Saturday, May 28, 2005

Congratulations to Mark Goodacre Again!

Congratulations to Mark Goodacre for the new post in the USA! I predict, however, that Mark will be forced to turn this post down. This is because he'll have to apply for a visa to enter the US, which in turn will force him to reveal the secret to how he is able to perform research, teach, write, blog, and still find time to raise a beautiful family and watch movies -- he is actually triplets.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Bryan Cox Assimilated!

Another brave soul has been captured by the Blogsphere! Bryan Cox, sometime sparring partner in the Bible Criticism Forum at Infidels, has fallen to the Blogsphere after a vicious struggle to remain unaddicted. His new Blog, Biblaridion, is available deep in the heart of the Blogsphere. Here's Bryan after the assimlation took place.

Byran after throwing his ring into hat into the ring.

For those of you with long databases but short memories, Bryan rose to international prominence briefly after becoming the object of Rochelle Altman's ire during the James Ossuary debacle. Which, at least at BAR, appears to be still ongoing.

Anyway, Bryan forgot to enable "comments" on his blog settings, so I was unable to leave my usual quota of snide comments and absurd claims on his new blog, and must give vent to my frustrations here.

Welcome aboard, Bryan!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Theological Terms from the Esoteric Dictionary of Quasi-Spiritual Mistaken Knowledge

I found this over at XnForums....originally from The Door

Theological Terms from the Esoteric Dictionary of Quasi-Spiritual Mistaken Knowledge

By Randall F. West
Issue #188, July/August 2003

Trini-tini-tarianism – Belief in a miniscule but three-personed God.

Exebegesis – Textual interpretation that results in scaring the pants off you.

Septuasquint – Vision deficit resulting from intense study of small-print version of the Septuagint.

Codex Sinusitis – Historically important New Testament manuscript that makes you sneeze.

Hypocrypha – extra-canonical documents that pretend to be part of the apocrypha but aren’t.

Apocalips – The intensely pursed expression of readers of Left Behind books.

Tell-e-all-ogy – The theological justification for sleazy unauthorized biographies.

Penetetouche´ – A crushing rejoinder to arguments that Moses did not write the Penteteuch.

More-pheology Theology – The study of the slippery changes of the prosperity doctrine.

Trylemma – The crisis of conscience experienced by agnostics who try to respond to C.S. Lewis’ “Lord, liar or lunatic” argument.

Eh-scatology – Ho-hum exposition of the end times.

Decalogue – A dialogue between ten people. Often unsuccessfully attempted in Episcopal and Presbyterian communities. (Not related to the Ten Commandments, unless to debunk them.)

Christodgily – Dry, academic discussion of the various manifestations of Christ.

Form Criticism – What liberal theologians engage in when they go on Spring Break.

Intarnation – Ontological epithet often inserted into the sentence “What…are you doing?”

Propitchiation – A testimony of faith given by professional baseball players.

Par-wooz-sia – State of mental fuzziness induced by overlong fasting while reading the book of Revelation.

Par-ooz-sia – A divine appearance bringing about the end of the world in a slow, icky way.

Par-oops-sia – Heresy propounded by some writers who forgot where to look for the book of the Revelation.

KerygMama – A dynamic woman preacher (see also: Franklin, Aretha).

Kantikle of Kanticles – Seldom-sung love song based on Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.

Synaptic Gospels – Fast paced cyber-version of the Gospels edited by Keanu Reeves and the cast of The Matrix. Features amazing special effects, including the Apostle Paul evangelizing faster than humanly possible.

Dyslexic Gospels – Version that only makes sense read backwards.

Pteredactor – A theological dinosaur known for biting large holes in the text.

Was Detering Right about the Date of Mark?

Was Detering Right about the Date of Mark?

The following verse, Mark 13:14 is one of the most famous verses in the Gospel:

14: "But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; (RSV)

This is the famous "Abomination of Desolation" that the writer derived from Daniel 9:27. The majority of scholars hold that it refers to the occupation of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 by Roman troops, who "worshipped" their standards there, according to Josephus. The reference to "false Christs" in 13:21-22 may well be a reference to messianic pretenders like Simon Bar Giora, a key Jewish leader of that war, which would also put the Gospel of Mark after 70. The "Legion" of the demoniac of Mark 5:1-20 that was sent into pigs may be a reference to Legio X Fretensis, which occupied the Temple after 70 and among whose legionnary standards was a boar.

However, a handful of exegetes, among them the brilliant German scholar Hermann Detering, see Mark 13 as referring not to the revolt of 70 but to the later revolt of 135, in which the Jewish nation was not only defeated but eliminated. The Jews were evicted from Palestine, the Temple area occupied by a Roman Temple, and Jerusalem renamed. Even the name "Judea" disappeared as Hadrian renamed the area "Syria Palestina" to deliberately blot it out.

The later revolt also fits the descriptions in Mark, in some ways slightly better. The catalyst for the Jewish Revolt of 135 was Hadrian's erection of not merely a statue of himself, but a statue of Jupiter and a Roman Temple on the site of the Jerusalem Temple. Construction began during the Emperor's visit to the area. When he left in 132 the rebellion began to swell as Jews fortified villages and occupied strongholds all over Palestine. A savage war ensued whose devastation far exceeded the affray of 70. No less than twelve Roman legions were brought in, some from as far away as Britain. The enormous number of Jews participating in the revolt forced the Roman leader, Julius Severus, to follow a policy of scorched earth and starvation rather than open confrontation. These events may also be seen in Mark 13, particularly since Hadrian persecuted both Christians and Jews, and animosity between the two groups grew throughout the second century. Since Legio X Fretensis remained in Palestine and occupied Jerusalem in the second century, the possible reference to it in Mark 5 is also supported, perhaps even enhanced (Ken Humphreys outlines some of the late-date information here).

There is an additional piece of data that favors a later date for the Gospel of Mark than usually given. TE Schmidt (1995) argued that the scene depicted in Mark 15:16 to 15:22 is essentially meant to depict a mock Roman triumphal procession. Such mock processions are known from history. For example, Sejanus received one before his execution.

Schmidt was among a small number of exegetes who have observed that Golgotha may also be translated as head as well as skull. That would make Golgotha the Place of the Head. A Roman legend records that in Rome when a temple was being built on a hill, a human head was found with its features still intact. According to the legend, the soothsayers then said this meant the hill would be the head of all Italy. The hill was thus named Capitoline Hill. The significance of this should not be missed: the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus on Capitoline Hill, the Capitolium, the placed named after the Death's Head, was the terminus of every Roman triumph.

This may well be a pointer to another Capitoline Hill, the Temple Mount. In two important ways. If we take, in the writer's allegorical geography, the reference to Rome to understand where the writer wants us to think Jesus was crucified, we need only to know that Jerusalem was also a city with a key hill surmounted by a Temple, the Temple Mount itself. Mark may well be implying that Jesus was crucified on the Temple Mount.

The dating datum here is that the Temple Mount did have a Capitoline Temple on its mount, the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, erected by Hadrian on the ruins of the Temple. In which case the Place of the Skull would be a very direct reference to the Temple Mount indeed.

This now takes us back to Mark 13:14, where we can at last understand Mark's dual implication of the Abomination in the Desolation. Tate (1995) laid out the parallels between Mark 13:9-13, where Jesus makes a prophecy of future persecution:

Disciples before Councils
Jesus before Sanhedrin

Disciples beaten in Synagogues
Jesus beaten after Sanhedrin Trial

Disciples before Governors
Jesus before Pilate

Disciples brought to trial and "handed over"
Jesus on trial and "handed over"

Brother betrays brother
Judas betrays Jesus

Disciples hated in Jesus' name
Reaction to Jesus' claim to be the Blessed One.
This takes us through Mark 13:13. The very next verse, Mark 13:14, refers to the Abomination. This gives us the crowning parallel:
Abomination Stands in the Desolation
Jesus' Cross Stands on the Temple Mount
Now we have come full circle.

Schmidt, T.E. 1995. Mark 15:16-32: the Crucifixion Narrative and the Roman Triumphal Procession. New Test. Stud. vol 41, 1995. pp1-18.

Tate, W. Randolph. 1995. Reading Mark from the Outside: Eco and Iser Leave Their Marks. San Francisco: International Scholars Publications.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Bible Literacy Project

UPDATE: If you have come to this from another site, I have now demonstrated that the Biblical Literacy Project is a project of the American Religious Right.


I hadn't been planning to blog here this week, but courtesy forces me to....

Sarah Jenislawski, Executive Director of the Bible Literacy Project, left some comments on my blog about my earlier post on the Bible Literacy Project:
"Thank you for posting about the Bible Literacy Report. We don't advocate only knowing the catch phrases of the Bible, but are attempting to illustrate some of the basic concepts with which students should be familiar. For more information on our pedagogical approach, please see The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide, a set of guidelines we co-published on how to teach about the Bible legally and fairly in the public schools.

We advocate an elective course on the Bible as literature and in literature for high school students. Regarding your comments about Markan priority, JDEP, chiasms, dating of books, Palestinian history and archaeology, these are all subjects worthy of study, but may be a bit advanced for students who may never have read the text of the Bible before. We are not attempting to provide religious education or a complete scholarly overview of the Bible - which could take a lifetime - but only to familiarize students with the basic concepts and themes of the Bible."
First, I'd like to thank Ms. Jenislawski for her very kind response. I can only say that "familiarizing students with the basic concepts and themes of the Bible" cannot take place without the larger context of history and basic scholarship. It would be like trying to teach To Kill a Mockingbird without ever mentioning racism in the South, or without any discussion of its underlying mythical and literary allusions. Your list does not even contain foundational information, such as "the New Testament was originally written in Greek" although such low level information about original languages would certainly be part of any presentation of Flaubert or Hugo in a high school class.

Consider the famous pericope which you have labeled "CAST THE FIRST STONE". The context on that one is crystal clear: that doesn't even belong in the Bible (so why is it being taught?). Will students be made aware that the presence of the concept of "HELL" in the Bible is debatable? Further, what do I get to teach as a "theme?" Can I teach that one of the themes of the Bible is a movement from early polytheism to later monotheism? If I am a Jewish student, can I object to inclusion of the New Testament in the course ("it's not in MY Bible"). And which translation do you plan to use -- are students going to made aware that the translations vary, and that in many cases the text is difficult or impossible to pin down? It seems like you are opening a huge can of worms, and you are entirely without any worm catching gear.

BTW, ya'll might take note that you have listed the Golden Rule three times there. Not only that, but AFAIK the phrase "THE GOLDEN RULE" is not found in the Bible, and did not even come into use in that context until a few centuries ago. Your scholarship fills me with confidence. Another thing ya'll might ponder is the almost complete lack of females on the list. None of the great Jewish females is there, but Mary is. This smacks of a double bias, first against women, and second, in favor of Christianity. The latter suspicion is strengthened by the fact that all of the selections involving Jesus present him in a favorable light; the allegations of demon possession, the blasting of the fig tree, the rejection by his family -- none of these are there.

Finally, the project is funded by the Templeton Foundation, which is not exactly a religiously nuetral organization, nor is it a scholarly or literary organization, but instead promotes religion and free-market causes. This doesn't look like education to me; instead, it stinks of religion-pushing. Fundamentally, an educator provides context for the information presented to enable students to make informed judgments about the material and their relationship to it. By not demanding that Bible literacy be real literacy about the Bible, you in essence indicate that you have other interests than education.

Once again, I thank you for your time.

UPDATE Friday, May 20

A disturbing comment about their connections. Here is the skinny from their home page:

Our primary task now is to move beyond words, to action: To produce and muster
support for a Bible literacy curriculum for public schools that is fair,
balanced, rigorous and constitutional; a textbook which will harm no child's
faith, while leaving every teen knowledgeable about the Bible. Our Bible course
has been reviewed by leading Bible literature scholars, faith leaders, and
educators to ensure its fairness and accuracy. In addition, lawyers from the
Becket Fund for Religious Liberty are reviewing the course to ensure it is legally appropriate for the public schools.
The Becket Fund has also agreed to defend, free of charge, any school district sued for using our Bible curriculum in a manner consistent with The Bible & Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide.
The Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty is a "conservative" advocacy group that supports school prayer, vouchers and other right-wing religious causes. The link to this group is quite suggestive.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Snowed under... classwork and translation. Won't be posting here til next week. On the list, reviews of Atwill's Caesar's Messiah, Mack's A Myth of Innocence, more on Mark and Q, and other stuff.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Bible Illiteracy?

The Weekly Standard article on Bible Illiteracy linked to at claims:
Lincoln was America's most "biblical" president--"no president has ever had the detailed knowledge of the Bible that Lincoln had," writes the historian William Wolf. Lincoln turned to the Bible more and more frequently and fervently as the war progressed. His heterodox but profound Christianity showed him how to understand the war as a fight to redeem America's promise to mankind. Lincoln never joined a church, but said often that he would join one if "the Saviour's summary of the Gospel" were its only creed. He meant the passage in Mark and Luke where Jesus restates God's requirements in terms of two edicts from the Hebrew Bible: to love God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Lincoln's religion was deeply biblical--and characteristically American.
Um, let's not trade in Bible Illiteracy for historical illiteracy. Lincoln was an atheist, not a Christian, who wrote an anti-Christian tract when he was young. He nevered wavered from this position, a position confirmed by both his wife and closest friend late in his life. I agree, though, that there was something "characteristically American" about Lincoln the Infidel: like so many Infidels, he knew the Bible better than his Christian neighbors.
AMERICAN HISTORY STARTS with the emergence of Puritanism in 16th-century Britain. The Bible was central to the founding and development of Puritanism. It was central to the emergence of modern Britain in the 16th and 17th centuries--and modern Britain was important in turn to America and to the whole world.
Hello? The oldest settlements in North America come from which European nation?
The invention of printing in the mid-15th century, and the Protestant Reformation in the early 16th-
Ummm, printing was invented by the Chinese hundreds of years before that....

The Bible Literacy Report is here:

Download requires registration.

UPDATE: It looks like some kind of propaganda thing. The study advocates bible literacy, without bible study. Here is the list of things that they think constitute literacy:


Note that there is no mention of Markan priority, JDEP, chiasms, dating of books, Palestinian history and archaeology, etc, etc, etc. It's purely a way to get people to read the Bible without context using public school funds. I'm all for Bible Literacy. Let's make it literacy, however, not religious propaganda.

The recommendations are disturbing and are obviously political:
6. Determine the current major challenges to teaching Bible literature, and then explore creative, practical solutions for meeting those challenges. No teacher in this study felt that the Bible was absent from their school’s curricula due to “lack of importance” or “lack of community support.” At schools that did not teach about the Bible, the reason most frequently cited by the surveyed teachers was, “Too politically difficult.”

7. Explore the possible correlation between scholastic and economic success and the inclusion in curricula of Bible literature study. Are students in schools of medium- and low-end communities discriminated against by not being offered the opportunity to study Bible literature? Is it possible to help reduce economic disparity through Bible literacy?

8. Investigate trends in religious knowledge, in addition to those in religious and spiritual beliefs, affiliations, and practices. What the next generation knows about religion—their own and other peoples’—is a significant question for the study of religion that we hope will receive more and more regular attention in the future from serious scholars and educators.
"Investigate trends in religious knowledge." Hmmm -- are the authors aware that there are sociology of religion scholars doing just that? It looks like they want to append to that "....and make sure everyone is "on-script."

Some of the questions are also comical:

Awareness of Five Major Religions of the World
More than three-quarters (78%) of teenagers, when asked, can name Christianity as one of the five major religions of the world. And, 83% cited either Christianity or a specific Christian denomination. Buddhism was recalled by 54% and Judaism by 47%. While 54% could name at least three of the major religions, no more than one in ten (10%) could name all five religions and 15% could not name any of the five major religions. Male students were more likely to name Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism than were female students.
EARTH TO REPORT: Taoism? Is it not bigger than Judaism? This question is a pointless exercise in ethnocentricity.

It's not much of a survey. It looks like it was created merely to support Bible-pushing at taxpayer expense.

UPDATE II: Yup. That's a big 10-4.

* Funded by the John Templeton Foundation

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Neusner on Morton Smith

The following was posted to the Biblical Studies list, owned by Jim West. I suspect that we're going to see a lot more of this over the next few weeks. I am confident that Carlson is right, and so are the others who have seen the paper. But I think it would be best if everyone held off with the attacks on Morton Smith, and later engaged in thoughtful post-mortems rather than vengeful pre-mortems.

On the other hand, I can't resist noting that will be fun to watch Carlson's demolition of Secret Mark in conjunction with the James Ossuary trial.

I hope NT studies can come out of this with a renewed commitment to catching and killing forgeries before they become ensconced, as well as renewed suspicion toward artifacts already accepted. In particular, Tel Dan stinks for me, and a scholar interested in forgeries once suggested to me that the Mesha Stele is a probable forgery (it certainly stinks). It might be good to put some time and effort into re-examination of the various inscriptions turned up in the 19th century, such as the Sergius Paulus inscription found outside Paphos in 1877. There's probably lots of stuff out there that should be looked at again.

Kevin P. Egdecomb writes:

Stephen Carlson's tantalizing announcement regarding his work on the "Secret Gospel of Mark" letter brought to mind a scathing indictment I'd read of Morton Smith some time ago penned by Jacob Neusner. Neusner notes in his lengthy foreword to the 1998 combined edition of Birger Gerhardsson's Memory & Manuscript/Tradition & Transmission in Early Christianity (xxvi-xxvii, xxxi) that Smith was the major reason for Gerhardsson's work being ignored for so long. I think list participants will find informative (and perhaps even enjoy!) the following excerpt from Neusner's foreword:

[begin quote]
Like Arthur Darby Nock, but lacking the perspicacity and cultivation, Smith made his career as a ferocious critic of others. Smith thereby surrounded himself with a protective wall of violent invective; what he wished to hide, and for a while succeeded in hiding, was the intellectual vacuum within. Of his entire legacy one book survives today, quite lacking influence but still a model of argument, and a handful of suggestive but ineffective articles. In all Smith wrote three important contributions to scholarship, one a model of argument and analysis though broadly ignored in the field to which it was devoted, another a pseudo-critical but in fact intellectually slovenly and exploitative monograph, and the third an outright fraud. But in the early 1960s, when Gerhardsson's book became a target of opportunity to demonstrate his capacity to seize the jugular, no one could have known the reality. I took as my model his sharp pen and his analytical wit, not understanding that Smith had no constructive capacities and would never on his own write an honest and important book.

The model of argument comes first. His Th.D. dissertation, written at Harvard under the general supervision of Harry A. Wolfson, the greatest academic scholar of Judaism of modern times, on Palestinian Parties and Politics That Shaped the Old Testament, in my view remains a model of scholarly argument and insight. Smith completed that work in the late 1950s, and it would mark not the beginning but the apex of his contributions to learning. It was what he could do when a great mind guided him. What he could do on his own suffers by comparison, being slovenly and poorly formulated. His prior Hebrew University Ph.D. dissertation, Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels, presented at the Hebrew University, where at that time scholarship in the New Testament cannot be ranked as informed, was the work of an autodidact. No professor of New Testament criticized the Gospels part, and the Tannaitic parallels part pursued issues no professor of Rabbinics addressed -- thus, self-instruction. As I have demonstrated in vast and accurate detail in Are There Really Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels? A Refutation of Morton Smith, Smith presented very dubious arguments in behalf of remarkably obtuse propositions.

As to the scholarly fraud, who speaks of it any more, or imagines that the work pertains to the study of the New Testament at all? I need not remind readers of this reprint of the scandal of Smith's "sensational discovery" of the Clement fragment, the original of which no one but Smith was permitted to examine. Purporting, in Smith's report, to demonstrate that the historical Jesus was "really" a homosexual magician, the work has not outlived its perpetrator. In the end many were silenced -- who wanted to get sued? -- but few were gulled.
Apart from malice, which I think animated nearly everything Morton Smith ever wrote or encouraged others to write (or indeed actually wrote for them, under their names), what prevented him and others then close to him from paying attention to the careful language Gerhardsson used? It was the assumption that the only valid scholarship answered the narrowest historical questions: did it really happen? did he really say it? and if so, what kind of history can we make of it all, meaning, what can we say about what was really said and done? Smith honestly believed that he could write the life of the historical Jesus, which is why the spurious Clement fragment would form the center of the scholarly oeuvre that would occupy nearly his whole active career -- that and the Jesus the Magician that would convey his (self-)hatred for Jesus and for Christianity -- and would therefore bring about an irreparable breach between him and me.
[end quote]

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Why are strict religions popular? An economist explains

The Power of the Mustard Seed:Why strict churches are strong, a summary on
What does the pious person get in return for all of his or her time and effort? A church full of passionate members; a community of people deeply involved in one another's lives and more willing than most to come to one another's aid; a peer group of knowledgeable souls who speak the same language (or languages), are moved by the same texts, and cherish the same dreams. Religion is a " 'commodity' that people produce collectively," says Iannacone. "My religious satisfaction thus depends both on my 'inputs' and those of others." If a rich and textured spiritual experience is what you seek, then a storefront Holy Roller church or an Orthodox shtiebl is a better fit than a suburban church made up of distracted, ambitious people who can barely manage to find a morning free for Sunday services, let alone several evenings a week for text study and volunteer work.

Bible Illiteracy is Rampant

Bible Dudes Blog, whose comical format and fantastic sense of humor make it easy on both the eyes and the heart, reports on rampant theological illiteracy among Christians. The article they cite notes:

For example, Michael J. Vlach, president of, a Web site devoted to providing Christian theological information, has reported that the most widely known Bible verse among adults and teens is this: "God helps those who help themselves."

The problem is that the verse isn't even in the Bible and its message is in serious tension with the Good Book's word of grace.

Hmmm....really? But Proverbs 6 says....
6 Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: 7 Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, 8 Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.
The saying itself may not be in the Bible, but the sentiment could be seen to be.

In any case, it is a fun blog, and I recommend it....

UPDATED: (which, if you aren't reading, you should be) has an article on Bible ignorance from the Chicago Tribune.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Congrats to Mark Goodacre: 2 Million

Mark Goodacre's NT Gateway website reached its two millionth visitor today! Congratulations on the resounding success of the web's best New Testament website!

Now I can finally shut down that bot I set up to run random searches at NT Gateway every thirty seconds. Managing that thing was really getting to be a pain....

My cousin writes on the Pope in Common Dreams

Suzanne Camino writes Why I am Still a Catholic. She's a wonderful person whom I love very much, and I am proud that she had a global audience. Go Suzanne!

Carotta ..Again Info & Discussions

I thought I'd put these posts about Carotta's claim that Julius Caesar was Jesus up here, since a poster who is pushing Carotta at IIDB has decided to engage in personal attacks on those who disagree.

There's been quite a push in several forums about this book. The forums for the movie The Beast had a discussion. The push also appeared at ephilosopher.

Anyway, without further ado, still more posting on Carotta:

DISCLAIMER: I have only read what's on the website. Haven't seen the whole book.

Much of Carotta's text is online. Here is a chapter/excerpt that shows some of the problems with Carotta's view. Mark was originally written in Latin. Let me show you some of the problems with this chapter. Randomly:
CAROTTA: Detailed examinations of the oldest manuscripts—especially the bilingual Latin/Greek—have shown that with Mark the Greek text in fact is dependent on the Latin.[248] And there is still more: the deviations between the readings in the
Greek manuscripts are explained best if they are seen as different versions of
translation of the Latin text. [249] Also the fact that the Church
Fathers—demonstrably Clement, Irenaeus and Justin—cite the Latin Mark, which
they translate ad hoc into Greek, speaks for the priority of the Latin version.

First off, scholarship accepts that Mark was originally composed in Greek. If you want to confront and change that, you will need some powerful argument. So when I check the citation, what do I find? Citation [248] is from a book by Harris written in (drum roll) 1893! Citation [249] is from Couchoud -- a familiar name -- written in 1926. So we see the pattern we have seen elsewhere -- that Carotta picks and chooses to make his case. He does not demonstrate familiarity with a range of scholarship, nor does he present any potent argument to support his case. Century-old scholarship is unacceptable. He does argue that the Latinisms in Mark constitute a case for it being originally written in Latin, but that case is not anywhere accepted today.

Carotta goes on to say:

It has been observed for some time now that the Gospels contain miraculous
healings that appear to be simplified reports of those Vespasianus had performed
in Egypt, where according to Tacitus the emperor healed a blind man and a man
with a withered hand[passage omitted]
Actually, the idea that the healings are "simplified" versions of the Vespasian incident is laughable. The healings are easily demonstrated to parallel the core of the Elijah-Elisha tales in 1 & 2 Kings, and Andrew Criddle and I just tussled over that in a recent thread at IIDB which I welcome you to resurrect and read. Numerous authors have written on the derivation of the healings, from Gundry to the Jesus Seminar to Robert Price. Carotta shows no familiarity with any of the conclusions of this scholarship. You will note that Carotta's absurd claim goes uncited, probably because no one believes it but him. if you want to overturn the accepted view, you gotta bring big guns.

Carotta then claims:

Moreover the Gospel contains the core of a speech, reported by Plutarchus, in
which Tiberius Gracchus bemoaned that the appropriation of public land by the
aristocrats had rendered the farmers landless and the poorest of people.

Speech of Tiberius Gracchus:‘The wild beasts of Italy have their holes and their hiding places but the men who fight and die for Italy enjoy only the light and the air.
Homeless, they roam restlessly with wife and child. Our rulers lie when they
call on the soldiers to fight for the graves and shrines of their ancestors.
Because none of these Romans can point to a paternal altar or an ancestral tomb.
But rather, they fought and died to bring wealth and luxury to others. They are
called masters of the world and they have not a single clod of earth that is
their own.’[251]

Matthew:‘And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have their nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his

Carotta seems unaware that this saying has parallels -- much better ones than the one above -- in the Cynic tradition, as do many other sayings in the Gospel literature. Witty sayings like this, called chreia, were common in antiquity -- Mark has twenty or so, as I recall. Again Carotta does not interact with any of the scholarship on this saying, and refute the several positions held on it by scholars. Why is that?

Carotta writes:

Also, because the same Mark writes a vulgar Greek without the use of the later
Hebraisms and Septuagintisms of Matthew and Luke, and uses popular Aramaisms
instead, the track leads us to the Roman veterans in Syria, either to those of
the Colonia Iulia of Heliopolis (Baalbek) or to those who were settled by
Herodes in Caesarea, Galilaea, Samaria and Decapolis. Namely, they were the ones
who had originally spoken the Latin of the legionaries, and were settled in
rural areas where they inter-married with the local population that still spoke
Aramaic, whereas the official language of the Empire was Greek by this
Far from being without "Septuagintisms" Mark tracks the Septuagint word for word on many, many occasions. For example, the Gospel opening:Here is my herald whom I send on ahead of you Idou, apostello ton aggelon mou pro prosopou sou is taken directly from the Greek of the Septaugint version of Exodus:Idou, apostello ton aggelon mou pro prosopou souIn Mk 1:3 the first 13 words track the septaugint exactly. Mk 1:6 copies phrases from Kings to describe JBap.
I could go on and on. Suffice to say that Carotta doesn't know what he is talking about.

But in case you want to claim that I misunderstood Carotta, he reiterates this point later when discussing Jesus mythicism:

no Gospel was ever written in Aramaic, the Greek of the presumably most ancient
Gospel in particular, that of Mark, is filled with Latinisms whilst the
citations from the Jewish scriptures only emerge in abundance in Matthew.
Mark is filled with citations of the Jewish scriptures (about 150 in 660 verses in some counts). This does not count the use of Jewish scriptures as parallels for structuring, nor the allusions to other jewish writings such as Maccabees and Tobit, as well as inclusions of oral lore (possibly). Mark is a thoroughly Jewish gospel.

But then we go on to:

The apostle Paul writes in his second letter to Timotheus:‘The cloak that I left
at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but
especially the parchments.’[258]

Here the King James Bible uses ‘parchment’, which is called membranae, ‘thin skins’, in the Greek original—a striking use of a Latin borrowed word.

Carotta is busily attempting to prove that Latinisms indicate the text was originally latin in origin. But that is neither here nor there -- note how Carotta refers to 2 Tim as a book written by Paul. Anyone got a problem with that? Not Carotta!

This next selection is picked entirely for style:

Did the itinerant preaching and miracle working members of the early Christian
communities—with the passage of time and the persistent fine-tuning of the
copies of the copies—turn the exemplary fatherly chief commander into one of
themselves, a Church Father made in their own image? From the divine founder of
the Empire to the proclaimer of the Kingdom of God? Did they gradually convert
Divus Iulius, the God of the Roman veteran colonies in the East, into the Jesus
of their communities which had found shelter there? Did they become the creators
of their creator until they themselves finally became Lords over their Lord?
Catch the Erik Von Daniken style of argument-by-unanswered-questions? There's a lot of that in Carotta.

Note Carotta's beliefs on Gospel dating:

Contrary to the later canon, which places Matthew in the first and the most
ancient position,[301] scholarship mostly considers the Gospel of Mark, the
shortest, to be also the most ancient. The given dates are between 40 and 60 AD
and that is why it is called the protoevangelium; it served as source for both
the other synoptics. Matthew and Luke are independent of each other, and both
first wrote after the Jewish war that ended in 70 AD. Where either of them, or
both of them, correspond with Mark they are obviously using Mark, but where they
correspond with each other but not with Mark, they are following a lost logion
source (‘Q’—theory of the two sources); or, according to another opinion, they
are following the oral tradition. In addition they use oral special material
(Sondergut). John is independent of the synoptics; if and to what extent he used
written sources is a matter of controversy.
There is no way on God's green earth that Mark, who is thoroughly familiar with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, dates from prior to 70. That position is held only by religious conservatives. His thumbnail also contains another inaccuracy, as "John" is at least three people. It is arguable whether John is independent.

Another issue here is Carotta's dependence on old scholarship, a certain sign of incompetence. In this chapter he interacts entirely with Loisy, Couchoud, and others of a bygone era. His Catholic Introduction to the NT dates from 1973. Apparently Carotta is in a time warp where work from within the last decade has not yet penetrated.

My favorite part of this is the conclusion:
The one, Divus Iulius—an indubitable historical figure—is as God,
nonexistent: all writers mention him; but there is no religion, no liturgical
texts, no hagiography, no legends.

The other, Jesus—an absolutely doubtful historical figure—is existent only
as God: no chronicler mentions him; but there is a religion, even several, and
there are liturgical texts, hagiographies and legends.

Well, you've never seen them together, have you? So they must be the
same person.

The next chapter has more comical stuff in it. I skipped some from my original post. I especially like this explanation of baptism:

Well, inspection in Latin is lustratio, which actually means ‘cleansing’,
‘lustration’, but in military language it stands for ‘inspection’ because of the
acts of ritual cleansing and expiatory sacrifices that accompanied it. Along
with the lustratio, the inspection of soldiers, went the inspection of weapons,
the armilustrium, the ‘cleansing of weapons’ in the sense of ‘ceremony of
purifying the arms’. The word lustratio comes from luo, ‘to wash’ and in the
second instance means ‘atone’, which finds its Greek pendant in the loutrón,
meaning ‘wash’, ‘bathe,’ and comes from the corresponding verb louô, also ‘to wash’, ‘to bathe’. In the Christian sense these words became ‘baptism’,
respectively ‘baptize.’ The transition from ‘inspection of soldiers with
cleansing of arms’ (the Latin lustratio) to ‘baptism of repentance’ (the Greek
loutrón) came about through the common concepts of ‘washing’ and ‘purifying’. The same meaning is also found in the other Greek word alternatively used for louô, baptizô, which in the Christian sense is also translated with ‘to baptize’(probably because it comes from baptô, which means ‘to dunk’). Before becomingbaptism, baptisma, too, simply meant washing: a further excellent literal
translation of the Latin word lustratio, the inspection. And the fact that baptism was originally seen as the reception into the army of Christ is certainly not contradictory to this idea.
Is Carotta aware that there is a long history of ritual bathing in Judaism (HINT: what is a mikvah)?

It's OK to perform all these operations on words in two languages. It is not okay to do so without explaining why all other scholars are wrong, and without providing powerful evidence to overturn the consensus, and without dealing with the scholarship. I can't resist...there's just so much badness here. Here Carotta analyzes the Pericope Adultera as a Caesar story.

The pendant for the adulterous wife of Caesar is the pericope of the adulteress;
this pericope is not found in the synoptic Gospels, but exclusively in John.It
may appear improper for us to use this pericope, but it is well known that it
only landed in John because it was deleted elsewhere: Where exactly, the textual
critics do not know. We can only say that we are lucky to have it at all, for
again and again, attempts have been made to remove this ‘foreign body’ from
John, ultimately for so-called purely formal reasons, because it does not fit
the style of this particular Evangelist. Augustine delivers the real reason: the
leniency Jesus demonstrates towards the adulteress might be misunderstood![432]Even in the bible text used today, it is only referred to in parentheses or
with a preceding question mark, meaning it is mentioned with reservation:
Carotta appears not to know that this pericope IS found in the Synoptics, in Luke. He tries to pretend that the reason it is rejected is because of its theology, but the reality is that even the ancients knew it wasn't an authentic part of the gospel.

Need we say more? He doesn't know basic stuff, plays games with words, cites scholarship that is decades out of date, doesn't interact with modern scholarship, etc.

In this post at IIDB I wrote a very long discussion of Carotta's derivation of the colt and the ass, too long to put up here. In my next post I showed why the alleged parallels are not parallels. A taste:

CAROTTA:Both Julius Caesar and Jesus began their careers in northern
countries: Caesar in Gaul, Jesus in Galilee;

TURTON: Incorrect. Caesar's public career began in Asia Minor, where at his
own expense he raised a scratch army to fight the invasion of Mithridates of
Pontus in 74. Caesar became a war hero when his forces were able to hold out
long enough to let a real army arrive and save the day. Then he was a magistrate
in Spain, then he was aedile, in charge of the bread and circuses (made himself
popular), and then he was made pontifex maximus. It was only after he had become
famous that he was governor of Gaul. Does Carotta not have an ADSL line in his

But that's still a parallel. After all, you could say their public careers
began in the East. *howls with laughter*

My earlier blogposts on Carotta are (#1) and (#2). I just want to add my closing words from anothe post...:

Now, it is entirely possible that Jesus really is some offspring of Julius Caesar's cult. In principle that is possible. But the fact is that in order to demonstrate that everyone has been completely wrong for 2000 years, you need to analyze every single problem with your case, and understand what the scholars say and incorporate that into your analysis. Further, you have to be able specify clear rules for what you are doing, and why.

So far, there doesn't seem to be anything like that here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Steve Carlson's Paper on Secret Mark is Out...

I just wanted to take a moment and crow about Steve Carlson's paper on Secret Mark. Identifying the Hand of Secret Mark, was accepted for the 2005 Annual Meeting SBL's 125th Anniversary program unit Paleographical Studies in the Ancient Near East.

I had the great privilege of reading a draft of this paper. After Steve gives this baby, everyone at that conference will look just like this:

Sunday, May 08, 2005

What is a Minimalist?

Rod Green over on the JesusMysteries List notes:
BTW, there is nothing "minimalist" about the Copenhagen perspective, a charge that perplexes me. The only thing they have minimized is bad history. Their history of Palestine is robust and full of people, places, and activities. They just don't happen to sync up with the OT.
Excellent way of putting it, Rod.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


I'll be back next week.....


Monday, May 02, 2005

Carotta: the Push

Those of you running, or involved in, forums devoted to Biblical Studies, ANE, and Classical lit, as well as informal discussion forums on Christianity and related topics, may be experiencing a concerted drive to push F. Carotta's book Jesus was Caesar On the Julian Origin of Christianity.

Thanks to Toto at Infidels for the heads up on that one. A Google search will turn up many links, suspiciously many to forums and similar discussion areas. They don't seem to have invaded the scholarly forums.

The book is, needless to say, not worth the time. It is full of incredible howlers, like this one, where he is discussing the Parable of the Sower:
CAROTTA: Here he has almost everything together: the rocky ground without deep soil—like the gaps in the tile floor; the impossibility of growing roots there and that the palm should have withered; that plants without light suffocate—whether under thorns or under the temple roof. And in spite of this they shot up as if on good land. Perhaps not one hundred percent, as on fertile land, but still sixty, or thirty percent.
Carotta seems unaware that the thirty, sixty, and hundred on the end of this parable are not PERCENT but -FOLD! Jesus is talking about fantastic multiplication, not reduced output.

I pity the poor scholars who will be fighting this one for years to come. Enjoy your week! Mine shall be very busy. I just finished Mack's A Myth of Innocence, and Rhoads' book on Mark awaits my perusal. Book reviews later this week.