το εκτος αυτου καθαρον

Obviously, it would be grammatically questionable (to say the least) to translate εντος here as “midst”. Here Matt also demonstrates εντος's natural antonym, εκτος (outside). Off the top of my head, another time where “midst” is used is in the KJV of Mark 7.31, where Jesus travels from Tyre to Sidon and the “midst” of the Ten Cities. Since the KJV is basically a translation of Latin, it wouldn't be apt to use its W-H rendition to compare passages. 

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Posted by on March 14, 2011 in apologetics, greek


Was Jesus From Nazareth?

I originally posted this at Neil Godfrey's blog. I just thought I'd post it here on my own blog because I didn't feel like re-writing it 🙂

Salm’s conviction that Nazareth did not exist at the time of Jesus is obviously contrary to the evidence of Mk 1.9, ‘Jesus came from Nazaret of Galilee.’ (p. 131)

Er, yes. That is the reason for the debate in the first place. Casey argues that all the manuscripts contain this line in Mark, so we presumably have no reason to doubt the historicity of its detail. How seriously are we meant to take this towering intellect?

If we assume that Mark was written first, and Matthew largely copied and rewrote Mark, then we have at least one manuscript that did not have “Jesus from Nazareth from Galilee” at Mark 1:9. And this manuscript is older than any other extant one. This would be Mattew 3:13. In other words, since Matthew only writes “Jesus [came] from Galilee”, leaving out the “from Nazareth” when he usually copies Mark word-for-word, then whatever version of Mark that Matthew is copying from did not have “Nazareth” at 1:9. Notice, also, that Matt inserts a gratuitous “Nazareth” in another place where it is absent in Mark, at Matt 21:11. So there’s probably no reason that Matt would leave it out of Mark 1:9 if it had been there.

This makes sense of the rest of Mark, since Mark only uses the word “Nazarene” throughout the rest of the gospel. “Nazareth” at Mark 1:9 is an outlier.

There’s also the linguistic problem of deriving “Nazareth” from “Nazarene”. There are at least four different spellings of this town name and its “gentilic” in the gospel narratives: ΝΑΖΑΡΗΝΟΣ (Nazarene), ΝΑΖΩΡΑΙΟΣ (Nazoraios), ΝΑΖΑΡΑ (Nazara), ΝΑΖΑΡΕΤ/ΝΑΖΑΡΕΘ (Nazareth). Mark only uses Nazarene (as argued). Matt and Luke use all four, and John only uses Nazoraios and Nazareth (Acts of the Apostles almost exclusively uses Nazoraios). Since the spelling is all over the place, this probably means that there was no tradition earlier than Matt that Jesus came from Nazareth, and the gospel authors subsequent to Mark did not know what to do with Mark’s “Nazarene”.

The easiest way to derive a place name from something like “Nazarene” would be to move from “Nazarene” to “Nazara”, which is exactly what Luke (4.16) and Matt (4.13) do. Just like a Gerasene (ΓΕΡΑΣΗΝΟΣ, Mark 5:1) means someone from Gerasa.

Nazoraios, also, enters the Synoptic tradition sometime around whenever Matt was written. Matt probably invented it, deriving it from misremembering or taking out of context (Matt shows a penchant for doing that 🙂 ) the prophetic-sounding Judges 13:5 where Samson is said to be a ΝΑΖΙΡΑΙΟΣ – “Nazirite” (in some LXX manuscripts). This is only one letter off from Matt’s Nazoraios. While there is a huge variance with how Judges 13:5 was translated (some say ΝΑΖΕΙΡΑΙΟΣ, others say ΝΑΖΙΡ, and some translate it literally as ΑΓΝΕΙΑ, which means what the Hebrew NZYR means: “consecrated”), there is a staggering consistency with how Matt, Luke, and John spell Nazoraios. Which probably means that they are reading from each other and not basing it on oral tradition. I would think that an oral tradition might introduce the same sort of variance that Nazirite has in the LXX.

Lastly, Nazareth, the town name, has an odd spelling if it is based on the Hebrew town. Usually the Hebrew Tsade is rendered in Koine Greek as a Sigma (like Isaac is derived from Yitzak, Sadducee from Tzadokim, etc.) but Nazareth has a consistent Zeta instead of a Sigma in the NT. According to Epiphanius, the Nasarenes were an ancient anti-Torah sect of Jews from the time period of Jeremiah.

So this leads to a sort of catch-22. If Jesus was a Nasarene, then he has no relationship with the town. If Jesus was a Nazarene (that is, someone from Nazara) then he’s from a town that didn’t exist. To solve this problem, the gospel authors simply fudge the numbers a bit and thus we end up with a convoluted tradition that has Jesus ultimately from the town that sounds kinda-sorta-little bit like Nazarene: Nazareth.

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Posted by on March 11, 2011 in nasarene, nazarene, nazareth

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