Posts Tagged “jesus christ”

Photograph by Karen L. King, via the New York Times (see URL’m sure this will throw a lot of Christians into hysterics, but it seems there’s this 4th century papyrus fragment, in the Coptic language, that quotes Jesus as having had a wife. The New York Times reports on a historian’s disclosure of this discovery (WebCite cached article):

A historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School has identified a scrap of papyrus that she says was written in Coptic in the fourth century and contains a phrase never seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …’”

The faded papyrus fragment is smaller than a business card, with eight lines on one side, in black ink legible under a magnifying glass. Just below the line about Jesus having a wife, the papyrus includes a second provocative clause that purportedly says, “she will be able to be my disciple.”

The finding is being made public in Rome on Tuesday at an international meeting of Coptic scholars by the historian Karen L. King, who has published several books about new Gospel discoveries and is the first woman to hold the nation’s oldest endowed chair, the Hollis professor of divinity.

There are a lot of caveats that go along with this. Among the foremost of them, is that the document’s nature is shaky:

The provenance of the papyrus fragment is a mystery, and its owner has asked to remain anonymous.

Skepticism is definitely in order here. Prof King has had the fragment reviewed by papyrologists and they seem to have agreed it’s not a forgery, so it may just be what it seems to be.

Now, it’s possible to take this a bit too far, and I’m sure the media will do so. To be clear, though, this is a fourth-century document. It does not tell us whether or not Jesus had a wife — or that he ever really existed at all. At best, all this fragment does is show that at least one Coptic writer in the 4th century believed Jesus to have had a wife. But I must point out, there’s not enough context here to be sure even of that much. For all we know, Jesus’ mention of having a wife within this text had been intended as metaphorical, allegorical, or suppositional. We really need more of the text, in order to understand what the writer had been doing.

Despite Prof King’s work on it to date, the jury is still out as to the authenticity of this fragment, as well as its meaning. It’s possible that scholars may investigate this document for decades without arriving at any definitive answers. Where the real fireworks will be produced over this, is in the realm of pop culture. This is noted in the final paragraph of the Times article:

The notion that Jesus had a wife was the central conceit of the best seller and movie “The Da Vinci Code.” But Dr. King said she wants nothing to do with the Code or its author: “At least, don’t say this proves Dan Brown was right.”

While Prof King disavows any link to the insipid antihistorical tripe produced by Dan Brown, he’s got a lot of fans, many of whom will no doubt be quick to assert this fragment is “proof” than Brown was correct — even though The Da Vinci Code was demonstrably predicated on a hoax.

Photo credit: Karen L. King, via the New York Times.

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Jesus before Pontius PilateI’ve already noted the tendency of people to use religious principles to defend the indefensible. For a number of reasons, it often happens to be Christianity which is used in this way. Lawyers representing now-convicted massacrer Joshua Komisarjevsky, for example, attempted to cast their client as a saint rather than a sadistic rapist and murderer, and used quotations from the gospels to suggest that no one on the planet has any right to judge him for what he did. (Fortunately, neither the judge in that case nor the jury bought into the defense’s sickening notion; their client was convicted and sentenced to death for his crimes.)

Well, another high-profile criminal case has elicited a similar reaction. Yahoo Sports reports on the infamous — and currently on-trial — Jerry Sandusky’s supporters (WebCite cached article):

Joyce Porter sits in a booth at the old downtown Diamond Deli, across the street from the Centre County Courthouse where her friend Jerry Sandusky is being tried on 52 counts of sexually molesting children. …

“When everyone was persecuting Jesus, someone had to stand with him,” Porter said.

It’s worth noting that Porter didn’t say Jerry Sandusky was Jesus, just that in her view the situation has similarities.

I’m not quite sure how any rational person could see any significant “similarities” between Jesus and Sandusky, beyond the fact that they’ve both been tried in court. One of the chief differences between them is that Jesus … according to the gospels and Christian tradition … was supposedly innocent of the charges that had been leveled against him. On the other hand, Sandusky’s own attorney has admitted he showered with young boys, which is such a stunningly inappropriate habit that — no matter the outcome of this trial — one can hardly call Sandusky completely “innocent.”

The Yahoo Sports article explains more of the rationalizing, compartmentalizing, and excusing that Porter engages in. I’ll allow it to speak for itself. It’s sickening to read, but it does illustrate how well human beings can deceive themselves, if they’re sufficiently motivated to do so.

As with my earlier example of this phenomenon, I don’t for one moment think most Christians would agree with Ms Porter about Sandusky being a close analogue of Jesus. That said, it’s clear that the principles of Christianity can very easily be twisted in ways most people wouldn’t recognize. It’s hardly to Chrisitanity’s credit that it can be used in such a way.

Photo credit: Nick in exsilio, via Flickr.

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Rick Santorum speaks in Eastlake, OhioI’ve blogged about GOP presidential candidate and militant Christofascist Rick Santorum a number of times already. As his candidacy has slumped, I’d hoped I’d be able to avoid blogging any more about this walking train-wreck. But alas, Santorum has — once again — posed as a theologian. This time, he’s declared that Christianity — as he sees it, anyway — is the source of freedom in the US. ABC News’ The Note blog reports on his ludicrous Religious Rightist pontification, earlier in March (WebCite cached article):

Talking about American exceptionalism, Santorum said the concept of equality came from Christianity, not Islam.

“I love it because the left says equality, equality. Where does that concept come from? Does it come from Islam? Does it come from other cultures around the world? Are men and women treated equally? Are adults and children treated equally? No,” Santorum said. “It comes it comes from our culture and tradition, from the Judeo-Christian ethic. That’s where this comes from-the sense of equality.”

I’ve read this several times and cannot figure out where or how Islam comes into play in this. It doesn’t seem to be of any relevance to the subject at hand. I can only assume it was his attempt to somehow work some derision of Islam into his speech, and thus appeal to any Neocrusaders in the crowd.

As for whether or not Christianity, as a religion, supports or opposes the concept of equality, the record on that is slightly mixed. Christianity appeared in the Greco-Roman world, initially in its eastern portion, and as such was a product of that culture. Greco-Roman society was quite stratified, along many dimensions. There were a number of social classes, with the aristocracy at the top, and several layers underneath, ranging down to unskilled laborers and slaves at the bottom. The genders were divided. Ethnic groups tended to be segregated, in large cities often living in enclaves apart from others. Religions tended, too, to separate people, e.g. with Jews living in their own quarters of cities. The Greco-Roman world was one in which people were born into any number of stratifications, and with few exceptions, they stayed within them their entire lives.

The earliest extant Christian documents, the seven “genuine” Pauline epistles*, which date to the 50s CE, exhibit something of a departure from this, at least doctrinally. For example, Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). (Note, Col 3:11 says something almost identical, however, that epistle is not genuine, it was written long after Paul). Paul elsewhere refers to a blending of classes and genders within the church in his day. Only in the epistle to Philemon does Paul concede that there’s any validity to any class division, and that lies in his apparent support of slavery as it was practiced then.

Later on, however, we find the early church turning away from egalitarianism. In the gospels — written in the last quarter of the first century CE — we see references to people mainly by some sort of identifier (whether it’s ethnic, professional, or social class). In his parables and comments, Jesus uses stereotypes of these identifiers, sometimes ironically (e.g. the Good Samaritan). His reported interactions in the gospels are often with groups (e.g. he dressed down “the Pharisees”). Jesus also preached to the lower classes as though their plight had virtue in itself. In general, the gospels are written assuming that people fall into various fixed classifications, that this is how things were supposed to be, and that none other than Jesus Christ himself acted as though this was the case. In only one regard is Jesus said to have resisted the prevailing class-wisdom of his time, and this was by attracting “sinners” as followers.

Subsequent Christianity either stated explicitly, or implied, that social classifications, ethnicity, etc. were all God-ordained and that everyone was required to live within the strictures of his/her position in society. That remained the case until the Enlightenment. Even then, the notion of complete equality took a long time to develop. For instance, initially the United States gave voting privileges only to white landowning males. Suffrage was expanded only incrementally over the last 200 years. Also, slavery was legal in the early U.S. and was abolished only after the Civil War. Christianity’s teachings had little to do with this, at least for the first 16 centuries or so of its existence.

It’s true that equality movements like Abolition were comprised of many Christians who believed that Christianity taught to open freedom to others, but this was not universal in Christianity. The Southern Baptist Convention, for example, was founded by southern slave-owning Baptists who opposed the Abolitionist turn their denomination was taking in the 19th century. They, and other Christians, insisted that the Biblical “Curse of Ham” meant that God had rendered black Africans less-than-human.

It is correct to say that the concept of equality can, historically speaking, be viewed as anti-Christian (and anti-Judeo-Christian). Once again, by claiming otherwise, Santorum reveals his ignorance of both history and Christian theology. Well done, Rickie … well done!

Hat tip: Apathetic Agnostic Church.

Photo credit: PBS NewsHour.

* The seven epistles in question are: 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philemon, Philippians, Romans, and 1 Thessalonians.

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Screen shot of video report by KOAT-TV, 'Jesus in Tortilla?'

Screen shot of video report by KOAT-TV, 'Jesus in Tortilla?'

It must be tough for the Almighty, finding things he can do with his infinite power and wisdom. Oh sure, he could probably bring about world peace, end hunger, cure every disease, and all of those other “big ticket items” in a flash. Easy stuff for an omnipotent being! But he can’t do any of that, you see … for some reason only he happens to know. Being boxed in, you’d think he’d find it tough to express his omnipotence.

When you’re the Almighty, though, you manage to find a way, nonetheless. And recently he did just that. The Christian Post reports he branded his own visage (or that of his son) on the surface of a tortilla, in Espanola, NM (WebCite cached article):

Another alleged sighting of Jesus is causing a stir once again, this time in New Mexico where a man claims Jesus appeared to him on a fresh baked tortilla.

David Sandoval from Espanola couldn’t believe what he was seeing last week when he sat down to eat dinner with his mother on Ash Wednesday.

There on one of his tortillas his mother made was the startling image of what resembles Jesus (see the image here, [cached]).

As we all know, seeing divine images in things is not new. People see Jesus and the Virgin Mary in things all the time, and I’ve blogged on some of them. Rather helpfully, the C.P. lists some prior appearances of the specific divine manifestation known as “the Tortilla Jesus”:

Holy images on the tortilla have reportedly been around for decades, beginning in 1977, when a woman named Maria Rubio from Lake Arthur, New Mexico, discovered a thumb-sized print of Jesus while rolling up a burrito for her husband.

Rubio created a small shrine for what was hailed as the first “Holy Tortilla,” and more than 35,000 people reportedly visited her home to see it, leaving flowers and photos of sick loved ones.

I’m sure all those believers would be happy to think their loved ones were cured by the intercession of the Tortilla Jesus. I’m more certain that, if any of them were helped, it was either by the illness or malady running its course naturally, or the intervention of doctors and nurses using conventional medical treatments. Let’s forget all the great work they do and ignore their contributions to our lives, and instead, give God all the credit. Why, how appreciative!

Folks, as I’ve noted previously and will say again, this is the phenomenon known as pareidolia. The human mind is hard-wired to discover patterns, and find recognizable things, in otherwise-accidental formations. There’s nothing magical or divine about it. With millions of tortillas being cooked around the world each day, it’s quite natural that occasionally one of them is going to end up with a Jesus-shaped scorch mark on it. To assume the Almighty branded it himself using his magical power — and that he has infinite power, but expresses it only in ways like this one — is just so fucking ridiculous, I hardly know what else to say about it.

Photo credit: KOAT-TV (screen shot).

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The time is nowBy now, I’m sure a lot of you have heard about the “Hate Religion, Love Jesus” video that’s gotten so many hits on Youtube over the last couple weeks. A lot of ink has been spilled — or rather, bits transmitted — about this video by Jefferson Bethke. Unfortunately, the video is based on an invalid and semantically nonsensical premise, and most of the commentary on it has missed this invalidity.

What makes this video illogical is something I’ve blogged about a couple times already: namely, that it’s possible for religious believers to separate themselves from what they call “religion.” Lots of people love to say they’re “spiritual but not religious”; however, this is a non sequitur.

In the case of this video, Bethke states that “Jesus came to abolish religion.” That statement is plain and simple bullshit. A heaping, steaming load heaved straight out of the barn. There is no way one can logically claim that Jesus came to “abolish” religion. “Change it,” maybe. Preach against its excesses, I guess. But “abolish” it? No fucking goddamn way! Jesus preached what he called “the Kingdom of God” or “the Kingdom of Heaven.” Both were — and are, still — religious notions. They were religious in his own putative lifetime, his followers accepted them as religious, and they remain religious notions even now.

Really, Jesus as he’s widely known is a decidedly religious figure. It is impossible to talk about Jesus and not talk about religion. They are joined at the hip, utterly inseparable, and always will be. Thus, it’s irrational — and semantically incorrect — to say that one can “love Jesus” but “hate religion.”

Now, I get where this guy, and a lot of other people, are coming from. They dislike what they view as the excesses of what they see as “religion.” Without a doubt, a lot of religious institutions and religious people have done a lot of very bad things. A lot of Christians have actually failed to live up to the teachings Jesus left for them. A lot of religious folks have fallen short of the goals they claim to pursue. And a lot of them have cloaked themselves in religion in order to acquire power, money, or both.

I get that people like Bethke and others want to distance themselves from these evildoers and disassociate themselves from the disingenuity of others. I get it. Honestly, I do. Really. I truly do get it. The problem is … this attempt at distancing flies in the face of reality, semantics, and logic. If one is religious, then one is religious. Period. What other religious people think, say, or do has no bearing on the matter. Having religious beliefs is all there is to being religious … other people, whether genuinely religious or just posturing, cannot and will never change that.

What I would suggest to Bethke and others who think this way, is: If other “religious” people are making you look bad, then get off your fucking asses and do something about it. Stop them from making you look bad. If they’ve stolen your religion out from under you, then take it back for yourself; eject them from your company, disown them, deprive them of their religious offices, quiet them, and in every possible way, make it clear to everyone outside of your religion that they do not represent you and that they are repugnant creatures.

In other words, if you belong to a religion, then it also belongs to you. Take ownership of it — in concrete, unmistakable, and unambiguous form — and stop sniveling that you aren’t religious, in order to avoid having to deal with the malcontents and evildoers in your midst. Let me put it as bluntly as I can: If your own religion means so little to you that you refuse to take control of it, then you have no right to expect any of the rest of us to respect it — or you. And using cowardly little dodges — like claiming not to be “religious” — aren’t going to fool the rest of us. So stop insulting our intelligence by trying.

The choice to act, is yours, and yours alone. What you choose to do, and how and when you choose to go about it, says everything about you and about your religion. Make it count. Don’t whine and quiver and defy semantics instead of taking action.

Photo credit: wmacphail.

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an epic mistranslationI have to give the guy credit for being tenacious. Even in the face of the spectacular failure of his May 21, 2011Second-Coming of Jesus” prediction, Bible scholar religionist crank Harold S. Camping remains unshaken in his claim that his “prophecy” will ultimately come to pass. His had always been a two-part prediction: That Jesus Christ would return on May 21, 2011 — ushered in by a vast globe-spanning earthquake, among other “signs” — followed 6 months later, on October 21, 2011, by an even more catastrophic “End of the World.”

Obviously the events he predicted would happen this past May never took place, but afterward Camping rationalized away his failure. WIth his promised “End of the World” coming up in just a few days, as LiveScience reports, Camping remains firmly and irrationally committed to his (already-demonstrably false) crankish scenario (WebCite cached article):

The radio preacher who predicted Judgment Day on May 21 has not backed down from his claims that the end of the world is near, despite the lack of a Rapture or world-devastating earthquakes leading up to the doomsday.

In an announcement on his Family Radio Network website, Harold Camping stands by his earlier predictions that the world will end on Friday, Oct. 21. Originally, Camping had predicted hourly earthquakes and God’s judgment on May 21, to be followed by months of torment on Earth for those individuals left behind. Using numerical codes extracted from the Bible, Camping set the date for the end of everything for Oct. 21.

The article briefly explains how — in typical crankish manner — Camping redefined both the events of this past May 21, and his own prediction about it, so as to make himself still look “correct” even though he most certainly was not:

When May 21 came and went without fanfare, Camping revised his story. The “earthquakes” he had predicted did occur, he writes on his website in a post titled “What Happened on May 21?” — only instead of shaking the Earth, God shook mankind “with fear.” Likewise, although no one was raptured, God is no longer saving souls, Camping writes.

“What really happened this past May 21st?” Camping wrote. “What really happened is that God accomplished exactly what He wanted to happen.”

I’m really not surprised at the screaming irrationality that Camping exhibits. He’s invested a lot of his time and money into his doomsday predictions (including a prior one that failed to come true back in 1994). For him to just throw up his hands — after all these years and after all these predictions — and just ‘fess up to having been wrong, would obviate all of that … not to mention it would call into question whether he should consider returning the millions of dollars in donations he and his organization have collected over the past couple years, from his sheep who believed in his obviously-wrong predictions. Simple economics and personal pride, then, all but force him to insist that “the End of the World” will take place this coming Friday, October 21, 2011. He just can’t help himself. Even if the rest of us know better.

Finally, for the record, I’d like to point out something that is also demonstrable, and that is that all Biblical prophecy is bullshit. A putrid, steaming load scooped right out of the back of the barn. All “Biblical prophecies” are false! Every stinking last one of them. Every time. All the time. And it will always and forever be so, because the very words of the Bible prove it, beyond the shadow of any possible doubt. It’s not up for debate or interpretation or number-crunching or anything else — it simply is. Period.

Photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker.

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Picture on receipt / WYFF-TVIt’s an old story, people seeing figures in random things. This is a known phenomenon, called pareidolia, and it happens because the human brain is wired to detect and discern familiar patterns in things. It seems to be particularly common among the religious, who are forever seeing the Virgin Mary, angels, Jesus, etc. in things and proclaiming these appearances to be “miracles.” The latest such example comes from South Carolina, as reported by WYVV-TV in Greenville (WebCite cached article):

An engaged couple in Anderson County says a shadowy image that turned up on a receipt from Walmart looks like the face of Jesus.

Jacob Simmons and his fiancee, Gentry Lee Sutherland, said they bought some pictures from Walmart on Sunday, June 12.

The following Wednesday, the couple had just come home from a church service when Simmons spotted the receipt on the floor of Sutherland’s apartment. He says the receipt had changed.

The appearance of this apparition didn’t come as much of a surprise to the couple:

“Then the more you look at it, the more it looked like Jesus, and it was just shocking, breathtaking,” Simmons said.

The couple said the image seemed to answer a question they had just been asked at church.

“We had a message on knowing God, abiding in him,” Sutherland said. “(The preacher asked) ‘If you know God, would you recognize him if you saw him?'”

Folks, blotches of this sort form all the time on store receipts like this one, especially in the summer, since they’re printed on thermal paper, which — by design — darkens with heat. That the blotches can appear to form something recognizable — such as in indeterminate face — is not at all surprising, given the many millions of such receipts which are printed every day in this country. This very well could be a coincidental production.

Or, it might have been by design: One could very easily heat up a plate with a face engraved on it, press it to the receipt, and voilà! instant Jesus-face.

Folks, there’s nothing to see here. No supernatural power is needed in order to explain this. Besides, the idea that the Almighty has nothing better to do with the infinite power at his disposal than to imprint his blotchy face on a Walmart receipt (and upside-down, at that!) in South Carolina is, well, laughable in the extreme. Get over yourselves, fercryinoutloud.

Photo credit: WYFF-TV.

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