Scholars Add to Word of God. I’m Staying Indoors for the Next Few Days.

9780547792101_p0_v2_s260x420So the usual suspects of the Jesus Seminar are trying to hawk their wares again. But unlike an old-fashioned bazaar, where you can happen upon some unexpected treasure at a once-in-a-lifetime price, God’s Editors are trafficking strictly in dreck and will leave buyers not only with remorse but also with an abiding sense that they’ve been conned.

[A] group of scholars and religious leaders has added 10 new texts to the Christian canon.

The work, “A New New Testament,” was released nationwide in March in an attempt to add a different historical and spiritual context to the Christian scripture.

Some of the 10 additional texts — which have come to light over the past century — date back to the earliest days of Christianity and include some works that were rejected by the early church.

The 19-member council that compiled the texts consisted of biblical scholars, leaders in several Christian denominations — Episcopal, Roman Catholic, United Methodist, United Church of Christ and Lutheran — two rabbis and an expert in Eastern religions and yoga.

Yes — yoga. Because the Apostles were notoriously limited culturally when it came to Downward-Facing Dog.

The texts are the usual Gnostic fragments that bear about as much resemblance to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as Scientology does to science.

New Testament scholars are divided on their understanding of early Christian texts in relation to what actually made it into the New Testament. Many disagree on the dates of different texts, the validity of such sources and the relevancy of noncanonical texts to biblical materials.

While [biblical scholar Hal] Taussig said he doesn’t believe the New Testament is incomplete, he thinks that the new material “elucidates it and expands it.”

In fact, it is now so expansive, it can even salve the wounded sensibilities of 21st-century academics.

In the book’s preface, Taussig wrote that parts of the New Testament are “offensive and outmoded,” citing verses that tell slaves to obey their owners (1 Peter 2:18) or wives to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22), or passages that refer negatively to Jews (John 8:44).

Jones said that although several of Taussig’s chosen texts bear the names of apostles, “none of them was widely thought to be an authentic text from any first century apostle.”

  • EXCERPT: “He said to me, ‘John, John, why do you doubt, or why are you afraid? You are not unfamiliar with this image, are you? — that is, do not be timid! — I am the one who is with you always. I am the Father, I am the Mother, I am the Son. I am the undefiled and incorruptible one. Now I have come to teach you what is and what was and what will come to pass. …’” — The Secret Revelation of John (c. 110-175 A.D.)

JesusVictory

If you must read the New Age crazies, please read this first.

Now we know why the author kept his revelation a secret. Because Jesus said, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret.”

Maybe all the secrets were kept for his post-Resurrection appearances, which of course these scholars don’t believe in. But a nonexistent event revolving around a person who was mercilessly misrepresented by his closest students and companions can always be best interpreted by writers living hundreds of years after the nonfact.

It’s a shame Jesus left such a poor impression on people that no one could be bothered to get his original message straight.

Or maybe some people just need to have their own innate goodness reflected back to them constantly, even from antiquity. Some call that “spirituality”; others, narcissism.

And never underestimate the power of the Almighty Dollar. These texts are certainly of historical significance; we need to understand what people like Irenaeus were arguing against. But the Gnostic “gospels” are already available in various annotated editions. So one more is hardly news.

The trick is to get a headline-grabbing story out of all this and actually sell some books.

“We’ll tag them onto the end of the New Testament! Then we’ll have the audacity to title it ‘The New New Testament’! Look at us! Look at us! Aren’t we naughty?!”

How long before TEC starts stocking in their pews?

And to think a Lutheran participated in this nonsense. If Luther were alive today he would sit on J. Paul Rajashekar until the demon that was behind all this mischief was expelled. Or at least until his breakfast was expelled. Whichever came first.

Cowl tip to @adrianedorr

It’s Easter, So Let’s Call Christians Deluded

St. Sebastian, a Romney supporter

St. Sebastian, a Romney supporter

Given that it’s the most celebrated day in the Christian calendar, I knew a story intended to make Christians feel bad had to be lurking on the Web somewhere, and that my best bet of finding it would be on CNN.com.

It didn’t disappoint.

You see this scholar has finally destroyed the myth of Christian persecution in the first three centuries after Christ. It seems that Christians have been repeating ad nauseum for their own self-aggrandizing purposes that those first 300 years were nothing but a horror story of faithful followers of Christ being hounded by ruthless pagans, with relentless round-ups, limb-ripping, and ultimately execution for the faith.

Except . .  nobody was saying that. In fact, I have never read a history of Christianity, written by a Christian author, that did not emphasize that the early persecutions were periodic, some more intense than others.

But somebody’s gotta sell books. And in the age of the New Atheism and their band, the “Nones,” one way is to say that yet one more element of the Christian narrative is a fiction.

Why debunk this so-called myth now?

The debate over exactly how many Christians were persecuted and martyred may seem irrelevant centuries later. A scholarly consensus has indeed emerged that Roman persecution of Christians was sporadic, and that at least some Christian martyrdom stories are theological tall tales.

But a new book by Candida Moss, a New Testament professor at the University of Notre Dame, is bringing that message to the masses.

Moss says ancient stories of church persecution have created a contemporary cult of bogus Christian martyrs. She says too many American Christians are acting like they’re members of a persecuted minority, being thrown to the lions by people who simply disagree with them.

She cited former Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Romney claimed last year that President Barack Obama was waging a “war against religion,” and Santorum said the gay community “had gone out on a jihad” against him. Other Christians invoke images of persecution when someone disagrees with them on controversial issues such as abortion or birth control, says Moss, whose “The Myth of Persecution” was recently released.

The problem with invoking persecution is it implies your opponents are evil  and no common ground can be found with evil,  Moss says.

“When someone is persecuting you” she says, “there is no room for dialogue.”

Sorry? This would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that some people are everything they say they hate.

Let me see if I get this straight: You want more dialogue and Christians’ claiming persecution is an obstacle to such dialogue. So you’re going to call out your opponents as, well, either lying or deluded as a means of . . . opening up dialogue.

And we all know, it’s only Christians who claim to be persecuted. And given their overwhelming numbers in the media and pop culture, they do have the power to silence opposition to their point of view.

I think you can see this for what it is: one more way for the secular left to shut Christians up. (Nota bene: I have no idea whether Candida Moss is a Christian or not. And frankly, what does it matter. The effect is the same. John Shelby Spong considers himself a Christian. I consider myself an astronaut, but NASA still refuses to reimburse me for my dry cleaning bills.)

To be fair, the article does go on to cite the actual martyrdom of Perpetua and also how Christians won converts mainly by the quality of their lives, not their deaths. And no one who has read deeply the literature of the earliest centuries would miss how some writers of martyrologies neurotically indulged in the grotesque when either describing the torments of the martyrs or the glories of martyrdom. There’s undoubtedly superstitious baloney mixed into the earliest chapters of the Christian story.

Again — who didn’t know this? But to say that Christians must stop invoking persecution altogether because — what? — of the fair-minded and evenhanded way they are treated in debates of cultural and political importance in this country? is, again and again, just another way to tell Christians to shut up.

When you seek to silence or to marginalize, repeatedly, a group of people for their beliefs — by, for example, calling them deluded or ignorant — beliefs, by the way, that were an integral part of the founding and development of this nation and that remain of extreme importance in the lives of a significant portion of the American populace, what shall we call this? Sure, it’s not on the level of being fed to the lions. But neither is it dialogue.

The Porn Star and the Preacher(s)

The writing’s on the wall.

I knew that’d get your attention … I’m so on to you.

So Ron Jeremy, who appeared in the films Zombiegeddon and Poultrygeist, among others, sat down to talk with XXXChurch.com founder Craig Gross. It was . . . enlightening.

“People in porn believe in God. It’s not a one or the other thing,” he said.

“I think a majority of adult performers in that industry (porn) do believe in God. We aren’t sure about the name of God but we know that He’s up there.”

The 59-year-old actor cemented his belief in God after he and a former Pentecostal minister came away from a major car accident alive some decades ago.

While he has many friends who are pastors, including Miles McPherson, Jeremy continues to disagree with them when it comes to who goes to heaven and recreational sex.

“Would [Jesus] be so unfair and say you’re not coming in (to heaven) because your parents didn’t raise you right?” he asked, as he described how many people are raised by their parents under varying religions.

Differing with Christians on sex, Jeremy said he believes people can engage in both recreational sex and “making love.” And when comparing his sex life (with more than 2,000 women) with that of Gross’ (with one woman, his wife), he admitted that the pastor was likely having better sex “because you make love more; ours is more recreational.”

Now I know what you’re thinking: Who the heck is Miles McPherson? He heads up Rock Church Ministries in San Diego and is a former defensive back for the Chargers, which I’m sure comes in handy on Stewardship Sundays.

I believe Jeremy is something of a right-winger in his politics. You know what they say about strange bedfellows: they usually end up charging extra for sleepovers but I may be mistaken about that.

I think the thing to keep in mind is that everything is a teachable moment, if not necessarily a touchable one. And remember Mary Magdalene. I’m not sure why. It just never hurts.

Could Siri Kill Google?

At least it would know where to dump the body.

It’s all about the ads, you see. And the fact that advertisers don’t like mobile devices because their adverts don’t display well enough to catch, never mind hold, your attention.

The primary reason Google may lose its search dominance is because the company is facing the same mobile problem as Facebook, [Eric] Jackson said.

“If Facebook saw a deceleration in their sales and their growth lead to a halving of their stock price…why wouldn’t it also be something that is very negative for Google as it continues to play out?” he said.

Google reported in its quarterly earnings, which were released Wednesday, that its cost per click (CPC) was down 15 percent in the third quarter.

While the company reported that ad sales had increased, it is likely that CPCs will continue to decrease, Jackson said.

The reason? Consumers are searching more and more on mobile devices, yet advertisers aren’t as willing to buy advertisements formatted for mobile devices, because these ads are not as prominently displayed.

Also, mobile ads tend to run more cheaply than ads made for desktop computers

Better than hunting and pecking is clicking and talking.

“I don’t think typing in a blue box is the ideal format for a mobile world. And I think the best opportunity out there to displace Google in this area is probably Apple’s Siri.”

Just when you think you’re on top of the world, poof. Your 15 minutes of fame are up.

Just ask Sandra Fluke.

Obama Insists 4 Dead Americans Not Optimal. America Waits to Hear What Optimal Number Is.

A “big” Operation. Get it?

He’s a silver-tongued devil, our president. And by devil I don’t mean the guy in the red suit and the pitchfork, because that would be just wrong. I mean clever, as in having fooled us into thinking he’s smarter than he is.

Ben Shapiro over at Breitbart has this:

To reiterate: deaths of Americans are “not optimal,” and “bumps in the road.” A YouTube video is “bigotry,” “blasphemy,” “crude and disgusting,” an “insult,” and inhuman.

The left is already saying that the “not optimal” quote has been taken out of context; they were saying that Stewart used the word “optimal” first. The problem: it’s far worse in context. Stewart said that the White House response was “not the optimal response.” Obama responded not by tackling the White House response, but by calling the murders“not optimal.”

Here’s the transcript from the White House pool report:

Jon Stewart: “Is part of the investigation helping the communication between these divisions? Not just what happened in Benghazi, but what happened within. Because I would say, even you would admit, it was not the optimal response, at least to the American people, as far as all of us being on the same page.” 

POTUS: “Here’s what I’ll say. If four Americans get killed, it’s not optimal. We’re going to fix it. All of it. And what happens, during the course of a presidency, is that the government is a big operation and any given time something screws up. And you make sure that you find out what’s broken and you fix it.

Here’s what stood out for me: “[T]he government is a big operation and any given time something screws up.”

Now a truer thing has never been spoken.

I hear the president is going to be sitting for an interview with Us Weekly soon. I hope he gets at least one question about Miley Cyrus’s guest appearance on Two and Half Men, because I do wonder if it was optimal, and whether her career can be fixed.

Einstein: Religion Nothing More than ‘Childish Superstitions’

When most people think of Einstein’s conception of, or belief in, God, they often reference his “God does not play dice with the universe” comment. Based on this letter, soon to be auctioned on eBay, it is safe to say that Einstein’s notion of God bore no relation to traditional monotheism’s: “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends,” he wrote in 1954.

Some people have tried to corral the great scientist into the broad category of “believing” scientists, despite the fact that there was exactly zero evidence that he used the noun as anything more than a metaphor. This letter should bring any lingering doubts, or hopes, to an end.

For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups … I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.

I can’t say I’m surprised. You simply are not going to find many traditional Christian or Jewish believers among the 20th century’s great scientists, great defined as having made a signal, significant, and enduring contributions in their field. There were exceptions: Lord Kelvin, George Salmon, Lamaître (who gave us the Big Bang, so to speak), Pollard (who believed God acted through “quantum indeterminancy”). Heisenberg and Planck were both raised Lutheran but died deists, apparently. There was also Dobzhansky, who thought “creation science” was bunk and signed the “Eugenics Manifesto,” so his picture’s probably not hanging in a lot of Orthodox homes. And there’s Francis Collins, the geneticist whose work on the Human Genome Project won him a National Science Award and many other honors. But to many, if not most, fundamentalist and confessional Christians, he’s an unperson.

This is not to say that Christians are not well-represented in the canon of great scientific minds—but most made their contributions pre-20th century. (Check out this list of Catholic clergy-scientists. You will have to scroll to China to reach the bottom.)

Back to Einstein: the opening bid is $3 million, so get out your credit card.

Mark Me Down as ‘Pro-Really': Jerry Seinfeld vs. the NY Times

Pro “Really” but anti “Puffy.

There’s been a handful of these “overused terms” pieces of late. Slate had one about Internet “blowhards” who misuse the trope “correlation does not imply causation” (something I would never write, because it so clearly does). Cracked compiled a list of monosyllabic obnoxiousness: terms like “Heh,” “Meh,” and “Um.”

Now the Times is going off on the use of “Really?” as a kind of punchline. Well, Jerry Seinfeld did not take kindly to this, and so responded with a letter to the editor.

Really, Neil? Really? You’re upset about too many people saying, “Really?”? I mean, really.

O.K., fine, when it’s used in scripted media, it is a little lazy. But comedy writers are lazy. You’re not fixing that.

So, here’s the bottom line.

If you’re a writer, fine, don’t use it. But in conversation it is fun to say.

I did a “Saturday Night Live Weekend Update” segment titled “Really!?!” with Seth Meyers a few years ago. It was a blast and the audience loved it.

Your example with the girl in the office and the bad clothes? It is definitely much more fun to look at her and just say, “Really?” than to actually talk about the stupid outfit. Really, it is.

What I do not say or write, as you did in the part about responses to Einstein’s theories, is “wrap my head around it.”

Are you kidding? No, no, no, Neil. No sir.

When I hear people say, “If you can wrap your head around it,” I want to wrap their heads around something, like a pole.

There’s no “wrapping.” There’s no heads going around.

What else needs to be said. Really.