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Archive for June, 2008

N T Wright on Comedy Central – The Last Anglican Straight Man?

Posted by NT Wrong on June 21, 2008

On Thursday 19 June, 2008, Bishop N T Wright was interviewed by Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central. The subject was the Bishop’s latest book, Surprised by Hope, and the topic of Heaven.

N T Wright was playing the straight man to Colbert. This is an unusual role for a bishop to assume in the Anglican Church these days, unless he’s Nigerian. But N T Wright played the role well, and even slipped in a fine gag about the possible title of Hillary Clinton’s forthcoming book.

Here’s a transcript of what they said, for the sole purpose of religious education:

Stephen Colbert: “Our guest tonight wants Christians to rethink Heaven. I say they still have harps, but now with whammy-bars. Please welcome Bishop NT Wright. Bishop, thank you so much for joining us. Now, you are a bishop in the Anglican Church, correct.”

N T Wright: “Right.”

Stephen Colbert: “Great. Well welcome.”

N T Wright: “Thank you.”

Stephen Colbert: “Now, I’m a Roman Catholic – no hard feelings about the whole Henry thing. Ok?”

N T Wright: “Absolutely.”

Stephen Colbert: “Let’s not try to make this, you know … let’s not settle any scores.”

N T Wright: “No, we actually have an annual golf match of Anglicans and Catholics, and I’m sorry to say that they won the first two. But we shared the one last week, so we’re getting on alright.”

Stephen Colbert: “Ok, great, well, that’s a good ecumenical step.”

N T Wright: “We played for a dogma a hole.”

Stephen Colbert: “A dogma a hole?”

N T Wright: “Mmmm – go figure.”

Stephen Colbert: “That’s very nice. Now you talk a lot about a dogma, a really quite ancient dogma, in your book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. I love the name Surprised by Hope – I believe that will be the title of Hillary Clinton’s next book, also.”

N T Wright: “I thought that was going to be ‘Hoping for a Surprise’.”

Stephen Colbert: “Well, these days, when I feel hope, I’m kind of surprised.”

N T Wright: “Well, absolutely. But the whole point about this is that most Christians have this vague idea of going to Heaven as something that …”

Stephen Colbert: “No, mine’s very specific, you get a harp, and I’ll have a mint julep, and I’ll ask Ronald Reagan questions.”

N T Wright: “Right, and you’ll be sitting like that guy in the Far Side cartoon, saying, ‘Gee, I wish I’d brought a magazine, because it’s so boring’? I mean that’s the image a lot of people have of it, but the point in the New Testament is that there’s this big surprise that Heaven is just Phase 1, and then there’s a further thing, further down the track, which is what the Bible calls New Heavens and New Earth.”

Stephen Colbert: “The New Jerusalem.”

N T Wright: “Well, the New Jerusalem, but at the end of the Bible, The New Jerusalem comes down from Heaven to Earth, so that Heaven and Earth get joined and made over.

Stephen Colbert: “And we’re made over too, right. We have physical perfection along with our spiritual perfection.”

N T Wright: “The resurrection is what you get in order to inhabit this new world. But that’s only Surprise Number 1. Surprise Number 2 …”

Stephen Colbert: “What’s behind door number 2? Ha!”

N T Wright: “Well, it’s a good question. Behind door number 2, in the last chunk of the book, is that, if God is going to do that, to the whole creation at the end of time, and if that began with Jesus, then we now get to share in doing bits that are going to turn into the New Creation. In other words, stuff like, feeding the hungry, and looking after the poor, and particularly things like ….”

Stephen Colbert: “But at the coming resurrection, Jesus is going to take care of all of that. He comes on a cloud of glory, judges the living and the dead, ok, and then [claps hands twice] everything’s better. Right? He made everything in six days, he can clean up what we got here in, like, an afternoon.”

N T Wright: “Now, I don’t know if you have kids, but …”

Stephen Colbert: “I have three kids, yeah.”

N T Wright: “Well I have four, and two grandkids …”

Stephen Colbert: “It’s not a contest, ok!”

N T Wright: “Oh really, I thought it was. Never mind.”

Stephen Colbert: “Ok, yeah … I should have said, ‘… That I know of’ ”

N T Wright: “ha ha ha. Was that yours or mine?”

Stephen Colbert: “Right.”

N T Wright: “If you say to your kids, by the end of the weekend, this will be alright, so they can go and play, if there’s stuff they need to do, they need to do it now. But the point is, seriously, the beginning surprise is the resurrection of Jesus, and there’s a great many Christians who have …”

Stephen Colbert: “That surprised a lot of people, especially the Romans!”

N T Wright: “Absolutely, and the early Christians themselves. They weren’t expecting it at the time. It took them by surprise.”

Stephen Colbert: “He told ’em, though.”

N T Wright: “Yeah, he told them, but they didn’t get it. It says, ‘They didn’t get it’ and it …”

Stephen Colbert: “What’s the surprise here? Hasn’t this long been the message of the Church. Isn’t this a medieval doctrine?”

N T Wright: “It’s not medieval, in fact the middle ages was when it started to go wrong. If you go back to the very early church, yes, resurrection was the standard doctrine. I’m not saying anything radically new that wasn’t in the New Testament in the early church. In the middle ages there’s a lot of stuff comes from the Greek philosophers, people like Plato, which says that actually you can have a soul, and the soul ends up going off, and so you don’t need a body anymore.”

Stephen Colbert: “So what happens, then? I’m all for finding out what happens to me after I die – because I’d love to make some plans. But what happens then? According to your reading – and is this your reading, or is this ‘Anglican theology’?”

N T Wright: “The great thing about Anglicans is that we have no theology of our own. If something is true, the Anglicans believe it. That’s the theory anyway, it would be nice if it worked that way.”

Stephen Colbert: “That’s what I say.”

N T Wright: “No, you chaps have this stuff that you look up in these big books all the time. But the point is this, in the New Testament …”

Stephen Colbert: “You’re talking to the wrong chap.”

N T Wright: “I didn’t know you used the word chap … In the New Testament you have this wonderful picture, which is lost off for many Christians today, of God bringing everything together in this recreation, and the point about that recreation is we can do recreation here-and-now, because it’s already begun with Jesus. And I talk a lot in the book …”

Stephen Colbert: “That sounds a little slippery. I’m sorry, you got a little slippery on me there. You’re saying everything’s recreated, ok? The Earth is recreated. Everything who every lived on it is recreated. Won’t it be crowded?”

N T Wright: “Well, it could be.”

Stephen Colbert: “Will the New Earth be bigger than the last one, or will we all be slimmer?”

N T Wright: “Ok – two little facts. Well, I could do with being a bit slimmer, and I’m sure it doesn’t apply to you, but, actually, every human being who’s ever lived on the face of the earth could just about stand together on the Isle of Man, which is a little offshore island off the English coast.”

Stephen Colbert: “And that’s what Heaven will be?”

N T Wright: “No. Fortunately, no. And you’re still doing what most people do, which is using the word ‘Heaven’ for the final stage. What I say is: think about life after life after death. Heaven, ok, where people go after death, but then there is a further stage. We’re talking about a two-stage post-mortem reality.”

Stephen Colbert: “I tell you what, this is the sort of thing that really can’t be argued out in this lifetime. I’ll see you in the afterlife, and we’ll settle it there.”

N T Wright: “Well, that would be nice. Yes, good.”

Stephen Colbert: “Bishop Wright, thank you so much for joining us.”

Posted in Eschatology | 7 Comments »

Eisenmania IV – Search for The Historical Abraham

Posted by NT Wrong on June 20, 2008

Robert Eisenman is rightly sceptical about the historicity of the Abraham stories. But in his second lecture on the Dead Sea scrolls, he introduces a new criterion for distinguishing an historical kernel about Abraham from the legends – detail and distinctiveness of people and placenames:

“I don’t know how historical Abraham is. There is one story about Abraham in the Bible, in case you’re interested, which I think is historical – and the really only kernel that they have to work off of. I don’t know if I can find it for you [ … ] Chapter 14, the campaign of the four kings … That is clearly totally different from the rest of Genesis.”
Robert Eisenman ( 4:00–5:00 )

Ah yes – the survival of toponyms and personal names in stories. Unfortunately for Eisenman, toponymns and personal names tend to survive very well in legends, while the details of the story remain mythical. Catalogue of Ships, anyone? Anyway, Eisenman tells us about the amazing historical details in Genesis 14:

” ‘It was in the time of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim, Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar).’ None of these names are ever spoken of before or after. And the precision of this is very high.”
Robert Eisenman ( 5:10–5:34)

Hmmmm … It’s been well known for well over a century that Genesis 14 is in fact from a quite unrelated source from what surrounds it. So Eisenman is quite right on that count. But what does he mean exactly by the historical “precision” of this account. How can he tell when something has “very high” precision? What exactly is Eisenman referring to that is historically “precise”?

” ‘they defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, the Emim in …’
Robert Eisenman ( 5:40–5:45)

Ah yes – Rephaim, Zuzites, Emim … according to the Bible, these are groups of … Giants! Now that’s historical precision!!

“All of this is in, like, three or four or five lines! … This is old even when the narrator puts it down. This is old! This is very old!! Even the narrator doesn’t understand it … If you saw this you could see – even I, a dumbo, who had little training when I first started here in these things could see – this is not like any other text in all of Genesis and the rest of the Bible. Why? Presumably it’s from a stele … I think this is actually the kernel of the Abraham story because at the end of this he says … ‘Abram the Hebrew’ … This is real. I mean real from whatever period it was. So there was a person called Abraham the Hebrew. I’m sure of that. Just from this here. And he was called the Hebrew. I’m very sure of that, too, just from looking at this in a literary-critical manner … ‘Abraham came back after the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings at his side’ and so on and so forth. I mean, these names come out of … space, as it were. There’s no description of who they are, what they are, what their background is, where they came from, so on and so forth. That’s where you get real history, and it’s not poetry because it’s crappy poetry. It doesn’t even read well. It’s a newspaper clipping, from that time, or a commemorative clipping shortly after.”
– Robert Eisenman ( 5:45–8:00, 0:00–1:17 )

Let’s think just for a couple of seconds about that ‘commemorative stele’. Rather than commemorate victory over historical peoples, it names … Giants. Now that’s the strangest commemorative stele I know of. If there was a commemorative stele behind the tradition, it’s been well buried in legend. Genesis 14 is not the best choice for establishing history in Genesis (it’s much like the rest of the material, in that respect).

Posted in Academia, Dead Sea Scrolls | 2 Comments »

Eisenmania III – On why ‘The Son of Man’ must be foreign

Posted by NT Wrong on June 20, 2008

This has to be my favourite episode of Eisenmania, yet. The quotations below are from Robert Eisenman’s first and second lectures on the Dead Sea scrolls. Although Robert Eisenman’s explanation is far from clear, it appears Eisenman is trying to make the following argument:

    1. Daniel 7 only refers to a (generic) son of man, meaning ‘man’;
    2. Jesus refers to himself as “The Son of Man”, with the definite article, somewhere in ‘The Gospels’;
    3. Only a foreigner could make such a mistake (in interpreting Daniel);
    (therefore) 4. The narrator of ‘The Gospels’ was a foreigner who put these words into the mouth of Daniel, because he misunderstood Daniel’s reference to ‘son of man’.

“‘You will see The Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven.’ … Well, to my mind, that shows that the Gospels are, first of all, are written by people who don’t know Hebrew, or Aramaic, and are of overseas origin. And actually, just from that line – I know I’m pushing a lot in that – but they know very little about what is going on in Palestine at all. Most of what they’re talking about is, like, poorly digested hearsay and so on … People are putting their own ideas into Jesus’ mouth.”
– Robert Eisenman ( 4:25–5:43 )

Points (1) and (2) are quite true. But point (3) is nonsense. The phrase “The Son of Man”, referring to a specific heavenly being, was in fact used by Jews. In fact, “The Son of Man” was used by Jews in their own native Aramaic tongue in 1 Enoch 46.

(That Aramaic was the original language of composition for the Parables (or ‘Similitudes’) of Enoch is “obvious” (J. Charlesworth, in Boccaccini, Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man, 2007: 452), so is not in question.)

In 1 Enoch 46, the figure of “The Son of Man” is clearly an individual, another power in heaven alongside God, who will be “the One” to carry out the eschatological judgment. Some Jewish reinterpreters of Daniel had developed the ‘one like a son of man’ tradition, so that at the turn of the millennium some Jews were interpreting it, in their native tongue, as “The Son of Man”. So Eisenman’s argument that only a foreigner could have referred to “The Son of Man” (with the definite article) is seriously flawed, contrary to evidence he should know about, and quite untenable.

Here is Eisenman’s own ‘explanation’ (the explanation is a little hard to follow, because throughout his explanation, Eisenman is searching for Mark’s famous ‘Little Apocalypse’ in Ch 13, but Eisenman has forgotten where it is, or even which book it is in for that matter):

“… Adam being the ‘Son of Man’ coming on the clouds of heaven. I tried to tell you that I thought that that formula probably showed a foreign authorship. I just read something in the Gospels today when I was looking for something for these footnotes that I’m doing. And it said that, “The Son of Man …” Where was it. It was in, um, I don’t know if I can find it quickly. I probably can’t. Let’s see quickly if I can find it […] Let’s see if I can find it. Now … after Jesus is saying that you can eat anything you want … um: “These are the things which defile a man. But eating with unwashed hands does not defile a man” … and, ah … and now I can’t find the Son of Man … Ah well, it was in here some place. I was just seeing it. So um … He was referring to himself … Maybe it’s Mark 7 … um … Let’s see […] We have quotes here with Jesus referring to himself as ‘The Son of Man’. What I’m trying to say is, there is no The Son of Man. So I don’t know if Jesus would have said that himself … What did the President of Columbia say, “You either don’t know what you’re talking about, or you’re uneducated” or something like that? [I don’t know] if he would have been that unsophisticated. Only those people who were putting those speeches down in his name – whether they’re accurate or not, beng no tape-recorders at the time … So, I just came across one of those things. I can’t … I better find it. Hold on a minute, just give me a second, I can’t leave that hanging out there. Let’s just give me a minute here … ahhhhhh, let’s see … um …………….. it doesn’t look like I’m going to find it … ah, this page here I think … um … nah! no way … ha … well, I can’t find where he actually says it, not the narrator – where Jesus actually calls himself The Son of Man … I can’t find it. But anyway the reason I brought up the whole Daniel material is because it comes from Daniel (“One like a son of man coming on the clouds of heaven”) and ‘man’ is ‘Adam’ in Hebrew. So that’s why I got off on a tangent, to show how important the concept of Adam is …”
– Robert Eisenman ( 1:10–4:18 )

Of course, there is no word ‘Adam’ in Dan 7, which is in Aramaic (instead: bar enosh). (Although Eisenman does explain this in his first Dead Sea scrolls lecture.)

Posted in Academia, Dead Sea Scrolls | 5 Comments »

Eisenmania II – When Dissimilation Resembles Dissemblance

Posted by NT Wrong on June 19, 2008

I was drawn back into the 1,013 videos of Robert Eisenman lectures now available on YouTube. Right at the start of Eisenman’s second Dead Sea scrolls lecture, he talks about a “great word” he wants his class to learn.

Unfortunately, he gets the word wrong. He says “Dissimilation” when he means “Dissembling”. After explaining this great word to his students for a while, he begins to realise he really means “Dissembling”. But instead of confessing that “Dissimilation” was the wrong word altogether, he says, ‘Here’s a synonym of Dissimilation: Dissembling!’

One of the ironies is, of course, here is Eisenman identifying two quite distinct words that sound similar and saying they must mean the same thing. Isn’t that just a microcosm of his whole work?

“[Writes ‘dissimilation’ on whiteboard] You probably don’t even know what ‘dissimilation’ is, some of you. Dissimilation, dissembling, means that you don’t really believe what you’re saying [sic]. You’re saying something what you think will help you, or will please the ears of the person you’re saying it to, or you know it wasn’t true to begin with, or in fact you know its false. You’re “dissimilating” it. You’re “dissembling”. That’s what that means. It’s a great word. And, um, it’s got a synonym [writes ‘dessembling’ [sic] on whiteboard], I don’t know if I’m spelling it right. Probably not. This is probably an i [changes second letter from ‘e’ to i]. I don’t know which it is, ‘e’ or ‘i’. I can’t spell either. Look it up in spellcheck. I mean later on.”
– Robert Eisenman

dis·sem·ble – “to give a false or misleading appearance to; conceal the truth or real nature of: to dissemble one’s incompetence in business”

dis·sim·i·la·tion – “Phonetics. the process by which a speech sound becomes different from or less like a neighboring sound”

Posted in Academia, Dead Sea Scrolls | 4 Comments »

Tenth Anniversary of Buddy Davis’ ‘Creation Gospel’ Album

Posted by NT Wrong on June 19, 2008

Yes, it’s ten years since Buddy Davis released an album that shot straight to number one throughout Kansas: ‘Creation Gospel’. Every one of these tracks is just so darn catchy, a little bit of me wished I could believe in something as daft as Creation Science. Here’s the track-listing for this monumental album:

1. Billions Of Dead Things 3:11
2. It’s Designed to Do What It Does Do 1:52
3. I Don’t Believe in Evolution 2:12
4. He makes Dreams Out of Nothing 3:33
5. Problem Solved 2:48
6. God’s The Author of Creation 2:33
7. Adam and Eve 3:01
8. Could Behemoth Be a Dinosaur? 2:02
9. Creation Week 2:14
10. The Answer’s In Genesis 2:04
11. Glory to God, Jesus is King 1:50
12. The Hands That Created the World 2:51
13. In Six Days 1:59
14. I Believe 3:45

Listening to it again makes me just weep tears of joy. Go on, treat yourself to a listen to ‘Billions Of Dead Things’. You’ll never forget the experience:

I imagine this is still number one in Kansas.

Posted in Fundamentalism, Music, Science | 1 Comment »

Robert Eisenman – Feminist Criticism, Hebrew, Dead Sea Scrolls

Posted by NT Wrong on June 18, 2008

Professor Robert Eisenman’s students at California State University, Long Beach have uploaded ONE THOUSAND AND THIRTEEN videos of his lectures onto YouTube.

In his first lecture from his Dead Sea scrolls course, Robert Eisenman makes some interesting feminist criticism. I say “criticism” in the widest possible sense … wide enough to include the critical capabilities of an afternoon West Virginian talk-radio audience, say.

Anyway, in the words of Eisenman, from a lecture he delivered on the Dead Sea scrolls:

“The name Adam means also [sic] what in Hebrew? … Man. So Adam and man are the same thing … So we call the first man Adam, but he’s also the name for all man- or ‘human-‘ kind. I don’t want to get sexist about this, or chauvinist, or whatever. The ancients, you know, did emphasise maleness – let’s face it. You can attack them or think whatever you want, but I’m not sure it’s much better today when everything’s being feminized, either. I mean, I don’t know if the world’s a better place. I mean, I can’t judge. I have to wait another 500 years to tell. Today everything is like, well, I think it’s kind of like totally ‘womanized’, now – in the sense that women are dominant, in culture and things like that. You write a book and you’re a woman – you get published much quicker than a man. You apply for a teaching job some place, in this university, or in the religious department, it’s much, much quicker. I tell my sons, ‘Don’t even bother going into academia’, unless you’ve got some really[?] thing going through your neural network, don’t even bother. And so on and so forth.”
– Robert Eisenman

And when Eisenman comments on the Aramaic portions of the Bible, it gives an insight into his knowledge of the Bible’s languages – on which he bases his detailed, nay convoluted, nay crazy, theories about the linkage of different Jewish personal names, place names, and words:

“What people don’t realise is Daniel isn’t even written in Hebrew. It’s written in Aramaic [sic]. People say, ‘This is the “Hebrew Bible”.’ That’s a misnomer too, they want to change the word from ‘Old Testament’ to that – that’s the present scholarly sort of preference. Well Daniel’s an Aramaic book [sic], so how is that the ‘Hebrew Bible’? It’s a collection of books, some of them are Hebrew – most of them are Hebrew – but some are not. Well, at least one isn’t, I think there may be another in Aramaic as well [sic] – I’ll have to check it out.”
– Robert Eisenman

Those comments are from the first three or four minutes of his Dead Sea scrolls lecture. If you dare to go on to plumb the depths of his ignorance, have a look at the whole lecture below. I’m still amazed that any University employs him to lecture at all. Even in California.

Posted in Academia, Dead Sea Scrolls | 9 Comments »

The Historical Kernel of Biblical History – Comparisons from other fields

Posted by NT Wrong on June 16, 2008

In an article entitled “Epic and history”, Kurt A. Raaflaub makes a comparative study of Sumerian epic, Homeric epic, and the Nibelungenlied, amongst others, and arrives at some interesting conclusions. He is keenly aware of the need to examine each tradition with a thorough background knowledge, but also draws attention to the ability of comparative studies to reveal new possibilities for consideration.

So, to cut to his conclusions, how well can we reconstruct the ‘historical kernel’ of heroic epic — a genre which (if not defined too narrowly) provides most of the material for what we we find in Genesis-Kings? According to Raaflaub’s brief study, the answer is simple: we can’t.

“Despite subjective conservatism inherent in the genre that prompts singers to improve on previous versions of a given song rather than altering it, over time a number of factors cause the original story to be reinterpreted, possibly more than once, and potentially to be distorted beyond recognition. These factors include, among others, audience pressure that forces singers to adjust to changing tastes, needs, and social conditions; deeper transformations and disruptions in the world in which the singers live that cause changes in outlook and values; new events, experiences, and outstanding personalities that capture the imagination of singers and audiences and induce them to replace old songs by new ones or to reinterpret traditional themes more radically; and an inherent tendency, common to all forms of oral tradition, to suppress the individual and specific in favor of the universal. In the cases of medieval and later epics, where independent historical evidence is available, it is clear that only a minimal historical core survives in the extant poems. To reconstruct this core from the epic is impossible because the process of transformation does not follow set rules, is different in each case, and can thus not be unraveled from the end.
The situation is different when we focus on the social background or environment in which the poet places the heroic events and actions. Wherever the epic evidence is substantial enough, the depiction of social structures, conditions, and interactions proves sufficiently consistent to reflect a historical society – despite archaisms, anachronisms, exaggerations, and occasional contradictions that help create a heroic aura and are traits or remnants of composition in performance. The society portrayed is usually the poet’s own.”
– Kurt A. Raaflaub, “Epic & History”. Pages 55-70 in John Miles Foley, ed., A Companion to Ancient Epic. Malden, Blackwell & Carlton: Blackwell, 2005: 69 (emphasis added).

What would be really interesting would be to get experts in everything from Homer to Monmouth and Snorri, and compare each of the epic works with history (as ascertained by modern historiography). How are the traditions transformed? How is ‘history’ invented? Why are such traditions invented? Etc, etc.

Posted in Historical Books, Historiography | Comments Off on The Historical Kernel of Biblical History – Comparisons from other fields

Gnosticism – Vision – Spring 2008

Posted by NT Wrong on June 15, 2008

Vision.org is a Church of God magazine-website. In the Spring 2008 edition, Vision provides an overview of Gnosticism.

It makes one good point: 

“Gnosticism was eventually banished from the Roman Empire and all but disappeared, but it should not be presented as the loser in the struggle with the orthodoxy that emanated from Rome. While Gnosticism may have departed the scene in the empire, the orthodoxy that remained had absorbed many facets of Gnostic understanding and its approach to the Scriptures. The two are in fact siblings, the result of the same interpretive approach to Scripture, although differing in degree.”

While Gnostic Christianity is often presented as the “loser” in the battle with proto-orthodox Christianity, it is worth remembering that the boundaries between Gnostic and proto-orthodox Christianity were not clear-cut. Proto-orthodox Christianity was shaped by Gnostic Christianity, and to some extent proto-orthodox Christianity was Gnostic Christianity. At least as late as the second century, Valentinus can still be considered for the position of Bishop of Rome, and what might be categorized as “Gnostic” terminology and concepts can show up in writings that have more in common with later orthodoxy than Gnosticism – such as the Epistle of the Apostles or Clement of Alexandria. The distinctions between proto-orthodox Christianity and early Gnosticism are ones of degree only, and are in flux, continually being worked out.

Yet, the article tends to make some conservative and unwarranted conclusions:

“what we know as the New Testament is the product of Judaic writers speaking to fellow Jews as well as to gentiles who wished to acknowledge the God of Israel as established in those Holy Scriptures known as the Old Testament. It was their view that the Apostolic Writings were to be read through the lens of the existing Scriptures, which validated the teachings of the later texts. The writings of the Gnostics, by contrast, are written on a totally speculative basis.”

Many Proto-orthodox Christian claims – such as Jesus’ claim to be “Son of Man”, the belief in an end-times Messiah, and an eschatological battle between Jesus and an opposing figure called ‘Satan’ – are just as much “speculative” developments as were the Gnostic ones. None of these ides are in fact in the Old Testament. The Vision article seems to presume that while Proto-orthodox Christian developments naturally flow from the Hebrew Bible, Gnostic developments do not. But it is important to recognize that both streams of tradition applied highly imaginative, speculative, and just plain unusual lenses in their rereadings of the Hebrew Bible. They are both “speculative” while at the same time being based on older Jewish traditions. Jewish traditions were developing in many directions in these centuries, exhibiting both continuity and discontinuity from the Jewish traditions which preceded them. The Sethian characterisation of the Old Testament God as a Demiurge or Yaldabaoth is essentially tied to Old Testament traditions. The discontinuity that results from characterizing the Old Testament God as inferior and ignorant is a vital method by which some Gnostic writers developed these Old Testament traditions. Is it any more discontinuous than saying that the one Lord of the Old Testament Psalms is actually two Lords – both Father and Son?

Posted in Early Christian literature | Comments Off on Gnosticism – Vision – Spring 2008

Create Your Own aNE Fonts

Posted by NT Wrong on June 13, 2008

Do you get annoyed when your ancient Near Eastern font set doesn’t look much like the ancient Near Eastern script that it should emulate? Here’s the solution: make your own! And here’s a quick-and-easy free online tool with which to do so: Fontstruct.

In April, an online font clearinghouse called FontShop quietly uploaded a program that, the company wrote, was meant to be “purely entertaining—something to kickstart creativity.” FontStruct, a browser tool that lets anyone create an original font, was so popular that the site’s servers crashed within days of the official launch.
– Jason Fagone – ‘YouType: The strange allure of making your own fonts’

I’ve registered with Fontstruct, and began to construct (or ‘fontstruct’ …) a font I call ‘Ilimilku’. I’m just playing at the moment, but I may get more scientific later. The software is all quite intuitive and straightforward. You can either click and drag to draw lines for the characters within a grid, or select pre-designed boxes to include the shapes within your font design. You associate each character you create with characters in the standard English keyboard character-set. At any stage, you can download your work as a TrueType font. If you wish, you can also make your font publicly available to other users under a Creative Commons license.

Now, here’s an example of the type of advantage I mentioned above. If you try to explain that an Ain in a certain Ugaritic text couldn’t possibly be a thanna or a qopa, the best way to do this would be to use realistic Ugaritic fonts for the three characters in your sentence. But, with the Logos Ugaritic font set, thanna and qopa actually do look the same in respect of one of the cuneiform wedges. Annoying, huh? But, with my Ilimilku Font (Beta version 1.0), which is based on KTU 1.21-22, I can make the distinction quite clear:

Of course, I also get full rights to use my own font in my work. Splendid! Yet, to do it well, you have to take some time. But if you were going to make a close study of the epigraphy and palaeography, then why not make a font-set of the representative average characters at the same time?


Posted in Hebrew & Semitics | Comments Off on Create Your Own aNE Fonts

Are You Afflicted by the Winged Dragon Demon of Testament of Solomon 14.4?

Posted by NT Wrong on June 13, 2008

Now – prophylactic relief is finally available. You don’t have to take it anymore!

A New Age site, King Solomon Legend, has been set up to sell prophylactic amulets to those afflicted by cruel and perverse demons. The amulets are “made in Israel” – which makes them doubly effective of course.

Jim Davila links to the website’s press release, in which amulet-wearers are promised “the focus and energy to pursue their dreams, face their fears and accomplish their goals”. Dude.

Posted in Humour, Religion & Society, Science | Comments Off on Are You Afflicted by the Winged Dragon Demon of Testament of Solomon 14.4?