Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Bring our repentance

Nineveh, the trading vessel that is suffering shipwreck and has despaired of all life, cry out and ask the deliverer of all to extend his right hand to you; for I who govern you am not heard, for the errors of all appear only in me. Therefore, cry out; perhaps he is persuaded by your prayers and he bends all the more to your tears. Weep, O bride, weep, O young men, weep, youth together with virgin, old men and infants, in the presence of the Lord, let us bring our repentance.1

1.  Mellas, Andrew. Hymns of Repentance: Saint Romanos The Melodist (Popular Patristic Series Book 61). Saint Vladimirs Seminary Press. Kindle Edition. 

Monday, February 24, 2020

Millennial Haiku

Alarm goes off again—
Toes touch the floor
Checks Facebook

Fifty six notifications? 
What the ef?
I hate being tagged 

What is there to eat?
Nothing much
I’ll just go to the drive thru

What should I wear?
Looks pensively
at options 

Have my phone
Have my keys
Do I have everything? 

Pocket vibrates—
What is it now?
Long exhale

Turns into parking lot
F***ing asshole
I was here first 

I’ll have two number two meals
Each with a large coffee
With four creams added

Checks Twitter
Presses heart

Have a nice day
Thanks, you too
Idiot forgot to add cream

Almost there
Better late than never
Checks Facebook

Where am I?
You’re in the hospital
Where’s my phone?

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Optimizing Trust

Investigating “Science” is not the problem
All these academics and graduates
Specialists and sub-specialists
Those with certificates and those on their way
Quoting each other supportively
Creating this illusion of incontrovertibility
Scientizing all philosophies of problem solving
Problematizing all solutions that are anti-Science
Democracy is the greatest threat to hegemony
When women are valued more than men, equality is achieved
Wetdreams of Hitlerian Brexits are why foreign nations need our policing
If you don’t want to be expurgated, don’t believe the wrong things
Intersectionality proves that translesbian prostitutes are unjustly marginalized
Whiteness has proven itself to be rape, with the exception of Zionists
Eratosthenes’ sticks proved the sphericity of life two thousand years ago
Mark’s little apocalypse proves that the end was not near
Bezos and Musk prove Capitalism to be the enemy of Socialism
Warren’s crosshairs on Big Pharma prove she can’t be bought
Racism equalling prejudice+plus+power proves the dictionary wrong
Non-binary vegan activists prove the patriarchy needs smashing
For the best sex, we need to approve medicare for all
For the best results, make sure you’re fully vaccinated
Utterly pampered idiots infantilizing all investigation into the problem

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Ponderings of 4 Ezra (part one?)

In the apocalyptic message of 4 Ezra 7:26-36, an angelic messenger of YHWH tells Ezra the scribe that there will come a future day when Israel’s Messiah will manifest himself to Israel for the first time and bring final judgment upon Israel. Michael E. Stone’s translation1 reads:

For behold, the time will come, when the signs which I have foretold to you will come, that the city which now is not seen shall appear, and the land which now is hidden shall be disclosed. 

And everyone who has been delivered from the evils that I have foretold shall see my wonders. 
For my Messiah shall be revealed with those who are with him, and he shall make rejoice those who remain for four hundred2 years. 
And after these years my son the Messiah shall die, and all who draw human breath.
And the world shall be turned back to primeval silence for seven days, as it was at the first beginnings; so that no one shall be left.
And after seven days the world, which is not yet awake, shall be roused, and that which is corruptible shall perish. 
And the earth shall give back those who are asleep in it, and the dust those who rest in it; and the treasuries shall give up the souls which have been committed to them. 
And the Most High shall be revealed upon the seat of judgment, and compassion shall pass away, mercy shall be made distant, and patience shall be withdrawn; but only judgment shall remain, truth shall stand, and faithfulness shall grow strong. And recompense shall follow, and the reward shall be manifested; righteous deeds shall awake, and unrighteous deeds shall not sleep. 
Then the pit of torment shall appear, and opposite it shall be the place of rest; and the furnace of Gehenna shall be disclosed, and opposite it the paradise of delight. 
Modern scholars like Michael Stone typically assign 4 Ezra to a late first century composition or redaction. That means it's another example of vaticinium ex eventu. My purpose in sharing this is plain and simple: It illustrates a clear expectation of first century fulfillment, and in doing so it illustrates that the late first century author/redactor thought of such events as already being fulfilled in the first century. Below is a summary of the text above. 

The author begins with a statement about signs of events that "will come." That, in and of itself, indicates that by the time the audience is reading this work of vaticinium ex eventu, they could safely conclude that such signs had already come to pass as promised.

The author continues:

>The city (of God) which now is not seen (because of Babylonian captivity) is promised to finally appear (Rev 21: 1-2)
>Evils have been foretold, and those of Israel who live through such evils will see God's wonders
>The Messiah of God shall be revealed to that generation of survivors
>Those who remain with God's Messiah will rejoice
>After those years, God's Messiah (and son) will die alongside mortal human beings
>For seven days the cosmos will turn back to primeval silence, as in the Genesis one creation narrative
>After that type of new creation silence, those who had died in the cosmos will awake from their sleep, and shall face judgment
>Treasuries of souls shall rise up to face God, where the Most High God (the Messiah of God) will be revealed upon God's seat of judgment
>The final judgment of God will ensue; rewards and punishments will finally be delivered.

When will that dreaded "day of judgment" be? The answer is obvious in context (i.e. within that generation of the Messiah's death), but just to be doubly-clear, Ezra asks at the end of the same chapter, and receives this answer: 

...the day of judgment will be the end of this age, and the beginning of the immortal age to come, in which corruption has passed away...3

Some ambiguity still remains. Does the reference to "this age" refer to Ezra's  immediate generation, or to the age of exile in which the vision takes place, or to the age in which the Messiah was promised to come? The text doesn't explicitly say, but I think it's safe to consider that the only option that doesn't make sense is if it referred to Ezra's immediate generation. 

With all of this in mind, here are some thoughts I had while studying passages like these: 

1) Why do modern scholars and Christians think that such passages are describing a resurrection and "final judgment" in our future? 

2)  Assume this prophecy is "real" (whatever that means to you): Why would Ezra the scribe reveal future cataclysmic events that would certainly take place in a single generation of the Messiah, and yet actually mean those events would take place thousands of years afterward, at some alleged "end of time," as Christians today presume?

3)  Assume this prophecy is not "real," but was (as scholars insist) composed in line with a scribal tradition of thought about "the end" of the world, shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70: Why would a scribe write about such topics as the resurrection of departed souls and the final judgment of the dead as coinciding with the generation of the Messiah? 

I have been studying the literature of second temple Judaism for a very long time, and although I am by no means a certified expert in the field, I have enough experience to know that these kinds of questions in our generation are not entertained and are not popular. Indeed, the last hundred years of Christian scholarship has either bypassed serious consideration of first century fulfillment  altogether or has deflected attention of the resurrection and final judgment away from the first century and punted that topic into our future, to be fulfilled thousands of years after such literature was written!

I think all of that is a shame. That is why, in a future post (or series of posts) I will be writing about many scholars (mostly German) who worked on the "apocalyptic" texts of the New Testament (especially the Olivet Discourse) and yet bypassed or deflected their first century fulfillment as I described a moment ago. Most Christians over the last hundred years read New Testament statements about resurrection and "final judgment" and assume that they must have been describing events in our future, thousands of years after the historical context in which they were written. So here I am, pointing out the obvious: why assume that? 

I have shown very clearly, and in numerous places (here, here, here, and here), that such is not what the New Testament describes at all. Moreover, if Christians are to treat the New Covenant witness of Old Covenant fulfillment seriously, the popular "already-but-not-yet" paradigm doesn't end up holding water. That paradigm fails miserably in light of linguistic and typological consistency. What doesn't fail at all is complete first century fulfillment. The problem with believing that is that such concepts appear to be too radical, and people are so damn lazy in the way they research claims that alarms of "heterodoxy" and "heresy" immediately start sounding off in people's minds once they take a cursory glance at it's content, and quickly the noise becomes too much of a sensory overload for them to seriously entertain. They soon go back to normal life, believing whatever they are told, and studying those resources that justify their prejudices. 

That is why I have begun this series. I don't personally think that the creedal Christian traditions about "resurrection" and "final judgment" actually conflict with complete first century fulfillment of "biblical" prophecy. I also don't think that creedal Christian traditions are as monolithic and unanimous in their interpretations as tribalists today (whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant) imagine them to be. I'm also highly suspicious of confessional protestants who insist on adhering to "orthodox" creeds, as though somehow they're retrieving, prescribing, and maintaining a "catholic" tradition that's essential to Christian faith, without having to subscribe to the canons of that very same tradition out of which such creeds emanate. (All such debates seem to be a complete waste of everybody's time; but I digress.)

The topic at hand is about the complete prophetic fulfillment of "biblical" promises. The resurrection of the dead and final judgment upon mankind is sensitive to discuss. But it needs to be discussed if the "New Testament" Scriptures are to be taken seriously as being historically reliable and rhetorically credible.

1. Michael E. Stone & Matthias Henze, 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch: Translations, Introductions, and Notes (2013). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, pp. 42-3

2. It is worth noting that although all of the textual witnesses to 4 Ezra seem to derive from a presumed Hebrew original source (or sources), among the secondary textual witnesses which are in Arabic and Armenian, one Arabic text tradition says “a thousand” instead of “four hundred." That echoes the language of Revelation 20:1-6, in which we find the “first resurrection” of old covenant saints raised up to the heavens with Christ, at his resurrection after death, to reign with him for a thousand years. In John’s apocalypse, the reference to “a thousand years” is likely symbolic for an aion, an age or generation of God’s people, who are idealized like the first generation of mankind, who lived roughly a thousand years from the time of Adam to the time of God’s first judgment upon the world, in the flood. It is also worth noting that in one of the primary textual witnesses in Syriac, the textual variant says “thirty” instead of “four hundred. That clearly implies a tradition of a thirty year life-span for Jesus’ earthly ministry before his death, as described here in this text. Oddly, the most reliable textual witnesses of this passage say “four hundred,” yet that statement only makes sense if the Canonical account of Ezra the scribe is taken seriously, which places this historical figure around 470 BC, almost one hundred years after this apocalypse is alleged to have revealed (i.e. around 550 BC; cf. 4 Ezra 3:1). In my estimation, the Syriac witnesses of this passage are the clearest in design among scribal redaction, which, if correct, implies that the Syriac is either closest to the original Hebrew tradition by correcting an erroneous reading of “four hundred,” or it is original and the “four hundred” is a later scribal emendation of “thirty.”

3. 4 Ezra: 7:113

Friday, February 14, 2020

Valentine’s Day Psychology 101

People love 1-to-1 correspondence
The Roman Emperor‘s command for him was to be executed
The Western Empire commands execution of his holy day
Martyred on the 14th of February
We celebrate on the 14th of February
Unless you’re Eastern
Then it’s July 6th & 30th
He wrote a letter
Be my valentine 
We write letters
Be my valentine 
He fell in love before his last day
We celebrate love so it won't be ours
For chocolatiers 
and philanthropists
For poor sweethearts 
and middle-class cheap lays
The year 496 was his canonization
496 million cream filled eggs ordered each year ever since
His demise was 270 years after the year of our Lord
270 electoral votes are needed to win a presidential election this year
He refused the command to deny marriage
We command love and respect with heart shaped treats
Innocent ideographic treats for the legendary love of mankind

Thursday, February 13, 2020

A Harmony of the Olivet Discourse

Below is a parallel layout of Jesus' Olivet Discourse. I must apologize in advance for it being in the format of successive photos pasted to the wall, and not the most clear quality either. For now it is the best I can do. The source of these parallels is from Burton's English edition of Gospel parallels (as footnoted at the bottom of this post). Unfortunately, the English looks like it uses the KJV, which provides a notoriously misleading translation of Matt. 24:3, which reads: "What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?"

For those who have access to the Greek text underlying that translation, it is obvious that the word translated as "world" is actually "age." Jesus is asked what would be the sign of his coming (parousia) and the sign of the end of the age (not the "world", which is an entirely different Greek word).

For those interested in viewing the parallels, a pdf of Burton's greek parallels can be found here. As far as the formatting is concerned, that is my own; it was the only way I knew how to share it publicly with very little time at my disposal this evening.

The reasons why I am sharing this parallel layout of Jesus' Olivet Discourse are very straightforward:

1) The average Christian in the pews nowadays has little patience to map out the parallels between each verse of Jesus' Olivet Discourse. So here it is. I have copied and pasted it all for you. 

2) The average Christian who takes Jesus' teaching seriously, and has been taught in Church (or by reading Christian books) that the so-called "end of the world" is clearly taught in the Olivet Discourse, now has the means by which each version can be carefully traced in context, to see if that is actually so. As I have already noted (here), dozens of very important Church Fathers viewed Matthew 24:4-35 as references to the historical destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 and the historical signs of persecutions and turmoils leading up that cataclysmic event. Most New Testament historical scholars over the last one hundred years concur with that assessment. But then a shift takes place, where virtually all scholars nowadays think that the comments made in Matthew 24:36 and afterward either refer to cataclysmic events in our future, or they are inauthentic and "fanatic" vaticinium ex eventu redactions by later scribes after AD70. 

3) I am convinced that there is a third alternative: Jesus was describing the parousia and the "end of the age" as to-be-fulfilled in that generation (cf. Matt. 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32). 

4) When you have finally studied all of these parallels, matching phrase upon phrase, and following the descriptions of each Gospel author, feel free to study the chapters and verses surrounding the passages in Mark outside of chapter 13, and the passages in Luke outside of chapter 21, as contained in bold-typed brackets below.

I believe that there is absolutely no way to take any portion of this Olivet Discourse of Matthew's Gospel seriously as authentic teachings of Jesus without also seriously studying its parallels in Mark and Luke. That means that there are not two cataclysmic events about "the end" in this Discourse. There is no fulfillment of "the end" that has "already" happened in Matthew 24:4-35 and also a future fulfillment of Christ's parousia in judgment that has "not yet" happened, and still awaiting fulfillment in our future. The "already-not-yet" paradigm advocated by too many Christian tribalists simply cannot be taken seriously when the exact same historical discourse is mapped out in parallel between all three synoptic Gospels. 

Take the time. Don't be lazy. See for yourself. Think for yourself. 

I have shared other thoughts of mine here and here and here. The thoughts of Church Fathers can be found here.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Particles of experience

My neighbor is confident
I speak only to be suddenly shut down in a circle of ten
Then comes the cursory apology like a seven year old

It's not my fault that the story wasn't interesting
It tried to entertain me
It failed with that damn redneck accent

It seems that the sun, moon, and stars have called me elsewhere
I'm supposed to busy myself with their melodies
And practice twirling their barbie arms around

You might have already noticed, but I'm not very fond of curt neighborlyisms
There's a big world to be unlearned by us both
And I'm actually trying to function with comparatively little meaning, and not inflect

Unlike you, I'm not informed by those who sell fear porn and monetize hysteria to boost JNJ stock
I actually care about what molds and magnetizes desire
You can point to subatomic particle theory and it's not going to change what I discovered about electricity

Even if I knew how to satisfactorily complete your questionnaires
I still wouldn't know what to do with moonlight
But every step in its direction toward unknowing gives me peace