Just in Time for Christmas: David C. Brown’s Catalogue for Books in Egyptology and Other Ancient Near Eastern Studies

David C. Brown / Oxbow Books is perhaps the “go to” site and catalog for finding books related to ancient Egypt, Mesopotamian, Israel, and other civilizations of the ancient Near East. They have hundreds of titles in each area — lots of stuff you won’t find anywhere else, including used books and back issues of journals in these areas.

In a word, it’s an awesome site and resource. Enjoy!

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PaleoBabble BS Detector

What sifts the chaff of paleobabble from the wheat of coherent writing on the ancient world more readily than anything else? That would be peer review.

I’ve blogged before here about the importance of peer review. Tom Verenna (yes, he’s published under peer review) recently wrote a piece related to that very subject entitled, “On Scholars and Kooks: A Few Simple Guidelines for Journalists in Popular Media.” It’s well worth the time. Here’s a taste:

. . . [A] layperson who self-publishes a book on something isn’t an ‘expert’.  They may be considered an enthusiast, an amateur, a hobbyist, a thrill-seeker.  These are polite titles.  More often than not, however, people who only self-publish do so because they do not want to have their ideas vetted by pesky things like editors, peers, or actual experts. . . .

. . . The purpose of peer review, of academic vetting, is to determine how well an argument or hypothesis can withstand criticism.  If the author of this book does not bother to go through this process, even unofficially, by having his book examined by experts prior to publication, then s/he does not have any grounds to claim that it is anything spectacular. That isn’t to say that an uncredentialed person cannot produce a solid book on a subject.  It may actually be ground-breaking, it may be earth-shattering, but if it hasn’t been vetted by other people with credentials then there is no means by which one can claim that it is.

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Joseph Atwill’s Josephus Code

I’ve blogged this subject over at my Naked Bible blog, but it also belongs here at Paleobabble. What follows is borrowed from that post and appended with reviews and updates.

Joseph Atwill, self-proclaimed (and credential-less) biblical scholar has recently busied himself with a new PR campaign to promote a rehashing of his 2006 book, Caesar’s Messiah. It was supposedly a bestseller — but have you ever heard of it? Well, he’ll make sure you do this time around.

The basic thesis is, from the Amazon description, that:

“Was Jesus the invention of a Roman emperor? The author of this ground-breaking book believes he was. ‘Caesar’s Messiah’ reveals the key to a new and revolutionary understanding of Christian origins. . . . The clues leading to its startling conclusions are found in the writings of the first-century historian Flavius Josephus, whose ‘War of the Jews’ is one of the only historical chronicles of this period. Closely comparing the work of Josephus with the New Testament Gospels, ‘Caesar’s Messiah’ demonstrates that the Romans directed the writing of both. . . . Atwill noticed a series of parallels occurring in sequence between the military campaign of the Roman Caesar Titus Flavius and the ministry of Jesus. His findings led him to a startling new conclusion about the origins of Christianity – that a Roman imperial family, the Flavians, had created Christianity to pacify the Jews’ rebellion against Rome, and even more incredibly, they had placed a literary satire within the Gospels and ‘Wars of the Jews’ to inform posterity of this fact.”

Basically, Atwill is doing something of a Dan Brown, giving us The Josephus Code. For sure that would have been a sexier title. No doubt the media would have pumped it more the first time around had the word ‘code’ been in it.

So what do we have here? Instead of the Zeitgeist conspiracy we get the notion that the NT gospels were written by Romans. And boy, were those Romans ever clever. They decided to mimic Josephus’ accounts of Titus Flavius in their presentation of Jesus. . . . Now wait a minute. . . . So, the Jews were influenced to pacificism by a guy who didn’t really exist . . . but who were they following around?  Not really . . . the gospels were written later, after the fact . . . Gullible people (and of course subsequent early Christians) just read about him and accepted what they read about the guy’s existence . . . in accounts that were patterned after the chronology of a Roman emperor’s life . . . who lived in the past a little later than the guy didn’t exist. . . . as clever propaganda. So the Jewish or Christian readers of the later gospels wouldn’t really have known Jesus didn’t exist. They just took it on faith because the Roman-generated gospels told them that guy existed. . . . And so no later Christian or Jew who believed in, or didn’t like, Jesus would ever have known Jesus wasn’t actually real . . .  because they’d never see the parallels between what Josephus wrote and the gospels that Atwill did . . . because . . . well . . . they didn’t read Josephus . . . no, they did that. . . . It has to be because Atwill is so much smarter. . . . Yeah, that’s it . . . because the early Christians and any of their opponents could have read Josephus. They just didn’t see the coded messaging that would have made the case that Atwill sees. Even Josephus experts haven’t seen that. . . . Or experts in the gospels. . . . Gosh, Atwill is smart.

Clear now?

Many real scholars of the New Testament, the gospels, and the historical Jesus (from varied theological persuasions) have weighed in on Atwill’s thesis:

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Lengthy Series on Vallee and Aubeck’s Evidence for UFOs in Antiquity

Jason Colavito recently produced a series of posts exposing the poor use of data (and perhaps deliberate deception in that regard) on the part of Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck in their book, Wonders in the Sky: Unexplained Aerial Objects from Antiquity to Modern Times. PaleoBabble readers will find the series useful and interesting:

Jacques Vallee’s Deceptive Evidence for Ancient UFOs (Part 1)

Jacques Vallee’s Deceptive Evidence for Ancient UFOs (Part 2)

Jacques Vallee’s Deceptive Evidence for Ancient UFOs (Part 3)

Even More of Vallee’s Ancient UFO Deception

Back in 2011 on my UFO Religions blog I also wrote a lengthy review of this book, which Jason aptly calls Jacques Vallee’s version of an ancient astronaut book. I agree with Jason that much (all?) of the evidence drawing on ancient texts is the result of misinterpretation or wishful thinking. The criteria of the authors for weeding out certain accounts is poorly applied to material they elsewhere embrace.

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Bart Ehrman Smacks Down Jesus Mythicism

New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman, well known to non-specialist readers as a critic of evangelical views of Jesus (Ehrman is an atheist1) recently published a book entitled Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. Ehrman’s answer is that he did. His book therefore provides a succinct overview of the evidence for a historical Jesus. It also serves as a succinct critique to the “Jesus Mythicists” (think Freke and Gandy here2), folks who, in the spirit of the Zeitgeist movie (is that a tautology?), deny Jesus ever existed. Needless to say, they aren’t happy that a scholar of Ehrman’s stature would dare affirm the historicity of Jesus, even if (perhaps “especially since”) he has no faith in what the New Testament writers say theologically about Jesus’ divinity or Savior status. The same can be said for the way Jesus Mythicists have turned apoplectic over the Jesus Family Tomb controversy (if it is the tomb of Jesus, they’re wrong — he existed).

Ehrman’s book was recently reviewed by a scholar named Richard Carrier. Carrier’s review is exceptionally nasty and, frankly, not befitting intelligent discourse. (One would have thought the review was by Don Rickles — dating myself there, I know — or Bill Maher). At any rate, Ehrman has responded at length to Carrier. I recommend his response (and it is indeed very long) to PaleoBabble readers. It’s clear and unpretentious.

(Hat tip to Tim for this item).

 

  1. This is my estimation. Ehrman actually isn’t clear on whether he’s atheist or agnostic — but he’ll answer that if you pay him. I’m not paying for the answer. I’m not sure what bit of sophistry would allow one to deny the existence of God and yet not be an atheist. Even if one opts for some sort of “consciousness” position as God, that is a naturalistic view and results in a non-personal non-deity. That isn’t “God” in the understanding of anyone who’d ask the question. But I’m guessing since I’m not forking over any money for clarity.
  2. The Jesus Mysteries: Was the “Original Jesus” a Pagan God?

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Jason Colavito Blogging Through Erich von Daniken’s Latest Testament to Ancient Astronaut Nonsense

Someone should give Jason a medal.

He’s actually six chapters into his review. You can read the series here:

Reviewing EVD’s “Twilight of the Gods” (Pt. 1)

Reviewing EVD’s “Twilight of the Gods” (Pt. 2)

Reviewing EVD’s “Twilight of the Gods” (Pt. 3)

Reviewing EVD’s “Twilight of the Gods” (Pt. 4)

Reviewing EVD’s “Twilight of the Gods” (Pt. 5)

Reviewing EVD’s “Twilight of the Gods” (Pt. 6)

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Atlantis: The Myth That Keeps on Giving

Ever wondered how a few lines of Plato’s Timaeus that mention Atlantis somehow morphed into a myth so bloated that you can fill a library wing with tomes by “authorities” and “researchers” describing the science, technology, religion, and enlightened culture of a place that may well never have existed?  Yeah, me too. For the record, here’s what Plato actually said — the passing comments upon which a paper and ink mountain has been erected:

For it is related in our records how once upon a time your State stayed the course of a mighty host, which, starting from a distant point in the Atlantic ocean, was insolently advancing to attack the whole of Europe, and Asia to boot. For the ocean there was at that time navigable; for in front of the mouth which you Greeks call, as you say, ‘the pillars of Heracles,’ there lay an island which was larger than Libya and Asia together; and it was possible for the travelers of that time to cross from it to the other islands, and from the islands to the whole of the continent over against them which encompasses that veritable ocean. For all that we have here, lying within the mouth of which we speak, is evidently a haven having a narrow entrance; but that yonder is a real ocean, and the land surrounding it may most rightly be called, in the fullest and truest sense, a continent. Now in this island of Atlantis there existed a confederation of kings, of great and marvelous power, which held sway over all the island, and over many other islands also and parts of the continent (Timaeus 24e–25a, R. G. Bury translation (Loeb Classical Library).

The good news is that we now have a true work of scholarship (don’t be misled by the book’s cover) that helps us understand how Plato’s trickle became the gusher of crapulence we now know as “the great Atlantean civilization.”  I speak of Jocelyn Godwin’s recent Atlantis and the Cycles of Time: Prophecies, Traditions, and Occult Revelations.

For those unfamiliar with Godwin, he is a legitimate scholar of esoteric thought. Don’t be misled by the book’s cover. Don’t be misled by the fact that it’s published by Inner Traditions. Anything by Godwin is worth reading. Be warned that this book won’t be light reading. I’ve read Godwin’s earlier work, Arktos: The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism, and Nazi Survival. That book has perhaps the worst cover art in publishing history, but it’s a scholarly feast. I expect the same for this book as well.

You can read a review of Atlantis and the Cycles of time over on the Magonia site. I’ll be ordering my copy right away.

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The Pan-Babylonian Approach to the Hebrew Bible by Ancient Astronaut Theorists: Still Dead After All These Years

I’ve blogged before about “Pan-Babylonianism” — the idea that the content of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is basically plagiarized from Babylonian (more widely, Sumero-Mesopotamian) material. No serious biblical studies scholar or Assyriologist believes this today, but this approach became a majority paradigm in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the wake of two events: (1) the decipherment of cuneiform and (2) Friedrich Delitzsch’s “Babel und Bible” lectures delivered in 1902 to the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft attended by Kaisar Wilhelm II and his staff. In other words, anyone (like Zecharia Sitchin) who supposed or still supposes this approach is novel or cutting edge or “research the mainstream cannot cope with” is behind the curve by 100 years.

The death pf Pan-Babylonianism actually came shortly after it’s rise to prominence due to the famous German scholar Hermann Gunkel’s classic rebuttal-essay, Babylonien und Israel (1903). Gunkel was *not* an evangelical or fundamentalist. He is well know to many people in that crowd as a “liberal” scholar. Regardless of labels, his famous work initiated the lethal injection to Pan-Babylonianism.

Gunkel’s important work is now available in a new English translation. Readers can read a review here, as well as get information for ordering this new work. Bear in mind this is a scholarly work; it is not light reading.The review alludes to an earlier translations of Gunkel’s work by published in 1904 by John Joseph McVey. That earlier translation is available online for free here.

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Robert Price’s Bullgeschichte

This recently posted book review of Robert Price’s new work, Jesus is Dead, vividly illustrates how scholars such as Price ultimately betray the scholarly guild. The reviewer points out occasion after occasion where Price simply dismisses those with whom he disagrees, rather than clearly and patiently interacting with their work. This academic methodological transgression also surfaces when it comes to engaging primary texts. If their content doesn’t suit Price, the strategy is to dismiss or ignore. This isn’t scholarship. It isn’t even clear thinking. It is bullgeschichte, a term Price himself coins in the book, as the reviewer notes. What a waste of time and ability.1

  1. For those unfamiliar with the pun Price (and I) am making here, scholars often use the German terms Heilgeschichte (“salvation history”) and religionsgeschichtlichte Schule (“History of Religions School”) to denote, respectively, a certain theme in biblical theology and a historical-evolutionary-parallelistic approach to the study of religion. Price coins the term Bullgeschichte to refer to books whose content promotes what I call paleobabble. I like his term for his own work.

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