Analysis of Possible Coptic in New Images

I’ve taken a number out of the Steve Caruso book and came up with a simple analysis sheet.  These images come from the new pictures which Jim West put up on his blog.  Click to enlarge.

See background here, here, and here.

Possible Coptic Script on the Lead Codices?

Steve Caruso chimed into the discussion with some interesting insights (as usual), and he posits that some of the script on the lead codices (recently supplied by Jim West) might be Coptic.  So I took a look (Caveat: I am not proficient in Coptic, but I’ve studied enough Coptic to have an amateurish grasp of it).  I leave it to the experts to tell me how I did (Marvin Meyer, if you’re reading, or April DeConick, leave a note or two) and offer any additional comments.

(Edit: Steve Caruso alerted me to this file [shown below] examining Coptic script in earlier pictures of the faux codices)

I had noted to myself some similarities to Coptic before but dismissed it when it became clear the tablet iconography were but modern casts.  Returning to Jim’s posted pictures I did see some similarities to Coptic.  Of course there is the shai (Ϣ) and ti (t), and also what might be a fai (Ϥ), but they are all backwards…that is, they are facing the wrong direction.  And this is among other characters I am not familiar with.  I am not sure if this represents an additional instance where the inscriber/forger was simply unfamiliar with Coptic and because of his method of copying, copied them backwards or if this is due to something else.  Either way, there is one important thing to remember: These are also on the same tablet with images which appear to be taken directly from the coins provided by Robert Deutsch (via Jim West’s blog)…

And of course, I share Steve’s frustration and curiosity, and what better way than this?

Background here (post from earlier) and here (Bible and Interpretation article).

Just When You Thought it was Over…

There is yet more coming out on the Lead Codices.  Jim West highlights, with the help of Robert Deutsch, more photos of the lead codices, just released, with the coins the images were forged from (yes, more coin iconography!).  And yesterday a new article from the JT came out about the 14C dating:

Preliminary lab results indicate that a collection of metal books unearthed in northern Jordan may indeed represent the earliest Christian texts ever discovered, according to experts.

According to the Department of Antiquities (DoA), initial carbon tests to determine the authenticity of lead-sealed metal books billed as the greatest find in biblical archaeology since the Dead Sea scrolls have been “encouraging”.

“We really believe that we have evidence from this analysis to prove that these materials are authentic,” DoA Director Ziad Saad told The Jordan Times.

The tests, carried out at the Royal Scientific Society labs, indicate that the texts may date back to the early first century AD, at a time when Christians took refuge from persecution on the east bank of the Jordan River.

But as I’ve said time and time again, along with others, old lead is common and doesn’t prove the iconography is ancient–just the metal.  The evidence against their authenticity is pretty daunting.  But there are problems with this which again establish quite clearly the lie behind the veil…as Jona makes it quite clear, 14C testing is done on organics (re: biological), not inorganics (like lead).  Even Wikipedia gets it right:

Carbon-14, 14C, or radiocarbon, is a radioactive isotope of carbon with a nucleus containing 6 protons and 8 neutrons. Its presence in organic materials is the basis of the radiocarbon dating method pioneered by Willard Libby and colleagues (1949), to date archaeological, geological, and hydrogeological samples.

For additional information on dating techniques, though there might be errors (because its on Wikipedia) so consult an actual archaeologist, you can get a quick overview of archaeological dating methods here.  You can also check out this article on dating methods in archaeology from about.com.  From the about.com page:

Although I am hardly a chemist or a physicist, and so will leave the detailed explanations to those who are better at it than I (for example, Anne Marie Helmenstine’s page in About Chemistry), essentially radiocarbon dating uses the amount of carbon 14 available in living creatures as a measuring stick. All living things maintain a content of carbon 14 in equilibrium with that available in the atmosphere, right up to the moment of death. When an organism dies, the amount of C14 available within it begins to decay at a half life rate of 5730 years; i.e., it takes 5730 years for 1/2 of the C14 available in the organism to decay. Comparing the amount of C14 in a dead organism to available levels in the atmosphere, produces an estimate of when that organism died. So, for example, if a tree was used as a support for a structure, the date that tree stopped living (i.e., when it was cut down) can be used to date the building’s construction date.

And any number of books could be accessed to prove this point over and over.  Here are just two:

  • Robert L. Kelly and David Hurst Thomas, Archaeology (Cengage Learning, 2009), 133-136.
  • Herbert D. G. Maschner and Christopher Chippindale (eds.), Handbook of Archaeological Methods (Rowman Altamira, 2005), 307-336

Finally I get to use the background in inorganic chemistry I’ve gained from working in a lab for the past year and a half.  The thing with archaeology is you’re digging it up, so there are bound to be organic traces (contaminants, actually) in everything.  But this really comes down to, say, the actual inorganic metals (like those excavated from a mine).  So you could theoretically test the organic contaminants for 14C but you’re not going to get an accurate reading since it is, after all, contaminants and there is simply no way to now where those contaminants came from and it is only possible (again theoretically–not practically) to test if someone perhaps held it with their hands or scraped off skin cells or something, and even then you’d have to test relatively quickly and the longer something is in the ground, the more improbable it is that you could adequately test it.  And again, these are contaminants on the metal itself and could have come from anywhere.  Since the provenance of these codices are unknown and sketchy it muddies the issue even more.

And testing the metal itself will do absolutely nothing since inorganics can’t contain 14C (it has to, after all, be something that contains carbon).  Now it might be possible to date the lead using other methods and lead does contain different isotopes than other inorganics (so testing for Uranium decay in the lead might actually be useful), but that wouldn’t validate the ‘authenticity’ (whatever that might mean) of the codices as a whole (iconography, status as ‘relics’ for example), it would only validate the age of the lead itself.  And we already know that the ones we’ve seen are modern fabrications.

Jim Davila also weighs in on this new article by the JT (snippet here):

1. The claim is that the new metal codices in the hands of the Jordanian Government are part of the same cache as those announced back in March. I take them at their word, but no proof has yet been advanced.

2. What’s this about “carbon tests” and “carbon dating” on metal plates? Carbon-14 dating is applied to organic material. Is there organic material, such as leather scroll, associated with these plates? Or, more likely, has someone made a careless mistake here?

3. Assuming the latter, it appears that the current tests indicate that the metal of the plates is ancient. It has been known for a long time that the fake metal codices may be made of genuinely ancient metal. The first report, on 3 March, in the Jewish Chronicle (cf. here), reported this:

Undeterred, Mr Feather instead cites the findings of Peter Northover, a metals analyst at Oxford University. Conducting tests on two samples of metal from one book, Dr Northover concluded that their composition was “consistent with a range of ancient lead,” and that it was clear from the surface corrosion that the book was “not a recent production”.

The IAA remains unconvinced, arguing that the metal could have been taken from an ancient coffin while the messages could have been fabricated later.

This test was done privately and has not been published. The IAA has replied adequately: such ancient metal is available and could be used for such forgeries, so the new test does not tell us anything very interesting.

Defining Mythicism: Mythical Jesus, Mythicist Jesus, and Tertullian on 1 John 4:3

Landon Hedrick has written an interesting blog post. Here is a snippet:

If you believe that Jesus walked on water, cast out demons, healed the sick, raised people from the dead, and was himself resurrected from the dead, then you don’t get to dismiss the “Jesus never existed” theory as too silly or crazy to take seriously.

….

I’m not arguing for mythicism here (I’m not a mythicist). That’s not what I’m up to. Nor am I arguing against it. My point is rather simple: as unbelievable a view as it is, you have no room to dismiss it so casually on the basis of its being totally bonkers if you believe in a magic Jesus yourself.

via Landon Hedrick Blogs: New Rule.

I think it is an interesting perspective. It is definitely worth the read. I can associate with Avalos on being an agnostic about the question, as I am also an agnostic. But I did find this additional comment from Hedrick quite interesting (it is the first comment listed under the blog itself):

According to Hector Avalos (article in preparation), 1 John 4:1-3 at the very leasts suggests that, even at the time of the New Testament writings, there were a group of self-described Christians who did not believe that Jesus had come in the flesh at all.

The passage (RSV) reads:
[1] Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
[2] By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God,
[3] and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already.

But how could there even be prophets saying that Jesus had not come in the flesh if everyone agreed that he was a blood and flesh person all along? So, for Avalos, 1 John 4 suggests that, even at the time of the New Testament writings, Christianity was already divided into what we might call “historical” (if that means a flesh and blood person) and “mythicist” (if that means not a flesh and blood person) views of Jesus.

This passage is noted by Earl Doherty (Jesus Puzzle, pp. 43 and 307).”

What is interesting specifically is that the interpretation of this passage. In the Greek (SBL NT):

Ἀγαπητοί, μὴ παντὶ πνεύματι πιστεύετε, ἀλλὰ δοκιμάζετε τὰ πνεύματα εἰ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν, ὅτι πολλοὶ ψευδοπροφῆται ἐξεληλύθασιν εἰς τὸν κόσμον. ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκετε τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ· πᾶν πνεῦμα ὃ ὁμολογεῖ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν, καὶ πᾶν πνεῦμα ὃ μὴ ὁμολογεῖ τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν· καὶ τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ τοῦ ἀντιχρίστου, ὃ ἀκηκόατε ὅτι ἔρχεται, καὶ νῦν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἐστὶν ἤδη.

The last verse in this group (bolded above), 1 John 4:3, is where this interpretation really rests. The RP (The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform 2005, comp. and arr. by M. A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont [Southborough, Mass.: Chilton, 2005]) which is noted in the SBL NT, notes an additional section of Greek text:

Χριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα

Which fits into the verse as such (bolded):

καὶ πᾶν πνεῦμα ὃ μὴ ὁμολογεῖ τὸν Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα, ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ οὐκ ἔστι· καὶ τοῦτό ἐστι τὸ τοῦ ἀντιχρίστου, ὃ ἀκηκόατε ὅτι ἔρχεται, καὶ νῦν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἐστὶν ἤδη.

And the NA27 (another authority, as it were) also indicates that early witnesses (c. 4th century manuscripts) attest to the Greek with the inclusion of Χριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα. And if we follow this thinking to the early church fathers, Tertullian, in his De praescriptione hereticorum, ch. 34, he writes:

But in his [John - ed.] epistle he especially designates those “Antichrists” who “denied that Christ was come in the flesh,” and who refused to think that Jesus was the Son of God. The one dogma Marcion maintained; the other, Hebion.

This was written in the early third century, meaning that Tertullian was aware of a manuscript which probably incorporated the Greek addition above. So I have to agree that the rendering in English (from the AKJV):

And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof you have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

So Avalos’ point actually is quite interesting; indeed it would seem that in the third century, at least, and assuming this rendering dates back to the autographa (which we don’t have), in the second century, there had been at least one sect of Christians which did not believe in an earthly, fleshly, human Jesus. This verse is also quoted, to some small extent perhaps, by Polycarp (assuming the letter is authentic), in his Epistle to the Philippians, ch. 7. If the letter is indeed authentic, it would validate an early second century date for the passage.

h/t to James McGrath for posting this and bringing it to my attention.

Defining Mythicism: Staks Rosch on the Historicity of Jesus

Staks has recently posted up a blog arguing against the historicity of the figure of Jesus; to address this blog post, I am including it as part of my ongoing ‘Defining Mythicism’ segment.  Staks starts his post with a subject I’ve addressed time and time again:

It is pretty common for Christians to assert that there is more evidence for the existence of Jesus than there is for some other historical figure like Alexander the Great or George Washington. This is simply not true. The fact is that there are no contemporary accounts for the existence of Jesus.

Continue reading on Examiner.com Atheism 101: The Jesus Myth – National atheism | Examiner.comhttp://www.examiner.com/atheism-in-national/atheism-101-the-jesus-myth#ixzz1P5kLUjdb

Staks’ error here, though, is that he is not addressing the question accurately, but actually connects two separate questions (that the evidence for Jesus is not comparable to Alexander the Great and that there is no contemporary evidence for Jesus), and by doing so he does not argue effectively (his arguments don’t follow his thesis).  In my blog article addressing this issue, I make sure to compare the evidence directly to show the flaws in the claim that Staks brings up in his thesis:

For the sake of argument alone, if one takes into account all the evidence for Alexander the Great, a well documented and attested figure in history, there is simply no comparison between him and the figure of Jesus. Take any one Gospel (or all four, if one would like) and examine it next to Arrian’s history of Alexander’s campaigns. Even as late as Arrian is, Arrian uses methods that surpass the methods (if any at all) used by the Gospel authors. For example, Arrian compares his sources which consisted of eyewitness (written) accounts from Alexander’s generals (he explicitly cites his sources, even if they are now lost) and tells us why he is choosing one account of an event over the other, or why one seems to hold more weight. Further, many of the citations Arrian uses are known from other contemporary and later sources.   In addition to Arrian’s work, there are still perhaps hundreds of extant contemporary attestations of Alexander the Great from manuscripts, artwork (busts of him; we have copies of originals done from his life), coins, and inscriptions (many contemporaneous). There are also other lesser evidences (but hardly anywhere near the sort of dubious or questionable evidence we might have for Jesus) like letters of Alexander and Aristotle and Philip and Speusippus, and the hundreds of quotations of contemporaries and eyewitnesses that survive in later works, most of which are hard to dispute.  If we had this sort of evidence for Jesus’ life and ministry, there would be no need to question his historical significance (or, perhaps, his historicity at all).

What was that?  Yes, that’s correct, you read that right.  The best evidence for Alexander the Great comes from sources hundreds of years later (Arrian).  So Stak’s comments here are quite incorrect (emphasis mine):

While it is still possible that Jesus might have existed even if there are no contemporary accounts for his existence, without contemporary sources or any other actual evidence, there is no valid reason to believe Jesus actually did exist.

While we do indeed have contemporary evidence for Alexander the Great (quite a bit, actually), our best data on him comes from sources much later.  So there is no grounds whatsoever for Staks claim above.  In fact for many ancient historical figures, we have little or no contemporary evidence.  So simply because we lack historical contemporary evidence is not a valid reason for dismissing historicity.  It’s called an argument from silence, but its a weak argument from silence (Richard Carrier dismantles this sort of use here); by itself, an argument from silence is not enough to establish a case against historicity.  Richard Carrier explains (and I agree):

Even so, there is nothing inherently dubious in the claim that Jesus existed. So there is no need for much evidence to ground a reasonable belief that he did, so long as that evidence can be trusted more than it can be doubted.

If Staks wants to demonstrate that Jesus never existed, his best bet is to examine the reliability of the evidence.  But this is something that will require extensive time and research that I doubt Staks will want to commit.  First, just because the Gospel contains irrational claims (like miracles and such), that doesn’t mean that invalidates the historicity of Jesus alone.  This is something Bultmann addressed quite aptly over five decades ago.  Quite plainly, most narratives we have about the past, especially in historiography, contain crazy tales about the powers of the Gods, miraculous salvation or embarrassing curses, ghost stories, demonic possessions, and so forth.   One must demonstrate that the Gospels are separate from these sorts of histories, wherein the events probably actually occurred, just not in the manner that the author portrays them.

And even if one demonstrated that they were of a different genre (which I have done here), that doesn’t mean that Jesus never existed.  After all, fictional stories could certainly be written about historical figures (1 and 2 Maccabees are period pieces which adequately prove that).   A case against historicity must be argued from a firm grasp of the data, the languages, the periods in question, etc…. something Staks simply doesn’t have, as is easy to see by the following claim, which is also problematic:

But what I find more interesting is that none of those writers were contemporaries to Jesus who was alleged to have been crucified in the year 33 CE:

Simply because someone wrote about something years later doesn’t mean that what they wrote is unreliable.  They could very well be reliable as long as they had contemporary evidence to draw from when they were writing.  And Staks has not done a very good job of showing his readers that they did not utilize contemporary evidence.  Even with Alexander the Great, if all our contemporary evidence disappeared, Arrian still provides an excellent source of historical, reliable information based on contemporary accounts which we no longer have, but know existed because of his excellent methods.   Staks simply has not made a case.

And by claiming that other contemporary authors would have written about Jesus, had he existed, is simply untrue.  Josephus, for example, only mentions half of the contemporary towns and settlements in his works that were known to have existed around the time of his life, many of which he would have visited or been through during the course of his time in the region, before he became an apologist and an adopted member of the Imperial family.  Staks would have to demonstrate that the authors would have known of Jesus (Philo, for example, was from Alexandria and was quite busy with Jewish/Roman relationship issues at the time) and that mentioning Jesus would have been relevant to their own writings.  We know of 33 Jewish sects which existed around the time of the first century CE, but there were probably dozens, if not hundreds, more which never got a mention.  And of those 33 sects, we learn about them through multiple texts–they aren’t all found in one place, so clearly not all of them were relevant to the authors of the time, who were writing for their own purposes and agendas.

Overall, I am disappointed in Staks article.  It is misleading, doesn’t argue effectively for any of the claims he makes, and he fails to support his claims appropriately with the sorts of evidence he needs.  It is probably because Staks is not a historian, not even an amateur historian, and doesn’t have the background in the area to be making any sort of argument for or against the historicity of any event in the ancient past.  Leave history to those who have the knowledge to argue these positions in a manner they deserve, which will not mislead.  This isn’t to say a case could not have been argued against the historicity of the figure of Jesus; what I am saying, quite directly, is that Staks has not done so.

Depravity: 5-Year-Old Drowns Crying Tot

This is absolutely terrible:

A 5-year-old girl could face murder charges after a toddler was drowned in a bathtub, police said.

Kansas City police are waiting for a medical examiner’s report on how 18-month-old Jermane Johnson Jr., died, but have investigated the death as a homicide, spokesman Darin Snapp said Thursday.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for 20 years and it’s the youngest suspect I can remember,” Snapp said. “It’s extremely rare.”

Johnson was in a Kansas City house on June 3 with other children, but the 16-year-old girl who was supposed to be looking after them fell asleep, Snapp said.

via Cops: Girl, 5, admits drowning ‘crying’ tot – US news – msnbc.com.

One commenter made the ridiculous remark that this has something to do with God being taken out of families.   What a stupid comment that is.  And how arrogant that person must be to take this tragedy and turn it into a matter that is, by all means, completely irrelevant.  This has nothing to do with God.  Jim West had it right: it has to do with bad parenting.

Where the hell were the parents?  Why isn’t the 16-year-old being charged with negligence of some sort?  Yes, the 5-year-old committed the crime, but would this have happened if parents had properly educated the child about the dangers of water?  Would this have happened if the parents had taken responsibility of their own children?  What if the 16-year-old had paid more attention to their responsibilities?  If the 16-year-old was untrustworthy, why would you leave the children in their care?

‘Monotheism’ in 1 Corinthians 8:6

James asks this question on his blog:

What do you think Paul meant in this passage? Was Paul a monotheist in exactly the same sense as his other Jewish contemporaries? Please answer in the comments here, or on your own blog!

via Paul’s Expanded Shema in 1 Corinthians 8:6 | Exploring Our Matrix.

I would like to open the discussion with a reminder from Philip Davies which I have given in the past about such subjects:

Many scholarly books mention the “religion” of “Israel” as “Yahwism.” As far as I know, Yahweh was a god worshipped in Israel and Judah, and apparently also in Teman and elsewhere. But a “religion of Yahweh”? There was no “Baalism” “Mardukism,” or “Elism.” Deities are not religions. Indeed, it is misleading to use the word “religion” to imply a system of belief and practice. In the ancient Near East, people venerated many deities and participated in many cults simultaneously. Their “religion” was an amalgam of these—ancestral cults, city cults, royal cults, national cults, cults of sacred places, and so on. People were far too religious to have one “religion.”

But the real concern here is how we can make this determination from written sources; was Josephus a ‘monotheist?’  What about Philo?  Were the Gospel authors?  In a world where ancient Jewish synagogues had images of Orpheus, where cultural diversity was as dynamic as it is today, where even ancient historians  and theologians had trouble defining piety, and where social memory was not defined by a ‘history’ of facts but a ‘history’ of mythic tropes, can any determination be made of ‘Pauline theistic thought?’

Let me elaborate.  In intertextual studies, we must ask, in the vein of Roland Barthes, is what we are reading double-voiced?  By ‘double-voiced’ dialogue I refer here to a dialogue which contains, sometimes unbeknownst to the author, a trace of the words of someone else, which retain their own meaning.  And by ‘someone else’ I don’t necessarily mean that the individual in dialogue took the words (as if to steal them) from another, but that through the process of education or assimilation, in a cultural standpoint, the person speaks outside of themselves.  Josephus, for example, writes in a double-voice.  He speaks from a position of being a Jew but also from being assimilated into wealth and prosperity in the Roman elite class.  His words echo the values of both cultures, but at times he speaks from a position of one more than another, or in a manner that does not represent what he portrays himself to be–whether he portrays himself as a pious Jew, for example, comes into question when one sees him writing in ways that subvert his heritage with a Roman or Greek one.

In Paul, we see this as well.  There are clear signs of his Greek education in his writing; his rhetoric, his philosophic understanding, the subtle concepts of Plato’s cave in his use of the language of a mystery religion (“the mature”, “awake/asleep” terminology, initiations, and so forth).  But at times we see direct “Jewish language” (that is, language closely worded to imitate the scriptures he is interpreting) intermixed in his Greek.  We see similar instances in  II Maccabees, which Erich Gruen points out, where the author is directly opposed to the Greeks, yet writes to his audience in Greek and expects his readers (which we assume to be Jewish) are able to understand Greek.

In 1 Cor 8.6, we come to another instance, in my opinion, of such a double-voiced dialogue.  But it must be seen in the context of what surrounds the passage (1 Cor 8:4-11):

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.”  For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”),  yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled.  But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.  Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols?  So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.

Paul speaks rhetorically and does so for a reason.  He is not saying, “there are no other beings who reside in Heaven”–in fact, quite the contrary, he says that there are beings (and he refers to them often as ‘powers’ [as in Gal 4.3: stoixei=a tou= ko/smou]  or ‘rulers’ [as in Rom 8.38: pe/peismai ga_r o3ti...ou1te a!ggeloi ou1te a)rxai...ou1te duna&meij] of the cosmos).  And he doesn’t even say “don’t participate in the offerings”, but instead issues a warning (paraphrased):  “If you do this, be careful that someone without as much knowledge (more of that mystery-religion language) in Christ (probably referring to a level of initiation–someone who is not yet ‘fully mature’ [as in 1 Cor 2.6-8: te/leioi] or able to understand) as you have might fall prey to the thinking that you are following these idols as Gods.”

The double-voice here is the valuing of a single God in the mix of many, wherein Paul’s “Jewishness” is coming through his rather Greek mystery language.  The danger in assuming monotheism here is it devalues this double-voice and in essence builds a fictional concept of cultural conflict.  We all might hate The Jersey Shore television show, find them all quite annoying, but that doesn’t stop us from dressing up our kids like the cast and tuning in to watch it.  Social conflict exists certainly (well, there was a war after all), but to the extent that there was some sort of “Greek/Roman” vs. “Jew” mentality during this period, at least across the board, makes little sense.  And whatever that conflict was, it did not stop Paul from writing, even while he was in custody (assuming that he was actually imprisoned and killed by the Romans–it might just be tradition after all)!

So is Paul monotheistic?  Certainly he is, but certainly he is not.  The answer, from an ancient socio-cultural perspective, isn’t as simple as ‘yes’ and ‘no'; anachronistically, the answer is a definite ‘no’.  But in an ancient context, with the recognition of the play of the mythic mind?  The answer is going to be a cloudy one, at best.

‘152-Facebook-Friends-on-Arm’ Tattoo is a Hoax

You’ve all seen the video by now.  A girl goes into a tattoo parlor and a rather attractive artist appears to be tattooing 152 profile pictures from facebook onto the girls arm.  Well, if you fell for this, like millions of other Americans (and the news media, who has once again shown itself to be completely inept at fact-checking) you were duped by a hoax.

That story about a woman who had 152 of her Facebook friends’ photos tattooed on her arm, a kind of “Facebook sleeve” — shared in a YouTube video that went viral, including here? It’s a hoax, a fraud.

But kudos to Suzanne Choney for admitting that she made a mistake:

The only thing these folks had up their sleeves was no good. Shame on them. But shame on us in the news media (and me) for biting on this one so quickly.

via Technolog – Facebook 152-friends-on-arm tattoo is a lie.

How powerful is the social media and the advancement of youtube videos?  It cannot be dismissed anymore.  If you put something in a video and it remotely attracts any sort of social meme interest, it automatically becomes “true”.  And how does one think the Academy will fare when more movies like Zeitgeist are released, or movies about aliens building the pyramids, or Noah’s flood?  Or the united monarchy under David and Solomon?   People today get their ideas about the past from 5 minute video clips and easily edited Wikipedia pages.

A storm is brewing and the Academy needs to start preparing before it loses whatever grasp on the data is has left.

More on Belief

Belief can be dangerous, let’s not kid ourselves.  In the news today, there are a few articles that highlight the dangers of putting too much stock in the subjectivity of your own beliefs.  First:

LIBERTY COUNTY, Texas  — A tip from a supposed “psychic” that dismembered bodies were on a rural property caused law enforcement officers to descend upon a Texas farmhouse Tuesday, but they found no bodies.

Liberty County Sheriff’s Capt. Rex Evans said there was no evidence of foul play at the home.

Liberty County Judge Craig McNair told reporters at the scene about 8:15 p.m. that tips had come in Monday night and Tuesday morning from a supposed psychic of dismembered bodies on the property.

McNair said an initial visit on Monday by Liberty County sheriff’s deputies found nothing amiss, but the psychic called back and said the deputies looked in the wrong place. McNair said deputies returned later Tuesday and detected a foul odor.

Evans said investigators had “found some circumstances that have raised some questions” and a search warrant was requested. Texas Rangers arrived before 9 p.m. CT Tuesday with a warrant.

After the search, Evans said that some information provided by the anonymous female tipster about the property was very specific and accurate. He said authorities would attempt to find the tipster and question her.

Aside from wasting time and drawing investigators away from real evidence, real data, real investigative work, the beliefs of a few ended up wasting the time of the whole department, disturbed a family going about their business.  In this instance the damage was only in wasted time, more grief for the family, but belief can and has led to real serious consequences:

An Oregon jury took just an hour Tuesday to convict a couple of felony criminal mistreatment for relying on faith healing instead of taking their infant daughter to a doctor.

Timothy and Rebecca Wyland’s daughter Alayna, born in December 2009, developed an abnormal growth of blood vessels that covered her left eye and threatened her vision. Now 1 ½ years old, she has improved under state-ordered medical care. She remains in state custody but lives with her parents.

The Wylands belong to the Followers of Christ, an Oregon City congregation that relies on faith healing. Rather than taking their daughter to a doctor, they relied on prayer, anointing with oil and laying on of hands.

The couple testified during a juvenile court custody hearing last July that they wouldn’t have willingly taken Alayna to a doctor because it would violate their religious beliefs. Jurors heard a recording of that hearing.

Timothy Wyland slipped his arm around his wife’s waist as the verdict was read, The Oregonian reported. The couple made no comment as they walked from the courtroom, surrounded by about 20 supporters from their church, some of them crying. Defense lawyers Mark Cogan and John Neidig declined comment.

People that put their trust in things they have no evidence for will continue to hurt others; it may not be intentional (I’m sure these parents, in their minds, were doing what they thought was best for their daughter), but in the end they could have caused their own child to go blind.  Or like in the case of this other Oregon faith-healing family, if their child ever got sick, they might have killed her.

An Oregon couple have been convicted of criminally negligent homicide for not getting medical treatment for their 16-year-old son, who died in 2008 of a urinary-tract blockage. Instead, Jeffrey and Marci Beagley engaged in so-called faith healing.

Beliefs are fine.  Everyone has beliefs, often about innocuous subjects (I believe I’m a fairly good cook).  But it only takes a belief in something inane or terrible or ignorant to create a dangerous or deadly consequence.   Last but not least, this individual held such a strong belief that God wanted him to swim to Liberty Island, he was willing to try despite nearly dying.

A man rescued by U.S. Park Police after diving into New York Harbor claimed God told him to swim to Liberty Island and that’d he’d rather die than fail his mission, reports The New York Post.

The 29-year-old man stripped down to his swim trunks before horrified onlookers and leaped into the icy waters from a Liberty State Park footpath to embark on the three-quarter of a mile swim to Liberty Island, reports the Post. The man has not been publicly identified.

A witness spotted the man roughly 45 minutes into his “divine-ordered swim” and called police, who dispatched a rescue boat and caught up with the man about a quarter of a mile from the island.

“When we got to him he was shivering like a leaf and the tides were taking him away from Liberty Island,” U.S. Park Police Officer Kurt Zeil, who helped respond to the call, told the Post. “He said God told him to swim to Liberty Island. He said he would rather drown than get on the boat.”

There are reasons society moved away from fundamentalist religious thinking; society just couldn’t take the injustice of it any more.

New PhD Movie!

Yes, you heard correctly; they are making a live-action adaptation of the comic series Piled Higher and Deeper!

See here for the trailer:

http://vimeo.com/24506038

Here for the details:

http://www.phdcomics.com/movie/

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