Archive for October, 2005

I’m Never Washing This Hand Again

Saturday, October 22nd, 2005

Did you ever think theology could be so beautiful?

Originally uploaded by Zoomtard.

The reason is that this week I finally drummed up the courage to introduce myself to a very nice middle aged cleric and thank him for the inspiration he has been to me. Agents of Zoomtard, I finally met Bishop Tom Wright on Wednesday night at St. Patrick’s College in Maynooth. I have mentioned him here a few times before so dedicated readers that you are, you will realise how big a deal this is for me. The equivalent for Neuro would be meeting Timmy Mallet, for Stigmund it would be meeting Stevie Wonder and for ann-dee it would be spending an evening with Peter Stringfellow. I plucked up the courage at the end of his lecture to interrupt his conversation with some very important elderly man who had never had sex and gush like a TCD Arts student at the feet of Damien Rice. Of course this isn’t a life-altering event. Suffice to say that I will never let water touch my right hand again.

As you can see above, I have a pretty good idea of what it is Bishop Wright said on the night. He began by explaining how when Paul stood up in a marketplace in Ancient Rome and declared that “Jesus is Lord” it would be like someone standing on a soapbox at the top of Grafton St. and declaring that Huang Province had won the Chinese Inter-provincial table tennis championships. Or as Wright put it, Paul’s annoucement to the Roman pagans was like talking to them about “A game they didn’t play being won by a team they didn’t know.

Other great quotes from the night include, “A belief that dead people didn’t rise was not discovered in the 18th Century”, “Heaven is important, but it’s not the end of the world” and most amusingly for me, a description of Jesus’ grand-nephews being dragged before Emperor Domitian. At the end of his anecdote, Wright mischieviously pretended to have remembered where he was (a Catholic seminary in front of many priests and theologians who believe that Jesus had no siblings and therefore no nephews (on account of their belief that Jesus’ mom never had sex)) and he said “Oh. You probably hadn’t realised Jesus had nephews. But Jesus had nephews”.

I have read a huge amount by Wright and have heard him speak before so I am aware of how witty, easy and winsome he is as a lecturer but he is also a scholar for the ages. His thoughts on post-modernism were a delight. Its very hard to write in a blog about how thrilled I got when he defined post-modernism as “the collapse of a shared sense of truth” and later went on to argue that the po-mo’s mission is to preach The Fall to modernity even though they lack a Gospel to follow their Fall but I was moved closer to a Pentecostal desire to clap my hands in the air and dance with joy than music could ever take me.

An Irish Comedian Makes People Laugh
Neuro and I went to see David O’Doherty last night at the Project Arts Theatre. Hear this now and hear it well, if you live in Dublin you must go see this show. We have been fans of DOD since we first saw him a lifetime ago when my job title was “Software Engineer”. That feels like a long time, even if it is only 2 or 3 years ago. But his current show, called Grown Up, is as funny as anything we’ve ever seen. I know that in Ireland today, many comedians give laughter a bad name. They somehow gain access to the media and to microphones (or “sell-out-rophones” as DOD puts it) and move you to tears without the politeness to bring you via laughter. I’m looking at you, Ed Byrne and Karl Spain. But O’Doherty is brilliant. He has a very funny segment in his show where he talks about his namesake who is a nerdy student who may well be destined to perpetual virgin status without the benefit of priestly vows or Mother-of-God-ness as an excuse. There is civil war afoot between the David O’Dohertys over the treasure that is google ranking. If you make it to the show you will understand that with this paragraph, I can no longer claim to be neutral.

Of course, you won’t see the show, since tonight was the last peformance. Shitebags. Maybe he’ll stumble across this site and be moved to offer to do a fresh performance of it in one of the many beautiful venues I have at my discretion for my loyal readers. I’ll ring the two of you if that ever happens.

In other news, Douglas Coupland came out of the closet. Doug would be my favourite contemporary author if Don Miller was ever assasinated by Jarvis Cocker. Seeing as Pulp’s lead singer is unlikely to want or need to pay a hitman to knock off a laid back lecturer in Oregon anytime soon, Coupland will be happy with second place. Its funny but I guess there are some public figures who I expect to be gay and some who surprise me when I discover it. Michael Stipe, for example, was always gay in my mind. Well, from about the time that I knew about homosexuality that is since I was singing R.E.M. songs in my sleep as a 7 year old when Green came out as a result of my older siblings. The point I’m trying to make is that I never imagined Doug Coupland to be gay while reading his novels and articles. And its weird that I am sub-consciously thinking about author’s sexuality. Do other people do this?

I’m off to France for the week. A delightful break will be had by all who are invited. My wife is invited. Our friend Ange invited us in the first place so she is also, in a master way, invited. Her boyfriend who used to work at CERN but now works in a secondary school (and there was no brain damage in between these two positions!) will also be in France. More specifically he will be with us. Wine will be drunk. Cheese will be eaten. Berets will be worn. Deoderant will be neglected. We are going native. See you later, if we make it back alive.

Your Correspondent, Dressing up as a coral reef for Halloween.

Words Abe Lincoln Rarely Said: “Let’s Dance”

Thursday, October 20th, 2005

Because Abe Lincoln was a manic depressive. This isn’t some crazy half baked idea like that theory that Jesus was gay because he had friends who were men but a pretty rigorous historical assessment from eye-witness accounts of his slumps from friends and from his own personal writing. There is an excellent but 5 page long (remember before broadband when you had an attention span?) essay at The Atlantic.

Neuro might one day, long after she retires from her current profession as tight-rope walker, grow up to be a bioethicist. As a result I tend to read all those stories that are so hysterical about life issues that they leave you with a distaste for newspapers. This story from the Guardian about parents asking the courts to overturn a Do Not Resucitate order because the baby has made immense and unexpected progress is one such story. What kind of mistakes are we making with life by legislating beyond our ethical abilities? People died long before medical advancements and we need to get our heads together and develop a thought-through response instead of the “grab and hold” approach to bioethics being practiced by both sides. They seek to swipe gains wherever they can in the hope that their argument will be strengthened by these ethical outposts instead of strengthening their arguments to the degree that they can just make a systematic response to the whole problem.

There is an interlude in the middle of the classic Beastie Boys song Sabotage where everything breaks down and in the midst of the chaos there is a moment of tranquility. Wouldn’t it be prudent if we could shut down all the rhetoric about embryonic stem cells and abortion and IVF and DNRs and take a moment to consider what is at stake, at what can be gained and what can be lost?

I think it would. So take a deep breath. Calm yourself. Let that interlude lull you into a focused place….

And now I incite the anger
Thankfully, we are all relaxed because now I have to depress you with the antics of hapless American Christians again. Berkeely University in California have a website explaining evolution for high school students. It is now being sued.

There are a group in America who intend to take over a strip of South Carolina and seceede from the United States, setting up a Christian theocracy where everyone will live in harmony and peace and love. The Bible probably says something about this if you rip every line out, mash them around counter-clockwise in a tub of cranberry juice for 6 hours at the beginning of a full moon and then choose 11 pieces and arrange them in a Star of David pattern next to a mirror. If you read the reflection it strongly suggests that these guys are right. Check out The Exodus before this train sails.

If the UK passed a law banning religious hatred, do you think that would mean that people really wanted to make selling the Koran illegal? Do you think that Jesus would have that on his agenda? Well, a maniac group called Christian Voice is trying to do just that. Maybe I can sue them for inciting hatred in my heart towards them for their ignorance? This kind of crap would make me want to go into hiding and that is why I’ll stop linking to crazy Christians now.

And So It Came To Pass, A Party Was Called
As it is coming up to Halloween, I was thinking that I would like to throw a party in my house for the whole of the Irish blogosphere. I haven’t discussed this with that Neuro person who spends a lot of time here but well, she will probably be drunk on that egg nog made from apple shampoo and Ukrainian egg flavoured vodka that she loves so much. The thing is though, some website told me that Halloween was evil and so I have decided against a fancy dress party. It will still be fun however because I am ordering a board game that combines two of life’s greatest pleasures- skiing and C++ programming. I wish I was joking but c-jump exists and there are children out there (or fuckercunts to use embee’s more florid language) who are punished by their parents with this as a toy. Still though, RSVP in comments if you want to learn about snowboarding and object-0rientated design at a hip party!!!1!!

As a final note, that Halloween link is from a site call Your Going To If God is a grammar NAZI, those boys are screwed.

Your Correspondent, If You Wanna Go, He Can Get You There In A Hurry

There’s No Ear Candy Here

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005

Let a moment of silence be had: Brian Kerr. 2003-2005. Unlike all the maniacs in Ireland who think that a man who 6 months ago was widely considered to be the A.K. Cajander of Irish soccer (oh you do know who he is- look at that moustache! You’ve been dreaming of that man all your life.) but who now doesn’t know his libero from his funnels, I think this is a mistake.

Call me crazy but I think the blame for our failure to qualify for World Cup 2006 is more a matter of social geography than early onset alzheimers from our manager. There are four million-ish people in Ireland. 13% of those people are not from Ireland and only come for a few years to work. That means we don’t have many soccer players to pick from. That is why David Connolly and Gary Doherty are in our squad. Jesus couldn’t get Doherty to the World Cup.

You know about determinism is, yeah? Richard Dawkins is a good example of what a determinist might look like. If the world is determinist, then I don’t believe in Christianity because it has convinced me but because I was destined to end up that way. Determinists believe that the blind forces of the universe somehow set itself in motion sometime and now its all unfolding until it peaks with the first Oscar winning Lepro-porn movie in 2046.

But if the universe is deterministc, blindly moving towards its culmination, I gotta ask: how splendiferous it is that we have somehow discovered, nay been destined to discover the true meaning of the universe. If the universe is deterministic, how remarkable it is that we were destined by the blind forces of the unvierse to somehow perceive that the universe is deterministic.

Maybe I’m making no sense at all. But I love lists. I hope you do too.

Your Correspondent, Hanging up in the belfry, where the bats and moonlight laugh.

Legendary monkeytician Charles Darwin would disagree.

Wednesday, October 12th, 2005

In the Hierophant’s Questionnaire, a list of over 100 questions are issued by a confrontationalist for stupid Christians to respond to. In an act of stupidity on a par with that time I promised the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl that I would count and catalog every mullet in East Germany in advance of reunification, I have decided to try and answer each one of them. (Well, the ones that could be of any interest to sane people).

Today the probing question I have to investigate is:

2. Did everyone who died before Jesus died go to Hell? Justify your answer.

Simple answer. Hell no!

To justify it, we go to the letter that Paul wrote to the Roman church. He was trying to explain how we become Christians and share in the things Jesus secured for us at Easter (eternal life and so much more) and his example was from the Hebrew scriptures. Abraham is the Father of the Jewish faith (and by extension, Christian faith too). Paul says that before Christmas and the coming of Jesus, Abraham benefited from God’s promise to reconcile His relationship with people that they had destroyed. Paul takes a large amount of time describing how the very same requirements for relationship with God that apply to us now post-Jesus applied also to Abraham, 4,000 years before Christ. Here is a good summation from Romans 4:3:

What we read in Scripture is, “Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.”

Basically, by faith we, as people living in Anno Domini, are justified. Paul says clearly that Before Christ Abraham enjoyed the very same grace.

For Christians, death is almost a metaphor for judgement but the sentence of damnation, whatever that may mean, begins paradoxically, at the end of time. Abraham will/does receive his “credit” at the end of time, just as you or I will. Basically, we each die and judgement is passed. On the last day we will all face that judgement and its sentence. Abraham, like everyone else before Christ, is under the same promise as we are after Christ and this is possible because God is not bound by time like we are. Anyone before Jesus who like Abraham, rejected the way we instinctively want to live and instead, looked for “a better country, that is, a heavenly one, a better life” from God gets to share, as we do, in the inheritance of Jesus’ work. They may have died before Jesus but their sentencing date will never come.

Let me try and explain it this way. Imagine there was a kingdom composed of people who were unimaginably reckless. They seemed determined to live their lives without forethought. If they spent any energy on preparation, it was to ensure that they could live their lives most effectively without any kind of planning. In this society, everyone seemed intent on running up vast debts that they couldn’t possibly cover. They would over-extend themselves every which way they could so that they would squander bountiful harvests and rape their forests until they were barren and hunt game into extinction. Everywhere they went, they left a trail of destruction behind them but maybe because everyone was equally in on it or because it had been so long since they had been responsible, they couldn’t remember what it was like to take care of things or people. They didn’t really register they were acting foolishly, more than that, acting fatally.

The day came, as it always does, that they were set to make an account of themselves and their behaviour. Their creditors were furious and wanted a pound of flesh for every debtor. Under this threat from outside, citizens of the Kingdom turned on themselves, seeking instant repayment of debts they were owed by neighbours without regard to their own liability. This was a dark day. There were angry claimants on their borders and there were no friendships left in the whole land as every debt was rashly called in without regard to the possibility of payment.

Judgement was made. Punishment was going to be intolerably hard. The citizens tore themselves and their society apart in an effort to pay back their debts. Most convinced themselves that if they just worked hard enough now they could somehow manage to negotiate a settlement over their debt. Some even thought they could perhaps even manage it without changing the way they lived. But there was no way they could make good on their recklessness and ultimately, they all stood to lose their lives. Some saw the futile efforts of their compatriots to secure a legacy and wished they could live in a world that was different. They threw themselves upon the mercy of their neighbours, their creditors, admitting they had made massive mistakes and ultimately, they cried out to the Creator of the World for help. While this was happening, one by one, every citizen was judged and found guilty for their debts. A sentencing date was set for the whole land.

Everyone then was taken by surprise when a strange man arrived from across the sea with a message of hope. He was wealthy in a way that no one in the Kingdom or in the whole of the world had ever known. He had heard of the cries of the afflicted citizens of the Kingdom and felt sure that God wanted him to intervene. He had come with one purpose, to rescue those who had called out for mercy and restrained themselves in the face of the temptation to act like their fellow citizens and make good on their debt by doing yet more damage.

Now even though the day of judgement had come for them, sentencing had not been declared. And the Rescuer was able to negotiate, at great cost, their release from the punishment. He gathered them together and told them that their faith in the Creator of the World had marked their lives out and he had prepared a place for them across the sea from where he had come where they could go.

And so they went to this better place and its better life. And that remnant of the Kingdom lived until the end of their natural days and long after, enjoying life as it should be lived- with respect for themselves, for others and for all that was around them. Their life was one of harmony with their Rescuer and in sync with their Creator and more truly than ever before it can be said that they lived happily ever after.

As crude as my story is, it hopes to communicate the offer that was made to those who were born before Jesus. Paul talks about believers “falling asleep” instead of dying. Abraham and Enoch and Moses and everyone else who believed in God and left Him to put everything right, instead of living off their own incompetent ability, will be roused from their sleep on the last day and credited with righteousness by the Wealthy Rescuer from across the sea.

Christianity could never argue that everyone before Jesus went to Hell. Not least because of the magnificent story of the Transfiguration which features Moses and Elijah and neither of them are on fire. The Transfiguration is also the name of a superb song by new favourite songwriter, Sufjan Stevens. Thank Zoomtard for alerting you to his genius. 3 years after you discovered him first no doubt. He is a great, unique sounding acoustic songsmith who lectures on art in a New York university and knits scarves for Martha Stewart Living and who has song titles like, “They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From The Dead!! Ahhhh!” and most impressively, he writes songs about Christianity that I am not in the least bit ashamed of.

Your Correspondent, He smiles and its a rainbow

Predestination, Foreknowledge and the Beatles

Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

Sometimes the most profound truths can be hiding right under your nose. Like when at the end of a great party, soon after you’ve fallen asleep, your friend comes along and shaves E=MC2 into your moustache. Of course, sometimes we read truth into things that are nothing more than meaningless and random occurances. If I was an evolutionary biologist I might make some illuminating comments here about how our brains have developed over generations to be order-applying machines, dragging control out of chaos, so we could expect to often come across total disorder appearing in our eyes to be meaningful truth.

Thankfully, I am not an evolutionary biologist so I am going to attempt to apply a famous 60’s pop song to one of the hardest nuts to crack in the hall of delicious and protein-rich Christian puzzles. I am sure you are all familiar with the 1967 classic All You Need Is Love, written by the 2nd best Beatle. You may not have realised this, but it deals beautifully with the problem of Predestination and Foreknowledge. I may only have realised this while sitting slumped half-asleep in a multi-storey car park at some ungodly early hour on a Saturday morning before training some insanely eager students from RCSI, but that shouldn’t cast shadows on the obvious genius of my discovery.

Predestination is basically the idea that everything that happens is in some sense, the will of God. Foreknowledge is the idea that God knows everything that is going to happen, no matter how far into the future you want to push it. The problem arises because a lot of people fear these two characteristics, if they truly are of the Christian God, negate any real sense of free will. If God knows what you are going to do before you do it and if what you are going to do is his will, does that mean you have no control over what you are going to do? It is often expressed in the problem of election, which holds that at the end of time, some people will go to heaven and some won’t. God knows in advance that certain people will choose paths in life that lead back to Him, “through the narrow gate” and that will be His will. He knows that everyone else is going through the stupid wider gate and that too will be His will. In that case, does God only love some people? Are the only ones God really cares about the ones who end up going through the narrow gate?

This is a problem that has exercised the great minds of theology and some pretty sharp folks from the philosophical world but I think John Lennon solves it in 3 minutes of pop majesty (marred only by the end of that song which is like a Union Jack converted into sound).

First of all, look at the words of a less famous but more gifted John, John the Beloved Apostle, in his 1st letter:

God is love.

If you take that as a good foundation principle for any discussion of God and then look again at the problem of election through the eyes of John Lennon, everything becomes clear. In a tripping on LSD at the back of a London nightclub in 1968 clear. John, Father of Julian writes in the song:

No one you can save that can’t be saved… It’s easy. All you need is love.

Or in other words, affirming a Calvinistic belief that those who go through that narrow gate are the only ones who could ever go through the narrow gate because they are the only ones who go through the narrow gate. But unlike Calvin, Lennon has a cure for any discomfort we might feel at such a hard and tautological saying- why its all about love. No need to worry about election folks- God is a God of love so He has it all in hand.

Foreknowledge, the other element that causes all this headache is dealt with just as cleanly:

There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known… Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be. It’s easy. All you need is love.

Lyrically speaking, Lennon is putting a pastoral arm around the faithful’s shoulder and reassuring them that were we to be as full of Love as God is, we would easily understand that knowing everything that is going to happen, knowing everything that will happen will be in accordance, in some way with how He wants it, doesn’t in anyway impinge on our free will as individuals. It’s easy. It’s all about love.

Sure you might be sitting there thinking this doesn’t really satisfy your need for a robust solution to the problem but in that case you really have to check yourself before you wreck yourself. Pop music would never ever lie to you. Especially on spiritual issues. It might be a hard day’s night of work to accept this but authority is authority. And The Beatles are an authority. Imagine if John Lennon was wrong! You could trust no one in that sick and twisted world created by your warped imagination. Shame on you. Maybe you can come back and challenge him when you have 27 number 1’s.

Seriously though, I know of at least one regular reader who I recently failed to really explain the central tents of Calvinism to and so should you care, you can download this mp3 by Rev. Dr. Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan on just this issue. You’d have to be stupid not to seeing as it is an easy to understand and thought-provoking (and mercifully short) discussion on an issue that is interesting to anyone who fancies theological or philosophical conversations, regardless of your belief.

Your Correspondent, Do I Have To Keep On Talking Till I Can’t Go On?

A Tom Cruise Bun Is Baking…

Friday, October 7th, 2005

…Which is why I am ordering a copy of Barbara Thiering’s less than seminal piece of New Testament research called Jesus The Man. It is just crazy enough to pass an E-Meter test and so make it on to that short NOT-GAY Scientologist’s bookcase. It can be a congratulation gift for impregnating the birthing tank. I mean, having a baby with Katie Holmes.

With trailers for the Da Vinci Code movie being released this week and the ongoing and slightly depressing success of Dan Brown’s “historical” novels and other such exposés on “the real truth” behind Christianity, I thought I’d write a little about this Australian writer’s thesis. You see, by investigating the hidden secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Thiering has produced what is packaged as the definitive truth on Christianity’s origins. This isn’t an attack, but a sober reassessment.

All of the exposés on the history of Christianity seem to rest either on the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Nag Hammadi texts. The really ambitious efforts draw on both! Both of these texts are freely available to anyone who cares to pay the price of a standard paperback. This website will even give you the Nag Hammadi texts for free. The Pope isn’t hiding these scrolls in an underground vault somewhere outside of Rome. There is no secret. There is no hidden truth. Read them for yourself and you’ll find they are mostly deathly boring Gnostic texts that are far more at home with a Kabala worshipper than in a Christian church.

Books like the Da Vinci Code and Holy Blood, Holy Grail and Jesus The Man get their mileage and their lucrative pay-offs from a massive general ignorance among the population at large about life 2000 years ago on the east coast of the Mediterranean. The Dead Sea Scrolls sounds like an exotic Indiana Jones-worthy treasure and pretending that they are is just what Dan Brown has done to sell all those books. In reality, you can buy a lovely copy in your local Waterstones for €12.

If I was to write a page-turning, gripping airport novel that claimed to unpack the secret truth behind subatomic physics and the efforts by the Copenhagen School to cover up the profound, earth-shattering implications of the early 1900’s, any one reading this entry could go and find someone proficient in physics or maths who would carefully and clearly explain how I was talking complete bollocks. You’d happily believe them too because physicists are ten a penny. You can go find another one if the first one seems a little bit too protective and zealous of his precious “Special Relativity“. They could probably point you to the key texts and papers online or available from your local bookshop if you wanted to check up the sources my spurious novel used and see that they are completely false. You would then content yourself with the enjoyment you got on the beach over the summer with my pulp paperback and put the fantasy away, hoping no one ever brought up the embarrassing time you got carried away with it.

But when Dan Brown writes about early Christianity, there isn’t really anyone you can go to. Most people don’t have a relationship with their local clergy anymore (did they ever?) and even if they did, most priests, especially older ones haven’t studied these issues in depth. It would be very unusual for someone to know a Biblical scholar or a Classicist or someone in the know about the Roman Empire or 2nd Temple Judaism or any of the other specialities that would detect the Brown bullshit.

As it turns out, the Dead Sea scrolls are the communal texts of an isolationist and separatist sect called the Essenes who believed they and they alone were the true heirs of the Promise to Abraham. In other words, they were the real Judaism and everyone else were traitors to God. They were discovered by a child shepherd (as in a sheperd who was a boy, not a shepherd who tended a flock of kids) in caves near Jerusalem in 1947. An age desperately in search of truth and largely ignored by a church who is quite happy to cater to itself and continue doing largely irrelevant good-deeds here and there as it suits them has latched on to these scrolls as the sensational key to the reality behind Christianity. They are fascinating documents and one of the most valuable discoveries from the ancient era of all time. They provide huge amounts of information about the Essenes who existed from about 150BC to 70AD. But they do not mention Christianity anywhere.

Let me write that again. Nowhere in the Dead Sea Scrolls is Christianity mentioned.

They do offer a glimpse of how surprisingly accurate the Hebrew texts of the Old Testament are and they give us lots of sociological insight into Palestine around the time of Jesus. But they don’t support Brown’s claims and neither do they support Theiring’s.

What does she say? Well, according to this esteemed expert, Jesus and John the Baptist were the 2 leaders of the Essenes. The Dead Sea Scrolls, contrary to the unanimous opinion of Christian, Jewish and agnostic scholars, are all about Christianity. Jesus, she has discovered, was married to Mary Magdalene. Unlike Brown, who claims they fled to France and other theories that have them dying in India as devoted Buddhist monks, Thiering argues they lived in Qumran with the rest of the community. They had 3 kids too. A daughter and 2 sons. Life wasn’t so sweet down at the old Christ household though because Mary and Yeshua divorced and Jesus married again.

John the Baptist is the “Teacher of Righteousness” who is mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Jesus was the “Wicked Priest” who opposed him and founded a new sect, separatist from the first separatists. Monty Python were so close to the truth with the Judean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judea, it seems. In the Gospels that we hold as Canon today, stories of healings and miracles are actually Essene code for promotion through the strict hierarchy of the community at Qumran which was strictly ordered like a monastery. Jesus did die, but not on a cross at the hands of Pilate like the New Testament and all existing non-Christian historical material (which forms the largest body of evidence for any event in the ancient world) in Jerusalem, but poisoned in Qumran and left in a cave. The 2 thieves of the Gospel story are in reality Judas Iscariot and Simon Magus who most of you don’t know but features in the Acts of the Apostles, which is like the sequel to the Gospel of Luke. Those guys had their legs broken by angry John the Baptist followers but they didn’t die and somehow in the cave they gathered an antidote for Jesus the Wicked Priest and resuscitated him. I know you can all probably guess what happens next. Of course, Jesus, accompanied by his followers who included Peter and Paul, set out on many voyages all around the Mediterranean. In Acts 10, Peter receives a vision and Thiering is able to definitely state that was a metaphor for Jesus actually being on the roof and talking to Peter. It is not certain whether the animals from heaven are a miraculous metaphor for a cow getting promoted in the sect or whether Jesus actually prepared the beast-covered cloth in advance saying “Here’s something I prepared earlier!”.

How does Thiering see through 2,000 years of orthodoxy to discover the reality behind Christianity? Through a method called “pesher”. The Essenes believed that God would restore his people and bring them back from exile. They also believed that this hadn’t happened yet even though they had returned from the Babylonian exile. Finally they believed that when this happened, it would be completely in accordance with the Scriptures. They separated out from mainstream society because they thought this deliverance was beginning with them. To assert that the Prophets really were talking about them they reinterpreted them to apply to characters and events happening in Qumran. This process was called Pesher and every text that was peshered could be distinguished because it had writing underneath the lines and they were all labelled PESHER. The Essenes were ultra-orthodox Jews. They were not about to reinterpret the Scriptures without clearly stating what they were doing. To quote the Anglican Bishop of Durham and my favourite theologian, N.T. Wright:

Pesher was a way of saying, “we are the people spoken of by the prophets”, not “we are the people who can set new crossword puzzles for others to solve”.

Most everyone sees through scientology for the sham that it is, a fabrication whose purpose is to generate profits. It isn’t so easy to distinguish the crap that sits on most bookshop shelves under Christianity or more leadingly, “Spirituality” from the stuff that legitimately challenges the accepted story of Christianity’s origins. Thiering’s version of events might read like something from the peculiar sci-fi mind of L. Ron Hubbard but many seem to have bought into it in the 13 years since publication. (It is billed as an academically rigouros work by a respected scholar but you won’t be surprised to hear that it has not been referenced by any paper in the interceding years.) Brown’s version has had more success but they all rest on the utterly false assertion that orthodox Christianity is purposely obscuring the truth. Orthodox Christianity holds the Bible to be its authority and in its very pages the much maligned St. Paul writes:

If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot.

The church needs to be the first to know if all this Jesus stuff is a pile of lies. We would be wasting our time if it was. Unlike the scientologists and unlike the picture that the conspiracy theorists paint, Christians are fully engaged on all levels of the quest for the historical Jesus. The aforementioned N.T. Wright is leading the way with his outstanding books. He will be speaking in Maynooth on Wednesday October 19th at 8pm in the Callan Hall on the St. Patrick’s campus and I would strongly advise you to make your way out to hear him speak. He will be addressing Paul and the ideas of salvation in his writing but as always with Wright, it will be clear, exhilarating and relevant to anyone with the slightest interest. Comment or email me if you would like to go but feel like you’d need the support of a friendly face.

Postscript: Scientology just gets weirder and weirder.
Your Correspondent, Well his nose keeps on bleeding ‘cos it’s rita he’s needing