Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ghosts of End Times Present: Grant Jeffrey


From the September 2009 E-Block. The Ticker will return next week, as I have a conference to attend the next two days. NOTE: A couple of the links below no longer function.

**

Grant Jeffrey has something in common with the Skeptical writer G. A. Wells, and it isn't that he believes Jesus did not exist. Rather, it seems that it can be said of Jeffrey's books, as it is said of Wells': "If you've read one, you've read them all." 

Six of Jeffrey's books were read for this study; though they spanned from 1994 to 2008, I found in each book elements that were repeated in all six - sometimes using the same words verbatim; sometimes even twice in the same book. As a result, our analysis of Jeffrey will be relatively short - for it is like reviewing just one book, in many ways. 

It will also be short for another reason: The bulk of these books consist of one of three things:
  • Reporting of the contents of the Bible
  • Simple recitation of a standard dispensational interpretation (with little exegesis or argument)
  • Extended recitations of statistics and factoids, pressed into the service of indicating that the end will soon come
To be sure, each of the six books has some variation of focus, as follows:

  • Prince of Darkness (1994) [PD] - here Jeffrey made significantly more predictions than he did in later books...most of which ended up in failure. We may perhaps commend him for refusing to engage this sort of prognostication in later books, save that:
  • Final Warning (1996) [FW] - the focus here is on what Jeffrey supposed would be an imminent financial crisis - and like Hagee's recent book, it is padded with a great deal of financial advice (prefaced by warnings that you need to see a financial advisor for the best advice and the publisher isn't responsible if you follow what the book says and get in a hole because of it).
  • Armageddon: Earth's Last Days (1997) [AE] - a general exposition
  • The Next World War (2006) [NWW] - a focus on Islam
  • The New Temple and the Second Coming (2007) [NT] - a focus on the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple
  • Countdown to the Apocalypse (2008) [CA] - a general exposition
Yet, again, despite the differing emphases, each of these books contains the same material - again, sometimes verbatim.

Now of course we have seen this before in other writers of this genre, including Hagee and even Walvoord. The distinctive with Jeffrey is that he is much more cautious than Hagee but rather less cautious than Walvoord in attempting to predict what's coming next (aside from what he did in PD). Jeffrey's approach is much more general as a whole: "Bad things are happening. This is a sign of the end!"

And does he think that end is soon? Reading chronologically, we find a bit of an oddity at first:

PD1: Jeffrey says that the Antichrist is working behind the scenes right now (1994). This suggests that he expects the Tribulation within the next 30-40 years.

FW9: But here, in 1996, Jeffrey says that Jesus "may not return for 100 years"; but soon we will see the "greatest economic collapse in history".

AE229: And yet again, in 1997, Jeffrey says that thirty years of study leads him to the conclusion that there is "overwhelming evidence" that we will see "the return of Jesus Christ in our lifetime."

Really? What changed in just a year, or three? The contradiction raised here is that in 1994, in his 27th year of study, Jeffrey was convinced that we were 30-40 years from the end. Then in 1996, his 29th year of study, he thought it possible we'd have to wait as much as 100 years. But in his 30th year of study, 1997, the evidence is now (again) "overwhelming" that Jesus will return in our lifetimes (30-70 years)?

Oddly, at AE210 Jeffrey also says: "...we must always recognize that God is sovereign and may choose to delay His appointed judgment of the world." But this caution statement stands out for being unique. The cover of NT says: "The Prophecy that Points to Christ's Return in Your Generation" (repeated within at 3). CA21 says that end times events "will occur during our generation" and CA143 says they "will almost certainly take place in our generation."

One can only wonder why 1996 was different, though no answer leaves the reader undisturbed by a question of Jeffrey's integrity as a reporter.

The good news is that because Jeffrey generally avoided prognostication, he has less than Lindsey and Hagee to regret on this account. But he does fall victim to a typical problem of the popular dispensationalists, and that is poor research and documentation.

Wild, Undocumented Claims

Like Lindsey and Hagee, Jeffrey is prone to making a number of extravagant claims and providing absolutely no documentation for them. On this count, in fact, Jeffrey is the worst of the Ghosts of End Times Present, often making successive pages of undocumented claims. This is not to say that some or all of these claims may not be true, but the degree of their extravagance requires far more than Jeffrey's "because I said so" as support, especially since he is not a credentialed scholar. (He is a financial planner and has degrees from Louisiana Baptist University, an unaccredited college.)

Among the claims made of this sort:

CA185: Israel has developed "high-energy plasma beam weapons that will revolutionize warfare."

AE 277-8: The rebuilt tourism city of Babylon is built on top of an "underground lake of asphalt and oil" which points to the source of its final conflagration in Revelation.

AE119: Jeffrey reports that Russian military hardware is partially constructed of a material called lignostone, a wooden composite that can be burned. This he notes in support of an interpretation of Ezekiel in which Israel will burn the supplies of Russian invaders for seven years. Unfortunately, there seems to be no evidence of weapons applications at the product website for lignostone (see here) and I have found no other documentation for this claim either. (See an interesting discussion here.)

PD283: Saddam Hussein was a covert Satanist.

In addition, Like Hagee, Jeffrey too often relies on unnamed "reliable sources" or meetings with unnamed persons as verification of some claim or another:

NT 19 "...reliable sources in Israel have told me that over the last century,
millions of dollars have been set aside in wills and trusts by Jews who want to help finance the Temple reconstruction."

NT 76 "A few years ago several knowledgeable Israeli friends who love archaeology revealed an astonishing discovery that has not yet been publicized."

All of this might be excused if Jeffrey's record as a researcher could be given a good rating. Unfortunately, I have found all too often that where Jeffrey's facts can be checked, he often gets things badly wrong, or else accepts the claims of various sources uncritically. In addition, Jeffrey shows very little critical professionalism in the handling or use of source material. Let's look at examples of each.

Just Plain Wrong

Jeffrey reports several unacceptable fringe ideas which leave open many questions about his credibility as a researcher.

FW242: Jeffrey accepts the fantastic conspiracy theory that Pope John Paul I was poisoned. (See on this an item by Sandra Miesel, co-author of The DaVinci Hoax, here.)

PD20: Jeffrey claims that Constantine made Christianity the state religion of Rome, which is false: He only legalized it. Christianity did not become the state religion until decades later.

PD22, 245: Jeffrey defends heretical groups like the Waldenses and Cathars as orthodox. His source is a book of church history written in 1826.

PD51: Jeffrey appeals to the "Pseudo-Titus epistle" as an "early Church manuscript." In fact, this document is only testified as coming from a Latin manuscript of the 8th century.

PD300: Jeffrey reports that the Inquisition killed 40 million people. As we have noted, the Spanish version alone executed only 2000 people over several hundred years.

Not the Whole Story

In some instances, when I checked Jeffrey's source material, I found that he failed to tell the whole story, or reported incorrectly.

CA19: "Several nations now have access to a genetic weapon that kills victims selectively, based on their ethnicity."

Jeffrey offers a reference link to this article. But when we check it, we find that it actually says:
Scientists have warned that recent advances in biological research could eventually lead to the creation of a new type of biological arsenal capable of targeting a specific group of human beings with common genetic characteristics, as may be the case with certain ethnic groups.
In other words, this "genetic weapon" was entirely hypothetical at the time; "several nations" did not "have access" to it.

NT 125-6: "Scientists have found a special variation of the Y chromosome that is shared by Jews descended from this priestly subtribe (the Cohens)." In NT this was insufficiently documented. But in AE149 the name of a scientist was given, which allowed me to check into these claims. It seems there is some truth to the matter; research was definitely done (see here for a summary). But it was also questioned by other researchers (see here for an example) and continues to be debated. It is far from as settled an issue as Jeffrey makes it out to be.

NT105: Jeffrey refers to the founding of a new Jewish Sanhedrin in 2004, as evidence that Biblical prophecy is being fulfilled. But he does not mention that this body has not been recognized by the state of Israel as an authoritative body.

NWW22: Jeffrey appeals to the Apocalypse of Peter, an apocryphal document dated between 100-135 AD, for support of the idea of a "rebirth of Israel." What he fails to report is that the passage he refers to comes from the Ethiopic version of the Apocalypse, which was written in the 7th-8th century. (Some argue that it derives from earlier text, but this needs to be argued, and Jeffrey needs to be up front about the textual data.)

Uncritical Sourcework

We have mentioned more than once the matter of supposed mineral wealth in the Dead Sea that is supposed to send the Russian military alliance scurrying into Israel bent on conquest. It seems we now know who first came up with the idea.

At NT172-3, Jeffrey refers to this Dead Sea wealth, and appeals to a 1950 book, The Shadow of Coming Events by Harry Rimmer. Rimmer himself was far from qualified to report such things, and was also a source of other non-credible reports such as the idea that scientists had discovered Joshua's "missing day" (see here for that).

Finding about Rimmer also led me to discover the current disposition of this alleged mineral wealth. It seems Israel is indeed making some money off of it these days - selling cosmetics. (On this see Paul Boyer's When Time Shall be no More, 163).

NWW150: Jeffrey relies frequently on Jewish material for interpretation within his prophetic paradigm, but he is frequently not critical about these sources. He appeals to an oral tradition recorded in "the Vilna Gaon, a Jewish commentary" to support the idea of a Russian invasion. But he fails to report that this commentary was written by Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna, who lived from 1720-1797. It takes a lot of arguing to suppose that an oral tradition could have been so well preserved for more than a thousand years, as I know from my study of that subject (reported in Trusting the New Testament).

In FW76, Jeffrey appeals to the Zohar, an "ancient Jewish commentary." It is nothing of the sort; it is a forgery (see here) that is an untrustworthy source. Other sources, like the Pirke Eliezer, are likewise of questionable provenance, and Jeffrey wrongly refers to Jarchi and Aben Ezra as "ancient Jewish sages." This is false, as the former lived from 1040-1105 (he is better known as "Rashi") while the latter lived from 1093-1167.

If I may venture a guess: It seems that Jeffrey learned to rely on sources like these from commentaries written in the 1800s, which make similar appeals. If this is so, then Jeffrey is being particularly irresponsible in not seeking to be sure his understandings are fully informed.

FW21: For defending the authenticity of Daniel, Jeffrey can find no better source that Pusey's commentary written in 1863. At FW32 he uses an 1884 source to report an archaeological discovery. This is the sort of thing Acharya S does: Why not validate these amazing findings with a more recent source?

FW168f, 314: For several claims, Jeffrey relies on the testimony of Don McAlvany, a "friend" of his who publishes a text called the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor. Among the claims used from this "excellent monthly intelligence journal": Russia is planning on using a "seismic bomb" to trigger earthquakes.

But who is McAlvany? As far as can be found, he has no expertise in military or intelligence matters, and is mainly employed in matters of investments, and he has expertise in the management of precious metals. His own website says he has a "background in undercover intelligence work" but offers no specifics. One can only wonder why Jeffrey cannot find a more official source for validation of claims like the use of "seismic bombs." As it stands, I place as much confidence right now in this as I would in a Skeptic who used The Skeptical Review as a source.

These things led me to have serious questions about Jeffrey's credibility when it came to things I was not expert in. Jeffrey may be right about other matters, but his reportage of such wild ideas as the Inquisition killing 40 million people (!) does not lend itself well to establishing credibility.

The Prophetic Picture

As noted, Jeffrey offers the standard dispensational paradigm; and as in past articles, we will highlight a few particulars.

Everywhere a Sign: As with the other "Ghosts," Jeffrey has a constant finger in the wind for events that can be "read out" in favor of the end coming soon. The Y2K crisis was apparently one of these, although we did not obtain a copy of his book The Millennium Meltdown, in which he apparently used that crisis. In CA165, 167, Jeffrey appeals to things like climate change, smart cards, and the VeriChip ID as signs of the end times; that's a major sign, but there are minor signs to be found even in TV violence (AE60).

The only major excess I found was AE252, where Jeffrey tries to argue that the increase in recorded earthquakes is not due to "better reporting." In his words: "An earthquake of 6.5 is so destructive that historical records have always recorded these major killer quakes."

Indeed? What came to mind at once from this was Glenn Miller's words here:
The earthquake occurred in 464 bc, and was pivotal in the breakup on the Delian League in Greece. This league was composed of some 200 city-states, united again the Persian invasion threat of Darius. The League was not as unified as the Athenians would have hoped, and a major earthquake was instrumental in inciting the Messenians to revolt against Sparta, and in stopping the "Lakedaimonians" from intervening in assistance for the Tracians. This earthquake--adequate to throw governments into disarray to the point of being vulnerable to revolt and adequate to prevent large-scale military intervention/response--would have been experienced by between 20,000 and 100,000 people. This would have encompassed numerous city-states and a wide variety of people. So, how many observers wrote down anything (that is preserved and meets Robby's critera) about this event? None. How do we even know about this event? From a single mention in Thucydides (c.460-400 b.c.). He was born four years after the event, and probably interviewed people in the area for the information that later showed up in his History of the Peloponnesian War. In I.100 he simply makes a general comment about the military intervention, that it was "prevented by the occurrence of an earthquake"--nothing more, nothing less.
Jeffrey does not document his claim that killer quakes are "always recorded" - it seems rather that this is a contrivance to maintain the fiction that better reporting is not the reason for more quakes being noted.

The Ten Nations: Jeffrey believes that the ten nation confederation will come out of the Roman Empire, with the European Union as the likely source. In CA59, Jeffrey notes that there are 27 nations in the EU but does not explain how this will get to 10. In FW85, however, Jeffrey suggested that there would be perhaps 10 EU nations in a sort of "inner circle" or top tier of the EU. The solution is ingenious - and as contrived as any other for explaining why the data does not fit.

Predictions: Jeffrey as a whole avoids making predictions about specific elements of the future, beyond what he finds in the Bible. The exception is Prince of Darkness (1994), where he made a number of specific prognostications:

PD63, 86: 2000 AD is the planned target date for one world government by New World Order/New Age groups.

PD110: The US and Canada will participate in a one world currency by 1997

PD154: There will be a huge depression in the late 1990s.

PD159: By 1997, the entire US budget will be for paying interest on national debt.

Did Jeffrey "learn his lesson" and so not offer so much in the way of forecasts in later books? Perhaps. If so, it is all for the better.

Textual Clues. For the most part, Jeffrey handles the Biblical text responsibly within the dispensational paradigm, avoiding outrageous acts of exegesis. I did find a couple of exceptions:

PD136: Rev. 12:12-13 is interpreted to mean that the antichrist may use an underwater nuclear device to create tidal wave to drown the Jews.

NWW 131-2, AE 253: Matthew 24:9-10 is wrongly applied to Jews rather than Christians.

But perhaps Jeffrey's crowning claim is to have discovered proof that the early church taught a "pre-Tribulation rapture" - in contrast to some commentators who say this is an invention of John Darby, a commentator of the 1800s. Jeffrey and other dispensational commentators now appeal to the text of Pseudo-Ephraem as evidence that a pre-Trib rapture was early - or at least, held by one person.

It should be noted that Jeffrey offers contradictory information on this text. In CA he dates it to 373 AD, but in FW472 he notes that others date it to the 6th century, which seems to be the view demanded by the evidence. Jeffrey does waver a bit saying that he thinks the 6th century text was "derived from an original Ephraem manuscript" written earlier, but this is mere presumption.
Even so, either date would precede Darby substantially, so it is worthwhile to check this text:
For all the saints and elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins.
The word "taken" is what Jeffrey supposes refers to a Rapture, but this is hardly specific in terms of the mechanism used to "take" believers. It also does not specify their destination. It could fit a Rapture - but it might not.

In conclusion, I think it fair to say that Jeffrey will be a good source for me to consider when I more fully analyze the issue of eschatology in a forthcoming Buildings Block book. But he shares nevertheless some of their same pointed flaws.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Snap: David Bentley Hart's "Atheist Delusions"


From the September 2009 E-Block.
***
David Bentley Hart's Atheist Delusions proved an interesting book in many ways. It was recommended to me by one of our longtime readers and contributors, who said that Hart often sounded like my Impossible Faith article. I did indeed find some material with the same general thrust, such that I may even use some quotes from it for Defending the Resurrection for thematic (not documentation) purposes. But that is not mainly what Hart is all about, I'd say. 

The title may lead you to think Hart has a lot to say to atheists -- and indeed, in the first chapters, he does. Hart forthrightly and dismissively rejects the new atheists and critics as ill-equipped pedants, in language that will also remind the reader of my writings: e.g., Christopher Hitchens has a "talent for intellectual caricature [that] somewhat exceeds his mastery of consecutive logic"; Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code is "surely the most lucrative novel ever written by a borderline illiterate" [4]; Sam Harris "displays an abysmal ignorance of almost every topic he addresses" [8]. But this, too, is not mainly what Hart is all about; he leaves the new atheists behind as named persons for the bulk of the book. 

What then is Hart all about? The bulk of this book is a quite engaging refutation of various mythologies about post-first-century Christianity. To frame the matter for veteran readers, it is rather like a detailed but narrower version of our Christian Crimeline rebuttal, a debunking of certain "atheist delusions" regularly appealed to by critics. Yes, everything here from the destruction of the library at Alexandria to the Spanish Inquisition, and many more in between. 

It's written in a clear and engaging style, but it is also the sort of thing I would wish were heavily footnoted, which it is not. Hart clearly knows his subject and counts his authority to speak on it as sufficient -- which I am sure it is, overall, especially as for the most part, his assertions on subjects I know well does check out. (One of the few exceptions: His claims that the doctrines of the Arians could be as well supported from Scripture as that of orthodox Trinitarians. -- 204-5)

From the positive side, Hart is also about showing how positively Christianity has influenced society. The TIF sort of aspect comes into play here as well, though Hart does not really go into why Christianity succeeded in the first century so much as he concerns himself with how it succeeded in the centuries thereafter. In that sense, his work is more like Rodney Stark's than mine.

One should not be too stringent against Hart for not providing more documentation, however, as he clearly describes his book as more of an essay than anything else. I believe readers will find this book encouraging in the same way some might find reading (say) Rush Limbaugh's works encouraging. But by no means should it be taken as something on the lines of a work of N. T. Wright that should be quoted in a documentary work. Look at it then as more of a refreshing draught of cold water.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book Snap: Robert Price's "Inerrant the Wind"

From the September 2009 E--Block. The Ticker will return Monday.

***


The first question we'll answer: Did Robert Price bring his "Dr. Jekyll" persona for this book, or the "Mr. Hyde" one? Answer: It was Jekyll by far, but this is perhaps understandable, as Inerrant the Wind (ITW) apparently originated as a doctoral thesis of his from many years back. And that in itself may seem to make ITW somewhat less useful than it could be, since it is also "frozen in time" at around 1981. Even so, it will do as a historical survey, which Price indicates is his intent [7]. 

One cannot be entirely dissatisfied with a book also recommended by the likes of Gary Habermas and Greg Boyd, and there are many reasons why their praise is justified. ITW is a survey of logical and tactical problems with inerrantist doctrine, and many of those problems are fairly well the same as issues we have raised here ourselves. There is no denying certain indictments (eg, focus on inerrancy and related issues can lead to neglect of social concerns which are part of the Gospel [29]; fear is a poor motivator [47]; it is harder to validate a doctrine of inerrancy from the Bible than we may realize [161]), but to be fair, this is Price shooting a whale in a barrel, having been given the benefit of a Sherman tank with a laser sight and a firing distance of less than a meter.

On the other hand, ITW itself is of course far from inerrant, nor is it free from Price's own retained fundamentalist views. His defense of the principle of analogy for historical criticism remains as uninspired as ever, as he asks, "Why is it that any television viewer tuning, halfway through, to a program depicting Godzilla crushing Tokyo, knows instantly that he has found a science fiction movie?" [45] Perhaps Price thinks it is because life's "experience" tells the viewer that monsters don't exist and do these things, and that may be the extent of his own analysis, but a far better source of realization would be genre markers such as cheesy music and sound effects and a very bad Godzilla costume. The "principle of analogy" is nothing more than Hume redressed after being denuded by ice cubes thrown by the tropical prince.

Historically, our position here has been that if we are to hold to a doctrine of inerrancy, what is meant by "error" must be defined in terms of what the writers of the Bible would consider to be error. This may make the criterion for an error less stringent that it would be in a modern Western setting, but that is just the way it is. To that extent, Price and I essentially agree that certain expressions of inerrancy, and promoters of those expressions (such as Harold Lindsell), are engaging in a certain folly. It is not necessary to figure out how to reconcile the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew) and the Sermon on the Plain (Luke) as one speech; all that is needed is to recognize Matthew's format as a sort of anthology, in which he freely drew teachings from many places to create one extended discourse. Price even acknowledges this view [67], using the example of Luke as we have [67]:
Luke 5:19 And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.

Critics will say that "tiling" is an error because roofs in Palestine did not have tiles -- only Greek and Roman houses did. Therefore they assume Luke is erroneously anachronizing.

They assume right on the latter, but have been wrong on the former. If intent means that one has not committed error, then such cites as these simply cannot be called errors. In this case, we see Luke intentionally anachronizing for the purpose of making the story more intelligible to a more sophisticated audience.

Today we would do no such thing -- we would say that the roof was made of wood or straw, or whatever, and then include explanatory footnotes like this:

In Palestine, roofs are made of wood or straw, unlike roofs in Greek and Roman areas which are made of tile.

In this era before footnotes and limited office supplies, Luke had no room for such diversions. It would therefore behoove him rather to make the account easily intelligible, rather than distract the reader with the question, "How is it they have a roof not made of tiles?"
I have written of such things in terms of "semantic contracts" -- an agreement between reader and writer that certain data will be adjusted for the sake of intelligibility, and thus there can be no "deceit" or error, for the knowledge of this sort of change in general is common to both parties. What this means is not that inerrancy is compromised, but that it was poorly defined by certain parties to begin with. Price, again, is aware of an option like this, but apparently rejects it (at least for believers) because he cannot find a way for the believer to figure out when this is happening [102-3]. He rejects "investigation" as a means, but that is based itself on the presupposition that the believer must reject anything revealed by men rather than God, which is itself part of the hermeneutic in need of reform. Price still fears, in his own way, the same "slippery slope" as those he most criticizes.

Price is certainly correct about the unease some Christians have [168] when they are forced to consider contextualization as a tool of exegesis -- I have a small raft of emails that indicate the same. But I also have far many more than express thanks for resolving long-bewildering conundrums. Thus ITW is thus a work that simultaneously hits the mark while missing the mark as well. A contradiction? No, as in some defenses of Biblical issues, a paradox. Price does very well when it comes to deconstructing the Bob Jones and Harold Lindsell forms of inerrancy doctrine, and even some of the compromise attempts by some other parties. However, the most obvious and beneficial answer of contextualization remains hidden behind his mental veil of literalist presupposition.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Snap: G. A. Wells' "Cutting Jesus Down to Size"


From the September 2009 E-Block.

***

It would not be in the least unfair to describe G. A. Wells' Cutting Jesus Down to Size (CJS) as: A motley collection of some of the most unreasonable, imaginative arguments against the reliability ever offered by "higher critics," presented with little to no critical evaluation. As I have noted in other contexts, Wells is very much what ancient Greeks would have called a spermologos -- a "seed picker," one who draws ideas from others with little to no originality or evaluation. There is some small change here inasmuch as Wells makes a slightly more earnest effort than usual to rebut criticisms. But the change is very small indeed. 

There is little need to discuss particulars from CJS; the arguments presented therein are ones we have already refuted in past articles. It is sufficient to say that Wells remains without knowledge of the most advanced solutions, or else prefers to ignore them. One such example that is particularly telling is that of the high context nature of Biblical society to explain what he still thinks are problematic silences in the epistles. [14] By now Wells is certainly aware of this answer, for he offers an extremely brief commentary on Eddy and Boyd's book The Jesus Legend, and Eddy and Boyd refer to this very solution under a different name ("traditional referentiality"). But if you were to read only Wells, you would never know that this had been offered as a solution. One is left to guess whether Wells is being dishonest or simply did not understand the solution. The former is favored by the fact that he is also surely familiar with what Eddy and Boyd say of Tacitus -- including my own answer, referenced by them -- but he still hearkens back to R. T. France's unqualified assessment of Wells' arguments about Tacitus as "entirely convincing" [334]. 

CJS in sum is little but a rapid-fire presentation of summary claims; a classic "hurling of the elephant". Yet there is that small change to report, in which Wells "confronts" critics. I put that in quotes because it seems that Wells puts more vehemence into correcting critics for not knowing when he changed over from the Christ-myth position (as if, indeed, anyone is that interested in what Wells believes at any given moment) than in answering their arguments. Enormous works by Bauckham, N. T. Wright, and Boyd and Eddy are disposed of in a scant 5-7 pages each, much of it description of their positions. This is not surprising, for as I noted in Shattering the Christ Myth, Wells is not the sort who is able to respond to those who have their own elephants to hurl in reply.

We may well find some use for CJS at such time as we revamp our New Testament apologetics commentary series, as it serves well as an index of poor arguments against NT reliability. But for the present, it remains a testimony to Wells' methodology.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Win One for the Egypters: D. M. Murdock's "Christ In Egypt"


From the July 2009 E-Block. Unlike other older E-Block series posts, I will only be posting part 1 of this one and leaving the other 3 behind the E-Block paywall, because I may use them in an updated version of Shattering the Christ Myth.

***

D. M. Murdock, formerly known as Acharya S, has taken something of a new turn of late - not just in the reversion to the Murdock designation, but also tactically. Gone - for the most part -- are the denigrations of The Christ Conspiracy (e.g., "garbagey cartoon-character god") and they are replaced with what may most charitably be called a new form of distraction. 

Christ in Egypt, purportedly an effort to document alleged "pagan copycat" claims regarding Jesus with reference to the Egyptian deity Horus, is a tome of some 500+ pages. But it is fair to say that some 98% of those pages do nothing to validate any such connections. Murdock's new methodology, then, is clearly to overwhelm the reader with information in an effort to make it seem as though the case is proved by substance. 

Nevertheless, as with sifting pebbles from sand, it will take some time to provide a full analysis, and this will be the first of three E-Block segments on Christ in Egypt (CIE), provided as a follow-up as well to a chapter from Shattering the Christ Myth in which we refuted connections between Jesus and Horus (as well as Osiris). We will proceed with commentary by page numbers, commenting only on such items as cause any disagreement. As noted, most of CIE is non-controversial background and is irrelevant to proving what the book purportedly proves.

As a reminder, here is the list of alleged correspondences Murdock purports to defend in The Christ Conspiracy:
  • Was born of the virgin Isis-Meri in December 25th in a cave/manger with his birth being announced by a star in the East and attended by three wise men.
  • His earthly father was named "Seb" ("Joseph").
  • He was of royal descent.
  • At age 12 he was a child teacher in the Temple, and at 30, he was baptized, having disappeared for 18 years.
  • Was baptized in the river Eridanus or Iaurutana (Jordan) by "Anup the Baptizer" (John the Baptist) who was decapitated.
  • He had 12 disciples, two of whom were his "witnesses" and were named "Anup" and "AAn" (the two "Johns").
  • He performed miracles, exorcized demons and raised El-Azarus ("El-Osiris") from the dead.
  • Horus walked on water.
  • His personal epithet was "Iusa" the "ever-becoming son" of "Ptah," the "Father." He was called the "Holy Child."
  • He delivered a "Sermon on the Mount" and his followers recounted the "Sayings of Iusa."
  • Horus was transfigured on the Mount.
  • He was crucified between two thieves, buried for three days in a tomb, was resurrected.
  • Titles: Way, the Truth the Light; Messiah; God's Anointed Son; Son of Man; Good Shepherd; Lamb of God; Word made flesh; Word of Truth.
  • Was "the Fisher" and was associated with the Fish ("Ichthys"), Lamb and Lion.
  • He came to fulfill the Law.
  • Was called "the KRST" or "Anointed One."
  • Was supposed to reign one thousand years.
However, in her presentation of this list in CIE [44], some are missing or changed:
  • His earthly father was named "Seb" ("Joseph"). - has been removed.
  • Was baptized in the river Eridanus or Iaurutana (Jordan) by "Anup the Baptizer" (John the Baptist) who was decapitated. - The reference to the name of the river has been deleted.
  • He had 12 disciples, two of whom were his "witnesses" and were named "Anup" and "AAn" (the two "Johns"). - this is changed significantly to "had 12 companions, helpers or disciples." In short, it has been expanded and equivocated. There is also no more reference to two witnesses.
  • He performed miracles, exorcized demons and raised El-Azarus ("El-Osiris") from the dead. - "El-Azarus" is no longer used; rather, it is simply "Osiris".
  • His personal epithet was "Iusa" the "ever-becoming son" of "Ptah," the "Father." He was called the "Holy Child." - to this is added, that he was called the "Anointed One."
  • He delivered a "Sermon on the Mount" and his followers recounted the "Sayings of Iusa." --this has been deleted.
  • Horus was transfigured on the Mount. - so has this.
  • He was crucified between two thieves, buried for three days in a tomb, was resurrected. - "Thieves" has been placed in quotes now, and "or Osiris" has been added after "He".
  • Titles: Way, the Truth the Light; Messiah; God's Anointed Son; Son of Man; Good Shepherd; Lamb of God; Word made flesh; Word of Truth. - some have been deleted and some added.
  • Was "the Fisher" and was associated with the Fish ("Ichthys"), Lamb and Lion. - has been removed.
  • He came to fulfill the Law. - has been removed.
  • Was called "the KRST" or "Anointed One." -- now applied to Osiris.
  • Also added: That Horus did battle with the "evil one" Set/Seth.
Murdock cites her original list in The Christ Conspiracy, but does not acknowledge these changes. We shall hereafter refer to the list in shorthand as the "Big 12" (though Murdock structures it into 14 points).

Introduction

4 - Murdock commits the same error as Peter Joseph of Zeitgeist in replying to requests for "primary sources" showing such things as that e.g., Horus was crucified. We are not asking for original documents (as she puts it, "from the very hands" of the authors) though of course that would qualify as well. We are asking rather for original documentation; that is, the ancient pre-Christian work where Horus is alleged to be crucified.

Here for the first time as well, Murdock raises the specter of Christians who went on a "censorship rampage" allegedly burning libraries and torturing priests, etc. However, specific examples are few and far between. For a general answer to such charges, see Glenn Miller's article here. Murdock here offers but two examples:
  1. She refers [4] to "Christian structures [which] were built upon the ruins of the Pagan temples, such as in the case of the Vatican, which was founded upon the remains of a complex dedicated to the sun god Mithra." This claim, which is not documented, even if true, is of little significance for the point being made, since it hardly indicates a specific case of censorship or violence. Simply because my own home was built on what was formerly an orange grove does not mean I tortured and killed citrus farmers to obtain and build on the property.
  2. Second, she refers [5] to an obelisk, moved by the Roman Emperor Caligula from Egypt in the first century, which was later moved - in the 16th century - to another location. How this manages to prove "destruction" or "censorship" is difficult to say, since the obelisk remained preserved and hardly became unreadable in its new location.
5 - Murdock further objects to those who question the credentials of her sources, arguing that "many non-specialists [are] often capable of putting forth erudite and accurate views." This is true, but beside the point. The sources used by Murdock in the past and others of the same persuasion offer views contrary to those of credentialed experts, and therefore, their erudition and accuracy is the very thing in dispute. Murdock also objects that "in shoring up their faith, fervent believers frequently require no credentials at all," [5] which is also true, but beside the point when Murdock's most prominent critics - such as myself or Mike Licona - do have such requirements for our sources.
In any event, Murdock says that it is her intention to "provide commentary from highly credentialed scholars in relevant fields." One wonders why this was necessary if indeed, "non-specialists [are] often capable of putting forth erudite and accurate views." However, as with her prior work Who Was Jesus?, the commentary is seldom - if ever - used for critical points unique to Murdock's case. Rather, it is nearly always concerning background information about which neither side would take issue. We shall see that when it comes to the most critical points, Murdock continues to rely either on esotericists, or persons speaking outside their field of expertise.

7 - In various places, a quote Murdock lifts from Hornung's Valley of the Kings, page 9, has been repeated:
Private tombs and sarcophagi of the Late Period were also decorated with copies of these works, and it is not improbable that even early Christian texts were influenced by ideas and images from the New Kingdom religious books.
Murdock reads this as us being "encouraged" to look for parallels, but in Hornung's work, this sentence is all that is said about parallels. Hornung does not list any specific parallels, or any texts, ideas, or images, much less does he lend any support to any of the "Big 12" claims. Murdock is illicitly using a general statement to support particular arguments.

Here also, Murdock criticizes those who use encyclopedias as sources to rebut these ideas, but who this might be is not specified. I myself have cautioned against use of such basic sources.

13-23 Murdock embarks upon a defense of Gerald Massey, though in all of it, does not explain why Massey's work is not cited by credentialed Egyptologists today as authoritative. Murdock is lavish in generalized praise for Massey's supposed abilities and efforts, but such things as a list of Egyptologists whose works he read or cited (13-14) does not constitute competence in handling matters in the field, much less does it suggest that any one of them endorsed Massey's conclusions.

A quote is offered from Massey [15] claiming that one such scholar, Samuel Birch, "verified" the "fundamental facts" he presented, though how this was done, and what particular "fundamental facts" are in mind (did he endorse Massey's esoteric interpretations, for example?) remains unspecified.
That said, it is rather revealing that in a preface to his lecture, Massey admits that Birch "could have had no sympathy with my real aim and ends" (Gerald Massey's Lectures, 251). In the end, it is far from useful to appeal to any interactions Birch may have had with Massey, for it is clear that there is no evidence that Birch supported Massey in any of his departures from the scholarly consensus, or on any particular point, and thus no validation for Murdock's claim that a "significant portion" of Massey's work was "peer reviewed" by Birch. One may note as well that there is no indication that Birch considered Massey expert enough to use as a source for his works such as Ancient History from the Monuments.

15-16 - It is rather significant that Massey responded to his critics among professional Egyptologists and scholars by accusing them of "Bibliolatry." While one such as Murdock naturally takes this as confirmation of Massey's "efficacy," this is merely an arbitrary affirmation. It remains that Massey to this day is not regarded as a qualified source, and as far as I have found, is not even used as an authoritative source (see further below) by any of the Egyptologists Murdock cites as sources. Are these all "bibliolaters" as well?

Murdock continues much in vain attempting to qualify Massey, but such things as his wide reading [16] do not warrant an assessment that he was "far ahead of his time" [17] as is purportedly (vaguely) "demonstrated on a regular basis by numerous archaeological discoveries around the world" - especially when none such discoveries are specified.

As I have noted here Massey's primary features were undocumented assertion and esoteric reinterpretation. I have had this challenge up for many years and still have received no reply.

19 - The citation of the work of William Cooper, The Horus Myth in Its Relation to Christianity, is a curious one. Murdock avers that Cooper "highlighted many germane correspondences between the myth of the Egyptian god Horus and Christianity." But two telling points belie the implied relevance of Cooper's work - which is available in only two libraries I can find (one in London, the other at Colgate's divinity school).

The first is that despite the above, Murdock uses Cooper's work for support only a dozen times in her 500+ page work - and not once is he used to support any of the "Big 12" claims, save one of the more universal titles.

Second, Murdock quotes a more modern Egyptologist, Witt, as saying that Cooper's assessment (in Cooper's words) of "the works of art, the ideas, the expressions, and the heresies of the first four centuries of the Christian era..." are still true. Notice what is missing from this list: the figure of Jesus and his life story. Note also that this is about the first four centuries of the Christian era, and that there is nothing offered to suggest that Cooper or Witt support any of the "Big 12" claims - as is made quite clear in quotes Murdock further uses from Witt, which have to do with things like Christian art in the patristic era, and how epithets formerly reserved for Isis were given instead by converts to Mary. Murdock has again misused and misapplied her authorities.

21 - I referred to a further note concerning Egyptologists using Massey as a source. Murdock notes one place where Hornung refers to him, in his book The Secret Lore of Egypt - and that is all Hornung does is refer to him, once in the main text, once in notes, and once in an acknowledgement.

Murdock is equivocating in saying that Hornung has "verified" Massey's "impressive role" in interest in Egypt. In fact, Hornung's book at this point is all about various occultic and esoteric movements that used Egyptian lore. He is certainly not considering Massey to be a qualified source on the subject of Egyptology.

Horus, Sun of God

The bulk of this chapter is devoted to the idea that Horus was a "sun god" - a conclusion which we see little need to dispute, regardless of its truth. As such, it does little to validate any claims that Jesus and Horus are somehow twins, though we do get some points made in this direction.

31 - We are asked to compare Matthew 3:17, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased," with a statement by the goddess Nut, "This is my son, my first born...this is my beloved, with whom I have been satisfied." A parallel? Yes, but not a meaningful one. Benediction formulae such as these reflect a universal ancient practice, one in which a newborn was welcomed into the collective identity of his family. Public acknowledgement or "annunciation" of the new family member's approval was the ancient equivalent of sending out baby announcements today.

Further appeals to parallels that are universals (such as a god who hears prayers and is timeless, or who is called a "savior" or offers "salvation") [32-3] likewise serve no useful purpose in this context. Murdock is here again trying to particularize from generalities.

53 - Appeal to "trinities" in Egyptian religion likewise appeal to a universal, that of hypostases - on this note what I have written at this location.

61 - A direct parallel is noted in the common use of the epithet "Morning Star" by Jesus and Osiris. This, too, reflects a universal practice, as we have noted in our "copycat" article on the Mesoamerican deity Quetzalcoatl:
Florescano [The Myth of Quetzalcoatl, 14ff] adds that in Mayan mythology, it is not Quetzalcoatl, but two other deities (Xblanque and Hunaahpu) who are associated with Venus, and Venus is variously associated with war, or concepts of the primordial day, or sacrifice. Given the prominence of Venus in the Northern Hemisphere it would hardly be a striking coincidence if it was appealed to for some sort of royal imagery.
In any event, even if we assume the author of Revelation 22:16 was aware of this use of the epithet by Osiris, it would be no more than a case of Jesus claiming the title as one more worthy of it than Osiris. This would be a sort of "honor challenge" - if indeed there was any such knowledge.

62 - In attempting to draw a parallel, Murdock errs here: "...Horus is the living god, the earthly incarnation of the father, precisely as was said of Christ and God the Father." The latter reflects a modalist heresy, not orthodox Christianity and Trinitarianism.

Horus vs. Set

This chapter, like the last, contributes little to the actual case for the "Big 12" claims and is likely not intended to; it is mostly unobjectionable and irrelevant background information with respect to those claims.

68 - Murdock continues to misuse the word "resurrected" to describe what happened to Osiris after his death. As we have noted:
Osiris resurrected? Not if "resurrection" is defined as coming back in a glorified body. On this point Miller has done some substantial work, reporting the words of J. Z. Smith, so I will let these speak to begin: "Osiris was murdered and his body dismembered and scattered. The pieces of his body were recovered and rejoined, and the god was rejuvenated. However, he did not return to his former mode of existence but rather journeyed to the underworld, where he became the powerful lord of the dead. In no sense can Osiris be said to have 'risen' in the sense required by the dying and rising pattern (as described by Frazer et.al.); most certainly it was never considered as an annual event."
"In no sense can the dramatic myth of his death and reanimation be harmonized to the pattern of dying and rising gods (as described by Frazer et.al.)."
"The repeated formula 'Rise up, you have not died,' whether applied to Osiris or a citizen of Egypt, signaled a new, permanent life in the realm of the dead."
Frankfort concurs:
"Osiris, in fact, was not a 'dying' god at all but a 'dead' god. He never returned among the living; he was not liberated from the world of the dead, as Tammuz was. On the contrary, Osiris altogether belonged to the world of the dead; it was from there that he bestowed his blessings upon Egypt. He was always depicted as a mummy, a dead king." [Kingship and the gods: a study of ancient Near Eastern religion as the integration of society & nature. UChicago:1978 edition, p.289] Perhaps the only pagan god for whom there is a resurrection is the Egyptian Osiris. Close examination of this story shows that it is very different from Christ's resurrection. Osiris did not rise; he ruled in the abode of the dead. As biblical scholar, Roland de Vaux, wrote, "What is meant of Osiris being 'raised to life?' Simply that, thanks to the ministrations of Isis, he is able to lead a life beyond the tomb which is an almost perfect replica of earthly existence. But he will never again come among the living and will reign only over the dead.… This revived god is in reality a 'mummy' god."... No, the mummified Osiris was hardly an inspiration for the resurrected Christ...As Yamauchi observes, "Ordinary men aspired to identification with Osiris as one who had triumphed over death." But it is a mistake to equate the Egyptian view of the afterlife with the biblical doctrine of resurrection. To achieve immortality the Egyptian had to meet three conditions: First, his body had to be preserved by mummification. Second, nourishment was provided by the actual offering of daily bread and beer. Third, magical spells were interred with him. His body did not rise from the dead; rather elements of his personality-his Ba and Ka-continued to hover over his body. ["The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: Myth, Hoax, or History?" David J. MacLeod, in The Emmaus Journal, V7 #2, Winter 98, p169
Frazer [Fraz.AAO, viii] wrote that every dead man was given Osiris' name on top of his own in order to identify with the god.
So O's "resurrection" is no resurrection at all -- and in fact was actually a sort of function of the way the Egyptian gods were, shall we say, being half Frankenstein, half Lego set. There are in fact many stories of the Egyptian gods flinging various body parts around, and to no overall harm, because "divine bodies were thought to be impervious to change" [Meek.DL, 57] and so O's dead body neither rotted nor decomposed as it waited to be put back together. This is how it was with all these Egyptian gods: Seth and Horus have a fight in which they throw dung at each other then steal each others' genitals [Bud.ERR, 64]. Horus' eye is stolen by Set, but Horus gets it back and gives it to Osiris, who eats it [ibid., 88]. Horus had a headache, and another deity offers to loan him his head until the headache went away [Meek.DL, 57]. Osiris did pay a price for his dismembering death, in that he was limited to the world of the dead [and manifestly ignorant as a result of what went on "above ground" -- Meek.DL, 88-9], but that is only because he had actually died once before when his father accidentally killed him [ibid., 80].
69 - In a note, Murdock points out that the word "passion" to refer to the sufferings of a god is not exclusive Christian property, "despite the biases and oversights of dictionaries, as well as claims of Christian apologists." I think it speaks for itself when dictionaries are accused of "bias" and "oversight" - and I know of no Christian apologists who make such a claim concerning "passion" even so.

Born on December 25th

It is here at last that one of the "Big 12" claims is addressed, and as has been noted many times of Horus and other "copycat" deities, the Dec. 25th date is irrelevant - for it is a much later Christian tradition, not any Biblical or authoritative record, that establishes Jesus' birthday as 12/25. This poses a problem for Murdock; her response at first is to suppose that not recognizing a 12/25 birthdate poses some problem for Christians:

It is said that Jesus not being born 12/25 "would come as a surprise to many, since up to just a few years ago only a minuscule percentage of people knew
such a fact." [79]

Well, as the saying goes, life is full of surprises; but this hardly does anything to change that the designated date was designated apart from historical consideration of Jesus' actual birth. It is also irrelevant that "hundreds of millions of people" [80] celebrate the date, and apologists like myself would have little problem agreeing that in this sense, as Murdock puts it, "Jesus is not the 'reason for the season'" except to the extent that it has been made so via an assigned date with no basis in history.

In the end, Murdock is compelled to say that arguing against 12/25 as Jesus' birthday is "quite futile...since myths do not have 'real birthdays.'" If that is the case, then one wonders why Murdock continues to argue for several pages for an achieved parallel. She notes varying dates supposed for Jesus' birth (at least ten) but all of this reflects educated guesswork from a time when few people knew their exact date of birth, as we have noted:
A reader has inquired lately whether lack of specific knowledge of Jesus' year of birth (and of course death) offers any sort of support for the idea of Christ-myth. Reference works typically offer a range of date for Jesus' birth between 6 and 4 BC. Is this lack of precision certainty a problem? Not at all. As I noted to the reader, the ability of ancient persons to track precise dates, down to day and month and sometimes even years, was severely limited. A person born on a festival date, or on an eclipse, would be the only sorts who could have any objective marker for their birthdate or death among the peasantry.
But to make this more relevant, we may ask the question, What about other comparable figures whose historicity no one questions?
We do not know specific birth or death dates for a variety of persons -- Pilate, Tacitus, Livy, and Pliny the Younger, for example. We might not have known when Pliny the Elder died had he not perished in the eruption of Vesuvius. And here is what we have on just the birth years (not even months or days) of religious leaders comparable to Jesus, per the Oxford Dictionary of World Religions:
Buddha: For Buddha we actually have two "approximate dates" depending on which of two chronologies we accept. One places Buddha between 566-486 BC, and the other places him over 100 years later (448-368 BC). The Dictionary acknowledges that there are "uncertainties" about the date of Buddha, which is just what could be said about the date of Jesus.
Lao Tzo: The dictionary does not even offer a date for this leader, whom it considers "perhaps legendary".
Confucius: He is said to have been born "probably in 552 BCE" but adds "nothing certain is known of his childhood". Confucius seems to have been easier to track mainly because he held a number of governmental posts in his lifetime.
Zoroaster: As I noted in my essay here, most of the sources I consulted prefer a date around 600 B.C. for his life, though one scholar has suggested a date as early as 1700 BC.
Muhammed: The Dictionary offers a date of 570-632 AD, but the Oxford History of Islam is more equivocal, saying that Muhammed was born "sometime around 570", and the lack of surety is in that "traditional accounts differ on the date." While some may suggest a parallel between this and the uncertainty over Jesus' birthdate because of the problems in the birth narratives, it is absolutely clear that this is not an unusual "problem" and that no historian takes it in favor of a "Muhammed myth".
So it seems clear that lack of precision knowledge about dates of birth and death is not considered a pointer to ahistoricity, or even unusually problematic.
In the final analysis, Murdock essentially surrenders a 12/25 birthdate for Jesus, offering nothing to support it (and therefore a parallel) other than a suggestion that the birthdate of John the Baptist, born 6 months before Jesus, is placed on June 24th [81], but this too was based on the original non-historical designation of the 12/25 date. Murdock's only other "argument" amounts to a rather creative and esoteric reading of John 3:30 ("He must increase, but I must decrerase") as somehow reflecting John as the summer solstice and Jesus as the winter solstice.

Thus any parallel to Horus is invalid even if Horus was indeed born on 12/25. But was this indeed the case? In nearly 30 pages following, while much is said in general of winter solstice celebrations (not "birthdays" for Horus) this is all Murdock offers in terms of data for parallels:

Rahner is cited [84] to the effect that January 6th, which is recognized by some as Jesus' date of birth, was also a " 'birthday' of Osiris centuries before Christianity was created." This too would be far too late in Christian tradition to be relevant; but what of the claim regarding a 1/6 birthdate for Osiris? Murdock places the word "birthday" in quotes - and it can perhaps be seen why: Rahner, on page 139 of his book Greek Myths and Christian Mystery, actually says:
Epiphanus, quoting other ancient writers, tells us elsewhere that the birthday of Dionysus was celebrated on January 5 and 6, though in the present instance in may well have been that of Osriris pr Harpocrates-Horus.
In other words, despite the certainty implied by Murdock, Rahner merely speculates that Osiris is to be added to the equation. Not that it matters since he goes on to attribute common birthdays to the merging of divine figures in the minds of worshippers - eg, as the Romans equated Jupiter with the Greek Zeus - so that it is simply supposed (not necessarily illogically) that Osiris and Dionysus were equated, and so given the same birthday. There is thus nothing in any ancient Egyptian record to show that Osiris actually had a "birthday" on January 6.

88 - Murdock makes far too much of a specific manuscript of Epiphanius missing a portion of text she feels contributes to her case. For one, the manuscript in question is from the 14th century, by her own admission, while she also admits that a mss. with the passage is known from the 10th century. Her claim that this is a case of "deliberate and egregious censorship...apparently for the specific purpose of preventing information damaging to the Christian tradition from being known" is little more than an exercise in speculative creativity. There are far more practical reasons why manuscripts are missing portions and there is no reason why one should not be applied here.

92 - We are looking for actual evidence of Horus' birth on Dec. 25th, and after 14 pages, we finally get the following line of reasoning: "It is obvious that Horus, as the morning sun born every day, was also born on 'December 25th' or the winter solstice."

I think it speaks for itself that Murdock has been compelled to achieve a 12/25 "birthdate" for Horus by removing the element of 12/25 as a unique day, and making him "born" every single day of the year. Then how could a figure like Jesus escape being a parallel to Horus?

Murdock also strives to give Horus this birthdate by identifying him with the sun, and then citing festivals concerned with the "birth" of the sun at the winter solstice (12/25 at that time) and claiming a connection - even though Horus is not once mentioned in connection with these festivals.

Finally, Murdock argues for 12/25 as the observed date of the "resurrection" of Osiris [105] and then forges this chain:
Because Horus and Osiris were one and interchangeable, the new sun replacing the old, it could be stated truthfully that the "restoration" of Osiris at the winter solstice represents the "new birth" of Horus, as does every day of the year.
In short, Murdock must reach for a highly esoteric equation of Horus and Osiris, and combine it with semantic equivocation ("restoration" = "new birth") to create a parallel that she admits holds for every day of the year. Yet with each of this sort of equation and equivocation, we get farther and farther away from an event that is represented by a literal baby humanly born on a specific date - which was not even his actually birthdate. Murdock is essentially sacrificing one set of likenesses to attempt to achieve another - failing to realize that this undercuts her own case.

106 -- One other effort to give Horus a 12/25 birthdate involves a claim that "certain Gnostics claimed that the Egyptians actually called the winter solstice" by a Greek name for Horus. That is quite interesting but the word of "certain Gnostics" in the post-Christian era is not sufficient to establish what was believed of Horus in ancient pre-Christian Egypt. Murdock also appeals to the alleged destruction of the library at Alexandria; see on this the link to Miller's essay above.

In the end, Murdock spends much time discussing esoteric rites and winter solstice festivals which bear no relation to Horus, save by an esoteric equation of Horus with the sun that is not made anywhere in the literature that refers to these festivals. Despite her claim as well [112], connections made between Jesus and the winter solstice centuries later do not establish a parallel in ideology or turn Jesus into a "sun god." The solstice was designated as Jesus' birthday for the same reason one department store holds a sale on Easter the same as another: Because it is a way to keep shoppers coming to one and away from the other. Selecting 12/25 to celebrate the birth of Jesus was a practical means of keeping immature Christian converts from the very strong temptation of attending public festivals - which in the ancient world, was considered to be an essential part of being part of your community.

So likewise, while churches pointing east may represent a throwback to an old habit [113] of building pagan temples in that direction, this is rendered irrelevant by the fact that church buildings as such did not come into use until much later in Christian history. Murdock and other "astrotheologists" are putting the cart before the horse.

114 - Murdock wrongly equates the Jewish Sabbath with the "Christian Sunday" and notes both in light of a "festival of the seventh day" mentioned in an Egyptian Coffin Text. The Christian Sunday is the first day of the week and is not on the same day as the seventh-day Sabbath, which is Saturday.
It may also be noted that the Coffin Texts cited (196, 207) provide no context to suggest, as Murdock does, that a "seventh day festival" they mention has any resemblance to a Jewish Sabbath festival. Indeed, they are merely referenced in terms of a time the gods come down to have a meal, and when the deceased speaker has his dinner; a sixth-day festival is also mentioned in both texts (in the latter text, as the time when the speaker would have breakfast).

Other than that, Murdock attempts to equate Jesus with a "sun god" with rather creative references to:
  • Matthew 17:2, the Transfiguration, in which the sun is used as an analogy to how bright Jesus' face is. Needless to say, an analogy of appearances is not an equation of identity, and if this was indeed such, does this mean by the Markan version (with Jesus' clothes "shining" so brightly that they outdo what a launderer could do) that Jesus is a god of laundering?
  • John 8:12, where Jesus is the "light" (not the "sun") of the world. A far more likely analogue: The universal association of light with goodness, truth, and inspiration.
  • Acts 26:13, which uses the sun to analogize the brightness of Jesus' appearance, and as Matthew 17:2, is not an equation of identity.
  • Malachi 4:2, which is not even about Jesus!
Murdock also equates the benedictive "Amen" with the Egyptian god Amun, a point we have previously addressed:
Some argue that the word "Amen" (first used in Numbers 5:22, and thereafter a lot in Deuteronomy, and on up into the NT) was somehow derived from the Egyptian god Amun-Re, with the implication that in using the word we are thanking a pagan god. Here's a corrective for that idea from Marvin Wilson's Our Father Abraham [182ff]. The word "amen" is part of a family of Hebrew words stemming from the verb aman, to believe or trust. (Gen. 15:6, "And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.") Other related words are emunah, "faithfulness" or "steadfastness" and emet or "truth."
So ends this chapter - without any direct evidence that either Jesus or Horus were born December 25th.

The Virgin Isis-Mery

This is by far the longest chapter in the book at nearly 90 pages, but it is no less devoted to irrelevancies. And yet, it must be admitted that Murdock succeeds in showing that Isis did bear the epithet "Mery" - and this is achieved, once again, at the expense of a true parallel.

It should be noted, first, that much here is again made of activities well after the time of Jesus, as when converts used similar artistic portraits of Isis and Mary; and that this, as before, does nothing to establish a borrowing relationship concerning the original elements. Murdock must prove here that:
  1. Isis was called a virgin AFTER the birth of Horus
  2. Isis was called "Mery" and that this was in some way significant in a way that suggests borrowing
We will see that these are not accomplished save by equivocation of the sort we have already seen.

121 - it deserves notice that when Murdock cites James Curl as an authority and as a "professor emeritus" she fails to note that he is not an Egyptologist but a professor of architectural history. In addition, his claim that Isis was known as the "Great Virgin" is documented not to an Egyptologist, but Rudolf Steiner - a mystic and an Anthroposophist.

123 - Though it may be of some interest to Catholic readers to be told (however rightly or not) that "Mother of God" was an epithet for Isis, this again is irrelevant to the Jesus of the first century. Even so it would at most be a case of claiming the honor of the title FROM someone like Isis would be regarded as not deserving of it (as opposed to Mary).

124f - it is here where an attempt is made to argue for the epithet of "Meri" applied to Isis, and as noted, it is actually successful - at a rather high price. But first there is a caveat to note.

Murdock does not know, apparently, that the name "Mary" or some form of it was held by at least a quarter of Jewish women in the time of Jesus. Thus even if a parallel holds, are we to think that all these women were named in light of an epithet given to an Egyptian goddess?

But that assumes that "Meri" is indeed relevant to "Mary", and Murdock succeeds greatly in showing that it is not. Over the course of several pages, Murdock reports that:
  • The word "meri" meant "desired" or "beloved"
  • It was applied not only to Isis, but also to "numerous figures in ancient Egypt, such as deities, kings, priests, government officials," and even the land of Egypt itself [125]. She even quotes one as saying that "Meri" was "the second most common form of epithet referring to deities…" [126]
And thus, Murdock ends up, unwittingly, proving that because "Meri" was applied to Isis, this has ended up completely undercutting Murdock's case for the "Meri" appellation as a significant parallel to Mary as mother of Jesus. It was not even a proper name, and it was applied to innumerable persons, even human men - and Murdock apparently does not see how this undercuts her original claim of a parallel to Jesus. It matters little if Isis was called Meri centuries before Jesus, or even that Jesus was called "beloved" in the NT [134] - because not only were thousands of others called by the same epithet, but also, many thousands were called "Mary" in first century Palestine.
Making matters worse, while "Meri" means "beloved," "Mary" goes back to "Miriam" and means "rebellion." Murdock is aware of this [135], but offers the following as a circumvention:

First, she says that the Mary of the Bible "certainly does not epitomize 'rebellion,' in reality representing utter submission to God…" This is true, but beside the point. Mary's parents could hardly have anticipated their daughter's character or experiences in selecting the name. Moreover, let us remember that a quarter of Jewish women of the first century were so designated; at a time when discontent over Roman occupation was rife. The latter was certainly in mind, not some hypothesis that Mary as a grown woman might become "submissive."

Second, arguing for Mary as submissive, Murdock says that this fits better with Mary as "beloved." But since Murdock admits many persons were so designated, and indeed, since the majority were rulers, it is clear that "beloved" has more to do with political loyalty than with personal affection and submissiveness.

Third, Murdock appeals to authorities who opted for a "beloved" etymology for
"Mary," but none are qualified to do so. The first, a "Major-General James G. R. Forlong," wrote in the 19th century prior to a great deal of linguistic scholarship, and he was a generalist writer on religion. There is nothing to suggest that Forlong's assessment is anything but that of an amateur, and certainly nothing in his quoted declarative assertion that counters an equation of "Mary" with "rebellion."

Another authority, William Robertson Smith, also wrote in the 19th century, and while more qualified than Forlong was, as an OT scholar, was hardly up to date.
Murdock's final appeal is to a "Rev. Henry Tompkins" in the "Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute" - a publication that ceased under that name in 1957. I can find no indication what Tompkins' qualifications were, but Murdock merely quotes him asking if there might be a connection between "Meri" and "Miriam" - there is no data or argument offered.

Murdock has some difficulty finding a modern author to back this position, and against the idea that "Miriam" is to be derived from the Hebrew verb mara (to rebel), or from mar (bitterness) She cites Hoffmeier's 2005 book, which cites a much older authority, Gardiner, but can find no one else to support such a view. In the end, however, it matters little, as in the NT period, "Mary" was so common as a name that it is fruitless to suggest that it was selected based on some correlation with Isis - and both "rebellion" and "beloved" would have been appropriate epithets for female children of first-century Palestine.

Thus, though Murdock does show that Isis was called "Meri," it ends up being such that she also proves that it was a matter of no significance that it was so. What, then, of Isis as a virgin after the birth of Horus? For of course, it does little good if we find reference to Isis as a "virgin" before that birth.

Murdock's first effort is rather questionable, to say the least, as she cites a quote from a document from between the third and seventh centuries AD, as attributing to the prophet Jeremiah, in the seventh century BC, a notation of a motif of a "virgin child-bearer" as predicted to Egyptian priests. It seems odd that Murdock wishes to argue that this document accurately recorded the words of Jeremiah, 1000 or more years later, while she readily dismisses the NT as an accurate record merely (by her dating) after 100 years from the events it records to its composition. (The work appealed to by Murdock, the Paschal Chronicle, is a history of events up until the year 629 AD. Does she also accept as historical what it says about the date of the creation of Adam?)

In any event, even the quote used by Murdock from the Chronicle seems to be of little use, since it apparently sees Jeremiah's prediction of a virgin-born savior as the reason why Egyptians began to "deify a virgin child-bearer" - in other words, Jeremiah's prediction, not the story of Horus and Isis, was the reason for the priests' actions and beliefs.

140 - Appeal is made to a statement allegedly by Horus, "I know that I have been conceived by Sechit and that I am born of Neith" - Sechit being, we are told, a variant name for Isis; and Neith was a virgin. As one of my contributors in Shattering the Christ Myth, Jonathan Brown, noted, however, the speaker here "is not Horus per se, but rather the deceased who identifiers himself alternatively with this or that deity." At the same time, Neith - whom Murdock spends pages describing as "virgin" -- was manifestly not Isis, who is the one we are supposed to be proving is a "virgin mother."

In terms of establishing Isis as a virgin, Murdock provides little of substance. She refers to C. P. Tiele as referring to "Isis the virgin" but Tiele himself merely asserts this, without reference to any documentation, and Tiele himself is hardly a credible source, as elsewhere he offers a great deal of erroneous information about Mithraism's alleged influence on Christianity.

Murdock's next argument is that "Isis is a later form of Neith" and she appeals again to 19th century works for a proof. One of these, Egypt's Place in Universal History, is said to have a section titled "Isis as Neith" but the page reference Murdock offers (418-19) contains no such section; it is merely a list of words with corresponding hieroglyphs. Word searches (the text is available via Google books) also reveal no such section. (One of Murdock's followers later revealed that this was not found because Murdock failed to provide an adequate source reference in her footnotes, and did not indicate which out of multiple volumes this appeared in. However, the source revealed only vaguely claims that in her "cosmogonic property" Isis is revealed to be "exactly like Neith," though what this means and why it ought be regarded as meaningful is not explained, much less does it show that the specific property of virginity was shared between the two figures.)

Budge is quoted as saying that Neith "was identified with Hathor and Isis" but it is far from clear that by this Budge means "identical with" and Budge does not explain what he means by this, other than that it has something to do with Neith being a cow-goddess.

Three authorities are cited as proving that "Isis is a later form of Neith" with the verification that their two names are combined as "Isis-Neith." One of these sources is Temporini's Rise and Decline of the Roman World, and Murdock's page reference is for an internal table of contents on material having to do with the goddess Roma. A second reference, from Zitman, comes from a work published by Murdock's former publisher, Adventures Unlimited, a producer of books on aliens, Atlantis, and time travel - but even his book merely refers to a "great festival held in honor of Isis-Neith" and does nothing to prove an actual equation of the two. The third note is to an author not listed in Murdock's bibliography.

The last reference, from Bonwick, says of Isis that she is "seen to assume the role of Neith." Not only is Bonwick badly dated (his work was written in 1878), it is also a product of his Theosophical leanings, and Bonwick was merely a schoolteacher, not an Egyptologist. And he does not elaborate on what he means when he says Isis "assumed the role" of Neith.

Further appeals made:

146 -- A note is made to a statue of Athena, sometimes identified as Isis, referred to in Plutarch with the inscription, "my robe no mortal has yet uncovered." Even if we accept a tenuous identification to the Isis of ancient Egypt, however, it is worth pointing out that Osiris, the father of Horus, was far from a "mortal" qualifying for that statement.

Another authority is said to use the "Isis-Neith" combination, but the author, Turcan, does so referring to something observed at the time of Domitian, with no explanation in terms of what the coupling of the names means, much less does he aver as Murdock would that the two goddesses were identical. Just as importantly, there is nothing to suggest that any "inviolability" of this figure did not refer to a time before the conception and birth of Horus, if indeed this Greco-Roman version was also considered Horus' mother.

147 - Appeals to goddesses who were virgins and then "gave birth to the sun" likewise have no bearing on this issue, as Jesus was hardly a G-type star or any other sort of astronomical body. It is further noted [149] that it is of no relevance to point to the story of Isis being impregnated by Osiris, because, "we are discussing astrotheological motifs revolving around the sun and moon, not set-in-stone biographies of real people with the relevant body parts."

Perhaps that is not what Murdock is talking about, but it is indeed what the New Testament is talking about, her attempts to impose esoteric and unjustified "astrotheological" meaning on the NT texts notwithstanding. And if that is so, attempts to parallel with the life of Jesus are even more fruitless.

149-150 - Murdock claims that versions of the Osiris story exist in which Isis, unable to find Osiris' sexual organ, conceives of Horus by parthenogenesis. If true, this would be more akin to a parallel, but alas, Murdock's sources prove questionable again: One is Curl, who as noted above, is not qualified in this subject matter; and this is merely Curl's declarative assertion, not something he validates with quoting an actual text. Prior to this, he notes to Isis and Osiris by Plutarch, section 12, and this contains a story of Isis and Osiris having intercourse in their mothers' womb before birth.

The other reference is to Bettina Knapp, and a book titled French Fairytales, which is about Jungian psychology. Knapp is also not certified in this field, but it matters little, as the page Murdock cites (243) contains no such quote as she describes in which Horus is alleged to have been produced by parthenogenesis.
In these last points, we find indeed that little has changed with Murdock when it comes to critical use of sources. Instead, she simply seeks declarative assertions - whether by a person qualified to make them or not - and presents them as though they were arguments, adding her own interpretations as required.

Appeals are made further to Leipoldt, Leclant and others referring to Isis as being called "Virgin" and "Mother of God" but nothing is quoted in terms of the provenance of these titles. Was she called "virgin" before or after the conception of Horus? If before, but not after, of what relevance is it? None at all. Although Murdock claims that Isis was "considered by the Egyptians" to be a spotless virgin, "regardless" of her motherhood [153], not one of her sources says any such thing with respect to the motherhood aspect.

"Mother of God," as we have noted, is a Catholic, not a Biblical title, but we are still not told what the earliest date for it is. Murdock perhaps unwittingly reveals these as post-first century phenomena when she further quotes Leclant as saying that "the personality of the Madonna borrows much from that of Isis..." Since Mary in the NT does not have any sort of developed personality, it seems likely that the likeness to Isis has to do with much later designs of Mary as found in the apocryphal works.

Because Murdock fails to show that any designation of Isis as "virgin" occurs with respect to the conception of Horus, her further analysis on this subject, about such matters as the alleged ability by certain figures to "recover" virginity, is merely useless distraction. Further appeals to "virgins" impregnated by, e.g., divine fire [158] additionally miss the parallel; these are instances again of divine seed, not divine fiat comparable to the Genesis creation, as is portrayed by the NT. These may be "virgin births" but they are not virginal conceptions.

Murdock further errs in her assessment of the meanings of the words almah and bethulah [160]; on that issue, see Miller's treatment here.

Murdock goes on to claim other parallels as well: "Like the Virgin Mary turned away from an inn while with child, the pregnant Isis too is refused a 'night's lodging'" [164] and also, like Jesus fleeing Herod, had to flee the evil Egyptian god Set.

That's rather selective in reporting; the full story is that Isis was being pursued by Set, and was accompanied by seven "scorpion goddesses". Then she was indeed refused lodging, by a "rich woman at Teb" who "drove her from her door." As a result of this, one of the goddesses became so angry that she stung one of the child residents to death, then set the house on fire; Isis restored the child to life and put the fire out, then received lodging at a peasant's house. She later gave birth to Horus and hid him in a swamp, but he was found by Set, who stung and killed him. With the help of the god Thoth, however, she was able to revive him.

The general themes of not finding hospitality, fleeing an enemy, and others Murdock lists (e.g., doing healing miracles) are so broad and widespread that they are useless as parallels, which is why indeed Murdock must isolate quotes and refuse to reveal the story in its entirety. It is also why she must continue to appeal to post-Biblical titles for Mary (such as ""Lady of heaven") to find parallels. The Biblical account simply does not provide the needed support for a case.

Murdock goes on to address [167-194] the arguments of Carrier regarding the Luxor temple carving, as found here. I will withhold comment on this, as Jonathan Brown has already responded to Murdock's reply in his chapter of Shattering the Christ Myth. Curiously, though Murdock lists STCM in her bibliography, she makes no notice of, or response to, Brown's comments.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book Snap: Rachel Evans' "A Year of Biblical Womanhood"



I'll start with some caveats that will choke off a few complaints from the start from those who may not know me: My theology regarding men and women is fully egalitarian, and I am all for contextual study of the Bible; in fact, my record of this was clear before Rachel Evans even knew what a blog was.

Now the hammer: This book would have been better titled, A Year of Extrabiblical Victimhood, because it's nothing more than Evans childishly acting out some of the most extreme fundamentalist views she can find as a cheap stunt that's rather typical of the crowd that thinks someone like Brian McLaren actually has something worthwhile to say.

Evans doesn't have much worthwhile to say, either. Scholars with a calm, reasoned attitude should be writing books like these, not emotional wrecks like Evans who turn on the waterworks every time a yak sneezes in Siberia. Like many who were raised essentially fundamentalist, Evans has rebelled by swinging the pendulum as far as she can in the other direction, which in this case means having all the spine and assuredness of a tapioca pudding, and then thinking something is wrong with those who don't. To wit:

"[My mother and] father both loved the Bible, but they seemed to know instinctively that rules that left people guilt-ridden, exhausted, and confused were not really from God." [xviii]  

"Instinctively"? How about factually? Let me fix that for the academic neophyte in Evans: "Guilt" as a social concept didn't exist in the agonistic world of the Bible; "exhausted and confused" is a personal problem that not everyone shares. But as is typical of the emergent crowd, Evans assumes the weaknesses and shortcomings she and a few other manifest are a mandate for universal change, which is why they never bother with rational argument. How about an even more precise title for this book? Erma Bombeck on Depressants Does the Bible the Fundamentalist Way. That just about covers it.

I won't belabor the point, but I should back up my characterization of Evans with her own words:

Speaking of reading positive and negative comments on her blog: "scrolling through the comments sent my confidence lurching up and down so violently I felt seasick." [4]

"Apparently snark makes up a large percentage of my sense of humor, and I'm kind of a whiner." [9] (On the same page, she incorrectly places the Jewish concept of lashon hara into the New Testament, which was an issue I covered in the E-Block.)

"I hated that people I didn't even know had such a powerful effect on me and that a single comment from 'Anon1' or 'MilwaukeeDad' could keep me up at night." [14]

"...when I'm not in the mood for a fight, I just sit around and feel guilty about it." [27]

"When confronted with a long and varied to-do list, I react more like a squirrel in the path of a car, frantically darting one direction and then another without actually getting anywhere besides the backside of a tire." [85]

Whew. I'm glad my beloved Mrs H is just the opposite on all of these. Now that's a real woman. And I haven't even indicated the part of the book where Evans sits crying on her kitchen floor over not being able to prepare something correctly. How nice that someone this flipped-out is writing a book that millions will take as sound advice, and is also making asinine anti-intellectual statements like these:

"...I can only regard with suspicion those who claim the Bible never troubles them. I can only assume this means they haven't actually read it." [51] 

Better yet: Some of us aren’t troubled by it precisely because we have read it -- in a serious, scholarly, contextual way. Not that Evans would care, as this even more oblivious statement indicates, regarding those who deal in the texts with scholarship and apologetics: "These are useful insights, I suppose, but sometimes I wish these apologists wouldn't be in such a hurry to explain these troubling texts way, that they would allow themselves to be bothered by them now and then." [53]

Yes, apparently, Evans is a bit of a whiner.

No thanks, though. Instead of following Evans into a round of the Hand Wring Polka, which leads into zero solutions and does nothing but waste valuable time, I'll go for explanations -- and I'll do it just as fast as is needed to get that explanation done properly, thanks, and not slow down just so whiners like Evans can feel better about their own insecurities.

I would be remiss if I didn't note that Evans' own attempts at scholarship sometimes come out smelling like last year's landfill contribution. Not always, but when it misses, it misses bad. She points to John 8:3-11 and remarks that in that instance, "fulfilling the law meant letting it go." [54] Uh...no. That's not what happened here, for a couple of reasons. One is that the law was always didactic; it was never to be read with the fundamentalist literalism Evans still retains. The other is that the Romans held capital power, which means that the whole episode was another Caesar's coin test -- not an instance of Jesus "letting it go" on the law. 

That's one major blunder; another is the assumption that Jephthah's daughter was actually killed.  [63] It would also never occur to Evans that the reason she is not named in the text is because publicly naming a woman at that time was usually a way to put her on "front street" and not naming her was usually (not always) a way to honor her.

On the other hand, I'll give credit where it is due. The explanations are not all off the mark; Evans has an unusually good grasp on ritual purity [150], and her explanation of 1 Tim. 2's "women must not be in authority," while not as complete as I would like, at least goes in the right direction. But it appears such instances are more luck than work; though Evans professes to consult experts and commentaries, that apparently means, "just a couple until I get an answer I like and don't feel like looking more." 

In terms of the Biblical experience Evans professed to follow, I'll speak here as one who wrote a feature for CRI on this genre, including the original by A. J. Jacobs. Jacobs at least was honest. Evans is not. As I said, the title of this book ought to be revised, because Evans doesn't actually live "Biblical womanhood," she lives what she reckons to be "fundamentalist womanhood" -- even when she admits at the end of chapters that she doesn't believe that fundamentalists are interpreting the text correctly, and comes up with a different reading (most of which, if far too simplified, are at least closer to correct). If Evans were being honest, why not either a) live the actual Biblical standard she finds in the text, or b) admit that the whole project was just a way to mock fundamentalists in the typical passive-aggressive emergent style?

That's the main reason this book is getting a hard panning here, in spite of my fundamental agreement with several (not all) exegetical aspects of it. Evans has an honesty problem that would sink a fleet of Civil War ironsides. (I'm not the only one to claim this; see link below, for what it may be worth, by one of the women Evans consulted with for the project). Another reason is that Evans is just as narrow-minded and naive as the fundamentalists she makes fun of. For example, I'm in general agreement with the principles behind "fair trade" purchasing, but it reflects an astounding naivete to suppose that by buying only "fair trade" coffee and chocolate, Evans thinks she is actually doing anything lasting or significant about the problems concerned. It's just a gesture that makes her and other emergent types get that warm fuzzy they crave, but at the end of the day, they drive home in a vehicle that depends significantly on consumption of gasoline that releases carbon into the air and enables (directly or indirectly) hostile Muslims regimes that persecute Christians and oppress women, and also funds oil companies that foul the environment. And that's just one of dozens of things the market bears that renders Evans as guilty as those she smugly, self-righteously, and passive-aggressively condemns. While she's out buying some fair trade chocolate, Evans should stop by Texas (walk there, please, don't use gas) and spit on the ground, so she can she feel just awesome about the fact that she did a little something to stop that drought. Sorry folks -- if there's a solution to things like underpaid Third World farmers and child laborers, the scale of action will have to be supersized well beyond scrabbling around looking for that free trade label (and likely using a lot more gas to find it).

Naive hypocrisy, yep, that's also an emergent's stock in trade. Commenting on the wrangling of fundamentalists over the exact range of duties women are permitted under 1 Tim. 2:12, Evans says this is done, "all while thirty thousand children die every day from preventable disease." [255] How right you are, Rachel. Instead they should be blogging about it, and writing books about it (which could result in the deforestation of acres of trees; or maybe put money in the pockets of book company executives who will later spend it on porn; or just possibly distract someone from buying a self-help book that will get them off drugs)? Please.  Evans can keep that ticket on the guilt train for her own ride. (In case anyone didn't notice, the two goals are hardly mutually exclusive, and there are more than a few fundies out there contributing to ministries that can do that sort of job well.)

In sum, this book is a stunt, and a very clumsy one at that. It's time for publishers to up the ante a bit and publish more serious literature by authors who can be responsible with their material.

In this case, another Left Behind novel would be a step in the right direction.

Link 

Our ministry partner Nick Peters has also posted a review.