Fox Mistakes Iraq for Egypt

Whoops!  This is why I don’t watch the news, I read the news.  I can fact-check things far better than these talking-head pundits can.  I mean, come on.  Egypt isn’t even on the same continent as Iran…

Fox News Doesn’t Know Where Egypt Is [PIC].

Remaking the Shroud: Antonio Lombatti on the Shroud of Turin

A must-read article!  Check it out:

In the last 20 years I have seen many documentaries on the Shroud of Turin. Each of them promised to finally solve the “mystery” of the most controversial Christian relic of all times. I have to say that “Remaking the Shroud,” recently aired by NatGeo TV, is the best one I’ve ever watched so far. It doesn’t want us to be convinced that this medieval relic is the real burial cloth of Jesus. It doesn’t want to convey the message that this artifact is miraculous or mysterious. It simply tries to distinguish if the Shroud of Turin has to be considered an icon made to evoke and inspire the faithful or a hoax forged to fool the gullible and help medieval monasteries to make lots of money.

This is the best Shroud film ever produced probably because most of the people who have been involved in it are professional scholars and not “shroudologists”: the medievalist Richard Kaeuper (University of Rochester), who speaks on the first owner of the Turin Shroud — the French knight Geoffroy de Charny; — the archaeologist Shimon Gibson (Texas A&M University), who refers on Second Temple burial cloths and rites, the art historian William Dale (University of Western Ontario), who deals with byzantine icons; and the chemist Luigi Garlaschelli (University of Pavia), the first scientist to remake a full-size shroud.

The documentary is divided into three main parts. In the general introduction, we are told what the Shroud is: a linen bearing a double image of a (presumed) man who should show the marks of Jesus’ crucifixion. However, there are many inaccuracies and the image is anatomically incorrect. When the relics first appeared in France around 1355, the bishop ordered an inquiry and found out that such burial cloth with a double imprint did not find any confirmation in the Gospels. Moreover, the Pope who had to face the first controversy on the public display of the Shroud wrote in the bull that he be granted permission to show it, but it had to be said with a clear and loud voice that it was a mere representation of the burial cloth of Jesus and not the real one. Finally, even the owners – the French family de Charny – when asked for permission to place the relic in their church have always referred to the Shroud as a representation.

via The Bible and Interpretation.

Follow the link to keep reading.

Richard Carrier on Historical Methods and Jesus Studies

In lieu of my forthcoming page with links containing relevant studies on the figure of Jesus, I thought I should post up some very important PDF’s from Richard Carrier.

The first link is a paper Richard gave at the Jesus Project conference and is an introduction to Bayes Theorem and how it relates to the study of the figure of Jesus.

He addresses these criteria:

Example List of Popular Historicity Criteria
Incomplete List (names often differ, criteria often overlap – here are 17; there are two or three dozen):

  1. Dissimilarity – dissimilar to independent Jewish or Christian precedent
  2. Embarrassment – if it was embarrassing, it must be true
  3. Coherence – coheres with other confirmed data
  4. Multiple Attestation – attested in more than one independent source
  5. Contextual Plausibility – plausible in a Jewish or Greco-Roman cultural context
  6. Historical Plausibility – coheres with a plausible historical reconstruction
  7. Natural Probability – coheres with natural science (etc.)
  8. Explanatory Credibility – historicity better explains later traditions
  9. Oral Preservability – capable of surviving oral transmission
  10. Fabricatory Trend – isn’t part of known trends in fabrication or embellishment
  11. Least Distinctiveness – the simpler version is the more historical
  12. Vividness of Narration – the more vivid, the more historical
  13. Crucifixion – explains why Jesus was crucified
  14. Greek Context – if whole context suggests parties speaking Greek
  15. Aramaic Context – if whole context suggests parties speaking Aramaic
  16. Textual Variance – the more invariable a tradition, the more historical
  17. Discourse Features – if J’s speeches cohere in style but differ fr. surrounding text

In his chapter in the collection Sources of the Jesus Tradition, Richard shows how these criteria cannot hold up to logical scrutiny.  In this PDF, however, he only addresses a few to show the value of Bayes Theorem as a tool by which historians can determine whether their arguments are as strong as they think they are.

His second paper is on the twelve axioms of historical method.  He writes:

Though the following axioms pertain specifically to the theories and work discussed in my book On the Historicity of Jesus Christ, they apply generally to all historical inquiry. These twelve axioms represent the epistemological foundation of rational-empirical history.

To which he clarifies:

For the epistemology underlying these axioms and the concepts and assumptions within them, see my book Sense and Goodness without God (esp. pp. 21-62 and pp. 211-52) and my essay “Epistemological End Game” (29 November 2006) at I further discuss the epistemology of history in my essay “Experimental History” (28 June 2007) at

Richard also reminds us of the value of using formal logic in historical studies:

Proper historical argument consists of seeking this growth of consensus, and entails everything this requires (diplomatically, rhetorically, and procedurally—hence the purpose of peer review, and my recommended twelve rules below). This process cannot be bypassed, as specialists in a field are the most qualified to assess an argument in that field, so if they cannot be persuaded, no one should be (unless their resistance can be proven, not merely assumed, to have other motives than truth-seeking). Conversely, if they are persuaded, everyone else has a very compelling reason to agree (unless, again, their acceptance can be proven, not merely assumed, to have other motives than truth-seeking). This is the social function and purpose of having such experts and specialists in the first place.

These papers are highly recommended and will get some level of prominence on the forthcoming page.  I would like to note that Richard’s position on the historical figure of Jesus is one of agnosticism and, as far as I am concerned, the most appropriate.  However, that does not mean that a historical Jesus scholar can’t use Bayes Theorem and develop an argument which is sound for the historicity of the figure of Jesus, that is to say, it is possible that, using Bayes, Jesus’ historicity can be established.  As of this time, however, it has not been done.

Calvin on Snow Days: Perfect for Days Like Today

New (to me) Source on the Historical Jesus

I was Googling a bit today and came across UPenn’s category search for the historical figure of Jesus.  It looks to be quite extensive with what appears to be the majority of it available online.  I do not have the time at the moment to browse the site and give it the devotion it seems to deserve, but I thought it pertinent to announce nonetheless.   I think I might need to dedicate a page on my blog to useful links regarding the discussion of the historical figure of Jesus…

How Jim West Spent Snow-Days as a Child


I’m probably finding this relatively late.  But, hilarious…

The US Should Cease Giving Aid to Israel

I completely agree with Jim West.  Read the post:

The time has come for the US to stop giving $3,000,000,000 a year in military aid to Israel.   And I’m not the only one who thinks so.

That’s right- America is underwriting an illegal occupation.  Giving aid to Israel in order for Israel to continue to oppress the Palestinians is immoral.  Your tax dollars are being used for an immoral and unethical program and purpose.  You should say something about it to your Congressman and let the voice of justice and equality and fairness be heard just as loudly as the voice of Christian Zionists and their Congressional lackeys.

The US Should Cease Giving Aid to Israel.

Jewish Worship, Pagan Symbols: Zodiac Mosaics in Ancient Synagogues

I usually don’t promote much from BAR, but this article is quite interesting and falls in line with certain subjects I discuss on this blog!  Walter Zanger talks about Jewish synagogues and pagan symbols, notably the zodiac.

Ein Harod is a spring that rises in the valley of Jezreel at the foot of Mt. Gilboa. Gideon gathered his men there to sort out the good soldiers from the bad ones (Judges 7). From the pool, the spring makes its weary and meandering way east down the valley for some 18 km, passing through Beth-Shean to empty into the Jordan River.

A thousand years of neglect had resulted in a valley full of silted and blocked-up waterways creating a marshy and swampy landscape as the spring of Harod—and half a dozen other springs that empty into it—filled the land with water faster than the natural outlets—now blocked—could drain it.

The middle square, the first to be uncovered, was the most spectacular. Figures of four women were at the four corners, with inscriptions (in Hebrew) identifying each as a season of the year. Inside the square was a wheel, 3.12 meters in diameter, with a smaller circle (1.2 m) in its center. The wheel was divided into 12 panels, each with a figure and a name identifying it as a sign of the zodiac. And in the center, a man was pictured driving a quadriga (four-horse chariot) through the moon and stars. Rays of the sun were coming out of his head; it was clear that he was Helios, god of the sun.

via Jewish Worship, Pagan Symbols: Zodiac mosaics in ancient synagogues by Walter Zanger – Biblical Archaeology Review.

Quite an enjoyable piece!  H/T to James McGrath on Facebook.

Is Passing the Impasse Too Impossible?

Jim West asks:

What’s intriguing to me is that no matter how far we seem to proceed in the discipline of historical methodology, we’re constantly brought back to the core issue which seems to be, the biblical text either is or isn’t ‘history’ (with all manner of variation along that spectrum). Is there a way past this impasse?

via From the Introductory Chapter of ‘From Conquest to Coexistence’ « Zwinglius Redivivus.

I think this is interesting for a lot of reasons.  First, I cover this in the introduction and first chapter of my book Of Men and Muses (currently undergoing revisions for a new edition, forthcoming); I believe the problem is that historical critical questions are not asked correctly, that is to say, they are too narrowed in their objectives.  Historical critical methods are, as part of their very nature, based not in retrieval (the interest of the author to his readers) but in Hegelian-esque interpretation (to assume a core historical event then seek to discover what that event is).

In order to push beyond this impasse, the historical critical method, still an important part of scholarship, should be employed only after one can determine the value the text has, theologically and culturally.  Only after the narrative function of a text is understood, the value, historically, can be understood.

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