April 29, 2009

The Gospel of Judas vs. the Acts of Paul

Around the time that we started Palabre, I created with Dr. Jeremy Barrier Acta Pauli.  In the meantime, on April 23, I launched the Committee for the Inclusion of the Acts of Paul in the New Testamet Canon.  For many years I have suggested this particular idea to people partly to promote my own scholarship and fame, and they just took it as a kind of a joke.

Now compare this with the media treatment of the Gospel of Judas, published from a fourth century Coptic papyrus.  It is purported to be translated from a Greek original and representative of the Gospel of Judas attested by Irenaeus, haer. 1.31.1 (ANF 1):

Others again declare that Cain derived his being from the Power above, and acknowledge that Esau, Korah, the Sodomites, and all such persons, are related to themselves. On this account, they add, they have been assailed by the Creator, yet no one of them has suffered injury. For Sophia was in the habit of carrying off that which belonged to her from them to herself. They declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas.

If the newly published Gospel of Judas is a version of the Cainite one, then we clearly have the work of a 2nd century gnostic sect.  This is an exciting discovery for scholars of early Christianity, but the media latched on to this document in order to attack the Christian view that Judas betrayed Jesus.  Thus, to a media so gullible and inaccurate in its attempt to challenge ruthlessly the Christian faith, I propose the Acts of Paul, also known largely through a later Coptic MS in an even more lamentable state than the codex of the Gospel of Judas, with probably more than half of the text completely lost–this fragmentary nature of the Acts of Paul alone should create a media stir.  But in defense of the Acts of Paul, unlike the Gospel of Judas, it has actually been used by the catholic church: chapters III and IV of the Acts of Paul (a.k.a., The Acts of Paul and Thecla) were at an early date separated from the whole and used in the cult of Thecla and read on her feast day.  The  Acts of Paul XIV (a.k.a., The Martyrdom of Paul) was likewise separated to be read on Paul’s feast day.  Thecla, who was a hearer of Paul through the window of her house in Iconium, embraced a life of chastity and rejected her fiancé Thamyris, much to the chagrin of her impoverished mother.  There is actually considerably more evidence for the historicity of this story than there is for the alternate version of Judas Iscariot that is promoted by the drive-by media.  Why don’t we promote this document as equal to the NT canon?  Why so much attention for the Gospel of Judas?

Therefore, I wrote up a press release for media use, “Cambridge-trained scholar calls for Extension of the New Testament Canon“, with blank fields where they can add the names of their authors, their media outlets (CNN, New York Times, AP, AFP, etc.), and just publish as their own.  Surely this would suit the media’s penchant these days for publishing news stories without doing any investigative journalism.  I’ve provided everything they need to make this story happen.  The press release has some characteristic errors, but according to my friend Jim Leonard it was obviously written by a scholar, since it contained too few errors compared to a recent BBC article on Codex Sinaiticus–but there the errors seem to be gratuitous and not an attempt to attack the Christian faith.  In other words, the drive-by media is capable of bad journalism for its own sake; they don’t need the excuse of attacking Christians.

My prognosis for the Committee is bleak.  Serious Christians are likely to view me as some sort of crackpot.  I may get some interest from nominal and liberal Christians until they read the thoroughly orthodox Acts of Paul; the exaltation of women prophets and a female apostle will of course attract some feminists, but at the end of the day, liberals will reject it because it extols the beauty and the virtue of sexual chastity, and after all, the world must be protected from Christian bigots who would impose limits on sexual freedom.

You may join the Committee for the nominal fee of $10,000 US per annum (charter members exempted; $15,000 CDN; or 20,000 euros or pounds sterling).  All are welcome, we make no discrimination regarding race, sex, creed or academic credentials.  Even journalists are allowed.  Please make cheques payable to Peter W. Dunn.  Later, Acta Pauli will be offering free 1-year memberships to promote the website.


April 28, 2009

Good man, evil man

Filed under: poetry — Petros @ 8:44 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Good man, evil man

The good man defends family, country, liberty and life,
He stands up to protect both his children and his wife.

The evil man craves another’s lands, women, and wealth,
He will invade foreign places both openly and in stealth.

David and Saul were loved by God, and Sampson also,
They defeated the Philistines, a particularly aggressive foe.

God gave the sword to government powers not for ill,
But so that they would murders, invaders, and terrorists kill.

Peace will arrive not when arms we’ve dovishly relinquished,
But when Jesus returns and evil’s been utterly vanquished.

(c) 2009 P. W. Dunn

(A response to The Beauty of Peace)

April 23, 2009

Wikipedia follies

Filed under: biblical studies — Petros @ 4:05 pm
Tags: , ,

As a scholar of the Acts of Paul I have tried to promote Acta Pauli, a website that Dr. Jeremy Barrier and I started, by adding a link in relevant Wikipedia articles.  After some effort, a couple of these links have persisted but others were eliminated by spam detectors and an editor.  On the French and German sites, the links were removed by Anonymous Dissident, who I learned is twelve approximately 14 years old.

I have decided therefore never to provide links to Wikipedia because not only is it a tendentious source promoting views that I disagree with, but as a scholar, I protest the editorial process which is supposed to be open to anyone but is in fact hostile to scholarly sources of information, whether they intend it to be or not.  Hence, you will see me remove all links to Wikipedia from Palabre in the future.

Homosexual Incest?

Filed under: ethics — Petros @ 1:25 pm
Tags: , , ,

Here in Ontario same-sex marriage is now possible.  It is reasoned that a homosexual should not be banned from marrying the person they love.  That is unfair to people of same-sex sexual orientation.

Marriage in the 21st Century


What if a gay person falls in love with his brother or her sister?  Should they be allowed to marry?  Well, I’ve always heard that the reason for laws against incest are based upon the genetic deformities that result in the issue of such unions.  But since there is no fear of deformed offspring in the case of homosexual marriage, really there is no impediment to marriage between two brothers or two sisters.

But then the question becomes, why should a brother be allowed to marry his sister?  If a homosexual is allowed to marry his same-sex brother or sister, it would be discrimination to say that a heterosexual can’t marry her brother or his sister.

April 11, 2009

Parousia and the Presence of the Lord Jesus

Filed under: biblical studies,theology — C. J. Dunn @ 8:46 am
Tags: , , , ,

In N.T.Wright’s book, Surprised by Hope (p. 128), he notes that the Greek word parousia “is usually translated “coming,” but literally it means “presence”-that is, presence as opposed to absence.”  He goes on to discuss two meanings of the word in non-Christian contexts which would have influenced the Christian understanding (page 129):

The first meaning was the mysterious presence of a god or divinity, particularly when the power of this god was revealed in healing.  People would suddenly be aware of a supernatural and powerful presence, and the obvious word for this was parousia.  Josephus sometimes uses this word when he is talking about YHWH coming to the rescue of Israel.  God’s powerful, saving presence is revealed in action, for instance when Israel under King Hezekiah was miraculously defended against the Assyrians.

The second meaning emerges when a person of high rank makes a visit to a subject state, particularly when a king or emperor visits a colony or province.  The word for such a visit is royal presence:  in Greek, parousia.  In neither setting, we note, obviously but importantly, is there the slightest suggestion of anybody flying around on a cloud.  Nor is there any hint of the imminent collapse or destruction of the space-time universe.

Wright then applies this meaning to the Parousia of Christ, saying that the Early Christians believed that while Jesus was present in spirit, he was absent in body, and they waited for Christ to come in body and make his powerful presence known to the everyone.  Secondly, the Early Christians were evidently proclaiming that Jesus was the true Emperor of the world, who would soon rule not in absence but in person, and that Caesar was a “sham”.

Rapture, not

I have been reading N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope and have been finding his views very refreshing and intelligent.  Last Sunday was Palm Sunday and we celebrated the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem.  With this scenario in my mind, I find that N.T. Wright’s explanation of 1 Thessalonians 4 makes perfect sense of the text (Surprised by Hope,  p. 132-133):

When the emperor visited a colony or province, the citizens of the country would go to meet him at some distance from the city.  It would be disrespectful to have him actually arrive at the gates as though his subjects couldn’t be bothered to greet him properly.  When they met him, they wouldn’t then stay out in the open country:  they would escort him royally into the city itself.  When Paul speaks of “meeting” the Lord “in the air,” the point is precisely not–as in the popular rapture theology–that the saved believers would then stay up in the air somewhere, away from earth.  The point is that, having gone out to meet their returning Lord, they will escort him royally into his domain, that is, back to the place they have come from.  Even when we realize that this is highly charged metaphor, not literal description, the meaning is the same as in the parallel in Philippians 3:20.  Being citizens of heaven, as the Phillippians would know, doesn’t mean that one is expecting to go back to the mother city but rather means that one is expecting the emperor to come from the mother city to give the colony its full dignity, to rescue it if need be, to subdue local enemies and put everything to rights.

See also, “What’s wrong with the Rapture“.

April 10, 2009

Treatment of Sprengel’s Deformity

Filed under: Cathy's Stuff — C. J. Dunn @ 11:13 am

I have a mild case of Sprengel’s deformity of the right scapula which in and of itself is not curable except through radical surgery.

The structure of my shoulder has always caused my muscles some discomfort during exercise but in my younger days I rarely had to quit due to pain.  As I grew older and took up a desk job, I hunched my shoulders more and more, and my back muscles began to be in constant pain. I sought out different styles of pillows in an attempt to find a better night’s sleep. I found that the range of motion in my right shoulder was becoming quite limited. I took up squash but my swing was very rough and wild.

In spring 2007, I began to receive massage therapy on a regular basis from Elisha Martellacci at the Proformance Health & Wellness Clinic. Her deft fingers very quickly found that my rotator cuff was the focal point of the pain in my shoulder and they provided a great deal of relief.

By the end of the year, I was desperate to find more permanent relief from the constant, nagging ache. I then consulted Dr. Aubrey Green, the Chiropractor at the clinic about possible treatment. He prescribed acupuncture in conjunction with soft tissue manipulation. The first couple of treatments were extremely painful. When I awoke the morning after the fourth, it took me a moment to realize that my shoulder was pain free. I was ecstatic! This was the first time in many years!

My personal trainer, Charlene, consults from time to time with Dr. Green to ensure that appropriate exercises are included in my regime. The goal has not been to cure me, but to strengthen and stretch my muscles in order to maximize their functionality. The process has been long and slow, not spectacular, but very satisfying.

As it is not possible to alter my shoulder’s bone structure, my rotator cuff still becomes tender and requires regular treatment and always will. However, my range of motion has increased immeasurably, my squash swing has lost its wildness, and best of all, the throbbing ache in my shoulder no longer holds centre stage in my thoughts.

April 8, 2009

On flag waving in the church

Filed under: worship — Petros @ 7:49 am
Tags: , , ,

Flag waving in worship became an issue while I was on staff at a church a few years ago.  I wrote the following tract.  It has recently been brought up in a discussion at the CETA-L (Canadian Evangelical Theological Association yahoo group list).  Please note that I am a supporter of Israel and Canada politically, and I disagree with people who are offended by the flags of these two countries.  But in worship, we must remember that our goal is to make a place where people can come to know Christ and him crucified.

On the waving of National Flags in Christian Worship

Peter W. Dunn (c) 2001, rev. 2009

The waving of national flags has become vogue in our church and others.  There have apparently been recent prophecies which have guided various individuals into the practice of waving the Canadian and Israeli flags in worship.  I personally would appreciate being able to see the prophetic words.  The highly idiosyncratic practice of waving the political flags of Israel and Canada should have prophetic confirmation and approval from leaders, especially other pastors, prophets and theologians.  Such a practice, after all, is unprecedented in any other church in my experience (including churches of various denominations in Africa, Europe, England, Canada and the United States).

April 3, 2009

I was a soldier / Je fut militaire

A few years ago I was teaching a course in church history in Bangui, and one of my students came to see me.  He wanted to explain why he was studying at the seminary.  He said to me in French, “Je fut militaire” (I was a soldier).

I remember this because of the simple past tense, which is literary and sounds funny in spoken French.  He had been a rebel soldier and had spent years in the forest of Congo on the opposite side of the Ubangi river from Bangui; as a rebel, he could not return to Bangui until President Ange-Félix Patassé was deposed by François Bozizé, the current President.  While in the forest, he said, they had little to eat and nothing to do. They started reading the Bible together and praying, and so the soldiers in this new church elected my student to come to seminary to become an army chaplain and to lead them as a pastor.

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