World Domination Update
“Saint Vitus Slam Dance”
vol. VI, iss. ii
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness”
Secret Word of the Day: Labradoodle
Site of the Week: Household tips from Satan
Barbecue Sauce of the Month: Saguaro Sam’s absurdly extra-chunky style
Now Playing: Motörhead — The Best of
In this issue:· Half a Decade of Deviant Theology
· Cold War Cut from Project Paperclip
· Answering an Anti-Christian Rant
· Fun with Physics
· Apicklelypse Now
· Ask Evil Matt
· Hedgehog Gourmet
Well, boys and girls, April 19th has yet again rolled around, meaning we once more must celebrate Waco Day. On this 9th Anniversary of the catastrophic Mt. Carmel Conflagration, Branch Floridians should singe some hair in shame at our government’s shenanigans. Just make sure someone else gets blamed for your fire...
April 19th also marks a few other morbid memories on our calendar count. It’s the 7th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bullshit bomb (though only a demented militia-dropout Damage Case would honor that), as well as 1,336th memorial of the Martyrdom of the original Saint shade.
But of course, and perhaps most importantly, today tags the fifth year of our own Ministry’s existence!
Celebrating 5 Years of Paranoia as a Way of Life!
So rather than rant about GWB and the Iron Fist, I’d like to comment for a minute on this ministry milestone.
A few years ago, Friendly Fire told me that “to officially start a religion, all it takes is five years and fifty followers.” Well, now we’ve got both, though I don’t know how accurate F.F.’s statement really is. I’m sure the FBI already has a file on the Branch Floridian Ministry, so openly declaring independence from Orthodoxy shouldn’t make much difference at this point...
Obviously I know enough about the Scriptural subject that it would be simple to scam brain-dead, Bible-believing lemmings out of their cash, but hey: I don’t want to be that guy! The Branch Floridians are not here to fleece sheep: as most of you know (and hopefully agree,) we’re truly trying to make a difference by getting people to THINK FOR THEMSELVES about important issues like government and God.
To me this is common sense: if God is omnipotent, then the only thing He could possibly want would be for us to love Him of our own free will, and the only way to truly do that is to have thought about the topic on your own terms, drawing your own conclusions. God can’t possibly want robots who mindlessly serve Him, since with omnipotence He could easily create a planet-full of slaves. The only thing He could be interested in would be believers who follow Him of their own accord, who have thought about it and drawn their own conclusions, free from the shackles of forced orthodoxy. So even if you don’t agree with me or saint in some of our conclusions, at least you’ve put in the mental effort on the matter. Which, in the End, is what really counts.
I, for one, sincerely believe that’s not only a noble cause but a bona fide theology to boot, and one worthy of official recognition.
Besides, it would be nice to get tax-exempt status and some government grants to help keep us going. For those who don’t know, running this cyber-ministry isn’t cheap, with personal out-of-pocket expenses like domain registration and banner-free web hosting building up a bill. And alas, none of the groups we deal with accept flax.
saint, Evil Matt, and I made a decision on Day One that we wouldn’t charge y’all for membership, admission, subscriptions, etc., and we mean to keep that pledge! Thinking for Yourself should be free. As saint says, “we want you to open up your mind, not your wallet.” Granted, we’ve got a little sideline selling indulgences, but for that we take payment in flax, not cash.
However, we do soon hope to start selling merchandise to help raise funds! That’s right! Be the first kid on your block with your own customized Branch Floridian t-shirt. Or impress your friends with an Area 51 work i.d. badge. And it’s safe to say that no wardrobe is complete without something that says on it...
Then again, saint says this is suspiciously similar to shade’s idea for selling merchandise for his novels, such as “Hard Rock Café — Caandelen’s Star” shirts or “Stoneburner” party i.d. laminates. Anyway, if you’re interested then keep checking the merchandise page; hopefully one of these years we’ll have it up and running in full form.
but in other news...
I love it. Nice work. I am especially curious about two
things in the new WDU.
I love it. Nice work. I am especially curious about two things in the new WDU.
One-The Gemstone File peaks my interest...The search is on for the original copy!
Two-I must pass on my condolences for Harriet, I am sorry. But one thing that I noticed in your conversation with her, was that God was busy until May 2112. I thought the end was scheduled for December 23rd, 2012? The year that the Egyptian, Incan, Mayan, and maybe the Chinese calendars all end. Did you make a typo, am I misinformed, or do you know something I don't?
Let me know.
My offer for 10,000 tons of flax for a copy of the ’File still stands. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Technically, Harriet’s date was when God’s schedule freed up, not the End of the World; you’d think The Lord would be rather busy at the End Time. Anyway, I suspect the date was more influenced by a Rush album than any calendar calibration. I could be wrong, though, and kind of hope so. Rush are notoriously big Ayn Rand fans. Those crazy Canucks...
Hahaha. Thanks. Best laugh all day.
Before commenting, let me contextualize for those who don’t know: Freezer Burn (who’s obviously easily entertained) is referring to last issue’s Secret Word and its application on some contemporary musicians just reeking of it.
Indeed, it seems that work is already in progress on a Brain Police-sponsored BilgeFest ’02, (aka Bilgeapalooza) featuring the “best” in bilge bands, such as Backstreet Bilge, Boys II Bilge, Bachman Turner OverBilge, Bilgy Manilow, Limp Bilgekit, N.W.B. (Niggas With Bilge), Linkin Bilge, Mötley Bïlge, , Salt ’n Bilge, Snoop Bilge, Garth Bilge, SilverBilge, The Mighty Bilge Tones, EverBilge, Depeche Bilge, Bilge Cherry, Bilge ’n Roses, Cypress Bilge, Love and Bilge (aka Bilge Division minus one Bilge), Bilgerella, ChumbawumBilge, The BilGees, New Kids on the Bilge, Dixie Bilge, Wu-Tang Bilge, Nine Inch Bilge, Bilge Collins, and Jane’s Addiction (to Bilge).
Obviously, if James Hetfield ever gets out of rehab, MetalliBilge will be added to the bilge-err, bill.
Last issue mention was made of a Clear Channel Communication’s self-censorship that bans songs because of potential 9/11-related content.
I have since heard that this may well be a myth. This is one of those “friend of a friend” anecdotes, but someone I know locally says he mentioned this to a friend of his who was a dj at a Clear Channel country station here in Phoenix. The dj replied bullshit: they could play anything they wanted, and the story was allegedly started by one of Clear Channel’s competitors in an effort to discredit them.
That does make sense; after all, the list is just short of absurd. I can see Megadeth’s “Holy Wars” and Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” potentially causing problems among sensitive listeners still freaked out over the whole 9/11 thing, but Steve Miller’s “Jet Airliner” or Elvis’s “Devil in Disguise” is pushing it, and the Beatle’s “Obla Di Obla Da” and Pink Floyd’s “Mother” is just plain dumb.
Alternately, this site suggests the list itself is real, but merely a suggestion to djs and programming directors of things they might want to consider not playing, rather than a flat-out ban. While equally plausible, that smacks me more as spin control misinformation from Clear Channel corporate types embarrassed by the whole thing.
I am still researching this matter. However, I openly challenge the aforementioned dj: if you can truly play anything you want, let’s here some Zappa country tunes like “Lonesome Cowboy Burt” or “Harder than Yer Husband.” Only then will I believe there isn’t a conspiracy...
OK Bomb Update
In mid-March, survivors and victim relatives of the Oklahoma City Bombing filed a class action suit against the nation of Iraq, alleging Iraqi masterminding behind the incident.
Per the suit, Ramzi Yousef, the terrorist convicted of the ’93 World Trade Center bombing, was an Iraqi Intelligence agent who recruited Terry Nichols into his anti-American cabal while both were in the Philippines. The original idea was to blow up airplanes bound for America, but this fell through, and the “Plan B” of bombing the Murrah Federal Building was adopted. The April 19 date was chosen as a smoke screen to make it appear Waco-sympathetic perpetrators pulled the caper, thus diverting attention away from the real Iraqi culprits.
Presumably the plaintiffs have some “proof”of this, so I’ll post details as they emerge.
Quote of the Moment
Context: saint and his main squeeze FireSkunk were recently discussing a sightseeing tour to New Mexico, and she asked him if there was anything he was interested in seeing. Skipping the obvious like Roswell, he surprisingly suggested, “I wouldn’t mind seeing Los Alamos, where they tested the first Atomic Bomb.”
“Is it near anything?”
Commentary: yeah, they’re gonna put a super-top secret project that is detonating an atomic bomb in the middle of a large, populated area full of heavily trafficked tourist attractions...
meanwhile, in more important matters...
Your Tax Dollars at Work — Part 665
By 1943, it was obvious to pretty much everyone except Hitler himself how the War was going to turn out: Germany was inevitably headed for a supreme spanking. It was merely a matter of time before the paddle landed on the Führer’s fanny.
One person who read the writing on the Reichstag wall and realized it wasn’t in Deutche was General Reinhard Gehlen.
Gehlen was a curious figure in his own right, even before we get to the primary focus of this ‘tax dollars at work’ nastiness. As early as 1942, he realized that if Germany was to have any chance of winning the war, Hitler would need to be removed (so the real generals could run things right.) He became compatriots of Claus von Stauffenburg and Henning von Tresckow, the two main perpetrators behind the failed 1944 briefcase bomb attempt on Adolph. Gehlen was apparently involved in aspects of the tactical planning of the unsuccessful coup, but managed to conceal his ties after the fact and avoid detection.
Or, perhaps, he was just too damned important to lose to the retribution executions that ensued.
You see, Gehlen was the head of Army Intelligence for the entire Eastern Front.
In other words, he was in charge of all of Germany’s spies in Russia.
A quick context commentary about Germany’s spy network, the Abwehr, to put this in perspective. The Abwehr was divided into two sections, Eastern and Western Intelligence. The Western division was run by Admiral Canaris, a former First World War U-boat captain. As a submariner Canaris was apparently half decent, but as a master spy controller, he was far below par. Literally all (yes, 100%!) of the spies Canaris had working in England and America were either discovered and executed, or were actually double agents secretly working for the Allies. Fortunately for Der Fürher, Canaris’s Eastern Front counterpart was much more effective.
By most accounts, Gehlen had about 350 spies throughout the Russia—a pretty impressive number by any standard, but especially commendable given Stalin’s penchant for paranoia and purging. General Gehlen’s success in the Soviet Union was largely due to his secret alliance with General Andrei Vlassov, a Red Army officer who clandestinely belonged to a pro-Czarist underground that understandably despised Stalin and his Communist cronies. Vlassov was highly placed in Soviet Intelligence, and gladly cooperated with Gehlen in hopes that a successful German invasion would topple the Commies and restore his faction to power. Even when things went badly after Stalingrad, Vlassov and his network continued to assist Gehlen’s Abwehr apparatus.
And as we shall see, this assistance extended well beyond World War Two.
Now, as pointed out, even as early as 1943, most people could see the Allied tide was going to overflow the Fatherland, and Gehlen was one of those who predicted the inevitable pattern. However, Gehlen could see even farther, correctly guessing that the next big brouhaha would be between the Americans and the Soviets.
So, in the fall of 1944—not coincidentally just after the failed attempt on Hitler’s life—he microfilmed all his spy documents concerning Soviet intelligence and buried them—53 steel drums worth—in the Swiss Alps for safekeeping. Think of it as an insurance policy Ace of Spades in the hole.
When the inevitable surrender came, Gehlen made sure to be near the American front lines rather than the Russian. By all accounts, on May 25th, 1945 he simply walked up, turned himself in specifically to the American Counter-Intelligence Corps, and essentially said, “Boy, have I got a deal for you...”
His offer: he would hand over his still-intact Soviet spy network in exchange for immunity from war crimes tribunals. Provided, of course, that he could still personally run his spy ring.
Not surprisingly, the offer was immediately and enthusiastically accepted.
Coincidentally—or not—the American that Gehlen turned himself over to and who brokered this sweet deal was an OSS officer named Allan Dulles, who would within ten years become head of the CIA and, despite hating JFK’s guts, also later serve on the Warren Commission.
Literally within a week, Gehlen was out of his Nazi general’s uniform and in an American General’s uniform, all under the aegis of the infamous Project Paperclip. Gehlen also negotiated the release from internment camps literally hundreds of Army and SS officers who had been all part of his crew, so they could continue to work for him.
Now in case it’s not obvious, it needs be pointed out that (aside from moral and ethical dilemmas) this sort of thing was extremely illegal. Despite his semi-active involvement in the failed Hitler hit, Gehlen had been an active Nazi who genuinely bought the Party line. By most accounts, Gehlen loved Nazi ideology; he just hated Hitler for phuqing things up. There is almost no question that Gehlen should have been on trial at Nuremberg, yet instead he had a cozy compound in the Spessart Mountains of central Germany from which to run his spy ring. His staff actually grew to almost 3,000 people, and he had to be relocated to a 25-acre complex in Pullach, just south of Munich, where they operated under the guise of the innocent-sounding “South German Industrial Development Organization.” Gehlen also set up what was essentially a spy training camp at near-by , run by former a SS General named Burkhardt.
Did I mention that all of this was funded with U.S. tax dollars? Oh, of course I did: YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK. Silly me.
Anyway, almost immediately the Gehlenapparat (as they became known) began turning in reports to their new American superiors from agents in the field. Never mind that these agents were frequently former German military officers, many of whom also had active Nazi backgrounds. As Gehlen had predicted, a tense standoff between East and West was quickly developing, and the Americans needed as much information about the Soviets as they could get, without regard for the sources. As Dulles himself commented, “He’s on our side, and that’s all that matters.”
And so for almost ten years, the Gehlenapparat was virtually the CIA’s only source of spies inside Russia. That is no exaggeration, either.
As historian Carl Oglesby noted about the Gehlenapparat, since the CIA’s image of the Soviet Union largely came through information from die-hard Czarists by way of a Nazi General, it may not have been the most accurate portrayal of the “real” situation in the Russia...
Oglesby’s observation, made in the late ’80s, was closer to the truth than he knew. With the fall of Communism and the opening of the Russian archives in the early ’90s, historians studying the situation learned something startling: almost everything Gehlen had reported to his Allied overlords was pure, unabashed bullshit. This is especially true of his portrayal of Soviet military strengths and intentions during the early days of the Cold War.
Although it is generally accepted today that by the mid ’50s the Gehlenapparat had been widely infiltrated by the KGB, there is still great debate over how much of the inaccuracies of Gehlen’s (mis)information was KGB counterintelligence, and how much was Gehlen’s own deliberate creation. After all, without the Cold War, he’d be out of a job and in a prison.
In 1968, Reinhard Gehlen “retired” from spy work and withdrew to a chalet in Bavaria.
That chalet was a gift from Allen Dulles.
meanwhile, just when you thought it was safe to go back to bashing the Bible...
This is for those who object to a perception that saint does nothing but call Bullshit on Scripture.
Not true! saint calls Bullshit on Everything.
So here, in the spirit of “equal time airplay” we passionately present...
Debunking an anti-Christian Deconstruction
Recently, Rev. 451 passed along an email article called “Where Were You Before The Tree of Life?”, posted in part from http://4truthseekers.com/treeoflife. According to the website, ‘Tree of Life’ is the latest book by author Peter Farley.
Yeah, I’ve never heard of him either.
The website itself describes the book thus:
This book is the first to map out the history of alien interaction with the Earth, past, present, and into the near future. Extending the work of noted researchers such as Erich Von Daniken and Zecharia Sitchin, the book explains for its readers the extensive repercussions this interaction has had on life on this planet, especially its formative role in the global conspiracy known as the New World Order.
The article/chapter excerpt sent by the Rev was apparently an excerpt from said book, and had to do with Christianity as expressed in the Bible and thus subsequently interpreted. And as you can probably guess at this point, it was rather harsh towards orthodoxy.
Somewhat surprisingly, given the above-professed Von Daniken fixation, it did not alternately offer any of the various ‘Jesus was an alien’ hypothesis floating around. At least, not in the excerpt sent in by the Rev.
Instead, it was a seemingly straight-forward deconstruction of Orthodox interpretation with the mindset that it was intentionally done for control of the masses.
Hey, I’ve been saying that all along...
The Good Rev’s tag for his email was “a little spice for the conspiracy blender.”
The piece was interesting, though hardly new information to saint or myself, who have been studying such things long enough to have seen the majority of such “Biblical debunkings.” Still, it was an interesting article for a layman’s perspective that did make some good points, especially of things that are outside the armchair academic’s realm of ‘common knowledge.’ We freely admit that much of it was right on the mark.
Unfortunately, it also contained a number of inaccuracies, misrepresentations, and flat-out bullshit — enough that saint and I felt it was worth writing a rebuttal—often line by line—to point out some obvious problems or expand upon things that were only hinted at.
Perhaps saint said it best in his reply to the Reverend:
thanks for the spice. as you know, i’m a big fan of biblical deconstruction, but this little piece had enough misinformation in it that i felt it was worth responding to. although i obviously have problems with the ‘orthodox’ narrative and interpretation, countering it with information that is equally wrong is as bad as blindly following it. in other words, if you were to get into an argument with a street preacher and start using things from this work, you would be easily countered. better to have ‘correct’ information to fight the enemy, so i hope you understand my purpose in commenting on this.
The article is presented below, as received via the email [complete with the mystery marks] and saint’s commentary on it inserted interlinear in purple. This was originally the reply to Rev. 451, but saint and I agreed that it had enough educational value that it was worth reprinting in the upcoming Update.
So, as saint says, be forewarned: this is long, but it needs to be to effectively make my point. But ultimately blame the author: after all, it’s not my fault he can’t get his shit together...
[and Pete Farley is pretty clueless, too.]
Chapter 19 — The Twin Branches
Hehe, this already has my interest, what with ‘twin’ being the literal Aramaic translation of ‘Thomas’ (my favorite Apostle and Gospel) and ‘Branches’ suggesting Branch Davidian and Branch Floridian. Alas, things fall apart almost immediately...
As with the rest of the Christian Bible, the stories of the crucifixion rest in confusion and purposeful corruption. For example, in Johns gospel the Crucifixion happened on the day before Passover; in Mark, Luke and Matthew, it happened on the day after.
That’s actually not true, if one understand how Jews of antiquity (and most orthodox Jews today) work out time, specifically days. A day actually starts at sundown! In Genesis, the account of each of the six days of Creation ends with the formula, ‘And there was evening and there was morning, one day.’ From this, a day is considered to begin at sundown (actually, one day ends, the next begins.) Even in present times, the Jewish Sabbath starts at sundown on Friday and ends sundown on Saturday. At face value, John’s version is a day off, but when the day-at-sundown factor is taken into account, the accounts are actually in harmony.
Although it seems that the Sanhedrin meets at night to judge Jesus, the Sanhedrin was expressly forbidden at the time to meet at night or on the Passover.
Technically true, but we are led to believe that this was a “special circumstance,” for which exceptions could be made. For instance, if a war started, the Sanhedrin could hardly put off a meeting until Passover had ended. The Bible wants us to think that this was such an occasion, which is where I actually have trouble buying into things; normally you’d think Jesus would have been thrown in jail until it was “convenient” to convene the Sanhedrin (such as on Sunday,) but apparently they wanted to act quickly while they had the chance. So while it is improbable that they would have met that very night, it is possible.
Also contrary to what is said in the Bible, the Sanhedrin were able to pass death sentences on Jewish citizens.
There is a big debate about this in scholarly circles. In John 8, a woman is about to be stoned to death for adultery, to be saved only when Jesus intervenes with his famous“whoever is without sin, cast the first stone” saying. So we do have an instance of a death penalty, though it is unclear if this is Sanhedrin-approved, or mob action. The main sticking point is whether the Sanhedrin at that time could pass a death sentence on either the Sabbath or a holy day (such as Passover) WITHOUT ROMAN APPROVAL. There are detailed arguments for both sides of this, which I won’t bore you with, especially since the matter remains unresolved.
There was also no known custom of freeing a prisoner at that time of year to celebrate anything. Thus the offer to liberate Jesus or Barabbas is pure fiction.
At last, something I agree with! Let’s face it: Pontius Pilate was a worm. When Jerusalem natives took anger that Pilate had diverted Temple funds to repair the city’s aqueduct, Pilate infiltrated incognito Centurions among the mob, and on a prearranged signal from him they pulled out concealed clubs and brutally beat to death a great many of the rioting rabble. As the contemporary Jewish historian Flavius Josephus described the carnage, “Now the Jews were so sadly beaten, that many of them perished by the stripes they received, and many of them perished as trodden to death by themselves; by which means the multitude was astonished at the calamity of those that were slain, and held their peace.” (The Jewish War 2:178). Pilate did something substantially similar to a Samaritan uprising in 36CE (Josephus’ Antiquities 18:85). Does this sound like a man who would accommodate the masses or be nice and free hardened criminals? Please remember that Pilate was recalled to Rome in disgrace due to excessive complaints of his brutality among the populace. Herod Agrippa himself complained to Tiberius Caesar of Pilate being “inflexible, stubborn, and cruel.” Therefore, this alleged “custom” of freeing a prisoner each year is almost certainly an absurd invention attempting to make Pilate out to be a nice guy and shift blame for Jesus’s execution away from him and onto the Sanhedrin.
So much of Christianity and its belief in a divine Savior rests on the event of the Crucifixion, and much of the blame for this event has been shifted away from the Romans, the powerful oppressors of the time, and put squarely onto the Jews. As long as the Romans were in power, nothing could have been written to anger them or the retribution would have been swift and merciless.
Absolutely. If the Jews wanted to kill you, the prescribed method is stoning to death. Crucifixion is exclusively Roman. Indeed, the Bible says ‘a hanged man is accursed by God’ (Deuteronomy 22:22-23) and the Judaic definition of ‘hanging’ was broadened at the time to specifically include crucifixion. There is much kowtowing to the Romans in the Bible, such as the Pilate example above [thus the Gospel’s unanimous portrayal of Pilate pleading for Jesus’s innocence and bowing down to crowd pressure is flat-out preposterous]. Also see my sermon on Romans 13:1-5, which has Paul demanding obedience to Caesar, who he says is God’s instrument on Earth.
This is one of the reasons for the writers of the day using the Essene coding system.
Yet again another academic sticking point—and lengthy digression. Most scholars will tell you the only people who used the ‘Essene coding system’ were the essenes themselves, and this cipher system remained largely uncracked until the 1960s. Of course, there is a bit of an argument over how much contact Jesus and his later disciples had with the essenes (indeed, Robert Eisenman makes a decent, though not completely convincing, argument that they were one in the same!) Certainly, though, some parts of the Bible make more sense in an ‘Essene Code’ interpretation than in ‘normal’ one. Again, a lengthy digression which I’ll spare you.
During war, secrecy is needed, and have no doubts, the Holy Land was at war at that time, not only with the Romans, but with itself as well.
The war did not start until 66AD, and while parts of the New Testament can be best seen and interpreted in that context, we must remember that Jesus’s ministry was over 30 years before this. There is yet another big debate on how much Jesus opposed Rome and wanted a war with them to free his homeland. Since the majority of his (reported) preaching is peaceful (love thy neighbor, turn the other cheek, etc.) and, specifically on the controversial subject of paying Roman taxes, opines“Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:17-21 etc.,) it seems to me unlikely that Jesus was an anti-Roman zealot. Of course, his followers who wrote the Bible might be another matter...
The power of the Unseen God was throughout the land and everyone wanted to be the chosen group to control it. Preparations were being made for the coming of the two messiahs, and there was an air that things would soon change.
The two messiahs mentioned above are a political King and a religious High Priest. “Messiah” literally means “anointed one,” as does it’s Greek translation, “Christ.” The two traditional anointants were the King and the High Priest, who would both need to fulfill their roles based on anointed authority. The ‘Two Messiah/King and Priest’ concept can be traced to Zechariah 4:14 (interpreted via 6:9-14) though different vocabulary than “messiahs” is used for “anointed ones,” which was probably intentional to avoid just this sort of confusion. By the First Century, the expectation of two messiahs was almost exclusively an essene concept, as exemplified in the Dead Sea Scrolls (e.g., 1QS 9:1 etc.) Otherwise, everyone else in Israel assumed that these two functions would be embodied by the same person, and the two messiah concept was very much rejected by mainstream Judaism. Likewise in Christianity: John the Baptist spoke of “...one who is coming...”, not two.
Those writing for a Greek, Roman, or Arabic audience had different agenda to fulfill. The early Christian authors wanted to separate themselves from the Jewish masses and old Jewish traditionsthey were now Christians.
Although I agree with the “different agenda” comment, the separation of Christian tradition from Judaic seems to me to be a later development, starting when the revolt against Rome went badly. During his missionary work, the first thing the apostle Paul would do would be to go to the local synagogue in town and preach The Word, attempting to get Jewish converts. Likewise, The Epistle to the Hebrews is a very long, carefully worked out argument proving to Jews in their own context that Jesus was the Jewish messiah and attempting to get Jewish readers to follow the new fold. Paul and ‘Hebrews’ are early, pre-War works. If Christianity were separating itself, these would not have been written, or at least have been suppressed later on. Personally, I believe the real reason for the separation of ‘Christianity’ from ‘Judaism’ came because the Jewish revolt against Rome went wretchedly, and the Christians felt the needed to clearly distinguish themselves from the losing side.
Remember here, too, that these four gospels were chosen for the final version of the Bible to the exclusion of so many others.
Hell, I’ve been saying that for years, as my preference and fascination for the Gospel of Thomas illustrates.
They were chosen by a Rome-centered church, and approved through various councils at a time when Rome wanted to usurp the power base of Lucifer in Yahweh from the Jews and center it squarely in the new Christian religion headquartered in Rome.
Power base of Lucifer in Yahweh?!? Man, I ain’t touchin’ that one...
This Roman orthodoxy rests essentially on the books of the New Testament.
Read the Bible, Big Guy: Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. In the Sermon of the Mount, he says“I have not come to overthrow the laws of the prophets, but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17) Much of the gospel of Matthew is focused on showing how Jesus fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies (often going to incredulous stretches to do this.) Anyway, the New Testament makes no sense without the Old Testament as context. The Gnostic teacher Marcion attempted to throw out the Old Testament and go exclusively N.T., which I think is one of the big reasons his teachings didn’t catch on and he’s in History’s “Where are they now?” file...
It was for this reason that as Christianity grew and spread, Jesus became less and less a Jew, and more and more a Christian. Therefore it was all right to blame the Jews.
This ‘blame the Jews’ thing is again a shift away from Roman blame for the Crucifixion and onto the Jews. Personally, I think both groups wanted Jesus out of the picture; the view in the Gospels that the Sanhedrin skillfully maneuvered Pilate into doing their dirty work may have some basis to it, but I don’t buy the ‘Romans as unwitting accomplices’/“forgive them for they know not what they do” line. The Romans knew exactly what was up. Still, let’s look at it from the Jewish perspective for a second. Jesus was a popular leader, so the Sanhedrin could avoid an uprising against themselves by shifting “blame” to the Romans, who could more easily handle popular unrest. But back to the Gospel p.o.v. of exclusive Jewish culpability. Since the Gospels were aimed at a target audience outside of Israel, these readers were less likely to know the complex political intrigue, and more likely to swallow “the Jews” as the scapegoat.
As Gardner says, Everything in the Bible says that Jesus was the King of the Jews. And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus response correctly translated is: Thou hast spoken correctly.
I’m not sure who “Gardener” is, but he seems to have a good grasp of Greek. His translation of Jesus’s reply is more or less correct (“it is as you say” is more accurate rendering of the Greek Συ λεγεις.) This is one of the many reasons I am distrustful of the King James Version, which translates the passage (Mark 15:2) as “Thou sayest it,” which is very different and misleading indeed! The Amplified, American Standard, New International, and Revised Standard Versions get it correct.
The Gospels were composed for a Greco-Roman audience, and the role of the Romans in Jesus trial and execution had to be whitewashed and presented as sympathetically as possible.
I agree 100%. Indeed, this is arguably the truest statement of this whole piece.
Crucifixion was an execution reserved specifically and exclusively for enemies of Rome, just as Spartacus and his rebellious slaves were an enemy of Rome and had therefore been crucified.
Way off the mark. Escaped slaves could be crucified, really bad thieves (per Luke 23:32-33 Jesus had one on each side) etc. Actually, the Greek term Luke uses, κακουργοι , is a bit ambiguous, but it generally means “criminal” or “malefactor” with no political crime connotation.
If Jesus was crucified, it means he cannot have been as apolitical as the Gospels seek to make him out.
Bullshit—see above (the ‘love thy neighbor’ commentary.) But in fairness also recall my earlier disclaimer that the political aspirations of his followers is far less clear: one of his disciples was called “Simon the Zealot” (Matthew 10:4 etc.) and Peter had a sword which he defended Jesus with (John 18:10) so that matter is much murkier territory.
In fact, only the fourth gospel, that of John, seems to have been based on any kind of actual eye-witness account of the Crucifixion. And contrary to most Christians assumptions, none of the Gospels were written by the Apostles themselves.
No one has ever claimed this. Mark and Luke were disciples, not apostles. However, the terms ‘apostle’ and ‘disciple’ are frequently interchanged in the Gospels, and Farley’s intent here is clearly that none of the ‘disciples’ to whom the Gospels are attributed actually wrote them. This statement certainly has more leeway in ‘truth.’ Consider the historical record on the Gospels. These texts were originally circulated anonymously, with no authorship attestations in them; the attribution of each to a single, specific disciple is a late (2nd century plus!) development. The disciple Matthew was “determined” to have written the Gospel of Matthew only because Matthew 9:9 differs from Mark 2:14/Luke 5:27. The authorship attestation of John 21:20-25 is missing from its earliest copies (not showing up until 4th century editions!), and even then common sense tells you it is a post-publication insertion: “This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has witnessed these things, and we know his testimony is true.” Who the hell is this “we”?!? Hopefully you see the pattern (and the point) here.
The events on the Cross certainly have their oddities. For instance, no sooner does Jesus inhale the vinegar on the sponge (what should have for all intent and purpose been a restorative) than he gives up the ghost. This would lead one to suspect that what was on the sponge was more likely some kind of drug to make it appear as though he had died, rather than any kind of restorative.
A very good (well, interesting) book called “The Passover Plot” was written about this curious event, pretty much suggesting what Farley just said. Per the ’Plot, occasionally the Sanhedrin would go around and use a belladonna-soaked sponge on Jewish Crucifixion victims, which would first knock the person unconscious and then kill them via overdose. This was seen as a humane mercy killing. There apparently are rare instances where not enough was used, and the person just went unconscious for a few hours, appearing to be dead, only to “come back to life” a short while later! The Passover Plot suggests this was such a case with Jesus, and was intentionally done so by Jesus’s followers to essentially ‘fake’ a “Resurrection,” or at least afford Jesus an opportunity to get away.
The events that happened after the Crucifixion were also odd. According to Roman Law of the time, a crucified man was denied all burial,
Wrong; this was the custom, not the law. Exceptions were made, and we have the occasional remains to prove it. The main reason a crucified person was not buried was because there was nothing left to bury! Crucified victims were usually left up on purpose to serve as a warning/lesson to others: mess with us and this is what happens to you. Scavengers usually picked the bones clean, and the bones would be scattered by dogs. Again, there was usually no burial because there was usually nothing to bury.
yet in the Bible, Pilate is quick to give his body over to Joseph of Arimathea for exactly that purpose. This clearly signifies to many researchers that their was evidence of some sort of collusion. In the original Gospel of Mark written in Greek, Joseph asks for what is correctly translated as the living body of Jesus.
I am intrigued by this (and the continuing comment below) and checked the Greek. The terms are ambiguous, with none of the Koine lexicons I consulted clarifying the matter. I am still researching this.
Pilate, however, grants him what he believes to be the dead body of Jesus.
According to this same account (Mark 15:44), Pilate was surprised to hear Jesus was dead so soon, and sent a Centurion to check. You’d think the Centurion would know the difference between a live body and a dead one...
Although mentioned by the Bishop of Antioch as early as AD180, a surviving copy of the Gospel of Peter was only first located in a valley of the upper Nile in 1886. The fact that in it, Joseph of Arimathea turns out to be a close friend of Pontius Pilate may suggest why it had not been found before then.
That suggestion is a bunch of Labradoodle droppings; I’ll give you a much more realistic explanation of why the Gospel of Peter was not found for 1700 years in a minute. Meanwhile, The Gospel of Peter is the only source to indicate Joseph and Pilate were friends. They may actually have been, but the Canonical Gospels certainly give no clear indication of it. According to those, Joseph was a wealthy and influential member of the Sanhedrin. [Presumably he missed the Sanhedrin’s otherwise unanimous vote to condemn Jesus.] Anyway, the whole Joseph/Pilate scene can best be seen as Pilate playing politics among important members of the populace. Pilate may have been a cruel, inhuman worm, but he knew and understood politics.
If this is true, it also points to the likelihood of a fraudulent Crucifixion.
Actually, I’d say the arguments presented here don’t point to that, just sloppy research. If you want evidence, or at least better speculation, read ‘The Passover Plot.’
The tomb in which Jesus was buried, according to The Gospel of Peter, lay in a place called the Garden of Joseph, which would correctly attribute the burial tomb as belonging to Joseph of Arimathea. The Gospel also interprets Jesus last words on the cross as the particularly striking, My power, my power, why hast thou forsaken me?
The Gospel of Peter (or at least what we have of it) is a “Docetic” document, meaning it belonged to a “heresy” known as Docetism that taught Jesus was a living, “ordinary” human being who was only granted Divine power at his baptism by John and whose powers left him at his death on the Cross. This was why it was banned, not the Pilate/Joseph friendship theory postulated by Farley above. Still, the Gospel of Peter has some curious imagery in it, such as when Jesus is resurrected, he was so tall that his head literally reached “above the sky,” and the Cross he was crucified on actually talks to the Centurions! We only have a fragment of Peter, beginning just after the Pilate-handwashing scene and ending just after Jesus’s resurrected appearance to the Apostles, so we don’t currently know what else was in it. As an aside, the Church father Serapion of Antioch (late 2nd Century) originally approved the Gospel of Peter’s use among the masses, but later, upon more careful examination changed his mind due to its pronounced Docetic leaning.
It is now [sic] wonder then that modern authorities agree that Jesus, quite unabashedly, modeled and perhaps even contrived his life in accordance with the prophecies heralding the coming of a Messiah, and this included the crucifixion.
Arguably the truest statement in this whole thing. The description of the Crucifixion owes more to Psalm 22 than any historical event. Oddly enough, a friend of mine saw the movie ‘Stigmata’ and asked Evil Matt about some of this. He has a rather detailed commentary in the .
In The Heresiarchs of the Gnostic Writings, Basilides, an Alexandrian scholar writing between AD 120 and 130, claimed that the Crucifixion was a fraud, that Jesus did not die on the cross, and that a substitute Simon of Cyrene took his place instead.
This seemed a somewhat popular belief among heresiarchs, but it has its obvious problems. According to Matthew (27:32), Mark (15:21), and Luke (23:26), Jesus was too weak from scourging to carry his cross to Golgotha, so Simon of Cyrene was recruited to do it. John 19:17 very specifically contradicts this in that Jesus carried it himself all the way. The idea that Simon was somehow accidentally nailed up instead of Jesus is an old one, but makes little sense to me. Cyrene is in modern-day Libya, strongly suggesting Simon was African (ie: black-skinned; see Acts 13:1 and recall ‘niger’ is Latin for ‘black’,) which makes it difficult to confuse with the comparatively lighter-skinned ethnics of Israel. You’d also think the Centurions would notice Simon in good shape with no scourge marks, etc...
|As late as the seventh century the Koran also maintained precisely this same argument.|
No it doesn’t. The Koran’s only comment is “they did not kill him, though they though they had.” (4:157) Simon is not mentioned anywhere.
In the Nag Hammadi scroll, The Second Treatise of the Great Seth, one of the so-called Gnostic Gospels composed for an Egyptian audience rather than a Roman one, it explains that there was a substitution made for at least one of the three victims of the Crucifixion.
2nd Seth is says a lot of strange things. It is another Docetic text:“I visited a bodily dwelling. I cast out the one who was in it first, and I went in.” (4:1-2) It also delves heavily into Gnosticism, especially the Valentinian system of the Archon hierarchy. Don’t expect to understand it unless you have a background in such heresy research—even I have trouble making heads or tails of this one. There is certainly much more interesting—and comprehendible—Gnostic material about. However, with Farley’s favoritism for Docetic documents, I smell a pattern here that, in light of his self-professed Von Daniken leanings, he’s about to suggest that Jesus was abducted and possessed by aliens. ....sigh....
With regard to this substitution it mentions Simon the Cyrene as the substitute. It also mentions that Jesus did not die on the Cross as presumed, so the substitution apparently succeeded. Jesus is then quoted as saying after the event, As for my deathwhich was real enough to themit was real to them because of their own incomprehension and blindness. . . And I was laughing at their ignorance.
It’s always good to laugh at ignorance, and in the reading and practice of the Bible in modern times, ignorance abounds. However, it’s better to fight such ignorance with facts, which is why I did the response to this. Hopefully I have given you food for thought on the matter.
Thanks for the comprehensive reply- was not expecting it. If you’re going to be addressing some Biblical issues via the film Stigmata in the next update, could also throw in a synopsis of the "Passover Plot"? You got me curious.
The ‘Stigmata’ comment has to do with a series of questions passed on by The Ignition Missionary regarding the film, mostly having to do with the film’s portrayal of how the Catholic Church translated the Dead Sea Scrolls. These parts of the film are demonstratably disprovable, though the ‘truth’ of how the Church handled the ’Scrolls is not very flattering, either. Fodder for another Update, perhaps, or . A portion of the dialogue between myself and I.M. on the film and the inaccurate portrayal of Crucifixion in art did make it into last issue’s “Ask Evil Matt”.
As for the Reverend’s request about “The Passover Plot”,,,
Passover Plot Peshar
“The Passover Plot” was written by Hugh Schonfield in 1965; it is still in print and probably worth checking out from a library. I haven’t read it in 10 years, so I largely just have impressions at this point, though I remember the central ‘thesis’ very well: Jesus deliberately faked the Resurrection using tools then readily available.
As pointed out above, there were instances (albeit rare) of the Sanhedrin doing mercy killings to crucified victims with a sponge dipped in belladonna. However, too little of it would just give the appearance of death, and there were a couple of times where people “came back to life” from underdoses. Schonfield suggests Jesus deliberately did this with the help of a couple of his apostles, and since he had over a full day between Holy Friday (when he was crucified) and Easter Sunday (when the empty tomb was discovered) this is ample time for a recovery.
The book was a best seller in its day, and was understandably hated, ridiculed, and even feared by Christians, as it presents a relatively reasonable alternative to what dogma wants us to believe. Surprisingly, the book took equal heat from Jews, as it gives a detailed account of Judaism at the time and what the Jews were expecting in a messiah, and the book essentially argues Jesus was the Messiah.
When I read the book 10 years ago, I didn’t know as much about the subject as I do now; I should probably reread it and see what I think. The book is self-admittedly speculation, but it is interesting speculation indeed! Schonfield apparently has a sequel out, about Pentecost. Maybe I’ll check ’em both out and give a more comprehensive commentary/criticism. When I have time.
Interesting, related trivia, by the way: in the “Twin Branches” chapter above, mention was made of “the Essene Code”. As I said, this code had not been deciphered until the ’60s or so. Hugh Schonfield, author of ‘The Passover Plot’ is the one who cracked the code. In doing so, he found that the Essene Code was more widespread than commonly thought, and had a much longer use than previously believed. A good example of this has to do with the Knights Templar. According to Catholic documents on the “heresy” of the Templars, they worshiped an unknown entity they called “Baphomet.” Schonfield put “Baphomet” into the Essene Code and found it translated perfectly into “Sophia”, the Greek word for (and personification of) “Wisdom.”
and speaking of “wisdom”...
It is unclear if the following anecdote is actually true or not.
However, it’s value in “think for yourself” merit unquestionably outweighs any apocryphal detraction it may have.
Many years ago at the University of Copenhagen, the final exam of a graduate class in physics consisted of one question:
Determine the height of a building using a barometer.
One student answered, “Take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, and lower it to the street. The height of the building is the length of the rope plus the barometer.”
The teacher was outraged at this admittedly original answer, and promptly gave the student a failing grade.
The student protested, as his answer was demonstratably correct.
The teacher countered by pointing out that this was a physics class, and the answer, even if technically correct, showed no noticeable knowledge or application of physics.
A compromise was reached: the student would be given the same problem to solve, in six minutes, only this time he must give an answer showing some rudimentary scientific knowledge. The student agreed to the challenge.
For five minutes, the student sat silently, staring blankly ahead without having written anything. At that point, the professor, somewhat smugly, pointed out that time was running out, and the student should at least venture some sort of guess.
“Oh, I have several answers,” the student replied; “I’m just trying to decide which one to use.”
Taken aback, the professor urged him to explain.
And within the remaining sixty seconds, he did:
“Well, you can always take the barometer up to the roof of the building and drop it. If you time the fall, you can calculate the height with the formula h=(0.5)gT2. But bad luck on the barometer.
“Or,” the student continued, “if the building has stairs on the outside, you take the barometer and begin to walk up the stairs. As you climb the stairs, you mark off the length of the barometer along the wall. You then count the number of marks, and this will give you the height of the building in barometer units.
“Also, you could take the barometer out on a sunny day and measure the height of the barometer, the length of its shadow, and then measure the length of the shadow of the building. The height of the building can be worked out through simple proportional mathematics.
“Now, if you want a more sophisticated method, you can tie the barometer
to the end of a string, swing it as a pendulum, first at street level and then
from the roof. The height is worked out by the difference in the
gravitational restoring force T=2p[square root
“Of course, if you wanted to be boring and orthodox about it, which is
undoubtedly what you were looking for, you use the barometer to measure the air
pressure on the roof and on the ground, and converting the difference in
millibars into feet will give you the height.
“However, since we are constantly being pushed to to exercise independence
of mind and apply scientific methods, undoubtedly the best and easiest way would be to
on the janitor’s door and say, If you would like a nice, shiny new
barometer, I will give you this one if you tell me how tall this building
is.” The student was Neils Bohr, the only Dane to win the Nobel Prize for physics. speaking of physics... One day, all of the world’s famous physicists decided to get together for a
tea party. Fortunately, the doorman was a grad student, and able to observe some of the guests... and here’s another big
bomb: saint’s sermon — Revelation 22:18-19 contextual prelude The Book of Revelation is arguably the most famous book of the Bible.
David Koresh himself based his position of authority within the Branch Davidians
as he himself being ‘The Lamb’ who can decipher its admittedly cryptic meaning (5:2),
and indeed, he did have a deeper understanding of it—so deep that he loses even me,
who fails to see Koresh’s connection with Revelation 19 to Psalm 45 as being
what he claimed as key to understanding it all. Still, Revelation is one of the few parts of The Good Book that even
non-believers will crack open to read. While the Bible certainly has other
‘end-time scenarios’ such as Daniel 11-12 or Mark 13, Revelation remains a
favorite among readers, who seem drawn to it by its surreal, science fiction
imagery (I have heard it referred to as “a kaleidoscope on
acid”) and its epic, over-the-top production of The End of the World. Indeed, the Greek title (and first word) of this book, APOKALUYIS
(‘Apocalypse’) literally means ‘Revelation’ but has passed into pop
culture as instead meaning ‘The End of the World.’ Revelation’s popularity is a bit surprising, however, when one takes into
account its hotly controversial history. For starters, the issue of just who the author was is a subject of
heated debate among scholars, clergy, and lay alike. The author identifies
himself as Jesus’s “servant
John” (1:1) who
“Of course, if you wanted to be boring and orthodox about it, which is undoubtedly what you were looking for, you use the barometer to measure the air pressure on the roof and on the ground, and converting the difference in millibars into feet will give you the height.
“However, since we are constantly being pushed to to exercise independence of mind and apply scientific methods, undoubtedly the best and easiest way would be to simply knock on the janitor’s door and say, If you would like a nice, shiny new barometer, I will give you this one if you tell me how tall this building is.”
The student was Neils Bohr, the only Dane to win the Nobel Prize for physics.
speaking of physics...
One day, all of the world’s famous physicists decided to get together for a tea party. Fortunately, the doorman was a grad student, and able to observe some of the guests...
and here’s another big bomb:
saint’s sermon — Revelation 22:18-19
The Book of Revelation is arguably the most famous book of the Bible. David Koresh himself based his position of authority within the Branch Davidians as he himself being ‘The Lamb’ who can decipher its admittedly cryptic meaning (5:2), and indeed, he did have a deeper understanding of it—so deep that he loses even me, who fails to see Koresh’s connection with Revelation 19 to Psalm 45 as being what he claimed as key to understanding it all.
Still, Revelation is one of the few parts of The Good Book that even non-believers will crack open to read. While the Bible certainly has other ‘end-time scenarios’ such as Daniel 11-12 or Mark 13, Revelation remains a favorite among readers, who seem drawn to it by its surreal, science fiction imagery (I have heard it referred to as “a kaleidoscope on acid”) and its epic, over-the-top production of The End of the World. Indeed, the Greek title (and first word) of this book, APOKALUYIS (‘Apocalypse’) literally means ‘Revelation’ but has passed into pop culture as instead meaning ‘The End of the World.’
Revelation’s popularity is a bit surprising, however, when one takes into account its hotly controversial history.
For starters, the issue of just who the author was is a subject of heated debate among scholars, clergy, and lay alike. The author identifies himself as Jesus’s “servant John” (1:1) who “...
Neither will the time of writing. As it involves the End of the World, scholars tend to put two time frames for composition: ca. 70AD or ca. 120AD. During both periods, the Jewish homeland of Israel was an all-out war zone, with Romans squashing a bloody revolt among the populace. Both rebellions went badly (to say the least!) and with the Temple’s destruction in August 70CE, it is easily understandable that Jewish people at the time thought that the World was ending. The later date of 120 is usually given to composition, which again makes the apostle John’s authorship unlikely (how many 120 year-old men were running around back then?) Whatever the case, it is clearly post-70, as Revelation has the Temple missing from Jerusalem (21:22).
Undoubtedly, though, the most controversial—and least known—aspect of the Book of Revelation was its very inclusion into the Canon at all! In the first few centuries, there was a virtual flood of “biblical” material attested to all the Apostles (including Judas Iscariot!) and other key figures. This material included gospels, acts, epistles, and various revelations of the End Times. The one by John of Patmos was but one of many in circulation at the time. Surprisingly few of the Church higher-ups considered it authentic. These Church elders would publish lists of “approved” material that they thought it was acceptable to have read to the masses during church service and upon which doctrine and thought could be based. John’s Revelation was frequently omitted. Despite an attempt at uniformity at the Council of Nicea (325AD), the non-conformity with what has ultimately become The Canon continued. At about the same time as the Council, Church father Eusibius of Caesarea wrote
To the writings that are spurious there must be counted the Acts of Paul, the so-called Shepherd [of Hermas], the Revelation of Peter, the so-called epistle of Barnabus and the so-called teachings [didacai] of the Apostles, and also, as has been said, the Revelation of John, provided that is considered proper, which some, as have mentioned, reject but others reckon among the recognized writings.
In the Codex Claromontanus (6th Century), John’s Apocalypse is omitted in favor of “Revelation to Peter.” The Stichometry of Nicephorus (also 6th Century) specifically lists the Revelation of John under Apocrypha (ie: spurious writings.) Indeed, The Revelation of John shows up on lists of “officially” gainsaid material well into the 10th century!
Equally obscure outside of academia is the fact that the Book of Revelation has many variant to it.
Which is the point of this sermon.
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the Tree of Life and in the Holy City, which are described in this book.
Pretty strong words there, especially if one knows even a fraction of the woes that can be inflicted based on the various seven parts of the whole Revelation. Who the hell wants locusts swarming them (9:3) or to swim in a lake of fire (19:20) or be gnawed upon by the dreaded seven-headed Labradoodle of Babylon (23:5)?!?
Unfortunately, despite John’s invocation against meddling with his manifesto, that just didn’t happen.
As with the case of every other book of the Bible, we do not have the original (“autograph”) edition by witch to compare all other copies to, so knowing when something strays from said original is technically impossible. However, the next best bet, which we will adopt for the purpose of this sermon, is to consider when there are two different readings of the same passage and go with the majority prevalence as “more” authentic.
There are so many textual variants of the Book of Revelation that naming (and commenting upon) them all would take up many megabytes. For those interested, a good, though by no means complete, cataloguing of them can be found here.
Fortunately, for those of Faith, the majority of these textual variants can be easily explained away as scribal slip-ups owing more to human error than calculated inconsistency. Let me put this in perspective to explain.
In the case of the ‘Old Testament,’ we can be fairly sure that the texts we have today are the same as those used in the time of Christ. Starting in the early second century, the rules and regulations among Hebrew Scribes for the transcribing of the books of the TaNaK were codified down to details like the types of clothing scribes can wear and the inks they can use. Indeed, shade’s favorite part of the regulations were that writers had to begin and end their writing on a “happy note.” Likewise, there were equally stringent rules for proofreading, including an ordained doublereader checking, among other things, how many letters were in each sentence, all to make sure the Word of God was transmitted without error.
Unfortunately, New Testament transmission lacked such safeguards, and errors abounded from almost Day One. Again, these can almost always be attributed to “human error,” such as copying a line twice (“dittography”) to misspelling a word. The latter is far more common, and accounts for the majority of textual deviations. Words accidentally become plural, possession of an object switches from one person to another, or, with the simple transposition or accidental addition of a letter, words change entirely — all with a (presumably) accidental slip of the quill. One of the best examples of this is Matthew 19:24. “(Jesus said) ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven’.” Although that is absurdist imagery that stands on its own, it unquestionably makes more sense when we account for scribal error. In Greek, the word for “camel” is “καμιλος”. The word for “rope” is “καμελος”. Same spelling within one letter. Obviously, a rope going through the eye of a needle makes much more sense stylistically than a camel, but what can you do?
Then again, I am reminded of a Saturday Night Live sketch many years ago, where host Bill Pullman’s character commented on this passage, and was thus spending vast amounts of his fortune to make very large needles and breed very small camels, so he could get into heaven with his fortune intact.
But I digress.
As said, the majority of textual variations in, well, not only Revelation but the entirety of the New Testament, can be accounted to such scribal muck-ups. Aside from letter transpositions and misspellings, another common problem among New Testament scribes was memory preference. For instance, the “Lord’s Prayer” of Matthew 6:9-13 is noticeably different in wordage from Luke 11:2-4. [shade’s aside: the ending of the Matthean version: “For the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, are Yours forever. Amen” is missing entirely from most early Greek versions. Early Church “Fathers” such as Tertullian, Cyprian, and Origen give lengthy commentaries on the Lord’s Prayer, but this last passage is conspicuously missing, as if they are not aware of it.] However, a number of editions of Luke throughout the years change the wording of the ’Prayer to match Matthew’s. It’s fairly safe guess that this is scribal error, where the transcribers are overtaken by memory of the familiar, rather than the manuscript in front of them.
Unfortunately, there are some deviations where this cannot be the case.
And ironically, one of the deviations in Revelation is in the very verse being sermonized upon: the dire curse upon those mucking around with the prophesies.
There are multiple variants of Revelation that change “God will take away his share of the Tree of Life” to “God will not write his name in the Book of Life.” The Greek vocabulary here is different enough that “human error” can easily be dismissed in favor of more premeditated altering.
It is easy enough to dismiss this example as ‘focusing on a tree while missing the forest’, as the overall result is essentially still the same: something bad will happen if you monkey around with the text of John’s Revelation. Personally I agree, and delegate such dickering to the ilk of shade’s infamous Leviticus 11:13 ‘rabbits chew a cud’ “proof” that the Bible is Bullshit: look at the BIG picture, dickhead, and quit nitpicking specifics!
However, that argument becomes much more mired when one considers the other big inconsistency in Revelation: the ‘Number of the Beast.’
[Click here for sinister Vincent Price oration]
The Number of the Beast is, arguably, the most famous passage of the entire Bible, with people who admittedly know nothing about Scriptural subjects still knowing that ‘666’ is bad juju. In deference to Edward Pothier, who makes an excellent academic argument that “666” should be correctly represented as “Six Hundred Sixty Six”, I will here-on refer to said dread number as such. (I do have a separate commentary on this, though.)
It’s no joke to say that an ocean of ink has been used over the millennia by people to ‘decipher’ the Beastly Number. I specifically do not intend to contribute to it. Scholars seem to favor some incarnation of the Emperor Nero, but other interpretations range from Genghis Khan to Hitler to Saddam Hussein. While researching this piece, I found “proof” that it applied to Al Gore. I even remember Mad Magazine in the early ’80s pointing out that since ‘Ronald Wilson Reagan’ has six letters per name, he must be it. My favorite, or course, is a twisted interpretation that “Barney Purple Dinosaur” fit the bill.
Whatever the case, we have several textual attestations that the Number of the Beast is not Six Hundred Sixty Six, but in fact Six Hundred Sixteen.
Writing in the early second century, Irenaeus (Bishop of Lyon, whom shade derisively refers to as ‘ImAnAnus’) mentions, in his magnum five-volume opus ‘Adversus Hereses’ [“Against Choice”] several (note plural!) texts of Revelation which list the number of the beast as six hundred sixteen. Quite understandably, he says, “...these are in error.” (5.30.1) Obviously, Irenaeus says that about anything he doesn’t agree with, which is enough to fill five volumes. The copies he referred to are no longer extant, presumably having been burned by fun-loving Inquisitors, but the Ephraemi Rescriptus manuscript (5th Century) does specifically give ‘six hundred sixteen’, and this is still to this day on display in Paris.
This is of interest here for two reasons. First, Irenaeus cites the “error” in the second century, yet it seems to have lasted long enough to have been recorded/transcribed three hundred years later. Apparently, there was a school of thought that believed it correct over the more conventional number given. Second, Irenaeus was bishop of Lyon, a city in southern France. One would presume he had seen the manuscripts he was complaining about. Ephraemi Rescriptus is on display in Paris (France) which tends to indicate place of origin. Was Six Hundred Sixteen some sort of French tradition or insight? There are obvious problems with this logic, of course. Irenaeus wrote much to refute Marcion and Valentinus, who were Roman and Egyptian (respectively). He knew their works, though neither were French. Secondly, just because something is currently in France does not mean it is from France. By that logic, Nefertiti and Tutankhamen—most of whose treasures are on display in the British Museum—were from east London.
There is also a manuscript, described as “Late Latin,” that lists the Number of the Beast as Six Hundred Forty Six.
Whatever the case, a scribe would either have to be on crack or (more likely) following a deviant tradition to come up with these deviant numbering systems.
And this more or less brings us back to the point of this sermon (finally!) : why would there be an invocation of plagues and pestilence against someone altering John’s Revelation in the first place?
Simple, I say: because it was very specifically a problem back in ‘the day!’
Phundamentalists bristle at the idea of deviant texts; they want us to believe that The Bible fell from the sky a complete, immaculate Book that was written by God and has not changed to this day. Unfortunately, this is quite demonstratably not the case. Likewise, Christian apologists wish us to think that any sway from the ‘accepted text’ is an unintentional error occurring after the fact of the original inscription.
However, I think Revelation 22:18-19’s invocation against tampering is a testament to just how widespread the problem was at the time. Even in 50AD, the Apostle Paul spoke of “...letters purporting to be from us” (2nd Thessalonians 2:2) which goes a long way to telling of a history of forgery, but here in John’s Apocalypse we seemingly have testimony to a known trend of people specifically altering documents to fit their own need.
Why else would John see the need to invoke a curse against such meddling?
As always, feel free to comment. Replies will be posted on the
Although Revelation contains a string of seven prophecies, they are tied cohesively (if not coherently) together into one big batch. Hence the title of the book is “Revelation” (singular), not “Revelations” (plural), as is commonly though incorrectly thought.
Several years ago, I was in either a Starbucks or a Gloria Jean’s on Diversey Parkway up in Ice Station Zappa, and had a run-in with that most rare breed of people: a cool cop.
We struck up a conversation, and to my surprise, he was as outraged as I was over law enforcement’s handling of the relatively recent Waco situation. In talking on the subject, he mentioned that prior to a policeman, he had spent several years in seminary school training to become a minister. During this, he mentioned something which has stuck with me ever since:
I remember taking a class on the Book of Revelation. The teacher walked in, and the first thing he said was, “In this class, we will be studying the Book of Revelation. First and foremost: anyone who refers to this book as ‘Revelations’ [emphasis on plural] will receive an automatic ‘F’.”
Ask Evil Matt
The Evil One fields your queries, as channeled by Sister Ob’dewlla ‘X’.
Q: Who was Saint Vitus?
A: Vitus was a child martyred in the third century. His entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges there is no historical data on him, though there are a series of unreliable fifth-century legends concerning the poor lad. Whatever the case, he apparently suffered from either epilepsy or chorea, a nervous disorder that causes spastic, uncontrollable tics and greatly impaired coordinatory motor skills—hence the term “St. Vitus’ Dance” as a synonym for chorea. Vitus is, among other things, patron saint for both dancers and epileptics.
Q: I finally began looking at one of your updates. I came up with an Evil Matt question. Do other countries have loyalty pledges, flag-related or otherwise? What are they?
A: This is a hefty topic, so I’ll just give you the short version. Yes, loyalty pledges exist among other nations, both to the country itself and its flag. Here is a random sampling: South Korea, Ireland, Singapore, Ghana, Barbados, and The Holy See (ie: Vatican City.) I was rather surprised to find (or rather, not find, during a moderately intensive web search) Pledges for communist nations like Cuba and the People’s Republic of China. I also could not find any for Muslim nations like Iran or Saudi Arabia, though I suspect Islam has specific prohibitions against such temporal oaths. The scariest one I found (so far) comes from Nazi Germany, taken by Hitler Youth members, which ends thus:
|Unsre fahne flattert uns voran.
Unsre fahne ist die neue zeit.
Und die fahne führt uns in die ewigkeit!
Ja, die fahne ist mehr als der tod!
Our flag flutters before us.
Our flag represents the new era.
And the flag carries us into eternity!
Yes, the flag is greater than death!
If you really want, I can continue to research this, but as said, it’s a chunky subject, and doing an all-inclusive analysis with any justice would be huge.
Q: Which came first: the chicken or the egg?
hehe, couldn't resist.
A: No one came ’till the rooster showed up.
(and thanks for not asking about “the tree in the forest...”)
Q: Supposedly during a nuclear war there would be an electro-magnetic pulse from all the bombs going off, which would cause everything electrical to stop working. If that’s true, how come the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima didn’t crash?
A: Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) does happen during a nuclear detonation. However, there is a ratio for how big the bomb’s yield is to how big the EMP is. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was only 15 kilotons (ie: equal to 15,000 tons of TNT.) That’s nothing, by the way; the fire-bombing of Dresden alone was over three times as powerful and killed twice as many people. Then again, we are comparing one bomb to several thousand, plus half the Hiroshima casualties were from radiation poisoning in the subsequent months. But back to the point. The EMP from a 15KT yield would be extremely weak and come nowhere near the Bomber, Enola Gay, which was many miles away from the blast.
A: There are two different schools of thought on this, both centering on Kirk.
Technically, humans can only breed with other humans, and non-species mingling won’t produce anything. Also, Kirk’s been around enough space radiation that his sperm should be worthless. Advantage: Bond.
However, in the Star Trek universe, the above-mentioned rule has exceptions, with Human/Klingon, Human/Romulan, and Human/Betazoid hybrids being documented. So if this is possible, consider this: suppose Kirk hooks up with some green-skinned alien babe whose ovum hyper-divides into 10,000 offspring. Likewise, said space radiation could have a similar effect on his mini-swimmers. Advantage: Kirk.
Hopefully, though, we will never know. The idea of a universe full of Shatner Spawn frightens me.
Q: [subject: St. Patrick] Why is it that we get drunk and idolize Leprechauns on this Saint's day?
A: Guilt; we feel we need a justification for excessive debauchery. Personally, I think it’s just an excuse, and a poor one at that, given the disproportionate amounts of non-Irish who celebrate the day (supposedly the date of his martyrdom.) The Leprechaun thing is just getting into the Celtic spirit, which is ironic because such beings are frowned upon in Catholic tradition, doubtless falling under the category of “evil spirits” and such. The shamrock (three-leaf clover) is of more relevance, as supposedly Patrick used one to explain the Trinity in a clever, visual way to the native Irish.
Interestingly, there is a bit of a debate over whether Saint Patrick even existed. Admittedly, it is unusual that the British (with the blessing of Pope Adrian IV) first invaded Ireland in the 12th Century, allegedly on a holy mission to Christianize the Pagans. You would think this would not be necessary if St. Patrick had done so 700 years earlier. Interested readers are referred to “Irish Wisdom: preserved in the Bible and the pyramids” by Conor McDari. [I admit I have not read this book; Robert Anton Wilson gives the following summary: “This book, first published in 1923, has many eerie resemblances to Mein Kamph, also written about that time, but is free of anti-Semitism; it reserves all its venom for Rome and England.”]
Got a question? .
The Hedgehog Corner
By Harriet the Hedgehog
In the Kitchen with Harriet
If you’re a busy hedgehog like me, then cooking for the crew can be a chore indeed.
Fortunately, here’s an easy meal you can whip up in no time that’s great for those gala hedgehog balls you suddenly remember you’re throwing in 20 minutes:
2 cups of fresh, plump mealie worms
1 tequila worm (straight from the bottle)
1 cup of dry IAMS cat food
1 bulb of garlic (finely diced)
3 spears of ginger
1 thimble of Lee & Perrin’s worcestershire sauce
3 jiggers of barbecue sauce
Toss together liberally, then serve at room temperature on whole iceberg lettuce leaves. Liberally garnish with crickets.
Yummy! Feeds up to ten hungry hedgehogs or one Labradoodle.
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Trust no one
and Always keep your lighter handy!
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