Showing posts with label "Avalos". Show all posts
Showing posts with label "Avalos". Show all posts

The Bad Jesus, Love, and the Parochialism of New Testament Ethics


I have published a new article at the Bible and Interpretation website that is based on my most recent book, The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of new Testament Ethics (2015). Here is the abstract:
Many scholars of New Testament ethics claim that Jesus brought an innovative teaching when he urged his followers to love their enemies. Hector Avalos, author of The Bad Jesus (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2015), argues that such a claim is historically untrue, and reflects the parochialism of New Testament ethics, which often degrades the ethical accomplishments of pre-Christian Near Eastern cultures in order to enhance the ethical “advances” of the putative founder of Christianity. As such, New Testament ethics is still situated within an ecclesial-academic complex that is more engaged in apologetics than it is in historical-critical scholarship.

A Christian Scholar Reviews Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship

Dr. Herbert Marbury
Dr. Hebert Marbury, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible at Vanderbilt University, has written a review of my book on Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship (2011), which argues that biblical ethics were not responsible for the abolition of slavery in western civilization. On the contrary, reliance on the Bible spread and maintained slavery for about 1800 years in Christianity.
Dr. Marburys review shows that Christian biblical scholars can appreciate the work of atheist biblical scholars who are critical of biblical ethics.  I provide an extract of the review below for those who do not have access to the website of the Review of Biblical Literature:

Which Bible Do I Bring?

I have written a newspaper column about Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s proclamation encouraging a Bible reading marathon at all 99 Iowa county courthouses. Most people who participate in these Bible readings are probably not even aware that religious groups don’t always agree on what “THE Bible” means for them. You can see the complete text of the Proclamation here.

Galileo, The Bible, and Science

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
I have published a newspaper column on "Galileo, the Bible, and Science." May 26 will mark the 400th anniversary of a "Certificate" issued to Galileo by Robert Cadinal Bellarmine, who warned him not to hold or defend the idea that the earth revolves around the sun. Galileo was tried in 1633 for violating that injunction. The fact that the Church thought that heliocentrism was wrong has been one of its greatest challenges in history. After all, if it was so wrong on something so basic about how our cosmos works, then why should it be trusted on anything it teaches?

Religious Freedom on Cruz Control


I have written a newspaper column about Ted Cruz’s proposal to patrol Muslim neighborhoods. I suggest that his logic should also lead us to patrol some Christian neighborhoods that might become radicalized because of their anti-abortion beliefs.

Del cristianismo al ateísmo: Mi experiencia personal


Leyendo la Biblia en México
Dos preguntas siempre surgen cuando creyentes cristianos se enteran que soy agnóstico o ateo.*  
Una es ¿Cómo es que una persona pudo haber llegado a ser ateo o agnóstico con su estudio de la Biblia?
Mi respuesta menos complicada es que soy agnóstico o ateo precisamente porque he estudiado la Biblia, y porque me he dado cuenta de muchas cosas que los creyentes comunes no conocen.  
Las razones específicas han sido explicadas en detalle en mi libro,¿Se puede saber si Dios existe?, el cual es probablemente el único libro escrito originalmente en español por un ateo que es erudito bíblico acádemico nacido en América Latina.
Otra pregunta común es: ¿Cómo se puede vivir una vida productiva y feliz sin Dios? 
En sí, un concepto muy popular es que el ateo es una persona amargada, que no tiene ningún motivo para vivir, o vive una vida que no le satisface. Muchos piensan que el ateo es una persona que se dedica a los vicios y placeres sin conciencia.
Aquí deseo exponer como llegué a descubrir las verdades que he discutido en mi libro de un punto de vista personal, y también demostrar que un agnóstico o ateo puede vivir una vida productiva y que se considere buena en nuestra sociedad.        

Por qué no creo en la sanidad divina/Why I Don't Believe in Divine Healing


Neumann murió cuando sus padres usaron solo la fe

En marzo del año 2008, Madeline Kara Neumann, una niña de 11 años de edad, murió en la ciudad de Weston en el estado de Wisconsin (Estados Unidos). Sus padres, los cuales son pentecostales evangélicos, creyeron que solo la oración la iba a sanar y no la llevaron a los médicos cuando ya estaba muy grave.
La enfermedad de la cual murió esa niña fue determinada ser diabetes, una condición que la medicina científica moderna puede controlar efectivamente. Sus padres fueron sentenciados por su crimen.
En octubre del 2015,  Dale y Shannon Hickman, una pareja de Oregon en Estados Unidos, fueron condenados por la muerte de su bebé, David. El bebé nació prematuro, y sufrió algunas complicaciones médicas. Segun un reporteUn médico testificó en el tribunal que si los padres hubieran llamado al 911 [cuando] apenas nació, existían ‘99% de probabilidades de que el bebé sobreviviera.’”
Kara Neumann y David Hickman son solamente dos de millones de personas que han muerto desde el principio del cristianismo cuando dependieron de la fe en lo que llaman "Dios."
Yo mismo oraba por los enfermos
En este ensayo explico por qué no creo en la sanidad divina aun despues de en un tiempo ser yo mismo un predicador pentecostal que oraba por los enfermos, muchos de los cuales testifacaron ser sanados despues de mis oraciones. La creencia en la sanidad divina carece de evidencia, y es tambien peligrosa.
Esta creencia se encuentra frecuentemente entre grupos pentecostales evangélicos modernos que usan pasajes bíblicos como Marcos 16:18 ("tomarán en las manos serpientes, y si bebieren cosa mortífera, no les hará daño; sobre los enfermos pondrán sus manos, y sanarán") para sostener sus  creencias.  Para estos grupos, la sanidad divina es una de las pruebas más poderosas de la existencia de Dios. 
A pesar de algunos experimentos científicos recientes que reclaman la efectividad de la oración, la existencia de este fenómeno no se ha podido establecer por los investigadores científicos o por los médicos independientes.
Y aun cuando existen sanidades extraordinarias, esto no podría demostrar que tales sanidades sean hechas por el dios de los cristianos.  Explicaremos más adelante también porque los experimentos científicos no pueden establecer la eficacia de la oración.

Why David Rohl's Response Fails


David Rohl, the main "expert" behind Patterns of Evidence: Exodus, has now responded to my critique. His response is in the comments section of that link. My critique has clearly touched a nerve.
I was hoping he would come armed with facts that would definitively refute my evidence, but he came armed with speculation. I address some of his specific responses here.
RE: “The first idiotic statement from this so-called expert was that he couldn't find any Yahwistic names in the Brooklyn Slave Papyrus. This guy clearly knows his Bible, because he thinks there should by Hebrew names bearing the Yah or Yahu element in them BEFORE Moses has the sacred name revealed to him on Mount Sinai!”  

Note that Rohl does not deny that there are no Yahwistic names in the Brooklyn Papyrus.

Rohl also has missed the fact that I addressed this issue. Please note my statement in my essay: This late occurrence is odd because the Bible says that Yahweh was the name that began to be used during Adam’s generation (Genesis 4:26) and was used by the Patriarchs (see Genesis 12:7-9, in contradiction to the statement in Exodus 6:3).”

We know that there are different traditions as to when the name Yahweh was first known. Rohl simply picks and chooses which narratives tell the true history of when that name was first used or revealed. Aside from avoiding what I said, it is actually Rohl who does not believe what the Bible says.
Rohl chooses to believe that the name was revealed to Moses (e.g., in Exodus 6:3ff), but chooses not to believe that it was used since Genesis 4:26 and by other pre-Mosaic figures.

PATTERNS OF POOR RESEARCH— A Critique of Patterns of Evidence:Exodus


I received an e-mail recently asking what I thought of a new documentary called Patterns of Evidence: Exodus produced by Timothy Mahoney in 2015 (See film trailer). I had not seen it, and I was curious to learn if apologists actually had something new to say.
I ended up suffering through about two hours of repackaged arguments, many of which I thoroughly considered and rejected decades ago.  
The documentary is largely based on the book, Exodus: Myth or History? (St. Louis Park, MN: Thinking Men Media, 2015) by David Rohl, whose book cover describes him as an “Egyptologist, historian and archaeologist specializing in the historical relationship between Pharaonic Egypt and the Bible.”
Otherwise, Rohl is known for espousing other theories that are not widely accepted by most scholars.
Ron Wyatt’s The Exodus (1998)  and Simcha Jacobovici’s The Exodus Decoded  (2006)—see Dr. Chris Heard’s excellent critique here )— are also part of this genre.

Patterns has this general structure found in other apologetic documentaries:
 A. A documentary filmmaker professes to seek the “truth” in a fair-minded and “scientific” way.
B. Skeptics of biblical historicity are interviewed.
C. Advocates of biblical historicity are interviewed.
D. The conclusion claims that the evidence favors C.
This is a fairly routine approach found in the written works of Lee Strobel (e.g. The Case for Christ [1998]) among others.
We can trace this style of apologetics at least as far back as Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853), the Harvard Law professor who put the Bible on trial, and called witnesses in his The Testimony of the Evangelists, Examined by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice (1846). The verdict was predictable: The Bible is historically reliable.
The problem is that most of these documentary filmmakers often don’t have enough expertise to know which expert is offering good information. Mahoney cannot read any ancient languages that are crucial to evaluating some of the claims made, nor does he have the mastery of archaeology and Near Eastern literature necessary to detect the nonsense that Rohl offers him.
In reality, Mahoney did not evaluate carefully even the very archaeological artifacts and reports that he displays for the camera.  He omits a lot of countervailing material (e.g., the Amarna letters, as I will explain).
To his credit, Mahoney admits that he is not an expert. I also will credit him for at least admitting that the majority position among scholars is the one his documentary opposes. But this will not save his documentary from some of the fatal flaws that were obvious to me upon first viewing.



The New Atheism is a name given to a movement represented by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, all of whom wrote best-selling books that were highly critical of religion [1].

Although the New Atheism does not eschew the classical arguments against the existence of God, its focus is primarily on the immorality and harmful consequences of religious thinking itself. For some, the New Atheism is not merely atheistic, but also anti-theistic [2].

Another main feature of the New Atheism is a secular apocalyptic outlook born out of the events of September 11, 2001. A secular apocalyptic outlook refers to the view that religion has the potential to destroy humanity and our entire biosphere.

However, many secular and religious critics of the New Atheism have charged the New Atheism with a number of flaws. One is a lack of expertise in scriptural and religious studies that has led Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens to make pronouncements that are rightly viewed as simplistic or inaccurate in some cases.

This situation has led to the perception that the New Atheism has no experts in scriptural and religious studies that could challenge religious counterparts with as much or more expertise. Others have conflated all New Atheists as followers of a neoliberal or capitalist ideology. Still others note that all the representatives of the New Atheism are white males.

Accordingly, there is a need to identify a Second Wave of the New Atheism. Such a need was discussed briefly in Hector Avalos, The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2015), but it received no elaboration [3].

Dr. Hector Avalos: How Archaeology Killed Biblical History

[First published April 2008]

Part two is below:

Refugees "R" US?

My newest column explains why the Bible does not always espouse ideas and policies friendly to refugees. Needless to say, we should not appeal to the Bible to formulate any modern policies about immigration or anything else.

Trump's Thanksgiving Plate


My latest column is about how Native Americans might see Donald Trump’s demand to deport all illegal immigrants. My essay also addresses the myth, most recently voiced by presidential candidate Bobby Jindal, that religious freedom made this country great.

The World WILL NOT end on October 7


Camping's followers live on
I have written a  newspaper column on why those who believe the world will end on October 7 do not understand their Bibles. Because of space constraints in the newspaper, I would like  to add a further explanation for why using 1,600 days is arbitrary. One must read the newspaper column first to understand my explanation here.
According to an essay by Chris McCann, a promoter of this end date, he can substitute a measure of time for a meaure of physical dimension in Revelation 14:20 because of what is said in Psalm 39:4-5 (King James Version). Note his reasoning:
“If their blood is flowing out of the winepress for the space of '1,600 furlongs,' we wonder if it is possible that God is indicating that the life of the wicked will go on for a period of time of 1,600 days. Is that possible? Can we understand 'furlongs' to represent ‘days’? So we take that question to the Bible, like we took all the other questions and we search the Bible to see if we can make that kind of spiritual substitution. When God is speaking of a 'space' of furlongs, can we understand it as 'days'? There are actually several verses that provide Biblical justification for making that kind of substitution. For instance, it says in Psalm 39:4-5:
JEHOVAH, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am. Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah.”
However, making such a "spiritual" analogy between Psalm 39:4-5 and Revelation 14:20 only highlights how poorly and arbitrarily McCann chooses which numbers to use.
First, the biblical author is speaking of HIS days (“my days”), and not those of anything else in Psalm 39:4-5.
Second, McCann fails to tell us why he chose the number of Revelation 14:20 to signify the number of days after May 21, 2011, when there are many other numbers in Revelation that one could choose (e.g., 5 months of torture in Revelation 9:5).
Third, McCann fails to understand the nature of Hebrew poetic parallelism, wherein a line can simply restate or go beyond a previous line. In this case, “nothing before me” seems to be a further description of a “handbreath.”
That is to say, a “handbreath” seems to be a further description for a small or even zero amount (“as nothing before me”).
If so, one can just as well argue that there will be a ZERO amount of days (not 1,600 days) between May 21, 2011 and the end of the world.
One should not let these apocalyptic interpreters forget that it is atheists who have been 100% correct in predicting that those end dates will fail, while it is believers who have been 100% incorrect. In other words, atheists (and other skeptics) have been the best "prophets" when it comes to these end dates.

Dr. Ben Carson's Bible-Based Taxes

I have written a newspaper column about Dr. Ben Carson's Bible-Based taxation system. Aside from the problems of interpreting the "tithe" in its original context, Carson omits the fact that the Bible also mandates that 10% of what ancient Israel produces be devoted to social welfare causes.

Who Is To Be Considered a Philosopher?

Daily Nous is a site maintained by Dr. Justin Weinberg, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina. Recently he weighed in on who should be considered a philosopher, and he had some trouble with it. Calling everyone a philosopher (which might technically be true) lowers the standard into oblivion. It would be an injustice to call Joe Sixpack and William L. Rowe both philosophers in the same sentence. However, there are people recognized as philosophers because they truly are philosophers. They have met certain criteria in this highly specialized discipline. Weinberg tells us,
Let's stipulate that someone is a philosopher who as a PhD in philosophy, or working on a graduate degree in philosophy, or having a regular appointment in a philosophy department LINK
In a similar vein, Dr. Hector Avalos recently commented on who should be considered a biblical scholar. Avalos tells us,
In general, a scholar is one who, at minimum, has the equipment needed to verify independently the claims made in the relevant field. Usually, it is standard to have undergone some certification process as reflected in graduate degrees and peer reviewed published work. Self-proclamation as a “scholar” is not standard academic procedure.
The words for "philosopher" and "scholar" must have meaning, so philosophers and scholars working in those fields are best qualified to define them.

Why David Marshall is not a Biblical Scholar


An Apologist should not be confused with a "Scholar"
The recent post about David Marshall’s lack of expertise, when compared to Matthew Ferguson, points to a broader issue of who counts as a “scholar.”  
Since some of my posts were referenced in that discussion, let me just add my own comments on why David Marshall would not qualify as a scholar of the Gospels, while Matthew Ferguson would.
In general, a scholar is one who, at minimum, has the equipment needed to verify independently the claims made in the relevant field.  Usually, it is standard to have undergone some certification process as reflected in graduate degrees and peer reviewed published work. Self-proclamation as a “scholar” is not standard academic procedure.
In the case of biblical studies, one needs, at minimum, the ability to evaluate the primary biblical sources independently. That, in turn, means that one must have the ability to read biblical texts in the original languages.

My New Inquisitive Minds Podcast


This is Part 2 of my interview (apx. 30 minutes) with Dr. André Gagné, Costa Babalis, and Calogero Miceli of the Inquisitive Minds podcasts. I discuss a wide array of questions regarding the Historical Jesus, health care and the rise of Christianity, scarce resource theory in relation to religion and violence, the role and responsibilities of biblical and scholars of religion in today's world, the end of biblical studies, and my future research projects. I recorded it in Montreal, Canada on June 15, 2015.  If you have not already done so, you also can also listen to  Part 1

When Your Muslim Coach Prays

There is no one way to pray
I have written a column on the routine attempt to Christianize college sports teams.  The idea that student-athletes "need" spiritual guidance is itself a biased religionist assumption that is too often unchallenged. There is no single way to pray, and the idea that all Christians pray in the same way is also untrue.



Dr. Robert Myles of the University of Auckland (New Zealand) has reviewed The Bad Jesus in two parts available here and here
Dr. Robert Myles
He is the first biblical scholar to perform such a review of The Bad Jesus on the blogosphere. I was especially interested in his comments because he specializes in New Testament and Christian origins, as well as in Marxism and critical theory. 
Myles is also the author of The Homeless Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2014), which treats a few of the subjects I do.
That book offers many provocative observations, and I recommend it to anyone interested in issues of poverty and homelessness in the Bible. His book came to my attention too far into the editing process of my book, and I did not include it in my discussions. I did read it by the time I wrote this post.
Although Myles’ review raises some interesting questions, it ultimately does not represent my arguments very accurately or address them very effectively.  I will demonstrate that his review actually is, in part, an androcentric defense of the abandonment of families by Jesus’ disciples. I will address the objections he raises against my methodology and my discussion of Jesus’ view of abandoning families, especially in the case of the men he called to be his disciples in Mark 1:16-20 because that is one main example Myles chose from my book.