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Bleg



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A few things on the consumer front. The missus and I are thinking about buying a new car, probably an SUV or conceivably a station wagon. Minivans are out of the question. Any guidance on what the safest (baby on board, ‘nuf said) and best value in this department would be welcome. I’d love the Volvo, Acura or Lexus SUVs but price is an object (that was a veiled hint to you NRO-reading car executives, by the way).

Second, as of August 1, AOL is discontinuing its “Mobile Communicator” — what it calls it’s fairly dinky blackberry. So I need to get a new blackberry type device, but I understand that AOL only really works with T-Mobile Sidekick which I also hear isn’t very good. Any suggestions on this front, other than “get rid of AOL” — would be welcome as well.

Please send suggestions to — and only to — [email protected] (there’s no room at my normal address). Thanks.

More Re Jonah & Passion



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This reader gets it:


Much of the discussion of “historical accuracy” misses the point. As Mel Gibson has pointed out in numerous interviews, he believes (rightly in my opinion) that no Hollywood treatment of the crucifixion has have come close to accurately portraying how brutal it was.

His goal is to simply to show how awfully Jesus suffered for the sins of the world. To appreciate the horror of Jesus’ death, conservative Christians look not only to the Gospels but also the Old Testament messianic prophecies in the Psalms and Isaiah.

When Gibson says he is striving for historical accuracy, this, above all is what he means.

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Pryor Update



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Unwilling to attack 11th Circuit nominee Bill Pryor on the merits, Senate Democrats are seeking to question Pryor’s character, according to this report (LvHB). This is absurd. If there is one ground upon which Bill Pryor is unassailable, it is his integrity. No judicial nominee of in decades has been anywhere near as forthcoming as Pryor at a confirmation hearing. And perhaps that is the problem. Senate Democrats are afraid to attack Pryor for his record and his views, so they (once again) resort to trumped up allegations of ethical improprieties to stop the nominee. (In other words, for all of Senator Schumer’s professed desire to get beyond “gotcha” politics in judicial nominations, he and the gang are back at it.) Meanwhile, the Washington Times reports that the anti-Pryor campaign is getting help from an non-disinterested source.

Web Briefing: October 1, 2014

Economic Uranium



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Liberal columnist Paul Krugman is back from vacation, and so is the Kurgman Truth Squad. In his latest column for the New York Times, Krugman put an economics twist on the “Bush lied” theme: Not only did our president supposedly mislead us on African uranium, he also lied about tax cuts and the budget. Krugman, as KTS readers know, has a bit of a truth problem of his own when it comes to economics — and he had to roll out a barrel of new lies to make his latest case against Bush. For all the details, read Don Luskin’s latest KTS.

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Equal Time



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Lest people think I’m stacking the deck in favor of Ms. Fredriksen, here are three emails from readers (and the very last I will be posting on this subject for a while at least. I’m on a deadline for an NRODT article. Other Cornerites are free to do what they wish):


Jonah,

I know you’ve probably received a million emails on this, but please bear with me.

Just a few comments on the supposed contradictions (I simply read your post and haven’t done any real looking up), but the differences can be attributed to differences of perspective for the various gospel authors. Two witnesses don’t have to give the exact same testimony to be telling the same story.

As far as I can tell from reading, John doesn’t even mention the seder, so I don’t know how it can be said that Jesus was dead before it.

Regarding the number & times of the trials, the answer is simple. There were two trials. One farcical trial by the high priest late at night immediately followed by a Roman trial before Pilate early in the morning the next day. From a witnesses perspective, they could be stated as one trial that took all night (they went right from one to the next), two separate trials (since their were two different courts). To a person observing, it would seem to have been one long night. But to the educated Luke (who being a doctor would be used to exquisite attention to detail) he new the second trial took place early in the morning (he may not have even been present at the first trial – or simply not referred to it).

Lastly regarding the method of Jesus death, He was crucified, because that is how it was prophesied that the Christ would die. Repeatedly throughout the gospels, the Jewish leaders sought to kill him secretly but were restrained (by God) since (according to Jesus Himself) His time had not yet come.

The story makes perfect sense if you accept it as written by the same God of the old testament and read it as the fulfillment of OT prophecy.


And…

Dear Jonah:

You surely have better Bible scholars than I in your readership, but here’s an unoffended, reasonably well-informed, middle-of-the-road Christian take on the excerpts from Fredriksen’s article.

1. She’s right that Greek would have been much more widely used than Latin, though for all we know Pilate was a monoglot Latin chauvinist.

2. There are differences in the Gospel accounts. Some people have devoted immense amounts of efforts to reconciling them. Most have more or less shrugged them off as not central.

3. Anne Catherine Emmerich didn’t become a saint because of her deep sense of ecumenism, and apparently Gibson relied on her writing at some stage in the composition of the script. Fredriksen’s group tried to weed this influence out, and it’s not clear whether it persists in the final version.

4. Fredriksen’s dating of the Gospels is in the mainstream, though some think that Mark was written earlier and many think a now-lost source for Matthew and Luke was written earlier.

5. Fredriksen’s apparently central claim that Rome must have wanted Jesus dead is really speculative. Sure, it’s possible, but it’s no more likely and probably less than the other hypotheses she rejects on very, very slight grounds.

6. It is occasionally claimed — it’s not clear from your excerpts if Fredriksen makes this claim — that, for political reasons, the authors of the Gospels deliberatatly shifted the blame from Romans to Jews. People who say this don’t seem to have the faintest suspicion that they are vulnerable to the same charge in reverse. At any rate, (1) no one now feels any ecumenical pressure to minimize the responsibility of the Romans, and (2) it takes some chutzpah to say, twenty centuries after the fact, that we can now figure out the politics better and more honestly than the writers of the time, some of whom may have been eye-witnesses.

7. Ultimately, to any orthodox Christian, it’s neither the Jews nor the Romans nor Caiaphas nor Judas nor any other person or group that’s responsible for the Crucifixion — it’s all of us, it’s the sinfulness of man. At the Catholic Passion liturgy every year, there’s a dramatic reading of one of Gospel accounts, and the congregation plays the part of the mob, crying “Crucify him!” It’s supposed to sting.

In other words, there’s no need to deny or twist the Gospels to exculpate the Jews and promote inter-faith harmony. What’s needed is for Christians to understand their religion a little better.

And finally…

The Gospels as history: having read a lot about this, I must warn you that
everybody brings their biases to the table on this one. Frederiksen seems more
open about her disbelief than many. Some of the key ways to tell which side
someone is on:

First; dating: her dates are the ones traditional liberal scholars use; 70-100
C.E. (I suppose “C.E.” as opposed to the traditional “A.D.” is actually the
first clue). Beyond that, the 70-100 dates may have been the early twentieth
century academic consensus view. Since then, however, more traditionally
minded theologians and even some liberal theologians (T.A. Robinson, for one)
have put forward strong arguments for dating the synoptics (Matthew, Mark and
Luke) before Paul’s probable execution in Rome, about 56 “C.E.” (Otherwise,
“Acts,” a continuation of Luke, would have finished with a description of the results of Paul’s trial in Rome, instead of ending with his house arrest.) There are lots of other arguments, but suffice it to say, while this dating ultimately doesn’t prove anything, it seems to be a hot button to any reliability debate.

Second, “inconsistencies.” Either they are there or they aren’t, depending on
what you want to prove. Briefly, may I note that none of the inconsistencies cut to decisive issues of faith. In addition most of the inconsistencies arise out of an omission rather than a commission–one account mentions two women, for example, while another mentions only one–but who’s to say whether someone else was not also present, etc. Frederiksen reads John to say that Christ was arrested before the Seder meal, not after. Actually, she infers that from John but I don’t think he is explicit about this. Such inconsistencies are replete in other historical records, but we seem to bring a different standard to the Gospels. Wonder why? Interpretation of the Gospels is riddled with these sorts of academic games. It can be very frustrating if you insist on a definitive
answer. What bugs me are the people like Frederiksen who purport to have
reliable answers when the record is JUST TOO THIN for sound conclusions.

One area where Frederiksen clearly steps over the line is on crucifixion. The
consensus view is that the Jewish ruling council met with Christ after he was
arrested (you might or might not call it a trial) and they sent him to Pilate because they wanted him executed. Again, there is a consensus that while the Jewish council had some punitive authority, only the Romans had the power to execute a person. If you read Josephus (and you must, if you want an objective account of these times in Palestine) Pilate had a tiger by the tail in trying to govern this territory. It is very plausible that he decided on a public execution as a message to the local, very rebellious population. Her notions about “Rome” are ridiculous and should only be offered up, at best, as speculation. There is nothing to support her idea that I am aware of, and it makes her bias abundantly clear. She is your typical academic, and the irony is that she has devoted her life to debunking the work she studies. Sounds like
many academic scholars, actually.

Dogs: On The Same Page



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The Washington Post has a great piece on how dogs have highly evolved abilities to communicate with humans non-verbally (“Duh,” quoth Cosmo.) I’ve seen stuff on this before, but it’s a nice update to the growing body of literature that demonstrates dogs are our wingmen on this mortal coil. As for the non-verbal communication, I find this particularly interesting because I’ve been experimenting with this and Cosmo for a while. Since we’ve had the baby, we do a lot of walking around the neighborhood with the stroller. This has required me to give Coz a lot more commands in terms of crossing streets, avoiding other dogs, where not to leave his calling cards etc. What’s interesting is that I’ve found that I can use hand signals and snaps often more effectively than voice commands. Part of this obviously has to do with the fact that Cosmo is a frick’n genius. We’ve never really spent any time teaching him anything because he always picks it up so quickly. He stops at every crosswalk and won’t even chase his tennis balls across the street without approval. But part of it has to do with the fact that dogs are genetically attuned to travelling alongside humans.

Anyway, as you know, I can talk a lot more and with more confidence about dogs than I can about the New Testament. But I’ll stop for now.

Barkley On Bryant



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“He can run for president now. That’s what it means.”

Tv Rip-Offs



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I Report, You Decide



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Just for the record, I did say I am a neophyte and “ignorant” to these debates over the Gospels. All I ask is if you’re profoundly offended take it up with Ms. Fredriksen and the New Republic. I can already tell from a handful of emails I’ve gotten before 7:00 AM, that some folks really want to pick a fight on this one. That’s fine, but I’m not the opponent. At best, I’m just the fight promoter. Perhaps someone else has strong feelings on this one and can take over the discussion in the Corner.

I Should Have Figured....



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I’ve gotten several emails like this:

Shame on you Jonah. As someone who is well-aquainted with the maleability of facts, especially in the hands of liberal authors, you ought not to be uncritically repeating claims like those of Ms Fredriksen. The differences in the gospels have been the subject of debate for millenia, and there have been few conservative Chrisian scholars who felt the differences are irreconcilable. Just because Ms Fredriksen doesn’t give the other side of the story doesn’t mean there isn’t another side.

I’ll leave it to your more knowledgeable readers to acquaint you with the other side (as I’m sure they will, in great detail), but I want to point out that you should have immediately seen something strange in her claim about Rome wanting Jesus dead. Crucifiction was used as the common form of execution in the Roman empire, not only for rebels, but also for deserters, murderers, escaped slaves, and thieves. The claim that the crucification indicated an interest from the imperial capital is laughable. This was the first century you know, the fastest form of communication was the trireme, which is just a really big rowboat with a pathetically inadequate sail. Governers in outlying regions couldn’t pop off a quick email to Rome to get their opinion on every paltry execution.

And this one:

Subject: There aren’t any inconsistencies I know of in the New Testament

You’ve already admitted your ignorance, so just play smart and leave the subject alone.

A friend

Farewell Then, Idi Amin



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Idi Amin, King of Scotland (that was actually one of his self-awarded
titles–he liked the kilt) will be best remembered by many of us through
British comedian John Bird’s send-up of him on a 1970s record
I can still sing the title number: “Idi!
Idi! Idi Amin! Greatest mon de world ebber seen!”

Idi Amin Update



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As Andrew mentioned yesterday, the former “president for life” of Uganda is evidently on his deathbed–he has fallen into a coma. I’m not sure I even knew the guy was alive. I do know that he’s basically responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. And where has he been living, lo these many years? First in Libya, and now in Saudi Arabia. Why am I not surprised?

Jonah & The Passion



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This, I know, doesn’t speak to all of Jonah’s questions by any means, but here’s what Raymond Arroyo had to say about the whole thing after interviewing Gibson earlier this year. Seems to me that some of the “problems” Fredriksen brings up in the article you cite are not essential to the story being told. Historical accuracy, to the extent possible, with a focus on the suffering of Christ, appears to me is Gibson’s goal. Arroyo’s interview with Gibson can be viewed here (scroll to 15).

Jets For Iceland



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The good people of Iceland are upset by plans to withdraw the last four Air Force fighter jets from their soil, according to this story in the Washington Post. Maybe I’m a softie, but I read the piece and started hoping the Bush administration will cancel the pullout. Amid all the bad news coming out of Baghdad, it’s nice to see that there’s a country that wants us there.

Iraq



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Paul Gigot’s there. Amir Taheri just was.

Question



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Jonah, dream on.

Question



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K-Lo – Does late night Corner posting absolve us of our Monday morning Corner obligations?

By The Way...



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I mean no disrespect by posting all of this stuff. I truly have no idea if the inconsistencies mentioned below are a sore point, controversial or simply ho-hum among Christians of one denomination or another. I read the New Testament once in high school for a class on the bible and I’ve looked at specific passages from time to time for one reason or another — especially when I produced a documentary on Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. But, generally speaking, my ignorance level is high and well-cultivated.

Gospels According to The Gospels



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And here’s an excerpt from her discussion on the problem of using the Gospels as a historical source:

We already knew that Gibson’s efforts to be “as truthful as possible” (his own words in the Times) would be frustrated by the best sources that he had to draw on, namely, the Gospels themselves. Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, whose texts were composed in Greek between 70 C.E. and 100 C.E., differ significantly on matters of fact. In Mark, Jesus’s last meal is a Passover seder; in John, Jesus is dead before the seder begins. Mark and Matthew feature two night “trials” before a full Jewish court, and a dramatic charge of “blasphemy” from the high priest. Luke has only a single trial, early in the morning, and no high priest. John lacks this Jewish trial scene entirely. The release of Barabbas is a “Roman custom” in Mark, a “Jewish custom” in John. Between the four evangelists, Jesus speaks three different last lines from the cross. And the resurrection stories vary even more.

The evangelists wrote some forty to seventy years after Jesus’s execution. Their literary problems are compounded by historical ones: it is difficult to reconstruct, from their stories, why Jesus was crucified at all. If the priests in Jerusalem had wanted him dead, Jesus could have been privately murdered or killed offstage. If the priests had wanted him killed but were constrained from arranging this themselves, they could have asked Pilate to do the job. If the Roman prefect had simply been doing a favor for the priests, he could easily have arranged Jesus’s death by any of the considerable means at his disposal (assassination, murder in prison, and so on).

The fact that Jesus was publicly executed by the method of crucifixion can only mean that Rome wanted him dead: Rome alone had the sovereign authority to crucify. Moreover, the point of a public execution, as opposed to a private murder, was to communicate a message. Crucifixion itself implies that Pilate was concerned about sedition. Jesus’s death on the cross was Pilate’s way of telling Jerusalem’s Jews, who had gathered in the holy city for the paschal holiday, to desist from any thought of rebellion.

Greek to Them



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Here’s what Fredriksen says about the use of Latin at the time (I pulled it from Nexis):

And while Aramaic was indeed the daily language of ancient Jews in Galilee and Judea, Latin would scarcely have figured at all. When the Jewish high priest and the Roman prefect spoke to each other, they would have used Greek, which was the English of antiquity. And Pilate’s troops, employees of Rome, were not “Romans.” They were Greek-speaking local gentiles on the imperial payroll. Gibson’s pious evocations of historicity rang more than a little hollow. How much homework had he actually done?

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