Tag Archives: irrational fears

Trig Rerigged 2.0 (draft) proposes a new didactic approach to trigonometry. The proposal has the form of a booklet since it reprints some pages from Elegance with Substance (2009, 2015) and A child wants nice and no mean numbers (2015). The format might change in the future, like the earlier discussion of Trig Rerigged 1.0 of 2008 (now legacy) was absorbed in Conquest of the Plane (2011).

The reader might start with page 15 with the main idea, and page 16 with the main graphs. When these make sense, then restart at the beginning. Trig Rerigged 2.0 is targeted at researchers in mathematics education, teachers of mathematics and trainers of teachers. Well, science journalists might step in too. When you are none of these, then you are advised to be satisfied with the following.

Angular circle with circumference 1. Hook disk with area 1

A circle is defined as the collection of points at a given distance from a center. This distance is called radius. The circle is a concept of circumference. There is proportionality with the radius. With radius r we have circumference r Θ.

A disk is defined as the collection of points at a given distance or less from a center. The disk is a concept of area. Area depends upon the square of the radius. The general disk area is π r 2. Areas of concentric disks however are proportional again.

The unit circle has radius 1 and circumference Θ (“archi”) and disk area π (“pi”). Also Θ = 2π.

The angular circle has circumference 1. Angles can be measured as arcs on the angular circle, as percentages of 1.  The angular circle has radius ΘH.  It is common to use the algebraic symbols instead of their numerical values Θ ≈ 6.28… and H = -1 (“eta”).

The hook disk has area 1. Angles can be measured as sectors on the hook disk, as a percentage of 1.  The hook circle has radius √πH.

Main conclusions
  • It is immaterial whether angles are measured as arcs on the angular circle or as sectors on the hook disk. In both cases we have perunages or percentages of 1. The unit of measurement is actually the plane itself. Another formulation is the number of turns around a circle.
  • Both Θ and π are useful symbols to denote these relationships. They support a rich didactic environment, that allows students to grasp the notions that are closer to their understanding, and develop from there.
Graph of angular circle and hook disk

The following graph from page 16 gives the notions in a nutshell.

The angle α is the arc AB along the angular circle, or the sector OCD on the hook disk. When the sector is extended from the hook disk onto the unit circle, then this sector might be called a “Pi hook”, for its value is α π.

The arc EF is the angle in radians, with the value α Θ.

The point {X, Y} = {x, y} rH has the property that X2 + Y2 = 1. It is useful to use the separate symbols X and Y for this point, since it determines the length of arc from {1, 0}. The point on the unit radius (ur) circle can also be described as a function of the angle α, as {X, Y} = {Xur[α], Yur[α]} = {Cos[α Θ], Sin[α Θ]}.

graphPotential implementation

Since these are suggestions for improved didactics, there must be empirical testing to determine whether these are improvements indeed. It are the students who must show that it works.

Earlier I discussed the US Common Core. This new development on the didactics of trigonometry can be included. See Trig Rerigged 2.0 for more on the relationship to the US Common Core.

I am not qualified for primary education, but the above would seem to be helpful. For example, young pupils could colour sectors of the hook disk, and determine that hooks are additive. At a next stage, they may see the frailer circumference, and see that e.g. 25% of hook matches with 25% of angle. The pupils would be able to determine the radii of the hook disk and the angular circle, so that they grasp proportionality, and that area goes by the square of the radius, and the relationships to Θ and π.

There is an intermediate stage at which {X, Y} = {Xur[α], Yur[α]} = {Cos[α Θ], Sin[α Θ]} will be discussed, and their inverses. Parts might already be done in elementary school, but it would surely be done (repeated) in the early phase of secondary education. PM. The animation at wikipedia for the sine is fairly good, but one would want to be able to manipulate the position, and the choice of yellow for the vertical position is too light.

At the end of highschool, students should be able to deal with radians and sine and cosine. Those functions remain key because of the derivatives. However, the working horses will likely be Xur and Yur, for in trigonometry it is natural to work with turns.

Acknowledgement and word of protest

Above idea basically builds upon Trig Rerigged 1.0 from 2008. The issue here is didactics of trigonometry.

Michael Hartl published a tau manifesto in 2010, and MSC published a reply pi manifesto. The issue here is rather curious. Hartl explains his approach: “π is a confusing and unnatural choice for the circle constant.” This doesn’t concern didactics but concerns some notion of naturalness in some mathematical universe, as if criteria in mathematics itself would force a choice between either Θ or π. I don’t think that this is a relevant way to formulate the issue or discuss it. There is no need for an “archi manifesto” since the relevant issue has been stated in terms of didactics of mathematics in above books. Also, tau is an awkward choice of symbol, for it looks too much like the symbol r for the radius, especially in the handwriting of students.

Still, I read these manifestos and benefited from aspects of them, notably since this gave me the idea to define the hook disk as the disk with area 1, so that we can better see the underlying unity of the notion of angle or hook. Thus I acknowledge the contributions, but also must protest that it doesn’t help when these manifestos divert attention away from the proper question on didactics.

Earlier weblog texts on this issue have been here and here and this animation. On the use of H, see here.


The Dutch research subsidy allocator NWO had its annual Spinoza Prize event, in which science meets journalism. About this annual event I reported critically in 2012.

The event this year carried the theme of “The scientist as activist”. NWO had invited Alice Dreger as keynote speaker to explain about the advantages and pitfalls of mixing research in the morning with social activism in the afternoon.

Thus, all of a sudden we have sex change on the table. Also, when there is controversy, then one is obliged to look into details. Thus I spent Friday morning listening to Dreger and the discussion, and was forced on Saturday “the morning after” to fact-check it all.

NWO Bessensap in Amsterdam

The invitation at the NWO website was:

“On Friday 10 June 2016 the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) will organise the sixteenth edition of Bessensap together with the Dutch Association of Science Journalists (VWN). The event will take place at the Rode Hoed in Amsterdam. Bessensap has been revamped this year to be even more in keeping with current developments, both in science and scientific communication.

The goal of Bessensap is and remains to encourage interaction between researchers, science and mainstream journalists, and other communication professionals. The former title ‘science meets the press’ is being replaced by an annual current theme, however. This year it is ‘the scientist as activist’: professors protesting against cut-price meat and climate scientists warning of the present and future disastrous effects of climate change. What role should scientists play in the public debate? And how should science journalism approach activist researchers?

Keynote speaker this year is the American activist researcher Alice Dreger []. As a historian, she studies the history of science and medicine. At Bessensap, Dreger will discuss what happens when science (the search for truth) and activism (the search for justice) collide. After her keynote address, Dreger will continue her discussion with visitors during a debate on this theme.” (NWO website)

Dreger informed us about her personal experience. She had participated in a social controversy, defending a fellow scientist J. Michael Bailey against harrassment, and had become a target of harrassment herself too. Her own university also hit her work with censorship, after which she eventually resigned as professor of Clinical Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Northwestern. She relates her experiences in the bookGalileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science“.

Dutch journalist Asha ten Broeke was in the audience and praised Dreger’s book, as a thriller that should become a movie. Google shows a twitter exchange between Ten Broeke and Dreger, and an earlier report in a newspaper, Volkskrant June 4, that opens with the issue of prenatal dexamethasone.

Alice Dreger, 2016-06-10, NWO, "The scientist as an activist"

Alice Dreger about “The scientist as activist”

Developing a hypothesis on the controversy

I only want to develop a hypothesis about what is happening. I have spent a major part of the mornings of Friday and Saturday on this issue, with the only objective to have a fair grasp of the situation. It will not be possible to look into all details, which would require e.g. buying and reading Dreger’s book and all commentary. Dreger observes that books are often not read and still rejected, but I don’t intend to read a full book nor to reject or accept it. Once I have my hypothesis, then it is a later option to test it, but I doubt whether I will ever have time to do so.

The situation is complicated by that Dreger may be right on many aspects, like on the matter of prenatal dexamethasone. Dreger seems also to be right in the protest against censorship at Northwestern, but one can doubt whether resignation was the proper response.

Eliminating noise, it appears that the core issue is relatively simple. This is whether Michael Bailey has a sound scientific approach or only a journalistic report on the “Clarke Institute theory of gender crossing”.

Let me invite you to read these two texts, and for readers of Dutch also a third:

Bailey apparently states that there are only two types of crossing and when McCloskey states that her personal experience doesn’t fit those two categories, then Bailey must either call her a liar or revise his theory. Why not respect personal testimony ? There is no need to concentrate on McCloskey, for there are more people for empirical testing. Thus there is no need for controversy but need for more research, and the research question is already clear too.

We find light in the tunnel by the following approach: (1) Common sense. (2) McCloskey is a brilliant economist, and I am an economist who appreciates her work very much. Her statement is to the point. For example, McCloskey is a world authority on ethical theory, and when she observes that Dreger is shallow on ethics, while Dreger’s chair is on bioethics, then this is very relevant observation. McCloskey agrees with Dreger that Andrea James is an activist and no scientist, and this is actually easy to check.

The Huffington Post article has a curious treatment of McCloskey’s position. Using your thumb to invent that two critics of Dreger “talked many times” and still disagree, and implying that both then are wrong, is bad logic.

“Well, which is it? “Proven wrong” by “almost everyone” (McCloskey) or “unfalsifiable” and without “predictive capabilities” and “untestable” (Conway)? McCloskey and Conway must have talked many times. This discrepancy in how they attacked Blanchard’s theory shows how little they cared about its truth — or that they knew it was true.” (Seth Robert)

Robert also argues: “Deidre McCloskey and Lynn Conway are both powerful persons.” This is a misrepresentation. McCloskey has no power and can only use words. People who read her work tend not to take things for granted. I have no information about Conway.

As a scientist, McCloskey is Dreger’s best ally, and it is curious when these two minds don’t meet. When McCloskey invited Dreger to send a draft text so that she could comment to prevent later confusion, then this was proper science.

A background check on potential sources of bias

Bailey’s website informs us that he originally had a BA in mathematics, and after teaching secondary school for a couple of years went to graduate school in clinical psychology. Mathematicians are trained for abstraction, and it is not impossible that Bailey’s attitude still is rather abstract and theoretical rather than focused on empirical observation, even though he has been an intern in psychiatry. An empirical scientist would be much interested in the evidence that causes a rejection of a theory.

Dreger earned her PhD in History and Philosophy of Science. The topic of the PhD study apparently was on the history of “Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex“. This background suggests that she has read about methods of science, but has no training by actually doing so. Dreger’s historical research apparently has alerted her to misconceptions by so-called scientists in the past, but dealing with current science today is a different issue. My impression is that Dreger has misread McCloskey’s accurate criticism of Bailey’s approach, and did not properly distinguish this criticism from social activists.

Adding to confusion and reducing it again

You should read the two or three texts above but let me mention that there are more sources, that contribute to information overload. For example there is Julia Serano, who has this criticism. Or there are withdrawn nominations for lammies. Etcetera, etcetera.

The bottom line is: it would be up to professor Bailey to answer to his critics.

It has been kind of Dreger to want to protect a fellow scientist from abuse by social activists. It is better to avoid the risk of becoming the next target. Best is to provide for a climate in the scientific world itself, so that Bailey indeed provides such answers. For example, Dreger might have translated McCloskey’s criticism into words such that Bailey would have understood better that this is criticism that needs a reply. One should not think that management of controversy is simple.

Insert of Tuesday June 14 2016

Though I really didn’t want to spend more time on this, I now located Dreger’s article at PubMed 2008, in which she clarifies that Bailey’s book, published at a scientific publisher, was not purely science but also intended to express personal opinions and speculations.

“From the start, Bailey intended this book to be very different from anything he had published before. Whereas most of his previous work consisted of peer-reviewed articles for scientific journals, this book would be a popularization—based on certain sexological findings of his lab and others, but replete with vivid stories of people the author had met, stories provided to put a human face on those findings. Along with accessible, abbreviated accounts of key scientific studies, the book would also feature the author’s hunches, speculations, and personal opinions. It would include suggestions for further reading, but no other documentation (Bailey, 2006b). Thus, TMWWBQ was never envisioned as a work of science in any traditional sense; instead, Bailey viewed the book as his chance to expose to the masses what he saw as the often politically incorrect truth about “feminine males”: boys diagnosable with “gender identity disorder” (GID); surgically feminized, genetic male children; male homosexuals; drag queens; heterosexual male crossdressers; and MTF transsexuals. Bailey also saw the book as an opportunity to make some money; when he was ready to sell the book, he engaged an agent, Skip Barker, who negotiated in November 2000 a contract and an advance from Joseph Henry Press (p.e.c., Bailey to Dreger, October 2, 2006). Joseph Henry Press is “an imprint of the National Academies Press […] created with the goal of making books on science, technology, and health more widely available to professionals and the public” (Bailey, 2003, copyright page).” (Dreger’s article at PubMed 2008)

Thus, Bailey was an activist himself, and it looks like Dreger may have defended not a fellow scientist but an activist.

Obviously, there is no objection to personal opinions and speculations, and these actually are an important source of information, as these for example might guide future research. However, the issue is to clearly distinguish those from corroborated findings. For example, I use a science name Colignatus. Apparently Bailey nor Dreger nor the editors of the Joseph Henry Press nor the editors of the journal that published Dreger’s article have been careful enough. Both Bailey’s book and Dreger’s article better be retracted. The abstract of Dreger’s article states:

“Dissatisfied with the option of merely criticizing the book, a small number of transwomen (particularly Lynn Conway, Andrea James, and Deirdre McCloskey) worked to try to ruin Bailey.” (In the abstract of Dreger’s article at PubMed 2008)

This fails as a description of what actually happened. Reading McCloskey’s statement on Dreger, referred to above, shows her position on content. This shouldn’t be misrepresented as being targeted deliberately at ruin. Perhaps others have stated such explicitly but McCloskey (p7-8) even explicitly denies this. Thus retract.

Dreger is right that the case causes some questions. When Bailey’s book is published at a science publisher, then McCloskey is right that research may be needed to have been submitted to the Institutional Review Board (IRB). If the book is “science journalism”, then this IRB is not needed, but then it shouldn’t be at that publisher. One cannot use one argument for the other issue. Dreger may also be right that “oral history” is excluded from IRB rules, but if Bailey uses such reports to put a face on statistical results, then he himself creates a mix that still falls under IRB (because one aspect is). Again you cannot use one argument for the other issue. Also Dreger should ask Bailey to retract and restate his views in a manner that avoids confusion.


Given this hypothesis, some tentative conclusions are:

  • The organisers at NWO should have had the same problem as I had, in needing to understand the situation. They should have been able to reason as above. They didn’t do so. They gave Dreger the floor, as if there all of this was entirely new and nobody had time to look into this. This is misleading to the audience, and generates a wider circle of confusion. It is costly to the audience, like I lost time in recovering what they should have done. The better alternative would have been to present the hypothesis as above, and allow both Dreger and others to comment, so that there would have been an informed discussion, leading to more information and reduced confusion.
  • The organisers at NWO left it there, and after Dreger had reported on the censorship, there was no statement by the board of NWO that they were appalled, and would investigate and potentially write a letter of protest to Northwestern. NWO has a department of science communication and they found it useful to give Dreger the floor for their own reasons of selling NWO, but, apparently, there was no commitment to really defend science against censorship.
  • This framing doesn’t help Dreger much. The newsmedia reported on the Spinoza Prize winners but not on the censorship of science at Northwestern.
  • Journalist Asha ten Broeke already reported on Dreger but should look into above hypothesis, in order to prevent misleading people.

After this discussion on controversy and censorship in the NWO lecture hall, various people in the audience went out onto the street, not to protest with banners, but to enjoy the good weather and the view of Amsterdam’s canals. Dutch people aren’t easily shocked about censorship of science.


It is awkward to state the obvious, but let me do it anyway.

  • This weblog advises to boycott Holland till the censorship of science since 1990 by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB) has been lifted (see the About page)
  • the censored analysis concerns unemployment and poverty
  • resolution of unemployment and poverty is crucial for resolution of world hunger (unless you want to distribute food for free, which isn’t likely to happen)
  • when I was a highschool student in 1972 and wanted to resolve world hunger, I decided that I better study econometrics rather than archeology
  • when I studied econometrics I decided that unemployment was the key topic, since this affects the basic needs. At that time I also wrote an article (in Dutch) that the New International Economic Order (NIEO) was no basic needs programme. Jan Tinbergen read the article and responded on the phone that I very likely was right on this. There is some rumour in Holland that Tinbergen was an impractical dreamer who tragically pursued unattainables, but see my In Memoriam (in Dutch) for praise of his wisdom and common sense.

Jan_Tinbergen_1982-smallThus this weblog is of key importance for world hunger too. It is almost impossible to make a dent into world hunger when you don’t get the economies up and running, with systems of social welfare that are supportive of full employment.

Jean Ziegler has called attention to the issue in clear words, though he lacks the economic theory that has been hit by censorship by the Dutch CPB directorate. See this article “We let them starve” in The Guardian. I haven’t read his 2013 book but I am convinced that it is depressing reading, especially when you know that the solution is at hand, and blocked by censorship. It is depressing too, to read this report on Ziegler’s flirt with Gadaffi (and then check out the pictures of Gadaffi’s visit to Paris and president Sarkozy in 2007).

zieglerMartin Caparros also takes issue at world hunger. See this article in the New York Times. See this interview at the University of Barcelona. Remarkably, there appears to be no English edition of his book yet, and the German edition of his book costs close to $100. Readers of German may also check out this article in Die Zeit.


There are various organisations worldwide that try to deal with world hunger. However, their approach is bottom up in the Third World, and not targetted at protecting science in the Western World and debunking fallacies by Western governments. They are fighting symptoms and not tackling the causes. Admittedly, someone who is hungry is helped immediately with food, and thus it is difficult to be critical of micro management. However, the leaderships of such organisations should be aware where the real solution would come from.

It is the same in Holland. The Dutch chapter of The Hunger Project interviewed Martin Caparros (in English). Let me quote two questions and answers:

You argue that hunger is the consequence of a system. Capitalism is the culprit. At the same time you say that of all the major problems, hunger is easily fixed. It seems too simplistic: changing the system is not simple, is it?
“That’s a problem. Because what would it mean to solve hunger? Make sure people take in more calories each day? That is easily done. It requires some technical changes, but you can realize those if you invest enough money on for instance roads or agricultural innovations. But the point I am making is that hunger is a metaphor for poverty. You cannot solve hunger if you do not first solve the problem of poverty. And that requires an overhaul of our system.”

How do we do that?
“Well, who knows? Until the 80s and 90s people thought equal welfare and justice could be reached with socialism or communism. By now we know better. I think politics should help us change to a moral economy.”

(Quoted from an interview of Martin Caparros by Leontine Aarnoudse, OneWorld, 2016-02-19)

Morality would help but, but the track record of morality shows its limits. People will be willing to help out, but the economic process must support this. Thus, there is my economic analysis, that however has been censored since 1990 by the directorate of the Dutch CPB.

Obviously, when these Dutch organisations like The Hunger Project do not question the censorship of science by the directorate of the Dutch CPB, then they convey an image as if there would be freedom of thought in Holland, and that the problem indeed cannot be solved except by micro management and global morality. What can one do, to make these blind and deaf Dutch people grow aware of their blindness and deafness ?

I collaborated on a book in Dutch that discussed unemployment and poverty. When Holland has such difficulty to manage its own unemployment and poverty (with its level of education and technology and natural gas resources) then one should be modest about claims for the Third World, unless more can be said along the lines of this censored economic analysis. Not all is in this booklet yet, since there is this censorship. Economic scientists should look at DRGTPE. I did not yet collaborate on a book on world hunger. Is that the reason why the coin does not drop ?



The Hunger Project Nederland apparently was founded in 1980, and they “celebrated” the 35th anniversary in 2015. I find this difficult to square, for how can you celebrate continuation of something that should have ended in 1981 ? The official text reads that they celebrate the progress towards elimination of world hunger, with a new target for “in the next generation”, but this reads as an official excuse. The subject is a minefield, with this “celebration”, Ziegler & Gadaffi, and other such issues. I suppose that it is quite acceptable to have parties, for man is not only an animal but also a party animal, but please avoid the cognitive dissonance created here.



  • In October 2014 I explained that Edward Frenkel abused “love” with his book “Math & Love“. As a mathematician he has no training in the empirical science of mathematics education, and what he states about mathematics education is often delusional. The situation is rather typical of the arrogance that is so common among mathematicians. The attitude is “the best way to teach and learn mathematics is to do mathematics”, but this confuses the context of mathematics research with the context of education. See here for a recent comment on the USA Common Core for mathematics.
  • In November 2015, Dutch NRC Handelsblad science journalist Margriet van der Heijden discussed the book, labeled him a “glamour-nerd” and expressed doubts about his book as a “cocktail of superficial superlatives, incomprehensible math and touching memories of his youth”. Unfortunately, Van der Heijden did not explicitly mention the gap between mathematics research and education in mathematics.
  • In April 2016, Dutch NRC Handelsblad USA correspondent Diederik van Hoogstraten recycled the story, flew from Los Angeles to San Francisco and drank wine with Frenkel, resulting in this interview. The catchy title of the interview is “Math anxiety ? Don’t be afraid anymore !Apparently professor Frenkel has found the medicine that we have all been waiting for. The label “rockstar-mathematician” is used (in quotes), and while there is proper reference to the criticism by Margriet van der Heijden, Frenkel gets the last word to state the good intentions of his book.

“It has to go wrong only once. You must solve a problem in arithmetic in front of the class. You can’t do it. You are scolded, because we are focused on the result and the result was wrong. You feel dumb. A nightmare. (…) Then you are afraid for the rest of your life. Afraid to make an error and be “dumb”. This is a shame, for it is a wonderful subject. In this way we deny millions of people this knowledge, wisdom and beauty. (…) I want to find a way to the heart of all those people with youth trauma’s. It is okay, I say, you don’t have to be afraid.” (Edward Frenkel, NRC 2016-04-23, my translation)

It may well be that there are still many math teachers who abuse their students, but we must wonder whether Frenkel bases his view upon statistics or folklore. Normal teachers tend to ask up front only those students who are likely to get the result (e.g. have shown this already on paper). The normal discussion is on method and not merely on result. Thus Frenkel’s view on “math anxiety” is rather folklore than a result of research in current mathematics education. Subsequently, people with math anxiety will not read and be cured by a book that has so much mathematics, however much “love” you will put in the title. Both diagnosis and treatment are delusional.

Dutch is a language sink. Why was it considered useful to translate this delusional book from English into Dutch ? Would there really be readers who would grasp Frenkel’s math but not be able to read English ? Translators from English into Dutch have an easy job, and publishers can piggy-back upon international bestsellers. It is more difficult to translate from Dutch into English, and market this in the English reading world, but it would be more relevant to open up Holland to the world. Why did Van Hoogstraten want to interview Frenkel ? Perhaps the Dutch publisher of the Dutch translation sent him a copy of the book with Frenkel’s telephone number ? Alongside money laundering there is also delusional book laundering (that sells for cash too).

This is not without cost.

  • NRC Handelsblad has misinformed its readership twice now. Readers who have the idea that mathematics is inaccessible actually have seen this idea confirmed.
  • There is nothing in their reports on Frenkel that explicitly shows that mathematics is accessible to more people than commonly thought, albeit that this can be found elsewhere and not with Frenkel.
  • NRC Handelsblad has never reported on my books since 2009 on mathematics education. The newspaper likely finds mathematics sexy and mathematics education both boring and no science.

Holland is not an open minded country. Holland is a country where books are sold that have been translated into Dutch.

Edward Frenkel in 2010 (Source: wikimedia commons)

Edward Frenkel in 2010 (wikimedia commons)

I am no expert on terrorism and wonder whether the supposed experts aren’t either.

Dutch historian and “expert on terrorism” Beatrice de Graaf gave a lecture on Dutch TV on March 11 (or see Utrecht University) about David Rapoport‘s four waves of terrorism (his original article).

Her main message was that people might find some comfort in the idea that waves die out. March 22 saw the bombs in Brussels.

This theory of four waves of terrorism appears to be rather silly. Below gives my common sense rejection.

De Graaf is not the only academic who regards the theory of the four waves as serious. The West is vulnerable to terrorism when its “experts on terrorism” are academics lost in theory. It is okay to sooth people not to worry too much, but intellectuals should present effective approaches rather than fairy tales.

The so-called “four waves”

Jeffrey Kaplan summarizes (and then proceeds in adding his own fifth wave) (while Dutch readers can check Edwin Ruis’s review of March 13):

“Rapoport’s theory, first published on the web before finally finding a home in a printed anthology, posited four distinct waves of modern terrorism (anarchist, nationalist, 1960s leftist, and the current religious wave). Each wave had a precipitating event, lasted about 40 years before receding, and, with some overlap, faded as another wave rose to take center stage. Most terrorist groups would gradually disappear, a few (the Irish Republican Army for example) proved more durable. Rapoport’s theory was elegant, simple, inclusive, and had a high degree of explanatory power. In short, it provides a good academic model.” (Kaplan 2008).

Jeffrey D. Simon holds (and wonders about a fifth wave too):

“David Rapoport’s “The Four Waves of Modern Terrorism” is one of the most important pieces ever written in the vast literature on terrorism (Rapoport 2004).  What Rapoport did in his classic study was take the complex phenomenon of terrorism and put it in a historical context that not only explained different periods of international terrorism, but also set forth theories and concepts that can be used to attempt to anticipate the future of terrorism.  That is no easy task.  There haven’t been many assessments and articles written about Rapoprt’s “Four Waves” theory, although this volume of papers initiates a discourse about his important thesis (See Thompson and Rasler, this volume).  Despite the numbers of scholars, policymakers, and others who have joined the field of terrorism studies after the 9/11 attacks, there does not appear to be a great deal of interest in the history of terrorism.  In today’s instant access and information-overload society, we are inundated with analyses of current affairs but pay scant attention to what we may learn from what has transpired in the past.” (J.D. Simon on the Lone Wolf, likely 2010)

I googled to find some criticism, but didn’t see much, though perhaps I didn’t google well. I noticed a critical text by Ericka Durgahee. I didn’t have time to look into this, and the following are my own common sense short remarks.

The anarchists 1880-1920

The dynasties of Hohenzollern, Romanov and Habsburg collapsed. Perhaps the anarchists didn’t really win because we don’t have anarchy now, but those anarchists were replaced by communists and fascists, and we ended up with two world wars, which isn’t quite “die out”.

Anti-colonialism 1920-1960

The anti-colonialists won. Winning isn’t quite “die out”.

Leftists 1960-1989

Leftism became impopular because of the Great Stagflation (unfavourable unemployment and inflation) and the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Young radicals were more motivated by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

In Germany, the police managed to isolate the Rote Armee Fraktion (RAF). In another article, Beatrice de Graaf explains how the Dutch radicals (Rode Jeugd, Krakersbeweging) lost their motivation by incompetence of the Dutch police. The Dutch police intended to adopt the tough German approach, but mismanaged this, and both radicals and the general population got the impression of an atmosphere of tolerance and dialogue. In that atmosphere, potential supporters saw no need for radicalisation, and radicals had the example of the dead-end street in Germany.

These events rather concern the transformation of European society after World War 2. There are pockets of terrorism, but there doesn’t seem much difference between RAF and other groups like IRA and ETA: except that each group requires specific attention for its idiosyncracies.

Religious terrorism 1979-now

Religious violence is of all times. There is no reason to predict that it will pass. This is no wave.

Alternative approach

Terrorists tend to be higher educated who are frustrated w.r.t. opportunities in society. They may feel sympathy with the unprivileged. They may adopt any ideology to recruit others in the resistance against the establishment. To counter this, one must look at society as a whole, create fair opportunity, and encourage people to participate. My own work contains aspects that are key to reduce terrorism.

  • Create a social welfare state that works. See DRGTPE.
  • Make democracy work. See VTFD.
  • Provide for good education, e.g. re-engineer mathematics. See EWS.
  • Let people learn how to deal with the human capacity for abstraction. See SMOJ.
Beatrice de Graaf, soothing Dutch viewers that a wave dies out

Beatrice de Graaf, soothing Dutch viewers that a wave of terrorism dies out


Listening to Yes – Close to the Edge


On occasion, circumcision can be a good medical procedure, like an appendicitis. Standard circumcision of baby boys, however, as happens in hospitals in the USA or Jewish “feasts” (a party except for the baby involved), is a sick barbaric custom. It is used by a priesthood to separate their flock from others and emphasize an “us against them” mental frame.

Medical Doctors should explain parents that circumcision is not necessary and much cheaper in terms of medical bills. Rabbi’s should explain their Jewish flock that there is no need for circumcision but that donations are accepted for a nice speech. If rabbi’s have a hang-up against baptising a baby since this looks too Christian and if they really want to see blood, then they might consider making a cut in their own body.

Psychology tells that people tend to rationalise their condition. There is a mental need to accept your body and situation. Rich people think that they deserve their wealth while it may be a fluke of nature. Poor people may tend to accept their poverty since it may make them more miserable to think otherwise. Circumcised men will not demand severance pay from their parents but may start feeling proud of being part of a “great tradition” – and then circumcise their own boys. The “us against them” mental frame is very powerful and very stable.

Banning circumcision is no good idea. The custom and mental frame are too strong and believers will go underground, and the custom might even get the appeal of resistance against the nanny state. Matter of fact and common sense and fairness are the key words.

The “us against them” mental frame might contribute to a nuclear conflict in the Middle East. Potentially the real causes are land and water, or in a good German word Lebensraum. But such issues are generally solved by mere economics. When people can work in peace and trade the proceeds then prosperity multiplies. Such an outcome apparently is not in the interest of politicians, priests and the so-called “scientists” who advise these. The real problem is not Lebensraum but mental dishonesty. See the earlier discussion of the high priests of high treason.

Thinking about the nuclear war to eliminate circumcision causes me to look at four websites.

But let us first observe that the Bible is dangerous Literature.

Circumcision (Central Asia 1870s) (Source: Wikipedia commons)

Circumcision (Central Asia 1870s) (Source: Wikipedia commons)

The Bible is dangerous Literature

The logic is as follows:

The NT is dangerous Literature.
The NT is a summary of the OT.
Thus also the OT is dangerous Literature.

Let us consider the NT, and then Acts 5.30 in both CEV, KJV (that generally follows a Hebrew translation of the original Greek) and original Greek.

“You killed Jesus by nailing him to a cross. But the God our ancestors worshiped raised him to life” (Acts 5.30 CEV)

“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree (Acts 5.30 KJV)

“ὁ θεὸς τῶν πατέρων ἡμῶν ἤγειρεν Ἰησοῦν ὃν ὑμεῖς διεχειρίσασθε κρεμάσαντες ἐπὶ ξύλου (Acts 5.30 NA28, German Bible Society)

One may check also the various Biblehub versions with “nailing to a cross” versus “hanged on a tree”, or the stepwise translation of the original Greek with only that tree and no nails.

The best interpretation of the situation is:

  • Many translators agree that it should be “nailing to a cross”. They are embarrassed by the original Greek “hanged on a tree”, and repair the error – disinforming readers about what the true text is.
  • The embarrassment is that – certainly in Acts, long after the event – it should be a mantra that Christ was nailed to a cross, so that “hanged on a tree” is incomprehensible.
  • The embarrassment is that “hanged on a tree” is comprehensible as an earlier version of the story, taken from conventional myths about dying and rising (fertility) gods who are hung on trees (or trees themselves) – check for example the Roman Hilaria (Spring festival) – so that the original editors of the Acts apparently forgot this passage when they switched to using the cross to make it a Roman punishment.
  • The verse illuminates that the NT is religious literature and no report about true events.
  • The NT is not “The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” but dangerous literature. It is a deliberate composition of narrative, propaganda and theological argumentation. The NT follows the poetic rule “to tell lies to tell the truth” – but users should beware of the dangers of the passions that are invoked.

An alternative interpretation is that the editors (“Luke”) only recorded Simon Peter’s words from memory by eye-witnesses, and that some details got lost in transmission, or that Simon Peter really used poetic liberty to evade the tiresome mantra. People who believe this may also think that circumcision is a good idea because Christ was circumcised too.

I came upon Acts 5.30 from re-reading Lena Einhorn’s paper on the time shift hypothesis, in which she also discusses who Simon Peter might be. Check pages 21-24 for the story around Acts 5.30.

Stuart G. Waugh on the Kitos War and Marcion

Stuart G. Waugh has a weblog Post Kitos War. His work on Marcion is referred to with interest by Hermann Detering’s website.  Waugh on his part refers to Detering again.

In an earlier weblog text, we found that:

  • The Einhorn (2006, 2012) and Eisenman (2006) time shift hypothesis holds that real events around 70 AD are projected onto fictitious “Biblical events” around 30 AD.
  • Earlier there were Ralph Ellis (1998) and Hermann Detering (2000). The latter writes: “the only genuinely reliable point of reference is the fact that the Synoptic Gospels look back to the destruction of Jerusalem and consequently must have been written after the year 70.” (p162)
  • Waugh wonders about the relevance of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in AD 132-136 but points more decisively to the Kitos War in AD 115-117 and the direct threat to Alexandria.
  • We also see a Basic Passion Story of around 41-44 AD.
  • The flexible time shift hypothesis is that there are layers of editing, so that indeed more time frames may be involved. The core would still be the (E & E) time shift hypothesis since the destruction of Jerusalem en Temple is such a dramatic event.

Waugh has also some observations on circumcision:

“The inescapable conclusion is that Historia Augusta is simply wrong. There was no ban, but a myth developed in Christian circles by the middle of the 4th century that Hadrian had imposed such an edict, perhaps from confusion his banning of castrating slaves combined with Antoninus’ ruling to allowing Jews to circumcise in the years after Bar Kokhba. [8] And no doubt this view derived from the Maccabees and the association of Hadrian’s policies with those of Antiochus; to the point of  even claiming he thought himself the reincarnation of Antiochus. But this myth, or at least the confusion of the era, does appear in Paul’s letters.” (Stuart Waugh, July 15 2013)

Waugh refers to an eclips around AD 118 that might be relevant for Marcion’s Paul, with a youtube series by Michael Xoroaster.

“What is most interesting to me in the series was the use of NASA data to show the night sky on the night of the two eclipses, and the positions of the stars and planets. I must admit it completely changed my view of what is meant in the New Testament by the very word revelation. (…) Was Paul’s revelation an astrological one?” (Stuart Waugh, June 27 2013)

See more on the AD 118 eclipse.

Richard Edmondson on Marcion

Richard Edmondson describes himself as: “I am a novelist, poet, journalist, and peace activist. My latest book is The Memoirs of Saint John: No Greater Love, a novel about the life of Christ as told from the perspective of John the son of Zebedee, the youngest of the twelve disciples.” This kind of religious novel is confusing, since it introduces more noise into a subject that already is rather noisy.

More relevant is his work as a journalist / commentator.  Whatever Edmondson’s political points of view and writing of religious fiction, I found his journalistic discussion of the role of Marcion on the creation of the NT and the abolition of the OT rather nice.

See his text Chuck the Old Testament? (February 17 2014).

This discussion must be seen in the context of our earlier exposition that Simon Magus was a real heretic. The gnostic / docetic version of Christianity lost from the butchershop religion with a real suffering Jesus in the flesh. What drives history here is the logic of the theological argument.

In AD 100, Judaism did not accept this theological argument. They did not believe in the existence of Jesus anyway, so his supposed death had no value.

Perhaps now though, in 2015, Israelites might accept the argument that the OT is religious fiction, just like the NT is. You are chosen by fiction, great.

Edmondson referring to Robert Parry

Edmondson explains his weblog as follows:

“In this blog much of my focus is on the Middle East, particularly the occupation of Palestine and events as they are now playing out in Syria. While I am a Christian, I am not a Christian Zionist. The founding of Israel in 1948 was not the fulfillment of God’s prophecy Christian Zionists believe it to be (apartheid and endless occupation are not part of the divine plan), but if you read the second chapter of II Thessalonians you will notice Saint Paul foretelling the coming of a “powerful delusion”–and certainly Israel and its supporters in the mainstream media, to the extent that Paul’s prediction applies here, have practiced the art of deception to a rather stunning degree.” (Richard Edmondson, About, March 16 2015)

Edmondson holds that the USA isn’t critical enough on Israel, likely for fear of sounding anti-semitic. Here is an example of his protest against propaganda for a war with Russia.

There is a useful reference to this article by Robert Parry of March 11 2015 on such war propaganda.

“Robert Parry (born June 24, 1949) is an American investigative journalist best known for his role in covering the Iran-Contra affair for the Associated Press (AP) and Newsweek, including breaking the Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare (CIA manual provided to the Nicaraguan contras) and the CIA and Contras cocaine trafficking in the US scandal in 1985. He was awarded the George Polk Award for National Reporting in 1984. He has been the editor of Consortium News since 1995.” ( Wikipedia on Parry March 16 2015 – not as a source but as a portal)

The Christian Solution ?

Looking on the internet for this kind of view that struggles with propaganda and psychological framing e.g. about anti-semitism, we also find The Christian Solution. The nice element of this TCS website is that the author looks for constitutional reform, and suggests that the USA devolves into more power for the States. This is an issue that we can discuss in Political Economy.

However, the author holds that Christianity is more peaceful than Judaism or Islam. This is a dubious claim, both historically but also theologically since Jesus was both priest and warrior. The view neglects the information that the Bible is dangerous Literature. Who choses this position quickly falls in the “us against them” trap. The author claims – but the claim is actually rather defensive:

“Truth is that this website is neither anti-Semitic nor religiously fanatical. This website is merely reporting what is not being reporting. It is re-slanting, in the opposite direction, that which has already been slanted away from the Jews by the media-Scribe monopoly. (…)  They can call me anti-Semitic. Fair enough. And, I will call most of their leaders Satanic Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians and media-Scribes. I will call them anti-Christian and Jesus-deniers.
You see, I think the average Jew is neither a Neo-con Jew nor an ultra-communist leftist Jew. I think they are just average people like anyone else. Same as not all black men are Louis Farrakhans and not all black women are Maya Angelous. And if you get my drift, not all Germans were like Hitler.” (website The Christian Solution)

Yes, we reach the point that Hitler is mentioned. The TCS term solution remains awkward in the context of the Endlösung. Check youtube on Fawlty Towers, Don’t Mention The War.

Fawlty Towers, "Don't Mention The War" (Source: BBC screenshot)

Fawlty Towers, “Don’t Mention The War” (Source: BBC screenshot)

A concluding suggestion

My suggestion is to first deconstruct Christianity, and only later look at Judaism and Islam. Europe and the USA have democracies with professional education and a free press. They are also historically mostly Christian and should be able to overcome the religious disinformation from the past. A more enlightened and prosperous Western society should be a beacon for the rest of world.

The risk of a nuclear war in the Middle East rises. We might see it as a way to eliminate circumcision. It would be wiser to eliminate circumcision by better education and a free press, and thereby reduce the “us against them” mental frame that increases this risk of nuclear war.

For the relevance for education, see here.

Listening to Litany by Saleas & Theodorakis
and Lianotragouda tis Glykias Patridas by Theodorakis
and Mousiki Bradya by Biky Moscholiou

I am still trying to get some clarity on Richard Carrier’s book On the historicity of Jesus (2014).

Given the chaos in the research on Jesus, and Carrier’s critique about his fellow historians, I already proposed last week to focus on the importance of Jesus for education

My question for today is: What are bedrock certainties that educators would use to develop the educational programme ? Derivative from these foundations are the topics that teachers would discuss with the pupils and students. Observe this logic:

  • Elsewhere I suggested that philosophy as a field runs astray since they don’t have an empirical base. The proper solution is that philosophy adopts the research in the education of mathematics as its empirical base. The later namely combines both abstract thought and the empirics of education of these thoughts.
  • The proposal on Jesus is parallel. Jesus would concern the philosophy of religion and the empirical base would be the research of the education of mathematics on such issues of religion. One key point in such education is that you should beware that abstraction leads you astray. One aspect in such education concerns also the history of religion, and of course Jesus in particular.
  • As a teacher of mathematics my proposal for a multidisciplinary approach is in The simple mathematics of Jesus (SMOJ) (2012). What have I learned in the two years since December 2012 ? The first is that SMOJ is still valid, and that you will benefit from considering it. The following builds on.
  • Historians of antiquity are invited to open up to other sciences and educators. Let the historians leave the sheltered darkness of the academia and step into the sun of public interest. Let them state what topics should be in the highschool textbooks and for what reasons. This will allow the other sciences and educators to help deconstruct confusion, and help attain true reason and common sense.
Panels or elements leading to a meta level

The subject is too large and must be broken up into pieces that can be handled.

SMOJ used “panels” as building blocks. I see to my pleasure that Richard Carrier uses “elements”. The following discussion tries to identify such building blocks at a meta level, for both analysis and development of a teaching programme. SMOJ did so implicitly, by selecting the panels that would fit such a programme. It helps to be explicit about this.

I am no historian but an econometrician and teacher of mathematics, and I look at the issue of the mythical vs historical Jesus from these very perspectives. I do this with respect for proper history writing, dismay for incompetence w.r.t. science & methodology, admiration for creative hypothesizing, and protest to distortion. My comments are mostly questions, since the final educational programme will come about in said multidisciplinary fashion.

Bedrock certainties

Bedrock certainties might not exist, but let us see what these might look like.

A. Bedrock certainties on Jesus are:
  1. We will never know for certain whether there was only a myth or indeed some historical Jesus. Too much of the data have been lost. There are too many possibilities that we cannot properly test.
  2. Carrier proposes systematic use of probability theory, but this generates only a probabilistic outcome (for who chooses those) and no certainty.
  3. Historians are no judges. History writing as a science is targeted at identifying the uncertainties and not at trying to be like a judge and decide what “really happened” (according to the judge).
B. Bedrock certainties on humanity are:
  1. Man is a story-telling animal. Language is the bread & butter of being human. Humans think by recognising patterns, and those patterns are relayed in language.
  2. The notion of abstraction, which in mathematics causes perfect concepts like line and circle, basically applies to thinking and language in general. It requires hard work to determine which is which, just like in mathematics. Notions like soul and god might have use for human communication. Wittgenstein’s dictum “the meaning of a word is its use” is correct but too vague, see my note on the common error of not properly defining abstraction. Plato was too vague here too, which produces confused mathematicians who have a “platonic conception” of their profession without quite knowing what they mean by that. See also the consequences for brain research, and the requirement to re-engineer mathematics so that brain research doesn’t climb up a tree of their own making.

Derivative of these is that stories about the self and society will be created by use of patterns and abstractions of all kinds of phenomena: volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunami’s, stars, comets, kings and queens, tea-leaves …. Little Red Riding Hood is the story of a Moon eclipse, when the Earth blocks the Sun and the Earth atmosphere fractions light that creates a red moon. The wolf is darkness that eats the Moon. But LRRH arises again. Once you understand the code, the method of coding and telling of stories does not differ very much from a discussion in elementary school about “atoms” and “electrons”. But some stories have very complex codes.

Robert M. Price’s reminds us of the importance of having an open mind. He recommended thinking about Stephan Huller’s proposals – though Price recommends thinking about everything, see his brutal reading list. Still, Huller recently had a recommendable similar observation on the unavoidable property of language. (See other good observations by him in the appendix below on the rock in Jerusalem and the stone in Gerizim.)

Robbert Dijkgraaf, now president of IAS in Princeton, still writes a column for a Dutch newspaper:

“Where lies the origin of religion?  (…) We can now see the birth of gods happening before our eyes. In particular via cable television, namely the American Weather Channel. (….) for what John Steward in the Daily Show called so aptly ‘Blizzapocalpsegeddon’. (…) Up to recently only real hurricanes and typhoons got a name. The management of the Weather Channel however has decided that every atmospheric phenomenon deserves its own name. (…) We are back at zero. After mankind has freed itself from supernatural explanations, in a long struggle via humanism, scientific revolution and enlightenment, now the modern media lead us back towards anthropomorphic thought. (…) A human being has difficulty to distinguish the diffuse cloud of dots from natural phenomena. Our imagination likes to draw lines between the dots (..) Perhaps we should embrace the inclination to project  in nature the human or superhuman. Perhaps a new series of gods and demons helps to solve the most important problems that threaten the world. Time for a re-entry of Hephaistos, now as the god of climate change (…) And of course Poseidon with his storms, floods and earthquakes. I can easily imagine how CNN with its arsenal of animations, graphs and experts would report about this new Olympus.”  (Robbert Dijkgraaf, NRC-Handelsblad  2015-02-07, “Webcam on the Olympus”)

I regard this newspaper column as somewhat important since it underlines the metaphorical nature of language. It is plain wonderful that Dijkgraaf as a physicist shows this understanding. Also, the irony in the column can be appreciated. At least, I suppose that Dijkgraaf doesn’t really propose to create a god of climate change. However, irony is fun but not quite adequate to pinpoint what the proper solution is. Just to prevent misunderstandings: it remains important what metaphor you select.

(In this case: (1) It would be wrong to create a god of climate change. We should create institutions and policies to deal with it. Admittedly, this is my field of economics, but I hope that you agree that economics is better than vague & false gods. See my suggestion to create national Economic Supreme Courts. (2) Rather than enhancing the belief in gods, it would be proper to counter the negative aspects of the belief in the gods of current religions. In sum: it is somewhat a pity that Dijkgraaf selected the option of a fun column without thinking about or explaining the proper metaphors. There is a history of Holland here: see also my warning that he might become Darth Vader at IAS.)

C. Bedrock certainties on method are:

It follows that the major methods of research on Jesus are:

  1. Decoding requires identification of (theonomical rather than theological) concepts and of the interests of the parties involved. Pierre Krijbolder 1976 pioneered this ethnomethodology on Jesus – but there may be precursors.
  2. The main method of analysis is logic – and, okay, probability analysis to manage the database, since probabilities would indicate levels of priority. We already deduced: (a) The theological argument of the Epistle to the Hebrews (part of the NT canon) is that the Jerusalem priesthood loses its power. Thus Jesus also concerns a Jewish framework and story. (b)  The Torah recognises Original Sin even though this is denied. (c) The Torah is Gnostic even though this is denied. Below we will see (d) Voskuilen’s macabre parallel that destroys Matthew as a proper gospel and exposes it as propaganda.
  3. The main method for finding data is literary analysis.
  4. Another main method for finding data is archeology. Up to now the findings on Jesus or David are negative. It is a compliment for the integrity of archeology that they state this result instead of creating what they think is missing. But, given the lack of data, we must look to literary analysis for data on Jesus.

A result already is: Eisenman and Einhorn independently came upon the time shift hypothesis, holding that the NT shifts the events of 70 AD to 30 AD, one generation earlier.

  • This hypothesis would rather be logical given the data, and it becomes difficult to call it a “hypothesis”.
  • Carbon-dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) may be out of the question nowadays given all the contamination by the unscientific handling.
  • The time shift hypothesis remains complex. What Josephus wrote about 70 AD was coded by the NT writers into what he wrote about 30 AD; and we must decode this. While Josephus naturally cannot be trusted as a historian. Richard Carrier quotes Thomas Brodie:

“it is not possible, in any reliable way, to invoke Josephus as an independent witness to Jesus. Unreliable witness cannot be used to condemn someone to death. And neither can it be used to assert that someone lived.” (Brodie quoted by Carrier)

Having these bedrocks, let us finish the logic that deconstructs Matthew, and then continue with Brodie on literary analysis. First, though, two smaller observations

The concundrum hasn’t been caused by Jesus but by Constantine

From the above, it might seem that Jesus forms the core of the problem. However, the true problem lies with Constantine, for whom there might be more historical sources.

Christianity arose from Constantine, because of his Christian mother and political calculation that he needed the legions from Egypt (rather than Mithra). Thus all our discussion here is a result of political outfall. Had politics taken another route, we would be discussing the theological issues of the angels on the hairpin of Mithra or the deeds of Loki in Valhalla or whatever. However, there is also the force of history that Alexander caused a clash between Greek thought (Plato and mathematics) with Oriental and Egyptian thought (mystery priesthoods). It took the Romans all those centuries from Caesar to Constantine to develop some merger into the Church of Rome. They tried to get away from it, but there may be some hidden psychological necessity that causes this kind of merger (mathematical priesthood ?).

In the writing of history on Jesus, it thus might be advisable to first defuse potential emotional hang-ups by discussing Constantine. Christians might argue that Constantine’s choice was ordained but the historical path shows ample variation to allow a skeptical discussion about such ordination.

Secondly, my personal position is that Jesus is Santa Claus for grown-ups. Originally there were myths about Wodan flying in the sky on his horse Sleipnir, but the eight legs were not credible and thus changed into reindeer, while the Catholic Church inserted the Bishop of Myra, who is now depicted in Dutch stories as Sinterklaas riding his horse on rooftops. The mayor of Gouda had to arrest 90 people last year November, who think that Sinterklaas’s black helpers derive from slavery, but actually these are the spirits of the night who attack the Sun and who have to be scared away with firecrackers. See the Egyptian Gods in the Hall of Ma’at, when Osiris – with the same bishop crown – judges whether the children have behaving last year and deserve their Christmas presents. How simple can explanations be, once you think about them ?

However, the story that there is a historical Jesus deserves proper attention, both from fairness and curiosity, and of course from scientific integrity. Jesus might have been a historical figure who has been pasted onto the resurrection stories of the dying and rising Sun, OR, Jesus might have been a real person who did remarkable stuff and onto whom the myths have been pasted. It is a crucial question, for people who think that special people may have special inspiration. Also, the notion of mathematical abstraction is quite intriguing, and mankind has to find ways to deal with its consciousness.

Voskuilen & Sheldon: Paul was from the Roman CIA

Thijs Voskuilen in 2002 wrote his master’s thesis in history at the University of Groningen. He argued that Paul was a Roman spy – see the frumentarii, originally wheat merchants.

One of Verkuilen’s 2002 sources was dr. Mary Rose Sheldon, Colonel, professor of history at the Virginia Military Institute, who holds at least since 1997 that the Romans were experts in political manipulation, espionage and dirty tricks. Voskuilen and Sheldon jointly wrote the 2008 book: Operation Messiah: St Paul, Roman Intelligence and the Birth of Christianity.

(Remember that there was a famine around 44 AD and that Queen Helen of Adiabene paid for grain from Egypt and figs from Cyprus. She was baptised and her son needed no circumcision. There is the complaint against Simon Magus that one cannot buy God’s love. Also Marcion apparently was given his money back. Note that the figs might also be a midrash on the fig-tree and the new faith derived from the Kittim. One never knows.)

Spy Paul would have pretended to have his vision on the road to Damascus merely to infiltrate in the sect that still followed a deceased Jesus, which would be Torah-abiding Jews, linked to the sicarii. Paul would have derived the resurrection from a cult about Herakleitos from the area around his native Tarsus. Google doesn’t give me a quick source for such a cult. Currently I have conflicting information.

(1) Hippolytus claims to quote Heraclitus on resurrection.
“No one working on Hellenistic philosophy would rely on Hippolytus’s accounts to suggest that Stoics or Heraclitus believed in bodily resurrection.”
(Jonathan Klawans, Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism, p 227-228)
(3) Henri van Praag has argued that Zeno of Citium (334-262 BC) who started the Stoa actually had roots in Judaism (Dutch reference in SMOJ).

And what was the order of the events ? Roger Parvus has recently argued rather persuasively that Saul / Paul was first a member of the nazoraios sect but later became an apostate. To hide this, the Acts would have reversed the events.

That there were spies must be correct, but I am skeptic whether Paul operated like some 007. The theology is too complex. But perhaps Verkuilen’s analysis has evolved from 2002 to his book of 2008.

“Saul of Tarsus is one of the best known and most beloved figures of Christianity. This man, later known as St. Paul, set the tone for Christianity, including an emphasis on celibacy, the theory of divine grace and salvation, and the elimination of circumcision. It was Paul who wrote a large part of the New Testament, and who called it euangelion, “the gospel”. There is another side of Paul, however, that has been little studied and that is his connection to the Roman military establishment and its intelligence arm. While other scholars and writers have suggested the idea that Paul was cooperating with the Romans, this is the first book-length study to document it in detail. By looking at the traditional story through a new lens, some of the thorniest questions and contradictions in Paul’s life can be unravelled. How did he come to work for the Temple authorities who collaborated with the Romans? How was he able to escape from legal situations in which others would have been killed? Why were so many Jews trying to have Paul killed and to which sect did they belong? These and other mysteries will be solved as the authors follow Paul’s career and his connections to Roman intelligence.” (Verkuilen and Sheldon, Amazon, book cover)

Voskuilen & Sheldon 2008

Voskuilen & Sheldon 2008

Earlier, Richard Carrier argued against Joseph Atwill that the Romans would not create a plot like Atwill proposed, but now the story would be that they allowed Paul to do so. See my first reaction to Carrier’s OHJ.

Voskuilen’s macabre parallel – Matthew’s inversion of reason

Whatever Voskuilen’s theory on the spy business, the following holds independently.

Biblical scholars reading the Gospels have come up with the hypothesis that they may be directed to particular audiences. Mark to the Romans, Matthew to the Jews, Luke to the Gentiles in general.

Voskuilen wondered in 2002 whether Matthew knew what he was doing.  Would Matthew’s story really induce Jews to forgive and love the Romans ? He gives the following parallel, that he himself rightly calls macabre (Dutch, De Groene 2002).

Matthew wishing to convert Jews Voskuilen’s macabre parallel
Romans occupy Israel and Judea Germans occupy Israel and Judea
Romans crucify their messiah king Germans gas their messiah king
Jews should pay taxes to the Romans Jews should pay taxes to the Germans
Jews should turn the other cheek to the Romans Jews should turn the other cheek to the Gestapo
The messiah king is not political but spiritual The messiah king is not political but spiritual
Yahweh wants the Romans to rule Jerusalem Yahweh wants the Germans to rule Jerusalem
The messiah king is worshiped in Rome as a state religion. The Vatican is in Rome The messiah king is worshiped in Berlin as a state religion. The Vatican is in Berlin
Churches show the crucified messiah king Churches show the gassing messiah king

Matthew must be off this world to think that he can convert people in this manner.

  • The Talmud calls Christianity by the name of the Notzrim. We saw before, thanks to Yirmeyahu, what this word means to them: guardians, who keep us captive. (He also claims that nazoraios would be wrong Greek translation.)
  • Matthew indeed depicts Jesus as descendant from David and more observing of the Torah laws – while Acts and Luke with the Pauline interpretation abolish circumcision and such. Matthew thus puts some sugar on the macabre situation. His Torah-observant readership is supposed to be so dumb not to see the horror below the sugar.
  • The theological model is that the crucifixion is required by God indeed. Thus Judas and the Romans are only executing God’s will – so don’t blame them.
  • The theological model of the Ascension of Isaiah makes some sense in translating Winter Solstice when the forces of darkness are celestial, since the hero of the story is this too. However, when the hero is put into the flesh, then also the forces of darkness much be put into the flesh. To depict the Romans as devils in the flesh is rather inconsistent w.r.t. the message of love. It seems that Matthew did not quite think through all consequences of the flesh idea.
  • Alternatively, Matthew was aware of the latter consequence, and then this Gospel exists for the Romans, to provide the rationale: The Jews have no excuse for not joining up, for let them read Matthew to see his example. This pushes a religion down someone’s throat.
  • Do you wish to be with the Germans, in this situation ?

Addendum 2015-02-24: Earlier we found that the Epistle to the Hebrews gave the remarkable logical argument that it is the Tanakh itself that argues that the priesthood in Jerusalem loses power. Later, we discovered the same argument made in this document at Crandall. Thus, the Voskuilen macabre parallel would not be so macabre if the Hebrew readership would only consider this logical argument. But the logic presumes some premisses, like (Paul’s faith) that Jesus indeed had been the Davidic messiah sacrifice. Jewish readers might dismiss that as part of the propaganda too.

In the upcoming 2015 book by Joan Taylor on the Life of Brian, Steve Mason has an article ‘What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us?’ Brian and Josephus on Anti-Roman Sentiment. Its summary suggests that there were rather peaceful times in say 20-50 AD, and that Voskuilen’s macabre parallel is acutely relevant if Matthew was written after 70 AD when Jerusalem and Temple were destroyed. It is not clear to me what Mason actually thinks about the time shift hypothesis.

“Like Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur a century earlier, Monty Python’s Life of Brian assumes the same gathering-storm or cork-popping picture of Judaean-Roman relations that has undergirded most published research on pre-70 Judaea. Some recent scholarship has challenged that model by exposing the lack of evidence for an anti-Roman animus that could explain the outbreak of war and highlighting instead the unique conditions that generated revolt in 66. In this paper I re-examine Judaean-Roman relations in the decades before the war. Like many other well known conflicts, I argue, the war in Judaea began from local causes. From a realist perspective, Jerusalem was uniquely privileged as the regional hegemon in southern Syria; Roman legates were particularly solicitous of its elite. Judaeans were concerned chiefly with hostile neighbours, from whom Rome’s interests protected them — until the train wreck of Nero’s later years.” (Steve Mason, Aberdeen) (After the fire in Rome in 66 AD, Nero raised taxes for a rebuild.)

Academics for comedy and against the fringe

Monty Python’s film Life of Brian has a surprising role in this part of this discussion. Academics apparently love this comedy but they dislike the fringe that should cause amazement too.

Consider last year’s academic conference and upcoming book on Brian: conference videos, and my earlier comment. Some hold that the comedy might actually be historically quite accurate, but it assumes a historical Jesus and events around 30 AD, rather than a myth combined with events around 70 AD. The comedy inspired some historical research though. The key problem for non-academic fringe authors might only be to get their ideas filmed, so that academics have a hook to fish for a wider audience for their own confusions.

“Ever since Philip Davies first wrote on the film 15 years ago, other scholars too have turned their gaze to consider exactly what Life of Brian does in regard to Jesus scholarship, and have increasingly delved into its curious corners to reflect on what it says both about the tumultuous times of Jesus and also contemporary scholarly discussions.  Biblical scholarship has moved on greatly in the past 25 years, and various aspects of Life of Brian correlate with themes now intensely explored. Every Bible scholar knows what ‘blessed are the cheese-makers’ means among us!” (Bart Ehrman, weblog 2014, quoting from the conference, and not writing this himself) (See below for the cheesemakers.)

This brings us to the fringe. My intention is to amply refer to their work so that you can see the usefulness. This also explains why this current text is a bit long. Now the fringe can be read in context. If I would deal with the fringe separately then prim readers would quickly neglect the argumentation.

In the proper scheme of the world, the fringe would also participate in the educational project.

Below I will look at some contributions from Stephan Huller, René Salm and Ralph Ellis. I invite them not to hold it against me that I put them at the fringe for now. I am no historian and in that respect not qualified to judge. While their books are neglected or looked down upon by some, or even many, they can at times more or less make as much sense as those from the academia. (This is a carefully crafted statement that can go two ways.)

Earlier Richard Carrier lashed out at Joseph Atwill, but in the above we saw the Operation Messiah book, that shows that there are some reasons to think into that direction. In my first reaction on Carrier’s OHJ I already included a plea for moderation. Subsequently I saw that Aaron Adair lashed out at Ralph Ellis. Moderation again had been wiser, see below.

Since literary analysis is important, it stands to reason that the input from creative writers from the non-academic fringe could be important. Their state of creative mind may be closer to the writers of the New Testament than the state of literally focused mind of academics who need to write another paper for a peer reviewed journal. Let us now look at literary analysis.

Thomas Brodie’s literary analysis: Jesus ~ Yahweh and Paul ~ Moses

Thomas Brodie relied on literary analysis and suggests the following as the true story on the origin of Christianity. Observe that I did not read his book, and refer to a review by non-academic author René Salm.

“the figure of Paul joined the ranks of so many other figures from the older part of the Bible, figure who, despite the historical details surrounding them, were literary, figures of the imagination” (146).(Thomas Brodie, quoted by René Salm, part 2)

“Along with many others, I have begun to show the increasing evidence that the New Testament portrayal of Paul is modeled significantly on the Old Testament picture of Moses, and that the portrayal of Jesus is largely a synthesis of the Old Testament account of God and of all that God does, often through people. [183]

So the starting point for the history of Christianity is as follows. The story/narrative and institutions of Christianity are an adaptation of the story and institutions of Judaism. But the leading figures in the story, Jesus and Paul, were not the originators either of the story or institutions. Rather, the account of them is modeled on the old story in such a way—complete, complex, detailed, artistic—that they emerge as scriptural figures formed by others. [184]” (Thomas Brodie, quoted by René Salm, part 2)

Saul of Tarsus is a basket case

I was rather shocked when I read the following lines. Why does this midrash not belong to the standard explanations about Paul ? And observe that I refer to fringe author Ralph Ellis.

“The gospels say that Saul was born in Tarsus, but this may only be a reference of his being lowered down the walls of ‘Damascus’ in a basket – for tarsus (ταρσός) means ‘basket’. This is also a convenient biblical description, for Moses too was ‘born in a basket’.” (Ralph Ellis, King Jesus, p82)

(Here Ellis creatively turns it directly into a metaphor ‘born in a basket’. Moses was not born in a basket but merely put into a basket and set floating in the Nile. If he got a bit wet – perhaps also as babies do by themselves – then this might indeed be seen as rebirth via baptism. I don’t know how important baptism was in Egypt. Perhaps Judaism replaced Egyptian baptism by circumcision – baptism by blood since there is little water in the desert so far from the Nile. It might also be a rationale for a more ancient custom, and it is a method for group control.)

To check this, consider Liddell-Scott-Jones. (I sold my copy in highschool but fortunately there is internet.) We again see the wicker-basket, like we saw before that the offshoots in nezer were used to make wicker-baskets. Such weaving is like writing texts, too, of course. Thus we also have a midrash on teachers. But, suddenly, we also see John Cleese and Terry Jones jumping onto the scene with their cheesemakers.

ταρσ-ός, Att. ταρρός, : also with heterocl. pl. ταρσά, τά, Opp. C.3.470, Anacreont.9, APl.4.283 (Leont.), Nonn.D.1.270, al.: (τέρσομαι) :—frame of wicker-work, crate, flat basket, for drying cheeses on, ταρσοὶ μὲν τυρῶν βρῖθον Od.9.219, cf.Theoc.11.37: generally, basket, Ar.Nu.226.” (TLG Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon, entries 105393-5)

The Life of Brian statement “Blessed are the cheesemakers” must be chance or destiny, but not deliberately related to this link to Tarsus. The statement is quoted above by Ehrman from the London conference, but it is not explained why the statement is so well-known in the circles of Biblical research. See Gary Goldberg at for a discussion.

  1. Historical Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount says: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
  2. A first listener hears “Blessed are the cheesemakers”.
  3. Mrs. Gregory asks, like a student: “Ahh, what’s so special about the cheesemakers ?”
  4. Gregory, like a professor: “Well, obviously, this is not meant to be taken literally. It refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.”
  5. It shows how noise may turn into so-called wise views in peer reviewed publications.
  6. This likely is how the scene is appreciated in circles of research on Jesus.
  7. The link of Saul of Tarsus with a basket useful for cheesemaking surfaces just now for me. Ellis already gave the link to basket, but cheesemaking surfaces only for me by my check on LSJ. Gary Goldberg doesn’t mention the association. A Google didn’t show it yet either. It would seem to be unlikely that Biblical scholars already linked the Monty Python scene to an implicit relation of Jesus to Saul of Tarsus (the man of the cheesemaking basket) – with an implicit suggestion that Jesus blessed Paul’s change of final Christianity.
  8. I just mention this rather weird bit of chance, or destiny, for otherwise new stories would evolve.

Finally, there is Saul’s association with Moses. The statement that Saul would come from Tarsus is now less likely as a piece of history. Tarsus is rather a midrash on both his future Greek name and the rebirth like Jonah from the Whale or as Moses in his basket.

“9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. (…) 22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. 23 And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: 24 But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. 25 Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. 26 And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.” (KJV, Acts 9) (CEV is not much different)

In this passage, Damascus would stand for Qumran, or metaphorically for the teachings of the nazoraios (if he is located there). Saul is sent into the world as a Moses to preach the gospel. What more clues might we derive from these words ? Saul indeed seems to have an adventure like 007, but the NT is a complex midrash and no simple detective story. Who is Barnabas ? He hasn’t been decoded yet. When Barnabas knew about the vision and events in “Damascus”, then it is likely that he already was a companion. What about these terms: “disciples” (students, taliban), “night” (forces of darkness) and “wall” (fortress, tower) ? To make it historical: perhaps Qumran had a defence-tower without a gate, so that people used such a basket ? A question for archeology.

Nazoraios ~ crown of the high priest

Earlier I discovered that the Hebrew root nzr might also refer to the crown of the high priest. In terms of discovery this is modest. I meant to say: that this is not mentioned in the standard texts which translate nazoraios as the equally unexplained nazarene, or link in wrong manner to Nazareth instead. This other root nzr is mentioned in other books, that you have to look for however.

To my great surprise I saw this translation with crown also mentioned in Ellis’s King Jesus. Two points however: (1) While nzr as a noun refers to that priestly crown, it is not clear yet how we get to the adjective, and then the Greek translation nazoraios. (2) In Ellis’s book Jesus might be both king and priest, for real. Ellis does not link to Richard Carrier’s use of the Ascension of Isaiah for the mythical Jesus as a celestial high priest. Either might be true. It seems likelier that Jesus is a myth but there may also have been persons whose biographies have been abused to put on some flesh. (And we should beware of doing the same.)

What if Qumran was a boarding school with also a military section ?

To my other surprise, Ralph Ellis provides the hypothesis that Qumran was a boarding school with teachers comparable to the Knights Templar. Ellis provides some arguments: (1) smaller benches, (2) spelling errors in DSS, (3) smart distance from Jerusalem. I may add: the “baths” might actually be places to make paper (I read somewhere). Supposedly the Order has some secret teachings but these need not be gnostic. To join the Order one gives up all worldly possessions to the Order. The story about the rich young man and the camel is not an argument against richness but a plea to join the Order. Having a taliban mixture of a boarding school and a military branch would solve a major question about the link between the “Blessed are the peaceful” and the “I come with a sword”.

This suffices for now, and let us return to Thomas Brodie en literary analysis.

Literary analysis can give remarkable results

Literary analysis has been a major method in Biblical analysis for ages. Rene Salm has a timeline of authors who questioned the historical Jesus, starting with Spinoza. (On a tangent, see my comments on both the Crazy Centuries and the Dutch Spinoza Price.)

Dennis Macdonald (2000), Robert M. Price (2011) and Dominican friar Thomas Brodie (2012) got some amazing results. See an overview page at vridar on Brodie. I have read none of these books but am orienting myself via the reviews.

Macdonald 2000, Price 2011, Brodie 2012

Macdonald 2000, Price 2011, Brodie 2012, images not in proportional size

MacDonald is known for his controversial theories wherein the Homeric Epics are the foundation of various Christian works including the Gospel of Mark and the Acts of the Apostles. The methodology he pioneered is called Mimesis Criticism. If his theories are correct, and the earliest books of the New Testament were responses to the Homeric Epics, then “nearly everything written on [the] early Christian narrative is flawed.” According to him, modern biblical scholarship has failed to recognize the impact of Homeric Poetry.” (wikipedia)

See this review of Macdonald by Richard Carrier (with no date).

If I am right that the New Testament is based upon astrology and the zodiac, then the analysis that it is also based upon Homer causes that also Homer would be based upon astrology and the zodiac. And this might then also hold for Gilgamesh. This is a question for scholars of these texts.

The use of Homer and Plato may actually hold for Septuagint (LXX) as well. The Hebrew version of the OT may be derivative. When the NT is based upon LXX, then the influence of Greek thought arrives in two ways, both from 300 BC and 70 AD. (Ref 1 and Ref 2, clue “rabbits”.)

The cover text of Price (2011): “The Christ-Myth theory … “Worse Than Atheism”? New Testament scholar Robert M. Price, one of America’s leading authorities on the Bible, has assembled in his book evidence that shows that almost the entire “biography of Jesus” is a conscious reworking of earlier literature.It is one thing to say “There are no gods” or “Jesus was not a god, just a man.” It is quite another thing to say “Jesus of Nazareth never existed at all” or that “Christ is a myth.” But scholars have been saying exactly that since at least 1793 when the Enlightenment scholar Charles Dupuis began to publish his 13-volume Origine de Tous les Cultes, ou Religion Universelle, which elucidated the astral origins not only of Christianity but of other ancient religions as well. New Testament scholar Robert M. Price, one of America’s leading authorities on the Bible, here summarizes much of the scholarship that has led him and a growing number of modern scholars to conclude that Christ — a partial synonym for Jesus of Nazareth — is mythical. Most usefully, Price has assembled evidence that shows that almost the entire “biography of Jesus” has been created from Greek Old Testament stories and themes and even incorporates motifs from Homer, Euripides, and perhaps Aesop. Because readers will have a hard time “taking it on faith” that the Jesus biography is merely a reworking of previous material, broad swaths of “Old Testament” context are quoted in association with each New Testament equivalent, so readers can judge for themselves whether or not Dr. Price’s claim be true: the “Live of Christ” was not fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies; it was, rather, a conscious reworking of earlier literature.”

Thomas Brodie: “Christianity, insofar as it was a new religion, was founded by a school of writers, or more likely, by a religious community many of whose members were writers.” (185). (quoted by René Salm, part 3)

“The New Testament authors did not just lie back and, in a process of hearing or re-reading, simply let the Old Testament flow over them. Far more than readers, they are writers, holding sensitive instruments in their hands. They bring to the older text the full apparatus of their sophisticated wide-awake craft, and they generally bring that craft not to isolated quotes but to the texts in their entirety. They are proactive. Some texts they swallow whole, almost; other they distil; or reverse; or adapt in ways that are strange—so that the old cloth becomes a new thread. And having thus produced something new—the new thread—the active writer does not cease. In a highly complex process, the thread is interwoven with other threads to produce a new text, literally a new *textus*, ‘woven’ (Latin *textere*, ‘to weave’), and the pattern of the weaving can open up a new country. So when the twenty-seven countries are placed together—the twenty-seven books of the New Testament—a whole new continent lies open.” (134) (Thomas Brodie, quoted by René Salm, part 3)

Two mythicist critics of Brodie

Salm disagrees with Brodie on this point:

“many of the pseudo-gnostic logia and parables in Christian literature have no such [literary] antecedents, and yet they form an integral part of the teaching of “Jesus”—perhaps even the heart of his teaching.”
However, while we have no such antecedents, they may still have existed in some form before. PM. Elsewhere, in Salm’s text on (early gnosticism) that I consider quite relevant, Salm refers to e.g. the Ascension of Isaiah, that is crucial for Richard Carrier – but that I think might also be replaced by the Epistle to the Hebrews, that is part of the canon.

Salm 2008

Salm 2008, archeology only

Richard Carrier (2012) has this short review of Brodie. Some of his points are:

  1. “Others will complain of his theology, as he attempts to argue in Beyond that he can still be a good Catholic (and a member of the church hierarchy) even if he believes there was no historical Jesus. His attempt to make sense of that is nonsense, IMO (..)”.
    This fits the earlier discussion that the Christian Church adopted a Jesus in the flesh and rejected gnosticism as a heresy. Only flesh would generate the suffering that theology required for the release from Original Sin, in order to take away the power of the priests of Jerusalem. See this analysis.
  2. “The non sequitur is common among myth proponents: the Gospels are obvious contrived myths, therefore Jesus didn’t exist. The premise is true (many have well proved it already, but I will marshal the best evidence in my book on this next year). But the conclusion does not follow.
    Agreed. Suppose that archeologists find a grave of a male with carbon dating around 30 AD, with an inscription something like “Here lies Jesus, deceased as INRI in 30 AD”, or phrased in terms which would fit for the period. The grave would date from before the period that the Gospels were written so that there is no interpolation. I would tend to regard this as proof that such a Jesus existed, even though it is possible that INRI would stand for something quite different. Thus, deductions on the NT, Josephus and DSS do not generate certainty. Results may be more probable given the evidence, but not certain.
  3. This quote must be longer: “Meanwhile, the false premise has to do with his treatment of the Pauline epistles. Really the only evidence for historicity there is is a scant few obscure passages in the Pauline epistles (e.g. references to “brothers of the Lord”), so they are really the most important evidence to deal with, and he deals with them almost not at all. In fact, his answer to them is to declare them all forgeries, and Paul himself a fiction. Brodie makes no clear case for this conclusion, and what arguments he does have are fallacious (e.g. the letters have certain features that forged letters sometimes share–except, so do authentic letters), and the position as a whole is too radical to be useful. Not that it hasn’t had serious defenders before this. But it constitutes a whole additional fringe thesis one must defend successfully first, before one can use it as a premise in an argument for the ahistoricity of Jesus. And I am skeptical that that can really be done (see my comments here and here). Certainly none of his arguments in Beyond are convincing on this subject.”
    This is partly incorrect. I haven’t read Brodie so I cannot check the assessment. I only look at the logic of the argument here. Simply assuming that Paul doesn’t exist is too simple of course, and I presume that it merely wasn’t the first priority of Brodie. It might be a good strategy to show that Paul doesn’t exist, for that would make it rather easy to prove that Jesus doesn’t exist either. (Some Epistles and Acts would disappear, and Luke as the Author of the Acts would be unreliable. Matthew has been shown absurd via the Voskuilen macabre parallel. Mark by itself is rather thin evidence for a religion, especially for an established Church based upon Paul who doesn’t exist.) However it apparently is more conventional to first get some clarity on the non-existence of Jesus and then work from there to Paul. But observe that Carrier in OHJ doesn’t present a theory about Paul. Carrier’s Paul would still be the Paul of the NT that he determines as unlikely. Something is fishy here. Which explains why my recent texts have looked at Paul. (But Carrier might agree that Paul is a Roman spy, and apologise to Atwill w.r.t. the deliberate meddling by the Romans.)
  4. “In fact, Brodie presents absolutely no theory of Christian origins at all. And that is perhaps this book’s most decisive failing. You simply cannot argue successfully for ahistoricity without testing a theory of Christian origins without Jesus against the best (i.e. most defensible and least speculative) theory of Christian origins with Jesus.”
    (1) This is not quite true. Brodie presents the origin: in literary creation. Surely, this explanation requires more flesh onto it: who did so, and why ? But the core has been given. (2) Indeed, giving a scenario that works is a difficult but rather fair criterion. Destruction of theories by other people is possible but you need alternative scenario’s. This is one of the reasons why the world should be so happy with authors who are now pushed to the fringe. This is also a reason why it isn’t too bad when traditional academics come up with different Jesuses, except that the requirements for their methodology are higher, for the very fact that they are academic researchers and have signed up to the creed of scientific integrity.
Carrier 2014

Carrier 2014

Praise and defence for Thomas Brodie

Wikipedia reports:

“(…) the committee advised that they judged Beyond the Quest to be ‘imprudent and dangerous’ (a phrase from the Order’s own legislation). Accepting this assessment, the Provincial continued the sanctions on Tom Brodie – that he withdraw fully from ministry and from all forms of teaching, writing, or making public statements.(…)

In July 2013, the theology magazine, Doctrine & Life, from Dominican Publications, published assessments of Tom Brodie’s book, from the pens of four internationally recognised scholars – biblical specialists Seán Freyne, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor and Gerard Norton, and theologian Fergus Kerr. (…)

On 29 August 2013, the Master, Fr Bruno Cadoré, appointed a committee to examine the book and report to him. This committee, made up of three professors from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, had the Master’s Assistant for the Intellectual Life, Fr Michael Mascari, as non-voting chairman.(…)

Following this meeting the committee formally advised the Master that the publication was ‘imprudent and dangerous’, the standard set out in the legislation of the Order, and recommended that the sanctions imposed on Thomas Brodie by the Province of Ireland were appropriate. In a letter dated 3 March 2014, Fr Bruno Cadoré concurred with the judgement of the committee and instructed that the sanctions already in place be maintained. Despite the restrictions placed on him, Tom Brodie remains a brother of the Irish Province, and the Province continues to care for him and provide for him. From the point of view of the Order, the matter is closed.” (Wikipedia on Brodie)

To his defence, I would say:

  • Brodie comes across like a subtler and stronger scholar for the literary approach than Carrier appears to value.
  • Studying the relation between the OT and NT is eminently sensible (see here).
  • Doing it with much error is inadvisable, see the example of Maurice Casey.
  • A main proposition is that a believer has nothing to fear and only to gain from new knowledge.
  • We should honour inspiring insights even though those may need time to test.
  • My impression is that Brodie deserves some grace since it is a pity to hear that he apparently didn’t feel free enough to speak his mind earlier.
  • My advice is that he receives assistance in getting a number of articles accepted in the journals.
  • Roman Catholic dogma is that Jesus is both God and man. When Brodie has come to see that Jesus did not exist as a historical man, then he runs against that dogma, even while he still has a docetic (not gnostic) view. (It would be Arianism that Jesus would only be man.) The purpose of the dogma was, as analysed here, to take away the theological supremacy of the priesthood from Jerusalem. If Brodie would agree with the latter (based upon acceptable divine revelation), then there might be an argument that the existence of Jesus in the flesh would not matter.
  • Religions need to treat their apostates better.  If there is purgatory in heaven, let there be one on earth. To evict Brodie from the Church without further pension or impose a ban of public silence are medieval methods. Those might be current Church Law but then need revision.

We have seen some surprising connections. Some more connections are put into appendices.

  1. Speaking about bedrock certainties causes an association with Simon Peter (rock or stone?). This appears to be a fruitful association, and Stephan Huller provides useful insights.
  2. We have benefitted from Rene Salm’s discussion of Brodie. But there are other aspects, such as on archeology, research ethics, and some items of critique.
  3. We saw some good points by Ralph Ellis. But he received severe but also over the top criticism by Aaron Adair. The praise and defence of Ellis has a different character than this for Brodie. It is important, but this text is already too long, and thus it is put in another appendix.

We have indicated some bedrock certainties for the development of an educational programme on Jesus. We also indicated the methodology of mainly using logic and literary analysis. Of course probability theory and other methods are interesting or on occasion relevant. But one cannot do everything at the same time, and it helps to have some priorities. Of course, I still need to make up my mind on Carrier’s suggestion to put more emphasis on probabilistic reasoning.

Application of logic and literary analysis already had some results. I will try to summarise these in a sequel.


Appendix 1. A big rock in Jerusalem and a small rock (stone) in Gerizim

The suggestion to look for bedrock certainties invites a short story on rocks.

Jerusalem has a big rock (Yahweh) and Gerizim has a small rock (Melchizedek ?) – perhaps rather a mere stone. The New Testament (NT) speaks about a stumbling block (sin) but perhaps of wood and not stone.

Stephan Huller suggests that Simon Peter / Petros (Greek) / Cephas (Aramaic) translates as stone rather than rock, with also a midrash onto kipha ~ to deny, which reminds of Simon Peter’s triple denial of knowing the captive Christ before the cok crows (three days before Jesus resurrects). Huller wonders also about another interpretation, see this discussion by Steve Caruso who investigates Galilean Aramaic for a profession.

Wikipedia legend: "Samaritans pray before the Holy Rock on Mount Gerizim" (Source: Wikimedia commons)

Wikipedia legend: “Samaritans pray before the Holy Rock on Mount Gerizim” (Source: Wikimedia commons)

There are the Dositheans, perhaps given in Josephus and/or the Bible as Theudas ~ Thaddaeus:

“Dositheos (occasionally also known as Nathanael, both meaning “gift of God”) was a Samaritan religious leader, founder of a Samaritan sect, often assumed to be a gnostic. He is reputed to have known John the Baptist, and been the teacher of Simon Magus. He therefore counts as one of the supposed founders of Mandaeanism.” (Wikipedia)

Remember the Babylonian occupation before Alexander, and link this up to Huller’s question why Gerizim gets such attention while it is a rather small hill.

“We began with an understanding that a Samaritan sect identified themselves with the Persian word ‘friends’ or dustan. (..)

It has long puzzled me how the Samaritans (and the Jews to a lesser extent) could have believed that mount Gerizim was a gateway to heaven given the fact that it doesn’t at all resemble an impressive mountain.  It is rather better described as a hill.  The idea that a ladder extended up to heaven from this point is explained by the Samaritans themselves by claiming that the top of Gerizim disappeared and went up to heaven!  This seems to imply that the religion adopted beliefs from somewhere else and adapted it to their rather unimpressive mound.

It would seem the Persian religion is the original source for this idea and specifically a mountain range that exists in north Iran on its border with the Caspian Sea.  It is here for instance that Arda Viraf is said to have ascended up to Garothmana [highest of three heavens] by means of a high mountain (… with a quote also about some Armageddon at the end of the world ….)” (Huller, June 6 2014)

Huller mentions the importance of astrology for current Samaritans, but also emphasizes the strict logic in their original beliefs, and perhaps these can be combined:

“I mean, there is a beauty about Judaism and Samaritanism that you never get with Christianity. It’s logical and rational. It’s like mathematics (albeit simple mathematics you might teach in kindergarten). The Samaritans fixate on two things – Moses and Mount Gerizim. The ‘one who is to come’ is going to be intimately connected with BOTH of these concepts or the Samaritans are going to exit the room as fast as a fat lady crossing the street for free ice cream samples.” (Stephan Huller, June 2 2010) (This reminds of the transfiguration with Moses and Elija but no David. Jesus’s clothes were white afterwards, like with the Samaritans, but wikipedia’s article on the mount (today) doesn’t mention Gerizim as a likely location.)

Huller distinguishes between Jesus and Christ. “Jesus wasn’t a Jewish messiah. All the stuff that we have learned to accept from Irenaeus of Rome has nothing to do with the original expectation of Christianity which would have developed naturally from Jewish sources. Jesus might have been representative of anointed high priest or a prophet but not THE messiah. How do I know this? Because unlike Christianity the Jewish religion develops as a kind of a kindergarten mathematical equation. It’s all laid out and it has been all laid out for thousands of years.” (Huller, idem) (Translate this as: See the Jewish criteria for THE messiah, bringing the rule of the Torah for all. Jesus would be a Jew, but not the messiah according to Judaic criteria. Judaism is logical in this, Christianity not. However, we saw that the Torah is inconsistent on Original Sin and Gnosticism. See also for the Epistle of the Hebrews how Jesus provides the argument that the Torah itself implies its abolition.)

Huller 2011

Huller 2011

Appendix 2. More on René Salm
Archeology and René Salm

Above I referred to archeology. We already rejected on linguistic grounds that nazoraios refers to Nazareth. Still, Nazareth might make for fuddled science, apart from the other integrity in archeology.

The bone of contention is that Nazareth may not have a community around 30 AD but became a community only after 70 AD, starting with fugitives from destroyed Jerusalem. Thus it would be historical nonsense that the Gospels allocate Jesus to Nazareth. SMOJ has a longer discussion on this. The Gospel writers after 70 AD might simply not be aware about the situation around 30 AD. It doesn’t seem to matter, given the other nonsense in the Gospels, but for archeologists it is their turf, and Rene Salm happens to find it quite interesting.

I refer to Salm’s website, who is no archeologist but reviews their work. Robert M. Price has this review of Salm’s 2008 book on the archeology of Nazareth. “And yet it is the entire absence of archaeological evidence that has wrought great devastation to the credibility of the Bible (not to mention the Koran!).” But Price is no archeologist either.

Neither is Skippy the Skeptic, who invoked Hell in order to discover who Salm is. Skippy’s readership – though hopefully not from Hell – recovered a review by professor Ken Dark of Reading (UK) who denounced Salm’s discussion of the reported archeological findings.

“To conclude: despite initial appearances, this is not a well-informed study and ignores much evidence and important published work of direct relevance. The basic premise is faulty, and Salm’s reasoning is often weak and shaped by his preconceptions. Overall, his central argument is archaeologically unsupportable.” (Ken Dark on Rene Salm’s book on the reported Archeological findings on Nazareth, quoted by “Joshua” 2009 on Skippy’s website)

A new round is Salm’s long 2013 article that debunks Ken Dark’s claimed expertise on Palestina of that period. Salm announces a sequel on his earlier book, to appear in Spring 2015.

“Dark also makes serious errors of a rudimentary nature, errors which reveal him to be embarrassingly unfamiliar with the subfield of Palestinian archaeology. Those errors, unfortunately, nullify his major conclusions regarding the Sisters of Nazareth convent site. They include false datings for kokh-type tombs in the Galilee, as well as the direct application of Judean chronologies to Galilean evidence, resulting in a chronology for Nazareth which is approximately two centuries too early.” (Salm on Dark, 2013, p2)

Readers like me, who know nothing about these matters, can only hope that other archeologists can confirm that Salm gives a correct report about their work. Professor Ken Dark will of course have a hard time doing so. While the Dominican Order has asked fr. Thomas Brodie to maintain public silence, the University of Reading should rather not do so for Ken Dark, since he has academic freedom & the obligation to explain his justifications and possible errors. L’enfer, ce sont les autres.

See also on archeology and Salm, 2012.

Salm on human folly

It seems fair to quote Salm, albeit a bit lengthy, on the need for scientific integrity at the academia, and for Biblical Studies in particular. His comparison of gradeschoolers is not intended as a put-down, but as a serious diagnosis of a state of mind, also called cognitive dissonance.

“In his book The End of Biblical Studies (2007) Hector Avalos writes that “attending a session of an annual meeting [of the SBL] is a study in irrelevance” (p. 308). It’s probably one of the milder statements in the book. In fact, scholars have only themselves to blame. For decades now they’ve not only busied themselves with minutiae in which no one else is interested but have (more egregiously) confined their vision to the safe parameters of Sunday School and synagogue—which is, after all, the historical vision of your average gradeschooler. I submit that this linkage between scholars and gradeschoolers should be kept in mind for, despite their demonstrated erudition, biblical scholars are amazingly timid when it comes to challenging the cultural delusions that presently pass for religious history. Biblical scholars examine minutiae with care but steadfastly refuse to connect the dots. It’s a curious situation, a little like going to the store and paying the money but not bringing home the bacon. Well, we all know the reason: aligning themselves with popular opinion and institutional power, scholars continue to steadfastly refuse to seriously consider anything which might shake the tent of tradition. I mean, their jobs are at stake.

Over half the U.S. teaching posts in biblical studies are in confessional institutions of higher learning (Avalos:316). Since there are not many teaching posts to begin with, that leaves very few positions where any serious consideration of non-traditional views could be expected. But, of course, even in public institutions there is enormous pressure to toe the traditional line and not to make waves, if only because tenure for religious studies professors in public institutions is declining precipitously and part-time employment is greatly increasing. I commiserate. Biblical Studies profs have families to feed, papers to grade, and all those minutiae to examine—besides vacations in Disneyland to plan and the unceasing pressure of publishing. Life is tough—except perhaps during the summer, and when on sabbatical in Oxford, and when attending all those conferences paid for by the boss…

Where does that leave an idea like “Jesus didn’t exist”? Mercy! Is there any idea better calculated to get religious studies professors running for the exits? With Jews the situation is similar—simply substitute “David” for “Jesus” in the above question and watch the room empty of academics.

(..) “Faith-inspired research” is an oxymoron. What passes for religious research in confessional settings across the U.S. is not research but apologetics. Biblical studies in the U.S. have historically not been “research” so much as a defense of the tradition against the continuing progress of science. At heart, biblical studies as currently conducted are not science but obstructionism. They are a quest for legitimacy. In sum, the intermingling of Christian (and Jewish) faith-based perspectives within the field of religious studies is a powerful reason why, year after year, those studies don’t “get anywhere” despite the frenetic activity of thousands of scholars. Individuals, however, are only partially to blame. As mentioned above, the hands of scholars are quite tied by what they are permitted to “find” and what is “forbidden.” Hence the “intellectual blockade” noted above.” (Rene Salm, website statement 2012)

Some points of critique

There are some points or critique w.r.t. Salm’s analyses, but these points should not distract from the overall relevance.

(1) Check this discussion of Jesus and his potential Samaritan homeland – that would imply that it are interpolations that Jesus would belong to Galilee or Judea. I would rather see a stricter separation between the myth and the cults and their leaders, and critiques by academics.

(2) Discussing nazoraios as “guardian”, and comparing with Buddhism, Salm states: “Over and over, in various ways, Jesus teaches the Golden Rule: as you do to others, so it will be done to you (Mt 7:12)”. However: “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” is something what a lawmaker might impose externally, while it is a psychological inversion to arrive at the internal moral rule: “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” (Old Testament, Leviticus 19:18, cited in the Golden Rule lemma in wikipedia).

(3) Thus, given Leviticus, the difference between the OT and NT is not as large as sometimes suggested. The main difference lies in the objective of the Christian Church to take away the power from the priesthood in Jerusalem.

See Salm’s other website for other work by him, and here on the distinction between OT and “offshoot” NT.

(4) While Jew (Judah) and Hebrew (other tribes) crucially differ for the political rule by the king from David and the priest from Zadok, Salm is at risk of confusion: “Yet, I would venture a working definition: “A Jew is someone of Hebrew stock for whom the Torah is the revealed word of God, and for whom the Hebrews are Yahweh’s ‘chosen people.’” This definition is broad enough to encompass heterodox and orthodox Judaisms—it even includes the Samaritans with their unique Pentateuch.”

(5) With the following quote I would tend to agree. Earlier, we diagnosed that the Torah is inconsistent. It is such a big book, how can it not be ? However, it contains gnosticism while this is denied by its usual teachers. Salm uses the word “dilemma”. However, a dilemma is only such, when it is explicitly presented as such. Otherwise it is a plain (hidden) inconsistency. Writers of religious texts gloss over these problems, with the strategy to lure you along.

“A good case can also be made that the prophet was a gnostic. The Jesus of the gospels taught “secret meaning” (Th 1; Mk 4:11; Mt 13:35), a secret Father (Mt 6:6), and a kingdom which is “not of this world” (Jn 18:36)… Now, gnosticism has always been outside the pale of Judaism. In rabbinic eyes the gnostic is arrogant, while in Jewish scripture we often read how he who relies on his own intellect and effort unaided by Yahweh is deluded. At the same time, Judaism values wisdom and the search for understanding. Hence, a great dilemma has ever existed in the religion: how to encourage the seeking of understanding while, at the same time, maintaining the requisite distance between man and the divine. After all, Yahweh is worthy of worship only if he is transcendent.” (Salm, rebel against Judaims)

Salm separates Paul from Gnosticism. He can do this, when he defines Paul as the gospel to the goy and the replacement of the Law by a belief in Christ. But if Paul ~ Simon Magus, then the authentic Paul would really be gnostic, and then the Paul, whom Salm is talking about, exists only as an interpolated, redacted, edited version created later by the Church, i.e. someone else.

“Brodie is only half-right: he concludes that Christianity was produced out of normative Jewish elements, a thesis which obtains for the Pauline kerygma (and the Great Church based upon it) but not for gnosticism which, in fact, lies at the heart of pre-Pauline Christianity (“Nazoreanism”).” (Salm, idem)

Salm also cites Friedlander, suggesting that gnosticism might relate to asceticsm (the Cynics of antiquity). However, this would not apply when Ralph Ellis is right on the suggestion that Qumran would be a boarding school with a Knights Templar type of brotherhood.

“Friedlander notes the radically anti-social aspects of Jesus’ teaching: “This is the refrain which continually recurs. A man must surrender all his possessions to follow Jesus (Mt 19: 21); he must even renounce the closest family ties. This is no mere figurative expression. A man, in order to become a disciple, must renounce father and mother, wife and children (Mt 10:37; Lk 14: 26)… All this and much more of Jesus’ ascetic teaching is foreign to Jewish religious thought and practice. (175)” “ (Salm, idem)

Salm 2008

Salm 2008, archeology only

Appendix 3. Praise and defence for Ralph Ellis. Why Aaron Adair should apologise
Praise with caveat

I have read a bit in Ralph Ellis, King Jesus (2008), and I find much to praise, with the obvious caveat:

  • He writes very accessible.
  • He asks good questions – like concerning the link between Josephus and Paul. In literary analysis we see Jesus ~ Yahweh and Paul ~ Moses. Convention has that Paul existed, critique has that Paul has been created by the authors of Acts, Luke and his Epistles while using Josephus for data, and Ellis wonders with reason whether Paul actually was Josephus. The latter might be wrong but it is a question that needs to be tested.
  • He comes up with pieces of data that I don’t see with scholars – linking nazoraios to crown, linking Paul’s Tarsus to Moses’s basket  and diagnosing Qumran as a boarding school where pupils were were taught and the teachers adhered to a code like the Knights Templar.
  • He creates wider views – and indeed Vespasian had strong links with Britain. But if the change in astronomical precession to the astrological sign of pisces was known universally – generating the midrash of fishermen – then this might also be known independently by Romans in Britain. The association of Osiris ~ Asar ~ Arthur is intriguing (with a round table with 12 knights) but the alphabet is flexible. Of course, early writers would also have used their creativity. A historian must shut up when he or she has nothing to tell, so there is a temptation to keep on telling something.
  • With the caveat: Who am I to judge ? I am no historian or linguist (but will also be silent if I have nothing to tell).
Why Aaron Adair should apologise

I scanned a discussion by Aaron Adair on Ellis’s other book Jesus, King of Edessa (2013) on Ellis’s Jesus ~ Izates suggestion. I am shocked about the verbal lashing by Adair. There is absolutely no reason for this. I didn’t read this particular book, and indeed only scanned Adair’s criticism. Given what I read on King Jesus it seems safe to conclude that Ellis cannot be 100% wrong. Perhaps overall Ellis is 99% wrong, but then 1% could be useful. This may be a better score than the Churches, or the Biblical scholars who pursued the logically absurd Q-hypothesis. Either Adair lashes out to those authors in the same fashion or he should apologise to Ellis. In his reply, Ellis also pointed to Tom Verenna’s use of the Gospels as a source for history. We should suppose that Adair also lashes out to Verenna’s confusion in this, or apologises to Ellis. Overall, the same appeal to good manners and awareness of creativity holds as I already said w.r.t. Richard Carrier’s abuse of language w.r.t. Joseph Atwill. Of course I am disgusted about distortion too. In that case it should suffice to select a core issue, and another author might be called in to resolve the issue. In that case, I would be more inclined to read the argument and do more than a first scan.

Adair 2013

Adair 2013

Paul = Flavius Josephus ?

What about testing whether Paul is Flavius Josephus (FJ) ? Complex interpolations aside, this would only hold if the latter would regard circumcision and other Torah laws as mere options but no requirement. I don’t know much about FJ – though, by now, I read quite a bit of & about him.

One question for example is whether FJ’s marriages and children show something about his religious views. Athalya Brenner (ed), Are We Amused?: Humour About Women In the Biblical World, p104-106 discusses some points, also referring to Biblical scenes in Dutch paintings of the Golden Age. This book however doesn’t seem to generate data but only questions that can be asked when you think about humour and women and the Bible and FJ. His first wife seems to have died in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the second was a captive woman whom he married for Vespasian but later rejected for religious reasons, and subsequently he had two Jewish wives, with sons whose names reflect an allegiance to the Flavian-Herodians. The son “Hyrcanus” might refer to Jewish independence by John Hyrcanus but also to FJ’s benefactor at that period. The “Simonides” could refer in FJ’s lineage. The “Justus” is ambiguously Roman or Jewish.

“Vespasian arranged for the widower Josephus to marry a captured Jewish woman, who ultimately left him. About 71, Josephus married an Alexandrian Jewish woman as his third wife. They had three sons, of whom only Flavius Hyrcanus survived childhood. Josephus later divorced his third wife. Around 75, he married as his fourth wife, a Greek Jewish woman from Crete, who was a member of a distinguished family. They had a happy married life and two sons Flavius Justus and Flavius Simonides Agrippa.” (Wikipedia on FJ)

These few  data are ambiguous. FJ could still be an observing Sadducee priest who collaborated with the Romans given their obvious power. There is no indication that he would go as far as Paul, either an authentic gnostic Simon Magus (if he existed) or the domesticated version in the NT. Others may have more data.

Ellis 2008

Ellis 2008