Truth, Denial & Phobia

This is the second part of Being Wrong & Feeling Right: Two Parts.

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Deborah Lipstadt is an American historian and author specializing in the Holocaust. In 1993 she published her book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory where she responds in extensive detail to rising, growing movements in Europe and parts of N. America challenging the veracity of the Holocaust during World War II and claiming it did not take place and was overly exaggerated by the European Jews. David Irving, a Nazi Germany advocate and controversial scholar, sued Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books Ltd in the U.K. for her characterizations of his writings and public speeches writing in her book he was anti-Semitic, preposterous, and barely a pseudo-historian.

Lipstadt and Penguin Books won their case by proving in the British court that her characterizations of Irving’s work and speeches were significantly true and not libelous to Irving. The judge’s decision was a paramount victory not only against Holocaust denial, but also a major victory against shotty, ill-founded denialism while further reinforcing credible, consensual, established academia and scholarship by some of the world’s most elite institutions of higher (highest) education and their renown experts and staffs.

In 2016 the film Denial dramatized these proceedings in British court, the case and the real-life characters, and was deservedly nominated for Best British Film in 2017. For these above reasons I highly recommend watching the movie. The official trailer:

When upsetting, distressing, or traumatic events and/or information arises that shake-up or shatter a person’s belief-system and/or our perception of life, our human brain and nervous system—and if we’re more fully comprehensive, our ego as well—can create a psychological coping routine, a mechanism that neglects and negates what is or has actually happened. Fear and anxiety over being wrong and confused or the potential of it, causes a large portion of the human population to simply deny those events/information exist(ed). For them it is easier to deny than walk the harder, troubling, longer road of learning to solve, adapt and cope. They will often seek out echo-chambers (organizations or groups) to further cement the psychological denial. Over time the repeated immersing into the neuro-cognitive pathologies and regular participation with echoing support-groups can and often do create long-term phobias.

Another powerful motive for denialism is self-interest, that prideful ego which convinces us we deserve favorable praise and inflated importance at the expense of reality and others. Self-preservation at any cost.

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it. — Upton Sinclair

Or when his image of power is threatened! Sinclair could not be more correct when considering a long, long history of prime examples. I will name only a handful of examples, but the list of overly inflated egos (some tyrannical), self-preservation, severe denial, and paranoia through atrocious brutality is long and always growing:

  • Henry Ford and the too little too late Model A — Henry Ford, Sr. was in Model T La-La land (denial) virtually until his death. He blamed worker unions for the plummeting sales of the 20-year antiquated Model T automobile. When he finally relented to production of the Model A, Chrysler-Plymouth and General Motors had seized the industry’s top market positions, leaving Ford to wither and struggle until World War II arrived.
  • Coca-Cola — a small number of taste-test participants influenced or contaminated Coca-Cola Company’s (un)controlled market testing (Project Kansas) of a sweeter formula being considered as the New Coke to boost sales and market share. The change was an utter failure/denial by Coke executives because the facts of market data showed for decades it was Coke’s brand-name that made and kept loyal consumers, not a newer formula and change.
  • DuPont — and their disposal (or failure to properly dispose) of chemicals used to make Teflon that leak or eventually leak into human or animal drinking water-basins. Well over 3,500 lawsuits against DuPont and/or Chemours still await trial. Both mega-billion dollar corporations deny their chemical or waste management directly cause major health-injury problems in at least 27 U.S. states. However, since 1961 DuPont’s own scientists knew their chemical wastes caused severe and lethal problems in lab animals, but intentionally concealed (denied) these studies from the public and EPA.
  • Lehman Brothers — and their asset overvaluation (denialism & greed) then subsequent bankruptcy in 2008, a major player/cause of the 2008 Wall Street crash then bailout by U.S. taxpayers via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
  • Joseph Stalin — the “Great Purge” between 1936 – 1938 when Stalin murdered around 750,000 political rivals and dissenters and over 1-million others he perceived as threats. These are conservative estimates.
  • Saddam Hussein — aside from the gassing of some 5,000 Kurdish Iraqis and wounding over 10,000 more in 1988, Hussein convened a public meeting of Ba’ath Party officials in July 1979. He ordered the gathering to be videotaped. Hussein read a list of 69 names of perceived “traitors” who were then escorted out in custody then executed by firing squad or given weapons inside a courtyard and ordered to execute each other or themselves.
  • Intel — for nearly 3 decades (60’s – 80’s) Intel reigned supreme in semiconductors, with their memory-chip and microprocessors both. By 1983 Japanese semiconductors had stolen a big chunk of that market. Intel was in a nose dive. Like Henry Ford, old vanguard CEO’s at Intel thought their long dominance in memory-chips were the future (denialism, skewed rationalism) whereas Gordon Moore and Andy Grove realized the ominous hard data, facts and stats overwhelmingly pointed to the microprocessor and PC’s as the future. Their decision to change the business model—amp up and expand production of microprocessors while cutting way back on memory-chips—saved Intel from looming bankruptcy. “Pentium” is now a household name.
  • ExxonMobil — one of the most blatant hypocritical cases of denialism for self-preservation has been ExxonMobil. Within almost 200 in-house publications between 1977 – 2014, the oil giant’s own scientists admitted (click here) that climate change was unequivocally occurring and caused by human discharge and/or waste.
  • Richard M. Nixon — though a number of U.S. Presidents clearly fall into this denial, truth, phobic examination, President Nixon is the poster-boy of denialism for self-preservation during and after the Watergate scandal in the early 1970’s. A new poster-boy President of blatant denialism and inflated ego may(?) be just around the corner.
  • Adolf Hitler — Duh, of course. No explanation necessary.
  • Should I name all the evangelical pastors or Catholic clergy?
  • R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. — in tandem with The Tobacco Institute and PR firm Hill & Knowlton, Inc., the tobacco industry launched a massive counter-attack against scientific and medical-health researchers determining and publicly publishing the negative impacts of smoking. Their counter-attack? “Doubt is our product.
  • Merck and their VIOXX — Before the FDA could approve Merck’s blockbuster pain-relief rofecoxib hit drugstore shelves, health professionals were finding and reporting in 1999, 2000, and 2004 the drug increased the risks of heart disease. With 88,000 – 139,000 heart attacks (30% – 40% fatal) attributed to rofecoxib, over four years later the drug was finally banned in November 2004. Merck executives knew of these reports, but misled physicians, the public, and the FDA.
  • USS Indianapolis Capt. McVay Tragedy — in the dying months of the Pacific War 1945 the naval heavy battlecruiser, while carrying the atomic bomb to eventually be dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, was headed for her next assignment. At 12:15AM 30 July 1945, the USS Indianapolis was fatally struck by two Japanese torpedoes and sunk in 12-minutes. Due to her top secret cargo and mission she was never reported missing even after 24-36 hours after her scheduled arrival in Leyte. In the end and after an official investigation into the tragedy, the U.S. Navy solely blamed Capt. Charles B. McVay III and court-martialed him, putting the 1,139 lost sailors on his head and in self-preservation of and abdication by the U.S. Navy rather than take the public shame and embarrassment for numerous mistakes in combat intel. For many years after McVay received hate-mail from families of lost Indianapolis sailors. Declassified naval documents now reveal (though too late) that Capt. McVay was in truth not to blame for any causes leading to the ship’s sinking. But in 1968 McVay committed suicide.

These 14 prime examples are a proverbial drop in the bucket compared to the modern refined art of denial, distorting the truth and reality. I am quite sure you could name off several more I did not mention, right?

Public Outcomes of Denialism, Phobia, and Untruths/Lies

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Immunization Non-Compliance
— Despite the remarkable declines or near eradication of measles, mumps, rubella, and pertussis across the U.S. and most of the world over the previous century and modern, universal availability of vaccines, resurgence of these diseases persist. CDC data for the measles:

immunization-us

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Paranoia Over Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) — Despite the significant consensus by scientists, healthcare physicians, and bio-genetic engineers from many acclaimed prestigious institutions and universities across the world, who stake their lifetime careers and reputations on making these studies and publications, a large percentage of Americans are afraid and skeptical of foods that have been genetically modified. From the National Academies for Sciences, Engineering & Medicine:

gmos

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One such university, Purdue University’s College of Agriculture addresses the misinformation and conflicting media stories; click here for more details.

The Impact of Ignorance or Restricted Knowledge — Truth or fiction. Fiction or truth. Many selectively choose what they want to accept as factual if it aligns with their own political, social, or religious beliefs. They also choose what is fallacy or untrue, or will ignore the evidence/data when it doesn’t align, whether it is verified, confirmed, factual and true, or not.

9-11 and obama

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Ideological Divide On Climate Change — Despite the abundant evidence and facts over the last century measuring global climate change, there remains a deep ideological divide in the U.S. about whether it is very serious and harming people now.

climate change divide

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Holocaust Doubting and Denial — Despite the eye-witness accounts by thousands upon thousands of Allied liberating soldiers and their commanders at Nazi death or concentration camps across Europe in the last months of World War II, as well as the abhorrent physical and forensic evidence at the time, a noticeable population today believe the Holocaust did not occur or was greatly exaggerated by Jews and Jewish sympathizers.

holocaust denial

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Don Quixote: My lady

I am not your lady!…
I am not any kind of a lady! 

So of course I became,
As befitted my delicate birth,
The most casual bride
Of the murdering scum of the earth!
Aldonza

Don Quixote: And still thou art my lady.

And still he torments me!
How should I be a lady?

If you feel that you see me
Not quite at my virginal best,
Cross my palm with a coin,
And I’ll willingly show you the rest!
Aldonza

Don Quixote: Never deny thou art Dulcinea.

Take the clouds from your eyes
and see me as I really am!
Aldonza

Those are a portion of the musical lyrics from the song and scene “Aldonza” in the 1972 film Man of La Mancha. Though the beautiful, alluring, prostitute Aldonza is trying to convince Don Quixote that she is not the woman he imagines, it is clear for several reasons that he is not seeing it nor will he accept it. Such is the force of denialism lost in euphoric romance. Emotions have over-powered critical reasoning.

Recognizing Methods of Truthiness, Denialism, or Phobias

This will not be an exhaustive list, but I will spot-light more popular, modern methods of reframing, misdirection, or flagrant deceit by employing pseudo-science or pseudo-historicity (vs. accredited historicity & historiography) that an audience or people are so dazed by the audacity, they may doubt or question their own perceptions of reality. Here are five traits of denialism from the European Journal of Public Health by Paschal Diethelm and Martin McKee:

  1. Pinpointing emotionally based or controversial conspiracies and publicizing those opinions. This would include tainted or polluted peer review or checks-n-balances by other expert colleagues in the subject field. Inversionism is a variant of conspiracy theories which can be utilized.
  2. Employing fake experts or paper-vapor institutions to refute (and slander?) legitimate experts. The internet or world-wide-web is ideal for this tactic.
  3. Specifically isolating or cherry-picking support and sources while ignoring or overlooking exhaustive databases, research studies, and counter-reviews.
  4. Imploring near-impossible or ridiculous standards of confirmation, e.g. the Lenski Affair.
  5. Employing logical fallacies which might include red herrings, straw-men arguments, or false analogies.

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Attacking Intellectualism on the Rise

Why is the majority of the general public gullible and/or naïve to hyped or erroneous influences? Why do celebrity, charismatic personalities attract droves of people to ill-founded causes and misguided, immoral, unethical ideologies? When we are trapped by self-imposed fears and external turmoil caused and funded by targeted propaganda, it becomes easier to simply deny our imperfections and mistakes, as tragic as they might be, in order to feel right instead of the alternative:  shame or embarrassment.

Thomas Jefferson, one of our nation’s Founding Fathers and the 3rd President, opportunistically attacked intellectualism. John Adams, as well as Alexander Hamilton, got into heated debates with Jefferson about democracy and how it should be governed. Jefferson and his political party supported the wisdom of the commoners, a peer review, if you will, to hedge against tyranny and oligarchies or dictators. Adams Sr. and Hamilton, however, knew too well how poorly educated most commoners of that day were to con-men tyrants and charismatic persuasion by corrupt causes and ideologies. Yet, in today’s more advanced, more widely educated populations—primarily in first-world or advancing second-world nations—as opposed to 18th-century America, the mob revolutions in which Jefferson witnessed in his day occur less frequently due to informed early detection by the citizens.

In other words, today there exists exponentially more credentialed “experts” to police Cults of Personality and protect the less fortunate and more gullible against precisely the cunning tyrants Jefferson detested. One difference in today’s pool of experts is that they are all highly specialized in very specific fields of study, possibly two or three, maybe four on a basic level. But not ten or fifteen or more. Being a Nobel Prize winning expert or scholar in ten or more subjects is humanly impossible. Therefore, like it or not, we must… no, we have no choice but to rely on highly trained, vastly experienced professionals, the “intellectuals” in their fields of expertise. In this regard, even Thomas Jefferson fell short. Now, with all due respect to our 3rd President, if we commission a large pool of experts, ala a democracy of intelligent commoners(?), then we could hope Tommy would have approved.

Pessimistic or Vigilant?

Truth does matter. Truth backed up by incontrovertible, scientific or historical facts, repeatable ad infinitum, do indeed exist. In an interview about the movie Denial and her legal run-in with David Irving, Deborah Lipstadt said:

I try to be optimistic about things, but history teaches me that that is not always the case. There are people out there who are very much beguiled by these stories. When I see it seep into the general conversation of people not on extreme ends, that’s when I get worried. This is why it is so important to challenge liars about their lies. Challenge them with the facts.

deborah lipstadtI do have a lot of admiration and respect for what Ms. Lipstadt and her legal team showed and protected regarding accredited scholarship, freedom of speech, and the accountability one must always own in speaking or printing ideas or opinions as facts of science and/or history. She certainly deserves applause and recognition for protecting the atrocious reality of the Nazi Holocaust against saber-rattling, self-proclaimed, self-absorbed, charismatic trouble-makers calling them self a great leader, or reformer, or intellectual. Her victorious feat cannot be denied.

Ms. Lipstadt is Jewish by birth and by all available accounts and information it is reasonable to assume she is still active in practicing her Jewish faith. There is no easily accessible information to the contrary. This leads me to my own question for Ms. Lipstadt in regard to her quote just above.

There are increasing amounts of scholarly and scientific evidence and facts suggesting, even convincingly demonstrating that all three Abrahamic religions are based on beguiling stories which are indeed within general conversations of people not on extreme ends over 2-3 millenia that in the end are hoaxes, gross distortions of historicity, and the three religions worry and cause great concern for a large number of sane, reasonably intelligent secularists and humanists around the world. My question:

Have you or would you, Ms. Lipstadt, put your religious faith to the exact same rigorous scrutiny you afforded the defense of the Holocaust and put bogus Holocaust deniers through?

To my readers, followers, and visitors. Please feel free to share your thoughts, questions, or challenges. They could stimulate an invigorating discussion or debate!

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Steve Green: Fiction, Foolery & Frauds

snake-oil

By now you have likely heard or read about the fake Dead Sea Scrolls or forgeries inside the recently opened Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. The museum was built and stocked by retail chain Hobby Lobby owner and multi-billionaire, evangelical Steve Green. What many might not know or have forgotten is that this foolery is not the first time Steve Green has knowingly bought and promoted fake, fraudulent artifacts from the Classical and Antiquity Eras in the Near East. Similar to the 19th-century Old West medicine and “miracle elixirs” touring-shows of magical tricks, musical acts, jokes, and fantastical storytelling, smarter discerning people today can certainly argue that Mr. Green has an addictive sweet-tooth for fantasy and hoaxes.

In 2011 a FedEx package from an Israeli antiquities dealer labelled “hand-crafted clay tiles” with a stated worth of less than $300 drew the suspicious attention of U.S. Customs officials. They opened it and instead of home or bathroom decor it was 300 cuneiform clay tablets in Assyrian and Babylonian languages stolen in great numbers during the U.S.-Iraqi War and its aftermath over the last few decades then sold on the black market.

In 2014 while visiting the Vatican’s Verbum Domini II exhibit of antique Bibles and Bible-related artifacts, an Italian papyrus expert immediately noticed a tattered fragment containing verses from Galatians 2 written in Coptic. It was being sold on eBay many months earlier by a Turkish dealer known to be unreliable and dishonest. Several of his colleagues believed he was a smuggler of anything that would sell to evangelical buyers, fake or otherwise.

Both the clay tablets and the papyrus were dubiously purchased and owned by Steve Green.

This month Steve Green’s Museum of the Bible was forced to publicly acknowledge that five (and probably seven) of their “Dead Sea Scrolls” are forgeries. Continued scientific examinations on the museum’s remaining scrolls, perhaps other artifacts if the Greens allow, will probably reveal more similar results. Why? Because from 2009 to 2014 word spread rapidly throughout Antiquities dealers (of any sort) in the Near East that authorized dealers of the multi-billionaire Green family were purchasing around 40,000 ancient biblical-religious artifacts for their future museum in Washington D.C. This whirlwind of money and hyper fast-track purchases ignited a buzz in the market never before seen. The New York Times in 2010 reported “[t]he buying [had] also spawned some skepticism about the overall quality of purchases made in such rapid-fire style.

Museum-of-the-Bible

The Hobby Lobby of Biblical Fakes n Frauds” in Washington D.C.

Joel S. Baden of the Yale University School of Divinity described Green’s incompetent acquisitions this way:

Every antiquities seller knew the Greens were buying everything and not asking questions about anything.

Aside from the hap-hazard amateur acquisition methods the Greens employed, there is another serious problem:  the unprincipled, unethical intent to show in their museum fraudulent items as factual originals rather than labeling them modern replicas.

These practices by the Greens soon put them in the cross-hairs of the U.S. Justice Department. Hobby Lobby had to pay a $3-million fine as well as surrender and return the thousands of illegally acquired ancient artifacts from Iraq that were knowingly smuggled into the U.S. by Mr. Green. The Hobby Lobby tycoon, however, has his evangelical agenda working in several other areas of public life.

The Greens have spent massive amounts of money to confuse, redefine, and rewrite our clear Constitutional lines between church and state and their separation. In the 2014 Supreme Court decision of Burwell vs Hobby Lobby, “closely held for-profit” corporations like Hobby Lobby can refuse their employed women contraceptive medicines and/or care which was once mandated by the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The Greens have also funded a controversial nation-wide Biblical curriculum for American public schools as well as dumped millions into private Fundamentalist Christian institutions and colleges domestically and abroad. But this is not all.

The executive director of the Society for Biblical Literature, John Kutsko, speaks to this evangelical corporate movement with heightened concern:

There is no such thing as ‘the’ Bible… We [Americans] are a melting pot, and there are many religions here […] The [Green’s] museum could be a showcase for how we and our texts are different and can coexist peacefully. That would be a wonderful message to bring to bear, particularly in the environment we live in, an environment of absolutists and polarization.

But that is not Green’s intentions as evidenced by his artifact purchases and practices.

There is another disturbing concern:  the simple truth. There are a large number of historical, biblical, archaeological, paleographical, and other scholars and experts, all of which have many decades of study and acclaimed lifetime careers that know too well how “pseudo-biblical archaeology” is replete with amateur scams, frauds, and wild claims meant to prove to buyers and audiences, at least through misleading visuals, that stories in the Bible are historically accurate when in fact they are not. These same scholars and academics are just as bothered by the man hired as the Bible museum’s director who was former director of the outlandish Creation Museum in Kentucky. This further undermines the museum’s credibility. And still there is more disturbing news.

The museum blatantly misleads, even lies about recent American history. In a dramatic promotional video for the museum it alleges that the Founding Fathers designed our government and civil culture to be Bible-centered; that is Christian-centered. The video states that George Washington himself said:

It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.

The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington in Mount Vernon, VA (click here) is a resource for scholarly research about George Washington and the Founding Era, while collecting original Washington books and manuscripts. The library has already determined beyond doubt that this is a misquote or complete fabrication. When Mr. Green and his leadership team were presented with this correction, he was unphased, indifferent and insisted that our U.S. government was purposefully created as Bible-centered; that is Christian-centered. In my May 2015 blog-post The Mistaken Identity of the U.S. I go into great detail — from months and years of research utilizing resources like the Smith National Library – George Washington — about how this belief or fable Mr. Green persists in propagandizing is unfounded and simply not true.

Bible Nation-Moss-BadenAt a 2014 interview at the Vatican, Steve Green imparted a rallying call to Christians, especially evangelicals that The fact of the matter is, the [Bible] is under assault today. It seems to Mr. Green and many Fundy-Evangelical Christians that there are other ways of starting and fighting a Holy War, or Jihad as the militant Islamists would call it, and it is covertly changing this democracy into a theocracy by whatever means necessary, similar again to Islamic nations of today. Based on Steve Green’s practices and museum, theocracizing includes smuggling, deception, diversion, well-funded propaganda that rivals even Joseph Goebbels’ tactics, and most of all the M.O. that the end always justifies the means. Principles of accuracy, due process, fact-verifying, truth or pro-truthiness, doesn’t matter. Force the “right end” to happen whatever the cost, literally.

Mr. Green seems ignorant of his unethical track-record. Being forthright from the very beginning will always be more valuable, more historic to the greater good and demonstrate higher levels of dignity and honor. So I say to all concerned, be astute and warned when you happen upon any involvement with Hobby Lobby or the Museum of the Bible:  their owner, Steve Green, continuously exhibits that he possesses none of the great noble virtues.

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Now, if you are one for euphoric feel-good truths, fly-by-night veracity, and fantastical stories hyping life-changing memories in this life and the next, this is for you: 😎

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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Saul the Apostate – Part IV

 

Continuing from Part III

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“Justice demands that that barbaric superstition should be opposed;
and it is to the interest of the state not to regard that Jewish mob
which at times breaks out in open riots… […]
At one time the Jewish people took up arms against the Romans;
but the gods showed how little they cared for this people,
suffering it to be conquered and made tributary.”
— Cicero, “Pro FlaccoCh. 28, 59 BCE

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The deep permeation of Greek culture into Judaism and the Near and Middle East during late Classical Antiquity cannot be overstated. It was profound. It made its way into early Christianity and into Saul’s Stoic-Gnostic theology. But lets backup a bit first.

The centuries following Alexander the Great’s epic conquests, expansion, and planting of Hellenistic culture throughout the Near East and across the Western hemisphere saw the remarkable flourishing of philosophy, science, art, and governing. It was during the Hellenistic period (323 – 31 BCE) that Archimedes of Syracuse wrote the Earth-changing treatise “On Floating Bodies,” known today in physics as the Archimedes’ Principle. Then Aristarchus formulated the first recorded heliocentric theory, which of course asserted that Earth revolved around the sun. During the Hellenist period, several art forms became less mythological and more realistic, more practical. The most important thing in life, said Epicurus, was the pursuit and attainment of the individual’s pleasure and happiness, known as hedonism, while Stoic philosophy became more mainstream and accessible, including to women, unheard of in many empires around the world then and now.

Hellenism carried over well into the European Middle Ages. Hellenic Jews welcomed Greek influences, represented primarily by the Temple Sadducees. However, traditional or conservative Jews represented by the sects of Pharisees and Essenes in synagogues around the empire, saw Hellenism’s infiltration in some respects as an abomination of God’s Law and Temple. A side-by-side comparison of the two juxtaposed cultures, Mosaic Judaism and Hellenism, points out four major differences:

Judaism v Hellenism

Alexander’s Hellenistic culture was very tolerant of native customs and beliefs. In fact, new Greco-Roman kingdoms often assimilated parts of the indigenous practices as it suited the empire’s needs. Hence, further examination of the Judaic and Hellenic cultures (distinguished above) shows when there is intolerance to flexibility, compromise, wisdom, or adaptability, one small ring or just one person flies off the handle in one or both cultures,  the constant tension becomes a ticking time-bomb. Click here for a revealing Jewish rendition of how an ancient Greek and Hebraic Jew might have discussed their religions in the 1st-century CE.

Let’s return to middle-Hellenism. Enter the false rumor in 168 BCE that Seleucid king Antiochus IV was killed in Egypt. Bitter, disgruntled, and deposed High Priest Jason/Jesus rounds up a Jewish army to attack ascending High Priest Menelaus in Jerusalem. Angry that the Jews started a civil war in his kingdom, Antiochus came down harshly on the Jews executing thousands and banning the practice of their religion forcing them to worship Zeus instead. His heavy bloody hand only infuriated more Jews and thus began the Maccabean Revolt.

During these cultural clashes and shifts, brief independence under the Hasmoneans, other military conquests, defeats, exiles, dispersions into slavery, intermarriages, and mixed offspring, Jews were increasingly mixed into Hellenistic ideals that also reached into their religion, particularly Greek Stoic philosophy. For Pharisaic and Essene Jews, including two centuries later Jewish-Essene Jesus (Part II), this became a sharp schism inside Judaism. But for Saul of Tarsus and Rome in the mid-1st century CE and the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple and last remnants of radical Jewish resistance by the Sicarii at Masada (73 – 74 CE), it was an opportunity for both Hellenism and Saul to rewrite history. The history, not Messianic Jewish history.

Herodian Saul and Hellenism Victorious

Explicit facts about Saul’s/Paul’s family, his Jewish [sic] heritage, and educational backgrounds [sic] (Part I) as well as his involvement in Jewish Merkavah and/or Heikhalat mysticism (Intro to Part II) are masked at best. Most of what is known comes strictly from his 7 – 12(?) canonical epistles and Acts. All of these biblical texts must be read under the overwhelming shadow of the Roman-Hellenist Patristic authorities, editors, and copyists. Why? Between 70 CE and 787 CE (over 700-years!) they had complete and total control of what would become “traditional Christianity.”

Fortunately, for the modern neutral and astute reader of earliest Christianity the canonical NT (the mask) is by no means the only source to gain a more realistic, more accurate picture. It is not a fixed mask. In fact, extra, independent sources that are available (among others) come from a large corpus of Jewish scrolls written between the 4th-century BCE and 5th-century CE found just outside of Jerusalem! They are the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) from Qumran. They offer us an almost stunningly vivid background and context of Second Temple Judaism/Messianism and Sectarianism of late Classical Antiquity in the Levant and around Jerusalem. This 700-year era written about in the DSS from a non-Roman non-Patristic standpoint is an unprecedented broader look into the very soil, seeds, and roots from which earliest Jewish-Christianity sprang. The DSS are an untouched, pure Jewish-Messianic, independent lens on Hellenistic-Herodian Judaism, on Hellenistic Rome and her eventual, Imperial, Pauline Christ-cult.

Publication of Post-1957 Discovered Scrolls Withheld
The first scrolls were discovered in 1946 and ’47. More caves and scrolls were discovered in 1948 – ’49, then more still from 1950 – ’56 totaling over 980 texts from twelve (12) different caves. The first complete photographs (in infrared) of all the texts were made between 1952 – 1967 including the newly discovered scrolls and fragments post-1957. However, due to the political and religious implications of what these texts held, several of the scrolls and fragments were withheld from publication for 30-40 years by a small circle of “established scholars” or what several outsider-scholars have called “The DSS Academic Curia.” The Curia was led by French Dominican priest Roland de Vaux and consisted of just three Hebrew scholars, Józef MilikJohn M. Allegro, and John Strugnell.

By 1956 problems were broiling inside the Curia and outside by historical and biblical scholars wanting access to the DSS. Allegro put the ego-driven controversy quite succinctly in his letter to de Vaux:

It’s a pity that you and your friends cannot conceive of anything written about Christianity without trying to grind some ecclesiastical or non-ecclesiastical axe.

For an outdated, brief introduction about these controversies you can go to this 1993 New York Times article, The Dead Sea Scrolls: Fragile and Remarkable, specifically the 17th paragraph.

Was Saul A Herodian-Jew and Not A Pharisaic-Jew?
If the only testaments you read are the canonical Epistles of Saul/Paul and Acts of the Apostles, of course you’d simply conclude that Saul was “a Hebrew among Hebrews,” descended from the tribe of Benjamin, and educated by Gamaliel in the acclaimed Beit Hillel. But Josephus, the Pseudo-Clementines, and Epiphanius offer a compelling refraction of Saul’s Epistles and his related passages in Acts that with the three aforementioned sources tell a different background and family of Saul-Paul.

In many past blog-posts (e.g. The Incarnation of G-Man) I have made the distinction between Greco-Roman deification or Apotheosis, and Second Temple Jewish Messianism. The two adversaries can never be ignored. This clear distinction can also be appropriately applied geographically in the eastern portions of the Late-Republic to Imperial-Principate Roman Empire (c. 133 BCE – 284 CE).

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From the slides above we see a macrocosm of Hellenism’s expansion and permeation of the entire Mediterranean Basin begun by the Greek Empire and then by the end of the 1st-century BCE, Rome’s version and reinvention of its allure until the eventual decline throughout the 4th and 5th-centuries CE. If you’d like to see the slides independently and enlarged, click here. Rome and her Hellenistic culture gradually swallowed up almost all Sectarian, Torah-loving (Jewish-Essene Jesus) Judaism/Messianism. This extermination of revolutionary Palestinian Messianism was completed after the fall of Masada in 74 CE when the DSS were hidden in the 12 various caves around Qumran. For almost 1,900 years the only Judaism and Christianity the world would ever know was Messiah-killing Hellenistic Judaism or Hellenistic-Roman Christianity… until 1946.

Through the Herodian dynasty (37 BCE – 44 CE) to the complete control of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea by the Roman Empire (44 – 136 CE), most traditional Law-oriented Jews in the Levant had very little patience for Hellenistic Overseas Jews and their distorted ideas and teachers of either a corrupted Temple, Torah, and Messiah(s). They were often referred to as “The Enemy” by Palestinian Jews/Messianism. Saul was clearly an “Enemy” and he knew it. Compare:

Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? — Galatians 4:16

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the [Hellenic] world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the [Hellenic] world becomes an enemy of God. — James 4:4

It is widely accepted that Saul authored Galatians. The epistle of James has traditionally been attributed to James, the brother of Jesus, or at least pseudonymous to him. James’ audience was clearly the Palestinian Messianic followers or otherwise known as Judaeo-Christians. When comparing the two we can infer the stark differences between Overseas Judaism/Messianism and that of Palestinian Judaism/Messianism. And how badly Saul was treated in Syrian and Palestinian synagogues attests to this schism. There’s more.

Terminology like the Enemy, the Liar or Spouter of Lies, Man of Lying, Comedian of Lying (i.e. epileptic?), and some others, was strongly applied to the adversary of “The Righteous Teacher” within the Palestinian Movement and the DSS at Qumran. Saul/Paul again shows familiarity with these terms. In fact, he references them repeatedly in Gal. 1:20, 2 Corinthians 11:31, and Romans 9:1 (to name just three) that he was not a Liar or he does not lie.” This explicitly implies that his groups/churches there have been told that Saul of Tarsus deceives and maligns.

The Enemy” terminology is also quite strong and prevalent in the Pseudo-Clementines. For example, in Homilies in the apparent Epistle of Peter to James the brother in Jerusalem:

For some from among the Gentiles have rejected my legal preaching, attaching themselves to certain lawless and trifling preaching of the man who is my enemy. […]

[The Gentile Enemies] transform my words by certain various interpretations, in order to the dissolution of the law. […]

…the law of God which was spoken by Moses, and was borne witness to by our Lord… for thus he spoke:  “The heavens and the earth shall pass away, but one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law.” (quoting Matt. 5:18) Homilies, Epistle of Peter to James, Ch. 2

Dr. Bart Ehrman describes the significance of this Epistle of Peter to James as a Palestinian counter-balance to the Hellenic canonical NT and Acts of the Apostles:

This book provides the counter-view to that found in the New Testament book of Acts, where Paul and Peter are thought to be completely on the same side and simpatico on every major issue. Not according to this short letter. Here Peter and James are the heroes of the faith, and Paul is the great enemy. 
Bart Ehrman Blog, “Another Forgery in the Name of Peter, April 2013, accessed Oct. 11, 2018

There have been several religious-historical scholars that theorize Simon Magus (of Acts 8) and Saul of Tarsus are one in the same. Accepting this theory is not unreasonable. Consider these side-by-side teachings reported by Irenaeus in his Against Heresies I.23.3 and Saul’s in Galatians:

Iranaeus v Saul

The two comparisons are practically identical. And thus in the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions 1 Ch. 70, Palestinian Judaism/Messianism did not hold Hellenic Saul/Paul in any high esteem due to what he incited earlier at the Temple against James the brother of Jesus regarding “sacrifices” and how Temple worship was conducted by Herodian Priesthood, the two biggest conflicts of the time between Overseas Hellenic Judaism and Palestinian Judaism/Messianism:

While he was thus speaking, and adding more to the same effect, and while James the bishop was refuting him, he began to excite the people and to raise a tumult, so that the people might not be able to hear what was said. Therefore he began to drive all into confusion with shouting, and to undo what had been arranged with much labour, and at the same time to reproach the priests, and to enrage them with revilings and abuse, and, like a madman… […]

Then others also, seeing him, were carried away with like readiness. Then ensued a tumult on either side, of the beating and the beaten. Much blood is shed; there is a confused flight, in the midst of which that enemy attacked James, and threw him headlong from the top of the steps; and supposing him to be dead, he cared not to inflict further violence upon him. Tumult Raised by Saul, Recognitions Book 1 Ch. 70

Saul is saved from this scene by a troop of Roman soldiers, oddly enough protection Jews rarely received unless of Roman aristocracy. Read what even Episcopalian/Catholic ordained Dr. Taylor R. Marshall points out about Saul-Paul of Tarsus here. It is a remarkable read! Furthermore, in the Epiphanius traditions, e.g. Anabathmoi Jacobou or “The Ascents of Jacob,” Saul has a large entourage of Greek-Romans and Roman troops with him during his trip through Caesarea (the seat of the Herodian family by then) then on to Jerusalem to test the recent ban against Herodians and foreigners inside the Temple Mount by, most assuredly, the “zealot” tradition-minded (Jamesian?) Priesthood. This is telling. A simple Hellenist-Jew was never accorded that level of Roman pomp or protection. I ask, is it really anymore compelling why Saul’s true background was so clouded, so overlooked centuries later?

Is there more to Saul’s repulsive reception by Palestinian Judaism/Messianism? Actually there is enough to at the very least question Saul’s true origins, if not rewrite them.

Aside from the angry mob who attacks Saul while trying to enter the Temple in Acts 21:27-29, how Saul acquired his “Roman citizenship” was a very peculiar, suspicious accession. None of the original “Apostles” were ever given Roman citizenship. None of the previously ruling Maccabees were ever awarded citizenship. However, Herodian Jews did indeed receive Roman citizenry. Ironically, Saul himself supports this method of Roman-Herodian citizenship:

Greet Apelles, the approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus. Greet Herodion, my kinsman. — Romans 16:10-11

Dr. Robert Eisenman of Cornell, New York, and Columbia Universities closely examines this possible/probable Saul bloodline saying:

Here, he refers to his “kinsman Herodion,” i.e., “The Littlest Herod” (obviously the son of the Roman Governor Felix mentioned above and the Herodian Princess Drusilla, killed in the eruption of Vesuvius at Pompeii) — whom he introduces with an allusion to another person with a name popular among Herodians, “Aristobulus,” i.e., “the Household of Aristobulus” in Romans 16:10. The “Aristobulus” referred to here may or may not be the “Aristobulus the son of Agrippa I’s brother Herod of Chalcis” mentioned above — the husband of that Salome who plays such a key role, according to Gospel portraiture, in the death of John the Baptist — both of whom advertise themselves on the reverse of their Lesser Armenian Kingdom coinage in “Asia” what “Great Lovers of Caesar” they were! That Paul has powerful relatives of this kind in Jerusalem with a direct entree to the Roman Governor and Soldiery is made crystal clear too by Acts 23:16 which refers — following his rescue by said Troops preceding this — to the role his “nephew” (“his sister’s son”) played in this affair while declining to specifically name him!
— Eisenman, Robert. Breaking the Dead Sea Scrolls Monopoly: A New Interpretation of the Messianic Movement in Palestine

This would explain neatly and nicely why Saul/Paul was so unwelcomed in Palestinian Judaism/Messianism (e.g. Antioch, Damascus) and in Jerusalem by the real students/disciples (pillars) of Jesus who actually knew, lived with, and traveled with him in person. But as my above maps illustrate, in the end for true historicity it did not matter that Palestinian Judaism-Messianism (Jesus’ reforms and teachings) would be lost under Rome’s power and glory. The expansive swallowing effect of Hellenism all throughout the Mediterranean Basin, then adopted by the Roman Empire, and in time absorbed the Overseas (Diaspora) Judaism, Palestinian Law-oriented Judaism/Messianism — the movement begun by Jewish-Essene Jesus that failed — was a doomed minority movement. Plain and simple, becoming an uncomfortable friend to Rome, i.e. Hellenic Apotheosis and Pauline-Christ, had a much better allure than being her nagging, failing enemy.

Accordingly Saul’s Christ-cult was Embraced By Hellenic Pagans/Gentiles
Well before Saul was born and came on the scene, for about two centuries Jewish Synagogues had opened up their worship and teaching to the Gentile/Pagan world with the incorporation of Hellenistic literature and philosophy. This is attested in the Gospels (Matt. 23:15). Uncircumcised, God-fearing Gentile-Jews were already part of many synagogues and communities. This is confirmed in the Talmud. What was typically the confusion about this controversial topic was the naïvety of protecting the Torah and its study, versus the study of the seven Noachian commandments available to all people. The very fact that Saul was unaware of these distinctions — especially claiming Benjamite-Hebrew heritage! — smacks of his highly suspect (fraudulent?) origins or at least implies he is a Herodian-Jew, an outsider, mentally lost and ignorant of these established Jewish practices!

Furthermore, what would the best alternative approach for the centuries-later Hellenic Patristic Fathers to a failed Messiah, who never returns, and the related Messianic prophecies also fail? Dr. James Tabor answers this superbly with his 1997 presentation to the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting here. This is another excellent read!

In a nutshell, Torah-loving, Law-abiding Jewish-Essene Jesus in Palestine was not teaching a diluted, distorted Judaism like was practiced by Hellenic, Herodian pseudo-Jews. When constantly rejected and persecuted by those Torah-abiding Jews in synagogues across the Empire, particularly Palestinian Messianic Jews in the Levant, Saul was forced to reinvent his TL-epileptic “divine revelations” into his own Roman-Christ, his own Roman-church, and his own Roman-Hellenic theology. With his background in mysticism and elements/themes of Gnostic Philo-philosophical strands, the Gentile-pagans (non-Jews) — who couldn’t understand the complicated, law-ridden Jewish practices and customs in the first place — were very open to his “new” religious cult. It appealed more to their Hellenic lifestyle and thinking: God’s blessings and salvation were available to everyone if the death of Christ was embraced, death to this world was embraced, and steadfast blind “faith” in these two precepts (since they were unsupportable anyway) granted one’s spiritual entrance into God’s Kingdom of Earth and Heaven.

Thereafter, pagan Pauline Christology was born and still exists today as a never-ending complexity of diverse, dis-unified theology and practices called Christianity.

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Feel free to share your thoughts and/or questions below over this 5-part series. Kind thanks for your patience and time during this series and its demands to research, authoring, and publishing. It is appreciated.  🙂

Post script — For more details about how and why Christianity is comprehensively problematic, unravels, and collapses on numerous counts beyond its founder Saul of Tarsus, go to my page:  Why Christianity Will Always Fail.

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