Ethiopian Civil War (source: U. S. Dept. of Defense)
The recent impeachment fiasco has drawn further attention to the rise of instability and polarization in the United States. In Ages of Discord, Peter Turchin predicted that this would continue. In his blogs, he states: “In my opinion, the greatest danger for us today (and into the 2020s) is not the rise of a Hitler, but rather a Second American Civil War. . . . we are already in a Cold Civil War.” Turchin foresees “rising instability in the USA, probably peaking with a major outbreak of political violence in the 2020s.”
Yikes! Continue reading
Ages of Discord. A Structural-Demographic Analysis of American History. Peter Turchin. Beresta Books, 2016.
Are we headed towards a new civil war? Can we learn from history? Peter Turchin thinks so, and his recent book Ages of Discord is a reinterpretation of American history, coming right down to the present day. Turchin has an interesting and insightful twist on the American Civil War of 1861–1865, which has parallels with our situation today.
In case you’re new to Peter Turchin, check out my review of his previous book Secular Cycles or his blog. Ages of Discord does for the United States what his earlier book Secular Cycles, co-authored with Sergey Nefedov, did for ancient Rome, and medieval Europe and early modern England, France, and Russia. Civilizations go in cycles; they rise, and then they decline. Continue reading
The Oracle of Oil: A Maverick Geologist’s Quest for a Sustainable Future. By Mason Inman. W. W. Norton & Company, 2016.
M. King Hubbert was a prophetic 20th century American oil geologist best known for his predictions about peak oil — the maximum rate of oil production. But the people who claim to “refute” Hubbert have usually not even understood what he was saying. He expressed his views in various technical papers and writings, in lectures, and in private conversations — in short, in his life. Mason Inman has written the first and so far the only full-length biography of Hubbert. It is absolutely essential to anyone who wants to understand what Hubbert was about, which can only be done by looking at his life and thinking as a whole. Continue reading
Paul and Jesus. How the Apostle Transformed Christianity. James Tabor. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012.
This is a marvelous little book which is basic to understanding the “historical Paul.” It’s so simple, elegant, and straightforward, that after reading it, one can’t help wondering why someone hadn’t written it earlier. Not only is it important to understanding the historical Paul, but it’s also important to understanding the historical Jesus — because it is through Paul that we have some of our best information about the early Jesus movement.
James Tabor is a key figure in the growing movement to recognize and understand “Jewish Christianity.” Continue reading
A Polite Bribe is an excellent representation of Paul’s journeys as presented in Acts. Because Paul describes his first two journeys to Jerusalem (as a Christian) in his letters, we have the opportunity to “compare and contrast” events in Paul’s letters with the same events described in Acts, written at least fifty years later. But we are adrift when it comes to Paul’s third journey. Paul never mentions this third journey in his letters — except prospectively, as a journey he intends to make at some time in the future. Continue reading
There’s a point in A Polite Bribe when we approach the dramatic confrontation between Paul and Peter at Antioch. Paul thought that he, James, and Peter, had a deal: the message of Jesus could go to the gentiles. But in Antioch Paul is furious that Peter has betrayed this agreement, and denounces Peter to his face. Continue reading
A great new video on early Christianity, A Polite Bribe, has been released. If you’ve never read Paul’s letters or the book of Acts, well guess what–now you don’t have to! They’ve made a movie out of it!
Moreover, it’s a movie that makes some critical points about the history of the early church. There was a split in the early church between Paul and the Jerusalem church. Paul made a collection for the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:10, Romans 15:25–27, etc.). This collection was likely refused by the Jerusalem church. Whoa! What was this all about? Continue reading
Bart Ehrman’s book “Forged” deals mostly with ancient forgeries, but also with some modern forgeries
NOTE: this post discusses Nicholas Notovitch and Edmond Bordeaux Szekely. For G. J. R. Ouseley and “The Gospel of the Holy Twelve,” see the next post.
Why would anyone want to fabricate a gospel to prove that Jesus was a vegetarian, or anything else about Jesus? There is plenty of solid historical evidence that the message of Jesus was simple living, nonviolence, and vegetarianism, and that vegetarianism was a key idea of the movement which he headed. But Nicholas Notovitch and Edmond Bordeaux Szekely have not gone down the historical path; they have instead fabricated a gospel. Both of these gospels are sometimes innocently quoted by vegetarians to prove that Jesus went to India or that Jesus was a vegetarian. But neither of them constitutes real evidence about Jesus, or about anything else before the nineteenth century. Continue reading
Anna Kingsford (1846-1888)
How can we imagine Jesus slaughtering animals or even condoning it? Yet both Christian tradition and the doors of the churches are often closed to ethical vegetarians concerned about animals. One approach to this problem is to look for alternative gospels, and if none is found, to write such a gospel. This approach has sometimes produced some interesting results, one of which is The Gospel of the Holy Twelve.
Looking for modern “alternative gospels” would not be my approach to this problem. What happened to the ethical vegetarianism of the historical Christian community which originated in the first century? What happened to the Jesus who said “I have come to destroy the animal sacrifices,” and was killed after disrupting the animal sacrifice business in the temple? We shouldn’t give up hope so quickly! But I can well understand the frustration of many who have turned away from the Christian tradition in response to the corruption of the scriptures and the general ignorance of most scholars of the subject. Continue reading
Jesus and Nicodemus (H. O. Tanner)
People are seriously debating whether there ever was a historical Jesus. Some assert that Jesus himself never existed, that “Jesus is a legend, like King Arthur or Robin Hood or Paul Bunyan.” The best representative of this position is likely Dr. Robert M. Price (The Christ-Myth Theory and its Problems). Bart Ehrman wrote a book on the other side (Did Jesus Exist?). Bloggers have now weighed in both pro and con, for example Dr. R. Joseph Hoffman and the site Vridar.org. On top of that, many people among the “New Atheists” are getting involved, with even Richard Dawkins cautiously weighing in on the subject: “The evidence [Jesus] existed is surprisingly shaky.” Continue reading
Secular Cycles. Peter Turchin and Sergey Nefedov. Princeton University Press, 2009.
Secular Cycles is a phenomenal and important book. It is clearly of interest to anyone who is concerned about things like the collapse of civilizations, and specifically the possible collapse of our civilization. Even though it’s new to me, it’s actually not new — it was published in 2009, and I’m only now finding out about it, and reading it! I first heard of it through Gail Tverberg’s blog, “Our Finite World,” and I hope it finds a wide readership. But a word of warning: this book is not for the faint of heart. You’ve got to love the subject or you’ll never make it through the book. It doesn’t use a lot of technical terms, and is clearly written, just very academic. Continue reading
Karen King, a Harvard Divinity School scholar whom I greatly respect, has submitted a draft of an article for the Harvard Theological Review discussing a Coptic gospel fragment which refers to Jesus having a wife. This is now all over the internet, it was on the PBS Newshour last night, and even made the front page of the Denver Post and other papers. The Smithsonian Channel is planning a special program. It’s big news!
The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife (as King has named it) is very short and very fragmentary. Continue reading
James McWilliams recently asked whether the digitization of communications decreases empathy, and thus potentially our empathy with other humans and animals. He talks about e-mail between students and professors, “butchered” grammar in e-mail being used to substitute for the student and the professor actually having a conversation, and wonders where this is all headed. Yes, the new media enable vegans to promote their cause more effectively (Earthlings), but it also enables the bad guys to push their case with equal or greater effectiveness. Continue reading
Here’s what James Tabor says about the connection between the Jesus movement and the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran:
“The Jesus movement can best be described as a radical, nationalistic, anti-religious establishment, messianic, apocalyptic, baptizing, new covenant, wilderness-way movement–and that is precisely how the community behind the Dead Sea Scrolls can be described as well!”
So, is this right? Continue reading
The Battle of Gettysburg (Currier and Ives)
Can we compare the abolitionists in the animal rights movement, who will settle for nothing less than the abolition of all animal exploitation, with the abolitionists in the anti-slavery movement of the 18th and 19th centuries? Absolutely! But I would draw a very different set of lessons from history than most other vegans of either the “abolitionist” or any other type. Continue reading