Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Best Way to Make a Biblioblogger Feel Better About His Lot in Life is to Gang Up On Someone Else

I don't understand why it is that many serious academics enjoy my blog so much and then I have 'bibliobloggers' against me. Contrary to what people might like to believe, there is no correct answer in science. There are just better and better theories to explain any given phenomena. For whatever reason my suggestion that St. Mark was more important to the founding of Jesus rubs certain believers and atheists the wrong way.

I don't why that is but not a week goes by that I have deal with some 'biblioblogger' or other who has an issue with questioning the sources we take for granted at the heart of the ancient Church. The truth is I sort of enjoy the endless sparring that goes on between us. I have been blessed in so many ways. A wonderful wife, a wonderful son, a wonderful dog, a wonderful life. Having small annoyances like people accusing this blog of being too 'commercial' or whatever the problem of the week is over there in 'biblioblog land' reminds me that no one can take a good life for granted.

Just to give you an example of how petty these people are. I actually went over the 'bibliogblog central command' (the place where Steve Caruso has organized a new ranking system of all 'serious' biblioblogs) and saw that Joel was doing a review of Thomas Oden's new book on the African memory of St. Mark and I saw he was struggling with the evidence. I actually left a few links for his readers to check out for themselves where Oden is getting his information (you know, Pope Shenouda's book on St. Mark, various translations of material from Severus of Al'Ashmunein etc.

The reaction that I got from Joel is typical of most of the 'bibliobloggers' when I come into contact with them - utter disdain. After reading his bewilderment that there even was such a thing as an 'African tradition of St Mark' which claims that Mark was a witness to many of the events of the gospel, I wrote the following comment:

Zahn interepreted the Muratorian canon statement about St. Mark to mean that Mark wrote about the things he witnessed first hand as a disciple of Jesus. This is also the Coptic understanding about Mark. The Copts go one step further and say that the Roman Church ‘abused’ the reputation of their ‘apostle’ (a term never applied to Mark in European sources). Shenouda makes explicit reference to this in his book The Evangelist Mark which I will provide a handy link for you

A citation from Chapter Three entitled ‘St Mark and the Injustice’

How much injustice did St. Mark receive from the followers
of St. Peter ? They tried to rob him his apostolic dignity, and
credit all his efforts to somebody else? I mean St. Peter.


1- Denying his fellowship to the Lord during the period of the Lord’s ministry on earth and that he became Christian only after the resurrection at the hands of St. Peter.
2- They claimed that St. Mark’s Gospel was written by St.
3- They attempted to credit all St. Mark’s preaching, even that in Egypt and the Five Western Cities to St. Peter. Strange was the fact that they tried to falsify the history of our fathers and our church.

The primary source for most of this information is Severus of Al’Ashmunein. Most of your readers can probably find that source online at Roger Pearse’s wonderful site. What is less known is that there is a French translation of the original Arabic Homilies of St Mark in Google Books which demonstrates that St Mark was also called ‘Christ’ and the parable of the mustard seed (with its ‘branch’ upon which the birds of heaven sit) is specifically applied to him.

The French translation includes a lot of contradictory material, all of which couldn’t have been written by Severus. Nevertheless if you use Google translate with the French material you will see that Severus – not oral tradition – is Shenouda’s source. I think Shenouda speaks French because most of the footnotes in his book refer to French writers too. The Copts were greatly favored after Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt and – like other religious minority in the Middle East i.e. the Maronites in Lebanon and the Alawites in Syria – I think the French governed Egypt with their help.

I thought this was an attempt to be helpful. There was no malice in any of this. If anything it can only be read as a friend trying to help out a friend. Joel's response was utterly incredible but typical of these bibliobloggers:

I don’t know why they even let you have the internet. My goodness.. the pure garbage which you create out of your mind would make even the craziest conspiracy theorist sound sane.

I couldn't believe the hostility in this response. Yet as I have already said it happens every time I come into contact with these people. Being a good Christian (; I decided to give it another attempt:

Here friend, Here is the link to the book I was talking about. I found it at so it will be easier for everyone to run the material through Google translate:

The extract from the homilies I was talking about rendered in English.

St. Mark the apostle and servant of Jesus Christ has appeared among all creatures like the mustard seed (which speaks the Gospel), which grows and becomes a huge tree, so that the birds come to rest on its branches and get away from his shadow, because, although our Lord Jesus Christ (may he be glorified!) have wanted to nominate himself for this comparison, however, can also apply the meaning to St. Mark, this shining light, for those who follow Christ are themselves Christs and other members of Christ.” [p.7]

The African memory of Mark at work.

This only brought out more of the same vitriol from the second most popular Biblioblogger in the world right now:

I wouldn’t trust your opinion of anything regarding Christianity even if an apparition of Mark appeared and gave me a link to your blog.

In case people at home aren't aware of it, Joel is attempting to channel some pseudo-Justin Martyr (a passage we just demonstrated in a previous post is likely spurious - i.e. "I would not have believed the Lord Himself, if He had announced (such things)." [Irenaeus AH 4.6.2]

Now I have run across the same difficulty with any unaccomplished biblioblogger and by that I mean someone who has not had anything published in a serious journal or whose ideas haven't been recognized as original or noteworthy by reputable academics. I have never had a problem attracting attention from people with the P and the H and the D beside their names. This doesn't mean that every scholar agrees with some or all of what I speculated about at my blog or elsewhere but I have clearly made a difference already in my short career. I have had my observations published or about to be published within articles and books written by some of my favorite academics. By the end of this year it will ten such references. I readily admit that this is nothing in the grand scheme of things but it makes me wonder why is there such hostility to me among the unaccomplished bibliobloggers.

I have attempted to put forward a number of explanations for this phenomenon. I think it has something to do with the mind of a flatterer or in common street parlance - a cajoler. I think that these people worship a handful of 'serious scholars' and ingratiate them at every turn and - like many males - posit a kind of 'pecking order' that the world is supposed to be governed by. The fact that I don't give a flying fadoo about their pecking order, their beloved presumptions and presuppositions enrages them.

As I have said many times before Joel Watts and Jim West worship a scholar that I admire quite deeply as well - Maurice Casey. When I published an email that was given to me where Casey doubted another mutual friend's conspiracy theory about Morton Smith's discovery of the Mar Saba document. This enraged Joel and Jim and Joel and the rest of the bibliobloggers have attempted to 'turn the tables' and claim that I am the conspiracy theorist (Jim just ignores me).

The point everyone should realize through all of this is that at the bottom of this biblioblogger phenomenon is a bunch of lonely people trying to make friends. Aside from their common interest in blogging about the Bible you need some glue to hold these friendship together. What better way to maintain such ephemeral friendships than ganging up on one guy who doesn't fit in with the rest of the gang.

Like I said at the beginning of this exercise - I have been blessed in so many ways. What better way to remember all the wonderful things I have than have a small but very vocal group of detractors follow me everywhere I go on the internet. It won't change me at all. I will still turn the other cheek at every instance of abuse. After all, isn't that what Christ teaches us?

Praise Jesus and all his wonderful disciples who follow his example of loving kindness so well ...

Email with comments or questions.

Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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