Defining Mythicism: Explaining ‘Jesus Possibilianism’

Recently I have become acquainted with the concept of Possibilianism (and I think it best represents what I am now).  But not only does it fit me epistemologically, but I think it fits my position on the figure of Jesus as well.  Steven Carr has asked (I think, since at times it is difficult to get at his meaning) about my agnosticism, as if I am suggesting I sort of just sit on the fence about it.  And that isn’t necessarily my position at all, as I do not just throw my hands up in the air and say, sighing, “Well, I guess my job is done now since I don’t have a specific definitive position on historicity.”  But I was wont to explain it in more detail as I hadn’t quite had an opportunity to weigh out what exactly my position was.  Thankfully, it seems Possibilianism has proven to be quite useful.  I’d like then to propose a new term for your consideration and one I’d like to become accepted within the community, Jesus Possibilianism.  Essentially, as it should be defined:

Jesus Possibilianism: (noun) The position that, while not accepting current trends in mythicism (or as I call it, Zeitgeist Mythicism) nor aligning oneself with the theistic epistemological positions on Jesus, refuses to take any hardline approach on historicity (that is, not accepting nor denying affirmitively historicity) while actively engaging in attempting to discover (through academic pursuits) the reality of the multiple positions on the figure of Jesus as they are today, were in the past (both distant and near), and will be in the future (through meme theory).

That is to say, while I doubt historicity, I still seek to determine the value of historicity and do not refuse the possibility, as I recognize the limitations of the evidence and the differences in interpretation which can be as valid (or more valid, in some instances) as those produced by those who call themselves mythicists.


Hot off the Press: Biblioblog Reference Library Updates!

According to Steve Caruso, the Biblioblog Reference Library has some exciting updates ahead.  First the announcement of a new version (Beta 3) going live:

Once this goes live, you will have the ability to create a Library ID, which opens up a large number of new features, among them being:

  • The ability to build a public profile for yourself and your academic work.
  • Link that profile to author names and blogs in the archive by claiming them.
  • Customize what claimed blogs and author accounts display on their information pages and how often the Archivist software checks for updates.
  • Create, organize, and share lists of posts (“portals”) of your own.
  • Contribute to specific portals by setting up unique tags.

It’s going to be awesome, and I hope to have it up to use by the end of this month, and fully functional by the end of September.

The Biblioblog Reference Library | Biblioblog Library Anouncements: New Version, New Journal, New Press.

Then the announcement comes after a long wait: The Ephemeris Bibliablogarum! What is this you ask?  It’s the new Biblioblog Journal!  The first of its kind–that I know if–for an online Blog community.

With all of the well-written articles and so much talk about a journal over the past number of years, we’re actually going to do it. The peer review system is going to be fully integrated with Beta 3 of the Library, and will have a bunch of spiffy features that will be revealed over the next month as well, so keep watching this space. It will be published in both traditional paper and digital open-access (via a special section of the website).

And last but not least, a Biblioblog publishing house to look after the Journal!

With a journal, there should be a publishing house to look after it, and The Biblioblog Reference Library Press will fill that role. With a strong peer review and editing process, the Press will publish titles in the Humanities that fall in and around Biblical Studies as a field in both traditional paper and digital formats (Kindle, Nook, iBooks, etc.).

Not everyone in the community will approve, some may worry, others may ponder the implications (as I have done in the past), but none the less, I will be participating.  This is quite exciting news indeed.

Alert the Press! Real Academics Don’t use Facebook or Blog!

According to Elkington (bold and italicized), who we all know is the erudite, scholarly fellow (/sarcasm):

Regarding the omission of academic postings on this site, it was set up to release news into the public sphere (due to significant demand) and not as an academic forum (real academics tend not to use Facebook and are not bloggers! – They respectably keep their counsel, which is why they haven’t participated directly on this site, although they support it).

Someone better alert Bob Cargill, James Crossley, Jim West, Dan McClellan, David Meadows, James McGrath, James Tabor, Mark Goodacre, and many, many others (too many to list)!  Apparently, Elkington feels that Real Academics™ are defined as those people who make sweeping claims and broad accusations behind a pseudonym on a Facebook page (which is exactly what he’s been doing).  This is just as classic as the time he said that Thonemann wasn’t a real Biblical scholar!  He continues on with his ignorant comment:

It takes numerous top level academics to arrive at a reasonable conclusion: not only to translate the text, but to put it into contextual meaning, taking into consideration the cultural, theological and political situation of the time. Some of the direct translation that has already been done would be very open to literalists to have a field day; however, when put into proper context, is exciting, as it largely supports the gospels (what has been translated and contextualized thus far, which isn’t a huge amount – this will take years of study). As you have probably seen from the widespread criticism out there – based on VERY LITTLE information, you can imagine the furore if we let any Tom, Dick or Harry offer their opinion. Of course everyone has a right to their views and opinions; however, we believe that it is the responsible thing to do to let the appropriately skilled individuals put their research out there first – we owe it to the public. Most of what has been published out there by the bloggers has been way off the mark and based on so little given out.

Spoken like a truly naive person.  Of course those who are criticizing the validity and authenticity of these codices are those who have backgrounds in the subject are also top notch scholars (I am not sure what ‘top level academics’ are–does Elkington think this is a game of WoW?  What an absolutely ludicrous thing to say).  Even those who used to initially accept them as ancient have since turned their backs on the idea, or at least expressed a large amount of skepticism towards their antiquity, like Philip Davies.  Like a child pouting in the corner when given a time-out, Elkington is showing everyone his last-ditch effort to establish credibility by stomping is foot, whining, and making faces at his critics rather than engaging them intellectually.

H/T to Dan McClellan for alerting me to this.

Lead Codices Updates: Evidence of Lifted Script from coins and Additional Updates from Dan McClellan

Steve Caruso made a breakthrough today with this image:

He writes:

Going on the coin inscription lead, I came across a sequence of characters lifted nonsensically from the prutot of John Hyrcanus I (135-104 BC).

via The Aramaic Blog: Lead Codices: Sequence Lifted From John Hyrcanus I Prutah.

Also Dan McClellan made this note as well:

It reads as follows with the Facebook admin’s reading:

. . . לגלשאגתלאלגלגבשאגתל . . .
. . . מבתבלאגתלגשבתבלאגתבב . . .
. . . מסרשאלגבבמסרשאלגת . . .

A small collection of letters are simply being nonsensically repeated (with the occasional accidental word appearing). It is difficult to make out in the photo above because of the blurring, but the first roughly half of the bottom three lines are repeated in exactly the same shape and orientation in the second half of the text. Whatever mold or die was used to create the first half of each of the three lines was simply used again for the second half. Philip Davies’ recent PEQ editorial, available for free here, mentions this repetition and calls the lettering “mostly purely decorative.” This rather conflicts with Elkington’s claim to have the world’s top paleo-Hebrew mind reaching a breakthrough in translation (unless, of course, Elkington doesn’t think Davies is one of the five who can read it!).

via A Preliminary Translation of the Jordan Codices is Offered « Daniel O. McClellan.

He also notes earlier today of the dishonesty of the Elkingtons on their Facebook page:

The admin in charge of the Jordan Codices Facebook group has posted four pictures from what it claims are forensic tests of the codices. He states:

This set of photographs are some examples we took during our forensic work on the codices.

It’s my contention that the photos show no such thing. These are publicity photos taken by Elkington himself (or associates) and passed off as scientific.

In the first photo, the vast majority of the codex has been obscured by the portion of torn-off loose leaf notebook paper. What value does this photo have for a researcher? Absolutely none. In the lower picture a smaller piece of loose leaf notebook paper has been torn off to allow for the visibility of the tree image (and the numbering system is different). This is simply not how artifacts are photographed by professionals. Elkington is obscuring those parts of the codices that have text on them so that people who have the ability to analyze the texts for themselves cannot do so. He wants you to see the tree, though, since it’s pretty and it cannot be shown to be unintelligible.

If there is anyone out there who believes these to be authentic or genuinely ancient, they are either deluding themselves or in on the scam.

A Preliminary Translation of the Jordan Codices is Offered « Daniel O. McClellan

Dan McClellan offers us a very important clue in the discussion of the lead codices.  Here is a snippet:

A small collection of letters are simply being nonsensically repeated (with the occasional accidental word appearing). It is difficult to make out in the photo above because of the blurring, but the first roughly half of the bottom three lines are repeated in exactly the same shape and orientation in the second half of the text. Whatever mold or die was used to create the first half of each of the three lines was simply used again for the second half. Philip Davies’ recent PEQ editorial, available for free here, mentions this repetition and calls the lettering “mostly purely decorative.” This rather conflicts with Elkington’s claim to have the world’s top paleo-Hebrew mind reaching a breakthrough in translation (unless, of course, Elkington doesn’t think Davies is one of the five who can read it!).

via A Preliminary Translation of the Jordan Codices is Offered « Daniel O. McClellan.

Evolution: The Threat to Christianity

I can understand this journalist’s perspective.  I thought this was a very astute observation:

So-called “reality TV” has done the world a grave disservice. I don’t just mean because the vast majority of such programs are mind-numbingly tedious, but because they have given people the idea that reality is something that can be decided by popular vote.

And again:

Evolution poses a further threat to Christianity, though, a threat that goes to the very heart of Christian teaching. Evolution means that the creation accounts in the first two chapters of Genesis are wrong. That’s not how humans came into being, nor the cattle, nor the creeping things, nor the beasts of the earth, nor the fowl of the air. Evolution could not have produced a single mother and father of all future humans, so there was no Adam and no Eve. No Adam and Eve: no fall. No fall: no need for redemption. No need for redemption: no need for a redeemer. No need for a redeemer: no need for the crucifixion or the resurrection, and no need to believe in that redeemer in order to gain eternal life. And not the slightest reason to believe in eternal life in the first place.

via Evolution threatens Christianity – On Faith – The Washington Post.

I think overall her article was snarky; there are more cordial ways of getting your point across.  Still, the article is interesting and should be read.  You are welcome to disagree, but she is correct that evolution is indeed a fact.  It’s a shame that so many people have been duped by creationists and certain evangelical apologists into believing otherwise.  But belief alone does not make it so.  Evidence is the key.  And evidence is what we have.  Tons of it, in point of fact.  To say otherwise is to show ignorance.  And as the journalist remarks:

Remember that ‘ignorance’ is not an insult, but merely a term for ‘lack of knowledge’. Many of the people who protest so vociferously against the teaching of evolution do not understand how overwhelmingly strong the evidence for it is; and many of those who proclaim “But it’s only a theory” do not understand that the scientific and everyday usages of the word ‘theory’ are very different.

Everyone is welcome to their own opinion, but don’t assume that your opinion will dislodge fact.  Believe what you want, though, because that is also a choice you make, and you are welcome to believe or accept whatever you want.  Just don’t pretend to be able to influence our education system to fit your ignorant opinions.  There is a definite correlation between the 62% of people in this country who do not accept Evolution as it is and the failures of science education in our country.  I don’t allow people who believe in elves to demand changes to our commerce laws to account for the needs of elves; don’t think for a second I’m going to allow your belief in a fictional (but theologically rich) creation story to mess with the education system.

Searching for Muses: VA Earthquake a Biblical Sign

Yes, someone searched for this earlier:

is virginia earthquake a biblical sign

O ye dilettantes!  No, no the VA earthquake is not a Biblical sign.  Please, for the love of Pete, stop thinking that everything that happens to the planet is a Biblical sign.  It isn’t.

Quake in Virginia Rocks East Coast

Crazy…we felt it in PA too…

A 5.9 magnitude earthquake centered northwest of Richmond, Va., shook much of Washington, D.C., and was felt as far north as Rhode Island and New York City.

The quake sent hundreds of people spilling into the street a block from the White House, with other buildings evacuated in North Carolina and tremors felt as far away as New York City.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake was 3.7 miles deep. Shaking was felt at the White House and all over the East Coast, as far south as Chapel Hill, N.C. Parts of the Pentagon, White House and Capitol were evacuated. The quake was in Mineral, Va., in Louisa County.

via Quake Rocks Washington Area, Felt on East Coast – ABC News.

Jordan Lead Codices: Case Closed as “Genuine” Forgeries?

And so we are once again brought back to these codices.  Elkington and company will not stop pretending, it seems.  This time they might have unintentionally admitted to their forgeries:

Approximately two months ago, Hassan Saida, the Israeli Bedouin who smuggled the Jordan Codices into Israel, telephoned to inform the team that he and his cohorts had made 500 forgeries of various of the codices and put them into the Jerusalem market.   We didn’t think too much of it as he tells lots of tales; however, one of team members was sent these two photographs by someone who purchased them in Israel. To those who have seen the real McCoy, these were obvious forgeries.   However, even comparing them to the posted photographs, the difference is all too apparent.   Below are some observations made by one of the metal experts assisting the team.  We expect more will materialise in due course.

Steve Caruso notes:

Interesting thing about the above image that came with the release: If it is based off one of the codices, it does not resemble any of the codices released thusfar. At first glance, this one is in a much more obvious Hebrew/Aramaic-flavored script rather than the seemingly “Paleo-Hebrew/Aramaic/Coptic” mix of the others. (Something that their “metal expert” noticed as well. I wish I had a name to put to their words.)

via The Aramaic Blog: Lead Codices: “Genuine” Forgeries?.

And Joel Watts:

David Elkington is not letting this die – as now the Bedouin who first smuggled out the ‘Lead Codices’ is telling everyone that he has created 500 forgeries. Of course, the ‘real’ lead codices is what David has… Do you know the mental mind-flips it takes to state that that guy who is telling everyone that he has made 500 forgeries is now lying and that your copy is the only real copy?

Jim Davila aptly notes:

I think the evidence presented so far is adequately explained by positing that someone in modern times made the fake metal codices, apparently using ancient metal, at least for some of them. If anyone wants to demonstrate that among the now admitted sea of fakes is a genuine ancient inscription, I refer them to my list of conditions that need to be fulfilled here. Take your time, but don’t expect me to hold my breath.

Dan McClellan writes:

Is this an attempt to account for the exposure of other codices as modern forgeries? If so, it falls well, well short of explaining the numerous genetic relationships shared between the script and iconography of the Thonemann codices and the others being promoted as genuine (see my discussion here and here). It also produces a rather unique codex that has little relationship to the other demonstrable forgeries. I can’t say the “team” involved in the promulgation of this hoax is impressing me with their craftiness.

In truth, this seems to me like a part of the bigger lie here.  What better way to validate your claims that these aren’t forgeries than to release real forgeries?  As if to say, “See?  These are the actual forgeries, and we are so incompetent we created terrible forgeries, so these others must be real!” or something to that effect.  In the end, however, Elkington and company have only revealed their hand: they have admitted to having the means and the shop to fabricate, and in a short amount of time, lead codices.  Just because this batch turned out to be crappier than their earlier versions does not make the originals any more authentic or ‘genuine’ than the 500 they admit are forgeries.  The only thing it means is that their workshop has not yet been discovered and they have not yet been held accountable for their lies.

UPDATE (8/23/11, 11:49AM EST):

The Facebook page for the codices has uploaded a new image of a fake:

Just from an initial glance, the iconography on this admitted forgery is identical to the iconography on the ‘genuine’ codices.  That is to say, the same stamps were clearly used.  The menorah, the Bar Kokhba imagery from coins, the palm tree, even the script, is clearly the same.  This further validates my position that the original ‘genuine’ codices were produced by he same shop which replicated these 500 fakes.

See this image from this front tablet:

This is clearly seen in other tablets.  See the same image from this post a few months ago:

Steve Caruso made this animated image of the “fake” codex image over the “original” codex image, and as you can see, the two are identical:

Even the lettering around the stamp is the same (because the script is part of the stamp).  This seals it then, so to speak.  These are fakes and so are the ‘originals’.

Also the interested reader should check out the dedicated page at the Biblioblog Reference Library here.

UPDATE (8/23/11, 4:35PM EST):

Steve Caruso and Dan McClellan were removed from the Jordan Codices Facebook page; both were politely inquiring about the codices in the images and clearly were censored by a nervous hand.  In other news relating to Elkington, the conman himself went on the air today and made some extremely dilettantish comments, showing one and all how little he really knows or, conversely, how good of a liar he is (transcript courtesy of Dan McClellan):

For those of you who didn’t listen to Elkington’s interview on that Coast to Coast radio show, I went ahead and transcribed a couple minutes of it that I found particularly ludicrous (specifically 13:51 – 15:31):

–       Elkington: Um, we, we’re–we’re–we’re performing more analysis now on the translation and the decipherment of the language. A lot of people have said, “Oh, I’ve seen these things on the web, the, uh, language is–is–is–it’s gibberish; it–it makes no sense. It’s a very odd form of Aramaic.” Well, um, actually the news is this: it isn’t Aramaic. The script is a square script, which means it’s Hebrew, and the form of Hebrew that it is, is called paleo-Hebrew, which is very, very ancient indeed, and there are only four or five people in the world who are familiar with it. And we’re working with one of those, uh, professors at the moment, who thinks he’s on the edge of a breakthrough with the language.

–       Interviewer: Wow.

–       Elkington: Some of it’s translatable, but a lot of it is still yet to be, uh, deciphered.

–       Interviewer: Ok, but paleo-Hebrew would date to a specific time that would, at least in my understanding, would come a long time before–before Christ and the Hebrew of the–of the first century as we­–as we know it. Is that not true?

–       Elkington: Yeah, that’s very true. That’s a very astute observation, if I may say so. Um, the use of paleo-Hebrew is extraordinary. It would be rather like you and I using Latin today.

–       Interviewer: Right, exactly.

–       Elkington: It would really make no sense to the large majority of people; but what, actually, it shows, is paleo-Hebrew may well have been the language of Moses, um, Moses on the mountain collecting the ten commandments. So, therefore, the use of it states that it really is like an official temple language, and that they’re using the original words of God, which makes this all the more extraordinary.
But Elkington is quite wrong and rather ignorant.  Let’s break this down a bit.  First, the paleo-Hebrew script is not necessarily that ancient.   For example, such script was used on coins during the Bar Kokbha rebellion (132-135 CE) on coins:

You’ll note, as I have, and Dan McClellan has, and Steve Caruso has, that the script on this coin is identical in many instances to the script on the codices.  In addition, there are other possible types of script as well.  It seems like Coptic (and above), Greek, and possibly other ancient scripts are also on many of these codices.  And there are a lot of scholars out there who are familiar paleo-Hebrew.  Even none-scholars, like educated amateurs, with an adequate grasp of the subject, can translate it.
Dan McClellan remarks (echoing my comments above):
First, scholars have been pointing out it seems to be a meaningless mixture and adaptation of scripts, not just that it is “a very odd form of Aramaic.” Next, a “square script” does not indicate Hebrew, and his claim that the script is paleo-Hebrew actually precludes it being a “square script.” Next, there are far, far more than four or five people in the world who are familiar with paleo-Hebrew. This is the most stunning and flagrant lie of the entire interview. Further, though, the use of paleo-Hebrew actually does not indicate antiquity, since paleo-Hebrew is actually a comparatively modern adaptation of the Old Hebrew script used specifically in texts considered particularly sacred or important. Multiple manuscripts from the Dead Sea Scrolls were written entirely in paleo-Hebrew, and the Tetragrammaton appears in several regular manuscripts in paleo-Hebrew.
Finally, David Meadows takes note with the recent (anonymous) metallurgical testing done on the codices and found this gem:
This in turn suggests that the lead has been re-melted and could well contain a mixture of lead from different sources together with lead from the copper alloy.  In contrast, the lead from the wire has overall much lower levels of impurities, with copper at only 100 ppm, and is much more likely to have come virtually direct from an ingot.
To which Meadows points out:
Later mention is made of the recycled nature of the lead in the sheets … that’s one point that needs to be mentioned if it hasn’t already.
At this point there can be no more disagreement.  These need to be called out for the fakes that they are.
Additional links:
UPDATE (8/27/11; 6:26PM EST):
I have posted up some new finds from Steve Caruso and Dan McClellan here!  Take a look, as it may just be the final nail in the coffin on these codices.
UPDATE (8/30/11; 1:30PM EST)
Steve Caruso and Dan McClellan have posted up some great material today, absolutely fascinating, and it must be shared.
First, Steve Caruso posted up defining evidence that the script on the codices come from the same stamps.  Here are his images:
And this stamps appearance on other codices:
Steve aptly notes:
We can see that in some of the larger plates that they are staggered in such a way to look like a unique sequence of text. This staggered pattern directly demonstrates that there is no attempt to preserve word order of the text itself. To do so, one would have to wrap each individual line until the sequence of characters was complete and this is how it appears on genuine inscriptions, no matter how messy, as it is the recording of the semantic content that is the focus of the exercise.Because of this regularity and pattern, it demonstrates that the “stamps” are the casting unit rather than the “text” itself that is in them.

Go read it all to see the other interesting things he says and more examples of the script!
Dan also posted an excellent blog today with fun images which, again, show quite definitively that we’re looking at fakes.  Dan tracked down the coin which the face of Alexander the Great appears (and is also a known fake–go figure!):
Dan writes:
The use of a number of stamps has been suggested in the past based on the frequent repetition of the menorah, the two different styles of trees, etc. See also the two different versions of the “Christ” face…
You can see the mold was manipulated somewhat after the stamp impression was made and before the casting was done. The images are not identical, but come from the same stamp. I cannot agree that this impression comes from a Mona Lisa image, though. This would require the forger created a three dimensional copy of the Mona Lisa image for the stamp. It would have been much easier to us an existing stamp image, and the helios coins are obviously the closest match (although I have not found an exact match). In the copper codex that was falsified by Peter Thonemann the stamps were just fake ancient coins. Earlier Robert Deutsch felt he identified the exact fake for the chariot scene…
Definitely check out what both Dan and Steve have to say.  Again, I reiterate my statement earlier.  There can be no doubts left against the conclusion that these codices are fakes.
Finally, check out the recent ignorant comments left by Elkington, the man who is pushing these fakes as the real deal.

Searching for Muses: Ninjas and James McGrath

Hmmm… so someone found my blog today by searching:

james mcgrath ninja girlfriend

Is there something our friend James isn’t telling us?

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