Thursday, August 26, 2010


An ATM running Windows XP
Usually when I get very busy and have no time to blog I begin to blog...rapidly. Oddly enough, I have been quite busy the past few weeks and have not been posting! I am sure this is a terrible state of affairs for the world. Some updates:

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Election Night is Over...

...but no election winner has been called to form government.At the closing of the night, the two major parties are essentially equal. Labor has won 70 seats, the Liberal/National Coalition has won 71. Five seats are yet to be called, 76 are needed to form government. The remaining of won seats are 1 Green and 3 independents. The first indigenous Australian member was elected to parliament as a member of the Libs.

What to do?

In the upper house it seems to be the major parties, the Greens (substantially, might I add) and possibly a single Family First senator.

On the lighter side, I made the entire panel on the Channel 9 coverage of the election laugh when they read my twitter update on live national TV.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pay $50 for your chance to possibly win $1000!

Last year I had nothing nice to say about the 2010 Mythicist Prize. The competition involves writing the best essay in support of the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth did not exist as a historical figure. How supporting a pre-selected conclusion in exchange for cash passes as honest scholarship is something I do not comprehend.

This year the Mythicists’ Forum is mixing it up with a new competition! Prove that Jesus did exist! The competition rules are quite...interesting to say the least.

If your essay and $50 cheque made out to Rene Salm convinces four mythicists actively engaged in anti-Christian polemics that Jesus existed you may win $1000. Of course, they explicitly state that there is no guarantee that the prize will be awarded. I guess it is a win win situation...if you're Rene Salm.

HT here and here

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tagging Mithras

Facebook has a new feature where it finds faces on your photos automatically and harasses you by requesting you tag the face it has located. It is creepy to say the least. This is the photo it found and asked I tag:
Mithras slaying the bull, British Museum, London

Sadly after our falling out Mithras and I are no longer facebook friends

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Conspiracy as History?

At the end of last year I reviewed the book The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story ever sold by author Acharya S/D.M. Murdock. While I have only completed the review for the first six chapters, I believe the point has been made that the book is not a work of history. A historian must be conversant with historical method, the ancient evidence and scholarly discussions. Sadly, Ms Murdock fails on all three points.
I discovered that my review was recently shared with Murdock by one of her fans. Her response:
This person's opinion is irrelevant...They just make up whatever crap comes their way - whatever it takes to shore up the faith.
When legitimate historical issues are dismissed in such a way it is not hard to understand why her attempt at history has turned out so bad. In order to push a conspiracy theory it is essential that the theorist view the evidence as irrelevant or as it was so tactfully put by Murdock, "crap". While the historian adjusts their theory in light of careful consideration of the evidence, the conspiracy theorist picks and chooses the evidence to confirm their preconceived conspiracy theory. This is evident throughout the work, whether it be simply dismissing historical sources as forgeries (e.g. Tacitus) or by being oblivious to their very existence (e.g. numerous sources on persecution of Christians, early NT manuscripts and patristic citations, etc.)

An example I raised in the review has to do with Murdock on Augustine of Hippo. Without any attached citation Murdock writes:
Furthermore, the great “Christian” saint Augustine was originally a Mandaean, i.e., a Gnostic, until after the Council of Nicea, when he was “converted,” i.e., promised a prominent place in the newly formed Catholic Church, such that he then excoriated his former sect. (60)
Every point is  factually wrong. Augustine was never a Mandaean. Prior to his conversion to Christianity he was a Manichaean. There is no confusion about this in the primary historical sources- Confessions is filled with discussions and his experience with Manichaesim. Then there is the chronological impossibility of the claim. Augustine was born in AD 354 and converted to Christianity ~387. The council of Nicaea was AD 325. A yet to be born Augustine negotiating a prominent leadership position at the Council of Nicea is a hard picture to swallow. But this is what conspiracy theories masquerading as history demands of the reader.

The pre-existent Mandaean spirit of Augustine, Nicea 325
When her theories are chronologically plausible they often lack explanatory power. In the sentence immediately preceding the above on Augustine, Murdock writes that Ireaneus was actually a gnostic as there was apparently a zodiac on the floor of the church at Lyons. The problem is that Irenaeus is famous for Against the Heresies, a work defending orthodoxy against heresies including gnosticism. How does Murdock reconcile this difficulty? She just ignores it. A few pages later she writes that,  " Irenaeus's time, around 170, the Gnostics were still so powerful that Irenaeus felt compelled to spend a great deal of effort refuting them, even though he himself was Gnostic." (68) What are we to make of this?

Maybe D.M. Murdock should take her own words seriously: "They just make up whatever crap comes their way - whatever it takes to shore up the faith."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Australian Big Cats

The Australian version of the Bigfoot is probably the phenomenon of big cat sightings. Whenever news is slow a junior journalist goes on a brief search for the mysterious black panther roaming Australian bushland. The Daily Telegraph was the culprit today with this piece.

For those who have nothing better to do on a Saturday, this video (part 1 of 8) investigates the phenomenon with cheesy effects:

Evaluating the Cynic Thesis Bibliography

The bibliography I shared on Bauer's Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity appears to be popular. Here follows a bibliography for evaluating the so-called Cynic Jesus thesis. I have earlier shared some critical thoughts on the idea here.

  • Aune, David E. “Jesus and Cynics in First Century Palestine: Some Critical Considerations”, in Hillel and Jesus. Eds. J.H Charlesworth et al. (Fortress Press, 1997)
  • Barnett, Paul. Finding the Historical Christ (Eerdmans, 2009)
  • Bauckham, Richard, “Historiographical Characteristics of the Gospel of John,” New Testament Studies 53, no. 1 (2007), 17-36.
  • Bird, Michael F. Are You the One who Is to Come? The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question. (Baker Academic, 2009)
  • __________. “The Formation of the Gospels in the Setting of Early Christianity: the Jesus Tradition as Corporate Memory,” Westminster Theological Journal 67.1 (2005): 113-94.
  • Casey, Maurice. An Aramaic Approach to Q: Sources for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. (Cambridge University Press, 2002).
  • Dale C. Allison, “Eschatology” in Dictionary of Jesus and Gospel. Ed. Joel B. Green et al. (Invervarsity Press, 1992).
  • DeConick, April D. Recovering the Original Gospel of Thomas: A History of the Gospel and Its Growth. (2006, Volume 286 of Library of New Testament studies. Early Christianity in context .T & T Clark library of biblical studies)
  • Downing, F.G. Christ and the Cynics: Jesus and other Radical Preachers in First-Century Tradition (Sheffield, 1988).
  • _________. Cynics and Christian Origins (Edinburgh, 1992).
  • Dunn, James D.G., Jesus Remembered (Christianity in the Making Volume 1), (Eerdmans, 2003).
  • Eddy, Paul R. “Jesus as Diogenes? Reflections on the Cynic Thesis”, Journal of Biblical Literature. 115, 1996.
  • Evans, Craig A. “The Misplaced Jesus: Interpreting Jesus in a Judaic Context” in B. Chilton, C.A. Evans and J. Neusner, The Missing Jesus: Rabbinic Judaism and the New Testament. (Brill Academic, 2002)
  • __________. “Context, Family and Formation” in Cambridge Companion to Jesus. ed. Markus Bockmuehl. (Cambridge University Press, 2001)
  • Gerhardsson, Birger. The Reliability of the Gospel Tradition. (Hendrickson Publishers, 2001.)
  • G.F. Hawthorne, "Prophets" in Dictionary of Jesus and Gospels ed. Joel B. Green (InterVarsity Press, 1992)
  • Hock, R.F. “Cynicism”, Anchor Bible Dictionary. Ed. David Noel Freedman. (Doubleday, 1992)
  • Horsley, Richard A. “Jesus: Itinerant Cynic or Israelite Prophet?”, in Images of Jesus Today ed. J.H. Charlesworth et al. (Trinity Press, 1994)
  • Kirk, A, The Composition of the Sayings Source: Genre, Synchrony and Wisdom Redaction in Q (NovTSup 91; Brill, 1998)
  • Mack, Burton L. A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins. (Fortress Press, 1988.)
  • __________.The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins. (HarperCollins, 1993)
  • Marshall, I. Howard. I Believe in the Historical Jesus. (Regent College Publishing, 2004)
  • McKnight, Scot, Jesus and His Death: Historiography, the Historical Jesus, and Atonement Theory. (Baylor University Press, 2005)
  • __________. “Jesus and Prophetic Actions”, Bulletin for Biblical Research 10.2 (2000) 197-232.
  • __________. A New Vision for Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context. (Eerdmans, 1999)
  • Stanton, Graham. “Message and Miracles” in Cambridge Companion to Jesus. ed. Markus Bockmuehl. (Cambridge University Press, 2001)
  • Kloppenborg, John. The Formation of Q: Trajectories in Ancient Wisdom Collections. (Studies in Antiquity and Christianity. Fortress Press, 1987.)
  • Vaage, Leif E. Galilean Upstarts: Jesus’ First Followers According to Q. (Trinity Press International, 1992).
  • Van Voorst, Robert E. (2000), Jesus outside the New Testament: an introduction to the ancient evidence. (Eerdmans, 2000)
  • Webb, Robert L., "Jesus' Baptism: Its Historicity and Implications, " Bulletin for Biblical Research 10.2 (2000) 261-309.
  • Witherington, Ben. Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom. (Fortress Press, 2000) [General thesis and especially chapter three that engages the cynic question]
  • ________. The Christology of Jesus. (Fortress Press, 1990)
  • ________. The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth. (InterVarsity Press, 2007)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Blogger Statistics

Recently blogger has provided a function for viewing a variety of statistics related to blog hits. For me it has added a whole new dimension to the blog. I can see what posts are being read, where people are coming from, who is referring them to me, and what people are searching to make their way here.

Those who have sent the most users here are:
  • James McGrath from Exploring Our Matrix. Dr McGrath is Associate Professor of Religion and Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University. He blogs on a wide range of issues from NT studies to creationism. Often you will find a funny cartoon or a point you just don't want to accept.
  • Nick Norelli over at Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth. If you are after a book review or run down on quasi blood sports he is the guy to see. Despite his wishes, I am still using this sub par blogger platform.
  • Chuck over at A 'Goula Blogger. While I don't always know what Chuck means by his comments, he once bought me some very useful books and he is a gold mine for commentary notes.
  • Most recently a lot of hits came from the NT Blog  aka "Mark Goodacre's academic blog. It focuses on issues of interest on the New Testament and Christian Origins." Goodacre is Associate Professor of New Testament in the Religion Department at Duke University and a name associated with "that guy who doesn't think Q existed."
  • Then there is Life's Crosses by Aloysius Ong. If this new feature did not exist I would not have had a clue about Ong's blog or his reference to my infamous diagram on orthodoxy and heresy from a RCC perspective.
So if you aren't already following these people, do check them out.

Most people who come to my blog through google seem to be interested in Jewish burial traditions, Geza Vermes, Gunnar Samuellsson, Walter Bauer and everything Orthodoxy and Heresy related, Kruger and Kostenberger's work The Heresy of Orthodoxy and the historicity of Jesus.

The most logical search term came through today:

why would john the baptist's remains be in bulgaria?
The short answer is most likely "they wouldn't be."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

John the Baptist's Remains found in Bulgaria???

Marc Cortez has the most professional insight:
So, in breaking news, archeologists have discovered a really old box that may or may not have something to do with John the Baptist and that contains bones which may very well not have belonged to John in the first place. When you say it like that, though, it’s not as exciting.
CNN report here
On occasion pre-Constantine papyri can be quite profound. This late third century Greek magical papyri is not one of them - unless you are Dias, son of Sophia and suffering from a fever.

Master angels
and good, rid
Dias, whom
Sophia bore, 
of the fever
gripping him,
on this
present day,
this very hour,
now, now quick-
ly, quickly.

Suppl. Mag 1.11

Cynic Jesus - rantish

In light of some feedback I have revisited my article A Historical Critique of the Cynic Jesus (working title) which is a critical engagement with the works of F.G. Downing, Burton Mack, and to a lesser extent Leif E. Vaage and John Dominic Crossan. The draft at this time is quite sizeable yet there is just so much more that needs to be said. The real purpose of this update is some reflections on the process since it began in January. Many people have had to deal with my real life rants regarding my frustration at the thesis (hi Rob and Nic!) - from abuse of redaction criticism to simply bad analogies. I tried to blame Americans, but Dr McGrath assured me that not all of them are to blame. I could not get over the myth making of Mack and even ranted about the irony of liberal scholars being too believing at the most inappropriate times.  At the end of May Dr Michael Barber was reading whatever I was reading and word-for-word (in terms of quotes) noted the The Uncritical Use of Redaction Criticism, including the warnings those drawing on Kloppenborg's stratification of Q managed to forget. To repeat them here:
 “to say that the wisdom components were formative for Q and that the prophetic judgment oracles and apophthegms describing Jesus' conflict with "this generation" are secondary is not to imply anything about the ultimate tradition-historical provenance of any of the sayings. It is indeed possible, indeed probable, that some of the materials from the secondary compositional phase are dominical or at least very old, and that some of the formative elements are, from the standpoint of authenticity or tradition-history, relatively young. Tradition-history is not convertible with literary history, and it is the latter which we are treating here.”
Most recently I made light of this sort of thinking in my satirical International Project for Q discovers Non-Apocalyptic Qumran Community (featured in July's Biblical studies blog carnival hosted by Dr Jim West).

But things changed...the cynic thesis stopped sounding so ridiculous. Could it be that:

  • “As remembered by the Jesus people, Jesus was much more like the Cynic-teacher than either a Christ-savior or a messiah with a program for the reformation of second-temple Jewish society and religion.” (Burton Mack)
  • “the wealth of at least apparent ‘parallels’ between the Jesus tradition and popular Cynicism suggest that some kind of Cynic influence may well have been accepted by Jesus of Nazareth himself.”  (F.G. Downing)

Interview with Simon Gathercole on G.Thomas and G.Judas

Over at Justin Taylor's blog is a short interview  by Andy Naselli with Simon J. Gathercole on the Gospel of Judas and Gospel of Thomas. (ht) It touches on the missing gospels fad touched on in my even shorter interview with Darrell Bock. Naselli has also asked a few questions of T.D. Alexander on biblical theology. While on the topic of Gospel Coalition blogs, shouldn't the latest Themelios be out by now?