Brain Dropping #121
Misquoting Jesus. It’s a mite late to get into the ‘holiday spirit’, but that’s the way the droppings of the brain work, like bird droppings they come upon you when you least expect it. All the ‘baby Jesus’ stuff this time of year is a testimony to the persistence of human gullibility. Bart Ehrman, one of the world’s foremost experts on biblical exegesis, in his book “Misquoting Jesus – The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why”, lays out all the ways in which self-serving human beings twisted, distorted, fabricated, falsified the story, which is today, still heralded by billions as the word of God. All the mendacious, historical manipulation wouldn’t matter that much if this ‘fairy tale’ was not seen as the basis for much of the rapacious behavior of so-called civilized people, particularly evangelicals and other Bible thumpers, on their mission to convert third world societies. These latter-day conquistadors usually establish a beachhead for neo-liberal capitalists to follow. (See Gerard Colby’s “Thy Will Be Done – The conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller & Evangelism in the Age of Oil.”) I realize, to my fellow enlightened skeptics, that this topic is like kicking a dead horse, but unfortunately we are too small in number, and besides I’m wearing my steel-tipped work boots.
Erhard, in dealing with the widely accepted King James Bible, produces such a plethora of evidence of desperate human interference with the “sacred text”, that, to be charitable, the free-thinking mind can only conclude that it was concocted as a result of a game of Boggle played by a bunch of inebriated pilgrims.
Here are a few choice examples: The fervently held idea that Jesus was born of a virgin (Silent Night-Holy Night) comes from a mistranslation of the Greek word for “young woman.” More commonly known is the fact that the traditional celebration in late December coincides with the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the deity of agriculture who “reigned over the world during a golden age when humans enjoyed the spontaneous bounty of the earth without labor in a state of social egalitarianism.” I would celebrate that idea in a heartbeat! As with the New Testament, The Old Testament is rife with errors and glaring inconsistencies. The assertion that Moses had horns is a mistranslation of the Aramaic word for “ray of light.” This suspicious error was used through the ages as evidence that the Jews were agents of the devil. Check out Michelangelo’s monumental sculpture of Moses – the horns are there.
Since I seem to be trashing Christmas, I can do no less for Hanukkah. From my point of view it is an ersatz holiday cobbled together as a counterfoil to Xmas. Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Torah because the events it celebrates occurred after the Old Testament was compiled. Some scholars believe it is a late celebration of the agricultural holiday of Sukkot, interrupted by the Maccabean revolt against the Selucid Greeks. Another interpretation of the history of Hanukkah, which I subscribe to, is that it was an internecine conflict between fundamentalist Jews (represented by the Hasmonean Clan of the Maccabees) and the more worldly Jews influenced by Greek culture represented by Aristotle. All that aside, its value and meaning to this old skeptic, is as a “Festival of Light” and friendship at the Solstice, a dreary time of year, when the fear that Old Sol may never return in his full splendor, weighs heavily on our minds. Now, lest I forget: HAPPY NEW YEAR to ALL!