Friday, May 31, 2013

Reads for Fun: "Colonel Roosevelt"

This book is the third in a biographical trilogy on Theodore Roosevelt; I reviewed the second earlier, and have not been able to find the first on sale yet. Maybe I will eventually. Meanwhile, we have this one, which covers the period from Roosevelt’s exist from the White House up to his death.

I had been vaguely aware that Roosevelt had tried for a third term under a new party label (the Bull Moose Party) but didn’t know a lot else this revealed. True to his active nature, Roosevelt spent some time immediately after his Presidency on an African safari. He later took a trip down a tributary of the Amazon, in the process suffering some afflictions that nearly killed him.

Something else that nearly killed him was an assassin – a not quite sane man who was apparently normal except when someone was running for a third term as President. He claimed that the ghost of McKinley was compelling him to stop such efforts, so he shot Roosevelt at a campaign stop. Roosevelt survived in good measure because the man happened to shoot him at the pocket where Roosevelt was keeping his speech for the night. The same man later got a little edgy when Franklin Roosevelt tried for a third term, but that time, he was locked up in an asylum and could do nothing about it.

This series is an enjoyable read so far; the books have been thick and satisfying. I’ll definitely snap up Part 1 when I can.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pope Leo X "Fable" Quote Update

I like to keep up on my past ventures, and one of those I have a lot of fun with is the bogus Pope Leo X “fable” quote (see link below). I recently discovered some new attempts to validate that quote and would like to give some exposure to an answer.

Here’s three explanations that are making the rounds these days, and the replies:
It was Pope Leo X who made the most infamous and damaging statement about Christianity in the history of the Church. His declaration revealed to the world papal knowledge of the Vatican's false presentation of Jesus Christ and unashamedly exposed the puerile nature of the Christian religion. At a lavish Good Friday banquet in the Vatican in 1514, and in the company of "seven intimates" (Annales Ecclesiastici, Caesar Baronius, Folio Antwerp, 1597, tome 14), Leo made an amazing announcement that the Church has since tried hard to invalidate. Raising a chalice of wine into the air, Pope Leo toasted: "How well we know what a profitable superstition this fable of Christ has been for us and our predecessors."

Answer: This one’s not going to work, because Baronius’ text is a history of the church since New Testament times – and it stopped recording at the year 1198, because Baronius died before he could finish it. That means he didn’t get to Leo X’s time by several hundred years.

But in case some critic wants to say he mentioned the quote anyway, maybe as some sort of illustration….fine. There’s a link to the history on Google Books below. Let’s see one of the critics tell us where it is.

The second and third references:

The pope's pronouncement is recorded in the diaries and records of both Pietro Cardinal Bembo (Letters and Comments on Pope Leo X, 1842 reprint) and Paolo Cardinal Giovio (De Vita Leonis Decimi, , op. cit.), two associates who were witnesses to it.

Answer:  The Letters and Comments work by Bembo does exist… sort of. But there is no 1842 edition listed in OCLC, and the title is actually this:

Petri Bembi Epistolraum Leonis decimi Pontificis Max. nomine scriptarum libri sexdecim ad Paulum tertium Pont. Max. Romam missi

Translated, that’s  "16 books of letters written in the name of Pope Leo X, dedicated to Pope Paul III"  -- not quote the same title. So I’m betting the quote is also not in here. But, here again, this work is on Google Books (link below) so maybe some enterprising atheist can find it in there. I can’t.

As for that last item by Jovius, it turns out Roger Pearse – who also gave me some feedback for this article – has a copy of it on his website (link below). He says the quote isn’t in there. Again, maybe one of you atheists can find it for us.

Of course I’m being facetious. We have other reasons, besides not finding it, to suspect the quote isn’t in these works. The source of these claims is an article for the conspiracy/UFO magazine Nexus, and an article by Tony Bushby on the alleged criminality of the papacy. For those who may not recall, Bushby is the author of The Bible Fraud, a book that uses the Leo quote on the cover and also has a tendency to include made-up factoids. Bushby has no scruples when it comes to documentation – so it’s no surprise this one’s turning up bogus, too.


Friday, May 24, 2013

David Mirsch's "Open Tomb," Part 6

To close out our series on David Mirsch’s The Open Tomb, we have a record of observations on his chapter arguing that Jesus faked his death through the use of drugs. I’ll explain about about the contexts, then relate some points provided by Dr. Ted Noel, an anesthesiologist of many years’ experience.

Mirsch argues at one point that drugs have been applied transdermally (to the skin). Dr. Noel comments on this and other matters related to the administration of drugs:

His argument about transdermal application is a sign that he doesn't understand the method. Transdermal application is sensitive to area of application and duration of application. The only known toxin that could work as fast as needed to be swoonderful is tetrodotoxin, and it would kill in seconds. The hours on the cross negate that possibility as well as the unavailability
of the toxin.

Capsicum is used to make some drugs move transcutaneously, but it's such an irritant (capsaicin - pepper spray!) that it's not useful in medicine. The other alkaloids don't move transcutaneously very well.

He also ignores the nature of anointing to try to make his point. Further, blood flow in the feet is significantly less than any other part of the body. He claims it's equal to the scalp which is patently false.

Just for fun, consider the Fentanyl Oralet. It's a lollipop with fentanyl, a narcotic 100 times more potent than Morphine. It is well absorbed across mucous membranes. Yet it takes a lollipop in the mouth for a number of minutes to get the drug absorbed.

Second, Gall was a common soporific given to most crucifixion victims. This means that the conversation between Jesus and the thieves would have been impossible.

Mirsch offered some arguments regarding the release of “blood and water” by the spear thrust. Dr. Noel comments:

Determining death is really easy. The spear in the side let fractionated blood flow out. The spear pierced the heart, and the blood in its chambers had been settling. A unit of blood left to sit will take some time to spontaneously fractionate, probably an hour or more. Jesus had been dead for a while when the spear went in. The bit about "pericardial fluid" is nonsense. He didn't have a pericardial effusion. BTW, he's right about effusions taking a while to develop. I'm surprised he survived a 900 ml effusion from pleural-pericardial syndrome. … Severely anemic people (and I've seen my share) bleed blood that is thinner and lighter red. It doesn't fractionate as he proposes.

Mirsch also wrongly calls the spear thrust a coup de grace. This is wrong: It was done to verify death, not cause it.

A "dissected lung" does NOT act as a sponge. [Mirsch] needs to watch thoracic surgery.

Mirsch also suggests Jesus had hemolytic anemia. Dr. Noel says:

"Hemolytic anemia" is special pleading. There's no evidence of anemia before the cross. Look at the geography of the Jericho road. An anemic man could not hike the 4000' foot rise from  Jericho to Jerusalem… There are multiple causes, and tyramine (a bodily compound Mirsch notes as effective in the situation) affects only one of them.

Another of zMirsch’s critical points is that Jesus suffered from favism – a reaction to fava beans. Mirsch suggests that fava beans may have been part of the Passover bread Jesus ate. Dr. Noel points out that there the species of grain regarded as chametz (leaven) which are described in the Mishnah include three types of wheat and two types of barley. Fava beans aren’t known anywhere in the list; the translation of “beans” in Ezekiel’s bread is speculative.

One of Mirsch’s arguments is that Mark himself suggests Jesus at leavened bread (as noted above) and not unleavened bread. He bases this on a distinction between the words artos and azumos.  I addressed this in a reply to anti-missionary Uri Yosef:

Yosef's formerly third (now fourth) category is, "Celebrating Pesakh/Passover." Noting that the seder requires unleavened bread, Yosef objects:

Yet, as we read the Gospel accounts of the last supper, we find Jesus and his disciples eating ordinary bread...One may want to argue that the NT authors meant unleavened bread. However, upon checking these accounts in the Greek language, it is evident that the word for 'unleavened bread' is "azumos" (e.g., Mt 26:17; Mk 14:1,12; Lk 22:1,7). The Greek scriptures use the word for ordinary leavened bread, "artos", for what was consumed at the last supper (Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22; Lk 24:30).
Of course one may ask, if this is so, who else violated some laws, since Jews were supposed to not even have such bread around for Jesus to buy. But this argument, which seems to appear often on anti-missionary sites, misses something important. Azumos is not a word for "unleavened bread" but just a word for "unleavened," period, as in 1 Cor. 5:7:

Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
Paul says to his readers, "You are unleavened"! Is he saying they are made of bread? Of course not. Artos is a word for all bread, with or without leaven, and does not tell us any such thing as Yosef suggests.

Mirsch also suggests that Jesus "had taken an herbal anti-hemorrhagic." Dr. Noel replies:

That's again pure speculation. The only possible one I can think of is ephedrine, but that's derived from a Chinese plant that isn't found in Palestine. Another possibility would be ergot, but that's from a mold, and Passover bread would not be old enough to mold. None of these would have a material effect on a Roman flogging. They just aren't capable of reducing the bleeding from major open wounds.

Shepherd's purse (alos listed by Mirsch) is listed by WebMD. It says that is "might reduce bleeding." That means that the effect is small, if it is even present.

Mirsch also suggests a role for the belladonna plant. Dr. Noel responds:

He demonstrates a complete ignorance of the pharmacology of the belladonna alkaloids. Atropine and it close relatives don't cause a comatose appearance. They cause severe tachycardia and hallucinations, not the appearance of death. If they cause death, it's the real thing, not fake. As for the opium alkaloids, while they were known, they are slow in onset. Jesus died right after the second wine. A massive dose of opium is required to get an onset within ten minutes via the oral route. That large dose would case apnea and death shortly after.

Finally, Mirsch suggests a rapid revival by Jesus. Dr. Noel says:

We can't even do that now! During the early days of medicine there were lots of claims that didn't prove out. Peer review in medical journals was in its infancy. His source is simply wrong. We can get people to sleep quickly, but the ONLY way we can wake them up is to let the drugs wear off naturally. Period.

Thus closes our look at Mirsch’s Open Tomb. I think it should remain buried.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Calling "Men of Faith" to Account

Recently I had a scheduled engagement on a podcast show that I had to shift because of planning problems. In the week prior to that, though, I had some emails from a Christian who expressed concern because the host had certain Catholic leanings.

I told the emailer that if he wanted to make a case to me, vague accusation was not enough; he had to prove his point, and also prove that there was a real problem with the doctrines the host accepted. Cordially, the writer replied asking if I would be willing to check out some material written by some “men of faith” on the subject.

Oh boy.

After this long I know well enough that “men of faith” tends to mean, “some loudmouth with inadequate credentials and a holier than thou attitude.” And I was right: The writer recommended works by Dave Hunt, John MacArthur, and James White.

My doings with White, and why I don’t consider him particularly reliable (compared to serious scholars, that is), are well known to most readers, and I will not reiterate them here. One thing I will add is that there is more I have learned lately about White’s inability to re-examine his prior conclusions which make me even less inclined to trust him.

It isn’t good to speak ill of the dead, so I’ll just say about Hunt for now that while Seduction of Christianity was okay, things went downhill from there, especially with reference to his end times material.

As for MacArthur…readers will have seen in a prior entry here that I am far from enamored with his scholarship. I now have even less reason to be. More on that after some background.

I’ll announce something for the first time publicly here. Of late I have been “hired on” to put together a rebuttal to a rather execrable YouTube series called The FUEL Project: Know Your Enemy. It is ostensibly Christian, but promotes a lot of that paranoid New World Order/Catholic Church is the Antichrist nonsense, the latter of which is informed by the even more execrable book The Two Babylons, by Alexander Hislop. This book from the 19th century is the Christian version of Acharya S’ Christ Conspiracy, and contains just as much bad scholarship per page. FUEL's series consists, frankly, of one error after another, as the creator apparently did little more than copy and paste from conspiracy websites without checking their claims, in many cases I have found simply doing so word for word (without always crediting the source, either -- which is plagiarism). More on that project another time.

Thanks to my work on that project, at any rate, the email writer’s note got me thinking. I knew MacArthur had written some screeds against Catholicism before, and now I wondered if he had ever recommended The Two Babylons.  Well, he has. Below is the text of an interview (link below) with MacArthur for his Grace to You program, where a caller (also named John) dialed in.

JOHN: Hi, my name is John. I have this book on Babylon Mystery Religion by Ralph Woodrow and I just wanted to ask you what you thought of it and is Christmas derived from paganism and is the cross derived from paganism?

JOHN MACARTHUR: Well, I'm not sure, who published, what's the publisher of that book, John?

JOHN: He published it himself.

JOHN MACARTHUR: Okay. Basic principle: Be careful of books that are published by the guy who wrote them (laughter).

JOHN: Uh-huh.

JOHN MACARTHUR: You just have to be discerning. Usually, when a man publishes his own material, it is either because no one else will publish it or because it is too volatile or argumentative or there's no audience for it or it's not right or something. Now, basically speaking, I believe that he's right on many of those issues. Much of modern Christendom is a result of paganism. There's no question about that.

After giving a list of supposed examples, MacArthur closes:

But, yes, there's no question about the fact that the systems of Babylon have been superimposed upon Christianity. There's no question about that so, insofar as he brings that issue. There's another book that's very helpful called The Two Babylons Hyslop, H-Y-S-L-O-P. Also, a very, very helpful book.

This interview result is hilarious for a few reasons, not the least of which is that MacArthur doesn’t even spell Hislop’s name right. A second amusement is the irony in the caller’s original question about Woodrow. Woodrow did indeed write such a book, which was essentially a prĂ©cis using Hislop as a major source. But he later wrote a contrary book in which he disavowed his findings in Babylon Mystery Religion, having found that Hislop’s book was historically unreliable. Woodrow also wrote an article for the Christian Research Journal on the same subject. 

The third hilarity is the irony of MacArthur saying we have to be “discerning” when he ends up recommending garbage like The Two Babylons.

I’d like to say that MacArthur isn’t doing this anymore; this interview did apparently take place back in the 70s or so. But indications are he hasn’t learned. As late as 2001, in his book The God Who Loves, there is a footnote recommending The Two Babylons, saying it offers “abundant historical evidence that the Babylonian religion founded by Nimrod is the basis for virtually all subsequent false religious systems.” One can readily see him asking, as he did of Calvin and Spurgeon, “Who can improve on Hislop?”

I can only hope MacArthur has learned in his lesson about Hislop in the past dozen years. He probably hasn’t. But whether he has or not, it’s high time so-called “men of faith” were held to account for this sort of incompetence. If I had my way, MacArthur would have been stripped of his pastoral credentials and his media outlets back when he first recommended Hislop’s Slop, and would not have been allowed to get them back until he had 1) apologized in the same venues for recommending it and 2) taken remedial courses in church history. He then would have been barred from writing books on any serious subject for the duration, unless they had been fully vetted by a board of credentialed scholars. His recommend of Hislop shows that he can’t be trusted to do it on his own…and we can say the same of far too many “men of faith” publishing their nonsense today. (I already referred to one other such example in an earlier entry here: Erwin Lutzer’s horrible book on Adolf Hitler. I’m now working on an e-book on that subject, which is needed to counter a lot of the nonsense – apologetics and otherwise – that has been issued on that subject in the past.)

It’s a fair complaint that we need to get our own house in order before we straighten the furniture in others’ houses. Tekton’s always had an inclination to do that. It’ll just be a little more obvious in the next few years.