Saturday, September 22, 2012

Is "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" Fragment a Fraud?

There has been news recently that a fragment of papyrus written in Coptic tells a story which states that Jesus had a wife.

Now Francis Watson of Durham University has come out and has argued that the fragment in question is most likely a modern day fraud in which the author has simply taken phrases from other Coptic Gnostic writings and stitched them together to make a provocative statement.

Richard Backman also notes that the fragment in question is composed in Coptic, which is unlike the well known Nag Hammadi writings, which were translated from Greek into Coptic. Thus suggesting that even if the fragment is from ancient times it is derivative of writings translated from Greek and hence is a late text.

Watson also notes in his summary (p. 6) that one of the eight lines within the fragment follows a line break which is identical to how it is presented in another text which is preserved in modern editions.

In its time Coptic had no spaces between words, and when a word reached the end of the line unfinished it simply continued in the next line without any hyphen. Seems odd this fragment exactly follows the one other example known to scholars of these Coptic writings. Here are Watson's words:
The impression of modernity is reinforced by the case in line 1 of dependence on the line-division of the one surviving Coptic manuscript, easily accessible in modern printed editions.
Unless this impression of modernity is countered by further investigations and fresh considerations, it seems unlikely that GJW will establish itself as a “genuine” product of early gospel writing.
This story has already reached the Guardian.

Also here is a blog about this which, while I certainly don't agree with everything he says, provides a complete transcript of the fragment in question.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Thoughts About the Innocence of Muslims Protests

Regarding this wave of protests over that formerly obscure 'film' trailer for Innocence of Muslims I must say that I view this whole fiasco with regret and sadness.

While the Syrian people go through unimaginable suffering due to a bloodthirsty dictator's determination to murder as many people as possible just to stay in power, the Muslim world is rocked, instead, by a badly made 'movie' that almost no one knew about or saw until protests denouncing it began.

Tragically people have died in these protests and that is the main reason why I view these protests with fear.

When something like this happens I always remember what I read in Princess Sultana's Circle by Jean Sasson. As related in a previous post describing a similar wave of protests against a Facebook group that offended Muslims:

Second of all I don't think the people responsible for that Facebook group understand just how passionately many Muslims hate to see this happen to Muhammad.

Now those of us who live in 'the West' (whatever that is) have grown used to living in a world where people say outrageous things and we, for the most part, let them do this. They may say things we believe are profoundly wrong or offensive. But we accept that this is the necessary price we pay to live in a free society.

But those are Western concepts which, while they seem perfectly natural to us, like water to a fish, are somewhat meaningless in the dar al-Islam.

(I'm scared I might be saying something that might be interpreted as being patronizing here. I don't intend to do so, but I must speak about this.)

I remember one story mentioned in Princess Sultana's Circle (2002) by Jean Sasson. Sultana, the Saudi Princess at the center of this book, related a story of how she met a female relative (if I remember correctly) who was highly agitated. Sultana asked another lady what was wrong with her.

She then told Sultana how something absolutely horrible happened to her. I can't recapture the story in its dramatic sense, but essentially she was walking around, had to hide temporarily (I think) and then when she returned to the street she saw to her utter horror a poster that depicted Muhammad in an offensive manner.

After seeing this poster she was still even now being plagued by thoughts of that poster. She couldn't get that image out of her head. She was very disturbed by it.

And at the end of the chapter Sultana said that despite all the horrible things that had happened earlier in the book, a niece's unwanted marriage, discovering a millionaire's dark secret, Sultana said to herself, (I can't quote, this is from memory) I am so glad I do not have to deal with that.

So when I saw the protests over the Danish cartoons I was not that surprised because I thought about that woman who so horrified by what she saw in that poster. Whenever something like that happens I think of that woman.

So now we can better understand why so many Muslims have taken to the streets let me add my few words regarding this tragic situation.

How dare that Nakoula Bassely Nakoula make such a hateful 'film'. How dare he deceptively recruit actors into working on his film under false pretenses. We now know the actors thought they were staring in a movie that had nothing to do with Muhammad and Islam. The movie lines regarding Muhammad and Islam were crudely dubbed over after filming without the actors' knowledge.

This reminds me all too clearly of how Herbert W. Armstrong and his imitators lured people into the deceptive web of Armstrongism. They claimed Jesus would return in 1975, and then once that prophetic scenario inevitably fell apart they just continued their cruel work of deception as though nothing happened.

How dare the idiots behind this hate film make the astoundingly stupid decision to make an Arabic dub of their 'film' trailer. They probably now wish they never did that. Did they not realize that nothing but trouble could come from this? Were they not thankful that no one had yet complained about them?

I am disgusted at people like Sheikh Khalid Abdullah who, in a horrific example of what is called the Streisand effect, broadcasted this obscure and previously unknown movie to Arabic speaking audiences inciting these unfortunate protests. I fail to see how people like him benefited anyone by giving publicity to something so obscure.

One Egyptian man, Amr Imam, has responded to this inflammatory TV host by filing  a complaint that Sheikh Khalid Abdullah “instigated and committed blasphemy and discrimination.”
In the complaint, Abdullah is accused of using his Sept. 9 show to create sectarian tension and instigate unrest. He could face jail time if convicted, but Imam says he doesn’t expect a legal win. Instead, he seems more concerned with making a point—that someone who uses religion as a weapon could just as soon find it used against himself. “This is a way of accusing him of insulting religion,”  Imam says.
The complaint alleges that the furor surrounding the film has resulted in a blowback against Egypt’s Coptic Christians, who make up an estimated 10 percent of the population. It cites three additional men for related crimes—Abdullah’s co-host on the day the film was aired, another controversial religious personality accused of burning a Bible during the embassy protest, and a sheikh who allegedly uploaded the film to his YouTube channel. In seizing on the film, the complaint states, Abdullah and the others “instigated and committed blasphemy and discrimination.”... Some observers have noted that Abdullah’s defense sounds something like an argument for freedom of expression, even where blasphemy is concerned.

The whole point of offensive material such as this is to cause offense and produce a bad reaction. By publicizing this 'film' Sheikh Khalid Abdullah and those like him played right into Nakoula Bassely Nakoula's hands and gave the film far more prominence than it would have received otherwise.

They would have been far wiser to simply not mention it. Far fewer people would have known about it and gotten offended over it. (Of course Nakoula could have done that by not making this abomination in the first place and then stupidly dubbing it into Arabic.)

Would so many people have protested if they realized how utterly obscure and utterly unknown this film was among Americans? Did Sheikh Khalid Abdullah tell the people that hardly anyone even knew this thing existed?

But once the genie was out of the bottle there was no turning back.

The Muslim world have had a long and painful history of interaction with the West. Painful memories of foreign domination in times past no doubt revive and further inflame tensions in times such as this.

I first heard about this by hearing of the tragic death (on 9/11) of Ambassador Stevens and three other American employees of the American consulate in Benghazi. Once I heard it occurred at a protest over something that offended Muslims I was saddened to see this scenario of the whole Muslim world roiling over a  perceived insult, just like those protests over the Danish cartoons, like what happened after Pope Benedict made comments many Muslims took offense at. It is particularly bitter that this occurred in Libya, in which the US did so much to save the Libyan people from that murderous monster Gaddafi.

Some people feel that it was a mistake for the US to get involved and that 'this is the thanks they get'. I feel this is a short sighted view of the situation. First of all we do not fully know what happen. Some think the attack may have been planned independently of these protests and that terrorists took advantage of the protests to seek into it and launch their most wicked attack.

Also many Libyans have made clear their profound sorrow for this tragedy. It is unfortunate that lost in the hype and anger many Libyans have most firmly declared their condemnation for these murders. Also it should be remembered that Libyans bravely went into the burning building and tried desperately to save his life.

Regarding the protests themselves I find it odd. They want the video banned. But that is very difficult. The Internet originated from US military attempts to create a computer network in order for information to travel even if a port of call the information traveled through was disabled by a nuclear bomb. Anyone can simply download the video and post it somewhere else.

No amount of outrage will change that.

No doubt people who want to will keep this hate film around. It will not go away even if Google got rid of it on Youtube. Someone who downloaded it can just post it again. Even dictatorships have a hard time censoring information on the Internet. They just hope most people do not get access to software that gets through firewalls.

So instead the enraged vent their fury elsewhere. Most of the time it is harmless. But in some instances they end up attacking a consulate or an embassy, police forces try to restrain them and people get injured and sometimes even killed, religious minorities living among them fear that things may go wrong for them over this.

I understand that they are offended. But it is absurd to expect everyone in the world to treat matters such as this respectfully. I am a Christian. My faith is denigrated and mocked by those who do not believe it every single day. But we do not react this badly to such things because we have learned to accept this as the price of living in a free society. (And I just quietly tend to stay away from web sites like that.) By mutually agreeing not to resort to violence or state coercion for personal offense we guarantee social harmony among those of different worldviews.

This is why many of us in the West believe in freedom of expression in order to harmoniously manage relations between those holing different worldviews.

These protests go against this worldview and I fear that more people may die in these protests.

May these protests soon end and may peace return soon.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Cult Leader Sun Myung Moon Dies

I heard that Sun Myung Moon, leader of the Unification Church, whose followers are often called Moonies, has died aged 92.He was widely regarded as an infamous cult leader.

See this blog, The Real Sun Myung Moon for more details on this man.