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Impressions of “The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity,” by Taylor Marshall

2,000 years ago a Jew from Galilean regularly visited the Temple in Jerusalem. He celebrated Hanukkah and Passover there. At home he would preach in a synagogue. His followers called him “rabbi.” He was executed on the authority of the Roman governor. After his death a convert to his cause spoke, saying “I am a pharisee.”

The man of course was Jesus. But the implications of this, that the one who Christians call the Son of God was himself Jewish, is often elided. It does not imply only that Jews are the elder broths in faith of the Christians. It means that to understand the words of Jesus as they would have been understood by those he spoke to, a Jewish interpretation of those words is needed. This is what Taylor Marshall gives to us in his short work, The Crucified Rabbi.

Marshall was formerly protestant minister (well, an Episcopal priest, which may be close enough). His extensive Biblical knowledge, and his late introduction to Catholicism, allows him to make connections that others would not see. (For what it’s worth, a Reform minister who read my reactions to Covenant and Creation and The Book of Kings made a mirror comment about me — I knew little enough about Reform thought to be surprising.) At his best, He defends both the Papacy and the Blessed Virgin in terms I’ve never encountered anywhere, and which have stayed with me. His discussion of baptism is interesting, though tends to a Protestant understanding of the sacraments. And when it comes to the matter of the Old Testament, Marhall is a dispensationalist, and attempts to bring this disreputable protestant theory into the Catholic mainstream.

The Royal Household

The most fascinating section is Marshall’s discussion of two offices of the Kingdom of Israel: the Royal Steward and the Queen Mother. A description of the first argument can be found in a post by Caritas et Veritas. The Royal Steward was Father to Jerusalem, and acted in the Name of the King when the King was physically not present among the people or otherwise indisposed. The Royal Steward was even capable of negotiating on behalf of the king

Then the king of Assyria sent the Tartan, the Rabsaris, and the Rabshake from Lachish, with a great army against Jerusalem, to King Hezekiah. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. When they had come up, they went and stood by the aqueduct from the upper pool, which was on the highway to the Fuller’s Field. And when they had called to the king, Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder, came out to them. Then the Rabshakeh said to them, “Say now to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: “What confidence is this in which you trust?
2 Kings 18:17-19

The Royal Stewardship itself became an Office of Prophecy, as Isaiah foresaw the Messiah would re-establish that office as well. The Royal Steward will be clothed in the robes of the Messiah himself:

‘Then it shall be in that day,
That I will call My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah;

I will clothe him with your robe
And strengthen him with your belt;
I will commit your responsibility into his hand.
He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem
And to the house of Judah.

The key of the house of David
I will lay on his shoulder;
So he shall open, and no one shall shut;
And he shall shut, and no one shall open
.

I will fasten him as a peg in a secure place,
And he will become a glorious throne to his father’s house.
Isaiah 22:20-23

The Crucified Rabbi of the tittle appears to explicitly reference this:

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Matthew 16:17-19

The implications are not necessarily obvious to non-Catholics: what is the Office of the Royal Steward, and what relevance would it have in Christianity are less discovered than the Bishop of Rome. But the answer may, perhaps by the same

A similar argument can of course made be for the Queen Mother, a position given both by biology and ceremony, both from thrones

Then Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established…

Bathsheba therefore went to King Solomon, to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her and bowed down to her, and sat down on his throne and had a throne set for the king’s mother; so she sat at his right hand. Then she said, “I desire one small petition of you; do not refuse me.”

And the king said to her, “Ask it, my mother, for I will not refuse you.”
1 Kings 2:19-20

and the cross

Pilate then went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.”

Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!”…

When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.
John 19:4-5,26-27

Old and New Baptism

Marshall seeks Old Testament fore-runners of baptism, but I disagree with his conclusions here. Indeed, the fore-runner to the sacrament of baptism is found in the New Testament… the baptism of John!

According to the Catholic Church, the baptism of John the Baptist was not the sacrament of baptism, but a Jewish tevilah preparing the Jewish people for the advent of the Messiah. John the Baptist did not administer the Christian sacrament of baptism because he did not baptize in the Trinitarian name. Moreover, the Apostles received those who had received “only the baptism of John” (c.f. Acts 19:1-4). Saint Augustine wrote, “Those who were baptized with John’s baptism needed to be baptized with the baptism of the Lord.”

The two oldest versions of the Old Testament we have are the Masoretic Hebrew edition, and the Septuagint Greek edition. While Jewish now use the Masoretic text, and Christians historically preferred the Greek, both are incomplete: the Greek text seems to have been translated from an earlier edition than the Hebrew. Marshall’s focus on the Hebrew seems to have been intended for use in dialog between Catholics and Rabbinical Jews. Thus, some discussion of baptism that would be illuminating have been left out.

For instance, in all his discussions of the Hebrew roots of baptism, he does not include this passage, with the evocative term used in the Greek translation:

Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped [baptizein] seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
2 Kings 5:9-14

Christ explicitly references this, in the context of a wondrous baptism being given to a gentile but not the Jews:

And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrat
Luke 4:27-28

Instead, Marshall introduces concepts from rabbinical thought but with no obvious analogue in the New Testament, such as the Great Flood turning the world into a giant Jewish washing pool.

Dispensationalism

Easily the weakest theme of the book is Marshall’s attempt to shoehorn “Dispensationalism” into Catholicism. Dispensationalism is an anti-Judaic (and, on suspects, anti-Catholic) doctrine that the Bible is the record of God repeatedly changing his mind and revoking previous promises. At an extreme, Dispensationlists encourage us to ignore the words of Jesus, as they were a last-attempt to speak to the fallen Jewish people, and a new dispensation began with the Descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. As with the equally dubious covenant theology, the trick becomes identifying a unit of analysis (dispensation or covenant) within a text, even though neither has historic validity, and then using it to erase everything except the most recent dispensation or covenant.

Marshall does not hide this. The current dispensation began on Pentecost. Everything before this event is a dead letter if not ratified after it:

While the Old Covenant was consummated and perfectly fulfilled at the death and resurrection of Christ, the New Law of the gospel was not promulgated until Pentecost. It was on Pentecost that the New Testament and the need for baptism became absolutely binding and necessary. Pre-Pentecostal Judaism in expectation of the Messiah was the true religion instituted by God through Abraham. Post-Pentecostal Judaism is a dead letter — a religion unknown to the pges of Sciripture.

In summary, Jewish ethnicity in itself does not save. The Old Covenant is no longer salvific.

A Protestant summary of Dispensationalism which makes this more explicit is below. Note that shared focus on revoked dispensations, and that one of the dispensations revoked are the teachings of Christ:

Two problems here. The first is if the Pentecost began a new “dispensation,” and it is for that reason the old dispensations are no longer in effect, this new “church age” would include the sacrament of communion (which for protestant dispensationlists, is indeed the case), as these words were stated before Pentecost:

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
Luke 22:19

As were the words of the first Maundy Thursday:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
John 13:34

The second problem concerns Marhsall’s use of the phrase “no longer.” The Apostle Paul wrote that the Law always lead to death, in a way similar to Christian baptism:

For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
Galatians 2:19-21

This is important: The Old Covenant was never salvific. That is why Christ died for us. Even the great patriarchs descended into the most pleasant parts of Hell. As Marshall writes:

Traditional Catholic teaching holds that Christ descended to “Abraham’s bosom” or Limbus Patrum — the pleasant abode of the netherworld where the Old Testament faithful waited for the coming of the Messiah. They could not yet ascend to the heavens, because Christ had not yet died on the cross.

From a legal perspective, Marshall’s dispensationalism can be rejected by looking at the history of the blood sacrifice. Elsewhere, Marshall writes “The Temple was the only place of sacrifice in the Old Covenant” — a period (or dispensation) presumably beginning shortly after the death of the first King of Israel, David, and ending on the occasion of the death of the last. Numerous blood rituals though are held outside the grounds of the Temple in Jerusalem:

Including gentile sacrifices, such as those by Job:

And when the feast days had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” This is what Job always did.
Job 1:5

Including Jewish sacrifices, such as those by Moses:

And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words.”
Exodus 24:8

And the perfect sacrifice, the only one that could ever lead to eternal life and the resurrection of the dead

Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new[c] covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Matthew 26:27-28

Catholicism teaches God does not revoke His promises. The Old Covenant is still in effect. But it was given to the Jews at Sinai. Some things were given to our older brothers but not to us.

We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked, for “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29). The Church, which shares with Jews an important part of the sacred Scriptures, looks upon the people of the covenant and their faith as one of the sacred roots of her own Christian identity (cf. Rom 11:16-18). As Christians, we cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion; nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God (cf. 1 Thes 1:9). With them, we believe in the one God who acts in history, and with them we accept his revealed word.
Pope Francis I, Evangelli Gaudium

I disagree with Marshall’s theory of revoked covenants as strongly as I thank him for introducing me to knowledge of the Royal Household. But both ideas are indicative of Marshall as a syncretic teacher, who has taken his protestant method of Biblical Analysis and tried to apply it in a Catholic frame.  This is too his credit.  Taylor Marshall writes an exhaustive blog on theological issues, if you’d like to have more familiarity with his methods and ideas.

I strongly recommend The Crucified Rabbi by Taylor Marshall. In Confessions, Saint Augustine wrote that reading of the Old Testament without understanding Judaism may do more harm than good, and The Crucified Rabbi is a good cure for this. It is a better explanation of the Old Testament than than Covenant and Creation, and more accessible to a lay reader than The Assembly of the Gods.

I read The Crucified Rabbi in the Kindle Edition.

The Gospel of Luke

abraham_and_lazarus

In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.

Luke 16:24

Ruth said,
“Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.

Ruth 1:16

In both Judges and Luke, a Messenger of the Lord appears to a couple, promising a son. In both cases strong drink is specifically prohibited. In both cases Israel will be moved by the promised boy. Both are the beginning of deliverance

And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Although you are barren, having borne no children, you shall conceive and bear a son. Now be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, or to eat anything unclean, for you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor is to come on his head, for the boy shall be a nazirite to God from birth. It is he who shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”

Judges 13:3-5

Annunciation-Samsons-Birth-c1250-Maciejowaki-Bible-Magic-Lantern-Glass-Slide

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.

Luke 1:13-16

But quickly after this familiar Jewish scene is something far rarer in the Hebrew Bible. A direct conversation, with quoted words, between two women not about a man.

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’

Luke 1:39-45

Men are often foolish in Luke. Herod, who murdered John the Baptist, wants to see Jesus because he thinks he may be John the Baptist, risen from the dead!

samuel and saul

Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen. Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he tried to see him.
Luke 9:7-9

and later Herod has such an emotional journey on the day of the Crucifixion that one is reminded of poor king Saul, whose demons destroyed his life and his mind

When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer.  The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.
Luke 20:8-12

Women, and what they observe, are a theme. The Lord’s conversation with Mary and Martha hints at something to come..

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;  there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-42

And these themes, wisdom, observing reality, are repeated. The Gospel of Luke is explicitly in the Wisdom tradition of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes, but without the reassuring calmness of Proverbs

1_6-1_ruth_ruth_and_naomi_gleaning_in_the_fields

Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary.
Luke 11:49-51

Luke disturbs the reader, introducing sarcasm not seen in the Bible since Job or Ecclesiastes

But ask the animals, and they will teach you;
the birds of the air, and they will tell you;

ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?

Job 12:7-9 (on the death of his family)

All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knows whether the human spirit goes upwards and the spirit of animals goes downwards to the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better than that all should enjoy their work, for that is their lot; who can bring them to see what will be after them?

Ecclesiastes 3:20-22

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’

Luke 13:31-33

While it is men who murder, it is women who watch. Women have the gift of realizing a murder is a murder, no matter who is being murdered. The camera pans back — Christ, the soldier, the crowd, the acquaintances, the women —- the witnesses of murders

pharaoh-s-daughter-finding-baby-moses

Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things

Luke 23:45-49

The closest parallel to this in the Bible — of woman seeing the thing, clearly, is Sarah at her Annunciation, when she spoke to the LORD

They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him.  Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.”

Genesis 18:9-14

sarahlaughed-abelpann-1024

But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”

Genesis 18:15

The traditional view of this scene is negative for Sarah, the doubter, who laughed. But the ridiculous is ridiculous, no matter the speaker. Just as a murder is a murder, no matter the victim. The LORD is fully present in the world, really and truly was at supper with Abraham and Sarah. Sarah, like Mary, actually listened to the LORD, and engaged the LORD, and reacted to the human God as the most treasured guest one could have.

The same pattern, with the same wry humor from the LORD, was repeated shortly before His crucifixion. But unlike women, the men do not engage enough to understand what is ridiculous. Given a command to trade cloth for swords, they immediately begin counting the swords in the house, as if the goal was Herod’s head. “Enough,” indeed.

He said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.” They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.”

He replied, “It is enough.”

Luke 22:35-38

Joseph must have felt similar feelings of love and irritation when he sat down for dinner with his brothers.

joseph-with-brothers

The annunciation to Sarah, of course, occurred at a meal

Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

Genesis 18:7-8

lds-hearts-burn-bread-jesus

Immediately after the resurrection, the Lord appears to two men, revealing his identity as food is handed out.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.

Luke 24:28-31

Even in the parables, in visiosn of heaven, we see flesh and blood — Abraham and Lazarus — proof that this creation, through Christ, may live forever.

And that is the world of the Gospel of Luke. Earth. A Creator who became a Creature.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke don’t contradict each other, but they emphasize different thing.

In Matthew, primarily, Jesus is Legislator, King of Israel, and Prophet — the Son of Man
In Mark, primarily, Jesus is God of All.
In Luke, primarily, Jesus’s lives in the world of sarcasm, women, and food.

The Legislator…
The King…
The Prophet…
The One True God…

Is a creature,
Is a human,
Is a man.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.

Genesis 2:18

Review of “God is Red” by Liao Yiwu

The “mythic past” of China in the 20th century probably looks something like this:

  • Weakness & Chaos (fall of the Qing, Revolution and Civil Wars, Whampoa, Yenan, Song Dynasty, Invasion by Japan)
  • The New China of 1949
  • Peaceful and Orderly mid-1950s
  • Disaster of Great Leap Forward
  • Peaceful and Orderly early and mid 1960s
  • Disaster of Cultural Revolution
  • Economic reform & prosperity

References to foreigners in this mythic past are pretty scarce. Unlike the anti-Western years of the Cultural Revolution, it’s probably fair to say that foreigners play as much a part of the Mythic Past of 20th Century China as they do in the Mythic Past of 20th Century America: Russians are sometimes friends and sometimes enemies, Europe’s weak, troublesome, and far away, sporadoc wars with Pacific neighbors. Foreigners are not an essential part of the mythic story of China, and more than they are an essential part of the mythic story of 20th century America.

Liao Yiwu decided to change that.

God is Red is a history of Christianity in 20th century China, told through interviews. The book proceeds chronologically, so while the first interviews are about old people who are persecuted by the Communists in 1949, the latest are about youngsters in our own day. The book appears to be written with the intended audience of young, literate, middle-class Chinese, and from a Chinese perspective is as much an introduction to the horrors of Communist oppression as to Christianity in China.

Liao is not himself a Christian, though he is clearly sympathetic to Christians and hostile to the Communist Party. The most moving part of the book for me was the interview of a blind musician, who lost his site as a small child, had it recovered through eye-drops given to him by a Missionary doctor, and then lost it again when the Communists expelled the Missionaries. (The man’s parents, poor farmers, never thought to ask what was in the eye-drops until it was too late.) The epilogue of the chapter reveals the sight-giving eye-drops, which the man lost access to because of the Communists, almost certainly contained fish oil. Multiple this loss by expulsion of all foreign charities and western investment in China in the years following 1949, and the backwardness that Communist rule doomed China to is staggering.

Because the book is told in the words of Chinese Christians, young and old, God is Red is an excellent example of martyrology. Indeed, the Chinese Communist Party is one reason why more Christians have been martyred in the last century than in the first three centuries combined. Yet, God is Red also blows up the “mythic” history of China, emphasizing the amazing contact with the west that was rapidly liberalizing and modernizing China, until aborted by Mao Zedong and others. The Mythic Past of China doesn’t have to be just an amalgamation of KMT and Communist party history. The works of Christians, including foreigners, can be a part of it, too.

Liao Yiwu was already a well-known Chinese liberal before writing God is Red. In the book, Liao talks about his friend Nobel-Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo and the banned Charter ’08. This past September, Liao walked out of China, as Liu serves an 11-year prison sentence. An article based on the book appears in the Huffington Post.

I received God is Red as a gift from Catholicgauze. I read it on my Kindle.

Christianity is Older than Judaism

Christianity is Older than Judaism

This meme has been making the rounds again, that Americans are ignorant yokels for thinking that Christianity is older than Judaism. But as is often the case with debunkeres, the debunkers are more arrogant and just as unknowledgable as the debunkee, as a great argument can be made that Christianity is, in fact, older than Judaism.

Both Christianity and Judaism are based largely on religio-legal corpora, which are called “Testaments” in Christianity and “Torahs” in Judaism. In Christnaity these corpora are the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament.” Both in their ages of composition and their internal chronology, they are seperated by the Roman occupation of Palestine — the Old takes place beforfe, the New takes place during. In Judaism these corpora are the “Written Torah” and the “Oral Torah.” While both works claim to be the same age (given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai), the Oral Torah clearly contains elements from Semetic pre-history while others date it to between the Destruction of the Temple and the middle-Dark Ages.

In other words, Christianity as a religion based on Two Testaments appears to have coalescened somewhere around AD 100. Judaism as a religion based on Two Torahs appears to have coalescend somewhere around AD 600. Christianity is half a millenium older than Judaism.

Both Christianity and Judaism are descended from an ancient religion, often called “Temple Judaism,” like early Christianity (but not like Judaism) was centered around a priesthood that controlled the teaching authority of the faith.

It is often said that most Jewish communities that existed immediately before the chrnologicla beginning of the New Testament became Christian communities. A very small number converted to Judaism instead, several centuries later.

WALL-E, Christianity, and Kubrick

Lady of tdaxp and I have been watching Stanley Kubrick films recently, adding Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Full Metal Jacket to our joint list of Eyes Wide Shut and A Clockwork Orange. We also enjoyed WALL-E. So I was delighted by Adam’s excellent analysis of WALL-E, in light of both Kubrick and Christianity:

The Metropolis Times: WALL-E: A Christian Dystopia
“We’re not engaging in relationships, which are the point of living—relationship with God and relationship with other people.”
– WALL-E director Andrew Stanton

WALL-E’s parallels with 2001: A Space Odyssey go beyond the blinking red light and ‘Also sprach Zarathustra.’ It shares its visual and geographic structure and its central, somewhat Nietzschian, theme with Kubrick’s masterpiece. However, it goes to a place where Kubrick never could – by featuring the most touching love story captured on film in many, many years.

Read the whole thing.

New Book on Jesus, Diocletian, 4GW, and COIN

D.M. was kind enough to join the hype-cycle for my new book, which will soon be followed on by a published version of the “John Boyd Roundtable,” edited by Mark Safranski of ZenPundit fame.

Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity

I wrote Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity: 4th Generation Warfare (4GW) Against the Roman Empire, and the Counterinsurgency (COIN) Campaign to Save It to help explain the persecution experienced by the early Christians in light of strategic theory. I believe that Romans, who martyred so many Christians, were not foolish or stupid. I think they knew what they were doing: they understood that if the Christianity triumphed, the world they knew and loved would be turned upside down.

The Romans acted according to the same basic rules that guided the Nazi fight against la Résistance in France… and the American fight against al Qaeda in Iraq.

I hope my book will be useful to those who want to begin learning about modern strategy, and for people who wish to know a little more about the rise of Christianity. From Joseph Caiaphas to the Prophet Muhammed, I describe the early enemies of Christianity as wise fighters who used strategies that now have buzzwords for names (COIN, xGW, and so on), but whose use goes back to the dawn of time.

Martyrdom in Colorado

Speaking of hate crimes“…

The man who shot up a training center for missionaries and a church in suburban Denver, killing four people and wounding a number of others, has been identified:

A law enforcement official says the deadly rampages at a megachurch and a missionary training school were believed to have been carried out by the same person—Matthew Murray, a 24-year-old suburban Denver man who “hated Christians.”

It is perhaps worth noting that the toll in Sunday’s shootings exceeded the combined total in all “hate crimes” against Muslims in the six years since September 11.

The heroine who stopped the anti-Christian was from Sioux Falls.

Largest Bible Publisher in the World is in China

Macartney, J. (2007). The book they used to burn now fires new revolution of faith in China. Times Online. December 8, 2007. Available online: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3019026.ece.

Amity Printing, which has a monopoly on legal printing of the Bible in China, is expanding its facilities to keep up with increased purchases:

Demand for the Bible is soaring in China, at a time when meteoric economic growth is testing the country’s allegiance to Communist doctrine. Today the 50 millionth Bible will roll off the presses of China’s only authorised publisher, Amity Printing, amid public fanfare and celebration.

In the past, foreign visitors were discouraged from bringing Bibles into the country in case they received some heavy-handed treatment from zealous Customs officials.

Such is the demand in China for Bibles that Amity Printing can scarcely keep pace. Early next year it will move into a new, much larger factory on the edge of the eastern city of Nanjing to become the world’s single-biggest producer of Bibles.

Most Bibles are for the internal domestic marketing, and are printed both in Chinese characters and minority languages. The hottest selling bibles are small-print, and thus target young adults

New Zealander Peter Dean, of the United Bible Societies, bustles between the humming state-of-the-art presses. Mr Dean, who has been in China at Amity since 1991, said: “This platform has been built as a blessing to the nation. It will print Bibles for China for as long as it takes to do it.” Authorities at the officially approved Protestant and Catholic churches put the size of China’s Christian population at about 30 million. But that does not include the tens of millions more who worship in private at underground churches loyal to the Vatican or to various Protestant churches.

Of the 50 million Bibles Amity has printed, 41 million were for the faithful in Chinese and eight minority languages. The rest have been for export to Russia and Africa. Sales surged from 505,000 in 1988 to a high of 6.5 million in 2005. Output last year was 3.5 million and is expected to rise in 2007.

One of Mr Dean’s bestsellers is a pocket Bible, a version not suitable for the older generation to read and which may indicate a rapid expansion in the number of new, younger believers. He cited a surge in demand during the Sars crisis in 2003, but refrained from commenting. The enterprise has clearly flourished through its discretion and careful adherence to China’s laws that prohibit evangelizing.

Religious freedom is still lacking in China, and the rest of the article describes some of the obstacles Christians face in the country. Yet a paragrpah later in the article provides hope for the faith, too:

Then they are finding that they need to satisfy their spiritual needs, to look for happiness for the soul. In addition, they are seeing a breakdown in the moral order as money takes over. Thus, more and more people are turning to Christianity.”

Christianity is old in China — one of the patriarchs of the Assyrian Church of the East (Mar Yaballaha III) was even a Beijinger. Yet for the first time, Chinese christians can easily communicate with the rest of the faith, and the Chinese people are no longer forced between emperor worship and local superstitions.

If the 21st century becomes a Christian Century, a big part of the reason why will be because of China.

Review of "The Rise of Christianity" by Rodney Stark

I read The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Become the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries based on the recommendations from blog friends. I am not disappointed. Rise is an excellent sociological history of the first Christian centuries, beginning roughly with the martyrdoms of James, Paul, and Peter and ending with the conversion of the Emperor Constantine. A must read for those interested in rising religious movements in general, Stark’s brilliant application of “rational choice” economics to the field of religion is a must-read.


The Reform Judaism of the 1st Century

Rodney Stark is a rational-choice sociologist, who views belonging as a good that people attempt to maximize. Belonging-providers can either be public or private. Examples of private providers are magicians, wizards, heelers, and pagan cults, while public providers tend to demand exclusive committment and accept some degree of alienation from society. Most of Rise of Christianity is an extremely readible exploration of this delving into many aspects of city life.

I first heard of The Rise of Christianity after a commentator noted its similarity with my blog series, Jesusism-Paulism. Because this has been mentioned before, I will now address how his 1997 book relates to 2000s series.The similar is clear, and the posts that overlap most with Stark’s book (in particular, “Love Your Enemy As You Would Have Him Love You,” “Caiaphas and Diocletian Did Know Better,” and “the Fall of Rome“) clearly share a similar orientation, though Stark’s methods and focus are different. As Rise ends with Constantine, the claims of my last two posts, “The People of the Book” and “Embrace and Extend,” are not addressed at all. Finally, while both Dr. Stark and I view women as vital to the success of Christianity, my focus on harmonious deconfliction contrasts with his more feminist interpretation.

The Rise of Christianity is an excellent book. Strongly recommended.