Official Blog of the Bishop of Durham

Archive for January, 2009

That’s All Folks!

Posted by NT Wrong on January 7, 2009


Summary Stats:

“I want to be rich and I want lots of money
I don’t care about clever, I don’t care about funny
I want loads of clothes and fuckloads of diamonds
I heard people die while they’re trying to find ’em.”

Posted in Biblioblogs | 4 Comments »

Happy Birthday, Thomas Thompson!

Posted by NT Wrong on January 7, 2009

thomas-thompsonCongratulations to Thomas L. Thompson, who turns 70 today (Jan 7, 2009). Since his landmark work on the non-historicity of the patriarchal narratives in Genesis — except for a short stint as a house-painter — Professor Thompson has been at the forefront of work on myth and (lack of) history in biblical narratives. His major works include The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives (1974), The Origin Tradition of Ancient Israel (1987), The Early History of the Israelite People (1992), The Bible in History: How Writers Create a Past (London, 1999) = The Myth of Ancient Israel (New York, 1999), and The Messiah Myth: The Near Eastern Roots of Jesus and David‎ (2005).

Just to note a curious synchronicity: Thomas Thompson’s 70th birthday coincides with the 91st anniversary of the death of Julius Wellhausen.

Congratulations on reaching threescore and ten — and best wishes for the day!

“not only has ‘archaeology’ not proven a single event of the patriarchal traditions to be historical, it has not shown any of the traditions to be likely. On the basis of what we know of Palestinian history of the Second Millenium B. C., and of what we understand about the formation of the literary traditions of Genesis, it must be concluded that any such historicity as is commonly spoken of in both scholarly and popular works about the patriarchs of Genesis is hardly possible and totally improbable.”
– Thomas L. Thompson, The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives: The Quest for the Historical Abraham. Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1974: 328.

Posted in Academia, Historiography | Comments Off on Happy Birthday, Thomas Thompson!

Science Doesn’t Have All the Answers – Which is Why We Need Theology

Posted by NT Wrong on January 5, 2009

From Jesus and Mo.

Posted in Humour, Science | 2 Comments »

New Specialist Hebrews Blog

Posted by NT Wrong on January 5, 2009

Baylor doctoral candidate Brian Small has started a blog in 2009 called Polumeros kai Polutropos, which promises to be “dedicated strictly to the study of Hebrews”. The blog will examine the sundry and divers manners in which the Book of Hebrews has been interpreted down through the centuries.


Posted in Biblioblogs, Hebrews | 2 Comments »

Economic Crisis and The Coming Insurrection

Posted by NT Wrong on January 5, 2009

“it isn’t the economy that’s in crisis; the economy is the crisis; it’s not that we can’t get any work, it’s that there’s too much of it; all weighed in, it’s not crisis but growth that’s depressing us. We must admit that for us the litany of the stock market rates has just about as much meaning as a Latin mass.”
The Coming Insurrection, by the “Invisible Committee” (2007): 23 (L’insurrection qui vient, Comité invisible).

Posted in Capitalism | 5 Comments »

Use A.D. and B.C.! (Out with C.E. and B.C.E.!!)

Posted by NT Wrong on January 4, 2009

multifaith_calendar_2009The abbreviations C.E. (Common Era) and B.C.E. (Before Common Era) are commonly used in modern biblical scholarship to refer to the eras which were formerly known as A.D. (Anno Domini – The Year of The Lord) and B.C. (Before Christ). The usual rationale for the change is sensitivity to other religious and non-religious users of the Gregorian calendar. That is, given the number of worldwide users of the Gregorian calendar who don’t believe Jesus of Galilee is ‘The Lord’, a more neutral term is thought to be provided by ‘Common Era’.

However, what is ‘common’ about the Gregorian calendar? To the contrary, however the dating system is named, it refers to a specific tradition of the Christian West. The calendar has a very specific origin in the Christian tradition, and is calculated with respect to the estimated year of birth of the person central to the Christian tradition, Jesus Christ. (In actual fact, Dionysius Exiguus miscalculated the year of Jesus’ birth when he developed the calendar’s antecedent in AD 525, but that’s another story…)

By using ‘C.E.’ and B.C.E.’, we universalize a peculiar tradition. We make it out to be ‘common’ or ‘natural’, not requiring any special marking or qualification. As a consequence of the fact of Western power, the Gregorian calendar has been adopted as the most-used calendar in the world, and so does have some degree of ‘commonality’ in day-to-day use. But the change from A.D. to C.E. (and from B.C. to B.C.E.) obscures the particular Christian basis of this ‘common’ calendar, misrepresenting it as ‘normal’ – as somehow transcending historical particularities. By contrast, the other calendars are made out to be the only ‘localized’ and ‘particular’ calendars. While the Christian calendar is ‘naturalized’ by its designation as ‘common’, other calendars (Jewish, Persian, Islamic, Chinese, Hindu, Ethiopian, Thai, etc) are ‘artificial’ and ‘contingent’.

Stop this neo-colonialism! Use A.D. and B.C. again!! The specific marking of these older terms, which refers to the Christian concept of ‘Christ’, may well be offensive to some people. But this offence is substantial and systemic, not removeable by changing the name of the year which is dated from the birth of Christ. The hegemony of the Western calendar is a fact, and just one of the many effects of Western power in the world today — a minor but not insignificant fact, given the universal importance of local calendars in shaping culture. To obscure the Western calendar’s particularity by making it into a false universal is a double injustice — both the initial violence of changing local calendars, and then its covering up with the misleading term “common”. This is ideology at work.

Scholarship should be on the side of pointing out where injustices arise, not in covering them up.

Posted in Colonialism, Judeo-Christian Practices, Justice | 33 Comments »

Ben Witherington Makes Up Stuff about Historicity of Jesus

Posted by NT Wrong on January 4, 2009

witheringtonLeo takes apart Ben Witherington’s comments from an Australian Radio Show, ‘G’Day World’ (recorded in September 2008).

“During this very interview, he says a few things that are so untrue that it saddens me. It saddens me to hear them coming out of the mouth of someone who is seen as a respectable expert in his field by the many students under his tutelage, who naturally assume he is being honest… what bugs me is the outright falsehoods that he let slip out in his passionate rhetoric during this interview. Moreover, not only are they egregious falsehoods; they are stated so haughtily, so smugly author[it]atively that it makes them doubly shameful to my eyes.”

Leo provides a good discussion of unsupportable overstatements and assertions made by Ben Witherington, namely:

  • Witherington misquotes Greco-Roman authors as “claiming” to rely on Roman records, when they do not make such a claim (whether or not good arguments can be raised that they did rely on official records);
  • Witherington claims that Origen ‘certainly’ quoted from Josephus’ ‘Flavium Testamonium’ in the former’s commentary on John, without being able to provide support when challenged by the interviewer;
  • Witherington makes the old apologetic argument for the truth of the resurrection from the alleged behaviour of Jesus’ earliest disciples in preaching the Gospel — despite the absence of contemporary evidence, [and with recourse to the ‘the disciples must either be Liars or Truth-tellers’ false dichotomy, which depends on the omission of some far more probable further options].

While these half-truths and misrepresentations are common in popular apologetical works, Leo is correct to lament that it is a great shame a biblical scholar – widely known in conservative circles – would recite such unsupported claims to less discerning acolytes. Witherington’s comments were either misleading or plain false (although, I wouldn’t dispute his ‘honesty’, as Leo does) — and this in a field in which there is already a plethora of disinformation fed to the public.

Make sure you read Leo’s very good post, which contains transcriptions of Ben Witherington’s comments, together with Leo’s responses.

Posted in Fundamentalism, Historiography, Jesus & Christ | 14 Comments »

Ancient Jewish Magic was ‘Perfectly Rational’

Posted by NT Wrong on January 3, 2009

“As the assumption that various forces of nature have an angel “ministering” over them was common enough in late-antique Jewish culture, and given an additional axiom that angels can be adjured by humans (esp. by an appeal to the power of God, who created them and whom they greatly fear), the adjuration of angels to quell a storm, bring back a recalcitrant lover, or perform other great deeds would be a perfectly rational action.”
– Gideon Bohak, Ancient Jewish Magic (2008 )

Posted in Magic | 2 Comments »

Eilat Mazar Uses Fundamentalist Christian Cult to Link Archaeological Finds to ‘King David’

Posted by NT Wrong on January 2, 2009

herbert_w_mazarI noticed this disturbing archaeological News on Otagosh, the biblioblog of Gavin Rumney, a one-man encyclopedia of all things to do with Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God.

As a bit of background: Biblical Archaeologist Eilat Mazar announced in October 2008 that the excavation of a tunnel she is supervising in Jerusalem is the tsinnor in the story of King David’s conquest of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5.6-8; 1 Chronicles 11.4-6). Earlier apologists had identified the tsinnor with a shaft near the Gihon Spring, in the attempt to make simplistic correlations between the Bible and archaeology. But when recent excavations showed that the Gihon Spring site wasn’t used in the tenth century BC (when David is alleged to have lived), the Biblical Archaeologists switched to Mazar’s tunnel, in a further desperate attempt to ‘prove’ the truth of the Bible. After all, Biblical Archaeologists such as Eilat Mazar actually boast that their ‘method’ comprises having a spade in one hand and a Bible in the other. Archaeology then becomes a childish game of joining the dots between the two, rather than a professional attempt to assess the context of the archaeological sites in their own right. No doubt, when problems arise with the correlation between this tunnel and the Bible, Mazar will pick up the Bible again (with her right hand) and use her left hand to dig for some new tunnel.

What Gavin Rumney draws attention to is that Mazar has handed over most of the archaeological dig to uber-fundamentalist Christians from the Church of God cult! That’s like handing over an archaeological dig for the original golden Book of Mormon to the Latter Day Saints, and then announcing that Joseph Smith was telling the truth!!

“A few days after the tunnel entrance was discovered, Mazar set out to excavate the tunnel, assigning Armstrong College students to the task. AC junior John Rambo, 22, from Oklahoma, and graduate Victor Vejil, 24, from Texas, spent nearly two months inside the tunnel, digging using small tools [a Bible?] under artificial light…”
– The Philadelphia Church of God, ‘AC students dig up 10th century B.C. tunnel in Israel’, December 15, 2008

Note: ‘Armstrong College’ is an unaccredited college. Well, it’s more of a fundie training-camp than a ‘college’.

“The tunnel was lost from world view after the Babylonians laid siege to the city in 585 B.C., until AC students stumbled upon it. While describing the student’s contribution, Mazar called the excavation an almost entirely “Armstrong College enterprise.” All the positions related to the tunnel were filled by the student volunteers, except for that of the artist who was responsible for mapping out the tunnel.”
– The Philadelphia Church of God, ‘AC students dig up 10th century B.C. tunnel in Israel’, December 15, 2008

Let’s see… the archaeology is being undertaken by Zionist extremists, the City of David Foundation and Christian Zionist students at an unaccredited college of the Church of God, under the leadership of Eilat Mazar, who holds a Bible in one hand while she digs with the other.

Is it any wonder that the excavation comes up with the oddball proclamations they do, when they involve such one-eyed zealots? Unfortunately, their utterly unfounded proclamations are then uncritically accepted by an ignorant and profit-driven mainstream media, a gullible Christian public, and an equally gullible and also nationalistic Israeli public.

Given such a widespread dissemination of misinformation, it is well worth pointing out the highly suspect groups behind the dig, the routine failure to apply accepted archaeological method, and the completely fanciful and wishful nature of their identifications of archaeological sites with biblical stories.

Posted in Archaeology, Historiography | 15 Comments »

Biblioblogger of the Year

Posted by NT Wrong on January 1, 2009

biblioblogger1Jim West has kindly picked me as the First Annual Biblioblogger of the Year.

“The criteria are quite simple: the Blogger of the Year is that biblioblogger who, in my humble estimation, causes the most stir in the biblioblogging empire with their wit, insight, and comprehensiveness.”

Thanks, Jim, you’re such a sweetie.

Update: And Scott Bailey, of Scotteriology fame, kindly designed a framed plaque – which is going straight to the Pool Room.

Update again: And look at Antonio’s cup!

Posted in Biblioblogs | 3 Comments »