Christopher Rollston: The Marginalization of Women in Ancient and Modern Times

I strongly believe this article should be read by everyone.  Chris Rollston knows what he is talking about.  Here is a snippet:

Augusta National Golf Club finally accepts its first women members, and so a Leviathan of gender discrimination at long last makes a move in the right direction. Conversely, Todd Akin falsely states that a woman’s body has biological mechanisms to prevent pregnancy in cases of something he refers to as “legitimate rape.” One step forward, two steps back in our battle for women’s rights. Sadly though, the marginalization of women has been going on for a long time. Some 2,000 years ago, a Hebrew sage named Ben Sira wrote “the birth of a daughter is a loss” and “better is the wickedness of a man than a woman who does good.” Modern readers rightly label such words misogynistic. But they’re part of the historical record and Ben Sira wasn’t alone.

via Christopher Rollston: The Marginalization of Women: A Biblical Value We Don’t Like to Talk About.

Philip Davies asks ‘Did Jesus Exist?’ and Offers His Answer

Philip Davies has entered the discussion and his involvement is most welcome.  He concludes:

But why care? The issue of whether history or kerygma (let’s use the fancy theological term for such fabulation) should provide the basis for New Testament theology or Christian faith has been a persistent theme of New Testament scholarship since Strauss’s Life of Jesus (where myth reared its beautiful head). Still, both history and theology converge on a proper answer to this: the historical Jesus will always be a fabrication, and the search for him antagonistic to true religious belief. Yet some peculiar literal-minded historicist brand of (largely Protestant) Christianity finds impossible the temptation to replace the icons of Orthodoxy or statues and images of Roman Catholicism with the One True Image of the Lord: the Jesus of History. The result: poor history and, dare I say, even poorer theology.

via The Bible and Interpretation – Did Jesus Exist?.

You will want to go read the whole thing.  Go read it and then come back.  Back?  Good.

His discussion of the main issues in New Testament and the problems that plague those of us who even bother to *question* historicity are spot on.  The only minor issue that I might adjust is that he writes:

But one should not argue from these, as do Thompson and Verenna, that Jesus was invented.

But to my knowledge neither Thomas or I suggest that in our articles and I certainly haven’t suggested that Jesus was invented recently.  I make a point in my chapter to distinguish the claims that ‘Jesus was invented’ and ‘Paul’s Jesus is irrelevant to the Historical Jesus’ are entirely different.  One claim does not eo ipso lead to the other.  Indeed, even if Paul believed his Jesus was a completely heavenly, he could have been completely wrong.  My article was only to support the conclusion that Paul is useless as a witness to a historical figure, not that there couldn’t have been one because of it.

Though I would remark, and Philip might agree, that traditions can be invented and thus certainly most traditions surrounding a figure of Jesus are wholly invented (they have to be since only one tradition can be the ‘right’ one, presupposing historicity).  With that in mind, it isn’t so implausible to suggest that we haven’t even stumbled across the ‘right one’ (if there is one to find) and none of the ‘Jesus’ we have concocted in our academic quests resemble that historical figure.

Other than this one minor grievance, Philip’s article is wonderful and a welcome contribution to the conversation.

Every Bibliobloggers First Post

How Bibliobloggers Decide to Blog

Blogging Through a Classics Undergrad

The fall semester starts here in less than two weeks.  So during the next few months I will be blogging less but I hope to be blogging more about my classes, my thoughts about content discussed in classes, and my own vetting of the material.  Since I am double majoring at the moment, the next few years should prove interesting.  Hopefully that will translate into some rather interesting posts here as well.

Jordan ‘Lead Codices’ Redux

There seems to be a lot of conversation again about the lead codices.  So for those new to the conversation, there are some important links.

The video on why the codices are believed to be fakes produced in a workshop in Amman can be found here:

The two academically published articles on the codices and why they are probably fakes can be found at Bible and Interpretation here (to my knowledge these are the most thorough discussions and contain multiple links to roundups, academic interpretations, and are the only articles academically published on the subject):

You’ll also want to check out the Biblioblog Reference Library, as they have a whole section devoted to the codices. The website is very useful since it contains all sorts of information and useful multimedia so you can see the evidence for yourselves on why these are probably fakes and why most academics don’t trust them. See here:

Tom Head and a New American Civil War

You know, I post a lot about my problems with the Republican party.  I do.  But I completely understand that there are terrible people and deceptive people on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill.  But let’s face it; you generally do NOT hear this sort of polemic from democrats.  You just don’t.

This guy wants to start a war.

Tom Head, a county judge in Lubbock, Texas, plunged far out into the periphery of anti-President Barack Obama conspiracy theories on Monday, pushing a particularly outrageous one as justification for a tax increase in the county.

Head told FOX34 that Lubbock’s law enforcement needed extra tax dollars in order to be prepared for a full-scale uprising, which he said could be a byproduct of Obama’s reelection. According to Head, the president is seeking to sign a variety of United Nations treaties that will effectively take precedent over domestic law.

“He’s going to try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the U.N., and what is going to happen when that happens?” Head asked. “I’m thinking the worst. Civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war maybe. And we’re not just talking a few riots here and demonstrations, we’re talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy.”

via Tom Head, Texas Judge: Obama Reelection Could Lead To ‘Civil War,’ I’m Ready To ‘Take Up Arms’.

This person is intimating that he wants to rise up and remove the POTUS (which I’m pretty sure is treason if not conspiracy and making terroristic threats).  Now, during the Bush years, I did state that I wanted to see Bush impeached for his crimes against humanity.  Impeached is not the same thing as calling for someone to ‘get rid of this guy’.

And here is the thing, my Republican friends (and I have them), this is what you are standing behind when you vote in November.  This is the party line.  Republican politicians and those in charge don’t want to win an election, they want to take over the United States.  You think you support small government and personal freedom, but these are the same people who want to take away your freedom.  In fact, I don’t think you even realize what is at stake here.

This judge wants to go to war.  He wants to fight Americans.  He wants to fight on our very soil.  And he is not alone.  Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have already said as much.  And they are brainwashing you into believing that there is a government takeover happening.  But the facts are stubborn things–Obama is the smallest government spender since Eisenhower.  Yes, that’s right.  He isn’t a tax and spend liberal.  He’s actually responsible.

So get your facts straight.  Denounce war-mongering bureaucrats like these.  Do it now.  You don’t have to stop being Republicans, or stop being conservative, but denounce those who spread lies and fear and hatred.

Campfield Believes that AIDS is ‘Virtually Impossible’ to Contract Through Heterosexual Sex

Here is the story in brief:

Tennessee state Sen. Stacey Campfield (R) falsely claimed on Thursday that it was nearly impossible for someone to contract AIDS through heterosexual contact.

“Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community,” he told Michelangelo Signorile, who hosts a radio program on SiriusXM OutQ. “It was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men. It was an airline pilot, if I recall.”

“My understanding is that it is virtually — not completely, but virtually — impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex.”

via GOP lawmaker: Virtually impossible to get AIDS through heterosexual sex | The Raw Story.

Seems legit…

Republican Politicians: Continuing to demonstrate their ignorance on anything related to any important topic.  Ever.

Religion and Politics in the Blogosphere and Beyond

This is the blog post you deserve, but not the one you need right now.

Lately there is a lot of commotion in the community concerning a plethora of subjects.  First, some Tea-Party-Backed-Republicans are making some rather obnoxious claims about rape and abortion which are beyond ignorant.  These claims stem from their particular religious convictions and clearly even god is mad at them because he is sending a hurricane named after the son of Abraham (who incidentally was blind and a deceiver and was fond of digging holes for himself) to soak the region where they plan to have their convention.

Also, it seems that some evangelical Christians have become the victims of a ponzi scheme, like this one, where a man took them for over $2 million.  This isn’t new and for some reason Christian evangelicals seem to be the most susceptible towards these sorts of schemes.

In related news but not necessarily to that of Biblical Studies, Sioux tribes are trying to raise money to buy back land that is a part of their creation story.  Before you ask, no, there is no expedition to locate the shell of Turtle like there is for Noah’s Ark.  However, someone on eBay thinks that the Hebrew word chai is a “Vintage Navajo Moose” as reported by John Byron.

Chris Rollston shared this amusing video today comparing archaeology and paleontology.

A(nother) Roman lead curse tablet has been found.  These are the real deal, unlike those fakes peddled by the Elkington and others.  Speaking of curses, Cracked.com has a great roundup of some of the odder curses in the Bible.

Also, donkey’s with fricken WiFi attached to their backs!

Old Lives and New Delusions: Responding to Criticism

I just don’t have the time to respond to all my critics.  I wish I did have the time because I am a firm believer that some criticisms are useful and can help guide us all on a journey towards honesty and introverted reflection.  In fact a good amount of criticism is what made me deeply consider where I was headed on my previous path and has successfully steered me in the right direction.  Not all criticisms are equal, however, and some criticisms are just plain stupid.  By that I mean people can believe silly things and as a result they will say silly things.   I would get nothing done if I spent all my time worrying about who said what and why.  As a result, I just can’t find the time between work and class and blogging and writing and researching to respond to every problem people want to take up with me.   But occasionally I do find something that deserves a response.

Many of you know that I once went by a pseudonym and had a radio show. Well it seems that some people cannot let go of the past.  Nor can they seem to distinguish reality from their own mythic versions of the past (and present).  My former co-host and friend, Brian Sapient, appears to suffer from this very problem.  He seems to not recall certain events or instances where I’ve been explicit with him about my reasons for leaving, why I have changed my attitude, where I stand on various issues, and so forth.  The only reason I am bringing this up now is because there seems to be some discussion about my ‘behavior’ and lifestyle changes that have come about on his message board recently (thanks to the person who brought this to my attention).  Both Brian and another individual, who goes by the name Reverend Wells, would rather psychoanalyze my personality than simple send me an email.  If anything, this shows their inability to engage critically the events over the past few years–it demonstrates their inability to deal rationally with the world outside their comfort zone of ‘extreme atheism’.

For starters, neither of them can let go of their delusion about who I am and what I believe (and why I believe it).  Brian, for example, suggests that he was ‘baffled’ (really?) by my ‘conversion to Thomas Verenna’ (seriously? ‘Conversion’? That’s what you’re going with?) and that when I used a pseudonym, I was ‘more right’ than ‘Thomas Verenna’ (seriously?!).  Reverend Wells seems to think I am a mythicist because I believe in the ‘need to question the historicity of Jesus and the New Testament’ (which he seems to think is how ‘mythicism’ is defined) and that I ‘continue to post articles and help write books about it (mythicism-ed.) to this day.’  And that I’m just coping-out of my apparent atheism by calling myself a deist because, as Wells believes, I’m just playing the semantics game.  What is most amusing is this line from Brian:

It’s more important to be true to yourself, than do what you think others want.

Did you catch that?  Brian is arguing the point that we have to be true to ourselves, so that is why I should go back to being who I was when I was not myself, but when I was using my pseudonym!  Yes, don’t kid yourself, that is exactly what he’s suggesting.  He believes that my use of a fake name, with beliefs I no longer hold, with perspectives I feel are irrelevant,  with arguments which are no longer valid (or sound), is more ‘right’ than who I am now.  This, my readers, is delusion.

My name–my real name–is Thomas Verenna.  At one time, I used a (as in one, single) pseudonym due to many reasons–personal safety, as a radio show personality, as a means to say securely what I thought might one day ruin my chances at a real life beyond all of the hype of my youthful discretions (of being an activist).  But when I became serious about redirecting my life, that pseudonym went away.  I didn’t waste any time, and Wells is right that I fell off the earth.  But that is the point.  I got serious about life–my life–and my future; so I stopped acting like some naive kid and grew a pair, accepted responsibility for the words I used.  I made a huge mistake–mainly due to my own youthful ignorance–when I claimed I was an expert.  I wasn’t an expert.  And it was wrong of me to say that.  But I rectified that; I enrolled in college  in 2009 and now am attending Rutgers University.  I’m working towards a career; I’m taking seriously the profession of which I want to be a part.

Brian then writes:

I could play arguments of himself against himself.  I’ve got plenty of text and audio of him ripping on deism.  And even more of him ripping in to Christ as a man.

But this is beyond arrogant.  The fact is, those old arguments are meaningless now.  It isn’t that I just one day forgot what I said and what I argued.  No one does that–unless they suffer from some form of mental illness where memories just vanish (I do not, for the record).  I changed my viewpoints when those arguments failed to convince me any longer.  I am a Possibilian, and that may bother a lot of people who want to remain in their comfort believing (falsely) that an atheist cannot change their tune.  Brian would argue that believing in a god makes you intellectually weak or proves you to be a poor critical thinker.  I disagree.  Frankly, I don’t care enough about the question of god belief to give a damn either way.

As for the figure of Jesus, Wells is completely wrong.  My old posts on mythicism disgust me.  They aren’t at all useful and most contain a lot of misinformation (again, out of ignorance).  Also his definition of mythicism (given above) is rather narrowed and vague.  A lot of scholars find the historical value of the New Testament to be abysmal, but that doesn’t make them mythicists.  Also, who said I’ve helped write books on mythicism?  I know of none.  I’ve co-edited a volume of essays on the question of historicity in New Testament, some of the contributors are mythicists, and my article does diminish the role of Paul in the question, but the book is not on mythicism, nor do I or Thomas Thompson accept the label ‘mythicist’ as it just doesn’t describe us.  We’re minimalists; Wells would do well to learn the difference.

Also, there is a distinction between being a mythicist and being an agnostic (read).   I’ve written on this more times than I want to count (link to an article published in the online journal Bible and Interpretation dealing with Ehrman’s book on mythicism).   My older articles don’t compare to anything I’ve published or written recently; I used to be very polemical, very aggressive, made lots of baseless, unverified claims (visit link for additional links); these were symptoms of my mythicism–my denialism.  Thankfully, I’ve moved beyond this.

Unfortunately, Brian has not.  And some of his posters have not either.  I have asked them before to remove all my old content there.  It is not factually true, it is misleading, it makes people dumber for reading it.  It would be akin to publishing an average high school freshman term paper on biology in an academic journal.  There is no reason to keep those posts there.  No reason to keep defending them.  They’re wrong.  The only reason to keep them up is to satisfy some form of nostalgia or to reinforce some misguided notions one might have.  If you want to read decent articles on the subject of historicity, I have a number of published papers along with dozens of blog posts here that are much more articulate and contain better, more solid research.

As for my leaving the radio show and activism and atheism in general, I’ve discussed this a great deal.  I did not support Blasphemy Day and had expressed my displeasure with the atheist movement as far back as 2009.  This is nothing new for me.  It has been years.  I was annoyed with the fractious nature of the community and the hypocrisy latent within the organizations.  I was tired of the drama, of the whining, of the leadership’s failure to take personal responsibility for some of the problems that plague them.  I grew tired of the constant apologetica, the sectarianism growing within the activist groups (the Dawkinites, the Harrisians, the American Atheist Empire vs. the Atheist Alliance International Republic, and yes even the Rational Responders).  I found them all to be avenues towards isolationism–you had a pick of which group to join and thus isolate yourself from the other groups (and clearly I’m not alone; a new discussion appears to be happening in the community which proves all of my points).  I reevaluated my role in it, found it all to be philosophically weak.  So I left.

And by that I mean the whole ‘atheist’ thing is just weak.  I’ve even written a (very) brief autobiography on my rejection of atheism as a label and a personal identifier.  If I define myself in any way, it is that I’m a humanist and a secularist and an existentialist.   That doesn’t mean I don’t have an edge.  What it does mean is I just find labels to be useless.  Even the labels I used above have connotations that I don’t agree with or don’t think best describe me (which is why I list three and not one–four if you include my Possibilianism).

In the end, I don’t agree with that person I was in 2007.  I don’t like that person.  I loathe that person.  Because that person was an isolationist, a denialist, a hypocrite, an intellectually weak person.  I’m proud of myself for distancing myself from such a person, whose ideals were as thin as a sheet of paper.  Wells is quite wrong when he suggests that I am somehow shrugging off my past; I do not “ignore and deny it for a length of time”.  I’ve never denied it.  Ever.  I just don’t care for it.  Thinking about those years leaves a bad taste in my mouth, like I had been chewing on Thallium (which would be very, very bad, by the way–don’t ever do that).

If this thread on this forum is any indication of what the community is like now, I made the right choice to leave it.  Clearly some people cannot stand the fact that I’ve legitimately changed.  Apparently, thinking differently than they do is a bad thing (enough to find it ‘baffling’ that I’d not want to be included in the community!  What nerve I must have!).  Indeed, it is quite arrogant to presume that the answers can be found in atheism.  Or theism.  Or any brand.  And it is a real shame that Brian has to react like this to my departure.  By that, I don’t mean to suggest he was rude or ridiculing (in fact, his response was cordial and respectful), but his words betray an underlying ignorance about his own shortcomings and delusions, even if he doesn’t want to admit them.  He can believe whatever he wants about me, and so can Reverend Wells for all I care, but now he has no excuse to claim ignorance.  The facts about me are right in front of his face.

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