Friday, April 19, 2013

David Mirsch's "The Open Tomb," Part 4

Our treatment of Mirsch's next 75 pages shall be comparatively and mercifully brief, as much of what he offers here is rebutted either by our previously referenced article on the trial of Jesus; by our note regarding carpentry as a profession of low honor, and by McCane's study on the burial of Jesus. The latter in particular resolves mysteries beyond Mirsch's scholarly comprehension, such as Joseph making a request of Pilate, and why the bodies of the thieves were not requested. That in turn erases Mirsch's substanceless ranting turning Joseph of A. into a version of Jesus' father Joseph. The trial article also arrests Mirsch's rather contrived attempt [176-7] to get around the prohibition on capital punishment by appealing to exceptions as though they established a rule (though he even admits that this could only happen "as long as the Romans did not know," thus undermining his own argument), and his outlandish idea that Caiaphas was a Zealot (! -- 189).

Beyond this,  a few odds and ends.

Mirsch tries to disconnect Joseph of Arimathea from that town; he admits "scholarly support" [155] for a connection to Ramah, but waves off the connection as "contrived and linguistically awkward." Again, since there is no evidence that Mirsch has any expertise in Biblical languages, and he offers no explanation of WHY there is contrivance of awkwardness, this line may be taken with a  grain of salt.

Mirsch then proceed to play the "name game" with NT figures named Simon, but like Joseph, Simon also was a common name in the NT period for Jewish men; in fact, it is the one men's name more common than "Joseph." He also tries the same game with "Mary" to turn all of the Maries known to Jesus into one person, but that name was even more common for women -- held by up to a quarter of Jewish women of the period, which means having three of four Marys at the cross would not be "unusual" [184] at all. (Notably, while Mirsch admits the name was "very common," he declines to tell his readers HOW common, which no doubt would spoil the effect.)

Having assumed several of the above things true, Mirsch embarks on an even more contrived thesis that in the Jewish document The Story of Joseph and Aseneth, we find an overwritten version of the story of Joseph and Mary. He creates a chart of nine "similarities," though most are not even that, but rather Mirsch placing divergent pieces of information in columns across from each other that have no similarities whatsoever, and then using his own words to force a match. For example: Aseneth was from the city of On, the "place of many pillars", while Mary was from Jerusalem (per Mirsch's contrived dismissal of Nazareth from before). You don't see the parallel? Well, it's obvious: The Temple was in Jerusalem, and it had a lot of pillars!

Mirsch also forces parallels by using his assumption that all the Maries are the same; and so he mixes in the above item on Mary mother of Jesus with Mary Magdalene, to force a parallel between the latter's "seven demons" and "seven virgins" who were Asenath's attendants. (Of course, as loose as Mirsch's criterion are, all he had to do was find seven of ANYTHING in Joseph and Asenath, and he could claim a match!) He also forces a parallel using his own backstory as evidence, claiming that as Aseneth was converted to Judaism, so Mary was converted to the Zealot movement.

For Mirsch though, the happiest coincidence is that Aseneth happened to bleed sweat at one point -- which Mirsch thinks he can use under the assumption that Mary passed to Jesus the genetics for hematohidrosis (bleeding sweat). Later Mirsch will use this to claim that both had a rare genetic disorder; and we will at that time hand over the reins to a physician in our consult for comment.
We close this round with note of Mirsch's obnoxious commentary that only "habit, tradition and desire" and "not facts" will cause someone to reject his inane theories, for they are "based upon the same sources and works" used by Christians. [199] There's a big difference though: Mirsch also adds lunacy into his sourcework.

We may now also treat a brief chapter in which Mirsch discusses certain miracles of Jesus, which he chooses to either 1) explain away as trickery or 2) rewrite as code for military rebellion. The first dealt with is the turning of water into wine, which Mirsch explains away -- rather vaguely -- as having been performed with the aid of what is called a "Heron's amphora,"  a sort of divided vessel, which would allow there to be water on one side and wine on the other. 

Sadly for Mirsch, the explanation fails alone on the fact that in order for it to work, he must assume what we have already rebutted, that Jesus was a) wealthy and b) a Zealot.  He must also add to the story a collection of behind the scenes stooges helping Jesus deceive a bunch of Zealot leaders at the wedding so that he can be elected their leader, which means that the appeal to the amphora is just a minor player in the larger conspiracy theory.  Finally, Mirsch has to put Jesus and Joseph in Egypt and put them in touch with Heron, the inventor of the amphora, and speculate as needed to cover any loose ends -- e.g., what if Joseph and Jesus went to Egypt before Heron was there?? No problem! Maybe Heron "laid claim to an existing technology" [207]. Perversely, Mirsch also takes the expense required for the feat (the wine, building custom jars) as evidence for this thesis that Jesus was wealthy! When one must add epicycles of speculation as a prop, and engage in such blatant question begging, it is a sure sign that actual facts are in short supply.

Then we have the miracles of feeding with loaves and bread, and since he apparently can't find an amphora that multiplies fish, Mirsch opts for one of his sensational rewrites: The five loaves of bread become symbols for "the five provinces extant during Jesus' time" that made up "a large part of the territory of David's kingdom"; the two fish represent Tyre and Sidon, which are "contiguous to its borders"; the thousands fed represent a "conscription quota" [215-16] that Jesus the Zealot leader demanded from each territory.  It again amazes how much history Mirsch must invent in order to explain away history.

Taking the same tour de force further, Mirsch proceeds to re-interpret miracles of healing as metaphors for Jesus enabling people to see the light and become converts to Zealotism. Aside from his own theory, Mirsch gives us no reason to accept this other than his bewilderment that Jesus does no miracles where missing limbs are replaced or gouged eyes are returned to sockets, or dead people are raised after corruption. The former two is little wonder to anyone with an ounce of historical knowledge; such medical phenomena are overwhelmingly products of the industrial age, when machinery would cause such injuries. The recent Boston bombings caused some lost limbs, but there were no "pressure cooker bombs" in ancient Judaea.

As far as returning people long dead from corruption, one wonders what the point is other than that Mirsch wants to arbitrarily raise the bar of evidence. He waves off the raising of Lazarus as a trick, on almost no grounds; the one "oversight" he thinks he can spot is that Martha and Mary obviously were not ritually impure from touching Lazarus' corpse, which is supposed to prove he was not dead. That the family might have hired someone to do the job -- which they were clearly wealthy enough to do, since they had an expensive tomb -- doesn't occur to Mirsch at all.

We'll pick up next time with Mirsch's take on the crucifixion, which is already a laugh since he places it in 37 AD. Apparently Mirsch forget to check on Pilate's reign, which ended a year earlier, and also forgot in the process how to deal with the clear statements not only of the Gospels, but also Tacitus and Josephus, that Pilate was in charge at the time of Jesus' death. But of course, we are sure the revisionist in Mirsch will come up with some excuse for ignoring the data of history for the sake of inventing history to which no one attests.

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