Mike Heiser Lecturing on PaleoBabble and Ancient Alien Myths in Nashville

Just thought I’d let everyone know that I’ll be speaking in Nashville, TN this coming October at the second “Christian Symposium on Aliens” – otherwise known as Ancient of Days 2013. The event is scheduled for October 3-6. I’ve been assigned two lectures that will occur on Friday, Oct 4:

“The Divine Council, Giants, and a Return of the Nephilim?” (please note the question mark)

“Paleobabble! The Role of Pseudo-Science and Bad Theology in Today’s Popularized Alien Mythos”

I’ll also be participating in a lengthy symposium and Q & A sessions on Sunday, Oct 6. I’ll come up with abstracts a little later and post those. Here’s the schedule as it stands now.

I’m not promising anything, but I’ve alerted the organizer, Guy Malone, that at my present writing rate, the first full draft of The Portent, the sequel to my paranormal / theological thriller, The Facade, should be in the can by the end of summer. That means it’ll be in the editorial stage at the time of this event. That in turn would mean (again, this is all guesswork) that the sequel would be ready for Christmas. If things follow this scenario, I’m considering the idea of taking pre-orders at this event for signed copies of The Portent. (I haven’t talked to the publisher about that yet, but it’s on my radar). This is the only event I have scheduled for the fall, so if such a pre-order offering emerges, Ancient of Days 2013 is the only place it’s going to happen.

Stay tuned.

 

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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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A New Testament Textual Criticism Lesson for PaleoBabble Readers

I don’t usually post the same content to more than one blog, but it occurred to me that my newest post over at Naked Bible might be useful. It follows below with some slight alteration for this blog. My point for PaleoBabble readers is really my last paragraph. If you read Greek and have some interest in Bart Ehrman and the textual transmission of the New Testament, you may find this interesting.

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I’ve posted on Bart Ehrman and his work several times before on the Naked Bible blog (e.g., here and here). My contention with Bart is that he’s a fundamentalist — someone who is unwilling to process an issue in any other way than the black-and-white, either-or fallacy that he himself has framed. I’m sympathetic to him only in the sense that some acute personal suffering appears to be behind his fundamentalism. While I wish there was something I could do to help in that regard, I also have to be honest and say that it seems quite clear that Bart’s personal pain has skewered his scholarship. He’s human.

My greater irritation is the way the masses (aided and abetted by a pathologically ignorant media) swallow whatever Bart says as though its some grand, now self-evident discovery, or think that no one can be looking at the same data and still believe in the reality of the Christ of the gospels. Wrong on both counts. There are many scholars who do what Bart does (textual criticism, New Testament studies) who draw conclusions contrary to Ehrman’s and, more importantly, are capable of judging his method and scholarship.

In that spirit I wanted to draw your attention to something that popped up on the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog today. One of its regular contributors, textual critic Tommy Wasserman, has posted a version of his most recent Journal of Theological Studies article entitled, “The ‘Son of God’ was in the Beginning (Mark 1:1).” The article is about whether the phrase “son of God” is original or — a la Bart Ehrman — was added by “orthodox scribes” who wished to add their theology to Mark’s original gospel.1 Wasserman’s article is a textbook example of a careful, scholarly response to this idea in a specific passage through examination of the text-critical data, not his own brand of fundamentalism. In the course of the article he responds to arguments put forth by various scholars that the shorter reading (the one without “Son of God”) is the authentic reading. One of those is Ehrman’s own article, “The Text of Mark in the Hands of the Orthodox,” LQ 5 (1991): 149–52.2 Unfortunately, since this is a scholarly text-critical argument, it’s really only acessible to those who read Greek (first year level or beyond). It helps to have had some exposure to manuscript symbols as well, but that isn’t essential.

Wasserman’s conclusion reads as follows:

The external evidence clearly favours the inclusion of uios theos ["son of God"] in Mark 1:1. The long reading has the earliest and strongest support by manuscripts, as well as versional and patristic witnesses and the text-types to which the witnesses have traditionally been assigned. The short reading has early and widespread, but much weaker, support. The internal evidence, to which the defenders of the short reading have normally appealed, is actually ambiguous. The traditional intrinsic argument from Markan style in favour of the long reading is possibly balanced by the corresponding possibility of a stylistic scribal addition.

In regard to transcriptional probability, an early accidental omission, even in the opening of a book, cannot be ruled out, since this apparently happened on several occasions in the history of transmission in Mark 1:1 and elsewhere. This argument, however, is balanced by the general tendency to expand book titles as well as divine names and titles. In conclusion, the balance of probabilities favours the long reading in Mark 1:1—the ‘Son of God’ was indeed in the beginning.

Again, so the point is not missed, the issue is that there is more than one way to look at New Testament manuscript data. Ehrman isn’t discovering something new and unknown to scholars. He isn’t putting forth unassailable arguments that make the faithful run for the hills. He’s arguing his position based on how he sifts the data — i.e., his views are simply interpretations, nothing more — and other professionals in his own field might conclude other interpretations are more reasonable. And, of course, even if Ehrman was right about imported scribal thoughts in Mark 1:1, that is no logical argument that he is right in other New Testament passages. There’s really no coherent way to defend the idea that all the original New Testament writers in all places in the New Testament would not have espoused at least a binitarian (“godhead of two”) monotheism of the type reflected in New Testament Christology. There is too much evidence for such thinking in *Jewish* writers centuries prior to the New Testament.

  1. This is the thrust of Ehrman’s scholarly work, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, the argument of which was put out to the lay public in his popular title, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why.
  2. A distillation of Ehrman’s arguments on Mark 1:1 is found in The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pp. 72–75.

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New Meta-Site for the Lead Codices Hoax

Thanks to Mark Goodacre for alerting the blogging community to the new site by Steve Caruso that aggregates all the data and evidence pertaining to the lead codices fakery. Very handy and very well done.

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Continued Media Fail on the Fake Metal Codices

My title is that of Mark Goodacre’s post. The most telling line in the short note is that Jim Davila, an OT and Second Temple Judaism scholar who is following the codices fiasco closely, notes that “there is no attempt to try to find experts to comment on the piece.”

The archaeo-pornistas masquerading as journalists are either too stupid to find experts (how hard is that with Google?) or just want to peddle twaddle. Take your pick.

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Lead Codices to Be Tested

Todd Bolen reports today that the lead codices already widely considered to be fraudulent will be undergoing testing by antiquities authorities. For those of you just getting up to speed on this, here’s a link to an overview of the reasons they are considered fakes.

I can only hope that the results of scientific materials testing isn’t allowed to trump the other data. What I mean here will be familiar to anyone who has ever read (or remembers the TV mini-series back in the 70s I think) a book by Irving Wallace called “The Word.” In that thriller, a fake Aramaic gospel was produced on authentic manuscript material via authentic ink dating to the first century. How it was pulled off in the story was ingenious, but relatively simple. So if the lead materials date to the first century, that settles nothing. The other data are still telling.

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Lead Codices Update

Here’s a post from the Bible Places blog that offers a couple links summarizing the lead codices fraud.  Here’s a paragraph:

Let’s take stock. The Greek is lifted nonsensically from an inscription published in 1958. The forger couldn’t tell the difference between the Greek letters alpha and lambda. The Hebrew script is taken from the same inscription. The Hebrew text is in “code,” i.e., is gibberish. The “Jesus” face is taken from a well-known mosaic. The charioteer is taken from a fake coin. The crocodile has a suspicious resemblance to a plastic toy.

It also has some links to material that gives the media a spanking for perpetuating its own blather without apology. Another paragraph:

The only other noteworthy news is the lack of it. Trust me, the mainstream media have been informed about the true status of the fake codices. The lack of coverage is not due to ignorance, it’s due to unprofessional indifference. Think about that. When the media report a sensationalist story and it proves to be bogus, they feel no responsibility to inform their readers of the truth. I suppose they might if they think they can get another sensation out of the correct story, but if not, they can’t be bothered. Journalists used to feel a professional obligation to their audience. No more.

Davila is actually too kind there.

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Lead Codices: It’s Looking Like a Hoax

Dr. Jim Davila over at PaleoJudaica as this post this morning on the codices. The post features a short, to-the-point, evidence-based analysis by professor Peter Thonemann, of some of the pages of the codices, noting inconsistencies in the story and, more importantly, how the textual contents were copied from a known source in a Jordanian museum!

There are some nice high-resolution photos at the link as well.

How was the professor able to establish fakery so quickly? Simple. Once texts like this are released (that is the key — letting experts see them), it is a simple matter to do what professor Thonemann did:  transcribe them and then look up the words in concordances (digital or otherwise). In this case, there were a number of known words (specific forms) and they all happened to occur in the same text(s) — in order (!) once those source texts are checked. This required experimenting a bit with the alpha and lambda letters since they are similar in form (and that was bungled by the forger). Once at this point, you know you have LINES from known texts. The next step is to find where those texts were published through a simple database source. Publications usually note the provenance of a text (where it was found) and where it is now held, in the case of a manuscript or archaeological artifact. Voila!

For any ancient astronaut theorists or cult archaeologists out there — this is *precisely* why the people you blindly follow do *not* submit their work to peer review.  It is too easy to be exposed by real experts.It is also precisely why I continually ask people who promote such nonsense, “show me the texts — the specific lines cited.” That demand is never met, which hardly surprises me. When selling snake oil, you don’t hand the recipe to a chemist.

Now, a prediction. None of this will make any difference to “researchers” who want to press some point of nonsense to peddle the paleobabble that makes them money and gives them a following.

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Todd Bolen on Problems with the Early Christian Lead Books Discovery

Todd Bolen has a sweet post over at his Bible Places blog.  I highly recommend it. Here’s one paragraph:

In a nutshell, the problems with this discovery include the facts that (1) we don’t know who owns the artifacts; (2) we don’t know where they were found; (3) the artifacts were not excavated by archaeologists but stolen by thieves; (4) nearly all information about the discovery so far has come from a single source of dubious reliability; (5) claims have been made that this find is more significant than the Dead Sea Scrolls; (6) the source of information appears to be positioning himself for fame and fortune.

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Lead Tablet Discovery: Let the Archaeology Presstitution Begin

Well, you know it’s going to happen. This sort of discovery, if valid, will introduce a new wave of archaeo-porn for archaeo-media presstitutes everywhere — and of course their mystic “researchers” across cyberspace who are just waiting for the next piece of antiquity news to twist into yet more revisionist mytho-history about Jesus and the early Christians. What fun!

Here’s a very nice posting (“Lead Codices Silliness“) that sketches the already-encroaching silliness factor. Now Robert Feather has weighed in — the guy who believes the Copper Scroll from Qumran is related to Akhenaten and his Aten-worship. Feather thinks the lead codices have Kabbalah written all over them. No kidding. All that from some pictures on the web. Now that’s scholarship. Is his last name an abbreviation of “feather-brain”? No doubt it will get even wackier (and yes, it can).

I wonder when the likes of Michael Baigent, Christopher Knight, Robert Lomas, and Lynn Picknett will get involved. Then we’ll have a non-sequitur Battle Royal on our hands.

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