Monday, October 31, 2011

Real Christianity is not mere Anti-Judaism

I hold the following to be a self-evident truth:

ANY religion which, for its own fundamental self-identity,
depends upon the villainizing of another prior religion,
is an utterly artificial and false religion.

I give the following three obvious, artificial, and ultimately harmful examples as proof of this statement:

(1) The Recent 'Witchcraft'/Wicca Pagan Revival.
(1800-2000 A.D.)

Here, (a) there was another early Persecution by Christians of Pagan religions during the Byzantine Empire (330-1200 A.D.). (b) This was followed by a Crusade against the East, and (c) finally a large-scale Inquisition against heresy and 'witchcraft', including pogroms, and culminating in torture and execution.

This was finally quite clearly seen as a fundamental failure and injustice, brought on by ignorance, superstition, deep-rooted corruption, and abuse of power. As a result, we had a necessary religious Reformation, and the birth of modern democracy and science, with a corrective separation of Church and State.

Unfortunately, as a backlash and reaction to such extreme injustices and moral failure, we also had a resurgence of alternative superstitions. What had been mostly fictional nonsense about 'witches' and 'secret pagan rites', concocted by authorities from absurd 'confessions' in order to secure convictions and confiscate property, was given undeserved credibility and authenticity, and was believed by the gullible to have religious value.

As a result, a "Revival' of Witchcraft and 'Wicca' lore and superstition was born, which however was for the most part entirely unauthentic, and based on fiction and imagination, in part driven by profiteering from the ignorance of the gullible. A whole 'religion' was formed based on a kind of "Anti-Christianity", in which Christianity was villainized and whereby a 'Wicca culture' was created which defined itself more by being 'anti-Christian' than by being authentically Pagan.

(2) The Islamic 'Religion' (620-2000 A.D.)

Again, a 'religion' based largely upon plagarism of Judaism and other Middle-Eastern beliefs and tribal practices, was created in order to secure a power-base for a military-style ideological dictatorship with an entrenched hereditary "theocracy" whose rule was based upon a fixed set of legal practices and judicial guidelines.

The fact that the political motivation for "Islam" comes largely from the persecution and violence against another neighboring religion (Judaism) is a sure sign of a basic artificiality and an unsustainable approach to religion.

If Islam were authentic it would not need a perpetual caricature of an 'evil villain-race' or tribe to battle against, especially when that group is an obvious religious minority and of little significance to most of the world.

(3) European "Christianity" (1200-2000 A.D.)

Again we have a supposed 'religion' defining itself by the imagined or perceived necessity of a 'common enemy', "the Jews", a supposed conspiracy of 'anti-Christs' perpetually at war with the 'Church', the "true Israel" of faith.

All of this posturing is specifically framed in order to appropriate the supposed 'promises' to Israel given by the God of the Bible. The new Church substitutes itself for the "Israel" of old, indiscriminately and ahistorically applying all statements, claims, prophecies, promises, and covenants to itself, regardless of historical truth or circumstances behind the original documents.

Such an artificial version of 'Christianity' perpetuates a caste-system in which groups of ethnic and religious people (i.e., historical descendants and/or converts to another religion, Judaism) are assigned a second-class status based on a Spiritual and moral ranking, under the rubric "the Jews".

This status is maintained in order to define a form of 'Christianity' which can claim a superior religious and Spiritual status over and against its own Spiritual heritage and roots.

Unfortunately, this ideology works out in practical terms as very real and unjust persecution of an ethnic group, with economic and judicial hardships imposed, even to the point of a historical genocidal Holocaust.

In fact however, this artifical version of 'Christianity' is fundamentally flawed on two blatant points, both involving historical fact:

(a) The bulk of O.T. description, prophecy, promise and covenant was historically given to Israelites (i.e., "the Jews"), not the modern 'Church'. This is a simple historical fact, beyond dispute, if the O.T. documents are properly recognized as accurate, authoritative historical documents.

(b) The bulk of modern "Jews" do not at all conform to the simplistic, false caricature projected upon them by this artificial and historically false version of 'Christianity'.

Most modern "Jews" are not religious
, and those who practice their religion do not base it upon an active persecution of those styling themselves "Christians". Although Judaism itself is a religion which has changed and evolved, and is now based on practices developed in a post-Christian world, it is still an older religion, and does not define itself in terms of another religion, especially as a religion which is "against Christianity". This is nonsense.

Most modern "Jews" intermarry with other religious and ethnic groups, and although they maintain a strong sense of identity and community, they are not a xenophobic or racist organization. As a result of obvioius historical persecution, the Jewish community does not actively proselytize or seek converts, but neither does it turn them away. Nor do most Jews single out Christianity as an 'enemy', or seek to divert or corrupt Christians and turn them into Jews.

What we see in all three historical examples above, is an artificial and even pathetic attempt by religious groups to make themselves distinct from others, largely at the expense of some minority of a usually already historically marginalized class.

What all three examples also have in common, is not just the targeting of "others" generally, but the active and conscious selection of a specific group to put down and persecute in order to build up themselves.

Friday, October 28, 2011

How young girls are lured into prostitution (3)

How Old are Prostitution Rings that infiltrate the Christian Churches,
and disguise themselves as "Christian" groups?

Incredibly, this technique was used by a powerful group in the early 300's!

I quote here from the introduction to The Text of the Apostolos in Epiphanius of Salamis. (c.330 A.D.) , by Carroll D. Osburn, p. 3 (SBL, 2004):

"During these years in Egypt, Epiphanius' Nicene orientation was challenged by ideas that he viewed later as "poisonous snakes". One important threat came from a sexually oriented group that he later termed "Gnostics" [13]. In his response to this threat, Epiphanius demonstrated the zeal for unmasking error that became characteristic of his later life [14].
'With impudent boldness moreover, they tried to seduce me themselves...I was pitied and rescued by my groaning to God.... Now the women who taught this trivial myth were very lovely to look at, but in their wicked minds they had all the devil's ugliness. ... I lost no time reporting them to the bishops there, and finding out which ones were hidden in the Church. They were expelled from the city, about 80 of them.'
Athanasius returned to Egypt after the Council of Nicea and had a good reception in pro-Nicene monastic circles that were loyal to himself and Alexander, his anti-Arian predecessor. In this pro-Nicene monastic environment, Epiphanius' anti-Arian views were strengthened."
13. See Pourkier, L'heresiologie chez Epiphane de Salamine, 30-32; and Bentley Layton, "The Riddle of th Thunder", in Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism, and Early Christianity (ed. C. Hedrick and R. Hodgson; Peabody, Mass.: Hendricson, 1986), 52.

14. Epihanius, Panarion Haereses 26.17.4-9.

(- Osburn, The Text...p. 3 fwd)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

How young girls are lured into prostitution (2)

In this second post, I'm examining the mechanics of how cult leaders and brainwashing experts program and control their naive victims.


In particular, I'd like to focus on the technique the predator has used in the first (previous) Example.

Just look at some of the power-techniques: There are so many, and together they are almost overwhelming to a young mind. Every objection and question has already been answered and removed:

(1) The use of flattery, through identification of the whoring acts with Jesus, 'Godly action' and therefore the whole enterprise being justified:
"you're like the Lord..." (p. 2) "If they fall in love with you first before they find out its the Lord...", the girl is "irresistable", (p. 3)

Well, its not "the Lord", but rather a naive teen being used to lure suckers into a prostitution/exploitation ring. She is only 'irresistable' to a fool who can't keep his sexual organ in his pants.

(2) Substitution of Meaning: "in love with you" (p. 3) (as opposed to what is really going on, i.e., sexual stimulation, infatuation, lust, and enticement to sex.)

(3) Use of 'religious' language ("thy", "thee", "thou", vocative address to "God") (p.3 etc.) "these three become one" (p. 5) to give bogus authority and religiosity to the lies.

(4) Encouragement of magical thinking and fantasizing to help remove natural fear of wrongdoing and to help rationalize away sin:
"In the early morning hours came the following prophecy: ..." (p. 2) What is described is however, not prophecy at all, but fantasizing. The kind of 'hearing voices' etc. that Pentecostals regularly engage in, which again grants false legitimacy to the speech.

(5) Affirmation of 'Empowerment' fantasy, in which it is pretended that the exploited teen girl is really "in control" and has secret knowledge of the situation, making her believe she is superior to the other exploited victim. "but they don't know it!" (p.2)

(6) Suggestion of alternate interpretations of emotional experience. Romanticizing, portraying the girl as a 'hero'... "unashamed", "brazen" (p. 4)

(7) Inclusive language, suggesting participation in 'will of God' etc. "we don't want to lose - not one, Lord!" Obvious attempted grouping with God and His will.

(8) Appeal to Ego, and self-image, esteem-building speech: "you've got something they've been searching for all their lives" (p 2) "each of them seek after her, dream of her, drink of her!" (p 4)

(9) Description of act as heroic, charitable, self-less, honorable: "unselfish love" (p.2) , "thy love and mercy" (p. 3) "through thy death to thyself" (p.4)

(10) Description of misgivings as a sin: "You must not let self and pride enter in" (p 2)

(11) Encouragement to abandon misgivings or inhibitions, and especially to ignore good advice from the men being lured: "so interested in them that you don't care what they think about you." (p. 2) she is "to use anything she has..." (p.4) "yield thyself!" (p. 6)

(12) Comparison to and Equated with Apostles - "I will make you fishers of men" (p. 8).

(13) Promise of Divine Protection: "but he cannot consume thee" (p. 5) "they shall not hurt thee", "I shall save thy soul from destruction" (p.6) "Thou shalt escape, I promise thee!" (p. 7)

(14) Demand for Complete Devotion: "Would you do anything for Jesus?" (p. 8)

(15) Claim of Complete Power: "Only I, the fisherman can remove the hook", "Neither shall he remove it forever!" (p. 5) "I shall catch them all!" (p.7)

(16) Equating trickery and prostitution with the Cross of Christ: "to suffer the crucifixion of the hook"

(17) Making trickery and whoring a universally acceptable action: "May God help us all to be flirty little fishes for Jesus", "be sure you use the right bait for the right fish!" (p. 8)

(18) Assigning God's Authority to Leader: "David is My Master Fisherman" (p. 7) "David your father" (p. 2)

(19) Speaking in the Name of God: "the words that I have given to David your father", (p. 2) "I shall open his jaws" (p. 5)

(20) Switching in and out of God's voice and the Leader's voice: "not one, Lord!", (p.3) "anything she has, O God..." "My kiss of life" (p.4) "My love" "the hook of My Spirit" (p. 5)

(21) Switching grammatical 'person' of leader's voice: "David will never leave thee" [David speaking!] (p. 7) This adds to the blurring and confusion of God with Leader.

(22) Application of 'guilt' to possible shortcomings: "Are you skillfully, patiently fishing for men?" (p.8)

(23) Repeated request to carry out task: "are you willing?" (p. 8 etc. repeatedly)

(24) Granting Superpowers to Requested Action: "a lost soul that we don't want to lose" (p. 3) "to catch men for God", "to kiss many with My kiss of Life", "Thou shalt bring life to many" (p.4) "he is safely within My net" (p.5) "catch many for My kingdom" (p. 6)

(25) Divine Promises: "I shall give thee light" (p. 6)

(26) Heartbreak as a Consequence Disallowed: "Why shedest thou these tears before Me?" (p.7)

(27) Absurd Promises: "The bait and the fish become one flesh, both on the hook of My Spirit" (p. 5) Here the whoring is given Divine sanction, marriage status, and an eternal value by the leader encouraging the whoring.

Its surprising just how many different techniques and angles have been worked into this short but powerfully contrived brainwashing pamphlet.

One of the main reasons that so many pastors are uncomfortable with a careful examination of the methods of cults, is that many Christian churches, organizations, and groups also use the same fraudulent methods.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How young girls are lured into prostitution

Young people today are brainwashed and exploited to such a degree that their programmed core values are so distant from those of their own parents as to make them complete strangers.   It is a dangerous development has created a toxic environment for both children and parents.

One of the ways this is achieved is through a constant substitution of meaning for common words.  It results in statements and sentences that sound the same, but have entirely different meanings between generations.

A powerful case of word-meaning substitution is the word "love".  From the early Reformation until the 1930's, the word "love" had a predominantly Christian meaning, elevating it spiritually, and encompassing in it Christian concepts of charity, generosity, compassion, and self-sacrifice

These built-in ideals contributed to everyone's world-view in powerful ways that influenced how people connected to community, how they held themselves responsible for the poor, the misfortunate, the sick and elderly, and how they understood their roles in marriage and parenting.   The Christian ethos and values permeated society so deeply that children easily assimilated commitment to honoring parents, and even basic manners.

Now such ideas are all but eroded, and even unknown to those growing up in a culture saturated by sex and consumption, selfishness and greed, glamour and fashion.   "love" is virtually equated to sexual gratification.  and Christian "love" appears to young people as a strange and irrelevant philosophy.

The methods of those who exploit children and profit from them have become so powerful and sophisticated, that parents are virtually unarmed and helpless to protect their children from the onslaught.

In such an emergency-situation, it is important to examine how the methods were developed, by studying simpler and earlier cases. 

One such case is the "children of God" cult in the USA.   In this cult, which posed falsely as a "Christian" group, young girls were lured away from parents, taught to exploit their own sexuality to bring in more cult-members (males) who would be in turn exploited in other ways, such as being tricked or blackmailed out of money.

Why were young girls so easy to exploit?  How did this group use Christian symbols and words, and subtly alter their meanings to overwhelm those young minds?

A careful examination of the type of teaching and propaganda that the "Children of God" used, and how it has been improved and polished by later groups is very instructive, both as to how they did it and how it can be combated.

The following images and text have been taken from a Swiss group which further exploited the original work of the "Children of God" cult. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hard look at Acts (5) Chronology of Paul

While conservative Christian scholars have relied heavily on the book of Acts in the reconstruction of Paul's journeys, other academics have rejected the historicity/reliability of Acts, and preferred to rely upon Paul's letters alone.   The problem with the second approach is that there is very little in Paul's letters to establish dates with, or even to put them in order.

A Chronology based on Acts

A basic modern approach using Acts is given by Gerd Luedemann in "A Chronology of Paul", Colloquy on NT Studies, Ed. Bruce Corley, SBTS (Mercer U., 1983) p. 289 fwd.
'The Conventional View:

'The conventional view...may be broadly described as ...ingenious combination of ...Acts with info in [Paul's] letters.  ...One proceeds on the basis of the sole absolute datum ...the Gallio inscription.  Since Gallio held office in A.D. 51-52, Acts 18:12 is taken as a sure indication that Paul stood trial before Gallio in this year.  Further confirmation is then derived from 18:2, which mentions the arrival of Priscilla and Aquilla from Rome after the expulsion of the Jews (the year is assumed, on the basis of Orosius, to be A.D. 49).  Since these two dates confirm one another, it is held that Luke's report of Paul's 1st Cor. Mission in Acts 18 is historically accurate.  With the date of the mission on European soil relatively set, other dates are reckoned both before and after this period.  
After the stay in Corinth Paul traveled to Ephesus, then on to Palestine, and then back to Ephesus (Acts 18:18ff.).  There Paul wrote the Corinthian letters and later traveled back to Jerusalem (by way of Macedonia) to deliver the [money] collection.  In Jerusalem, Paul was arrested and was eventually taken to rome to meet his death as a martyr. 
Before the stay in Corinth, Paul had worked as a missionary in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Athens (and agreement of 1st Thess. with Acts 17ff.).  Prior to this mission, Paul had traveled as a delegate of the Antioch congregation, to Jerusalem for the conference (Acts 15:2ff.).  One determines this date of the conference, 14 - 17 years after Paul's conversion, on the basis of Gal 1ff.  Confirmation of this view is then found in the reference to the ensuing conflict between Paul and Barnabas in both Acts and Gal. 2:13
For 11 - 14 years prior to the Jerusalem conference, Paul had worked, as a missionary of the Antioch congregation, in Syria and Cilicia (a combin. of Gal 1:21 and Acts 13ff.). 
I wish to emphasize at this point that if this veiw were correct, then all of Paul's letters would have been composed within about 5 years of one another.  They would all have been written by a man who had already been a Christian for about 19 years and who was a veteran missionary.  Accordingly, one should expect the letters to be quite homogeneous; little room would be left for any theory regarding a development in Paul's thought reflected in the letters.  The historian's exposition could rather proceed from the old theological principle, "scriptura ipsius interpres" (i.e., "Scripture is [self]-explanatory")
 Luedemann goes on in his article to develop a "non-conventional view" (i.e., a chronology that rejects the historicity and usefulness of Acts.  But that does not concern us here.  We remain grateful for Luedemann's concise description of the 'conventional view'.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Esther, Star of the OT: Part 12: Sources

The most remarkable and yet obvious explanation for the Book of Esther is of course its historicity.  This also accounts better than any other theory for its form and content, as well as its national, unanimous and unhesitating embracement by Jews for millenia, stretching back beyond pre-Christian times.

Yet these observations were well known and discussed in Europe and the West as early as the first half of the 19th century.  The famous Biblical Handbook by T.H. Horne, An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures (9 editions between 1822 and 1852),  all of them sporting the following concise but quite adequate and detailed account of the book:

SECTION X. (pp. 64-67)

I. Title. — II. Author. — III. Argument. — IV. Synopsis of its Contents.

I. This book, which derives its name from the person whose history it chiefly relates, is by the Jews termed Megillah Esther, or the volume of Esther. The history it contains comes in between the sixth and seventh chapters of Ezra: its authenticity was questioned by some of the fathers, in consequence of the name of God being omitted throughout (1), but it has always been received as canonical by the Jews, who hold this book in the highest estimation, placing it on the same level with the law of Moses. They believe that whatever destruction may attend the other Sacred Writings, the Pentateuch and the book of Esther will always be preserved by a special providence. (2).

II. Concerning the author of this book, the opinions of biblical critics are so greatly divided, that it is difficult to determine by whom it was written. Augustine and some of the fathers of the Christian church ascribe it to Ezra. By other writers it is ascribed to the joint labours of the great synagogue, who, from the time of Ezra to Simon the Just, superintended the edition and canon of Scripture. Philo the Jew assigns it to Joachin, the son of Joshua the high priest, who returned with Zerubbabel : others think it was composed by Mordecai; and others, again, attribute it to Esther and Mordecai jointly. The two latter conjectures are grounded on the following declaration in Esther 9:20-23: —
'And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters unto all the Jews that tvere in all the provinces of king Ahasuerus; and the Jeisos undertook to do as they had begun, and as Mordecai had written unto them.' 
- But the context of the passage clearly shows that these words do not relate to the book itself, but to the circular letters which Mordecai sent to the Jews in all the provinces of the Persian empire, announcing the mighty deliverance from their enemies which had been vouchsafed to them, and instituting a perpetual anniversary in commemoration of such deliverance. (3)
The institution of this festival, and its continued observance to the present time, is a convincing evidence of the reality of the history of Esther, and of the genuineness of the book which bears her name: since it is impossible, and, in fact, inconceivable, that a nation should institute, and afterwards continue to celebrate, through a long succession of ages, this solemn annual festival, merely because a certain man among them had written an agreeable fable or romance.  
A more probable opinion (and which will enable us satisfactorily to account for the omission of the name of God in this book) is, that it is a translated extract from the memoirs of the reign of the Persian monarch Ahasuerus. The Asiatic sovereigns, it is well known, caused annals of their reigns to be kept: numerous passages in the books of Kings and Chronicles prove that the kings of Israel and Judah had such annals; and the book of Esther itself attests that Ahasuerus had similar historical records, (ii. 23. vi. 1. x. 2.)
It was indispensably necessary that the Jews should have a faithful narrative of their history under Queen Esther. Now, from what more certain source could they derive such history than from the memoirs of the king her consort?  Either Ezra, or Mordecai, had authority or credit enough to obtain such an extract. In this case, we can better account for the retaining of the Persian word Purim, as well as for the details which we read concerning the empire of Ahasuerus, and (which could otherwise be of no use whatever for the history of Esther) for the exactness with which the names of his ministers and of Haman's sons are recorded. The circumstance of this history being an extract from the Persian annals will also account for the Jews being mentioned only in the third person, and why Esther is so frequently designated by the title of queen, and Mordecai by the epithet of "the Jew". It will also account for those numerous parentheses which interrupt the narrative, in order to subjoin the illustrations which were necessary for a Jewish reader; and by the abrupt termination of the narrative by one sentence relative to the power of Ahasuerus, and another concerning Mordecai's greatness.
Finally, it is evident that the author of this extract, whoever he was, wished to make a final appeal to the source whence he derived it. (Esth 10:2) This very plausible conjecture, we apprehend, will satisfactorily answer the objection that this book contains nothing peculiar to the Israelites, except Mordecai's genealogy. There is, unquestionably, no mention made of Divine Providence, or of the name of God, in these memoirs or chronicles of Ahasuerus; and if the author of the extract had given it a more Jewish complexion, — if he had spoken of the God of Israel, — instead of rendering his narrative more credible, he would have deprived it of an internal character of truth. (4)

III. The transactions recorded in this book relate to the time of Artaxerxes Longimanus, (5) the same who reigned during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.  They commence about the year of the world 3544, and continue through a period not exceeding eighteen or twenty years. The book of Esther relates the elevation of a Jewish captive to the throne of Persia, and the providential deliverance of herself and people from the machinations of the cruel Haman and his associates, whose intended mischief recoiled upon themselves : thus affording a practical comment on the declaration of the royal sage: — " Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished : but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered." (Prov. xi. 21.)

IV. The book consists of two parts ; detailing, Part I. The Promotion of Esther ; and the essential Service rendered to the King by Mordecai, in detecting a Plot against his Life. (i. ii.) Part II. The Advancement of Haman; his Designs against the Jews, and their Frustration.

Sect. 1. The promotion of Haman, and the occasion of which he availed himself to obtain an edict for massacring the Jews, (iii.)
Sect. 2. The consequent affliction of the Jews, and the measures pursued by them, (iv.)
Sect. 3. The defeat of Haman's particular plot against the life of Mordecai. (v. vi. vii.)
Sect. 4. The defeat of his general plot against the Jews, (viii.ix. 1 — 16.)
Sect. 5. The institution of the festival of Purim, to commemorate their deliverance (ix. 17 — 32.) ; and the advancement of Mordecai. (x.)
In our copies the book of Esther terminates with the third verse of the tenth chapter: but in the Greek and Vulgate Bibles, there are ten more verses annexed to it, together with six additional chapters which the Greek and Romish churches account to be canonical. As, however, they are not extant in Hebrew, they are expunged from the sacred canon by Protestants, and are supposed to have been compiled by some Hellenistic Jew.'

 Original Footnotes  (with addition)

1.  On this account, Professor De Wette, who objects to all the other books of the Old Testament, their theocratico-mythological spirit, condemns this for its want of religion! (Prof. Turner's Translation of Jahn, p. 289.) Such is the consistency of neologian critics!

2. [ - an idea traceable to Maimonides?]

3. For an account of this festival, called the feast of Purim, see Vol. III. Pt III. Ch IV. Para 8.

4. Coquerel, Biographie Sacree, tom. i. pp. 361 — 363. (Amsterdam, 1825.)

5.  Chronologers are greatly divided in opinion who was the Ahasuerus of the sacred historian. Scaliger, who has been followed by Jahn, has advanced many ingenious arguments to show that it was Xerxes who was intended ; Archbishop Usher supposes it to have been Darius the son of Hystaspes. The most probable opinion is that of Dr. Prideaux, (Connexion, sub anno 458, vol. i. pp. 270. et seq.) ; who, after a very minute discussion, maintains that the Ahasuerus of Esther was Artaxerxes Longimanus, agreeably to the account of Josephus, (Antiq. Jud. lib. xi. c. 6.) of the Septuagint version, and of the apocryphal additions to the book of Esther. The opinion of Prideaux is adopted by Bishops Tomline and Gray, and the very accurate chronologer. Dr. Hales. (See Gray's Key, p. 227. Tomline's Elements, vol. i. p. 93. Dr. Hales's Analysis, vol. 11. book i. pp. 524. et seq.) We may therefore conclude, that the permission given to Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem was owing to the Influence of Esther and Mordecai, and that the emancipation of the Jews from the Persian yoke was gradually, though silently, effected by the same influence. It is not improbable that the pious reason, assigned by Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:23.) for the regulations given to Ezra, originated in the correct views of religion which were communicated to him by his queen Esther.

All in all, the combination of arguments carries a probability that appears overwhelming.  This book is composed largely of Babylonian court records, with very early annotations by Jewish historians, to explain to other Israelites of the Diaspora what had happened.  


Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Juggling of Certainty vs. Science

Click to Enlarge
One obvious problem which has been a repeated barrier to both correction and progress in the field of Textual Criticism of the NT has been a basic ideological and fundamental conflict, not just between parties, but influencing individuals attempting to practice TC.

The conflict is this:

Fundamentally, the Scientific Method is tentative and agnostic.  In order to remain truly scientific, it must deal in probabilities, and ever hold the door open to new discoveries which can not only modify current ideas, but completely overthrow them.  Diagrammed as above, one can see that it forms an Endless Loop, without ever establishing any permanent, universal truth. 

Those engaged in Textual Criticism on the other hand, while desperately desiring to garner the support and also credibility of scientific method, nonetheless cling to ideas which at base are in fundamental opposition to science.  First, is the idea of a fundamental Objective Reality, a non-changing universal truth applicable to every situation, and second is the idea that science 'progresses' inevitably toward greater and greater accuracy and surety in regard to believed facts.

Neither of these ideas is really a part of Scientific Method, or a necessary ingredient of Scientific philosophy, even though both ideas have been around as long as science, and have been more often than not inextricably bound up with scientific investigation.

The growth of science in the 19th century, also saw advancing alongside it the field of mathematics.  In this field, especially the concepts of Convergence, developing from Calculus, led men to believe that almost any problem could be solved by honing and improving the appropriate method of approximation, which would naturally and result in more and more accurate statements about the world.

The New Testament Text was regarded no differently: It was believed to be only a matter of time before textual-critical methods would tighten up and produce a more and more accurate 'original text', finally as sharp and accurate as a photograph, or a scientific measurement of light-speed to 8 decimal places.

Eureka! - Hort's Innovation

Surprisingly, F.J.A. Hort was instrumental in forwarding this ideology.  Contrary to current historians and various opponents, Hort's real innovation in Textual Criticism was not "the genealogical method", or the advancement in the evaluation of various sources.  It was the innovation of what is now called in modern mathematics and computing as "iteration".

Iteration is the application of a set of instructions, a 'program' or algorithm,
 repeatedly, usually to refine or home in on a result.  Imagine for instance, a lathe that shapes table-legs.  It shapes the wood by repeated cutting away of waste, leaving the desired pattern behind. 

An Algorithm is usually fixed, but sometimes having optional paths or choices built in.  The flexibility comes through a testing, measurement or decision process (as in the flowchart above, where the 'diamond' shapes mark points in the flow where choices will be made).  

Some objects in mathematics are better and more efficiently expressed as algorithms - a group of ordered steps or instructions, meant to be applied like a recipe or prescription, and often actually acting as a description of a process or phenomenon.  Other objects can ONLY be described by algorithms.  Unfortunately, some objects cannot be expressed by algorithms at all.

When mathematicians began to notice algorithms, they discovered other sometimes disturbing properties of said 'objects', such as the fact that some mathematical objects and ideas have no algorithm at all.  (the calculation of PI or the search for Prime Numbers are examples of things that must be calculated by 'brute force' and crude testing rather than elegant formulas).

When mathematicians noticed that some problems and ideas cannot be expressed by algorithms, it became clear that some problems were by their very nature "unsolvable".

On a simpler level, it was clear that some  'formulas' simply did not and could not 'converge'; that is could not settle down and spit out one single numerical answer.   Likewise, algorithms simply did not always produce a useful or reliable result, nor could they even come to an end.  They were like run-away processes, and if left to themselves would get stuck in endless loops, or randomly wander the universe of numbers.

Hort's assumption was that by using the novel idea of "iteration", meaning the repeated application of textual-critical principles and techniques, to further and further refine the content and certainty of the text, one could arrive as close as possible to the original text as the extant data and the scientific process allowed.

Unfortunately, Hort was wrong on this entire idea:

(1)  There was nothing in the realm of science that indicated that discovering the 'original text' was even possible let alone probable.

(2)  There was nothing that suggested that text-critical methods could or should converge toward any fixed text, let alone the true original text.

(3)  Iteration itself had no magical power to force the textual variants to converge into a 'near certain' text, in spite of its allure and mathematical usefulness in certain situations.  If the applied method was flawed, or ill-defined, the opposite result was inevitable.

(4)  The success of iterative methods in other areas of science had no bearing on iteration as an intelligent or useful technique in textual criticism.   In order for iteratiion to work, the techniques to be iterated must first be sound.

Later, when men of religion attempted to apply mathematical and scientific concepts and techniques to the problem, they were inevitably biased and their work tainted by their own conviction that these methods would converge to an absolutely certain 'original text', and that this was the way God intended us to acquire this certainly established, authoritative, original text.

Nobody thought to inquire and investigate thoroughly what methods that God Himself chose to preserve and deliver the text, and what this meant for the credibility of textual criticism of the NT as a historical science.

As it turned out, God did not use the historical-critical techniques of NT Textual Criticism to preserve and supply the NT text.  God chose simpler, and quite apparently, more reliable methods than those proposed and used by modern Textual Critics to 'reconstruct' the NT text.

These facts strongly suggest that those who wish to establish, secure, or restore the NT text ought to imitate the methods used historically by God Himself for the last 2000 years.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Lachmann (3) - The "Illiad Theory" and Acts

F.N. Peloubet, in The Teacher's commentary on the Acts (1903, Oxford) deals with Lachmann's multiple author theory in passing, in the context of the composition of Acts.
Peloubet (Introduction, xxxv fwd) states:

"VI. THE SOURCES OF ACTS.   As Luke expressly says in the preface to his Gospel that he derived his information from the records of eye-witnesses, with which he was perfectly familiar, the same is doubtless true of his treatise on the Acts of the Apostles. ...
...there is no reason for thinking, a priori, that the speeches cannot be historical. . . . The speeches of the leading apostles would impress themselves on the growing community, and would be remembered as the words of the Lord were remembered.
There are some interesting comparisons of the discussion of the composite nature of the Acts with other literature in  A. H. Strong's The Great Poets and their Theology
"The German Lachmann resolved the Iliad into sixteen distinct and clearly defined layers.  Paley has compared the Iliad and the Odyssey to pictures of stained glass made up by an artistic combination of handsome bits of older windows which fortune and time had shivered." 
The combatants [textual critics] are more and more arraying themselves on the side of the traditional view that both poems are by the same author, and that this author is Homer. But Homer himself may have taken many years for the elaboration of his poems, revising and improving them as he repeated them again and again, so that during those years versions of various degrees of perfection may have been set in circulation.  
Goethe in one of his letters to Schiller cites different versions of his own poems, in connection with the theory we have been considering. He had at various times amended and enlarged them; but he did not on that account prove that there was a second Goethe, or many Goethes. "
What all this tells us is that subsequent critics and investigators  cioming after Lachmann have found that all such naive theories of 'many detectable layers' and 'multiple authors' are at best precarious conjectures and near-worthless.   Even, and perhaps especially, reconstructed 'genealogies', based on the alleged identification of various 'interpolations' and layers are simply academic fantasies, their proliferation and variations providing the best evidence of their spuriousness.


Lachmann (2) - The "Illiad" Problem

The following excerpt from Homer and His Poems, by N. M. Cohen summarizes nicely the background to Lachmann's theory regarding the Illiad:
"The first study of Homer that can really be called critical was made in the Alexandrian Age. Then arose a school of Separatists (about 170 B. C.) who believed that the Iliad and the Odyssey were by different authors. Zenodotus, the first chief of the great museum, was also the first critic of the Homeric text, and he was soon followed by Aristarchus, the greatest of ancient critics, to whom is ascribed the present division of Homer into books. Aristarchus discovered a number of spurious passages in the poems, but he had no doubt that Homer was virtually their author. 

At the end of the 18th century there was found in Venice, in the library of St. Mark, a manuscript of the Iliad, dating from the 10th century.  Around this transcription were marginal notes, called "scholia." These were textual criticisms by  Aristarchus and other learned grammarians.   The finding of the "scholia" gave a new impulse to Homeric criticism, and led to the famous Recension of the Iliad by the German scholar, Frederick Augustus Wolf, in 1795. 
Previous to Wolf, the idea that Homer was not the sole author of epics ascribed to him had been suggested by Bentley, Rousseau, and others in modern times, and, it is said, by Josephus, Cicero, and others in ancient times. But no serious attempt at proof had ever been made until Wolf, in his revolutionary Prolegomena (preface to his edition of the Iliad), shook the literary world to its foundations, and inaugurated a new era of literary criticism. 

The celebrated Wolfian theory, is in the main, as follows: 
(1)  Alphabetic writing, according to Wolf, was not known to the Greeks until about 600 B. C. There is no evidence that the laws were written until that time, and certainly a prose literature, which calls for writing, was not in existence previously. It is true that many verses were older, but verse was the original form of extemporaneous oratory or chanting, and the profession of rhapsodist was that of one who recites from memory. 
(2)  In Homer himself, there is but a single mention of a message by characters, [i.e., letters] and that is the case of Bellerophon, "who bore tokens of woe, graven on a folded tablet, many deadly things," to the King of Lydia. This was in some form a written message to the king, in which the writer requests him to slay Bellerophon, and it was not until the tenth day of Bellerophon's visit that the king asked to see "what token he bore." Now, this token on the folded tablet does not by any means imply alphabetic writing, and throughout the rest of the poems we hear of no communication as passing between any of the chiefs in Troy and their families at home. 
(3)  Even if letters were known, nobody read, and wooden or leaden tablets were unable to contain lengthy works. If the poems were not written, it is impossible that the text could have been preserved from corruption during several centuries. 
(4)  Besides, there are manifest discrepancies in the poems themselves. In one case a chief, who has been killed in an early book, is made to attend the funeral of his son in a later book, and there are other discrepancies of time, place and style. 
(5)  Then, too, the exploits of all the chiefs have nothing to do with the story of the Wrath of Achilles, and are manifestly inserted to glorify local heroes. These are the main grounds of the Wolfian theory. 
The conclusion is that the Iliad is a series of short songs put together in a later age. In regard to the Odyssey, the opinion of the Wolfian school is that it is of different authorship altogether from the Iliad. 

Wolf's theory has been violently attacked, learnedly defended, and largely elaborated. Grote, the historian of Greece, makes two distinct works of the Iliad: One he calls the Wrath of Achilles, mainly by Homer; the other the Iliad composed of floating songs. Lachmann, a celebrated German scholar, finds in the Iliad all the joints of sixteen small works. 
Mr. Walter Leaf has recently issued his edition of the Iliad, compiled by getting together twenty-six passages from different books of the poems. He, of course, has scholarly reasons for considering all the rest spurious. "The Nation," in reviewing this work, declares that 
 "in a century after the promulgation of the Wolfian idea (that is, in 1895), the number who believe in the theory of genuineness of Homer's works as traditionally received, will be so small that first-class scholars will not consider it worth while to waste time in endeavoring to convince them of its untenableness."
A singular feature in all these later criticisms is the fact that the very noblest portions of the poem are considered not Homeric. The embassy to Achilles, containing the finest eloquence of the poem; the meeting of Achilles and Priam, containing the noblest pathos–these and other passages of like significance are relegated to floating songs of unknown poets, and the Iliad becomes to the layman a Hamlet without the Prince. 

But the Wolfian theory and its progeny have not gone unchallenged by eminent scholars. The English critics are its choicest defenders. The answers to the theory are mainly these:
First. Writing may have existed at the time of Homer, for the Greeks were in close communication with the Phoenicians as early as 1100 B. C. The Phoenicians were skilled in writing, and the quick-witted Greeks would not be slow to imitate so useful an art.
Second. Even if writing were unknown, transmission by memory was not at all impossible. Rhapsodists were a professional class, trained purely for the purpose of memorizing, and the public recitations in which each might criticise the other, insured the integrity of the text. Extraordinary feats of memory are not unknown in our own times. Macaulay could, without effort, recite half of "Paradise Lost;" Dr. Bathurst is said to have known the whole Iliad in Greek when a boy. If such performances are possible by non-professional reciters in an era when writing has weakened the power of memory, they certainly were not impossible in a trained and picked class of memorizers who could not depend on writing.
Third. There are discrepancies, it is true; but they are only such as might occur in long poems by a single author, especially if not written; and while some interpolations may be granted, they are not sufficient to disturb the general integrity of the text.
Fourth. The plots are essentially bound together by an underlying unity; the style and turn of language and thought in both poems are those of the one master; and if the author of the Iliad and he of the Odyssey are not the same, then nature must have produced bountifully the supreme poetic inspiration when the world was young.
This is, in very small mold, the modern Homeric question; its bibliography is enormous, although the controversy is really in its incipiency. ..."
- N.M. Cohen, Homer And His Poems, (Chicago, 1893) p 120-121

Lachmann - exaggerater of the "Genealogical Method"

Lachmann, Karl Konrad Friedrich Wilhelm,
(1973-1851) German philologist.

Educational Background and Training

Lachmann studied at Leipzig and Gottingen, mainly philological studies.

1816 - assistant master in the Friedrichswerder gymnasium (Berlin)
         - privatdozent at the University (of Berlin?)
         - principal master in Friedrichs-Gymnasium of Konigsberg
1818 - assisted Germanist Friedrich Karl Kopke
         - professor extraordinarius of classical philosophy (U. of Konigsberg)
1818 - 1825 - devoted to studying Old German Grammar & Middle High German poetry
1825 - leave of absence to search libraries for German materials
         - nom. Extraordinary Professor of German philology (Humboldt U., Berlin)
1827 - professor (Humbolt U., Berlin)
1830 - member of academy of sciences

Up until about 1827, Lachmann had hardly spent any time on New Testament studies or NT Greek, but had devoted all his effort toward German languages and literature, although he also translated the first volume of PE Müller's Sagabibliothek des skandinavischen Altertums (1816).   A look at his publications shows his interest and focus of study:

 Published Works and Area of Study

Early Work before engaging in Greek NT:

Lachmann edited Propertius (1816); Catullus (1829); Tibullus (1829);
He also translated Shakespeare's sonnets (1820) and Macbeth (1829).

Work published while working on Greek NT:

Genesius (1834); Terentianus Maurus (1836); Homer's Illiad (1837-41)
Babrius (1845); Avianus (1845); Gaius (1841-1842); the Agrimensores Romani (1848-1852);  Lucretius (1850).
Lachmann also apparently edited Lucilius (re--edited after his death by Vahlen, 1876).

Although this is a substantial body of work, very little of it bears upon the task of NT Textual Criticism.  Lachmann's own textual-critical skills were all based on classical works, which pose a much different and far simpler problem:  Most classical works were not the target of religious or political attack, and the NT was written and copied under unique and exceptional circumstances.

Lachmann's Greek New Testament

Between 1831 and 1850 Lachmann now turned to the Greek NT.

  The plan of Lachmann's edition, which he explained in his Studia Krit. of 1830, is a modification of the unaccomplished project of Richard Bentley. Lachmann was the first major editor to break from the Textus Receptus, seeking to restore the most ancient reading current in manuscripts of the Alexandrian text-type, using the agreement of the Western authorities (Old Latin and Greek Western Uncials) as the main proof of antiquity of a reading where the oldest Alexandrian authorities differ.

1831 - published his smaller edition of the New Testament
1842 - the larger second edition, in two volumes (1842-1850).
1846 -  the 3rd edition 

Lachmann's 'Crowning Achievement'

Lachmann then immediately went back to other classical interests.  According to Wikipedia, 
"Lachmann's edition of Lucretius (1850),  was the principal occupation of his life from 1845, and perhaps his greatest achievement of scholarship. 
 He demonstrated how the three main manuscripts all derived from one archetype, containing 302 pages of 26 lines to a page. Further, he was able to show that this archetype was a copy of a manuscript written in a minuscule hand, which in itself was a copy of a manuscript of the 4th or 5th centuries written in rustic capitals. To say his recreation of the text was accepted is anticlimactic..."
 However, this itself is some kind of fudging of the actual truth regarding Lachmann's work.  Qwiki tells a quite different story about the evaluation of Lachmann's work regarding Homer's Illiad (1837-1841):
"in it he sought to show that the Illiad consists of eighteen independent layers, variously enlarged and interpolated, had considerable influence on 19th century Homeric scholarship, although his views are no longer accepted."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Later dates for MSS: Codex W = 700 CE, P52 = II-III cent

H. Houghton has reported in  "Recent Developments in NT TC (2011, Early Christianity 2.2, p. 245-268:

"...There have also been developments in the dating of certain manuscripts. The Freer Gospels (032, W), famous for their unique text in the Longer Ending of Mark, were initially assigned to the fourth or fifth century. However, following the redating of the manuscripts used for the original comparison and the subsequent discovery of similar material, including the Cologne Mani Codex, Schmid has suggested that it may have been copied at least a century later. [29]  Parker and Birdsall's consideration of the palaeography and catena of Codex Zacynthius (040, Ξ) prompt them to propose a date of around 700 for the majuscule underwriting, rather than Hatch's suggestion of the sixth century. [30]   The date of the earliest surviving fragment of the New Testament, P52, has also been the subject of a recent review by Nongbri. [31]  This cautions against the uncritical adoption of the earliest suggested date of 125 CE and demonstrates that a date in the late second or early third centuries remains palaeographically possible. As more and more comparative material becomes available online, it will not be surprising if the dating of other manuscripts is reassessed. ...

29. Ulrich Schmid, "Reassessing the Palaeography and Codicology of the Freer Gospel Manuscript," in The Freer Biblical Manuscripts: Fresh Studies of an American Treasure Trove ed. Larry W. Hurtado (SBLTCS 6. Atlanta GA: SBL, 2006), 227–49.

30. D.C. Parker and J. Neville Birdsall, "The Date of Codex Zacynthius (Ξ): A New Proposal," JTS 55.1 (2004): 117–31 (reprinted in Parker, Manuscripts, Texts, Theology, 113–20).

31. Brent Nongbri, "The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel," HTR 98.1 (2005): 23–48.

 It seems what has long been suspected by outsiders is turning out to have some substance and basis, namely that manuscripts generally have been dated too early, and more revisions are in the works, either by their over-enthusiastic discoverers, or else apologists. 


Sunday, September 4, 2011

The 'Schools' of Alexandria and Antioch (4th-5th c. A.D.)

Here is a short discussion of the so-called 'schools' of Antioch and Alexandria, culled from the Orthodox site  Monachos

With regard to the Christological discussions of our period (the later fourth and early fifth centuries), reference made in modern scholarship to the 'Alexandrian' and 'Antiochene' schools attempts to homogenise under two relatively coherent umbrellas two general approaches to Christological reflection centred round these great cities and sees. The Alexandrine 'school' is seen most often as the older, dating back at least to Arius, and including such notable figures as the sainted bishop Athanasius of that city, as well as the anathematised Apollinarius. The insistence of all three writers, as well as others of their converging tradition, upon the divinity of the Logos in the 'becoming' of the incarnation, and a tendency in each to see that incarnation as a 'taking on of flesh' by the Logos, has earned their 'school' the reputation of fostering another scholarly category: a 'Logos/sarx Christology'.
Those referred to as 'Antiochene'-for example Diodore of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Nestorius of Constantinople, John of Antioch-are often referred to as preferring a 'Logos/anthropos Christology'; namely, one in which the Logos is united to man, or even 'a man'. A dominant insistence upon the full humanity of the incarnate Christ characterises all those shuffled under this umbrella.
The classification of these 'schools' is rather rough-and-ready. While some cases are clear-cut (e.g. Nestorius, who is evidently a theological descendent of Theodore), others are more difficult. St Cyril is a notable example. As bishop of Alexandria and strongly influenced by the theology of his predecessor, Athanasius, the temptation is certainly to call him a member of the Alexandrian 'school'. Yet one is hard-pressed to consider Cyril's Christology of hypostatic union conformable to any definition of the Logos/sarx 'model' by which that 'school' is so often characterised. And while such a figure as John of Antioch is almost universally considered a member of the Antiochene 'school', his later Christological dialogues with Cyril, most pointedly their joint 'formula of reunion', addresses the incarnational becoming in a manner that hardly fits within the broad categories of Theodore's reflection, taken by most as the standard for Antiochene Christology.
So we must take care not to read these 'schools' not schools in any strict sense. Rather, they represent loci of converging approaches to Christological reflection centred around two great strongholds of theological activity in the fourth and fifth centuries. And despite the dangers of generalisation, which in historical analysis leads too often to a false-homogenisation, certain common characteristics of these converging traditions can be ascertained, and prove helpful in our reading of doctrinal reflection in its historical progression. In a general sense, these trends and tendencies are as follows:
Alexandrian 'school' Antiochene 'school'
Tendency toward Platonic metaphysical approach; a desire to move beyond appearances to the 'truly real'. Tendency toward Aristotelian stress on concrete realities, factual historicity and its analysis, and the discernable characteristics of concrete reality.
Favours an allegorical reading of scripture, first proffered in a notable way by Origen; driven here by a desire to 'get to the real meaning' of given biblical passages. Favours an historical/factual, 'literal', reading of scripture.
With regard to Christ, a tendency to focus on inner, metaphysical composition and activity. A tendency to focus upon the factual/historical aspects of the human life of Christ-what he did, said, accomplished, etc. Cf. Theodore's exegetical interest in the 'historical Jesus'.
Soteriological convictions driven most often by notions of sanctification/divinisation, mystical relation, etc. Soteriological convictions driven by corrective agency of divinity on humanity.
Generally: stress laid upon the ontological oneness of Christ-the divinity and humanity form one being-wrought most often by reference to the Logos/sarx framework (though not always; cf. Cyril of Alexandria). Generally: stress laid upon the distinction between God and man in Christ-these not only distinct in discernable attributes, but in substantive reality. Preservation of full reality and integrity of both natures. Logos/anthropos model predominates.
Key weakness lies in the routine jeopardy into which the persistent distinction of natures is cast in the maintenance of the single ontological reality of the incarnate Christ. Key weakness lies in the difficulty in expressing the genuine union of the two natures, and indeed the true oneness or singular subjectivity of the incarnate Christ.

Our thanks to the anonymous author of that useful overview.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Question of the Theft of Codex Aleph

“Codex Sinaiticus, most of it taken by Dr von Tischendorf in 1859 from St. Catherine’s monastery beside Mt Sinai in Egypt– the monks say stolen –”

“J. Rendel Harris (who had visited St. Catherine’s) had no illusions: in his review of Gregory’s “Text and Canon” in the February 1908 issue of The Expositor, Harris expressed extreme skepticism (bordering on outright ridicule) of Tischendorf’s version of events pertaining to the “rescue” of Codex Sinaiticus.” – James Snapp Jr.

“While staying at St. Catherine’s monastery on Mount Sinai, he made the momentous discovery of the Codex Sinaiticus–a text dated to be from the fourth century C.E. He brought back the text with him. (According to the Mt Sinai monks, though there were bad feelings, and claims that Tischendorf had “stolen” the manuscript.)”

“See for example D.A. Waite, Defending the King James Bible (The Bible For Today: 1993), p. 61, “They just about worship that manuscript.” This was just after alleging, inaccurately, that a was about to be burned (one will note that the steward at St. Catherine’s kept the manuscript in his cell, wrapped in a red cloth, hardly the way in which one treats trash). ”

“Under a complicated arrangement, Tischendorf was allowed to transcribe the manuscript, but did not have the time to examine it in full detail. Tischendorf wanted to take the manuscript to the west, where it could be examined more carefully.
It is at this point that the record becomes unclear. The monks, understandably, had no great desire to give up the greatest treasure of their monastery. Tischendorf, understandably, wanted to make the manuscript more accessible (though not necessarily safer; unlike Saint Petersburg and London, Mount Sinai has not suffered a revolution or been bombed since the discovery of Aleph). In hindsight, it seems quite clear that the monks were promised better terms than they actually received (though this may be the fault of the Tsarist government rather than Tischendorf). Still, by whatever means, the manuscript wound up in Saint Petersburg, and later was sold to the British Museum. ”

“A story of high adventure swirls around the Codex Sinaiticus. Tischendorf was granted an audience with the pope. The czar of Russia showered him with money and financed his final mission. Despite his fame, though, a shadow hangs over the man, who some insist was a thief.
Scattered Book, Checkered Reputation

However, opinion on Tischendorf is as diffuse and puzzling as the ancient pages themselves. Christfried Böttrich, an expert on the New Testament at Germany’s University of Greifswald, claims that “Tischendorf was a man without blemish and above reproach.”
But the monks at St. Catherine’s have a less flattering view. They think he stole the manuscript. “The Codex Sinaiticus Was Stolen,” was the headline of a 2000 article in the Sunday Times about a conference a British parliamentary committee held on stolen artifacts. Prince Charles, who is chairman of the St. Catherine’s Foundation, has reportedly demanded the return of the manuscripts to Egypt.”,1518,479791,00.html


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Revelation for Dummies (6) - The Great Period of Martyrdom

In Revelation 7:9-34 we are given a special vision,
of a vast number of Christian martyrs.
Those who try to apply this vision to the very early times (c. 60-130 A.D.)
or even the last 'great persecution' (c. 280-300 A.D.)
must interpret the vision as an exaggeration of sorts,
a poetical hyperbole.

But if we actually look at the history of Christianity for the last 2000 years,
we will be startled when we find just such a period in history,
and it was quite recent: The first and second World Wars.
The following chart diagrams both the expansion of Christianity,
and the significant periods and places of Christian Martyrdom:

The Second World War in particular is remembered for the Holocaust,
the slaughter of some 6 million people of the Jewish faith,
but the actual numbers for this war show that a a vastly larger number
of Christians, mostly civilians, women and children, were also slaughtered,
in a systemic pattern of genocidal acts, mostly simply butchering,
such as in the Croatian Holocaust, and other East-European events from
the beginning of the 20th century until the end of the Cold War.

It is remarkable that although this great slaughter of Christians temporarily slowed the expansion
of Christianity, it also gave it the greatest boost since the fall of Constantinople.

If we want to interpret Revelation historically, we are again faced with a prophecy
which has a clear and plain literal fulfillment without exaggeration, and with a specific time marked out.

Again, the overall effect is to place us in the Last Times, with few prophecies left to fulfill,
before the Return of the King.

Who killed whom when the giant died? An exercise in textual reconstruction

And there was againe a battell in Gob, with the Philistines, where Elhanan the sonne of Iaare-Oregim a Bethlehemite, slewe the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staffe of whose speare was like a weauers beame.
So the KJV at 2 Samuel 21:19. Much ink has been spilt attempting to justify the KJV's interpolation of the brother of in order to keep the text from reading as the Hebrew does, that Elhanan, rather than David, killed Goliath. But what most KJV proponents fail to mention is that the lack of 'brother' is not the only textual problem in this verse. There are only a couple ways to reconcile this verse with 1 Chronicles 20:5--
And there was warre againe with the Philistines, and Elhanan the sonne of Iair, slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, whose spearestaffe was like a weauers beame.
Disregarding all the spelling variations, the core of both verses reads thus:
Elhanan the son of Jair slew Goliath the Gittite, whose spear staff was like a weaver's beam.

To which Samuel adds "Oregim the Bethlehemite" and Chronicles adds "Lahmi the brother of".

So the KJV stopped short of interpolating the whole plus from Chronicles into Samuel--Lahmi is not named. Or is he--but as the killer, not the killed? Let's look at the Hebrew.

2 Samuel 21:19
and-killed Elhanan son-of-Yari weavers house-of-the-bread: Goliath the-Gittite and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

1 Chronicles 20:5
and-killed Elhanan son-of-Yaur: Bready, brother-of Goliath the-Gittite; and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

In these transcriptions I have added vowels only for the name of Elhanan's father, which is found in two forms (K and Q) in each verse of the Masoretic text. The Masoretes themselves obviously recognized a corruption here, but couldn't settle on how to fix it.

Note that the last word in the verse, ARGIM, is an element in the extra of 2 Samuel, where it is tacked on to Jair's name. Note also that the word LXMI, which is an element in the name Bethlehem ("House of Bread"), is given as an extra in 1 Chronicles for the name of Goliah's brother. Furthermore, the name Jair is spelled two (or four) different ways in the two texts, and all cases are Hebrew hapax legomena: Jair is always spelled differently in the Hebrew Bible than either verse has it, whether Q or K.

Clearly there are three different places where the two verses need to be reconciled, not just one. I propose, therefore, the following possibilities for reconstructing of the source for both verses (the changes could have happened in a different order, especially with the first possibility):

 Possibility #1: Only Samuel is corrupted; Chronicles has the correct reading

and-killed Elhanan son-of-Yaur: Bready brother-of Goliath the-Gittite, and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

1. The last word of the verse was copied into the first half, probably due to skipping to the next line of text, so that both lines now end with the same 7 letters:

2.The  text suffered loss of the word אֲחִי AXI (the brother of), by homoeoteleuton I ... I :

and-killed Elhanan son-of-Yaur Weavers: Bready Goliath the-Gittite, and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

3. A 'helpful' scribe changed the unheard-of name Y3UR to the equally unheard of plural form Y3RI, both of which are cognates of a word that means 'wood' (in the British meaning of 'forest'):

and-killed Elhanan son-of-Woods-of-Weavers: Bready Goliath the-Gittite, and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

4. Another 'helpful' scribe changed ATh-LXMI to BITh-H-LXMI, changing the meaning again:

and-killed Elhanan son-of-Yariorgim the Bethlehemite Goliath the-Gittite and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

5. A final scribe put the ATh back in where it now belonged, tidying up the grammar to yield the Samuel reading:

and-killed Elhanan son-of-Yariorgim the Bethlehemite: Goliath the-Gittite, and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

That's a lot of changes to hypothesise! And it doesn't even account for the K-Q variants in the Masoretic text.

Possibility #2: Both verses are equally corrupted forms of the archetype.

Reconstruction A: The original text read:

and-killed Elhanan son-of-Ya'ir the Bethlehemite: the-brother-of Goliath the-Gittite, and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

1a,b. While the Samuel scribe dropped  אֲחִי AXI, the Chronicles scribe dropped אֵת ATh, the Hebrew indicator of a following direct object :

and-killed Elhanan son-of-Ya'ir the Bethlehemite[S:] [C:the-brother-of] Goliath the-Gittite, and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

2a. In Chronicles, a 'helpful' scribe re-inserted ATh in place of BITh H-:

and-killed Elhanan son-of-Ya'ir: Lehmi the-brother-of Goliath the-Gittite, and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

2b. In Samuel, ARGIM got duplicated after YAIR, as explained above:

and-killed Elhanan son-of-Ya'ir Weavers Bethlehemite: Goliath the-Gittite and-wood-of spear-his as-beam of-weavers.

3a,b. Finally, the Chronicles scribe changed the spelling of YAIR to Y3UR, while the Samuel scribe changed the spelling to Y3RI to better fit the corrupted context.

WYK ALXNN BN-Y[S:3RI][C:3UR]  . . . thus yielding the final readings in only three steps each.

Other reconstructions are possible, but this one best passes Occam's Razor: three steps, to account for three differences between the texts, prior to the Masoretes taking over the transmission of the two texts. So what was Goliath's brother's name? Well, according to this reconstruction, we don't know, and we can only guess that Elhanan's father was a man who spelled his name the same way that four other Jairs in the OT did. It's also possible that this was the Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem mentioned in both books, but that would involve a greater level of corruption in the transmission.

These three corruptions, by the way, must have been very early. The Septuagint reads exactly like the Hebrew, even down to a reasonable approximation of the names.

The Targum for Chronicles isn't much help. It reads: "David, the son of Jesse, a pious man, who rose at midnight to sing praises to God, slew Lachmi, the brother of Goliath, the same day on which he slew Goliath the Gittite, whose spear-staff was like a weaver's beam."

The other ancient versions supply the word 'brother' in Samuel, although, as did the KJV, they may well have just moved it in from Chronicles.

The Syriac also paraphrases somewhat, while translating the invented name in Samuel:
Samuel: Elhanan the son of forest a weaver, a Beth-lehemite, slew a brother of Goliath the Philistine, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.
Chronicles: Elhanan the son of Jair slew Lahmi of the descendants of the giants, who was the brother of Goliath the mighty man of Gath, whose spear staff was like a weaver’s beam.

The Vulgate also translates Elhanan and Jair/Jaare-Oregim:
Samuel: God-given the son of Forest Weaver, a Bethlehemite, struck the brother of Goliath the Gittite, whose spear wood was like a weaver's beam.
Chronicles: God-given the son of Forest struck Lehmites the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the wood of whose spear was like a weaver's beam.