Depending on how your childhood went, you may remember a time period when you first began to doubt Santa Claus's existence, but you still believed that you were supposed to believe in Santa Claus, so you tried to deny the doubts. As Daniel Dennett observes, where it is difficult to believe a thing, it is often much easier to believe that you ought to believe it. What does it mean to believe that the Ultimate Cosmic Sky is both perfectly blue and perfectly green? The statement is confusing; it's not even clear what it would mean to believe it – what exactly would be believed, if you believed. You can much more easily believe that it is proper, that it is good and virtuous and beneficial, to believe that the Ultimate Cosmic Sky is both perfectly blue and perfectly green. Dennett calls this “belief in belief”.
And here things become complicated, as human minds are wont to do – I think even Dennett oversimplifies how this psychology works in practice. For one thing, if you believe in belief, you cannot admit to yourself that you only believe in belief, because it is virtuous to believe, not to believe in belief, and so if you only believe in belief, instead of believing, you are not virtuous. Nobody will admit to themselves, “I don't believe the Ultimate Cosmic Sky is blue and green, but I believe I ought to believe it” – not unless they are unusually capable of acknowledging their own lack of virtue. People don't believe in belief in belief, they just believe in belief.
Monthly Archives: August 2011
Roger Viklund and David Blocker have posted evidence from a Medieval Jewish anti-Christian work called Even Bohan that has a variant of the gospel of Matthew in Hebrew that sheds light on the possibility that Secret Mark is authentic. At least, not forged by Morton Smith:
Isn’t it an amazing coincidence that Secret Mark has parallels with the only lengthy passage from the Gospel of Mark that was incorporated into Shem Tob Matthew?
The parallel texts are about Jesus taking the hand of a seemingly dead youth, raising him, and then “coming into a house”. Furthermore, in each example, the “raising episode” is followed by Jesus offering instruction to his disciple(s) (see Matthew 17:19–21), which further emphasizes the text parallels.
Additionally, where Secret Mark fills in a narrative gap in the received Greek Text of Mark (iv); the interpolation of the Markan text into Shem Tob Matthew fills in a narrative gap in the text of Matthew by adding supplementary details about the raising of the young boy.
Finally, Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew 17, Mark 9:20–28, and Secret Mark‘s raising of the youth, and the Raising of Lazarus in the Gospel of John (John 11) have considerable narrative overlap.
All this of course might just be due to a series of coincidences. However, these coincidences are found in a text where Jesus, while in Bethany at night, is said to have taught the disciples the Kingdom of God. One cannot help wondering if an otherwise lost tradition has been preserved at least in part in this Hebrew text of Matthew: a tradition that is also found in the Secret Gospel of Mark.
Good stuff. This is just a summary, so reading the whole thing might be more beneficial.
(Courtesy of Tony Burke of Apocryphicity)
It is essential to note that the rejection of Marcion meant that proto-orthodox Christians would rarely be able to make use of literal interpretations of texts from the Hebrew Scriptures. Writing only a few decades after Luke, Justin Martyr illustrates the ways in which Christian writers might interpret these texts. In his Dialogue with Trypho he categorizes the commandments in Torah in three groups. First there are those ethical commands that are universal. Justin says: “God shows every race of man that which is always and in all places just, and every type of man knows that adultery, fornication, murder, and so on are evil. Though they all commit such acts, they cannot escape the knowledge that they sin whenever they do so” (Dialogue 93). Thus for commands in this category Torah may be interpreted literally, but it adds nothing that human beings may not obtain from a variety of other sources. Second are the historical, that is, those commands that are intended only for Jews. Justin admits that circumcision is a practice that is deeply rooted in the Scriptures, but he insists that God intended it for Jews alone in order to mark them for punishment… (Dialogue 9, 16, 92) […] Third there are the prophetic passages, that is, those that typologically refer to Jesus the Christ. Justin says some of these passages have been misunderstood by Jews. He claims that this is the case with the practice of using unleavened bread at Passover. Although Jews understand this commandment in a literal, material fashion, it really refers, says Justin, to a command to repent, “to practice other deeds, not to repeat your old ones” (Dialogue 14). Many prescriptions in the Hebrew Bible have a typological purpose and so were not understood by Jews. The Passover lamb, for example, is a type of the crucified Christ. (Dialogue 40) The flour offering for a cleansed leper is a type of the eucharistic bread (Dialogue 41). Circumcision on the eighth day is a type of resurrection of Jesus on the first day of the week (which is both first day and eighth day) (Dialogue 41). The twelve bells on the high priest's robes are types of the twelve apostles. (Dialogue 42)
3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume?5 It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.9 I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Mark 111 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage [i.e. House of Unripe Figs] and Bethany [i.e. House of Mourning] at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples…12 The next day as they were leaving [The House of Mourning], Jesus was hungry. [in Mk 11.1 Bethphage and Bethany are close to each other…]13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. [i.e. Jesus finds an unripe fig tree in the vicinity of the House of Unripe Figs]14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves,16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ” 'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it 'a den of robbers.'” [a bit of proto-Midrash, not a “prediction”]20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
“Can it be that every life—beginning with my own, my husband’s, my child’s, and spreading outward—is cosmically irrelevant?”You can’t answer this question normally. When believers or even questioning non-believers ask this question, the only proper response is “Are you really that arrogant?”.