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On the Road

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Name: Jack Neefus
Gender: Male
Hometown: Newark, NJ
Home country: US
Current location: Baltimore, MD
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 20,619

About Me

Email: jneefus@gmail.com

Journal Archives

Sorry to Miss Your Meaning --

I agree "I am not lying" sounds like special pleading. The fact that Paul uses the same phrase in three different letters sounds to me like he was responding to a particular accusation that was circulating. Robert Eisenman thinks this is related to the Qumran document mentioning the Teacher of Righteousness, the Wicked Priest, and the "Lying Spouter, who denies the law in the midst of the whole congregation." Note: The Qumram documents are usually dated earlier, but there are good reasons to doubt the traditional dating (eg, Norman Golb, "Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?").

This question is so weird IMO because it looks like Paul may have been mythologizing an actual person, but pretty much just appropriating the name and applying it to his own heavenly character. What persuades me that Jesus was historical is that James is universally discussed in the early material as a physical relative, and the desopnysi that Domitian interrogated were seen as physical relatives of Jesus. I realize it is possible that 'brother' is not used literally, but the scholars on Crosstalk2 insist that Paul would have used a word other than adelphos if that's what he meant, and few of them have a religious ax to grind.

This is what I am starting to think happened: Jesus depicted himself as the King of the Jews, either trying to incite a revolt or hoping for divine intervention. He did what revolutionaries at the time did -- stir up support in the countryside and then reveal himself when the whole country was at a fever pitch in Jerusalem. The Romans and ruling Jews had good reason to suspect him of sedition. His death was not planned.

The earliest belief about the resurrection was that it was a spiritual resurrection from the cross -- Jesus ascended spiritually into heaven, and nothing special happened to his body. Although we do not know the details, James was famous for his "ascents" into the heavens (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascents_of_James). Putting the two together, it is inevitable that James would report that he saw his brother in heaven, perhaps sitting at God's right hand -- this is the original heavenly Jesus. Some of this material was shared orally with subgroups of messianic Jews who met in the synagogues around the Mediterranean.

Paul picked up on this heavenly Jesus and appropriated his popularity for his own purposes, not caring about the real Jesus' beliefs. While Peter and some others accepted him at first, his denial of circumcision and Jewish law caused James to eventually banish him from the synagogues.

In the second century, Marcion issued the first New Testament consisting of ten letters of Paul and a version of Luke. Marcion argued that Paul was a gnostic and was the only correct interpreter of Jesus' teaching. The most incindiary belief of gnosticism was the claim that the god of the Old Testament was not Jesus' father but a jealous local tribal god. That got people's attention.

Marcion was eventually excommunicated, and part of the backlash against him was a reemphasis on literal truth rather than the allegories and heavenly truths of gnosticism. During the mid-2nd C, Irenaeus added three more Gospels and some other letters. Material that did not fit doctrine was changed, and in some case new sayings or stories were introduced or altered to fit orthodoxy. (Eg, at Jesus' baptism, the Arian "today I have begotten you" became "with you I am well pleased", as Bart Ehrman argues). Which is a big reason for the mass confusion in this area.

Strangely enough, while I agree Paul was dishonest, his version of Christianity was the most positive and uplifting as opposed to the ascetic legalism of James or the severity of the orthodox fathers. Arguably, more of the highest religious ideals of Western civilization can be traced to Paul than to anyone else.

We Don't Know of Paul Being Thrown Out of the Temple Itself

although he was arrested there later in his life. The ejection was from synagogues in other cities, largely in Syria and Turkey. From 2 Corintians 11:

5 I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles....
--snip with too much context for thread
24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones....

The 'super-apostle' reference indicates that his enemy was also considered a follower of Jesus. This strongly suggests James, since he is depicted (eg, Acts 15) as having some kind of presiding authority over the movement and (Galatians 1) sent representatives to ensure that Jews (including Paul and Peter) were following the ritual law.

There are a lot veiled references to the Paul-James dispute in the NT. For example: "One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables." (Rom 14:2). This is very likely a swipe by Paul at James, who later Church fathers describe as having been a vegetarian. The letter of James says "Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren?" This is pretty clearly a reference to Paul's doctrine of salvation by faith alone. (Note: James is often considered pseudonymous, but given the context and timeline it seems unlikely to me.)

Paul pretty much ignored the historical Jesus and preferred to speak about Jesus as a heavenly figure. This is due to Paul's gnosticism or gnostic tendencies, but also probably to the inconvenience of Jesus' actual relatives being his enemies.

"I am not lying" appears four times in the epistles, making it appear to be a general defense against being repeatedly called a liar. It is hard to see Paul defending Jesus' physical existence to the Galatians, since the context is a dispute with Jesus' physical brother.

"They committed suicide as a group, nearly 1000 people."

Well, not quite all of them...

To a certain extent, the actions in Jonestown were viewed as a mass suicide; some sources, including Jonestown survivors, regard the event as a mass murder.

Clayton said that Jones approached people to encourage them to drink the poison and that, after adults saw the poison begin to take effect, "they showed a reluctance to die." Wikipedia article

There is also the question of how to characterize the nature of the community and the motive for the suicides:

Jones' recorded readings of the news were part of the constant broadcasts over Jonestown's tower speakers, such that all members could hear them throughout the day and night. Jones' news readings usually portrayed the United States as a "capitalist" and "imperialist" villain, while casting "socialist" leaders, such as Kim Il-sung, Robert Mugabe, and Joseph Stalin in a positive light.

On October 2, 1978, Soviet dignitary Feodor Timofeyev visited Jonestown for two days and gave a speech. Jones stated before the speech that, "For many years, we have let our sympathies be quite publicly known, that the United States government was not our mother, but that the Soviet Union was our spiritual motherland." Timofeyev opened the speech stating that the U.S.S.R. would like to send "our deepest and the most sincere greetings to the people of this first socialist and communist community of the United States of America, in Guyana and in the world." Both speeches were met by cheers and applause from the crowd in Jonestown.

On the tape, Jones urged Temple members to commit "revolutionary suicide". Such "revolutionary suicide" had been planned by the Temple before and, according to Jonestown defectors, its theory was "you can go down in history, saying you chose your own way to go, and it is your commitment to refuse capitalism and in support of socialism."

To use the logic currently in vogue, Jonestown should apparently be blamed on socialism. Certainly religion was not the issue. It's a perfect example of why the thought process is foolish and simpleminded.

Imagine that There is an Identifiable Group of Mentally Ill People with Religious Delusions

and a much larger group of religious people who have no symptoms of mental illness.

Sampling those two groups would show a positive correlation between mental illness and religious delusion. However, in no way does it demonstrate that religious causes mental illness or is a form of mental illness.

And of course it was "impossible to tell" cause and effect -- that kind of a study doesn't attempt to address causation.

Really Good

As a former Psych major, I love seeing these things. RSA seems like a particularly good series.

At one point, however, the talk seems to say that the experimental results contradicted behaviorism, since money is a reinforcement. However, there are many reinforcements and punishments. These results seem consistent with Leon Festinger's cognitive dissonance experiments decades ago. Whenever you get beyond simple tasks by simple organisms, there are a lot of things going on, including feedback loops. In my mind, this complexifies behaviorism and makes it more sophisitcated.

I am a Nonbeliever Who Was Raised Christian as Well

and took Christianity very seriously for almost ten years beginning in college.

The Bible is by no means the dominant influence in my life, but I can't think of another book that would come close. I love the Bible, but it takes a while to really understand it in something like its historical context.

It is predictable but troubling that the harshest criticism tends to come from the least hermeneutically aware people. So much of received cultural wisdom and psychology comes through religion that it is a shame to discard it with really nothing to replace it.

Well, the Best Generally Available Source is Probably the Washington Post Article

It showed a program operating legitimately as described with about the level of violations you would expect for an effort that size, such the one analyst who was doing three-step rather than two-step phone searching asa well as data entry errors such as the one with the Egyptian country code. How anyone can square the wealth of detail in that article with Greenwald's articles is beyond me.

As far as private sources go, you would be surprised how many posters here have some idea how government actually works and recognize the earmarks of propaganda when they hear it. Greenwald is an outsider, to put kindly, and appears to take Snowden at his word despite a number of red flags and known exaggerations. For anyone familiar with the intelligence communities, the picture that he portrays of how the US government operates is so at odds with reality that is strains credulity.

Personally, my perspective on the NSA comes from a recently retired NSA Deputy Director with a close family connection I have known for decades -- a lifelong Democrat from a union family in the Northeast with unimpeachable integrity, street smarts, and an Ivy League PhD. I've known a lot of NSA people, and as a group they are decent, smart, middle-class people. It is no more likely for that group to engage in the kind of shenanigans they are accused of than for your mother and father. The whole agency has been going crazy, largely because the rank and file keep hearing things on the news no one can square with anyone's actual experience.

Snowden did break the news of the existence of the phone record database, although the alternative being adopted is really not substantially different from the previous status quo. I guess it's a matter of opinion, but his 'revelations' are so erratic I think people are less well informed now than before. And that's saying a lot.

I Would Welcome Anything to Relieve the Level of Religious Ignorance

The version of Christianity depicted on DU is not only unrecognizable. If corresponding statements were made about Jews it would be, in Rachel Maddow's terms, "hair-raising." Some of the silliest damn charges routinely get laid at the feet of Christianity without anyone batting an eye.

When Oscar Wilde was taking his oral exam in classics, he was asked to translate the portion from near the end of Acts in which Paul is shipwrecked. When the professors told him he had translated enough, Wilde quipped "Oh, I wanted to keep reading and see how it turns out." Everyone laughed -- there was no need to explain that Acts ends inconclusively in media res. It was scarcely a devout group, but religious knowledge was so much more common it was taken for granted.

I Believe Jesus Existed

but pretty much dismiss all of the nativity stories, including the jerry-rigged trip to Judea to bring in the star prophecy.

I pay more attention to the earliest known beliefs of the Ebionites, since that movement descended directly from Jesus' family. Apparently, they did not believe in Jesus' virgin birth, resurrection, or divinity. In the 3rd-4th century, Eusebius joked that they they were referred to as 'the poor' because they had such a 'poor' opinion of Jesus.

All the Christmas stuff we're familiar with, including the manger, wise men, shepards, angels and the rest, was probably written by people much later who were not there. Some people even believe that Paul thought of Jesus more as an eternal heavenly figure rather than a man, and that many gospel stories were written allegorically and never meant to be seen as historical events.

Jesus apparently was from the part of Galilee near Capernaum. However, his brother became a prominent priest in the temple in Jerusalem on the other end of the country. How that happened is not known, but it could be very important for understanding how and where the two of them were born and grew up.

Cohabitation is not Illegal

but faking a marriage certificate is.

Unless you are willing to have no definition of marriage at all, you have to rule that some marriages do not conform to your definition. In those cases, you have to either assign penalties for those that do not or simply allow anything to qualify as a marriage.

Marriage is intended to define a family, but is prone to abuse because of the financial and legal advantages offered, such as benefits, lower taxes, and easier citizenship. Polygamy supercharges the abuses.

Would you allow a man to marry two hundred women and give them all citizenship? Would you allow a brother to marry a sister, a mother, or a daughter so she can get benefits? Would you allow fifty men and fifty women to get married in a group arrangement, so that all hundred are married to each other? How would marital rights be prioritized if there are competing claims?

I knew an African man who argued passionately for polygamy, and was upset that he had to choose one of his four wives as his 'real' wife for legal purposes in the US. I sympathize with him in some ways, but would not want to take his recommendation.

I am not a purist or anything on marriage or sexual mores, but passing legislation that basically says 'anything goes' is asking for trouble.
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