Sunday, 12 August 2018

TL:DR: The Genesis Question part fifteen

Hi, Everybody!

5 May 14

Hi Troy and Mia!

Sincere apologies that you're getting two of these at once.  I'm afraid that Kickstarter and THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND ate my week last week.

The citation of Ephesians 3:9, independent of context, seems peculiar to me since it seems to me to be a small part of an extended mediation of the nature of the Christ that continues from early in chapter 2 and through chapter 3.  Even a Reader's Digest distillation turns out to be pretty lengthy.  This definitely seems to me to be the beginning of the theological core of Christianity which originates with Paul

2:4 - the ____ (however God) rich being in mercy, through the much love of Him which He loved us, [5] and being us dead in the falls beside he made alive with to the Christ -- to undeserved kindness you are having been saved --

Paul, it seems to me, is explaining at greater length what is actually intended by the term "grace" or "undeserved kindness".  That it originates in God's love -- agape -- for His creations -- which includes us -- a love of great immensity.  And then contrasts that to who we are and where we are: "in the falls" plural (as contrasted with the notion of there having been a single Fall on the part of Adam).  Everything to the point of the advent of the Christ was a series of falls and now life is being bestowed through the Christ.  I don't, theologically, agree with that.  It seems to me to be a point of origin for anti-Semitism -- without Christ the Jews and all mankind up to the advent of the Christ remain fallen -- but that, it seems to me, is one of those "we'll find out on Judgement Day" things. 

But clearly, even if Paul is misinterpreting God's act in Christ -- that is, even if it's only partly true -- it constitutes an immense expression of God's undeserved kindness towards Christianity and future Christian generations.

[6] and he raised up together and he seated together in the heavenly in Christ Jesus, [7] in order that he might show within in the ages the coming upon the surpassing riches of the undeserved kindness of him in kindness upon us in Christ Jesus."

This is, theologically, contradictory of a core Muslim teaching -- Thou Shalt Not Join Gods With God -- and I would infer is Paul freelancing on the subject.  It depends on what is meant by "in the heavenly".  It seems to partake far more of the Synoptic Jesus teaching, which originates with David's Psalms, of being in the Heavenly Throne with God.  All of us together, which would, it seems to me (trying to maintain as balanced a perspective as I think necessary as to the nature of human beings)  make for a very crowded and degraded Throne.  A recipe for contention rather than redemption and appealing to power-mad instincts that God would share His Authority with us.  I may be unique in this, but I don't really see myself as having anything to add to God's Authority in any context. 

Paul, by contrast, seems to have no hesitation about that as he moves into the third chapter:

"if in fact you heard the house administration of the undeserved kindness of the God of the having been given to me into you [3] that according to revelation was made known to me the mystery, according as I wrote before in little, [4] toward which you are able reading to see mentally the comprehension of me in the mystery of the Christ

I mean, it's a delicate balancing act at best.  "To see mentally the comprehension of me in the mystery of the Christ".  I can see the need for it, excessive and blasphemous as I see it being, in the "raising up" of the entire context.  It needed to be internalized by Christians that they were all IN the mystery of the Christ.  They were all, in effect, Jesus and Jesus was God, therefore, ipso facto, all Christians are, de facto, God Himself.  I suspect, if it hadn't been done that way, it would have been impossible to erect the foundation:  a large body of heretical Jews. And Paul at least seems hesitant about it, seeming to fear imparting the full weight of his revelation "according as I wrote before in little".

And there's a great accuracy to it, as well (in my own frames of reference): the adherence to the YHWH -- which had been in effect since "then did men begin to call upon the name of the YHWH" -- needed to be both supplanted and reinforced by worship of God. 

How do you supplant and reinforce something at the same time? 

Well, as I see it, God did that by making use of the best of the YHWHistic texts -- the occasional redemptive assertions in the Torah lost amid the incoherent vengeance-minded ravings of the YHWH -- and making those the foundation of Christianity.  For most Christians there's only a handful of references in the Law and the Prophets of which they're even vaguely aware and only those that seem to point toward the advent of the Christ.  It allowed for Jewish heresy -- a schism in the Judaic faith -- along a natural fault line:  adherence to good and adherence to evil. 

It wasn't pure -- over the course of centuries, Christianity became naturally thuggish and dictatorial.  Human beings will get that way when they see themselves sharing authority with God over the entire world, sitting in His Throne with Him and passing their own judgements on others:  particularly when they come from barbaric backgrounds -- "the goyim" encompasses a vast swath of pagan humanity after the fall of Rome to the Goths and the Vandals  -- and when their primary grounding in monotheistic theology is hatred of Jews as "Christ killers". 

No, it wasn't pure but it was effective.  It was God "entering in upon His work", having stood back and allowed the YHWH full sway over humanity for literally thousands of years.  There is always, with God, a spectrum of options upon which we are allowed to exercise our free will.  You can adhere to the Synoptic Jesus and Paul and see yourself as being seated at the right hand of God in His throne and passing judgement over everyone who doesn't share your theological "certainties" or you can adhere to the Johannine Jesus and John with his ideology of hierarchies of metaphorical context, explained at considerable length (chapters 13 to 17 of John's Gospel, the Passion narrative, are exclusively concerned with "you are here" teachings:  how the Johannine Jesus relates to the father, how the father relates to God and how the followers of the Johannine Jesus relate to both -- basically "how to be a son of God 101"). 

It's not difficult (at least it doesn't seem difficult to me) to see how Synoptic Jesus Christianity went off the rails:

[5] which to different generations not it was made known to the sons of the men as now it was revealed to the holy apostles of him and to prophets in spirit

I can't say that I doubt that it was "given to" Paul to believe this, but I do think it was specifically intended as a temptation, not only for Paul himself but for succeeding generations of Christians to see themselves as "holy apostles of [H]im" and "prophets in spirit".  Of course to Jews and Muslims (and me, I must add) this is just weirdly, dangerously and frighteningly self-aggrandizing: raising yourself up mentally WAY above any justifiable human level.  And, it's worth pointing out, I think, that it's a temptation whose detrimental effects had begun to subside along about the time of the Reformation, having peaked with the sale of Papal Indulgences, "Get out of Hell Free" cards -- the last station on the "holy apostles of [H]im and to prophets in spirit" co-dictators with God in His Throne railroad.

Paul himself epitomizes the dichotomy with a far more proportionate assertion following directly on the heels of his self-declaration as being one of "the holy apostles to [H]im and to prophets in spirit" 

[6] to be the nations joint heirs and joint body and joint partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the good news, of which I became servant according to the free gift of the undeserved kindness of the God of the having been given to me according to the operation within of the power of Him

This still allows of blasphemous misconstruction but to a far lesser extent. Of course, that depends on what you think the "promise in Christ Jesus through the good news" is:  i.e. being given the power and the authority by God to wreak vengeance on people who don't share your ideology? Paul doesn't say, alluding only to "the operation within":  the mechanism by which God has worked INSIDE of Paul and what Paul infers is God's intention.   

Paul, it seems to me, is still sorting this out for himself.  He appears to feel a full spectrum of  reactions that he attempts to put into words and then feels strongly that he needs to qualify.  A nearly endless process in search of accuracy.

[8] to me the less than the least of all holy ____s was given the undeserved kindness this -- to the nations to declare as good news the not to be traced out riches of the Christ"

That is, he's aware that -- as a prominent former enemy of the Christian revelation -- he was the "less than the least of all holy ___s" in meriting "the operation within" but also seems to understand that this is very much God's point:  "the operation within" can be made accessible to anyone BEGINNING with Paul and that -- at that point -- his human capacity falls short of being able explain further.  WHY was Paul selected?  That, for Paul, falls under the category of the "not to be traced out riches of the Christ".  He knows what happened to him, he knows what it is compelling him to do, but, further than that, he's unable to provide a roadmap.  The riches ARE there, is what he seems to me to be saying.  Receiving a portion of those riches constitutes an "undeserved kindness"  on the part of God whoever you are and whatever "not to be traced out riches" you get and how you get them or don't get them.  It's not matter of, "Okay, first you have to hit the road to Damascus.  And it needs to be a specific road. And when you get to this point in that road, BOOM, 'not to be traced out riches' are yours."

But this is GOOD NEWS is what he appears to be saying.  As mysterious as it is and as much as he can't give you a treasure map, the "not to be traced out riches" are there and they're not just available to Jews, they're equally available to the goyim -- all of the goyim.

Then we come to Mr. Ross' citation: 

Ephesians 3:9 - "and to bring to light what the house administration of the mystery of the ____ having been hidden away from the ages in the God the ___ the all ____s having created"

It's a sprawling statement by which Paul appears to try to sum up everything that he has said in the previous two chapters.  That the purpose of his own Damascene miracle was "to bring to light"…what?  "…what the house administration of the mystery of the…"

(he's already running off the rails in trying to describe it, but he is at least conveying that there is an administration behind it, a house administration.  It's a mystery, but it isn't an incoherent mystery, it's very organized and purposeful: it isn't even possible to analyze what he's saying except fragmentally as I'm trying to do here, that's how mysterious and "beyond words" what he's describing is.)

"the mystery of the ___"  and here he relies on the versatility of the Koine Greek definite article which implies a noun while not supplying it.  He can't provide the noun, but he can suggest an aspect of its nature: "having been hidden away from the ages in the God"  That is, it was not only a mystery but it was hidden away not only from men, generally, but from the ages themselves IN God until there came the time for its revealing. 

But then words appear to fail Paul again.  "having been hidden away from the ages in the God the ___"  Again, there is the necessary reliance on the versatility of the Koine Greek definite article implying a noun that is not supplied. And followed by the same again, only this time in plural form.  There is this thing that was hidden away from the ages in the God that the all (indefinite plural noun) "having created".

It seems this is as specific as he can get.  He knows what happened. He knows what he saw. He knows what he experienced and he knows that it instantly converted him from an enemy of Christianity to one of its greatest proponents.  The point he misses, I think, is that these are the "not to be traced out riches" of the Christ and what he's attempting to do is to trace them out. 

It's only when he abandons trying to explain the nature of the origin point of his revelation and instead discusses what it will cause to happen that he recovers his sense:  

[10] in order that it might be made known now to the governments and to the authorities in the heavenly through the ecclesia the much diversified wisdom of the God

"the governments and to the authorities in the heavenly" is an interesting phrase, suggesting angelic hierarchies (which may or may not be accurate and, again, seems to smack of self-aggrandizement -- that Paul, or men generally, would have the ability to make known anything to the angelic hierarchies they didn't already know) (assuming they exist).  "the much diversified wisdom of the God" is an equally interesting phrase in tandem with it, suggesting as it does that there is much that God knows and is contained in His wisdom which is hidden to all other beings, "governments" and "authorities" until the time of His revealing. 

"through the ecclesia" -- that is, that the purpose of the Christian church will be to reveal these home truths to "the governments and to the authorities in the heavenly" certainly points in the direction of the Papal excesses of the Middle Ages  but is arguably accurate in the general ecclesiastical sense:  without the Christian church, God's "diversified wisdom" would certainly have been revealed as being less "diversified".  

[11] according to purpose of the ages which he made in the Christ Jesus the Lord of us [12] in whom we are having the outspokenness and leading toward in confidence through the faith of him."

This seems problematic to me in self-evident ways:  "the Lord" being the traditional euphemistic expression of the concept of the YHWH and traditionally deemed to be interchangeable with the name of God.  "in whom we are having the outspokenness":  you have to be careful of what you are being outspoken about.  Making a man into the new YHWH and then noising that abroad seems to me to be no great improvement on the status quo.  But, at the same time, how else to keep the YHWH "on board" with the new revelation unless it seems like a recipe for a "pure YHWH" win? 

"in confidence" can become over-confidence, as I think it did in this case.  Faith IN him (Christ Jesus) begin a different thing from the faith OF him. 

Just because you pronounce yourselves to be his followers, doesn't mean that he has faith in you.

Back next week with Hebrews 1:1-14.


Next Time: More letters from Dave! 


Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

This blog used to try to make Dave look sane and smart. Glad that was abandoned as the hopeless task it is, through the simple method of printing his own words.

-- Damian

David Birdsong said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

David B.: Thank you for changing the subject to me from Dave Sim on a blog dedicated to Dave Sim. I can think of no better use of everybody's time! Glad to see you've recognized my intelligence, though; perhaps I can replace Dave as your new Daddy.

That was sarcasm, as was my original comment. (I'm sorry if explaining this to you seems condescending. ("Condescending" means "talking down to people".))

Dave would like to believe that he is a serious thinker with a good grasp of reality. He has demonstrated throughout his life that, except when it comes to North American comics from the 1960s to the 1990s, neither of those things is the case. If you can point me to a single piece of Dave's writing (on non-comics subjects) that does not contain errors of logic or fact or evidence or interpretation, I will be most surprised.

In fact, let's go one better: I'll give Dave three free errors. That still makes his arguments wrong, but it lowers the bar for him to pass the test. Can you find an essay by Dave that contains fewer than four errors?

-- Damian

Culpa said...

What are the five errors in this installment? Please be specific, thanks.

David Birdsong said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Culpa: Some kind soul pointed out to me that you had asked about Dave's errors in the above text, and I said that I would get around to pointing them out. So I started writing a reply, and it got quite lengthy, but then I just gave up. Life is too short to refute this particular stupidity; it's going to have no harm (or, indeed, any effect at all) on the world, so I can't be bothered. If you want to take this as me copping out, you're welcome to. Below is a summary, leaving out my counter-arguments and -proofs, until it stops, for whatever it's worth.

I'll point out your own error: the next number after "three" is "four", not "five". So if I say that Dave gets three free errors in a piece of writing, I would have to find four errors to prove my point. I know: numbers are hard.

Dave's astronomy is wrong. For example, Dave writes, "And of those spirits there were some which multiplied onely [sic] and there were some which multiplied and then merged." Dave says these are, respectively, hydrogen and helium. But the hydrogen in the sun is not multiplying; indeed, the hydrogen is being used up as fusion converts it to helium. I can't recall the proportions offhand, but the core of the sun used to be mostly hydrogen and is now mostly helium.

Dave's Biblical scholarship is wrong. Is the mangled bit of Ephesians Dave trying his boneheaded method of translation, where he looks up Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic in a dictionary and translates the sentences word by word, or is that a direct quote from Ross's writing to which Dave is replying? Regardless, Dave seems to think he gains increased access to the real meaning of the source material somehow by this method. But that's not how translation works. Anyway, Ephesians is one of the more problematic Pauline texts -- probably not written by Paul at all. Dave ignores 2,000 years of actual Biblical scholarship -- attempts to grapple with various versions of various texts -- because he thinks it's corrupt and he's the only person ever to understand it.

Dave's logic is wrong. Nowhere in Ephesians does the text imply that God will share his authority with anyone; indeed, the text repeatedly affirms that God is above all. "Christians are Jesus, and Jesus is God, therefore Christians are God," is just not a reasonable inference from the text. Dave is inventing, not interpreting.

Dave's beliefs are wrong. There's no living creature in the centre of the Earth, and it's not been scientifically proven that God exists. He invented a conflict between God and YHWH, and attributed all the bits he likes to the former and all the bits he doesn't like to the latter. He also invented two different Jesuses (just like Estarcion had two different Oscar Wildes), and did the same thing.

Mouse Skull Entertainment said...


I strongly suspect that Dave basically reinvented Zoroastrianism.

(I mean Zoroastrianism infests the Abrahamian religions.)

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Matt: I don't really know anything about Zoroastrianism. Thanks for a new line of inquiry. To the Google Machine!

-- Damian

Mouse Skull Entertainment said...


The jist is that there's god, who's everything that's good. And then there's god's adversary, who's everything that's bad. God trapped his adversary in the physical universe. And... something. The names are different, but Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion in Person, pre-Islam.


Mouse Skull Entertainment said...

Persia, not person.

Stupid autocorrect...