Were the Ancient Gnostics Great Intellectuals?

Here’s one New Testament scholar (Larry Hurtado, recently retired, Univ. of Edinburgh) who laughs at the idea. I’d agree with him (and I like reading western esotericism).

If you think they’re intellectual elites, you’ve been watching too much on the Fantasy Channel (aka, History Channel) and reading too many pages by modern new agers. Go to the primary sources, like Prof. Hurtado suggests.

[Addendum: 2/24/2014. Prof. April DeConick was apparently put off by Prof. Hurtado. It didn't take her long to respond. I'm with Hurtado on this one. I've read enough esoteric material and western esotericism to know that the short path to sounding intellectual is to spout streams of barely intelligible ideas. That way, you come off as the possessor of elite knowledge: "If you were as brilliant as I am, you'd understand what I'm saying." Gnostic literature is filled with that sort of thing. Just read it. My point is not that they were dumb or on acid. It's that calling them leading intellectuals of the ancient world is silly. In terms of the New Age crowd, it's hard for them to take reasoned discourse and make it sound like mystery and mysticism to convince you they're deep. It's easy to do that with Gnostic material, and many have done so. That ought to tell us something. (And readers will know I'm not in the ecclesiastical box of the "historic" church in several respects). Yes, I can be accused at this point of assessing that material through "western logic." But tell me -- when we debate the subject, are we going to use the rules of western logic for discussion or not? Will we evaluate the soundness of argumentation using rules of western logic or not? We all know the answer, and that tells us something as well.]

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Mythical Canon Fodder on Bible Secrets Revealed

Hope you caught the pun.

Except for football, I don’t watch TV, so I sadly (!) missed this latest round of Bible secrets nonsense. I let others suffer in my place, like the author of “Bible Secrets Revealed?: A Response to the New History Channel Series (Part 3).” The author is a New Testament scholar (PhD University of Edinburgh). Honestly, “Bible Secrets Revealed” ought to be titled “Bible Secrets Contrived.” Same old uninformed claptrap about the canon, Jesus, and Mary Magdalene. It’s like the researchers they put on the show to spout the conspiratorial nonsense have never read any of the primary source material and scholarship on anything they comment on.

Did I just stumble onto their method … ?

Actually, that’s only part of it. Dr. Kruger already outline what these shows do to mislead their audience.

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More Free Online Resources for Ancient Research

As is my custom, every once in a while I have to post something that veers away from exposing paleobabble toward real research. I’ve posted in the past about the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute and its posting of various volumes related to Assyriology. Here are some other goodies (courtesy of the Ancient World Online blog):

The Claremont Colleges Digital Library offers several open access resources relating to antiquity:

The Bulletin of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity is published periodically under the auspices of the Society for Antiquity and Christianity for the general information of persons interested in the research programs of the Institute.
The Claremont Coptic Encyclopedia (CCE) will initially include approximately 2800 articles published in The Coptic Encyclopedia (Aziz S. Atiya, ed. NY: Macmillan, 1991).
The Nag Hammadi codices, thirteen ancient manuscripts containing over fifty religious and philosophical texts written in Coptic and hidden in an earthenware jar for 1,600 years, were accidentally discovered in upper Egypt in the year 1945.

Attalus

This site contains over 25,000 links to Greek and Latin authors online. The links include detailed lists of events and sources for the history of the Hellenistic world and the Roman republic. It includes links to online translations of many of the sources, as well as new translations of some works which have not previously been easily available in English.

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Want to Study Ancient Papyri?

Have I got a website for you.

If papyri is your thing, you should definitely know about Brice Jones’ metasite for papyrological resources. There are a few dozen links to online papyrus collections, journals, online publications, Coptic lexicons, and other tools. Pretty slick.

Brice is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Religion at Concordia University in Montreal.

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Templar and Talpiot Twaddle: It Must be Easter

Ah, it’s that time of year again.

Readers will be thrilled to know that Simcha Jacobovici is keeping his “just so you know that Easter is really about me and my ideas” streak alive. In the past, Simcha has partnered with James Tabor to bunny hop all over the Christian holy day. James is along for the ride again, but keeping a bit of distance. A good idea, since Simcha’s newest academic resource is Scott Wolter, a researcher with a reputation for shell-game research and less-than-coherent thinking about ancient America and masonic conspiracies.1

This time Simcha and James want the world to know that Scott has made an amazing discovery that validates their earlier interpretation of the “Jesus Family Tomb” of East Talpiot: a “Knights Templar” coin that pictures Jesus emerging from a tomb — and it must be the Talpiot tomb, since the coin bears a Chevron symbol.

talpiotentrance

Setting aside the fact that Simcha and James deny that Jesus emerged from the Talpiot tomb — which would slightly mar the new analogy just a bit — there are problems with Wolter’s idea.

Jason Colavito has put together a worthwhile essay addressing this claim. As Jason so succinctly puts it, “The longer you look the less there is to see.” Indeed. Any leap from the first century to the high Middle Ages is problematic. But for so many who want to connect dots no matter where in space and time that they are, a non-sequitur is a bridge to understanding.2

  1. Jason Colavito has documented Wolter’s flawed material and its presentation in a number of posts on his blog.
  2. And think about this case: “That shape on a medieval coin looks like that shape on a first century tomb — they must be related.” Pretty stunning. I’m glad we don’t have people who think like this working on the space shuttle or doing internal medicine. I’m happy to keep them in Washington, DC and the History Channel.

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Testing of “Jesus Wife” Coptic Fragment Ongoing

CNN’s religion blog recently posted that testing of the Coptic fragment that includes Jesus referring to his wife has delayed publication of an article by Karen King on the fragment in the Harvard Theological Review. The short piece is a useful one, as it asks some needed questions about the fragment in a concise way for readers.

I’m not sure what the hubbub is about testing the actual fragment. I expect the material itself is very old, but that proves nothing about the authenticity of the text, since all one would need to do to create such a forgery is access to the same material and the “recipe” for ancient ink.  Irving Wallace showed us how to do that decades ago in his novel, The Word. But maybe other scholars don’t read novels. Additionally, genuine physical material won’t answer the syntactical irregularities and borrowed vocabulary in the text that led scholars to think it a fraud in the first place (see here and here).

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The “Wife of Jesus” Fragment Forgery: How It Was Done

Mark Goodacre has posted links to Andrew Bernhard’s research on the fragment in regard to how the fraud was accomplished. One is a complete analysis and is well worth a look.

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More Online Resources for Vaccination Against PaleoBabble

There’s been a spate of resources that have popped up online in recent days for excellent resources to study the ancient world. Some of these resources have been around a while, but have gotten some recent attention and traffic on various blogs and news sites. Here are some valuable links:

The New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS) Online

  • this is the most recent scholarly translation of the Septuagint

The Gospel of Thomas Resource Center

  • Do your research on Thomas here, not with Dan Brown and Michael Baigent. That way something you say about Thomas has a prayer of being right.

The Ancient World Mapping Center

  • The Center promotes cartography, historical geography, and geographic information science as essential disciplines within the field of ancient studies through innovative and collaborative research, teaching, and community outreach activities.

Giza 3-D

  • For the first time, the latest and most exhaustive information available on the Giza Necropolis will be made available to everyone through a realistic experience that can satisfy mere cu- riosity or encourage more demanding research inquiries

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Divorcing Jesus’ Wife

This figures to be my last update on this, at least until after November’s academic conferences. I’m bored with it.

Here’s some item updates on the alleged (but now suspected by many to be fake) fragment that has Jesus referring to his wife. (In case you’re late to this party, here’s a good overview post from New Testament textual critic Dan Wallace). Of particular note is the last one, by Christian Askeland, a Coptologist I happen to know through email due to my day job. It’s an interesting video demonstration (for the non-specialist) of the fragments odd features that has led to suspicion of fakery.

My disappointment with The Guardian (from Mark Goodacre’s blog; deals with the archeo-witless media)

The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Latest (also from Goodacre’s NT blog; updates of the issue)

Christian Askeland on the “Wife of Jesus” fragment

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Harvard Theological Review and the “Wife of Jesus” Fragment

Looks like Harvard Theological Review (HTR), a respected academic journal for theology and religion, will not be publishing Karen King’s article on the new Coptic fragment that has Jesus say something to his wife. Their reticence comes amid growing suspicions that it’s a fake. The update comes from Craig Evans via the Near Emmaus blog.

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