Defining Mythicism: Myth and History or Myth or History?

As an addendum to the earlier post on Galatians, I see a lot of either/or proposals put forth by certain mythicists and I can’t fathom why.  For example, they will say something akin to:

Jesus is either historical or he was made up.

Or

Jesus is either historical or he wasn’t, he can’t be both.

My first thought is: ‘what world are you living in where the past is so black and white?’

There are so many variables at play that claiming one or the other shows only ones ignorance about the past rather than an understanding of it.  Jesus might very well be historical; maybe he went by another name, maybe his name really was Jesus.  Maybe everything we know about him is made up, but that doesn’t negate the possibility that the figure of Jesus from the New Testament wasn’t based upon an actual historical figure who did do some of the things recorded, albeit in an exaggerated fashion, in the Gospels and Pauline Letters (like the breaking of the bread).  The fact is, we do see figures of the past fully mythologized and some are partially mythologized.  In either case, proposing an ‘either/or’ position is unrealistic and simply wrong.

There are other factors to consider when making these sorts of statements as well; cultural memory (or virtual memory, as my colleagues in Copenhagen would put it), types of literature in question, socio-cultural constructs and limitations, the value of the diachronic vs. synchronic understanding of language, and so on.  One just doesn’t rush to conclusions about black and white positions unaware of these factors and history is too inductive to make claims so strongly.

I am not saying I believe the figure of Jesus was historical–maybe he wasn’t–but what I am saying is that making broad or sweeping generalizations about the past is not helpful and will hurt ones position rather than strengthen it.

Defining Mythicism: Galatians, the Historical Figure of Jesus, and the Mythical Jesus

I grow tired of hearing people repeatedly use Gal. 1.1 and 1.11-12 to suggest that this disproves the historicity of the figure of Jesus.  It doesn’t.  Why?  Because someone can receive revelatory information (be it delusional or hypnotic or otherwise) from formerly historical individuals.  Just because Paul felt he received information from revelation does not ipso facto imply that Jesus never existed historically. When people use this as an argument against the historicity of Jesus by itself they only make themselves look bad.  Paul does appear to make claims for historicity which must be dealt with before one can claim something like this; but even then one could not make this particular claim in regards to Gal. 1.1 or 1.11-12.  Neither of these claims by Paul deal with the function historicity.  Paul is dealing with a theological message here; where did he receive his ‘truth’.  Now, one might argue that Paul cared little about the function of historicity, but you cannot just cite Galatians and announce ‘QED’ and presume you’ve defeated historical Jesus scholarship.

November Biblical Studies Carnival: The Undead Edition

Ghouls, Friends, and cauldron-stirring colleagues, welcome to the November Biblical Studies Carnival. May you find your stay…frightfully fun… so you may never want to leave! Yes, you guessed it, we are celebrated the month of October in a hauntingly spectacular way. Let us now turn our attention to the Carnival… I’m sure you’re just dying to read it! Muahahahahaha! Welcome to…

Out of respect for the season and the profession, I have retitled the normal headers and included both Biblical references and other ancient references which relate to the new headers (in some fashion or another). I sent out three requests to submit posts to the Carnival over the course of the month and the last one had a very strong return! Thanks to everyone who answered the call. I am certain I missed many a great post over the month, but I tried to be as inclusive as I could be in all categories. Some are weaker than others, unfortunately. I hope you enjoy the unique format, the citations, the puns, and the Carnival itself.

1. General Biblical Studies News The Walking Dead (Zech 14.12; Mt. 27.52)

“If thou dost not give me the Bull of Heaven, I will smash the doors of the Nether World, I will place those above below, I will raise up the dead eating and alive, so that the dead shall outnumber the living!” (Ishtar to Anu, ‘Epic of Gilgamesh, VI’, lines 94-100, trans. E.A. Speiser, ANET, p. 84)

First, as of the beginning of October, The Dunedin School Blog has risen from the dead and is out hunting for brains! Gavin at Otagosh offers those of us in America some survival tips.

Jim West asks why the term ‘heresy’ bothers modern Christians? Perhaps it is because heretics have historically be brutally killed or tortured in the past? Muahahahaha! In his usual manner, he also calls out certain attributes of modern, ‘left-leaning’ Christianity he believes are akin to paganism. On the same subject, Marc Cortez analyzes the term ‘heresy’ and offers some insights like: ‘We should recognize the diversity and acknowledge the power struggles. But, there’s more to the story than this.’ Some additional commentary from Cortez just this week can be found here.

BC/AD or BCE/CE? The Biblical World blog offers an opinion and asks for yours (I prefer BCE/CE). Jim West makes the astute point that dating conventions aren’t sacred.

Brian LePort shared a humorous way to define atheism (which may or may not result in his implosion to nothingness). Bill Hamby responds to his definition by offering a few of his own.

And one cannot fail to mention the Wall Street protestors who were walking the street as zombies.

George Athas offers some thoughts on what one should look for in Theological education.

Kurt Willems writes that he is not a Christian blogger; Peter Kirk approves of his message and echos it.

More on the lead codices (unfortunately). Chuck Grantham remarks aptly that they are like the undead and might dress like a lead codex for Halloween. That would certainly scare Jim West. Thankfully there is now a Lead Codices resource page which can be found at the Biblioblog Reference Library.

Sean Winter and Deane Galbraith criticize Anthony Thiselton’s foray into reception history.

Do Eschatological parodies count as biblical studies? I don’t know, but read Jeff Carter’s post and decide for yourself.

Philip L. Tite has a great post asking, among other things, ‘how can we, as scholars of this broad (and perhaps problematic?) category “religion” strive to incorporate little instances of daily religious life like this one into our analyses of the discursive processes at play within the lives of the people we are studying?’

James McGrath pokes fun at inerrancy (along with others). Pastoral Musings responds.

Bob Cargill put out the call: where will Bibliobloggers meet at SBL in November?

2. Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Ghosts and Specters (1 Sam 28.4-25)

Disembodied now, I hover as a wraith over my mother’s head, riding for three long days upon the air, three hopeless days of suffering and fear since she left Troy and came to Chersonese. Here on the shore of Thrace, in sullen idleness beside its ships, the whole Achaean army waits and cannot sail. For Achilles’ ghost appeared, stalking on his tomb, wailing, and stopped the ships as they stood out for sea on the journey home. He demanded my sister Polyxena as a prize, the blood of the living to sweeten a dead man’s grave….On this day destiny shall take my sister down to death. Ah you, poor mother, you must see your two last children dead this day, my sister slaughtered and my unburied body washed up on shore at the feet of a slave. These were the favors I asked of the gods below—to find my mother and be buried by her hands—and they have granted my request. Now I go, for there below I see my mother coming, stumbling from Agamemnon’s tent, still shaken by that dream in which she saw my ghost. (Euripides, Hecuba 30-54)

Jim Davila notes that a replica of the Isaiah Scroll is going on display soon at Cal State Fullerton.

A new (Biblio?)blog (to me) called Coat of Many Colors, run by Joe Pranevich, asks ‘who or what is Azazel?’

Robert Homstedt revisits the question over the age of Biblical Hebrew. This is a followup from the discussion found on Bible and Interpretation.

Deane Galbraith informs us that the Akedah or Binding of Isaac has been turned into a computer game (seriously).

Remnant of Giants explains how a tradition about Caleb’s tomb is currently being invented in Israel, how orthodox Jews dance around Caleb’s tomb, and how such religious tomb traditions are being employed to drive Palestinians from their homes.

Derek Leman writes about something we all should know: Light Beer is terrible (and disgusting, and demonic, and akin to sacrilege) and Isaiah apparently hated it as well.

Duane Smith asks: “Did Akkadian Omens Speak”? He remarks: ‘This question may or may not have some relevance to the talking snake in Genesis 3 and Balaaam’s talking ass.’ Also there is an interesting post on Ahiqar’s fable of the world and the snake of interest.

Bob MacDonald highlights some Psalms he believes are beautiful and have an interesting inner structure.

3. New Testament Prophets and Curses (2 Kgs 2.23-25)

Germanicus’s conviction that he had been put under a spell by Piso aggravated the disease. They dug up the floor and the walls and found remains of human bodies in them, spells and binding curses, and the name of Germanicus inscribed on lead tablets [not those lead tablets - ed.], ashes half-burned and smeared with gore and the other evil devices by which it is believed that souls are devoted to the infernal powers. (Tacitus, Annals 2.69)

Brian LePort asks, ‘How much of your Christianity can be ahistorical?’ I respond, suggesting that the question itself might be irrelevant. Kevin Brown from Diglotting also added thoughts on the subject. As did Bill Hamby and Gavin from Otagosh.

Chuck Grantham discusses Romans 7.7-25.

Tim Henderson from Earliest Christianity has posted up several discussions of Gospel fragments (more here and here).

Earliest Christian inscription much? Lots of talk about it on the blogosphere.

Phillip J. Long continues his series on Logos and the Duke Papyri collection and discusses Gal. 2.11-14.

Who killed Jesus? Neil Godfrey talks about the archons and Dale Allison.

Richard Fellows takes another look at the historicity of Acts using Galatians (a very ambitious post at that).

James McGrath responds to some things that Mark Goodacre posted on the subjects of spurious quotations and Matthean accuracy.

Curious about the possibility of whether Matthew compiled his Gospel in Aramaic? Matthew Crowe investigates.

Were James and the Jerusalem Apostles celibate? Tim Henderson investigates.

4. Historical Jesus Studies The Mummies Return (2 Kgs 13:21)

The old [Egyptian] woman, believing that she was now free of hindrance and was not being watched, first dug a pit and then kindled a fire on one side of it. She laid out the body of her son between the two and took a ceramic bowl from an adjacent tripod…. She cut her arm open, wiped up some of the blood with a laurel branch, and threw it into the fire. She did some other strange things in addition to these and then bent over the corpse of her son and sang some incantation into his ear. She roused him and compelled him to stand upright by her [witch]craft…. She was inquiring whether her remaining son, the brother of the dead man, would return home safe and sound.

The corpse made no reply, but just nodded, allowing its mother the insecure hope that the response was favorable. But then all at once he fell headlong onto his face. The woman rolled the corpse onto its back again and would not finish with the interrogation….

While the old woman was doing this Chariclea [the Greek ingenue] earnestly begged Calasiris [the Egyptian priest] that they should approach the scene of action and make an inquiry of their own…. He [Calasiris] declined; it was not holy, he said, even to watch the rite, but he suffered it under the constraint of circumstance. It did not befit a prophet either to attempt or to attend such rites. Prophets derived their divination from lawful sacrifices and pure prayers, but the impure and earthly actually derived their divination from circling around corpses, just as, by accident, they were now seeing the Egyptian woman do.

Calasiris was still speaking when the corpse muttered in a deep, ugly voice as if from a crypt or a craggy cavern. “At first I spared you, mother,” it said, “and I put up with you as you broke the laws of humanity, violated the decrees of the gods, and unfixed with your sorceries what was fixed. For, so far as possible, respect for parents is preserved even among the dead. But you abolish this of your own accord. No longer are you merely dabbling in lawlessness, as at first; now you push it beyond limit…. Hear now these prophecies which I have long been forbearing to reveal to you. Neither will your son return safely to you nor will you yourself escape death from the sword….” (Heliodorus, Aethiopica 6.12-15)

The wrapped corpses of Schweitzer, Bultmann, and Kasemann, as well as other first and second questers of the Historical figure of Jesus have returned this month in gruesome ways.

Brian LePort at Near Emmaus brings up the forthcoming Ehrman/Evans dialog/debate entitled ‘Does the New Testament present a reliable portrait of the historical Jesus?’

Neil Godfrey argues that there is scholarly misconduct in historical Jesus studies. He writes: ‘One will forgive me if I sometimes let slip with occasional slivers of cynicism in relation to biblical scholars who present themselves as honest public intellectuals while at the same time resorting to tendentious claims about the evidence for their scholarly arguments.’ This author will let the readers of his blog article be the judge. Godfrey also writes that historical Jesus scholars are shooting themselves in the foot. Anti-Intellectualism in Jesus Studies? Neil has something to say about it.

James Crossley discusses the critiques of ‘Jewishness’ in historical Jesus studies.

Richard Carrier called attention to research he has been doing on the ancient Jewish position of an expected dying messiah. James McGrath responds and also posted up this comment on Carrier’s blog. Responding to the comment on his blog, Richard Carrier returns with this and also replies on James’ blog. James replies. Larry Tanner recommends Carrier’s post and offers some interesting thoughts of his own. Neil Godfrey also comments on the post.

James McGrath has a post about the ways some mythicists have construed Paul’s claim to have received supernatural revelation.

5. Secular Blogs and Biblical Studies Demons and Underworldlings (Tobit 3.7-10)

When a plague fell upon the Ephesians, and no defense against it could be found, they sent to Apollonius, and made him their doctor for the disease…. Apollonius assembled the Ephesians and said, “Do not worry, for I will put an end to the disease this day.” Saying this, he led all the people into the theatre, where the statue of the Averter us now sited. there he found what appeared to be an old beggar contriving to squint…. He was dressed in rags and had a squalid face. Apollonius grouped the Ephesians around the beggar and said, “Collect as many stones as you can and throw them at this enemy of the gods.” The Ephesians were taken aback by this instruction, and thought it terrible to kill a stranger in such an unfortunate condition. The beggar himself was beseeching Apollonius and begging for pity, but Apollonius was insistent and urged the Ephesians to get on with the job and not let the man go. When some of the people began to pelt him with stones, the man who had been pretending to be squinting suddenly looked up at them and showed that his eyes were full of fire. The Ephesians then recognized that he was a demon and so they stoned him to death so thoroughly that they built up a heap of stones over him. (Philostratus, Life of Apollonius 4.10)

There have been rumblings from the underworld as of late; all sorts of foulness and evils beget themselves from the mouths of heretics and sinners…(and so I say in a friendly manner)

Joseph Hoffmann discusses how God Matters (in what way, you’ll have to read to find out). He also has a prelude to the winter season with a post on what unbelievers believe.

Stephen Law faced off against William Lane Craig and here are the details. See also his notes and more about the debate here, here, here, here, and here. Feedback here.

In the mean time, John Loftus gives the reasons why Craig refuses to debate him. On the flip side of the coin, Dawkins gives his reasons why he refuses to debate Craig!

Richard Carrier is lecturing on the origins of Christianity and it is open to any individuals who might want to take the course. Neil Godfrey provides the details.

John Loftus suggests that there is no such thing as ‘mere Christianity’. He also asks ‘Did Jesus do Miracles?

Johnny P from Debunking Christianity asks ‘Does God have Free Will?’

Pete Enns writes that it is good to doubt God (but not for the reasons you might think).

James McGrath has an exceptional post arguing that atheism and skepticism are not coterminous. His post comes after it became apparent that this billboard had not been well thought out.

Fr Stephen Smuts calls attention to the idiocy of Richard Dawkins’ claim that Jesus would have been an atheist (lolwut?).

Peter Kirk asks if atheists are akin to zombies.

Gavin talks about the sad reality of what happens when people abandon their fundamentalist faith: they take for granted the book their faith abused.

Bob Cargill talks about Biblical Marriage.

6. Science and Religion in the Blogosphere Large Beasts and Monsters (Jer 8.17)

The moon was shining like the midday sun. We arrived among the tombs. My man went [to relieve himself - ed.] against a gravestobe. I held back, singing and counting the stones. Then, when I looked back at my companion, he had taken all his clothes off and laid them beside the road. I almost died of fright, and I stood there like a dead man. He urinated a circle around his clothes and suddenly became a wolf. Don’t think I’m joking. No one’s inheritance is so valuable as to make me lie. But, as I’d begin to say, after he had become a wolf, he began to howl and ran into the woods…. But I drew my sword and hacked at shades, until I arrived at my girlfriend’s house. I was like a ghost when I got in, and almost bubbling out my final breath. Melissa expressed amazement that I’d walked there so late and said, “If you’d come earlier, at least you could have helped us. For a wolf got into the estate and among the flocks. He was draining the blood out of them like a butcher. But even if he got away, the last laugh was ours, for our slave managed to get a spear through his neck.” When I heard this, I could not even think of sleep, but when it was fully light I ran off home like the robbed innkeeper. But when I arrived home, my soldier was lying on his bed like an ox, and a doctor was attending to his neck. I realized that he was a werewolf, and I could not thereafter bring myself to break bread with him, not even if you had forced me on pain of death, Others can make up their own mind about this. But if I’m lying, may your guardian spirits exercise their wrath upon me. (Petronius, Satyricon 61-2)

The blog Science and Religion launches an assault against Creationist Ken Ham (who, one can only assume, is a mutated monster created by a lab of loopy scientists involved in some sort of grand conspiracy).

The blog Jesus Creed (Scot McKnight) starts a series asking whether or not naturalism is the future, asking (among other things) ‘How does this [naturalism] impact our understanding and presentation of the gospel?’

Joel Watts explains why Job 26.7 doesn’t talk about gravity. Joel also makes the apt note that the earth is not 6,000 years old and states that Young Earth Creationism is dangerous. One of his reasons is that it makes people want to leave the church. And while he’s at it, he argues that science does not prove the accounts of Genesis 3.22-23. More recently he wrote of lies, liberalism, and YEC,

Why are certain Evangelicals fooled into accepting pseudoscience? An article on HuffPo attempts to answer.

James McGrath asks if the type of evidence the field of history demands should be more like a civil or criminal trial. Neil Godfrey, along similar lines, asks if history is like a trial. James also states that YEC demean God. And he wonders: Can Creationism be disproven? And then brings up the Argument for Incompetent Design. Peter Kirk responds. Bob Cargill agrees with James McGrath.

Rod of Alexandria asks ‘How can you tell if you are doing critical scholarship?’ and attempts to answer in four parts; here, here, here, and here.

Mark Cortez asks ‘Do scientists and theologians suck the beauty from the universe?’

Scotteriology has a bit about the substance of which we are made (hint: it isn’t clay).

Godfrey analyzes anti-supernaturalism and anti-rationalism in Biblical Studies.

Brian LePort offers his perspective as an evangelical on creation and evolution.

7. Exegesis Talking Animals (Num 22.30)

Micyllus the Cobbler. Detested bird! May Zeus crunch your every bone! Shrill, envious brute: to wake me from delightful dreams of wealth and magic blessedness with those piercing, deafening notes! Am I not even in sleep to find a refuge from Poverty, Poverty more vile than your vile self? Why, it cannot be midnight yet: all is hushed; numbness–sure messenger of approaching dawn–has not yet performed its morning office upon my limbs: and this wakeful brute (one would think he was guarding the golden fleece) starts crowing before night has fairly begun. But he shall pay for it.–Yes; only wait till daylight comes, and my stick shall avenge me; I am not going to flounder about after you in the dark.

Cock. Why, master, I meant to give you a pleasant surprise: I borrowed what I could from the night, that you might be up early and break the back of your work; think, if you get a shoe done before sunrise, you are so much the nearer to earning your day’s bread. However, if you prefer to sleep, I have done; I will be mute as any fish. Only you may find your rich dreams followed by a hungry awakening.

Mi. God of portents! Heracles preserve us from the evil to come! My cock has spoken with a human voice.

Cock. And what if he has? Is that so very portentous?

Mi. I should think it was. All Gods avert the omen!

Cock. Micyllus, I am afraid your education has been sadly neglected. If you had read your Homer, you would know that Achilles’s horse Xanthus declined to have anything more to do with neighing, and stood on the field of battle spouting whole hexameters; he was not content with plain prose like me; he even took to prophecy, and foretold to Achilles what should befall him. (Lucian, Gallus 1-2)

Brian LePort observes that he gets more comments over theological issues than exegetic ones.

What’s the most misused Biblical term? Scot McKnight says it’s ‘kingdom’.

A new article on Bible and Interpretation by David A.J. Richards is entitled ‘Against Fundamentalism in Christian Bible Interpretation: The Biblical Case for Feminism and Gay Rights‘ and is definitely worth the read.

Clifford Kvidahl has a post on the Greek of the Christ Hymn found in Philippians 2.5-11.

Matthew Crowe offers his readers the chance to find Jesus in the Proverbs.

Simon Holloway has a bit on an elusive (esoteric) midrash.

Stephen Carlson writes on the hermeneutical key to reading Paul.

8. Theology World-Ending Disasters (Gen 7-8)

But having tasted blood, Sekhmet would not be appeased. For three nights the goddess Hathor-Sekhmet waded about in the blood of men, the slaughter beginning at Hensu (Herakleopolis Magna). Ra now realized that Hathor-Sekhmet would destroy the human race completely. Angry as he was, he wished to rule mankind, not see it destroyed. There was only one way to stop Hathor-Sekhmet — he had to trick her.…

He ordered his attendants to brew seven thousand jars of beer, and to color it red using both the mandrakes and the blood of those who had been slain….

Now, although the blasphemers of Ra had been put to death, the heart of the god still was not satisfied. The next morning he confessed to Hathor his true feelings: “I am smitten with the pain of the fire of sickness. Why did I have such pain? I live, but my heart has become exceedingly weary because I still have to live with those men. I have slain some of them, but worthless men still live, and I did not slay as many as I ought to have done, considering my power.”

Then the gods who were in his following said to him, “Don’t worry about your lack of action, for your power is in proportion to your will.”

Ra, the Majesty, said unto the Majesty of Nut, “My members are as weak as they were at the first time. I will not permit this to come upon me a second time.” (The Destruction of Mankind)

What does it mean to teach Theology? Marc Cortez has a list!

Scot McKnight compares two Gospels (soterian and apostolic).

Jim West informs us that Zwingli’s Corpus Reformatorum is now available online. He follows up with some interesting tidbits about the online addition.

Joel Watts brings attention to a new theological resource. He also wonders where in the Bible Jesus told Christians to beat homosexuals.

Harold Camping was still wrong (he said the rapture would finish Oct. 21). Jim West gave him the Dilly the Dilettante award. And then Camping retired (apparently from his ‘rap tour‘).

Katie from the WIT blog discusses the implications of killing animals and creation.

Doug Chaplin wrote up a short reflection on some people’s attempts to read a theology of lay ministry directly out of the New Testament texts.

James McGrath brings attention to the Monotheism Interview Series.

Richard Beck has a post of Mark Twain’s The War Prayer.

Tim Gombis ponders over God’s triumph over evil.

W. Travis McMaken asks ‘ What is theology? Who is a theologian? Why should theology persist?

R. Joseph Hoffmann ponders the value of atheism as a devotional category.

Diglot asks whether or not believing in the trinity and incarnation is essential for salvation.

9. New Books and Articles Witches and Their Spell Books (2 Kgs 21.2-8)

Two friends from Arcadia who were taking a journey together came to Megara, and one traveller put up at an inn and the second went to the home of a friend. After they had eaten supper and retired, the second traveller, in the dead of the night, dreamed that his companion was imploring him to come to his aid, as the innkeeper was planning to kill him. Greatly frightened at first by the dream he arose, and later, regaining his composure, decided that there was nothing to worry about and went back to bed. When he had gone to sleep the same person appeared to him and said: ‘Since you would not help me when I was alive, I beg that you will not allow my dead body to remain unburied. I have been killed by the innkeeper, who has thrown my body into a cart and covered it with dung. I pray you to be at the city gate in the morning before the cart leaves the town,’ Thoroughly convinced by the second dream he met the cart-driver at the gate in the morning, and, when he asked what he had in the cart, the driver fled in terror. The Arcadian then removed his friend’s dead body from the cart, made complaint of the crime to the authorities, and the innkeeper was punished. (Cicero, Div. 1.57)

Michael Halcomb brings attention to his new book A Parallel & Interlinear New Testament Polyglot: Luke-Acts.

Robert Jimenez completed his book, written for laypeople, Understanding the Humanity of Christ.

John Loftus shared the cover of the second addition (forthcoming?) of his book Why I Became an Atheist. Also his edited work (with many contributors, including Richard Carrier) entitled The End of Christianity (maybe a little premature…?) is now available for Kindle.

Equinox announced the publication of a new book from the Copenhagen International Seminar by Philippe Wajdenbaum; Argonauts of the Desert: Structural Analysis of the Hebrew Bible (and the book looks fascinating!).

Hector Avalos’ new book Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship has recently been published.

John Anderson announces his forthcoming book An Untamable God: Reading the Old Testament’s Troubling Texts Theologically is now under contract with Eerdmans.

J. Brian Tucker gives us a look at the cover for his forthcoming book “Remain in Your Calling”: Paul and the Continuation of Social Identities in 1 Corinthians.

10. Book Reviews Ghastly Eulogies (2 kgs 4.8-37)

Look on my gravestone, passer-by, and having considered it, weep. Beat with your hands five times for the five year old. For now I lie in the tomb, without even having shared in marriage. My parents suffer likewise for the son who pleased them, and my friends look for their comrade and companion; but my body lies in the blessed place. Weeping say: Untimely dead, deeply mourned, you who were always renowned for all virture.

This stele bears witness – ‘Who are you who lie in the dark tomb? Tell me your country and your father.’ ‘Arsinoe, daughter of Aline and Theodosius, and the land which nourished us is called the land of Onias.’ ‘How old were you when you slipped down into the shadowy region of Lethe?’ ‘At twenty years old I went to the mournful place of the dead.’ ‘Were you joined in marriage?’ ‘I was.’ ‘Did you leave him a child?’ ‘Childless I went to the house of Hades.’ ‘May the Earth, the guardian of the dead, be light upon you.’ ‘And for you, stranger, may it bear fruitful crops.’

(The readings of two ancient Jewish tombstones, with which people passing by could interact, from Egypt; Jewish Inscriptions of Graeco-Roman Egypt, by William Horbury and David Noy, pp. 79, 90)

Matthew Crowe has some useful advice on reviewing.

Michael Halcomb offers a multi-part review series on Steve Runge’s Discourse Grammar here, here, here, here, and here.

The A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jesus blog tour website has continued announcing reviews around the blogosphere including those by James McGrath here, here, and here. Also check out reviews from John Byron, Michael Bird, and Jacob Sweeney.

The Biblical World posts up a review of the book The King Jesus Gospel.

Jeremy from Unsettled Christianity finishes up his three part series on the book The Lost World of Genesis One.

April DeConick links to a review of her book Holy Misogyny. Tim Henderson also reviews April DeConick’s book.

Jim Davila posts a review of Linbeck’s Elijah and the Rabbis.

Steve Wiggins has a short review of Tina Pippin’s Apocalyptic Bodies.

James Spinti reviewed some books this month, including Ten Myths About Calvinism and Defending Constantine.

Reviews of Biblical and Early Christian Studies reviewed several books: Ascension Theology, Cambridge Dictionary of Christianity, and Worship that Makes Sense to Paul.

Diglot reviews two books on evolution: Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design by Michael Shermer and Why Evolution Is True by Jerry Coyne.

James McGrath reviewed Jesus, Gnosis and Dogma by Riemer Roukema in the latest RBL.

Peter Kirk reviews The Politics of Witness by Allen R. Bevere.

Steve Wiggins reviews Mystics and Messiahs by Philip Jenkins.

Jim West spent some time reviewing the Eerdmans Companion to the Bible.

11. Miscellany Vampirism (John 6.53-57)

“As such,” replied Apollonius, “you must regard this adornment, for it is not reality but the semblance of reality. And that you may realize the truth of what I say, this fine bride is one of the vampires, that is to say of those beings whom the many regard as lamias and hobgoblins. These beings fall in love, and they are devoted to the delights of Aphrodite, but especially to the flesh of human beings, and they decoy with such delights those whom they mean to devour in their feasts.”

And the lady said: “Cease your ill-omened talk and begone”; and she pretended to be disgusted at what she heard, and in fact she was inclined to rail at philosophers and say that they always talked nonsense. When, however, the goblets of gold and the show of silver were proved as light as air and all fluttered away out of their sight, while the wine-bearers and the cooks and all the retinue of servants vanished before the rebukes of Apollonius, the phantom pretended to weep, and prayed him not to torture her nor to compel her to confess what she really was.

But Apollonius insisted and would not let her off, and then she admitted that she was a vampire, and was fattening up Menippus with pleasures before devouring his body, for it was her habit to feed upon young and beautiful bodies, because their blood is pure and strong. (Philostratus, Life of Apollonius 4.25)

I agree with Jim West that we should all raise our voices in support of Yuval Goren. Background here. Sign the petition.

Chris Brady announces Sacred Techs, a project he is working on with Bob Cargill.

Michael Halcomb asks if the top Biblioblogs are really blogs at all.

James McGrath asks if progressive Christianity is the last best hope for Christianity.

Karen Prior asks if more doubt is needed in Christian education.

April DeConick offers her readers some information on the Menil Collection.

Steve Caruso continues to add new and useful features to the Biblioblog Reference Library.

Kenny Paul Smith asks how we might categorize new religious movements.

Larry Tanner talks about what it means to not be a seeker.

The ivory rod found at Tiryns containing cuneiform is getting serious attention from Duane Smith at Abnormal Interests blog.

Derek Leman has a rather serious post about Messianic Judaism in a Christian world.

Reviews of Biblical and Early Christian Studies brings news from Seminar-land, highlighting John Barton, Benjamin Schliesser, and N.T. Wright.

Larry Hurtado has a retrospective piece on Barr’s Semantics’ 50th anniversary.

Eddie Arthur would like me to make everyone aware of the fact that there are MP3 downloads available of the latest Faith and Thought Symposium in the UK, which may well be of interest to some readers.

Jim West asks if Mormonism is a cult, and so Dan McClellan discusses Mormonism and why it should not be called a ‘cult’.

Speaking of Mormonism, Diglot cannot read books by Mormon scholars (which is being more generous than how he puts it). See also his three part series on Baptism for the Dead here, here, and here.

April DeConick challenges us to get sparked by the Humanities!

As a fellow mimesist, Joel Watts and I share a similar love of mimesis, memes, and mimetic theory. So his recent post on them is one I found particularly awesome.

Bridget at the WIT blog discusses the sexism of the new Siri technology for iOS 5. It deserves attention.

Brian LePort thinks we need to reconsider a few things as Christianity globalizes.

12. Halloween Themed Posts

Bill Hamby ponders over the spooky significance of Friday the 13th.

Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy has a post featuring creepy pictures from space that seem to have been crafted for the sake of Halloween! (The flaming scull of Perseus is my favorite)

James Randi summons up the undead (proving he still has some magic up his sleeves) and has a group of skeptical Zombies show up to expose psychic James Van Praagh.

Quirology on Youtube posts up a really cool video on Seances that you can participate in (these are the same people who brought you these two videos).

Cracked had an interesting (and spooky!) post on the truth behind some scary urban legends.

Rod of Alexandria has a post on Ghosts and Soul Sleep and Halloween.

Chad from Political Jesus also has a post on Halloween harassment here.

Jeff Carter has a series of posts on Monster Movies specifically for October!

Not necessarily Halloween-themed, but scary none the less! Joseph Kelly has a post on why RBL should be watchful of certain evangelical scholars and plagiarism. He observes: ‘I am under no illusions that the RBL policies will change. So let me say this, to those of you who are eligible to review for RBL, please take it seriously. Some of us would appreciate having the opportunities you have.’

Medieval News has a piece on how the Byzantines dealt with Werewolves that some might find interesting!

The popular game Angry Birds is transformed into a short horror film by G4:’ The Birds of Anger’! See it here.

Michael Halcomb rethinks Halloween.

Apparently, yes, there is a way to ruin Halloween (besides dressing like lead codices); and Scotteriology has found it.

Steve Wiggins posts about the haunted purgatory, that is, when you are stuck between your faith and participating in Halloween. See also his post on Zombies.

John Byron offers an alternative to Halloween but makes no further comments about it. But Jim West has no problem stepping in and offering his.

I have a post on ancient ghost stories and hauntings.

Carnival Coming Soon

Just putting on a few finishing touches.  I am pushing it out early this month because of all the Halloween-themed posts out there.  It seems silly to publish them after Halloween.  SO expect to see the Carnival out tonight or tomorrow morning.

 

FINAL CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS! And a Request

Please consider sending me your favorite posts from this month to include on the Biblical Studies Carnival for November; if not, you risk the chance that it will not appear on it!  I also have a request from all Bibliobloggers; consider writing one Halloween-themed blog post like this one or one of your own making and submit it to me for the carnival.  You can either post it in the comments section of this post or email it to me.  Please do this by Friday!

 

It’s the End of the World as we Know it (Part Two)!

…and I feel fine.  Seriously, except for a few clouds outside, the day is pretty nice.  And even though at one point my dog nearly destroyed my place chasing after the cat, the day has been very uneventful.  It has been several months since his failure in May and since that time Camping  has warned that, while he was wrong about the date, he was right about the event.  He just has to tweak his eisegesis a bit more and BAM!, October 21.   So the world (well, okay, this is an exaggeration) waited to see if the followers of Camping would go up to heaven on the revised date 9f October 21.  We are not well into midday and, lo and behold, not a single rapture.

 

 

The Most Ignored NT Verses: Matt 5.17-18

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

These words seem to go largely ignored by almost everyone.  Jesus is quite clear; the statutes of the Hebrew Bible are still in effect until heaven and earth pass away–which means they will never be irrelevant (since heaven is eternal, even if the earth is not).  Yet it seems many Christians have adopted heretical viewpoints about this text.  Indeed, it is as if Marcion had risen instead of Jesus for many denominational Christians who have completely forgotten about this verse.

A friend of mine had told me her priest had recently said, during a prayer group, that Jesus had done away with the laws of the Hebrew Bible and that had been a radical perspective for his day.  But I wonder where the priest is pulling this information from, as Jesus states–directly, in fact–the complete opposite of what this priest is saying.  Marcion, of course, would approve of such a maneuver, since he felt that the laws of the Hebrew Bible were derived from a false God and that such laws were inconsequential to Christians who followed the new laws of Christ Jesus.  Indeed, Tertullian even made note of the fact that Marcion had expunged the verse from his versions of Matthew:

It is, however, well that Marcion’s god does claim to be the enlightener of the nations, that so he might have the better reason for coming down from heaven; only, if it must needs be, he should rather have made Pontus his place of descent than Galilee. But since both the place and the work of illumination according to the prophecy are compatible with Christ, we begin to discern that He is the subject of the prophecy, which shows that at the very outset of His ministry, He came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but rather to fulfil them; for Marcion has erased the passage as an interpolation. (Against Marcion 4.7)

And in case anyone argues Jesus changed the laws or abuse the Sabbath, Tertullian states:

Thus Christ did not at all rescind the Sabbath: He kept the law thereof, and both in the former case did a work which was beneficial to the life of His disciples, for He indulged them with the relief of food when they were hungry, and in the present instance cured the withered hand; in each case intimating by facts, I came not to destroy, the law, but to fulfil it,  although Marcion has gagged His mouth by this word. For even in the case before us He fulfilled the law, while interpreting its condition; moreover, He exhibits in a clear light the different kinds of work, while doing what the law excepts from the sacredness of the Sabbath and while imparting to the Sabbath day itself, which from the beginning had been consecrated by the benediction of the Father, an additional sanctity by His own beneficent action. For He furnished to this day divine safeguards, — a course which His adversary would have pursued for some other days, to avoid honouring the Creator’s Sabbath, and restoring to the Sabbath the works which were proper for it. Since, in like manner, the prophet Elisha on this day restored to life the dead son of the Shunammite woman, you see, O Pharisee, and you too, O Marcion, how that it was proper employment for the Creator’s Sabbaths of old to do good, to save life, not to destroy it; how that Christ introduced nothing new, which was not after the example, the gentleness, the mercy, and the prediction also of the Creator. (Against Marcion 4.12)

So why is this passage ignored?  Why has modern Christianity done away with the hundreds of statutes in the Hebrew Bible which even Jesus followed and commanded his followers to hold in esteem?  It seems as though very half-cocked theological eisegesis is done in order to account for the gagging of these words, as Tertullian might say.  Some argue that since Jesus did fulfill the law, by being crucified and resurrected, that this verse becomes fulfilled and no longer matters.  But one cannot make such an argument since this verse seems to have been very important during the authorship of the Gospels–decades later than when Jesus had lived.  Clearly it was a statement to not only the readers of Matthew’s Gospel as late as the second century CE, but also in Tertullian’s day some generations later!   To say that these words are no longer relevant actually places ones soul in jeopardy (Matt 5:19a):

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven…

This is quite the pronouncement!  So the question one must ask is why do Christians ignore this directive from Jesus?  Who do some state that he has abolished the value of the Hebrew Bible and the laws therein?  Why do some claim that the Hebrew Bible should be ignored as a source for ones lifestyle?

Stop Forcing Ancient Figures to Fit your Ideological Perspectives

There is a word for trying to force false theological meanings upon ancient texts; it’s call eisegesis.  So when you tie a figure like Jesus to a political or ideological message, you’re committing the same error.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a Tea Party supporter who believes in a pro-war, white-majority Jesus or  you’re a democrat trying to make Jesus into some sort of free-health-care supporting, dove-like hippie.  This goes especially for those bloggers who so adamantly discourage those on one side of the fence from doing it; don’t in turn pick up the banner, in the same facet, by posting a sign like this:

First, stop trying to make a point by saying Jesus wasn’t white.  Art History will show you quite clearly that Jesus was whatever the demographic wanted him to be; he has been a Greek, a white Roman with curly hair and no beard, a Jew holding a magic wand, a man of African descent, a olive-toned individual, and he’s even been made of chocolate.  So it is unfair to deny one part of his ancient heritage tradition.  Still, he was not an average white American.   That is not the same thing as saying Jesus wasn’t white.  If such a figure existed historically, we don’t have any archaeological evidence to base a study on to determine his color.  Also, Obama is an African-American; your sign makes it seem like he isn’t.

Second, Jesus wasn’t anti-war.  He might have dissuaded his disciples from committing a violent crime on occasion, but this was done to preserve his ability to do what he needed to do: die and become resurrected.  The theological value of the scene where he stays the hands of his disciple from killing a soldier come to bring him back to the Sanhedrin, is that had a fight broken out Jesus might have been killed prematurely, before the planned time–at the passion.  But Jesus was certainly violence-minded.    He turned over the money-changers tables at the temple and drove out those who were there.  In Luke 19:25-27, Jesus says, “And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’” Jesus is speaking in parable yes, but he is portrayed as the one who created the parable and he is speaking of the parable favorably! I don’t think one can say Jesus was ‘anti-War’ or ‘anti-violence.’  After all, he did not come to bring peace, “but a sword.” (Matt. 10:34)  That doesn’t mean Jesus was ‘pro-war’, but he certainly wasn’t portrayed as ‘anti-war’.  The figure of Jesus, as portrayed in the Gospel narratives, is one who comes after the first Jewish War, after the temple is already destroyed.  There is a strong contextual meaning to these passages and those passages which seem to imply he was ‘anti-war.’   By making Jesus into an ideologue who fits into your modern political ideology you destroy this context and greatly take for granted the words of Jesus.

The same is true for free healthcare.  I challenge anyone to find a verse which promotes free healthcare.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that anyone would be hardpressed to find a verse like this, since ‘healthcare’ didn’t exist in antiquity.  Jesus healed the sick, but only those who believed and followed him.  In almost every case, Jesus only healed those who proved they were worthy of the Kingdom and believed in who he was; seldom is he ever portrayed as just helping anyone.  Jim West is absolutely correct in his understanding of the early Church and their devaluation (for lack of a better word) of those outside the fold.

Applying modern politics to Jesus is an anachronistic way of destroying the message of the Gospels.  If you are someone who values their theological message, then you probably don’t want to damage its meaning.  Every time you tie a verse to ideology, you are creating a whole new Gospel account.  You are fabricating a completely new message.  That’s fine if that is what you want to do, but don’t then claim that these are Jesus’ perspectives, or Jesus’ views.  They aren’t.  And they weren’t.

Second Call for Submissions: November Biblical Studies Carnival

First, my apologies to readers and my fellow Bibliobloggers for not being more active this year.  Unfortunately, school and personal matters have kept me busy.  First the call, then some updates:

  • The Publisher has confirmed that the volume of collected essays I edited with Thomas Thompson will be published in April.  This is good news, especially since Equinox has only just recently moved and I’m told that such activities can push back publication.  Also, a copy will be on display at the SBL meeting in November, so all those who happen to be within the area, please feel free to check it out.
  • I know this is a continuing issue with Carnivals but I need more people to submit things to me.  I’ve got the Reference Library working for me and RSS feeds, but frankly I have only received a handful of  submissions.  I just don’t have the time to look over the thousands of posts daily to pick from them suitable ones to post.  While I am pulling from over 50 active blogs, there is no guarantee that yours is among them.  I also would like to have a strong presence of women Bibliobloggers in my carnival because, clearly, they need more representation.  So please, for the love of Pete, either post your blog links in the comments section of this post or email me your submissions.
  • On a personal note: I recently discovered I am the descendant of a German Baron whose line goes back as far as the 1500′s, and whose wife’s line (a Baroness) goes all the back to the 1150′s.  This Baron was excommunicated by the Catholic Church c. 1700′s and the family came over to the United States in the 1730′s.  The one son of the Baron’s was a Revolutionary War hero and Captain in the local militia.  The research into this took up most of my time over the past three weeks.  Thankfully, much of it was done by family and it had only been a matter of filling in some blank names.   Still, this was exciting news.  You often don’t think to find that you’re descended from nobility.

Brian LePort asks: How much of your Christianity can be ahistorical?

LePort asks:

What events recorded in Scripture must be historical for you to affirm the truthfulness of Christianity?

How much of your Christianity can be ahistorical?.

As someone who was once a very devout Christian (Catholic, if anyone asks), now an apostate, I can tell you that this is a very important question, but perhaps no longer relevant. One must ask if the first Christians who wrote about the Gospels accepted it all as historical–certainly Christians like John Dominic Crossan don’t even need the resurrection–as it is recounted in the Gospel narratives–to be historical in order for him to accept Christ.  At the same time, others like NT Wright (or these guys) have to accept even the most outrageous positions on historicity–like the dead rising from the graves and walking all over Jerusalem from Matthew’s Gospel (27.52-53).

The difficulty in this question is in deciding, for yourself, which is more important: the historical truth or the theological truth?  I am certain that early Christian minimalists didn’t care for the historical reality of the Gospels–if they did, there would not four canonical ones (and there certainly would be dozens of noncanonical ones!).  The theological message above all else seems to have been more valuable a truth and thus why we have multiple theological messages in the narratives (even between the epistles and pastorals).  The historical value of the text was only useful when it suited the functions of the theology.

For example, Paul believed that the resurrection of Jesus was a historical, functional event (whether on this earth or another, is still up for debate in my opinion), but then again Paul does not once quote Jesus on anything nor does he cite any specific examples of his life to make a point (except for matters of theological significance like the crucifixion and resurrection).  It is not until the church fathers (mainly from late antiquity and Latin Christendom) that we find the historical value of the narratives taking a precedence towards explaining theological values.

However this is a slowly dying trend; I believe with the continued advancement of science many will search the Bible for that theological meaning as the historical value continues to diminish.  Still, I would become a Christian immediately if the resurrection of the figure of Jesus was proved to be a historical event.  Likewise, if the resurrection of Ishtar were proved to be a historical event, I would start singing her praises.

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