Wednesday, February 21, 2018

10 Ways the Creation Museum Misinterprets the Bible

I've got a new video up:


1] Ken Ham, “What Really Happened to the Dinosaurs,” in The New Answers Book 1: Over 25 Questions on Creation/Evolution and the Bible, ed. Ken Ham (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2006), 159.

2] See Philippe Provençal, “Regarding the Noun שרף in the Hebrew Bible,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 29.3 (2005), 372.

3] David Bernat, “Biblical Wafs Beyond Song of Songs” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 28 (2008), 335.

4] John Day, Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), 103; Nili Wazana, “Anzu and Ziz: Great Mythical Birds in the Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and Rabbinic Traditions,” Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society 31.1 (2009), 112.

5] B. F. Batto, “Behemoth” in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (DDD) ed. K. van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter Willem van der Horst (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 165.

6] Robert D. Holmstedt, “The Relative Clause in Biblical Hebrew: A Linguistic Analysis,” (PhD diss, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2002), 124. These conclusions were later reported in Robert D. Holmstedt, “The Restrictive Syntax of Genesis i 1,” Vetus Testamentum 58 (2008), 56-67.

7] John Hobbins, Trans., “Genesis 1:1-3: How it all Began,” Ancient Hebrew Poetry, Apr, 2008. Accessed May 8, 2017,

8] W. G. Lambert, A. R. Millard, and Miguel Civil, eds., Atra-Hasis: The Babylonian Story of the Flood (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1999), 43.

9] For example, see Hermann Gunkel, Genesis, trans. Mark E. Biddle. Mercer Library of Biblical Studies (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1997), 1. Claus Westermann writes, “’When this and this was not yet…then…’, and its formula is found in Gen 2:4bff., it forms the introduction of the Enuma elish epic, and occurs often in Sumerian and Egyptian.” Genesis 1-11: A Commentary, trans. John J. Scullion S.J. (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing, 1984), 93. In a more recent doctoral thesis, Vail writes of the relative clause: “Genesis 1:1-2 shows parallels to Enuma elish. The two texts have similar introductory statements…Second, both texts contain uncreated waters.” Eric M. Vail, “Using ‘Chaos’ in Articulating the Relationship of God and Creation in God’s Creative Activity” (PhD diss., Marquette University, 2009), 104. Jack M. Sasson at Vanderbilt Divinity School also cites the similarity of Genesis 1’s syntax with Mesopotamian texts as part of the reason he believed the superiority of the dependent clause translation was “beyond dispute.” Sasson, “Time…to Begin,” 187-88. In regards to the Genesis parallels. Arnold affirms, “The syntax of 2:4b-7 is not unlike that of 1:1-3.” Bill T. Arnold, Genesis, New Cambridge Bible Commentary, ed. Ben Witherington III (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 56.

10] The primary study here is Wayne Horowitz, Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography, Mesopotamian Civilizations 8 (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1998).

11] According to Batto, “The temple is not just the earthly building in Sippar but also Shamash’s rests on ‘the heavenly ocean,’ symbolized by the wavy lines underneath (‘Apsu’).” Bernard F. Batto, In the Beginning: Essays on Creation Motifs in the Ancient Near East and the Bible, Siphrut 9 (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2013), 9. Slanski translates the epigraph as Sin, Shamas and Ishtar, “sit upon the face of the apsu.” Kathryn E. Slanski, “Classification, Historiography and Monumental Authority: the Babylonian Entitlement ‘narus (kudurrus)’” Journal of Cuneiform Studies 52 (2000), 110. I have elected to render her transliteration “apsu” as “heavenly ocean” in accordance with the translation given by the British Museum holding the artifact. Registration number 91000, British Museum, 2017. Accessed Jun 5, 2017.

12] The translation “skies” here is supported by the use of the metallurgical and common cosmological verb tar-qia from which the noun raqia derives. See Nissim Amzallag, “Copper Metallurgy: A Hidden Fundament of the Theology of Ancient Israel?” Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 27.2 (2013), 162, and John R. Roberts, “Biblical Cosmology: The Implications for Bible Translation” Journal of Translation 9.2 (2013), 41.

13] This interpretation is virtually universal. E.g.: Jeff Morrow, “Creation as Temple-Building and Work as Liturgy in Genesis 1-3” Journal of the Orthodox Center for the Advancement of Biblical Studies 2.1 (2009); L. Michael Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured: Cosmic Mountain Ideology in Genesis and Exodus (Leuven: Peeters, 2012), 84; Bruce K. Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 85; Moshe Weinfeld, “Sabbath, Temple and the Enthronement of the Lord - The Problem of the Sitz im Leben of Genesis 1:1-2:3,” in Mélanges bibliques et orientaux en l’honneur de M. Henri Cazelles, ed. Andre Caquot and Mathias Declor (Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker, 1981), 502. Smith likewise affirms this interpretation and refers to seven additional scholars, like Fishbane and Levenson, who have developed upon it. The Priestly Vision, 179. See also John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 78-85.

14] Variations of this chart can be found advocated among commentators like Bruce Waltke, Genesis, 57; Smith, The Priestly Vision, 89; Bernard W. Anderson, “A Stylistic Study of the Priestly Creation Story,” in Canon and Authority: Essays in Old Testament Religion and Theology, ed. George W. Coats and Burke Long (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977), 157; Clare Amos, The Book of Genesis, Epworth Commentaries (Peterborough: Epworth Press, 2004), 9; William P. Brown, The Seven Pillars of Creation: The Bible, Science, and the Ecology of Wonder (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 38; David Toshio Tsumura, Creation and Destruction: A Reappraisal of the Chaoskampf Theory in the Old Testament (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns), 34, or Gordon J. Wenham, Word Biblical Commentary, 7.

15] Jeff Morrow, “Creation as Temple Building,” 1-13.

16] Kenton Sparks lays out this math in Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Three Views on the Bible’s Earliest Chapters, ed. Charles Halton and Stanley N. Gundry (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 120.

17] L. R. Bailey, “Biblical Math as Heilsgeschichte?,” in A Gift of God in Due Season: Essays on Scripture and Community in Honor of James A. Sanders, ed. R. D. Weis and D. M. Carr, JSOTSup 225 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1996).

18] Joshua John Van Ee, “Death and the Garden: An Examination of Original Immortality, Vegetarianism, and Animal Peace in the Hebrew Bible and Mesopotamia” (PhD diss., University of California, 2013).     
19] Daniel J. Stulac, “Hierarchy and Violence in Genesis 1:26-28: An Agrarian Solution,” Submission for Ecological Hermeneutics Open Section at SBL Annual Meeting 2013, 4, 6,

20] Robert Alter, The Five Books, 19.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Why the villain of Eden was a snake

I've got a new video on the youtube channel:

[1] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (Bellingham: Lexham Press, 2015), 87. See also, Michael S. Heiser, The Nachash (הנחש) and His Seed: Some Explanatory Notes on Why the “Serpent” in Genesis 3 Wasn’t a Serpent,” 1-7. Available at:

[2] See T. N. D. Mettinger entry “Seraph” in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (DDD) ed. K. van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter Willem van der Horst (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 743.

[3] Othmar Keel, Jahwe-Visionen und Siegelkunst: Eine neue Deutung der Majestatsschilderungen in Jes, Ez 1 und 10 und Sach 4 (Stuttgart: Verlag Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1984), 102; 104; 109. See also William A. Ward, "The Four-Winged Serpent on Hebrew Seals," Rivista Degli Studi Orientali 43.2 (1968), 135-43.

[4] Benjamin Sommer, “Seraphs,” Bible Odyssey presented by The Society of Biblical Literature, Accessed May 8, 2017,

[5] Ibid.

[6] As Mettinger, “Seraph” in DDD, 743. See also Lowell Handy, Among the Host of Heaven: The Syro-Palestinian Pantheon as Bureaucracy (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1994), 155.

[7] Though contested, Joines notes that in the Adapa legend Ningishzida, the serpent-god, offers Adapa the food of immortality. The common Semitic root for serpent (hawwa) has also been linked with the same root for ‘life,’ and Eusebius reports that the Phoenicians and Egyptians associated the serpent with indefinite renewal (see K. R. Joines, “The Serpent in Gen 3,” in Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 87 [1975], 2). Lurker agrees that, “the snake, because it sloughs its skin, became a symbol of survival after death, as in Chapter 87 of the Book of the Dead” (Manfred Lurker, The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Egypt [Britain: Thames and Hudson,1980], 108). Even in modern times, we still use the caduceus, two serpents intertwined on a pole, as a symbol for healing (i.e. rejuvenation). The caduceus can be found in Semitic antecedents on Mesopotamian amulets and seals and was later inherited by the Greeks—a sympathetic magic tradition that Moses’ bronze seraph serpent seems to be participating in in Num 21 (see Leslie S. Wilson’s discussion of the origin and history of the caduceus in The Serpent Symbol in the Ancient Near East: Nahash and Asherah: Death Life and Healing [Lanham: University Press of America, 2001], 183-194).

[8] A. R. George, The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts Vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 723.

[9] Matthew Black and James C. VanderKam, trans., The Book of Enoch or I Enoch: A New English Edition with Commentary and Textual Notes (Leiden: Brill, 1985), 37. Note: The translators of this passage insert a parenthetical suggestion in the text that the serpents are seraphim. I have omitted this to avoid redundancy.

[10] See Testament of Amram, manuscript B, frag 1, line 14 in Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise, trans., Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered: The First Complete Translation and Interpretation of 50 Key Documents Withheld for over 35 Years, (USA: Penguin Books, 1992).

[11] As Ronning agrees, “In both passages [Gen 3 and Isa 6], the serpents speak, and by their speech show knowledge of both human and divine affairs, as would be expected from those who are privy to the divine council.” John L. Ronning, “The Curse of the Serpent (Genesis 3:15) in Biblical theology and Hermeneutics,” (PhD diss. Westminster Seminary, 1997), 134.

[12] See the wealth of images collected in Keel’s appendix: Keel, Jahwe-Visionen, 102; 104; 109.

[13] This notion that seraphim were circumscribed by the term cherub is further supported by the fact that both the cherubim in Ezekiel and the seraphim in Isaiah possess a multiplicity of wings. Whereas Egyptian art attributes only two wings to serpent guardians, Judean art seems to have appropriated the copious number of wings common to cherubs and attributed them to seraphim. For iconographic examples, see Ward, “The Four-Winged Serpent.”

However, the degree of overlap between the cherubim and seraphim is contested, though I have been unable to find any detractors who sufficiently interact with the types of objections Heiser makes in order to fairly compare and contrast the arguments in this presentation. Heiser presents a brief summation of his reasons for dissenting starting at 36 mins into this lecture: For an example of a scholar who argues against overlap between cherubim and seraphim, see Anna Rozonoer, “The Invariable Variability of the Cherubim” (PhD diss. Boston University, School of Theology, 2014). Available at:

[14] H. J. van Dijk, Ezekiel’s Prophecy on Tyre (Ez. 26,1-28,19): A New Approach, Biblica et orientalia 20 (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1968), 113-115.

[15] Heiser, The Unseen Realm, 78.

[16] Ibid. See Heiser’s extended discussion in chapter ten of the Unseen Realm.

[17] Ronning, “The Curse of the Serpent,” 132.

[18] Ibid., 135.

[19] Bernard F. Batto, In the Beginning: Essays on creation Motifs in the Ancient Near East and the Bible, Siphrut 9 (Eisenbrauns: Winona Lake, 2013), 47.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Old Testament Cosmology

I've been working on a project on ancient Near Eastern cosmic geography (which I can't say much about right now) and thought I'd share a diagram I've been working on. Of course, all of the features in ancient Israelite cosmology also have their counterparts in the texts and drawings of surrounding civilizations so the cited passages are just a small representation of our source material for reconstructing the ancient conception.

The geek stuff:
This illustration draws on the attempts of previous scholars, including Nahum Sarna, Understanding Genesis: the Heritage of Biblical Israel (New York: Schocken Books, 1966), 5. Incorporating the iconography of Leviathan and the seraphim is an idea I owe to Othmar Keel’s illustration in Altorientalische Miniaturkunst (Mainz am Rhein: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1990), 15. Foremost of all, I have benefited from a graphic entitled “Ancient Hebrew Conception of the Universe” produced by Karbel Multimedia for Logos Bible Software (2012), which has been recently published in the excellent NIV Faithlife Study Bible: Intriguing Insights to Inform your Faith, ed. Barry, Mangum, Brown and Heiser (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017). An excellent survey orientation of Israelite cosmology among biblical linguists has been written by John R. Roberts, “Biblical Cosmology: The Implications for Bible Translation” Journal of Translation 9.2 (2013), 1-53.

On the heavenly serpents of ancient Israelite religion shown in the upper register of this illustration (the seraphim), s
ee Philippe Provençal, “Regarding the Noun שרף in the Hebrew Bible,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 29.3 (2005), 372; Othmar Keel, Jahwe-Visionen und Siegelkunst: Eine neue Deutung der Majestatsschilderungen in Jes, Ez 1 und 10 und Sach 4 (Stuttgart: Verlag Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1984), 102, 104, 109; William A. Ward, "The Four-Winged Serpent on Hebrew Seals." Rivista Degli Studi Orientali 43.2 (1968), 135-43, and the T. N. D. Mettinger entry “Seraph” in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible ed. K. van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter Willem van der Horst (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 743.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Response to atheist Jaclyn Glenn on Jesus being a copy of pagan gods

I created this machine-gun-style refutation of some mythicist claims a while back. If anyone throws these ideas at you, the video may be a good source to link to them.

Original video:

1] Yamauchi sent me his article “Easter—Myth Hallucination, or History” elaborating on this. It can be accessed in digital format here: The portions in this video are quoted from him in a more recent interview by Lee Strobel, The Case for the Real Jesus: A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 168-169.
2] Leonard Patterson, Mithraism and Christianity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1921), 94, cited by Yamauchi in Strobel, 170. I was embarrassed after making this video, when I realized Patterson was writing in the 1920s. More recently, Bart Ehrman was asked about Freke and Gandy’s book which emphasizes Mithras worship and he responded: “This is an old argument, even though it shows up every 10 years or so. This current craze that Christianity was a mystery religion like these other mystery religions-the people who are saying this are almost always people who know nothing about the mystery religions; they've read a few popular books, but they're not scholars of mystery religions. The reality is, we know very little about mystery religions-the whole point of mystery religions is that they're secret! So I think it's crazy to build on ignorance in order to make a claim like this.” Bart Ehrman, interview with David V. Barrett, "The Gospel According to Bart," Fortean Times (2007), 221.
3] Gary Lease, “Mithraism and Christianity: Borrowings and Transformations,” in Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt, vol. 2, ed. Wolfgang Haase (Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1980), 1316. Cited by Yamauchi in Strobel, 170. “After almost one hundred years of unremitting labor, the conclusion appears inescapable that neither Mithraism nor Christianity proved to be an obvious and direct influence upon the other in the development and demise or survival of either religion.”
4] Strobel, The Case for Jesus, 169.
5] “Mithras” in Encyclopedia of Religion, 2nd Edition, vol. 9, Ed. Lindsay Jones (2005 Thompson Gale), 6091.
6] Manfred Clauss, Richard Gordon, The Roman Cult of Mithras: The God and his Mysteries, (New York: Routledge, 2000) 62-3. Quoted by Strobel 168.
7] Andrew McGowan, “How December 25th Became Christmas,” (Feb 12th, 2015). Accessed, May 26th, 2016. Available at:
8] Quoted in Strobel, The Case for Jesus, 172.
9] Richard Gordon, Image and Value in the Greco-Roman World (Aldershot: Variorum, 1996), 96.
10] Godfrey Higgins, Anacalypsis: An Attempt to Draw Aside the Veil of the Saitic Isis; or, an Inquiry into the Origin of Languages, Nations and Religions, vol. 1, (London: Longman, 1836), 1836, 781.
11] “Salon’s Ridiculously Stupid Historical Jesus Article,” Remythologized, (March 2, 2015),
12] Günter Wagner, Pauline Baptism and the Pagan Mysteries (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1967), 260ff. I should add that Jaclyn is at least correct that Mithraists had communal meals. Most religions do.
13] Benjamin Walker, The Hindu World: An Encyclopedic Survey of Hinduism, vol. 1 (New York: Praeger, 1983), 240-1. Cited by Michael Licona, “A Refutation of Acharya S’s book, The Christ Conspiracy,” (TruthQuest Publishers, 2001). Available at:
14] Thompson relates this in his critique of the Zeitgeist film “Zeitgeist Debunked Part 3,” (Uploaded 2008),
15] Personal correspondence reported by Michael Licona, “A Refutation of Acharya S’s book, The Christ Conspiracy,” (TruthQuest Publishers, 2001). Available at:
16] Link from Heiser’s website opens lecture PowerPoint: Cf. Slide 19.
17] Walter Burkert, Ancient Mystery Cults, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987),101. The Burkert quote is referring to the water receptacles in temples of Isis.
18] Carrier, in a Tapee3i interview which has been preserved here: http://godsnotwheregodsnot.blogspot.c....
19] Quoted by Daniel Moynihan, “’Zeigeist’ Online Movie: Part One Refuted,” (Preventing Truth Decay, 2007).

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Golden Sayings of Epictetus: A New Illustrated Translation

I recently published a new edition of The Golden Sayings of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus. It's by far the best edition of the Golden Sayings in existence. (Hey, the only competition is over a century old!)

Epictetus is likely the most blunt of the Roman Stoics, and The Golden Sayings have had a major impact on my life. For a long time I wanted to be able to share the book with others. I looked around everywhere for a good edition I could give to friends, but there was a huge problem: Virtually all the editions of the text being circulated right now are so old they are major pain to read due to the archaisms. Also, I couldn’t find a single existing version of the book which includes the contextual footnotes which are necessary to understand much of the text.

Thanks to thinkers like Tim Ferris and Ryan Holiday, the internet has seen a revival of Stoicism, and especially Epictetus, so this new edition is sorely needed and ideal for someone wishing to engage with Epictetus for the first time. It includes:

  •          12 of my ink illustrations
  •          A fresh translation designed for accessibility
  •          An introductory essay on Stoicism and Epictetus
  •          Explanatory footnotes interfacing with leading Epictetus scholars
  •         18 selected fragments attributed to Epictetus

The book can be found here on Amazon.

Some Sample Illustrations:

Thursday, July 21, 2016

No, Jeremiah 10 isn’t a Christmas Tree

I’ve been asked before to comment on the popular claim made by the Hebrew roots movement that Jeremiah 10:1-5 is about a Christmas tree.

I’ve translated the passage here:
1. Heed the word that the Lord speaks to you, house of Israel
2. The Lord says this about the way of the nations: Don’t learn them, and do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the nations are dismayed at them.
3. For the religion of the people is a crock! Since one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of a craftsman חרש with chisel.
4. They (lit.) beautify it in silver and in gold, with nails and hammers they fasten it so it will not move.
5. They are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak. They have to be carried, because they cannot walk. Don’t be afraid of them, for they cannot harm, nor is it in them to help you.
Why this passage isn’t about a Christmas tree: 

First off, does it really make any sense to criticize a Christmas tree for not being able to speak, walk, harm you or bring good on you? Those are all criticisms which would make sense if what Jeremiah is describing here were an ancient Near Eastern idol. In the ancient Near East, idols were created by craftsmen and given certain rituals which would invite a deity to incarnate them so worshipers could barter with the god on earth. In short, the reason this passage can’t be referring to a Christmas tree is the word translated “craftsman” חרש in the third verse. We have 35 occurrences of this word in the Bible. Don’t take my word for it, read them all here. The word invokes a sense of skilled artistry, specifically things like jewelers, carpenters and blacksmiths. The real nail in the coffin is that this exact same word is used in other passages like Isaiah 40:19, 20 and Deut. 27:15 to also describe skilled idol makers. Compare:

Isaiah (ESV):
An idol! A craftsman חרש casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it silver chains. He who is too impoverished for an offering chooses wood that will not rot; he seeks out a skillful craftsman חרש to set up an idol that will not move.

Deuteronomy (ESV):
“Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image, an abomination to the LORD, a thing made by the hands of a craftsman חרש, and sets it up in secret.’ And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen.”

For the religion of the people is a crock! Since one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of a craftsman חרש with chisel.

A rant I’ve ranted many times before:

Does it really make sense to argue that Christians should not make use of symbols with pagan origins or associations when Christians are either: a) totally unaware of a symbol’s history, or b) using the symbol with no pagan (or completely different) intentions? My problem with the Hebrew roots movement is that the standard of purity it uses to beat up Christian holidays and symbols cannot even be applied to the Bible. I’ll give you some examples:

John uses a snake as a symbol for Jesus (John 3:14); it is well known that many of the Biblical proverbs have Egyptian origins and influences (If you don’t believe this you simply haven’t ever picked up an academic commentary on Proverbs.); Psalm 104 is very reminiscent of an earlier hymn to Aten; Psalm 29 seems to be modeled after Baal texts (for example); both Jesus and YHWH are given the Baal’s deity title “cloud-rider” in both testaments. (Here’s an M.A. thesis on this); or consider that the book of Revelation is crawling with allusions Greco-Roman astrological constellations (ever read Revelation 12?)

What examples like these show is that symbols are not magically evil. John uses a snake to represent Jesus and it’s totally kosher in his mind. We talk about Jesus “riding on the clouds” and it’s not an issue that this was a title that originally belonged to Baal. The history of a symbol or its uses in pagan contexts doesn’t make it evil or unusable by Christians, it’s the intention behind the symbol that makes it good or bad.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

How to Learn the Ugaritic Alphabet Ludicrously Fast

Learning memory techniques before starting a language is bound to save you hundreds of hours and buckets of needless sweat. I'm going to illustrate this by showing how you can learn the Ugaritic alphabet. Cuneiform is such a homogeneous script that remembering it feels like doing differential equations while watching c-span, but the key here is to jettison all that nonsense your 3rd grade schoolmarm told you about "focusing" and start daydreaming like an idiot. Light speed is too slow. You want to go ludicrous speed. The following mnemonics can be printed and added to flashcards, but the best way to get them in useful resolution is to login to the free flashcard website Memrise where I've uploaded them to this course.
After an hour or so playing around with the app, you should be reading the basic words in the course. You'd be surprised how much of the vocabulary you'll remember from Hebrew.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Geronimo’s Dragon: Dinosaur Fossils behind the Apache Creation Myth

Forget Chuck Norris. His ancestors
killed 20 foot dragons with bows.
It doesn’t look like anyone has written anything on this online or in any of the published material. One of my favorite audiobooks is the biography of the American Apache Indian Geronimo. The entire thing can be downloaded free on LibriVox.

After the Chiricahua finally conceded to the US government, Geronimo agreed to meet with a translator to publish his life biography. The biography opens with the Apache origins myth. He then tells stories of growing up as a Native American, fighting bears, mountain lions, and his countless battles with Mexican troops and the US Army.

The Dragon Legend

Relating the Apache origins myth, Geronimo tells about an evil dragon that would eat all the children of the first woman. For this reason, humanity could never flourish. The woman becomes so distraught that she hides one of her boys and has him raised in secret. When the boy became old enough to hunt he challenged the great dragon to a duel:
Then the dragon took his bow, which was made of a large pine tree. He took four arrows from his quiver; they were made of young pine tree saplings, and each arrow was twenty feet in length. He took deliberate aim, but just as the arrow left the bow the boy made a peculiar sound and leaped into the air. Immediately the arrow was shivered into a thousand splinters, and the boy was seen standing on the top of a bright rainbow over the spot where the dragon’s aim had been directed. Soon the rainbow was gone and the boy was standing on the ground again. Four times this was repeated, then the boy said, “Dragon, stand here; it is my time to shoot.” The dragon said, “All right; your little arrows cannot pierce my first coat of horn, and I have three other coats—shoot away.” The boy shot an arrow, striking the dragon just over the heart, and one coat of the great horny scales fell to the ground. The next shot another coat, and then another, and the dragon’s heart was exposed. Then the dragon trembled, but could not move…[The boy] sped the fourth arrow with true aim, and it pierced the dragon’s heart. With a tremendous roar the dragon rolled down the mountain side—down four precipices into a canyon below…[F]ar down in the canyon below, they could see fragments of the huge body of the dragon lying among the rocks, and the bones of this dragon may still be found there. This boy’s name was Apache.
There it is, more evidence that dragon and giant legends around the world are actually based in ancient people interpreting fossilized remains. This is a subject Adrienne Mayor (Stanford University) has written a really cool book on.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

No, 666 doesn’t spell out Allah

Have you seen this video which has been shared over 80,000 times on Facebook?  It features the starbucks cup guy yelling at us like an unfair caricature of an evangelical pastor in an NCIS episode about an apocalyptic cult. I have some formal schooling in Biblical languages, and it’s obvious to me that Josh can’t read a word of Arabic or Greek.  He’s repeating Walid Shoebat’s old spiel.

Why this theory stinks (scroll down beneath the explosion picture if you want the short version):

1) Josh’s symbols were made up and monkeyed with to make them appear similar:
In the video, Josh tells us the upper image says, “in the name of Allah” and that this "matches up--parallels perfectly" with the Greek for 666.
The first line of the Quran begins with the phrase “in the name of Allah.”  This is what it actually looks like in Arabic, as taken from's digital text of Al Fatiha:

Creepy how much it "matches up" and "parallels perfectly," huh? As you can see, the preposition (that long line on the right) has been fudged around with and retained parallel. (Or is it a whip tied to a levitating sword cutting an apple, I'm not sure.)  The name Allah Josh shows has been flipped sideways and then inverted to look like the Greek letter Xi.  When I showed the image to my missionary friend who is fluent in Arabic he responded that it was “completely moronic.”

the insect anti-Christ
Josh seems to think Arabic is logographic like ancient Chinese or ancient Egyptian—that the sword icon actually says something.  Nein!  Arabic is a consonantal alphabet like Hebrew.  In other words, those crossed swords were just thrown in randomly to make this look sexy. But Ben, that middle character looks SOOOO similar.  Really? Since Arabic is stylistic cursive, you could turn all sorts of words sideways and invert them to make them look like the Greek letter Xi. That's just how Arabic do. I spent three minutes randomly typing words into google translate and here's the word for 'bug' to the right. It probably looks closer to a Greek Xi in some of the other manuscripts I'm about to show you...ooooohhhh spooky.

2) Did anyone bother to read Revelation?

The second problem for Josh’s theory is the text of Revelation itself. Revelation is concerned with the actual number here, not the shapes of the letters. The author tells us point-blank that the meaning of the symbol is to be "calculated" ψηφισάτω within gematria, not the shape of the handwriting.

The final nail in the coffin

3) Josh's manuscript is from the 15th century, and the original Greek script of Revelation looked different than the script Josh shows us:

Let’s flog this dead horse further. The Greek letters he shows are taken from Codex Vaticanus, a book composed in 350 AD. Its venerable ancientness is meant to impress you, as if Shoebat was led by Gandalf into the Minis Tirith library by flickering candle light and decoded the symbols on the back of a dollar bill to open a secret room. From the dust of forgotten centuries he exhumed this esoteric volume of early Christianity. Peering over his glasses he sagely eyes the symbols which whisper of a forgotten prophecy which is about to plunge him and Nicholas Cage in a high-speed car chase. Truth is Vaticanus didn’t originally contain Revelation. This text Josh is showing us was tacked on by a scribe in the 15th century. It is written in miniscule. A font that didn’t exist in the first century. It’s in a different paleographic style than the original autograph of Revelation could have contained or any other early manuscript does. That squiggly letter Xi would have been more angular.

Here it in the same verse in Codex Sinaiticus (Sinaiticus writes out the number rather than abbreviating it). Sinaiticus was composed around the same time as Vaticanus. Notice the Greek letter Xi doesn’t look much like what Josh needs it to.

The third letter sigma especially took a different form that looks identical to a ‘C’ (you can see it in the manuscript above); it looks nothing like what Josh needs it to. (If one of you suggest that maybe this is a crescent moon, I’m gunna bean you.)  Here is the same abbreviation in Papyrus 47:

Here is our oldest text of Revelation 13:18 (Papyrus 115). It actually says the number of the beast is 616, but I don’t want to get into all that right now. The point is that last letter sigma in this older manuscript also does not look like the idiomatic Vaticanus sigma but takes the form of a 'C.' (That straight line above the number is a marker of abbreviation in Greek, by the way.)

If you want a bird’s eye view, here’s a paleography chart to show Josh’s entire theory is dependent on a single idiomatic manuscript he pulled out of the 15th century for no reason:

I’m sorry my ranting about crusty things like manuscripts and first century paleography makes me sound like old man Wilson yelling at the kids to get off his lawn and probably isn’t as thrilling as Josh’s youtube video with a graphic of flaming 6’s. Please love me. I can make textual criticism cool. I can be cool. Here’s a picture of an explosion if it will hold over your attention span for one more paragraph, America:

For the TLDR crowd:

The author of Revelation tells us point-blank that the number “calculates” the meaning, not one shape in the middle of the number. 2) The Arabic image Feuerstein found on the internet was totally made up, flipped and inverted arbitrarily with some random swords thrown in for the express purpose of looking good—it could qualify for a circus contortionist act. 3) It’s easy to make things in Arabic look like a sideways Greek letter Xi because it’s a cursive script. And 4) the Greek only looks sorta like this made-up Arabic image if you are using a 15th century text written in a different style than the autograph of Revelation.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Eth-Cepher: A Wacky New “Translation”

A friend of mine who just got back from an archaeological dig in Israel and is studying Semitic languages at Rutgers sent me a link to this errr…“translation” as a joke.
From Pidgeon's website

The Hebrew word ETH means 'divine'?

The front page of the translator's website asserts that his is the only English translation in the universe that renders the Hebrew word את. We read:

“The Hebrew word את (eth in English) means divine, and the Hebrew word ספר (cepher in English) means book; hence, the את Eth-CEPHER is the ‘Divine Book.’”

Sorry boys and girls, the Hebrew word את doesn’t get translated because it’s the Hebrew accusative marker.  It’s the most common independent word in the Hebrew language. To translate it as ‘divine’ is goofy.  Want proof?  Here ya go:

Ezekiel 4:15:
"Then he said to me, ‘See, I assign to you את cow's dung instead of human dung, on which you may prepare your bread’

If eth means ‘divine’ then cow excrement is divine in Ezekiel 4:15. In Leviticus 11:7 the את is placed before swine, and in Leviticus 15:3 Pidgeon’s claim would render a plague on the skin being inspected for leprosy divine:

“and the priest shall examine the את diseased area on the skin of his body.”

Pictographic Silliness:

Skin diseases, swine and cow droppings! Most objects in the Bible that function in the accusative can thus be translated with the adjective ‘divine’ if the author is serious about this claim. But on what basis does he assert it?  He horoscopes the idea outta the original pictographs on which paleo-Hebrew was derived.  This method (which is so popular on the internet) is so subjective that you can literally create any new meaning you want for a Hebrew word.  You might as well break out the tarot cards and ouija board if you are going to be using this chart to interpret the “real” meanings of words in your Bible. Sorry everyone, Semitic philology is a much less sexy process.

Let me be emphatic.  You CANNOT derive meanings from the pictographic origins of Biblical Hebrew anymore than you can with words in modern English.  The Hebrew language developed independent of the Phoenician alphabet system and merely adopted it to represent the sounds of their already existing language.  The Israelites attached no significance to the ancient derivatives of their alphabet anymore than we or the Greeks did. To misunderstand this is to demonstrate a profound ignorance of how Israelite chronology and language-in-general works.

In the words of Michael Brown, who has a PhD in Semitic languages from New York University: “…we have no business attaching pictographic meanings to ancient Hebrew [anymore] than we have attaching those same pictographic meanings to the Greek alphabet or to our English alphabet.” 

Revelation was written in Hebrew?

Totally off-topic, but apparently this stands in the Holy city. My
Southern theology professor comments, "I didn't know the
temple still stood in Jerusalem."
The author also translates eth as ‘divine’ as an elaboration of the claim that Revelation was originally written in Hebrew.  What evidence does he give that Revelation was composed in Hebrew?  Well, John does give the Hebrew names of some places in the book.

I don’t know of a single New Testament scholar on earth holding a university chair who defends the idea. (Revelation is highly dependent on the Greek Septuagint.)  By the same logic, we could say that Josephus must have originally written his Antiquities in Hebrew since he transliterates it on occasion. (He was commissioned by Greek speaking gentiles.)  This argument is a hopeless mess of a non-sequitur.

All that Sacred Name stuff:

At 4-4:45 in his video he tells us when Jesus said, “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me” that he was referring to the inability of the Jews to pronounce a set of vowels and consonants.  Anyone who turns to John 5 will quickly see that Jesus was not referring in that passage to the morphological reconstruction of the Hebrew name for God.  He was referring, rather, to the fact that the Jews wanted to kill him because he was claiming the authority of God.

I don’t know how far the author takes this name theology. Some messianic types can go so far that they court a different gospel with it. (I.e. they literally teach that you have to be vocalizing a certain set of sounds to really be worshiping God.) But, I want to impress on the reader that it is almost totally unimportant. I’ve spent years taking Biblical language courses. I’m not saying the languages aren’t important.

What I am saying is the New Testament authors didn’t even feel the need to ostentatiously transliterate the Hebrew names for God. They simply use the word theos—the same word used to refer to the members of the Greek pantheon. When it came to Jesus, they didn’t pedantically spell out YAHUSHUA or anything of the sort. They just threw down a common Hesus and called it a day.  When Jesus prayed he called God Elah in Aramaic. *gasp* sounds Islamic!

Moral of the story: don’t run around trying to be holier than the Bible, transliterating everything needlessly into Hebrew. It can get annoying. God cares about whether we are receiving the content the language conveys, not the arbitrary set of sounds we vocalize it in. If you constantly interchange common Biblical names with Hebrew where English would function just as well, you aren't communicating. You're self-advertising how smart you think you are, and you're trying to be more Biblical than the Bible.

If you want a really good translation of a book like Genesis, I highly recommend Robert Alter. (He’s professor of Hebrew at Berkeley.)  It’s by far the best I have ever seen in the English language, and the clever nuances he is able to bring out of the text are a joy to read.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

No, Isaiah 45:7 doesn't say God creates evil

This will be short.

An atheist blogger at pathos thinks Isaiah 45:7 shows point-blank that the Biblical God creates evil. I’m going to explain why professional translators can't give this pitch the light of day.

I form light and create darkness
I make peace, and I create ra'

יֹוצֵר אֹור וּבֹורֵא חֹשֶׁךְ
עֹשֶׂה שָׁלֹום וּבֹורֵא רָע

Usually, that last word ra' is the common word for evil in Hebrew. The author cites a bunch of other uses to prove this—no problem there. The problem is the word ra' is one of the most frequent words in the Bible and can be elastic in meaning in something of the same way the English word ‘bad’ can be.

The primary reason translators don’t buy this argument is that it destroys the structure of opposites in the poem:

Line one: I create light/I create darkness
Line two: I create shalom/I create ______.

Transport yourself back to 3rd grade context clue worksheets. What English word should go in the blank for the poetic structure of the unit to be retained? Think about it before reading further

If you put anything like ‘wickedness’ in the blank you fail 3rd grade. No sticker for you! Hit yourself with a newspaper; Bad!

The meaning of ra' here is 'anti-shalom'. Whatever shalom is, ra' here is the opposite in the same since light is the opposite of darkness.

We have good words for anti-peace in English: “calamity,” “strife”…you know, those words most translators put here.  

Actually, and this is probably the only time I will ever say this in my life, the Message translation of “I create harmonies and discords” is somewhat of a clever and borderline perceptive assertion about the nature of shalom.

The idea in this passage is that God is comprehensive in his power. He has the power to create peace and the power to dish out righteous judgement on the nations (what most of Isaiah is about). These judgments are definitely the opposite of peace.

Monday, March 2, 2015's Remarkably Bad Historical Jesus Article

A Muslim friend showed me this viral article about Jesus entitled, “9 Things You Think You Know about Jesus that are Probably Wrong.”

In this post, I don't care about convincing anyone to be a conservative evangelical. I’m mostly here to spank Salon for playing with the loaded gun of history like a 7 year old in a 3:00 AM government ad.

No Historical Jesus scholar, ultra-liberal to conservative could read through the article without laughing, yet, it has blackened social media like an oil spill. These Da Vinci Code myths are eternally being slayed only to reincarnate for sequels like a mummy in a Brandon Fraser franchise.

The screenshots of Tarico's claims are followed by responses:

It would be sooo unusual if Jesus was celibate, he must have married:

Tarico’s source is a psychologist who wrote a Huffington piece. He gives no sources for his claim.  Bart D. Ehrman, the most famous American New Testament historian alive (and probably the most disliked by evangelical believers), ain't amused with this position:

Bart Ehrman: "Yes, my house does contain
many leather bound books and
smells of rich mahogany."
Sometimes it is argued—for example, in The Da Vinci Code—that Jesus must have been married... [T]his claim, as plausible as it sounds, is in fact wrong. We do know of Jewish men in the first century who were single and celibate. Strikingly, they are men who shared a religious perspective similar to that of the historical Jesus… The like-minded Essenes before Jesus and the like-minded Paul after him—all of them apocalyptic Jewish men—lived life as single and celibate. It is not at all implausible that Jesus did as well.  [1]

Ehrman also points out that Jesus taught there would be no marriage in the kingdom of heaven and regularly implied that we should seek to model the kingdom on earth: “On these grounds, my best guess as a historian is that Jesus was single and celibate.”[2]

I’m not just picking the view of one idiomatic scholar.  Anthony Le Donne has recently written the most significant study on the possibility of a Mrs. Jesus in the English language and concluded the same thing as Ehrman:  Jesus probably wasn’t married...Sorry if that's boring.

The gay Jesus tease:

No Salon article containing the word "Jesus" could exist without also containing the word "gay" at least once.  It's just one of those laws of nature. Since I’ve said Jesus likely wasn’t married, I’ll provide two reasons why it is utterly unlikely Jesus was gay:

1) Every source we have has him declaring the Hebrew Bible authoritative and it was the Hebrew Bible that every second-Temple Jewish text that makes a judgment on homosexuality was informed by when they monolithically pronounce homosexuality sinful. Gagnon's survey found that Second-Temple Jewish writings take a “univocal stance against homosexual conduct.”[3]

2) Galatians is an undisputed Pauline in which Paul swears he hung out with Peter fifteen days in Jerusalem and with Jesus’ brother James. Later, him and the muchachos (including John) met to bust theological kneecaps at the Jerusalem council. Weird his friends forgot to forward him the memo about Jesus being the only member of Judea’s rainbow initiative--especially since Jewish sexual law had him constantly wrestling with such things in his Corinth church plant. 

The Gospel of Philip *sigh*:

Ah! Yes! Those boring four Gospels composed within the 1st century with earlier independent sources and Aramaic allusions are pronounced by Tarico to be a hopeless historical mess.  "Only a set of hunches and traditions." Who cares about them anyways? Your grandmother? The kids want explosions!

But fear not reader! You need a gospel more spiritually auuuthentic--like those Sanskrit tattoos Angelina Jolie has. And preferably one allegedly suppressed by a male Catholic conspiracy. The uber-sexy 3rd century, spiritually abstruse, Gnostic Gospel of Phillip--written by someone with no historical contact with Jesus or his followers--has donned his tights and will deliver the Historical Jesus to us like a damsel in his rippling biceps; This Jesus has a Hollywood crush on, get this, Mary Magdalene (who I assure you was a pale, redhead fox).

Unfortunately, reality is much more boring. The big name New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg writes, “Philip is dependent primarily on Matthew’s Gospel for his information about Jesus...he reveals next to nothing about the pre-Synoptic stages of the Gospel tradition.”[4]

I should point out, the Philip manuscript doesn’t read Jesus used to kiss Mary "on her mouth." That reading must be supplied by the imagination because there is a physical hole in the manuscript.[5] We can’t be certain the original read “kiss her on her mouth” unless we discover more textual-critical evidence. Tarico is aware of this complicating factor but has omitted the detail in this article.

We as modern readers immediately associate the kissing in this text with sex, but there are good reasons to believe Philip’s ancient audience wouldn’t. Christian kissing has a long history in the early church and Philip has an entire mystical interpretation of it that is applied to all the disciples.[6]

In Ehrman's opinion, “When Jesus kisses Mary, then, it is not a prelude to sex. It is a symbolic statement that she received the revelation of truth that he conveyed to his disciples.”

A wedding? 

Tarico's evidence from the canonical gospels that Jesus and Mary were hitched are literally “clues” we must “decode.” She speculates John 2’s report of a wedding is actually Jesus’ wedding to Mary.  If this is true can someone please explain to me why Jesus had to be “invited” (ἐκλήθη) to his own wedding (2:2)? Also, who goes immediately to stay with momma after their wedding ceremony (2:12)? And why is Mary always distinguished from the other Marys in the gospels by the fact that she was from Magdala? Why didn’t the gospel writers just say Jesus’ wife (or at least the ancient Greek equivalent for Boo Thang?) I’m sure it’s all just part of the international Catholic misogynistic conspiracy.

Jesus' Celestial Posse:

Odd Tarico thinks it’s an open case whether Jesus had 12 disciples. I specifically recall the specialist in Christian origins John Dickson at Macquarie University listing the 12 disciples as a point most historians agree on during an interview. Professor of New Testament Scott McKnight confirms, “that Jesus associated himself especially with twelve of his followers is a datum firmly established by good arguments across a broad spectrum of modern Jesus studies.”[8] In 1994, J. P. Meier concluded in the Journal of Biblical Literature: “When one draws together the position emerges as clearly the more probable: the circle of the Twelve did exist during Jesus’ public ministry.[9]

Tarico's anachronistic astrological claims:

The gospels imply Jesus was making a theological statement about renewing the twelve tribes of Israel. Why does Tarico think this is astrology and not history? If you follow her link for this source it takes you to an interview on her blog by a Dr. Tony Nugent. In that interview Nugent includes the twelve tribes of Israel and 12 disciples in a list of things that “have their roots in [the]…twelve signs of the zodiac…”

This thesis is impossible because the zodiac wasn’t reduced into the twelve constellations until the 5th century BC by the Babylonians.[10] The twelve tribes of Israel are reported far earlier. Secular dating of the Genesis sources have the twelve tribes mentioned earlier than the ninth century BC.[11] It's tremendously anachronistic to say allusions to the number twelve in the Hebrew Bible are taken from the zodiac.

 Off topic, but believe it or not, it’s actually true that the origin of eggs being sold by the dozen goes back to astrology.

Actually, no. It’s not. I lied.

Hunches shrouded in the fog of history?

Tarico’s attitude is that our historical grasp of Jesus is the epistemological equivalent of chasing a greased, ghost pig naked in a skating rink. (I'm bad with metaphors lately.) Every time we extend our noetic clutches, the greasy, ectoplasmal sow of history flits through our grapples leaving us with little more than a haze of hunches. (That was an elegant sentence. I think I'll make it into one of those cursive, sidebar-quote things.) In reality, it's extremely popular for scholars to date the creed in 1 Corinthians 15 to the mid-to-late 30’s. Just to be obnoxious I'll plunder 13 big-name examples from Habermas' doctoral dissertation.

I'm told lists like this bore readers, but it's full of German umlaut dots that are supposed to impress you.

Oscar Cullmann (University of Paris); Reginald Fuller (Virginia Seminary); Pannenberg (University of Munich); Wilckens (Berlin Theological College); Hengel (University Tübingen); Marxsen (Westfälische Wilhelms University); Conzelmann (University of Göttingen); Hans-Ruedi Weber; A.M. Hunter (University Aberdeen, Scotland) Raymond E. Brown (Union Theological Seminary); Norman Perrin (University Chicago); George E. Ladd (Fuller Theological); Neufeld (‎University of Waterloo).

We have a written record of a crucified, risen, messianic figure who was at least believed to have appeared to great numbers after his death within less than a decade after his execution. Ehrman’s book on Jesus’ Existence illustrates how the synoptic sources can be grounded in sufficiently early Aramaic culture. The celebrated scholar Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses argues the gospel sources link us with eyewitness testimony. There are huge doubts about certain elements and logions of Jesus’ career, and I’m not interested in regurgitating the banal apologetics party lines here.

Nevertheless, Tarico’s position ain't reflective of modern Historical Jesus studies. Michael Bird, who has written a survey of the state and direction of the current situation, writes: “The dominant view today seems to be that we can know pretty well what Jesus was out to accomplish, that we can know a lot about what he said and that those two things make sense within the world of first-century Judaism.”[12] Craig Evan’s assessment of our current place in historical Jesus studies concludes the same, “the persistent trend in recent years is to see the Gospels as essentially reliable.” 

Jesus...If He Even Existed:

You know that hopeless frustration you get when a creationist tells you there isn’t a shred of evidence for evolution? Now you know how New Testament scholars feel when your friends parrot the idea that Jesus may not have even existed.

This is not something the field considers itself uncertain of. Thanks to the ubiquity of this internet myth, I happen to have several dozen quotes by New Testament scholars on hand refuting it. I’ve narrowed them down to seven for brevity:

William Lane Craig who did his dissertation in historical Jesus studies under the celebrity German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg states:“[The position that Jesus never existed ]…this is a position which is so extreme that to call it marginal would be an understatement.  It doesn’t even appear on the map of contemporary New Testament scholarship.”[13]

Before he went on to write his book explaining why we know Jesus existed, Bart Ehrman once said in interview, “I don’t think there is any serious historian who doubts the existence of Jesus...we have more evidence for Jesus than we have for almost anybody from his time period.”[14]

Paul Maier professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan states in interview: “Anyone who uses that argument [that Jesus never existed] is simply flaunting his ignorance. I hate to say it but it’s about that bad.”[15]

Gary Habermas who I reference because his dissertation surveyed the positions of critical historical Jesus scholars among a variety of topics states, “With very, very, few exceptions virtually no scholar doubts or denies that Jesus existed.”[16]

Graeme Clarke Senior Lecturer at the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Western Australia has been quoted stating, “Frankly, I know of no ancient historian who would ever twinge with doubt about the existence of Jesus Christ. The documentary evidence is simply overwhelming.”[17]

John Dickson Senior Research Fellow with the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University has become so annoyed with this claim that he wrote:
[It] is simply wrong to refer to "many professional historians" who doubt the existence of Jesus… To repeat a challenge I've put out on social media several times before, I will eat a page of my Bible if someone can find me just one full Professor of Ancient History, Classics, or New Testament in an accredited university somewhere in the world (there are thousands of names to choose from) who thinks Jesus never lived. I don't deny that there are substantial questions that could be raised about the Christian faith, but the historical reality of Jesus of Nazareth isn't one of them.[18]
Head of New Testament Studies at the Swedish University of Gothenburg Gunnar Samuelsson writes:
I see no reason to doubt that Jesus existed. In comparison to other ancient individuals he is well represented by the ancient sources.[19]
(Someone is going to get mad after reading the above quotes and ask why I haven't even mentioned Carrier and Price. So there, I mentioned them.)

I'm tempted to continue my tantrum over the link in the article that leads to Tarico’s website. It claims most scholars hold certain positions that most scholars emphatically reject. For example, Tarico says the gospel story about the women at the tomb is believed by most scholars to be a mythological fiction based in earlier myths.  In reality, this element of the gospel sources is considered one of our more reliable according to Gary Habermas who surveyed more than 1,400 scholarly publications on the historical Jesus in German, French and English. (The testimony of women was so repudiated in the first century that this embarrassing element in the sources wouldn't have been contrived by Christians.) [20]  Modern scholars don't interpret the mystery religions into the gospels because there was little footing for them in 1st century Judea unlike Alexandrian Judaism.


 Some of Tarico’s points in her click-bait article are generally accurate.[21] Despite these, the article contains so much historical puerility and so many allusions idiomatic to sensationalist conspiracy writers that I would rather it not be read at all. I'm aware my words have been harsh, but I deem them appropriate considering Tarico's ideas have been spotlighted by Salon, Huffington and Alternet. I'd like to think Salon and Alternet would update corrections to this article they are "proud to feature."

Update: and Alternet made no significant corrections to the article (7/15/2015)

[1] Ehrman, Peter, Paul & Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend (USA: Oxford University Press, 2006), 249-50.
[2] Ibid., 250-1.
[3] See chapter two and three of Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Text and Hermeneutics Nashville: Abington Press, 2001).
[4] Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, 2 ed. (USA: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 270.
[5] Paul, Foster, The Apocryphal Gospels: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009),47.
[6]  For example, Ehrman (Peter, Paul & Mary, 216.) cites this earlier passage from Philip for contextual consideration:
It is from being promised to the heavenly place that man receives nourishment.
[Gap in the manuscript] him from the mouth. And had the word gone out from
that place it would be nourished from the mouth and it would become perfect.
For it is by a kiss that the perfect conceive and give birth. For this reason we also
kiss one another. We receive conception from the grace that is in one another.
[7] Ehrman 215.
[8] McKnight, "Jesus and the Twelve,"
[9] Meier, J. P. "The Circle of the Twelve : Did It Exist during Jesus' Public Ministry?." Journal Of Biblical Literature 116, no. 4 (1997): 635-672. New Testament Abstracts, EBSCOhost (accessed March 1, 2015).
[10] Ulla Koch-Westenholz, Mesopotamian Astrology: An Introduction to Babylonian and Assyrian Celestial Divination (Museum Tusculanum Press: Coppenhagen, 1995), 163.

The most significant innovation was perhaps the zodiac, the division of
the ecliptic into twelve equal parts or signs. It replaced the earlier series
of 17 constellations on the "Path of the Moon." The zodiac
was first used in Babylonian astronomy in the fifth century B.C.

[11]  Ronald Hendel, The Book of Genesis: Composition, Reception and Interpretation, ed. Evans et. al. (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 80.
[12] Bird, “Shouldn’t Evangelicals Participate in the ‘Third Quest for the Historical Jesus’?”
Themelios 29.2 (Spring 2004): 5-14.
[13] The following quotes are taken from a video and audio compilation “Do Historians Believe Jesus Existed.” YouTube video, 6:05. Dec 27, 2010.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid.
[18] John Dickson, “I’ll Eat a Page from my Bible if Jesus didn’t Exist,” The Drum (blog).
[19] Samuelsson. "Questions and Answers."
[20] Habermas, “Resurrection Research from 1975 to the Present: What are Critical Scholars Saying?” Gary
[21] Eg. We know from osteological reconstructions what early Judeans looked like; textual data on crucifixion is complex and ambiguous; the gospel writers sought typological parallels between Jesus and other Hebrew figures; the passage about the woman caught in adultery is in fact the late conflation of two traditions.