Category Archives: Society and Religion

James Charlesworth responds to (calls out?) “The Lost Gospel”

jacobovici giorgio the lost gospel

The book is written by Barrie Wilson and Simcha Jacobovici; the title is The Lost Gospel. Should we not ask if something “lost” has been found and is it a “gospel”?

In Jacobovici’s video, I stressed that his alleged “lost gospel,” Joseph and Aseneth, is a Jewish pseudepigraphon (a work written in honor of a biblical hero) composed by a Jew in the first century CE (or about then). The document was expanded by Christians who edited it and transmitted it to us in Greek, Syriac, Armenian, Latin (2 versions), Serbian Slavonic, Modern Greek, Rumanian, and Ethiopic. There is evidence that an Arabic version once existed. Clearly, the Romance found many homes and libraries; but no one has claimed or imagined it was a romance between Jesus and the Magdalene. The claim is novel. When I was interviewed, twice (once in Jaffa and once in the Old City of Jerusalem), I said that I totally disagreed with the claim that the composition,

Joseph and Aseneth, could conceivably be a cryptic story of Jesus’ alleged marriage to Mary of Migdal. My resistance has to do only with the narrative of Joseph and Aseneth.

You can find the entire paper here:

Has Lost Gospel Been Found Proving Jesus Married Mary of Migdal? | James H. Charlesworth – Academia.edu.

Charlesworth has previously defended Jacobovici’s claims, so this break is important. One thing Charlesworth mentions is he believes it is clear Jesus and Mary were “intimate.” His position is not because he doesn’t like to think of Jesus as married. He even goes on to say this present novel is more researched than Dan Brown’s book of similar storyline.

Rather, Charlesworth is clear. He echoes well-known scholar, Dr. Robert Cargill, in essentially saying The Lost Gospel is neither lost nor a gospel.

Charlesworth also answers (his own) the question about whether or not The Lost Gospel is indeed an allegory of the marriage of Jesus.

NO. Despite the claims in The Lost Gospel, and the misleading notes to the Syriac translation, Joseph is not a cipher for Jesus. Aseneth is not a veiled Mary Magdalene.

I cannot help but notice the adjective “misleading.”

Personally, I don’t think the canonical gospels, nor the earliest non-canonical (Thomas, specifically), reveal any such marriage of Jesus and Mary. Yet, as some who studies this particular portion of the past, I would find it stranger to believe Jesus lived and died a 33-year-old virgin than to accept his marriage.

To be honest, I sort of picture it as an early death of his wife, in childbirth.

But, if I were to wax romantically, I would suggest Jesus was married to a woman who was later killed by a Roman soldier, Pantera, who raped her and left her for dead. I would then suggest this is what drove Jesus into the desert, where in his insanity, he heard a voice from the heavens telling him he was the messiah, the one to free Israel from Rome.

I mean, the only that separates my fiction from Wilson, et al.’s, is that I will plainly tell you I’m pulling it out of thin air.

an enLightening new theory on the origin of life?

Motion of gas molecules Español: Animación mos...
Motion of gas molecules  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is a new, interesting, theory on the origin of life:

“You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant,” England said….

….“This means clumps of atoms surrounded by a bath at some temperature, like the atmosphere or the ocean, should tend over time to arrange themselves to resonate better and better with the sources of mechanical, electromagnetic or chemical work in their environments,” England explained.

via Groundbreaking Idea Of Life’s Origin – Business Insider.

I do not make a habit out of examining science by what it can do for theology — yet, this new theory is very interesting given the focus on light and other external forces. I mean, theologically speaking. I’m just glad the article broke it down the way it did.

If — IF — if I am reading this correctly, then the potential for Life is found in every atom of the universe.

Every.

Atom.

of the

Universe.

Panentheism for the win!

Daniel McClellan’s take down of a puff piece on the “Lost Gospel”

English: Jesus resurrected and Mary Magdalene
Honey, I’m home! English: Jesus resurrected and Mary Magdalene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A puff piece on Jacobovici and Wilson’s book, “The Lost Gospel,” has appeared where there are plenty of erroneous statements made. Personally, I don’t want you to have to read it so I have taken Daniel’s comments.

A few issues with some of the comments in this article:

1. It is simply not true that Pseudo-Zacharias Rhetor has been gathering dust for 150 years. An edition of the Syriac manuscript was published in 1953, and several years ago it was digitized and put online here: https://archive.org/stream/Bro…. Prior to that the Syriac was translated into Latin and published in 1886 and 1924. Several other manuscripts containing the Joseph and Aseneth story in Greek, Latin, Arminian, Slavonic, and Middle English, have been published since the nineteenth century. The story is very well known, which is why translations of Pseudo-Zacharias Rhetor frequently omit that portion. See a bibliography of publications on the text here:http://www.markgoodacre.org/as…

2. The early Christian church clearly read the tradition as an allegorical reference to Jesus and the Church (his metaphorical bride), but Wilson and Jacobovici are not actually pioneers in their reading. Others have suggested before that it can be read to refer to Jesus and Mary Magdalene (see here, for instance: http://www.themirroredbridalch…. As with that website, however, the assertion that Mary Magdalene is in view is utterly arbitrary. There is no evidence of this. It is just an assertion the reader must decide to accept. The notion that the “tower” refers to Magdala, and therefore Mary Magdalene, is fanciful speculation, as the New Testament scholar to which the above article referred so dismissively has shown in his own thorough peer-reviewed scholarship.

3. Many scholars have no problem whatsoever with the notion of Jesus being married. I personally have no aversion at all to it. I think it would be a fascinating and welcome dynamic to add to the tradition, but the simple fact is that there is no evidence of it at this point, and scholars must make claims based on evidence, not on what will rile up the status quo. Mr. Jacobovici is fond of insisting that the scholars who disagree with him are experiencing “theological trauma” because his claims disagree with their “Pauline” theological outlook, which is completely absurd. His critics have come from Jewish, atheist, agnostic, and a variety of Christian perspectives. Their concerns are with his cavalier and arbitrary methodologies, not with the trouble he causes for their theology (or lack thereof).

4. No one ever mocked Jacobovici’s kippah. One scholar wrote in a critical review that, “Winston Churchill once described Russia as ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.’ Simcha Jacobovici’s claim of the discovery of the ‘Lost Nails of the Crucifixion’ is speculation wrapped in hearsay couched in conspiracy masquerading as science ensconced in sensationalism slathered with misinformation and topped with a colorful hat.” In response to Jacobovici’s previous complaints about anti-Semitism, that scholar––who regularly speaks at synagogues––has replied: “I’ve never made fun of Mr. Jacobovici’s religion. Rather, I’ve spent my lifetime and career studying Judaism, understanding Judaism, teaching about Judaism, lecturing about Judaism, and publishing about Judaism. But Mr. Jacobovici wants to see it as ‘making fun’ because it helps him rhetorically.”

5. No one is jealous of Simcha Jacobovici’s ability to engage in pseudo-academic sensationalism.

Historical book about Jesus may find traction with Jewish readers | The Canadian Jewish News.

If you do read the story, see if you get bingo.

Online Communion = gnosticism

online communionThis will not be a long post, because the topic of online communion is almost worth not having. Yet, it is a theological one and frankly, this is great because it means United Methodists are talking about something more important that genitals.

Chad Holtz, with whom I disagree vehemently regarding inclusion has written one of the best send ups in favor of online communion. I disagree with his proposal, but I do recommend his piece. I will not offer a rebuttal of this proposal, but simply state why I feel it is not theologically sound to do this.

In my opinion, an online communion — taking the bread and the wine over the internet — is a form of gnosticism. It allows one to create a false persona, to hide behind it, and to live apart from the real, physical community.

The world is separated into two spheres. One, the physical, is regulated to non-necessary. Our physical community is now no longer necessary. Rather, what is elevated is the spiritual, or cyberspace. No longer do we try to have physical contact, but we are satisfied with an image on a screen.

If the Eucharist represents/is the real presence (or, flesh and blood) of the ascended and divine historical Jesus then it must be taken in person — to phone it in or to suppose one can simply throw blessings around from the Aeon of cyberspace relates back to the notion that non-material supplants material, that our material world is inconsequential.

If the act is nothing but a memorial, an act meant to remember something, then an online communion is fine. However, biblically, theologically, and traditionally speaking the Eucharist is not merely about “remembering” a past event. Rather, the Eucharist is about breaking bread, which is the body of Christ, so as to enjoy the real presence of Christ. The official United Methodist Church stance can be found here. It is a mystery of the Christian faith with therapeutic inclinations. It is more than that, I believe.

This is not short-sighted, but Christocentric-sighted.

Worship, bible study, etc… are not official sacraments of the Church. The Eucharist is. It is not merely about taking it, but about receiving it, and then receiving it in a community or presence.

We are entering into a place where the intimate can not be replaced with the inanimate.

 

 

Selective #outrage and Hypocrisy; the #CiaReports

Well, call me controversial… I am indeed attempting to resist the temptation of posting political posts, but this is more a begging for reason and sincerity than anything political although I know I will be accused of being a “political unreasonable, mean, heartless right winger”… Well, have the fullest of it, because here it goes:

Human beings are so complex and interesting! Politicians are extra-crisp more complex and interesting except that they are predictable! Of course we should be outraged that some guy is being tortured. But, at least he is, as per our Western standards, a bad guy and I m not going to be all shaken up because someone who contributed to the death of about 3,000 people “has water bubbles coming off his throat”. It is gross and inhumane, but, come on, are you really outraged because of that? How about being outraged drones; about the lies of Obamacare? How about being outraged by being called “stupid” by Mr. Jonathan Gruber, the many times cited by the government as the “A.C.A. (or Obamacare) architect? I am more concerned about a few people I know whose deductible was 1,500.00 and not is five thousand dollars on Obamacare and their monthly payment is also higher. Why? Because they make money and are obligated by the government to pay a tax so one that does not work can have a paper and an illusion of health care! The issue here, however, is not health care, but “selective outrage” which is nothing but hypocrisy!

I can continue till I lose what is left of my teeth from talking: how about the government harassing citizens using the IRS? How about outrage about the government (past and present) supplying weapons to drug cartels thinking that would be a good idea to discover where they commit their heinous crimes?

The CIA report was released on the day Jonathan Gruber, the A.C.A. architect was being confronted by the House on his “Americans are stupid” comments on 5 videos that we know of, exposing the lies told the American people so the A.C.A. would be acceptable. We can fairly be suspicious of the intentions of releasing the report on that day and after a tremendous elections loss and an attempt to “control the agenda”, which has now become a term to replace the terms “smoke screen” and/or “red herring”; huh, let me think: taking the attention away  from an issue that requires reasoning and thinking by bringing an emotional one! After all, Mr. Gruber said it “Americans are stupid!”. Following the “it is not a tax” and now “of course is a tax where one group will pay for the health care of others”, after “you can keep your doctor, your current plan”, after the ” I can’t do it alone because of the Constitution” 24 times also on video, and now (to the Spanish channels) “I never said that I couldn’t do it alone”, and this CIA report, the cheapening of life both in abortion mills and some our neighborhoods, even on the part of a tax greedy government that will not hesitate in hurting its citizens to ensure the collection of said taxes (as in New York), the disregard for the truth, the usurpation of authority, the fibbing ways in which ill-informed Americans are told about very serious issues in their lives, really demonstrate that are are really better than this, we are complicit because of our silence and passiveness, and most of all it points out that ministers, even insignificant ministers like me, are doing a lousy job in pointing out America’s errors simply because of our political preferences, if not for being the very beneficiaries of the lies government tells us. Come on, many ministers signed up for the Affordable Care Act, so how can they preach against the lies the government told them about it?. So, I am somewhat outraged, but not extremely outraged for all of this as such extreme outrage would be actually “selective outrage”. The lies that the government tell us, the drones, “innocent” lives being wasted, killed, secret operations against American Citizens, these are all reasons for real outrage… A mass murderer being thrown against a wall? Oh, please!!!!

As for the work of the CIA I will continue in my attempt not to be a hypocrite, because if one of my children were in a crowded mall where there was a bomb placed by a terrorist and the authorities had him in custody and there was even a slim chance that he would disclose where the bomb is and how to disarm it if pressured, I would want the government to use any means possible to gain such information… We can’t tolerate in ourselves that which we despise on others.

Now call me names… I have both years plugged by my index fingers and am going lah lah lah lah… Not that I don’t want to hear; it is that such name calling is too predictable!

Ode in Prose to the #UMC Book of Discipline

book of discipline

Why do I like the Book of Discipline? Let me count the ways…

As many of you know, I grew you fundamentalist, and a particularly peculiar branch of it. Like many fundamentalists, we did not have a polity beyond the pastor’s moods and whims. Yet, in the United Methodist Church, there is something different. The Book of Discipline, one of the many reasons I still like the UMC, is not simply a guide, but a manual. While some see it as an IKEA manual and others see it as a manual for a 486, I see it as a manual preventing cults of personalities among other heinous crimes.

I disagree with several parts of it. I think the Theological Task is as muddy as the Mississippi passing through New Orleans after a hurricane upriver. It destroys Outler’s creation. Yet, it contains and enshrines the Creed. It tells us how far we can go (admittedly, we have to actually listen to it) and it gives us a way to clean up the mess when people go over those lines. Further, it sets doctrinal standards, connecting us back to our Anglican heritage.

Unlike the Creeds, most of it is not drawn from Scripture. It really can’t be. It is a polity manual designed to allow a large Protestant denomination to function properly in what is now the 21st century. It contains all the things necessary to make the UMC’s local unit, the congregation, administratively function. It does not, however, make us function.

I have found there are several opinions about the Book of Discipline. One, some do not know we have it. Some people think it is our attempt at replacing Scripture (the BoD isn’t even in the Wesleyan Quad!). Others see it as a tool of the oppressor. As someone who did not grow up “cradle Methodist” I see it as a way to prevent a pastor-centric cult, a departure from historic Wesleyan theology, and as a way to insure justice in our administrative life.

Now granted, the Book of Discipline seems to mainly to apply to clergy and local pastors. But, there are parts that apply to the laity as well. After all, we are given the chance to hold our bishops and everyone else accountable for poor administration, bad theology (yes, there is a caveat for that), and for actually breaking the rules. Likewise, the laity can be held accountable as well. While I am, for now, a full member of the laity, I do not have to worry too much about falling outside the Book of Discipline I believe it is part of my responsibility as a United Methodist to see that it is upheld (until it is changed).

It is our mutual covenant to one another. And when it is broken, bent, or tempered, we start to lose trust not so much in it (because it is an abstract object) but in one another.

The Church is not ours. It is held for our children. The Book of Discipline is our Trust Organizer, this generation’s Last Will and Testament setting up the Trust.

The Angel of Great Counsel #advent14ccumwv

Angel of Great Councilhr

 

“because a child was born for us, a son also given to us, whose sovereignty was upon his shoulder, and he is named Messenger of Great Counsel, for I will bring peace upon the rulers, peace and health to him” (Isaiah 9:6 NETS)

This famous verse is different — and vastly so if you are considering Christological implications — between the Hebrew and the Greek.

#Racism: #Honesty feels good on rainy Fridays!

Random acts of Racism

Many of us, perhaps the overwhelming majority of us, do not carry one ounce of racism in our DNA if we consider racism regarding another person’s race inferior to ours and unworthy of our respect. However we are capable, and, in fact, do commit random acts of racism throughout our lives and a few of them with dire consequences to those in the receiving end of these acts.

Who, in their lifetime has not become irritated, often expressing anger, when calling an organization and the person answering the call has an Ebonics accent, an Indian accent or any other accent that may be not very easy to understand. Ah, some will say, the irritation and ensuing anger is due to the frustration in not understanding, but not racism. Well, that accent is directly related to the race of the person speaking it! Someone who was very close to me was very light complected and blue eyed, but had a very thick accent and often grammatically incorrect way of speaking and many times, in the store that she worked, customers would simple ask for another person to attend to them. Looking down, disrespecting a professional because of his/her accent may be at first out of a thwarted desire to communicate, but what lingers mostly in the back of the frustrated person’s mind is “why do they hire such a person?” This is in fact racism because it stems from the notion that if one is a foreigner and cannot speak as you do or in a manner understandable to you, he/she is unworthy of being hired and ultimately being worthy of providing you services. No, I don’t want everybody to waste their time in understanding heavy accents, and I am not since they are paying the same for the service being received one does not have the right to demand full service and not one impaired by differences. Unfortunately, however, this is a random act of racism since it renders a person who is trying their best to please you unworthy of your business or your attention and even your effort to communicate.

Another example of an random act of racism, and this is more rampant, is when walking through a street and you see someone who does not look like you coming in your direction and you immediately take a defensive position. or, find a reason to cross the street, or do something so as to avoid a close encounter. Again, one may argue statistics and ponder that since statistically that person coming in your direction is of a race that has a higher likelihood to commit a crime than not. So you reason away your random act of racism! Again, I have to emphasize what I am not saying so people understand what I am saying: I am not saying that being safe is not good, that a simple act of crossing the street is racism, and that regarding is alone racism. What I am saying is that it may be not that you are a racist, but it is a random act of racism!

Sensitivity and Racism Against Americans

African Americans, especially, and us immigrants, have developed a special and ever so keen sensitivity to this! It really hurts! I am a strong guy comfortable within myself, and I grew up, since my earliest childhood, being discriminated because I was a Protestant (except that I was mean one and would beat the heck out of those who wanted to bully me because I was a Protestant), so I don’t get uncomfortable or angry with such acts, but others in great number do feel offended because of this. We foreigners are also very much guilty of the same types of random acts of racism as everyone else, and often against the people from our host country! You go to a restaurant and someone is talking too loud, or not knowing what is the point of using a fork and a knife, burping and worse, we immediately think “Americans…” “Red Necks…” “Hillbillies”… mostly those two latter adjectives can be summarized in the former one “Americans…” since we assume that Americans are impervious to common etiquette and care not about acting out their lack of finesse in public and that this is somehow related to “ignorance”. I speak a couple of the Latin languages and I am amused how much Latinos (and I do not consider myself a Latino) mock Americans, call them stupid, scoff at the fact that neighborhoods are being taken, turned into purple and yellow, or whatever uncommon color, and then the price of property in those neighborhoods is devalued, Americans move out to some other place and finally leave nice homes to be sold at the price of nothing, to others from that ethnic group, who, are little by little being able to get their planned “Reconquista” (Reconquering) of America without a drop of blood! I often rebuke these people stating to them that this is as racist as it is what they accuse Americans of doing to them, but they simply laugh it off because Americas are to passive and will never react against such a stance… Yes, we immigrants are capable of that as well. I am not even mentioning what some of my Arab acquaintances say about bringing Islam to America! The racism against America is as common and as bad as it is the racism practiced by Americans against foreigners.

The racism of lower expectations

I heard this term for the first time from Pres. George Bush. It is perhaps the worst form of racism! It is when we take a thought out conscientious decision to demand and expect less from someone because of their race. We do that by lowering the standards of black kids in black schools, we do that by assuming that certain ethnic groups will never learn certain things so it is useless to try to elevate them. Also, to demand from someone in authority less than we would another one based on his race an background. We have that going on in America where the majority of the press give our president a break and refuse to criticize him merely because, in these one-time journalists mind, the president is partly an African American and you cannot expect from him what you would expect from a white one. So, if the past president presided in a certain way stumble in a word or concept, he would be reviled and called names, such as liar, etc. But when the current president practices the same mistakes which are seen on TV, guarded on video tape etc. the press shrugs their shoulders to these mistakes because, after all, is is of an ethnicity that, in the minds of these members of the press, cannot be expected to be any different! So, they practice racism of lower expectations! Often they even express such type of racism and there is no need to mention it, just listen to the things they say about this president and what they say about the past president when the blunder or the infraction is of the same nature and kind! Chris Matthews, from MSNBC is to me the most evident example of someone who practiced racism of lower expectations, if you are craving for an example!

Honesty!

It will be hard to avoid random acts of racism. We just need to discipline ourselves, raise our own standards and exercise an effort not to commit it. Racism against Americans needs to be dropped! I know Americans are strong and thick skinned and can take it, but I urge my foreigner friends to understand that if I go to someone’s home and they are my hosts, I have to understand, and accept their ways instead of imposing mine. I have learned that day by day and in this 30 some years of USA, now as an American Citizen I can understand many things about Americans that supplant every bad impression I had of them in the early days of my life in the USA.

Now, in the wake of the events of Ferguson and New York allow me to say that the racism of lower expectations, combined with a random act of racism, were undoubtedly present. Of course we can’t judge thought, but we don’t have to be so naive either! We have, rather to be honest and ponder if we were in the spot of those same policemen what would we have done (not Jesus!)? Oh no, we are not trained for these situations but we are trained to survive and trained to react to biases built through a lifetime and also our knee-jerk reaction which makes us commit random acts of racism, which, in the case of Ferguson and New York resulted in death!

It is time for reflection! It is time to understand that we are humans capable of the most horrendous acts even though, overall we are kind and nice! Let us not deny that among these horrendous acts we can be, even for a moment, a racist for one reason or another and exact correction where is most desperately needed! That will be accomplished when we stop demanding from others that which we tolerate in ourselves!

 

Allan R. Bevere interviews the greatest internet personality of all time, Me

You can find it here: Allan R. Bevere: An Unsettled Interview with Joel Watts.

This is really the first time I’ve broached the topic of “fringe separation.” If we cannot even get along enough to talk about our issues, is there any hope? I believe orthodox inclusionists would find a more welcoming home in a Confessing Methodist Church than they would in any Progressive Methodist Church.

I’m shutting off comments here. Please post them there. I’ll take questions, of course.

the @logos Christmas Sale and super-awesome #giveaway

Go here.

you know how I feel about Logos and Macs. Like Mac and Cheese….