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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What To Do With Christian Researchers Who Purvey PaleoBabble

[Addendum: 10/22/2013 - I have been in correspondence with one of the researchers mentioned in Jason Colavito's post. That individual tells me that research is underway in regard to some of the claims Jason criticized, and that I will receive a copy of the results of that research when ready. I will keep readers informed. As per the below, I will insist on those standards of evaluation. "Lab work" is not a synonym for peer review; it's what peer review evaluates. I will in turn submit what I receive to experts in relevant fields whose own work has undergone peer review, experts to whom I turn to for evaluation of such things, as I am not qualified to decipher scientific tests.]

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Jason Colavito posted a telling essay today. For someone like me, a Christian and biblical studies scholar, it was disturbing. Frankly, it provoked me to enter the discussion. I have the training and am well known in both the “Christian weirdness” community and by scholars (Christian or otherwise) all over the globe (it’s a blessing of my job). I feel responsible to say something — to put people on notice in some sense. I wouldn’t want people to be deceived because I remained silent. It’s a consistency issue for me. I want to be on the record.

So what’s my beef?

I’m guessing Jason and I wouldn’t see eye-to-eye on some things. That’s fine. For one, I believe in a creator, though I’m not predisposed toward the young earth position, mostly for the way it distorts points of science, caricatures evolutionary theory, and imposes a modern context on the ancient text (something that atheistic evolutionists do with great frequency and equal ignorance). Put another way, the reason I’m not in that camp is not because I don’t think God capable of recent creation. I just don’t think the Bible was ever intended to teach us science. The Bible itself makes that clear if we just take it for what it says in its original context.1 Logically, then, I’m not a philosophical materialist. I accept the possibility of what is loosely (and in some cases, inaccurately) called the “supernatural.” That goes with the turf of theism and, by extension, Christianity. These positions have stood up to the best of academic philosophical debate for centuries, so I know I’m on good footing, despite atheist crowing to the contrary. These ideas are also not antithetical to the scientific or logical mind. I personally know too many PhDs in the hard sciences and philosophy to know that lame criticisms of theism from such trajectories have failed to impress many scientists and scholars, Christian or not. Most of what passes for critique of theism and Christianity is actually criticism of caricatures or flawed thinking that circulates among the laity.

I don’t know where Jason is at on any of that and I don’t care. I value his research; I’m thankful for it. So let’s be clear. What disturbed me wasn’t Jason’s comments about creationists. That’s yesterday’s news. I can think he’s wrong about that idea (again, I really don’t know what he thinks) without thinking he lacks integrity as a researcher. What disturbed me about the content of his post was the appalling, absurd ideas that some Christian researchers are apparently peddling as truth — even calling it biblical truth.

I can sum up my thoughts on the sort of research Jason highlights: it’s baptized pablum that lacks any prayer of being correct biblical teaching or coherent thinking. Jason’s post gives specific examples of the way Christian researchers have uncritically adopted the same insane, data-starved ideas as offered by Zecharia Sitchin and Giorgio Tsoukalos.2 All that’s missing is the fawning sycophantia and the hair. Why do they do it? I don’t know. Popularity? Gullibility? Money? Ego? Again, I don’t know. But I do know how to address it. It’s simple — the same strategies that show the non-Christian ancient astronaut twaddle to be vacuous will work on the Christian variety. This is evident since the same unsound thought processes are shared: intellectual laziness and abuse of data.

Here are my tried and true approaches:

1. Insist that any evidence put forth by an ancient astronaut researcher about what an ancient text says comes with specific primary source citation — in biblical parlance, “chapter and verse, please.” I do this consistently, and it usually kills the discussion before it even gets started. If I hear a claim without a reference or some other generality (“it’s in the Babylonian creation story”) my first response is “show me the text.”3 I won’t take their word for anything. Most of the time such citations are merely parroted from something they read in a secondary source (itself of abysmal quality if it’s an ancient astronaut title) or saw in a YouTube video, or heard on a radio show, or just picked up in conversation. Not good enough. Show me the tablet, line, chapter, verse, etc. If you’ve been too lazy or ignorant to look up the material yourself, you’ve forfeited the right to be heard. Parroting ideas isn’t research.

2. When it comes to textual material, translations and interpretations must derive from careful study of the original languages. That is, texts don’t just mean anything and ought not be raped and pillaged so they can be pressed into the service of nonsense. Languages have their own rules of grammar and usage. Their vocabulary is to be understood in the context of the people who produced the texts and their own time and culture — not our modern, foreign culture. You might think this is too high a standard. “Not many people can work in these languages, Mike.” Oh, well. Actually, there are more of those nerds out there than you’d think. If you’re going to pass yourself off as a researcher, teacher, or expert and can’t do this sort of work, you’re deceiving your audience with a false claim of authority. Don’t bellyache about not knowing the languages. Learn them. It isn’t rocket science. And it matters. (I didn’t waste fifteen years of graduate school to function at the same level as an English Bible reader or someone bound to English translation of other ancient texts). Besides, there are many good resources, in print and online, that can provide deep access to primary source material. But that would mean you need to tie yourself to (or get toasted by) the next item.

3. Assertions and conclusions offered must be based on sound research that has been subjected to peer review. Peer review is the practice utilized in scholarly publishing whereby a writer submits his or her ideas and research to a small panel of experts fields germane to the submission. The goal is not uniformity of ideas, but rather to check methodology and content relevant to the argument so that important data are not overlooked (or avoided) and earlier research is taken into consideration. In short, it’s a coverage and coherence filter. Without it, anyone could publish anything anywhere (especially the internet), making it impossible for non-specialists to know whether the material is sound or not. (Or, making it easier to dupe people). Passing the muster of peer review means that your work has stood up under scrutiny. The issue is not “right or wrong,” as peer reviewed publications publish varying viewpoints on any given issue. Passing peer review means that the essay or article deserves a hearing in the opinion of leaders in the field. I insist that the ideas put forth by researchers meet that standard. Every year thousands of articles and books are published under some kind of review. Researchers who avoid that material or refuse to address that material in their own work are either lazy or dishonest.

Frankly, there’s a name for people who refuse to submit their own research to the review of bona fide experts in the relevant disciplines: coward. For sure, peer review isn’t perfect. Flawed ideas get through from time to time. Scholarly journals don’t use angels for reviewers, either, so sometimes something gets denied because of politics. But the *fact* is that there are hundreds of peer-reviewed journals in the humanities and hard sciences to which work can be submitted. The sheer number is a corrective to the occasional mistake or abuse. Rejection is common, because a given journal can only print so many pages – so try another. If your work gets rejected over and over again, that’s a clear sign it’s deeply flawed. But if you never submit it, that’s a clear sign you’d rather pass yourself off as an expert to the unlearned you want to gather as your fan base and audience. On that level, there’s an ethics problem here.

These approaches — these safeguards — have served me well over the years. They are simple, reasonable standards that I strive to follow myself. Sloppy, self-serving research and personal speculations are no substitute. That a researcher has an idea or viewpoint doesn’t mean it is coherent. That there’s a mystery to be solved or a knotty problem in the historical, archaeological record doesn’t mean that we can now throw reason to the wind and declare the thought rattling around in our head to be truth. That the Bible is a book for all humankind doesn’t mean every interpretation of it is equally valid. You can claim the Holy Spirit led you to say XYZ, and I won’t care — because the Spirit is honest. He wouldn’t lead you into bunk (least of all ancient astronaut bunk) or to do careless work. He wouldn’t lead you to be lazy or ignorant. Appealing to the Spirit for your own lack of effort and courage in the above areas is reprehensible. Laying your own lethargy and ineptitude at the door of the Spirit hardly honors God.

For the Christian out there, willfully following flawed research that fails to meet these minimal qualifications common to serious academics is a spiritual issue. Yes, you read that correctly. In fact, it’s an issue of magnitude. It goes to using the intellectual faculties with which we’ve been blessed. It goes to honesty when you claim to be seeking the truth. It goes to having confidence in the God you claim to follow — that all truth will conform to his character and revelation because there can be no such thing as contradictory competing truths (at least in a coherent world). It goes to being an honorable testimony to those who don’t believe in the gospel so that Christ is not shamed by the way you do your work. It goes to fostering relationships of integrity with other researchers who don’t share your beliefs. None of us are perfect, but that isn’t the standard. Honesty and perfection aren’t synonyms. The former is a standard that can be reached and maintained even though the latter cannot. Exempting yourself from the former and making the latter your excuse for doing so is just wrong.

  1. I’d also argue that the actual truth propositions of the Bible are not incompatible with science.
  2. I hope that at least some of Jason’s ancient alien examples aren’t true, but he tries very hard to fact-check. That’s his track record. I will assume what he describes in his post is accurate until that is demonstrated not to be the case.
  3. This is why I made the video showing people where to find all occurrences of “anunnaki” in the cuneiform tablets — to show the ancient astronaut ideas about them are simply made up.

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Pterosaurs in the Bible

Yes, you read that correctly.

Jason Colavito just posted about this piece of wacky Bible interpretation. It’s a good post, made entertaining by the fact that the notion of pterosaurs in the Bible comes to us from Ken Ham’s creation ministry. It’s biblical paleobabble like this that discredits the serious scientists who believe in creation from contributing to the discussion. They don’t want to be put in the same category as Ken Ham. Who can blame them?

At any rate, if you read Jason’s piece, which links to Ben Stanhope’s blog where Ben posted about a trip to Ken Ham’s creation museum, you’ll discover that some of the wackiness relates to the “flying serpents” mentioned a couple times in the Old Testament. Scholars have known for some time, based on word study (especially the noun seraph) and comparison of the biblical material with Egyptian material, that there are likely two explanations for the language: (1) the “fiery seraph” likely speaks to the spitting cobra (“fiery” = the burning sensation that comes when you’re unlucky enough to get sprayed or bitten); and (2) when cobras are ready to strike the flanges of skin on either side of their head spreads out, giving the impression of “wings” – hence “flying seraph”. Egyptian has the same word (seraf) for this type of serpent, which was also conceived of as a cosmic throne guardian (recall the cobra motif in Egyptian iconography).

A good scholarly article on the above (if you have access to scholarly journals via a library membership to the ATLA or JSTOR databases) is:

Philippe Provençal, “Regarding the Noun SERAPH in the Hebrew Bible,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 29:3 (2005): 371-379.

Note that “SERAPH” in the article title is actually in Hebrew characters, so you probably won’t be able to use it as a keyword search term. I just used English characters here.

Sorry Ken. No pterosaurs in the Bible.

But let’s hope Project Pterosaur has better luck!

projectpterosaur

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The Spaceships of Ezekiel Fraud

I’ve blogged before (here and here) about how what the biblical prophet Ezekiel saw was not a UFO or flying saucer. From time to time I get email (or comments here) about how I’m wrong because of the “research” of Joseph Blumrich, a pseudo-scientist who blessed the world in 1974 with his pseudo-scholarship in The Spaceships of Ezekiel. For some reason I’ve recently gotten a good bit of such interaction, so I thought I’d add something to my previous posts on Ezekiel’s vision.

One of the reasons so many people have (and still do) think Blumrich’s book is worth referencing is that he claimed (and so his followers are fond of repeating) that he was a NASA engineer. He wasn’t. As Jason Colavito demonstrated a long time ago, documentation exists from the U. S. State Department that shows the State Department could find no evidence that Blumrich was affiliated with NASA. Frankly, it wouldn’t matter if Blumrich was an engineer. His ideas are based on desperate and uninformed misreadings of the biblical text anyway. We know what Ezekiel saw because his descriptions mirror ancient Babylonian iconography that we can look at today because of archaeologists. The imagery is no mystery, nor is its meaning.

So, once again, the uncritical thinkers in the ancient astronaut orbit (and I do mean orbit) were duped by a “researcher” that lied to them. You have to wonder how many times this has to happen before some of these folks wake up. The ancient astronaut theory is primarily supported by industrious but duplicitous researchers offering fraudulent research to an emotionally and psychologically primed audience. It’s actually pretty sad.

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PaleoBabble in My Local Newspaper

facade_ipad_140x185The Bellingham Herald, the local newspaper in my neck of the woods, ran an article on me today (you have to love the rocket behind me in the picture). The interview with Michelle Nolan was a lot of fun. It was fascinating — she’s a veritable walking encyclopedia on the history of comic books and science fiction. We tried to focus on several of the ideas in The Facade. I actually got several good trajectories for the sequel, The Portent, from the interview.

I hope readers will check it out!

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Pulpit PaleoBabble of 2009 Rises Again: Biblical Ignorance, President Obama, and the Antichrist

Another term, another round of biblical ignorance.

I was treated this morning to an email that asked my opinion of this link. Another pseudo-Bible “student” passing around the idea that the Bible names Barack Obama as the Antichrist. This monument to interpretive incoherence was the result of a viral YouTube video (and where else would we look for sound biblical scholarship than YouTube?) that first surfaced back in 2009. I blogged about it here on PaleoBabble. I’d invite new readers to have a look and then decide if they should laugh or cry.

Let me add one footnote to this tale of biblical illiteracy. Back in 2009 this “story” was birthed by World Net Daily (WND). Here is where that story lives. To their credit, WND published my rebuttal. However, that can only be found with Google or some other search engine. That is, WND buried it. Check out the original WND story link above — you won’t find my rebuttal linked on the story page (at least at the time of this post!), so WND readers would never know the whole idea is hermeneutical garbage. But there are plenty of other links surrounding the original article selling prophecy books of equal value. I’ve complained about the pseudo-archaeology pimps in the popular media on this blog plenty of times, but you all need to know that journalistic prostitution of the Bible for page views is alive and well, too.

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Pre-Order the Special Edition of the Facade and Get a Sneak Peek at the Sequel

Today marks the release for pre-order of the special edition of my paranormal-supernatural thriller, The Façade. The novel includes some ancient astronaut threads, and the sequel will pick up them as well. The special edition published by Kirkdale Press contains some great bonus content:

  • Behind The Façade: A look into how and why I wrote The Façade.
  • Resources for Further Study: An annotated bibliographic guide to the government documents, covert military programs, religious ideas, and UFO controversies that are part of the plot of The Façade.
  • The first five chapters of the highly-anticipated sequel!

The special edition is freshly edited and formatted for your ereader, mobile phone, tablet, and computer. Click here for a synopsis. Readers get 25% off when they pre-order it on Vyrso.

I’ll be revealing a hint about the sequel’s title tomorrow on the blog. Be the first to guess correctly and you’ll get a free copy of The Façade: Special Edition.

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Ancient Aliens Debunked: The Official Trailer

I’m guessing all PaleoBabble readers know about the Ancient Aliens series put out by the Fantasy Channel (still though of by many as the History Channel). I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be interviewed later this summer for the documentary film response, Ancient Aliens Debunked. If you visit the link you can sign up for email notification when the documentary is released. It will be FREE and viewable online. The trailer is below. The film is being produced by Chris White. Since the documentary will be free, all of the expense incurred by Chris is his own. This has been true of his online and YouTube ministry since its inception. Please visit his site to donate and help support this project!

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Archaeology and the Queen of Sheba

I’ve seen a couple news items in the last several days about the possible discovery of a gold mine that archaeologists suspect may be associated with the biblical story of the Queen of Sheba. Examples include this story and this post from the Bible Places blog.

This doesn’t look like paleobabble. That said, it looks like it will be some time before the true nature of the discovery is known. The presence of a Sabean inscription is certainly promising.  If the site turns out to produce more textual material it would be especially interesting. I’m not expecting anything that would shed any light on the Ethiopian legend of Menelik I (the presumed child of a presumed liason between Solomon and the queen). That would be beyond cool.

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The Serpent and Eve Nonsense: Where The Idea Comes From and Does Not Come From

In case readers have been following comments to my earlier posts on this biblical paleobabble issue, I decided to make things convenient.  Please note that they may not be any more decipherable, since the articles I link to below require at least a decent grasp of the Hebrew alphabet (and Syriac helps), transliteration of the same, and principles of morphology. I am posting them mainly so readers will at least have the sources and know I’m not making up my arguments.

Briefly, there are some commenters who believe that the Bible *really* teaches us that in the garden of Eden, Eve had sex with the serpent (aka, Satan or the Devil – never mind that Gen 3 does not use either of those terms) and fathered Cain. My contention is that the biblical text does not teach this nonsense. Rather, it is an idiosyncratic interpretation of the Eve narrative, projected into the text by misogynistic interpreters in the ancient Jewish community.

Here is a good scholarly article that traces the idea in early and late Jewish sources, mainly rabbinics and Syriac texts. The article also highlights the idea of a serpentine Eve (again, misogynistic interpreters wanted Eve to be the villain).

These ideas are ultimately based on two items (and then taken in different directions, depending on the interpreter: (1) the notion that Eve’s name can mean “serpent”; and (2) that the “deception” of Eve in Gen 3:13 has a sexual connotation. In regard to the first, the article linked to above refers to another article by Scott Layton. Here is that article.  It is a technical discussion of Semitic morphology that shows the Semitic “Eve” is not the same as “serpent” (and so should not be understood that way, despite the fact that certain rabbis thought that way; NOTE: Just because a rabbi thought X doesn’t mean X is true or even sensible). In regard to the second item, the graphic below. It is the search results for all forms of the lemma (root word) used in Gen 3:13. In no instance outside Gen 3:13 is there a sexual connotation to the deception — that therefore has to be invented and them superimposed on Gen 3:13.

But Mike, someone might say, what about 1 John 3:12 (“We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother”)? Being “of the evil one” here is the same metaphorical meaning as when Jesus told the Pharisees (note this comes from John’s gospel – same writer as 1 John) they were of “their father the devil” (John 8:44). So, was the serpent out screwing more women producing the Pharisees? (I can just sense the anti-Semitic “Jews are the spawn of Satan” answer for that one). Cain was “of the evil one” because he murdered his brother — he did evil. And let’s look at 1 John 3:12 in its context, shall we? If we take 1 John 3:12 as Cain being literally fathered by Satan, then *all of us* are also the spawn of Satan, since verse 8 of that same chapter says, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil.” Since the same book (1 John 1:10) says that no one is without sin, I guess we were all spawned by Satan (even the people making the silly literal argument, unless they are somehow divine and not human [note: no "bloodlines" are mentioned in 1 John; its anyone who sins]). It’s obviously metaphorical.

Even thought the sources above are dense and for specialists, the one thought to take away in any event is simple enough: Just because a rabbi from antiquity said XYZ about Eve doesn’t mean what he says is true or coherent or at all grounded in sound philology (a word scholars use for nuts-and-bolts analysis of the morphology, grammar, and syntax of ancient texts). Arguments for interpreting ancient texts should always be about what’s actually in the text, not wordplays you can strike, ideas you can promote through such wordplays (like the Edenic fall is the woman’s fault), etc.  While the apostle Paul says the woman was deceived (1 Tim 2:14), he places blame for humanity’s demise squarely on Adam (Romans 5; this is why Jesus is the “second Adam” – reversing the curse – not the “second Eve”). Frankly, it’s evil (not just paleobabble) to use the Bible to promote misogyny and anti-Semitic thinking.

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