Larry Hurtado Provides an Excellent Summary of the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” Results in Harvard Theological Review

The so-called

The so-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife”, a Coptic papyrus fragment whose authenticity is in dispute. Harvard Theological Review has recently dedicated an entire issue to the issue of the fragment’s authenticity.

Please make note of Dr. Larry Hurtado’s post, entitled, “Jesus’ Wife” Articles in HTR: Initial Thoughts“, which provides an excellent summary of the recent tests published in Harvard Theological Review.

Do read his post. I’ll provide a few snippets from his post here, specifically those concerning the scientific results, and one summarizing what this all means.

On the scientific tests:

As for the scientific tests, those on the ink produced results consistent with the item being old, not modern.  The two radio-carbon tests, however, are both a bit puzzling and interesting.  The proposed dates of the two tests are out from each other by several hundred years.  The one report (by Hodgins) notes the curious date-result (405-350 BCE and/or 307-209 BCE), about a thousand years earlier than the date from the other carbon-dating test (659-969 CE), and Hodgins suggests some kind of contamination of the sample.  But I’d assume that a contamination would come from something later than the ancient setting, and so skew the date later, not earlier.

Note that in Gregory Hodgins‘ report, the AMS radiocarbon results read:

Accelerated Mass Spectrometry Radiocarbon Determination of Papyrus Samples
Gregory Hodgins,
NSF Arizona AMS Laboratory, University of Arizona

AA-101793
Sample Gospel of John  (for comparison purposes)
δ13C −9.2‰
Fraction of modern carbon: 0.8568±0.0033
Uncalibrated Radiocarbon Age: 1242±31 14C yrs BP
95.4% Calibrated age ranges: 681 cal c.e. to 877 cal c.e.

AA-101794
Gospel of Jesus’s Wife
δ13C −14.3‰
Fraction of modern carbon: 0.7526±0.0035
Uncalibrated Radiocarbon Age: 2283±37 14C yrs BP (before present) 2 sigma,
95.4% Calibrated age ranges: 405 cal b.c.e. to 350 cal b.c.e., OR
95.4% Calibrated age ranges: 307 cal b.c.e. to 209 cal b.c.e.

Thus, the calibrated AND uncalibrated ranges place the sample to 400-200 yrs BCE.

Note that Dr. Hurtado also points out Dr. King’s note on the later, less ancient dating of the fragment.

To come to Prof. King’s article (the main piece in the issue), I think she takes a careful line, seeking to defend her view that the item on balance seems authentic, but trying to take account of data that require some modification of her earlier judgements, and granting in the end that complete certainty is not possible.  Prominent in the modifications of her earlier view is the intriguing statement in the appended note at the end of the article that the carbon-dating (taking the dating by Tuross) now seems to demand a date sometime in the 8th century CE (not the 4th/5th century CE dating in her earlier paper).  As she notes, this takes us well into the Islamic period of Egypt, and so raises the question of whether, in fact, the fragment might reflect in some way the influence of Islamic ideas about Jesus.

And what does this all mean? Hurtado states:

Certainly, as Prof. King has rather consistently emphasized all along, whatever the date and provenance of the item, it has absolutely no significance whatsoever for “historical Jesus” studiesContrary to some of the sensationalized news stories, that is, the fragment has no import for the question of whether Jesus was married.

I’d also draw your attention to Dr. Leo Depuydt’s rebuttal, which was first outlined at Dr. Mark Goodacre’s blog here.

The fact is, the results of the scientific tests are highly inconclusive, and even if the ink and the papyrus are “ancient”, the dates on the scientific tests range from a period from centuries before the time of Christ, written by a poorly trained scribe with a bad hand, all the way to a period “well into the Islamic period of Egypt”, raising “the question of whether, in fact, the fragment might reflect in some way the influence of Islamic ideas about Jesus.”

Add this to the possibility that a forger scraped ink from an ancient inkwell (these things exist – see the final paragraphs of Dr. Jim Davila’s post here) and rehydrated the ink, and wrote it on an ancient fragment of papyrus from a different period, copying onto it text from a pdf of the Gospel of Thomas available online, which preserved errors present in the pdf. (See Francis Watson’s article on Dr. Goodacre’s site.)

See also Dr. Chris Rollston’s post about this process, especially where he states:

Also, it is also possible for someone to scrape off (e.g., from a papyrus) ancient ink from the words of some mundane ancient inscription….and then add a little water to the dried ink which had been scrapped off and then resuse the ink. Some people (including some scholars) assume that modern forgers are not all that bright (and thus would not be that clever in forging something). In contrast, I believe that modern forgers (at least from the final quarter of the 20th century and on) are quite sharp…..and for good reason they try to be very clever: after all, there is much money to be made and modern forgers knows this….so, as for this piece, I remain very suspicious of its authenticity. Perhaps it’s ancient….but I doubt it.

So expect to hear those heavily invested in the authenticity of the fragment (e.g., those who really want Jesus to have been married to Mary Mags for various, often financial reasons) to declare victory and that the fragment was proved “authentic”, and those who have no skin in the game to remain highly skeptical about the highly inconclusive results and the persistent problems with the text.

Happy Easter.

 

On Facebook, Fox News, and Intersexuality

I swear, the people at FoxNews aren’t just idiots, they’re proudly ignorant idiots, mocking that which (and those whom) they do not (and refuse to) understand.

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson refers to "intersex...whatever that is".

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson refers to “intersex…whatever that is”.

Facebook recently added additional gender options to its traditionally dichotomous male/female profile preferences. The gender terms provided by Facebook have been known for some time by those studying gender and sexuality, and have been explained to the public by professionals on several occasions.

So you can imagine why it may come as no a surprise to many that numerous pundits at Fox News not only do not know what many of these terms mean, but openly mock them.

Listen to the audio on the movie here.

Let me Google that for you: intersexThese are news people. They are supposedly investigators. So why mock intersexual people (or individuals exhibiting an intersexual condition) by saying on air “whatever that is”, when you can just as easily Google it.

Again, Tucker Carlson saying the words “whatever that is” in reference to intersex individuals is either evidence of incompetence as an investigative journalist, or sheer mockery of intersexuals.

Fox News personality Todd Starnes mocks intersexual individuals.

Fox News personality Todd Starnes mocks intersexual individuals.

And when Todd Starnes, host of the radio program Fox News & Commentary and a regular guest on Fox & Friends, says on Facebook,

“In the beginning God made man and woman…but Facebook decided to improve on the original models.”

or the idiotic

“What if you identify as a pine cone or a chicken or a weed whacker? Facebook doesn’t offer those options.”

and concerning “gender-fluid” individuals, who fluctuate somewhere on the spectrum between male and female, Starnes joked,

“You might want to have a roll of paper towels handy — just in case.”

I shake my head. It’s not news. And it’s a poor attempt at comedy. It’s a feigned ignorance for the purposes of mocking very real persons.

Intersexuals are not hypothetical individuals, and they are far more prevalent than you might think. Depending on the definition, about 1-1.7% of all live births – one or two out of every hundred people you know – show some form of sexual ambiguity, with 1 in 10 of those requiring optional surgery to assign them to a traditional male or female sex category.

I’ve blogged on this issue before. The case of Caster Semenya is but one higher profile example of an intersexual individual being questioned in the public spotlight.

And intersexual individuals are not new. There are photographs documenting intersexual individuals dating almost as far back as photography itself. Hell, the Greeks wrote complete myths about intersexuals in an attempt to explain their (divine) origin.

But it is this continued, deliberate ignorance of the existence of intersexual individuals – and the complete apathy concerning learning about them – that explains why so may religious conservatives (including those at Fox News) make the ignorant arguments they do concerning same-sex marriage. To put it simply, the existence of intersexual individuals implodes all arguments they make both about their opposition to anything but heterosexual marriage, and their claims that individuals choose their sexuality and are not born or “created” that way.

To argue age-old gender related religious arguments like “men are the spiritual leaders” and “women cannot be elders in the church” and “marriage is only between one man and one woman” falsely assumes that all individuals are either male or female. This is simply not the case, whether the Bible acknowledges intersexual individuals or not. Remember, science is not the Bible’s strong suit, and there are many realities of the modern world that the Bible simply does not acknowledge (for instance, that disease is caused by germs and not possession by evil spirits).

Intersexual individuals (formerly called Hermaphrodites after the Greek god Hermaphroditos, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite, who, according to Ovid, fused with a nymph (Salmacis) resulting in his possessing the physical traits of both a man and a woman) are very real individuals who do not fall into the traditional male-female dichotomy. Additionally, intersexual organisms are very common in nature. For example, clownfish (of the subfamily Amphiprioninae) of “Finding Nemo” fame are sequential intersexuals, with all specimens being born initially male, but with the largest fish in the group transforming very naturally into a female for reproductive purposes. (Remember that next time you watch the Disney favorite!)

Again, if you are going to argue that God made people, then God made intersexual people the way they are. (Right? Because “God don’t make no mistakes.”) They certainly didn’t “choose” to be intersexual; they were born that way. And while many intersexual individuals are proud of who they are and of the way they are, many others struggle with acceptance in a society so obsessed with sexuality and sexual conformity (especially to conservative religious traditions).

So tell me, praytell, who can intersexual individuals marry? Can they serve in leadership roles in a church?

These are real questions about real people, and the idiots at Fox News are too ignorant to know what they are, too stupid to look it up, and to bigoted to do anything but laugh at them. There is no excusing it. It is sheer mockery. They mock what they do not (and refuse to) understand because it does not fit their religious right wing narrative.

It is not news; it’s public social mockery of that which is “different” or “outside” and “beyond” the conservative worldview resulting from the religious blinders imposed by the Conservative Evangelical Republican political machine.

New Pew Poll Shows Republicans, Evangelicals Least Likely to Accept Evolution

A new Pew research poll on the “Public’s Views on Human Evolution” was released presenting data that backs up what many political and religious scholars have suspected for some time: that white Evangelical Republicans (particularly older ones) constitute the group that most rejects the basic scientific principle of human evolution via natural selection.

The results are simultaneously unbelievable and yet quite typical, or at the very least, expected.

While only 33% of adult Americans still don’t accept human evolution via natural selection, opting instead to believe that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time”, THAT NUMBER NEARLY DOUBLES TO 64% among white evangelical protestants(!) AND, of those white evangelical protestants that did accept evolution, half of them said that a “supreme being guided [the] process.” As a point of comparison, a majority of Catholics (both white, 68%, and Hispanic, 53%) accept human evolution.

But what is truly disturbing is the continued religio-political marriage between the Republican party and white Evangelicals (the most fundamentalist of whom are spearheading the even more conservative Tea Party movements). While a majority of Independents (65%) and Democrats (67%) accept evolution as the origin of humankind, A MAJORITY OF REPUBLICANS NOW REJECT EVOLUTION – with 48% of Republicans saying that humans “existed in present from since the beginning”, and only 43% of Republicans accepting evolution. And incredulously, unlike trends in nearly every other demographic where science and science education appear to (finally!) be taking root and acceptance of human evolution is increasing, THE PERCENTAGE OF REPUBLICANS ACCEPTING EVOLUTION IS ACTUALLY DOWN 11%(!!) over the past four years, from 54% in 2009 to 43% in 2013.

No wonder many think the Republican party is out of touch. Statistically, Republicans are actually getting DUMBER scientifically! Then again, look at the recent major Republican political candidates and their religious views. Good grief!

Also of note in the survey:

  • Men accept evolution more than women (65% to 55%).
  • Not surprisingly, college graduates accept evolution far more than those with a high school or less education (72% to 51%).
  • And again not surprisingly, younger demographics consistently accept evolution more than their older counterparts, with 68% of those ages 18-29 accepting evolution, roughly 60% of those ages 30-64, but only 49% of those 65 and older accepting evolution. This is likely due to a number of factors, including an increased acceptance of science and scientific principles among high school and college students, the rise of the Internet and the availability of credible information about evolution – information that is not always taught by parents and pastors, and it is also likely a reflection of the increasing rejection of traditional religious institutions by younger generations.

In sum, we now have hard data to support what many of us have observed for some time now: a correlation between older generations, white Evangelicals, the Republican party, and a rejection of one of the basic principles of science, namely human evolution via natural selection.

We can take hope, however, that among both Christian and non-religious groups alike, there is an overall increase in the acceptance of human evolution via natural selection, and that those still rejecting evolution appear to be limited to groups that are lesser educated, Evangelical, and of older ages. Again, this is likely due to an increased acceptance of science and scientific principles among younger generations, the Internet’s ability to provide increasingly credible information about evolution and information demonstrating the fallacies (both scientific and religious) of Creationism, and the increasingly pervasive stigma that Creationism is associated with old, white, conservative, Evangelical Republicans who are out of touch with science, reality, and the majority of the people.


UPDATE: I had the wrong URL in the initial link to the Pew study. It now correctly links to the study.

Don’t Miss the Harvest Moon Tonight

A “Harvest Moon” is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox.

And depending on where you live, it’s either tonight or tomorrow night. So remember to take a step outside and catch a glimpse.

For more information, catch Michele Berger’s article on the Weather Channel’s website.

Explaining the Azekah Area S2 Water Cistern to Dovid and Barnea of Foundation Stone

While I was excavating the bor mayim (water cistern) in Area S2 at Azekah this summer, some old friends stopped by…well, more like dropped in.

Dovid Willner and Barnea Selavan of Foundation Stone dropped in to ask about the cistern and what we can learn from its excavation.

They captured the interview on camera, and made it available to the public.

Enjoy!

Quincy and Rory Kate Have Come Home

After a month in the University of Iowa Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and after a month of daily trips to and from the NICU, Quincy and Rory Kate have come home.

Both are healthy, gaining weight, and making sleep for periods of more than 3 hours quite impossible. The twins were born on May 11 at 34 weeks. This meant that the past month has been an exercise in patient vigilance and a trusting reliance on doctors, nurses, friends, and family. The trips to and from the NICU only made the birth of the twins all the more logistically inconvenient. BUT, the medical staff at the UI hospitals helped nurture premies born at 5 lb. 1 oz. and 4 lb. 14 oz. to a healthy 7 lb. 2 oz. and 6 lb. 4 oz. respectively.

I’d like to thank all of my friends and colleagues who passed on thoughts, prayers, and well wishes during this period. I’d especially like to thank my mother, Sharon Costales Cargill, who moved here to Iowa City in March to help us with our growing family. She has been invaluable and we could not have done this without her.

I’d also like to thank the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics doctors, nurses, PAs, and staff. Not only did they oversee a flawless delivery of twins, but their constant care and commitment to the twins has been a true blessing. They deserve all the credit for their tireless efforts.

This entire experience has been a lived example of the intersection of humanity (in the birth of the twins) and science and technology, which provides life-saving healing and care that was simply unimaginable or attributed to the realm of the “miraculous” even only decades ago. I am thankful for science and technology and those involved in them, to those doctors and nurses who dedicate their lives to the personal well-being of others, and I offer my deepest appreciation to those untold thousands of donors who contribute substantial funding to this kind of scientific and medical research that saves young lives.

I am proud to be associated with the University of Iowa and the wonderful research that is going on here. It is my hope that in caring for Quincy and Rory Kate, some young resident doctor or nurse in training was able to hone their craft and develop a deeper appreciation for the delicate existence that is newborn human life.

On behalf of Roslyn, Talitha, MacLaren, Quincy, and Rory Kate, I’d like to express my deepest appreciation to all those who made the past month a little bit easier for us. Your kinds words on Facebook, Twitter, my blog, email, phone calls, text messages, cards, and letters offered tremendous encouragement. Your gifts were both humbling and much needed. The coordinated meals provided by the Caring Connection at First Presbyterian Church (thank you Liz Hall) and the visits from Sam Massey (you are awesome) and his team, Uncle Jordan Smith and Cory Taylor (for bringing contraband burgers and fries on multiple occasions), a visit (and a fridge stock) from Rick Bennett, and an extended stay from Ruth Anne Bennett (who provided custom curtains for the nursery), all allowed us to spend even more time with the twins. Again, we appreciate your time and efforts in this difficult, yet joyous time for us.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Rory Kate Duvall Cargill

Rory Kate Duvall Cargill

Quincy Enoch Domenico Cargill

Quincy Enoch Domenico Cargill

Mac gives kisses to Rory Kate

Mac gives kisses to Rory Kate

Mac gives kisses to Quincy

Mac gives kisses to Quincy

Rory Kate Duvall Cargill

Rory Kate Duvall Cargill

Rory Kate Duvall Cargill

Rory Kate Duvall Cargill

Rory Kate Duvall Cargill

Rory Kate Duvall Cargill

Quincy Enoch Domenico Cargill

Quincy Enoch Domenico Cargill

Quincy and Rory Kate

Quincy and Rory Kate

Quincy and Rory Kate with Daddy

Quincy and Rory Kate with Daddy

Rory Kate and Quincy

Rory Kate and Quincy

Rory Kate and Quincy

Rory Kate and Quincy

Rory Kate and Quincy

Rory Kate and Quincy

Rory Kate and Quincy

Rory Kate and Quincy

Mac helps feed Quincy

Mac helps feed Quincy

Mommy, Quincy, and Rory Kate

Mommy, Quincy, and Rory Kate

Mommy, Quincy, and Rory Kate

Mommy, Quincy, and Rory Kate

Rory Kate and Quincy

Rory Kate and Quincy

Rory Kate and Quincy

Rory Kate and Quincy

Rory Kate Duvall Cargill

Rory Kate Duvall Cargill

Quincy and Rory Kate with Daddy

Quincy and Rory Kate with Daddy

Quincy and Rory Kate with Daddy

Quincy and Rory Kate with Daddy

The family sleeping in a real pile

The family sleeping in a real pile

Views on Evolution by Members of Different Religious Groups in the US

In 2008, the Pew Research Forum published the findings of a survey they did examining the percentage of the US population who agree that human evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth by members of various religious groups.

Percentage of the US population who agree that evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth.

Percentage of the US population who agree that evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth.

The results are fascinating.

But first, here’s a fun exercise: find your religious faith tradition on the bottom of the chart, and look at the traditions to the left and right of you. This allows you to put into perspective your view on the scientific fact of human evolution.

The chart is powerful because it allows US citizens to see where they are on the relative scale of beliefs.

You will note that there are three natural statistical clusters:

To the left, there are the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, and ‘unaffiliated’ (which could mean anything from atheist to agnostic to “spiritual” to “aliens did it”).

Then in the center, there are Catholics, Orthodox, Mainline Protestants (right at the 50% mark), Muslims, and Black Protestants.

Finally, at the far right, there are the Evangelicals, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The far right category doesn’t surprise me: these three religious groups have led the way in denying science outright for some time now.

Interestingly, the Muslim category was farther left than I expected, probably due to the fact that the media usually portrays Muslims as more fundamentalist than the national average. (Again, Muslims in the US are less likely to be fundamentalist, and therefore less likely to be seen on TV. Rational folks don’t usually end up on TV; just watch any news program or reality show.)

Other than that, there are few surprises. Historically, the most densely populated Catholic parts of the country are in the northeast, where the average demographic is more liberal/progressive and better educated than the national average. Black Protestants and Evangelicals demographically appear in the south, where things lean more conservative and people are less educated than the national average. (Even FoxBusiness says so.) This sociological reality may partially explain the results.

Again, the chart is powerful because it allows US citizens of particular faith traditions to see where they are (and to whom they are intellectually closest on the issue of evolution) on the relative scale of beliefs.

So where are you?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,065 other followers

%d bloggers like this: