Thursday, August 26, 2004
Sunday, August 22, 2004
Also, there has been some comment on Mark. Thanks for all these comments too - it is great to provoke someone to putting fingers to keyboard. In reply to one of these I would say that I find it unlikely there were two feeding miracles although that is possible. But John, independently of Mark, only reports one and he is probably the best witness we have. Also, as a correspondent has pointed out, the idea of Mark an artless compiler is reinforced by what Papias has to say about him about 110AD:
Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever heI would suggest this backs up the idea that Mark's Gospel is an effort to repeat everything he can remember with only a loose narrative structure thrown in. I cannot accept that he is the subtle writer for whom everything has a purpose and meaning. The text just doesn't support that contention.
remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or
deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But
afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions
to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular
narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing
some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not
to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the
Friday, August 20, 2004
Another effect of recycling the same material over and over again is that pretty much anything has to be tried in the effort to produce original research. Thus, as it is my birthday, I present Bede's Laws of Historical Jesus Research.
- Anything that can possibly be said about the Historical Jesus will be said.
- It already has been.
Perhaps all the intellectual energy spent on this subject might be better directed elsewhere. Leave the Gospels to theologians who know that they are not doing history.
Thursday, August 12, 2004
In English, we basically all spell the same way regardless of how we speak. Regional variations in accents hardly figure in standard written English. Similarly you can read Chaucer off the page without too much trouble, but if someone reads it out loud with fourteenth century pronunciation, it initially sounds like utter gibberish. Greek is not like this. It also has loads of local dialects and the way it was spoken evolved over hundreds of years. But while in English we left the spelling well alone, Greek is always written as it is spoken, so each dialect (be it Ionic, Attic, Doric or whatever) is spelt to reflect the differences in speech. This is understandable, but it gets even worse. Over the centuries syllables and even words can get slurred into each other. Written Greek accurately reflects this too, so verb forms that would be completely regular change because they result in two vowels next to each other. Rather than just accept that the spelling will deviate from the spoken word, the written verb forms are contracted to fit the spoken word. Likewise, if one word ends in a vowel and the next word begins with one they are merged together which makes looking anything up in the dictionary an absolute nightmare.
I am assured that once you have mastered all this and have thoroughly assimilated the rhythm of the language, Greek is actually easier than classical Latin. But I have a very long way to go before I get to that stage. Another saving grace is that the Koine Greek of the New Testament, which is what I am really interested in, is a whole lot easier than the classical Greek that I'm learning now. Whatever happens, there will be a lot more hard work before I'm picking up Plato to read on the beach!
Monday, August 09, 2004
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
We are often told that lots of Americans think they have been abducted. This is not strictly true and the story comes from research done by the Roper Organisation which found one in fifty Americans had experiences that could be interpreted as abduction. Among those experiences are:
This sounds much like those nasty goings on in Berkeley Square which suggests, if nothing else, that either the aliens have been around a while or else they have nothing to do with it. Many myths, from fairy abduction to the Black Annis of Scotland may have their origins from similar experiences.
Do you remember waking up paralyzed with a sense of a strange person or
presence or something else in the room? Do you remember having seen, either as a
child or adult, a terrifying figure-- which might have been a monster, a witch,
a devil, or some other evil figure-- in your bedroom or closet or somewhere
So what is going on? Well, I know of what I speak and as we were sitting last night, drinking and watching bats chasing moths over a little river here in Lampeter, both my companions knew as well. The answer appears to be that we sometimes suffer from an uncommonly severe form of sleep paralysis that is discussed by Susan Blackmore in the Sceptical Enquirer. We wake up paralysed in bed and in the presence of something extremely nasty that means us harm. The wisest thing to do if this happens to you is keep your eyes tightly shut and try to winkle a finger. In serious cases the monster can seem to rip the sheets off the bed or attack. One friend who foolishly opened his eyes during such an experience has simply refused to talk about what he saw. Certainly though, the appearance of the monster seems to be culturally determined. When I was very young I saw a ghost, complete with sheet over its head, but now I have no intention of finding out what my adult imagination can conjure up. Modern Americans seem to see aliens.
Susan Blackmore, who is a scientific reductionist, sees all this in terms of brain function. I'm not so sure. While the appearance of the beast is certainly determined by our own imaginations, that could simply be the brain trying to make sense of a class of experience it has no equipment to comprehend. Whatever else, for those of us who go through this sort of thing, it seems a lot more real than the blathering of neuro-scientists.
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
Monday, August 02, 2004
Presently I'm in Lampeter doing a two week summer school course I mentioned a while back. It is hard work but very rewarding to be able to devote some time to the subject and make real progress. I doubt my greek will ever be up to reading Ptolemy but I do one day hope to be able to use it for New Testament studies and looking at science in the Byzantine Empire.