Sunday, May 16, 2010

Are Modern Scholars Little More than Pimps for that Tired Old Whore 'Our Inherited Tradition'?

Yes, I know it sounds kind of radical but don't you ever get the feeling that they are trying to pawn an old whore off on people and claim she is an immaculate virgin? Well let's look at it another way - what do we really know to be true about early Christianity? This is the question of all questions and it almost never gets asked because too many of us ARE IN THE BUSINESS OF KNOWING WHAT CHRISTIANITY IS.

Seriously. I am a relatively clever individual. I am fairly good and discerning what's what. I fairly certain my wife loves me. I was pretty good back in the day at determining when and if I was 'going to get lucky.'

The bottom line is that we know very little about what Christianity was like in the late first and early second centuries. Anyone who tells you differently is full of crap.

Just think of how many scholars argue that the Passion NEVER EVEN HAPPENED. Now I am not one of those people but the point is that it would be impossible for reasonable people (and we must always grant our opponents the dignity of being rational even when we disagree with them) to hold a radical position like this if there was any degree of certainty that any of things the gospel says were historically provable.

Indeed another clear give away that things are on historical quicksand is the manner in which the pious invoke the 'faith' argument whenever things get uncomfortable for them. I don't need faith to know my wife loves me. There is a rational basis to my supposition. No one would put up with me if they didn't love me.

In the same way, what I liked about sex especially with complete strangers was that there was no middle ground. Like the song says, you got it to 'work' or you didn't. There was no way to bullshit your way out of it.

In a strange way I always found picking up women in the university more scientific than most of the courses I was taking. There was an intolerable amount of subjectivity in the humanities.

Now I can see scholarship has changed even for the worse. The whole field is mostly dominated by conservative scholars. Now that Facebook has taken down the 'wall of fog' that used to hide people's identities you can search almost any scholar of early Christianity that you care to investigate and see how conservative they really are.

David Brakke editor of the Journal of Early Christian Studies is active in the campaign against 'gay marriage' and 'the protection of marriage.' Harold Attridge, the head of the Yale Divinity school and former head of the SBL has links to Pope Benedict's Facebook page (I didn't know he had a Facebook page). The list goes on and on.

I am not trying to make fun of any of these people of course. The point is that someone who comes along and says - 'hey, it's unscientific to simply rely on the Fathers of the Catholic tradition to help us establish what happened in earliest Christianity' - THESE KIND OF PEOPLE will necessarily - but politely - ignore what you have to say.

As many of you know, I don't even accept that the four canonical gospels were passed on to us as pristine original texts. I think someone in late second or early third century Rome assembled a highly redacted 'collection' of writings in the manner in which the Mishnah established accepted halakha from acknowledged sages among the Tannaim.

I don't believe that what is attributed 'according to Mark' is any more Markan than what is attributed to 'Rabbi Akiva' was actually said by Rosh la-Chachomim. Does this make me a 'radical'? I don't think so but then again in the eyes of like the people just cited what I say challenges ALL of their inherited beliefs.

But getting back to the original problem. In order to be an 'expert' on something, there has to be a defined 'thing' which can be studied, discussed and graded. You can't be an 'expert' on something which doesn't have an acknowledge form.

As such we inevitably go back to the inherited paradigm - albeit with a complex and newly developed pseudo-scientific terminology - and think that they are making process in 'little stages.'

The problem of course is that they were are only allowing one witness to determine the whole shape the understanding of Christianity - i.e. the official Church which basically packaged not only the New Testament for us but also the most important canons of the early Patristic writers like Ignatius of Antioch. So it is that when we stumble across a text like to Theodore most of these same nitwits just shake their heads and feel that 'there is something strange' about the material.

"Clement of Alexandria 'doesn't sound' like Clement of Alexandria." Of course he doesn't sound like the Clement of Alexandria whose works were bundled together by Arethas of Cappadocia in the tenth century. This is Clement 'unplugged.'

The same is true for anyone in the Alexandrian Church from Origen to Arius. Does anyone think that we have the 'real Origen'? We don't even know why he chopped off his nuts let alone what he really felt about the Catholics who persecuted him. Arius's writings were banned and burned in the fourth century and yet with all of this we think that we 'know enough' to make a definitive statement about 'what Christianity really is.'

Yeah sure, if you want one side to determine the issue, I would agree whole heartedly!

The reason I think my approach is more scientific than the rest of these conservatives is that I am strive above all to get two or three witnesses to agree on everything.

You all know the score I hope. I think that Christianity was established by Mark in the late first century at the time the Jewish temple was being destroyed. I think that the Alexandrian Jewish sanctuary would naturally have risen to prominence in this period and moreover the fact that it lay in Egypt would have perfectly embodied the desire for 'redemption' among the displaced Jews and proselytes who drifted through the next two generations.

I think that Christianity was founded on the eastern shores of Alexandria with the idea that political rebellion was not the path to God. Instead I think that the paradigm of Israel crossing the sea and being 'greatened' through the union with divine powers had remarkable resonance in the period.

You see I don't think that there were two baptism narratives in the original gospel of Mark. I think that there was originally only what is now called LGM 1, the extra material cited in the Letter to Theodore. Just look at how ridiculously paltry the baptism narrative which appears in the confused and jumbled opening words of what now passes as Mark:

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."

Just three measly lines given for a ritual which would transform the entire Mosaic tradition. No more sacrifices, no more legal requirements and only three lines to explain its meaning and context.

It's ridiculous and they make we who support the authenticity of to Theodore argue on behalf of its context. How the hell could ritual water immersion have been referenced like a list of salads in a second rate restaurant menu!

If I am right, then John and Jesus are common to both LGM 1 and this measly addition to 'false Mark.' John is the neaniskos who waits six days to 'be with Jesus.' In the one tradition 'little John' descends into Jesus and in the other it is a dove.

Yet what most 'experts' who specialize in Greek and concentrate on only reinforcing their conservative tradition don't realize is that the same Aramaic word can be rendered as the diminutive form of John and the common word for dove.

It was my good friend Professor Ruaridh Boid formerly of Monash University in Melbourne who orld confirmed that the Mandaean form of the name John - viz. Yuhana - might well be the diminutive form Yonah or 'Johnny.'

The one place we see it - at least implicitly - is in the acrostic at the beginning of the Borgian Diatessaron and the Old Latin Gospel Harmony where the names of the evangelists are spelled out to form a 'secret acrostic' going from the first letter in the first name, the second letter in the second name, the third letter in the third name and the fourth letter in the fourth name - i.e.

M a t ai = 'Matthew'
m R q s = 'Mark'
l u Q a = 'Luke'
y o n H = 'John'

The only form of the name 'John' that allows for a HE to appear as its fourth letter is the diminutive form just discussed - i.e. yonah.

The point then is that as long as we continue to give preference to the familiar we perpetrate injustice against new evidence such as the Letter to Theodore which effective raises the idea that our canonical Gospel of Mark might NOT have been ENTIRELY acceptable to Clement. At the very least we have to admit that he points to a false Gospel of Mark.

Why is it so obvious that our accepted version of that text couldn't be it?

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