Review of “The Lost Gospel” by Jacobovici and Wilson

Except it’s NOT lost, and it’s NOT a gospel.

Since I’ve already been bombarded with questions from students and readers about the latest claims made by Simcha Jacobovici and Dr. Barrie Wilson in their new book, The Lost Gospel, I thought I’d post a quick response to this latest round of absurdity by repeating and re-posting some of the comments I made over a year ago in a post announcing my spring 2014 University of Iowa course in Syriac – a post that dealt (almost prophetically) with many of the claims made in this new book.

You can read most of Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Wilson’s book online (and search for the parts that interest you) at Google Books here.

Mr. Jacobovici’s new book essentially claims that the 6th century CE Syriac language version of a Greek pseudepigraphical story entitled  Joseph and Aseneth (which I discuss in my class “Banned from the Bible: Intro to Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha” course at Iowa) is a “gospel”, and should be read allegorically, but only after replacing every mention of Joseph with the name “Jesus”, and every mention of Aseneth with “Mary Magdalene”.

Now, if your first thought is, “WTF? This is just as problematic as the Bible Code dude, who attempts to read every passage in the Bible as an allegory for every modern event, from the Invasion of Iraq, to the Wall Street Crash, to President Obama’s election, etc.”, then you’re right on the money. It is precisely that silly – same interpretative technique, same lack of evidence, same wishful speculation. The same guy who claims to have discovered the route of the Exodus, Atlantis, the nails of the cross, the tomb of Jesus (with Jesus still in it!), and another tomb of people celebrating Jesus’ resurrection (with Jesus still in the other tomb), has now written a book claiming “evidence” that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, by swapping out the names of Joseph and Aseneth and replacing them with the names of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

By that same allegorical logic, you could swap out the names of Samson and Delilah and claim that Mary Magdalene cut Jesus’ hair. Or swap out Adam and Eve and conclude that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were the primordial couple. Or read David and Bathsheba allegorically and end up with Jesus having a son named Solomon, who is guarded by the Priory of Sion, and…well, you get the picture.

There is a reason that the scholars of the world are not paying any attention to this latest so-called “discovery”: there’s nothing there.

First things first: Mr. Jacobovici’s The Lost Gospel is neither “lost” nor a “gospel”. Scholars have known about and have studied the Syriac version of Joseph and Aseneth, located in the British Museum, for a very long time. Written by an unknown West Syriac writer dating to the late 6th century CE, the author composed an Ecclesiastical History that included a translation of part of a lost Ecclesiastical History by the Greek writer Zacharias Rhetor. The work is commonly referred to as Pseudo-Zacharias Rhetor. This Syriac text is of interest because books 1-2 of Pseudo-Zacharias Rhetor contain a Syriac translation of the History of Joseph and Aseneth, which was often skipped in English translations because it is already known in the Greek. Keep in mind that the story of Joseph and Aseneth has been well documented over the years, both by my adviser at Pepperdine, Dr. Randy Chesnutt, who wrote his dissertation on Joseph and Aseneth, and by my Duke colleague Dr. Mark Goodacre, who has edited an Aseneth Home Page now for years.

Second: We already know why the story of Joseph and Aseneth was written. The story of Joseph and Aseneth is a well-known, ancient apocryphal expansion of the biblical account of the patriarch Joseph’s marriage to Aseneth, the daughter of the Egyptian Priest of On (Heliopolis). The story of Joseph and Aseneth was composed to solve the later theological problem of Joseph, a Hebrew patriarch, marrying a non-Israelite woman (Aseneth), in direct violation of biblical commands (albeit later commands) that prohibit Hebrews/Jews/Israelites from intermarrying with other peoples, for instance, those found in Deut. 7:3; Josh. 23:12; Ezra 9; and Neh. 13:25. As prohibiting intermarriage became a bigger and bigger deal in the Second Temple period, many Jews began to see the problem with Joseph’s marriage to Aseneth, as Joseph was said to have not only married an Egyptian, but the daughter of an Egyptian priest!

In Gen. 41:45, the Bible says that Pharaoh gave Joseph one of his daughters as a wife:

“Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him Aseneth daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, as his wife.”

Gen. 41:50-52 further says that Joseph’s wife Aseneth bore him two sons: Manasseh and Ephraim, whence we get the tribal names:

“Before the years of famine came, Joseph had two sons, whom Aseneth daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him. Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.’ The second he named Ephraim, ‘For God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortunes.’”

As one might imagine, this became a problem for Jews in the Second Temple period. Perhaps many asked, “How can God prohibit us from marrying women of another race when our patriarch Joseph did so?”

Enter Joseph and Aseneth, which was composed like so many pseudepigraphical stories of the Second Temple period and early Christian centuries to “explain away” the problem. We find these same apologetic techniques used in early Rabbinic writings as well as the Aramaic Targums, which clean up the stories of the Jewish Patriarchs by explaining away anything that might be perceived as a misdeed.

The popular ancient love story of Joseph and Aseneth serves an apology explaining why a righteous Israelite patriarch like Joseph would marry the daughter of a pagan priest. And the solution is a simple one: Joseph and Aseneth explains that Joseph’s wife, Aseneth, first converted to monotheism and belief in the Hebrew God before she married Joseph (a detail the Bible obviously “left out”). See? All better.

And that’s basically it. The biblical account says Joseph married an Egyptian woman, so Joseph and Aseneth explains that Aseneth first converted, and therefore was eligible to be married to Joseph.

Third: The Syriac account of Joseph and Aseneth in Pseudo-Zacharias Rhetor does not talk about Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and simply substituting names does not make it so. However, the Syriac account is still noteworthy because just prior to his retelling of the story, the author writes a letter to a certain Moses of Ingila, asking for a translation and whether there is a deeper allegorical (θεωρία) interpretation of the story beyond the literal narrative. Some have argued that Moses of Ingila’s response attempts to interpret the story of Joseph and Aseneth allegorically, as a gnostic union of the soul (represented by Aseneth) with the divine Logos/Word of God (represented by Joseph). Likewise, there have been many who have argued (largely unsuccessfully) that the text is an allegory, with Joseph symbolizing anything from Jesus to the nation of Israel.

For her part, some scholars have understood Aseneth’s description as the “Bride of God” in 4:2 as representative of a redeemed Israel, or of the matriarchs of the Bible, or perhaps even the practice of voluntary virginity, which was increasingly popular in Christian circles in the late first and early second centuries. The simplest answer is that one who is now a “bride of God” is one who is a “daughter of God”, i.e., “a Hebrew” (and no longer an Egyptian, at least for religious purposes), in much the same way that a “son of God” represents any “child of God” in the Hebrew text. Keep in mind that there are many “sons of God” mentioned in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament that appear to be referring to heavenly beings, from Job 1:6: וַיְהִי הַיּוֹם וַיָּבֹאוּ בְּנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים לְהִתְיַצֵּב עַל-יְהוָה (“Now it fell upon a day, that the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD”), to Job 38:7: וַיָּרִיעוּ כָּל-בְּנֵי אֱלֹהִים (“and all the sons of God shouted”), to Gen 6:2: וַיִּרְאוּ בְנֵי-הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת-בְּנוֹת הָאָדָם כִּי טֹבֹת הֵנָּה (“and the sons of God saw the daughters of men, because they were fair”), as well as in the New Testament, when human peacemakers come to be called “sons of God”: μακάριοι οἱ εἰρηνοποιοί ὅτι αὐτοὶ υἱοὶ θεοῦ κληθήσονται (“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God“).

The use of the phrase “son(s) of God” in the Old and New Testaments does not automatically mean “INSERT JESUS’ NAME HERE”.

Fourth: Simply employing symbolism does not an allegory make. So while some scholars have argued that the text is a distinctly Christian text, most scholars conclude that the text is distinctly Jewish, while allowing that the text may possess some evidence of later Christian tampering and reworking, especially those parts of the text involving Eucharistic interpretations of the meal of bread and wine found within the story. However, the attempts by multiple scholars (cf. Chap 1 of Chesnutt) to interpret the story allegorically ultimately fall short, as any allegorical interpretation must be highly selective of particular details, and therefore necessarily ignores many other details within the story that simply do not fit the supposed allegory, relegating claims of allegory to the realm of wishful thinking. The story must ultimately be read as what it is: a Jewish narrative apology for the patriarch Joseph’s mixed marriage, with possible, occasional Christian reworking.

Keep in mind that there are all kinds of allegorical interpretations of biblical texts in the first centuries BCE and CE. Chapter 15 of the pseudepigraphical Epistle of Barnabas offers an allegorical interpretation of the Creation account from Gen. 1. The first century Jewish scholar Philo of Alexandria also offered allegorical interpretations of biblical events and figures (including Joseph). The difference here is that Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Wilson are claiming an allegorical interpretation of a pseudepigraphical text, as if the text of Joseph and Aseneth were itself canonical.

When all is said and done, Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Wilson offer an allegorical interpretation of a Syriac translation of a (likely originally Greek) pseudepigraphical text, written to “clean up” the fact that the Hebrew patriarch Joseph married a non-Hebrew.

Fifth: The text used as “proof” of Jesus’ marriage dates to the 6th century CE, and only hopeful speculation pushes the Syriac version of this text back to earlier centuries. The fact that the Syriac version is composed long after an established minority tradition that depicts Jesus as Mary Magdalene’s κοινωνός, or “companion” in the Gospel of Philip, or the Gospel of Mary, which states that Jesus “loved [Mary] more than the rest of woman” – a tradition that some modern interpreters and fiction writers have argued is evidence that the Mary mentioned is Mary Magdalene, and that the two were married – does not provide “evidence” that Jesus and Mary were married. It simply means that some later author was making a contribution to this tradition. BUT, because it is written after the others, it CANNOT be used as “evidence” of ANYTHING but a continuation of the already late tradition that Jesus was married.

It would be like citing a favorable book review written by followers of Simcha Jacobovici three centuries after the publication of The Lost Gospel, and citing it as evidence that Simcha knows what he’s talking about. Such a review would contribute nothing to Simcha’s credibility, but would only serve as evidence that someone much later liked the book. Similarly, the Syriac version is a translation of a pseudepigraphical apology, upon which is forced Mr. Jacobovici’s allegorical translation. This is evidence of nothing.

Sixth: (And please remember I originally wrote the following over a year ago.) Anyone attempting an allegorical interpretation of Joseph and Aseneth, and arguing for anything other than an apology for why Joseph married a non-Israelite (and the daughter of a pagan priest at that), is grasping at speculative straws, and attempting (like the author of the Syriac text) to stretch the text into something it was never designed to do. Whether it be a gnostic interpretation of the text, or an attempt to argue something truly ridiculous and sensational, for example, that the story somehow represents Jesus and Mary Magdalene (as “Bride of God”, requiring an appeal to separate Gnostic texts like Pistis Sophia, the Gospel of Mary, and the Gospel of Philip), and that this allegorical representation from six centuries after the life of Jesus, relying on the weaving together of multiple Gnostic texts composed a full century after the life of Jesus, somehow provides “evidence” of aspects of Jesus’ actual, historical lifesuch allegorical interpretations are the height of unsubstantiated speculation.

My teacher, Randall Chesnutt, said it best in his conclusion:

“While no one doubts the presence of symbolic and allegorical elements, the trend now is toward a method which recognizes those elements of symbolism and allegory which are straightforward and explicit in the narrative of Aseneth’s conversion rather than those supposed to be encoded deep within it.” (Chesnutt, From Death to Life, p. 45).

Finally: The book’s methodology is highly problematic. Scholars won’t reject Mr. Jacobovici’s findings because of some “theological trauma” or a confessional, apologetic desire to preserve the Jesus described in the Bible. I’m an agnostic. I have no dog in the fight of whether Jesus was married or not. He could be married and have 4 kids like me and I wouldn’t care. The problem is not a theological one, it is one of scholarship, methodology, and the (mis)use of evidence. Scholars won’t reject Mr. Jacobovici’s claims because they want to defend Christianity, scholars will reject Mr. Jacobovici’s speculations because he engages in circular reasoning, lacks evidence, breaks any number of rules of textual criticism, and engages in what I’ve described in the past as “speculation wrapped in hearsay couched in conspiracy masquerading as science ensconced in sensationalism slathered with misinformation” – all of which is designed to sell books and get viewers to watch the accompanying documentary in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

So in my professional opinion as an archaeologist and a tenure-track professor at a major research university (GO HAWKS!), I must recommend against this book. Just don’t bother. Were it a Dan Brown-esque novel, positing a speculative interpretation about the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene utilizing a fanciful allegorical interpretation of a document written six centuries after Jesus came and went, I’d say buy it and have fun. Fiction can be so much fun! But the problem with this book is that Mr. Jacobovici believes what he’s writing. He believes his interpretation is true. He wants it to be true. And that hovers somewhere between comical and scary.

I HAVE read the book and it really is worse than you might imagine. The text in question is neither “lost” nor a “gospel”, and the allegorical reading of the Syriac version of Joseph and Aseneth is little more than a wishful hope that it would be so, employing little more than name substitution and a desire to prove The DaVinci Code true. Absolutely no scholar will take this book seriously. It will not change Christianity. It will not change biblical scholarship. It’s just Simcha doing what he does best: direct-to-the-public pseudoscholarship just in time for Christmas.

NY Court of Appeals Upholds 19 Convictions Against Raphael Golb in Dead Sea Scrolls Case

Raphael Golb had multiple convictions upheld by the NY Court of Appeals. He had appealed the 29 counts on which he was convicted and which the Appellate Division had upheld.

Raphael Golb had multiple convictions upheld by the NY Court of Appeals. He had appealed the 29 counts on which he was initially convicted and which the NY Appellate Division had upheld. The NY Court of Appeals upheld 19 convictions.

The NY Court of Appeals today affirmed and upheld a total of 19 convictions of Raphael Golb, son of Dr. Norman Golb, Ludwig Rosenberger Professor in Jewish History and Civilization at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, in a bizarre internet cybercrime case stemming from crimes committed beginning in 2007.

The NY Court of Appeals upheld 9 convictions of criminal impersonation and all 10 forgery convictions in the case of the People of NY v. Raphael Golb, in which the defendant created an army of pseudonymous online sock puppets to criticize, harass, and ultimately impersonate various scholars who disagreed with the academic findings of his father, Dr. Norman Golb, concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The court vacated the top charge of identity theft (felony), 5 criminal impersonation convictions, all aggravated harassment convictions, as well as the conviction on the count of unauthorized use of a computer.

For the reasons that follow, we affirm the convictions for nine counts of criminal impersonation in the second degree and all of the convictions for forgery. We vacate the conviction for identity theft in the second degree; five of the convictions for criminal impersonation in the second degree; all of the convictions for aggravated harassment in the second degree, and the conviction for unauthorized use of a computer.

(For more, visit the NY Court of Appeals “Decisions” page.)

The vacating of the lone felony charge may mean reduced or no jail time for Dr. Golb, but that will be for the NY Supreme Court to decide, as the case has been remitted to them for resentencing:

Accordingly, the order of the Appellate Division should be modified by vacating the convictions for Counts 2, 3, 5, 23, 29, 40, 42, 44, 48, and 51, dismissing those counts of the indictment, and remitting to Supreme Court for resentencing, and, as so modified, affirmed. [emphasis mine]

Keep in mind, however, that while the now vacated felony count carried a sentence of six months and 5 years probation, the misdemeanor counts also carried three month prison sentences and three years probation of their own. So there is a chance that Dr. Golb’s prison sentence may be reduced, but as 19 misdemeanor counts were affirmed, he could still serve time.

(For a list of convictions that were earlier upheld by the Appellate Division, see my earlier post from Jan. 29, 2013 here.)

Reaction

I offered an initial response when Dr. Golb was initially sentenced. I’ll add only the following:

For all those involved, this has been a grueling time. At the end of the day, Dr. Golb has been found guilty on 19 counts in a truly groundbreaking cybercrime case, which I’m sure many future cases will reference.

Raphael Golb is not only an internet troll, but he’s also a criminal and now a convict. A jury of his peers, the NY Appellate Division, and now the NY Court of Appeals have all said so.

And while one might argue that sending pseudonymous letters to multiple supervisors containing speech that is intended to harass and “destroy the career prospects of a really nice guy” is not criminal harassment, it is difficult to argue that forgery and criminal impersonation are “protected” speech. That is where Dr. Golb’s actions became criminal, and that is what the court has upheld.

Throughout this ordeal, we also learned that Raphael Golb’s father, Dr. Norman Golb, not only knew about some of the activities of his son, but participated in informing them.

This is simply a sad case of academic pride run amok, and an example of the lengths to which some scholars will go to defame and injure those scholars who happen to disagree with their theories, including knowledgeably working with one’s children, who have created an army of internet sockpuppets to commit crimes against others.

While I don’t feel any better now that the NY Court of Appeals has determined that I wasn’t harassed (at least not “criminally”), I am satisfied that Dr. Golb was found guilty on multiple counts, and that both the Appellate Division and the NY Court of Appeals have affirmed these convictions.

I should like to think that this will be the end of this mess, but I’m certain that this saga will continue. Dr. Golb has already vowed further appeals all the way to the US Supreme Court if allowed. For now, I take satisfaction in knowing that the wheels of justice, however slow, have once again arrived at a correct decision, and will continue to do so.

DEVELOPING…

Robert Cargill to give AIA lecture tonight on “New Approaches in Digital Archaeology at Tel Azekah, Israel”

Tel Azekah digital model, University of Iowa.

Tel Azekah digital model

I’m giving a lecture tonight for the Iowa chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America entitled “New Approaches in Digital Archaeology at Tel Azekah, Israel.”

Info for this AIA Iowa Society Lecture Program is as follows:

Title: “New Approaches in Digital Archaeology at Tel Azekah, Israel”
Presenters: Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D., Asst. Prof of Classics and Religious Studies, University of Iowa
Cale Staley, MA Student, Department of Religious Studies, University of Iowa
Location: Room 116 of the Art Building West, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
Date: Feb 24, 2014
Time: 7:30 PM

Abstract: This presentation examines the University of Iowa’s 3D, virtual reconstruction of Tel Azekah, located in the Elah Valley just west of Jerusalem after its initial two seasons of excavation. The presentation offers a new methodology for the systematic digital cataloging, visualization, and reconstruction of archaeological excavations as they progress.

About the Presenter: Robert Cargill is Assistant Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Iowa, where he has taught since 2011. He came to Iowa from the University of California, Los Angeles Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. While at UCLA, he also served as the Instructional Technology Coordinator for UCLA’s Center for Digital Humanities. He is part of the Public Humanities in a Digital World cluster of faculty.

Sponsored by: The AIA Iowa Society Lecture Program, with the support of the Office of the State Archaeologist, the University of Iowa Departments of Anthropology, Classics, Religion, Art and Art History, and the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History.

Audience Type: General public

Tel Azekah digital model, University of Iowa.

Tel Azekah digital model, University of Iowa.

Prof. Robert Cargill to Appear on Iowa Public Radio’s “News Buzz” Today at 12:45c to Discuss List of Most and Least Bible-minded Cities

I’m scheduled to appear on Iowa Public Radio’s “News Buzz” segment today (Friday, January 24, 2014) at 12:45 (central) with Ben Kieffer.

I’ll be discussing a new report completed by the American Bible Society and the Barna Group, which ranked the most and least Bible-minded cities in the US. Specifically, I’ll be addressing the Cedar Rapids/Waterloo/Iowa City area, which ranked the 5th least Bible-minded city, up (or down, depending on your perspective) from #9 on last year’s inaugural list.

America's Most (and Least) Bible-minded Cities for 2014. (Image source: American Bible Society/Barna Group)

America’s Most (and Least) Bible-minded Cities for 2014. (Image source: American Bible Society/Barna Group)

The results were based upon responses to over 46,000 surveys of adults nationwide over a seven-year period asking whether respondents had “read the Bible withing the past seven days” and whether they “agreed strongly in the accuracy of the Bible”. According to Barna, “respondents who report reading the bible within the past seven days and who agree strongly in the accuracy of the Bible” are identified as “Bible-minded” individuals.

The Top 10 Bible-minded cities are:

1. Chattanooga, TN
2. Birmingham, AL
3. Roanoke/Lynchburg, VA
4. Springfield, MO
5. Shreveport, LA
6. Charlotte, NC
7. Greenville/Spartanburg, SC/Asheville, NC
8. Little Rock, AR
9. Jackson, MS
10. Knoxville, TN

By contrast, the least Bible-minded cities:

1. Providence, RI/ New Bedford, MA.
2. Albany, NY
3. Boston, MA
4. San Francisco, CA
5. Cedar Rapids/Waterloo, IA
6. Buffalo, NY
7. Hartford/New Haven, CN
8. Phoenix, AZ
9. Burlington, VT
10. Portland, ME

Time’s Denver Nicks points out that “many cities in the East Coast continued to rank as the least Bible-minded in 2013,” and suggested that New York City’s “large Jewish population may have rescued it from the bottom ten.” (The survey allowed respondents to determine for themselves whether or not reading the Torah counted as reading the Bible for the purposes of the survey.)

The Blaze’s Billy Hallowell has a nice analysis of the data.

The American Bible Society notes that of the top 25 most Bible-minded cities, only three of them have populations over one million people, suggesting an inverse relationship between urban population and Bible-mindedness. Smaller towns tend to be more Bible-minded.

Christianity Today notes that small towns that are home to Bible colleges tended to rank as much more Bible-minded. They note that “19 of the top 20 most ‘Bible-minded’ cities host sizable Christian colleges.”

I’ll contribute the following:

1) The highest ranked Bible-minded city in the upper-Midwest is #28 Indianapolis, IN, which coincidentally was the only Great Lakes state that voted from Romney in the 2012 Presidential election.

2) Iowa City lawyer and friend, Steve Klesner, points out that this may be due to the fact that the immigrants that settled the upper-Midwest are from places that traditionally value and abide by the rule of law and the authority of secular governments more so than, for instance, those immigrants that settled the South, who traditionally might be more likely to settle disputes personally (with fists or guns). This may be due to the historical South’s tendency to distrust the federal government and its legal system (dating all the way back to pre-Civil War days), or may be a result of a reliance on what Southerners believe to be a “higher authority” made knowable only through the Bible. In such a case, we might expect those who read the Bible both more frequently and literally to be less supportive of the federal government, while those who do not read the Bible as frequently or as literally might place more trust in the fairness of the government.

3) The above supports what appears to be an obvious correlation between traditional “red states” and “blue states” and this survey of Bible-mindedness. Note that the Bible Belt is home to most of the top Bible-minded cities, whereas the northeast and west coast are home to many of the least Bible-minded cities.

Note that the Top 20 Bible-minded cities are all in states that voted for the Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the 2012 Presidential election with the exception of the swing states of Virginia and Florida. The exceptions can be explained by noting that both exceptions listed in the Top 20 (#3 Roanoke/Lynchburg, VA in western Virginia, and #18 Jacksonville, FL in northeastern Florida near Georgia) are considered conservative strongholds within these swing states.

2012 US Presidential Election Electoral Results

2012 US Presidential Election Electoral Results

4) This correlation is also consistent with surveys that have ranked the smartest cities and/or states in America. According to multiple surveys, there is an inverse correlation to overall education level of a state’s residents (based upon high school graduation rate, percentage of residents with college and graduate degrees, etc.) and what this survey would characterize as Bible-mindedness. That is, with few exceptions, the cities that rank as the smartest cities in the nation generally correlate with cities listed as the least Bible-minded in the survey. So for cities in Iowa to be listed along side well known intellectual centers like Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area is a well-deserved achievement, and accurately reflects the priority Iowans place on education as well as the payoff we are beginning to realize on the investment Iowans are making in public education.

5) Specifically addressing the Waterloo/Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area as the 5th least Bible-minded city, this may be explained by the fact that Iowans, and in this case, eastern Iowans are relatively highly educated, fiercely independent, and do not take well to being told how to think by any organized group, whether it be a religious group, a political group, or any other kind of organization. Kevin Hall of the Iowa Republican writes that:

“Democrats in Iowa outnumbered Republicans 640,776-636,315, a difference of 4,461…Both parties are dwarfed by the number of registered independents, which surged to 722,348.”

That is, there are more registered Independents in Iowa than either registered Republicans or Democrats, again supporting the independent-mindedness of Iowans.

6) Without a doubt respondents who answered that they neither read the Bible nor believe the Bible to be accurate must contribute to some of these Cedar Rapids/Waterloo/Iowa City numbers. Thus, we cannot overlook the fact that a large concentration of Iowa independents and free thinkers necessarily suggests a growing number of increasingly proud and vocal atheist, secularist, and humanist groups in Iowa.

7) However, I believe it is also important to differentiate between the two criteria used by the survey to describe “Bible-mindedness”, as the survey’s questionable methodology may undervalue the presence and significance of a large number of progressively-minded Christians. While many respondents in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area may have reported reading the Bible within the past seven days, the frequency of one’s reading of the Bible is quite different from how one might judge the “accuracy” of the Bible, which may or may not be understood as “inerrancy” or “infallibility” of the biblical text by those taking the survey. That is to say, there may be many quite faithful Christians in this area who may have been educated in a non-confessional religious studies department like the University of Iowa’s Department of Religious Studies in which I teach, where the approach to the biblical text is one based upon literary critical, archaeological, and generally more academically analytical approaches, as opposed to the more apologetic, theological, and/or confessional approaches employed by the faculties of many of the small Bible colleges present in 19 of the Top 20 Bible-minded towns.

Thus, a respondent who felt the Bible is not factually “accurate” with respect to stories such as a six-day creation, the biblical flood, etc., may be identified as not Bible-minded by the survey, despite the fact that they read the Bible daily and may be an active, confessing Christian. That is, the survey may be better described as a survey of “fundamentalist Bible-mindedness” or “Biblical-literalist cities,” as the survey tends to equate Bible-mindedness with a belief in the “accuracy” of the biblical text – something that progressive-minded Christians are more inclined to reject as evidenced by other recent surveys that show that nearly two-thirds of Christians now accept human evolution.

[Again, note that in this Pew research poll, a disproportionate number of white, evangelical Protestants (who would make up a large percentage of those believing in the inerrancy and infallibility, and therefore the "accuracy" of the Bible), still reject evolution and cling to the biblical account of Creation.]

For more, be sure to tune in at 12:45 today to listen.

Summaries and expanded discussions of Bible Secrets Revealed Episodes 1-4 available at Bible History Daily

Bible History Daily
I have provided episode summaries of History‘s documentary series “Bible Secrets Revealed” episodes 1-4 at the Bible History Daily website. I’ve also included expanded discussions of many specific issues, as well as answers to many questions posed by Biblical Archaeology Society readers.

The discussions range from the origin of Jesus’ title “Son of Man”, to the origin of the virgin conception of Jesus, to how translators of the Bible fixed the problem of who really killed Goliath.

"Bible Secrets Revealed" Title Image (Courtesy Prometheus Entertainment)

The summaries are here:

Episode 1: Lost in Translation

Episode 2: The Promised Land

Episode 3: Forbidden Scriptures

Episode 4: The Real Jesus

I shall be providing a summary for Episode 5: Mysterious Prophecies soon, and will do the same for Episode 6: Sex and the Scriptures once it airs.

I may also pull some excerpts from those discussions and repost them here on occasion in order to highlight certain points and promote discussion.

Enjoy!

Episode 5 of Bible Secrets Revealed – “Mysterious Prophecies” – Airs Tonight, Dec 18 at 10/9c

Don’t miss episode 5 of the six-part series “Bible Secrets Revealed” on History.

The fifth installment, entitled “Mysterious Prophecies“, debuts Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013 at 10/9c .

The episode explores:

“Biblical prophecies are said to be messages and warnings sent from God, but what do they really foretell? Can they be decoded and used to predict mankind’s future?”

(The answer to the last part is, of course, no, but we’ll look at the nature of biblical prophecy and why misconceptions of prophecy are so prevalent in society.)

This will be followed by an encore airing of episode 4, “The Forbidden Scriptures”, at 11/10c.

If you missed the first four episodes, you can watch them for free online at History‘s “Bible Secrets Revealed” website.

And as a special Christmas gift: I’m pleased to announce that History has scheduled a Bible Secrets Revealed marathon for Christmas Day, Dec. 25. History will replay each of the episodes in order beginning with “Lost in Translation” at 5pm/4c, and the marathon will climax with the premier of episode 6 “Sex and the Scriptures” at 10/9c. The entire series will then re-air beginning at 11p/10c and continuing overnight in case you missed one of the episodes.

So spend this Christmas with friends, family, food, and Bible Secrets Revealed on History. You’ll be glad you did.

Remember to tweet your feedback with the hashtag #BibleSecretsRevealed.

(This has become a lot of fun, as many of the show’s participants (and critics) are live tweeting the episodes, and the many clever tweets have proven to be quite fun. Don’t miss out on your chance to ask questions and make comments with the over 1.3 million people who watch the show each Wednesday night.)

And send your questions to Bible History Daily, where I’ll be answering some of them and providing more in depth explanations of the material covered in the show.

Important article on the Bible’s distaste of multiculturalism by Dr. Hector Avalos

bi_jugMy Iowa State colleague, Dr. Hector Avalos, has written an article at Bible and Interpretation entitled, “In Praise of The Evil Kings: Latino Ethnic Identity and Biblical Scholarship“, that I encourage everyone to read.

The article addresses the problem of multiculturalism in the Bible, and the disparity between the Bible’s view of multiculturalism and traditional biblical scholarship’s portrayal of the Bible’s view of it.

The article challenges the notion that the prophets were somehow in favor of ethnic and religious pluralism, for while they certainly called on Israel to care for the widows and the orphans, they reserved many of their fiercest condemnations for those who would, in fact, marry foreign peoples or worship foreign gods.

Give it a read.

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