31 March 2017

Something Must Have Gone Well Today [2003]

[Passage from my journal, 31 March/1 April 2003]
12:27 n PST—I got up some time in the evening, not having slept all that well, and screwed around. I guess this is another day pissed away, though it seemed like I was getting things done or something. I watched war coverage; it looks as though something must have gone well today; Rumsfeld was back to his old self, chipper and making the idiotic comments he thinks of as jokes. Saddam Hussein issued through a subordinate (allegedly anyway) a statement calling on all Muslims to rise up against the invader, seemingly an act of desperation, but he must have been desperate for some time now. Always assuming that he is actually alive. It’s always possible that Bush II and company really do know something; God knows they have the resources to, should they choose to use them. Fooey.

30 March 2017

Innocent Mix-Up [2006]

[Originally posted 30 March 2006]
oward Kaloogian, a Californian candidate for Congress, boldly charges that newspapers are misrepresenting the situation in Iraq—that things there are much more peaceful than represented. “…each day the news media finds [sic] any violence occurring in the country and screams and shouts about it—in part because many journalists are opposed to the U.S. effort to fight terrorism.” In proof he shows a picture of a peaceful street scene, complete with western tourists, billboards, and a taxi, captioned “We took this photo of downtown Baghdad while we were in Iraq. Iraq (including Baghdad) is much more calm and stable than what many people believe it to be.” (House Candidate Draws Fire for Web Photo - Yahoo! News)
The trouble is, the picture that was supposed to be of Baghdad was actually taken in a suburb of Istanbul. This is somewhat akin to claiming that all is quiet on the streets of Paris and showing as proof a street scene taken in Helsinki.
The utter contempt this shows for the facts is breathtaking in its scope. The amazing thing is that the candidate thought he could get away with it.
It's not even a good fake—nothing is right about it for Iraq. The signs aren’t even in Arabic script.
When it was called to the candidate’s attention, did he apologize? Well, yes, sort of. “It was wrong,” he is quoted as saying. “We’re sorry.” Who he’s apologizing to and for what isn’t clear however. He’s not sorry about misleading the American people, apparently, since he reasserts his original claims the fake picture was intended to bolster. He’s not apologizing for the hypocrisy of blaming news media for the lying that he himself was in fact doing.
In explanation of the lie he was caught in he says that “the military asked us to use our discretion and put things on the Internet that were nondescriptive … (because) if we posted something that was easily identifiable, it could be a target.” This somehow justifies claiming that Istanbul was somehow Baghdad? Does Kaloogian think that all foreign cities are one and the same? Or that his readers will think that? If the one is justified by military necessity in some manner, then why not simply take a picture of downtown San Francisco and label it Baghdad? The idiocy of this is beyond belief, and several light years past justification.
Or then there’s his other explanation—the old I’m-not-lying-just-stupid defense so beloved by former president Ronald Reagan. It was just an “innocent mix-up”; that pictures from a stop in Istanbul got confused with those taken in Baghdad and apparently nobody in his self-described “Truth Tour” had the wit to tell the difference.
If he and his buddies are really that downright dumb, they should be listening to what their betters have to say rather than trying to instruct the American people from the depths of their vast ignorance.
And if he is as he appears to be—just another goddamn right-wing lying whore—then he should get the hell out of politics and take up something more in his line. Insurance fraud, perhaps.
[The original linked source no longer exists; as an alternate here is an editorial by Brian Whitaker that gives the basic information]

29 March 2017

Dubious Documents: The Case of the “Bible of the Revolution” [2007]

[Original version posted 29 March 2007]
ne of the many unfinished projects I lost a few years back along with a large part of my library (collected over many years) was something I had tentatively titled Dubious Documents. The chain of links between the creation and reception of a text is fraught with peril, and errors in transmission, translation, and interpretation can render a document toxic. The idea was to examine a number of documents that aren't what they’re cracked up to be, and to see what exactly went wrong in each case. One of the texts I was considering is the (so-called) Bible of the Revolution, the 1782 Bible printed by Robert Aitken.
Now my files are lost, I have no office, and my notes are irretrievably gone, but in this case, however, I really lucked out. Somehow or other I stumbled onto an account of the “Bible of the Revolution” by Chris Rodda, the author of Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History.
What Chris Rodda has done is extremely neat, and I hope more authors in the future follow up on this approach. She put her footnotes on line. I can't emphasize this enough—she has given us her sources, and not just simple citations, but actual images of pages or documents so that the readers can examine her evidence directly for themselves. This practice alone, if followed by others (I’m looking at you, David Barton), would eliminate much bogus scholarship—cargo-cult scholarship I called it once in connection with those who support the so-called Byzantine Majority Text of the New Testament.
So in this case I want to emphasize that whatever research I may have done in the past on this subject, for this piece I acknowledge that I started by simply taking Chris Rodda's research as the basis for my account. (Not of course that she’s in any way responsible for my take on the issues involved.)
Okay, so what's the story on the Bible of the Revolution? What is the shadow that hangs over it? This version comes from William Federer’s America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations:
Robert Aitken (1734-1802), on January 21, 1781, as publisher of The Pennsylvania Magazine, petitioned Congress for permission to print Bibles, since there was a shortage of Bibles in America due to the Revolutionary War interrupting trade with England. The Continental Congress, September 10, 1782, in response to the shortage of Bibles, approved and recommended to the people that The Holy Bible be printed by Robert Aitken of Philadelphia. This first American Bible was to be “a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools”.
The story has been around for awhile. It got a boost in 1930 when two guys had one of these rare bibles dismembered and the pages individually bound along with an account of this story and facsimiles of related documents. Chris Rodda cites one account (W. P. Strickland, History of the American Bible Society from its Organization to the Present Time) from 1849:
In 1781, when, from the existence of the war, an English Bible could not be imported, and no opinion could be formed how long the obstruction might continue, the subject of printing the Bible was again presented to Congress, and it was, on motion, referred to a committee of three.
The committee, after giving the subject a careful investigation, recommended to Congress an edition printed by Robert Aitken, of Philadelphia; whereupon it was “Resolved, That the United States, in Congress assembled, highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interests of religion; and being satisfied of the care and accuracy of the execution of the work, recommend this edition to the inhabitants of the United States.”
What is particularly interesting is that this account gives the text of a key document in the story, the actual resolution by Congress. The document is a bit puzzling, however, in that Congress merely approves Aitken’s undertaking, and recommends his volume. What practical effect this might have is unclear. Also the document as printed doesn’t have that line in it about it being a neat edition for use in schools given in the later account.
Now fortunately—and this isn't always the case with historical documents, far from it—the original archives still survive. So in this case we can check the text of this version against the original, and when we do, we find that the text of this document has been unaccountably garbled in transmission. The resolution actually read:
Whereupon, Resolved, That the United States in Congress assembled, highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion as well as an instance of the progress of arts in this country, and being satisfied of the care and accuracy in the execution of the work, they recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States, and hereby authorise him to publish this recommendation in the manner he shall think proper. [passages omitted by Strickland in bold]
The first thing that jumps out—and this is a low end version of what is called redaction criticism—is that the Strickland version omits two key passages—the first giving a secular reason for Congress’s action (“an instance of the progress of arts in this country”), and the second giving a practical consequence of the resolution (Aitken is authorized to publish the recommendation of Congress based on the care and accuracy taken in the work). The editing of the text appears to have been done to give the impression that Congress was more intimately involved with the project than it was—to make it look, in fact, as though Congress was sponsoring Aitken’s bible. The surrounding text shows that is exactly what Strickland wants us to understand, and his conclusion is especially striking:
Who, in view of this fact, will call in question the assertion that this is a Bible nation? Who will charge the government with indifference to religion, when the first Congress of the States assumed all the rights and performed all the duties of a Bible Society long before such an institution had an existence in the world!
The changes, in other words, help make the document support Strickland’s position. Whether he is the perpetrator of this new version of the Congressional resolution, or merely a victim of some other editor, is immaterial. The key point is that the text was altered, and that the alteration was made in the interest of religious politics.
Which, in turn, casts some doubt on the rest of the story. Fortunately, we don’t have to leave it there. The documents exist and give us that story. Remember that phrase about the Aitken Bible being a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures intended for schools? That wasn’t in the resolution. Where did it come from? It came from a record of Congress, says one source, which is technically true (though extremely misleading). It came, in fact, from a memorial of Robert Aitken of the city of Philadelphia, printer, to the Congress of the United States. He started by noting
That in every well regulated Government in Christendom The Sacred Books of the Old and New Testament, Commonly called the Holy Bible, Are printed and published under the Authority of the Sovereign Powers, in order to prevent the fatal confusion that would arise, and the alarming Injuries the Christian Faith might Suffer from the spurious and erroneous Editions of Divine Revelation.
Aitken, in other words, was thinking of the United States as functioning somewhat in the manner of England, which had an officially established church, and in which publishing the authorized version of the bible was a prerogative of the Crown. He then goes on
That your Memorialist has no doubt but this w[ould] be an Object worthy the attention of the Congress of the United States of America, who will not Neglect spiritual security, while they are virtuously contending for temporal Blessings. Under this persuasion your Memorialist begs leave to inform your Honours, That he hath begun and made considerable progress in a neat Edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools, but being cautious of suffering his copy of the Bible to Issue forth without the sanction of Congress, Humbly prays that your Honours would take this important Matter into serious consideration & would be pleased to appoint one Member or Members of your Honourable Body to inspect his work so that the same may be published under the authority of Congress. And further your Memorialist prays, that he may be Commissioned or other wise appointed & authorised to print and vend Editions of the Sacred Scriptures, in Such manner and form as may best suit the wants and demands of the good people of these States, provided the same be in all things perfectly consonant to the Scriptures as heretofore Established and received amongst us, And as in Duty bound your Memorialist shall ever pray
So it looks as if Robert Aitken, printer, had visions of being the authorized bible publisher for the new nation, “appointed ... to print and vend Editions of the Sacred Scriptures”; the possibility of getting the contract for supplying school bibles must have seemed especially attractive. He seems to have been traditional enough not to want anything to do with an edition that was not “perfectly consonant to the Scriptures as heretofore Established”. I find this proviso interesting. Did he imagine that Congress might come up with its own version of the Holy Scriptures? It seems to speak of a certain lack of confidence in the soundness of their religion, anyway.
So, how did Congress respond to these requests? Did it recommend that Aitken’s bible be used in schools? Well, no. Did it commission Robert Aitken, printer, to print and vend editions of the Holy Scriptures? Again, no. Did it have the work published under its authority? Once again, no. What Congress did was have the chaplains check the book for accuracy, and allow Aitken to publish a statement that Congress found it to be carefully and accurately done. And that’s all Congress did. They pointedly did not authorize its use in schools, for example. In the end Congress did not even buy copies for distribution to the troops, as Aitken hoped. The edition lost money, and its poor sales are the reason it is so rare today.
Documents become corrupt for a variety of reasons. This example at least shows how religious politics can distort the text of one document, cloud the origins of another, and at least imply an authority for a third that it never possessed. In point of fact the “Bible of the Revolution” is simply a failed speculation on the part of an obscure printer in the late eighteenth century.

28 March 2017

Slice of Life [1961]

[Scene, 28 March 1961; I was the Oldest Son in this little drama]
[As the curtain rises, the door is just closing behind the Father, who has a couple of little things to finish up at work. The children are vomiting, more or less in unison, but without much interest. One cat is pawing suspiciously at a stack of manuscript pages on the corner of a table stage left, and the other cat is pushing a loaded ash tray off the television set. The Mother of the house is a woman in her late fifties, or possibly early thirties, whose period is eight days overdue and who has given away all her maternity clothes. She is seated near the table stage left, keening. A Katie Lee record can be heard playing in the background.]
Oldest Son: It certainly is a relief to have that over with. I had no idea that a person felt so much better after they were through being sick, if you know what I mean.
Mother: Oooooooooooh.
Second Son: [to Mother] It’s quite surprising, it really is, Elsie. Unless you’ve been through it, you just don’t know.
Youngest Son: Be quiet, everybody. I can’t hear the record. [Turns up the volume so all can hear the words “Life is just a bed of neuroses” clearly.] My favorite song.
Mother: Ooooooooooh.
Youngest Son: Be quiet, I said.
Second Son: By the way, we’re out of Kleenex and paper towels, and I think we’re out—yes, we’re out of toilet paper. Are you going to use the mop, or what?
Mother: Ooooooooooh.
Second Son: There must be something we can think of for you to do.
Mother: [slowly] Yes, there is … something … I can think of to do. … I can go out … through … the only door I can get to without … stepping in anything. [Exit, gingerly, stage left.]
Oldest Son: [Following her] It certainly is a relief to have that over with. Everybody is certainly going to feel much better now that … [trails off]

27 March 2017

Much Ado About Porridge [1970]

[Written 27 March 1970]
[Thunder. Enter Goldilocks]

Gold: Blow winds, blow; hurl thy sulph’rous fires;
Let loose thy cataracts of furious water
Till all the earth is drenched, till Neptune’s realm
Doth overflow the land. With thunderbolt
And lightning strike the palaces of kings,
Tear sun and moon from sky, break mountains down,
Level the earth, till all lies dead and ruined.
[She pauses]
What use is there, to rail on the element?
The horrid thunder, nor the roaring wind
The sheets of fire, nor the blasting rain—
The senseless elements will neither hear me
Nor be my ministers. I should do better
To seek some shelter. [thunder] This night’s tyranny
Is more than man can bear. But what rude hut
Doth meet my gaze? Perhaps beneath this roof
Some shelter may I find to put some shield
Between ungentle heavens and myself. [She goes in]

[Enter three bears]

2 Bear: A fierce and horrid night you picked to walk.

1 Bear: How could I well predict the heaven’s fury
The monstrous storm, disorders ’mongst the spheres?
When all the gods to choose to hurl chaos
At we poor mortals, crawling on the earth
Beneath their gaze, should I be called to account?

2 Bear: These late eclipses of the sun and moon
Did presage some great evil.

3 Bear: [aside] Ay, they blame their own defects on the unoffending planets.

1 Bear: Didst thou speak?

3 Bear: I said nothing.

1 Bear: Nothing will come of nothing.

2 Bear: Last night a dream did greatly trouble my soul.
Methought a bolt of lightning struck this house
And toads did croak (their rusty voices seemed
To shake the world); creeping things did crawl,
And bats did fly. But groaning voices spoke
Saying, Beware. And then a head of gold
Arose from ashes—

1 Bear: Woman, be silent. Thy dreams always augur ill.
Let us go in.

3 Bear: Ay, and quickly too. I am soaked and half frozen, and the other half like to be food for crows.

[they go in]

[Enter Goldilocks]

Gold: That meal that I ate did warm my bones,
Yet still within me I feel some unease.
Last night a lioness bore in the streets
A two-headed cub, alive and all the while
Ghosts did shriek and fiery warriors fought
And old graves yawned, and yielded up their dead.
A burning comet hurtled through the air
And fell into a pond outside my house.
Can these disorders mean me any good?
When comets die, there are no dangers feared
The heavens themselves protect the lives of men.
So I shall rest. [She goes within]

[enter 2 Bear]
2 Bear: Help! Thieves! Murder! My porridge stolen,
The chairs thrown and broken, the house disordered
And all as still as death!

[Enter 1 Bear]
1 Bear: Quick, let us seek the malefactor out—we
Have not sought throughout the house.

3 Bear: [within] Help, O help, a fiend!

[Goldilocks in bed discovered]

3 Bear: See, I have discovered the culprit.

1 Bear: O monstrous villain! False woman! Accursed fiend.
Thou art as opposite to every good
As the antipodes are unto us.
Or as the South to the septentrion.

Gold: [aside] I think tis time to leave this woeful stage.

1 Bear: Woman, thou art on thy death bed.

Gold: But not yet to die. [She leaps up]

1 Bear: Stop! Halt!

Gold: I am gone forever! [Exit, pursued by a bear]

26 March 2017

The Deep Game

he collapse of La Tromperie’s ill-thought-out attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act with something his base would like better should put paid to the notion that Our Elected President is playing some sort of deep game. We put a guy with no relevant experience into the driver’s seat of the big rig we’re all riding in on the strength of his looking so good in the bumper cars at the amusement park, and we’re getting pretty much the results you’d expect. The guy likes to beep the horn and play with the lights, but is in way over his head when it comes to dealing with the traffic on the open highway.
It makes me kind of glad I never finished (let alone posted) some of my earlier entries in the forty-fifth presidency—like my “Give Trump a Chance” piece in which I suggested he might rise to the occasion and surprise us all. Not that I actually expected that, but I really wanted to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. Surely somebody wouldn’t go to all the trouble of running for president, deluding millions of people into supporting him by making false promises, just to loot the public coffers and otherwise use his position for his own financial gain, right?
Okay, that’s actually what I did believe, but I was sure hoping to be proved wrong.

25 March 2017

Last Day of Vacation [1979]

[Passage from my journal, 25 March 1979]
—On this last day of vacation I am taking out a little time to write to my folks. Nothing worth mentioning is happening here—I spent the last few days at my aunt’s reading and so forth. I am thinking of enclosing a xerox of the long-lost Wasp chapter of Through the Looking Glass and telling them to put it somewhere safe—I hope they don’t lose it.
I got my story sent out to ASF. I wish the MS didn’t look so unprofessional, what with the machine and all, but what the fuck. Maybe it will change my luck a little. If my fairly decent manuscript was rejected repeatedly, maybe an awful one will make it. I revised it too, in a couple of places, for what that’s worth. It won’t make the difference between a sale and a rejection slip, but the product may as well be as close as possible to the best I can turn out.
10:18 pm PST—I’m feeling something I haven’t felt in years, the old Like-On-Sunday feeling of end of vacation, irreparable loss, loss of self, return of the hellish ordinary world. It’s over. I’ve been mildly down the last couple of days.
And I wish to God I had never come here to this appalling place, that I had never decided to go back to school, that none of this had ever happened. Why the hell didn’t I have the guts to pull that trigger a year ago? Why did I live to see 27, let alone 28? Yeah, smile you fucking bastard looking over my shoulder as I write this, you social worker, historian, psychologist, or future self, smile and be damned to you.
I guess I should count my blessings. At least I’m not depressed, not yet anyway.

24 March 2017

A Good Old-Fashioned Imperialistic War [2003]

[From my pre-weblog, 24 March 2003]
 never thought I’d get to see an actual good old-fashioned imperialistic war myself, the kind they used to have in the nineteenth century, but here we are. The US invaded a small country on the flimsiest of pretexts, out of fear that the government of that country might choose to use its weapons of mass destruction some time or other (weapons which it claims—though without verification—to have destroyed), or it might pass on said weapons to a third party, perhaps a terrorist group with which it is on the most unfriendly of terms. Coincidentally the country in question happens to have the second largest known reserves of oil, the substance that still runs all the world’s economies. It’s a bit thick, no matter how you cut it—and I say that as a long-time hater and despiser of all things Saddam Hussein, even back when he was our friend and ally.
The invasion seems to me to be going fairly well, all things considered, though apparently the public (at least) was surprised that the Iraqis didn’t welcome the troops with open arms. More disturbing are the reports that the Bush II administration was surprised by this. All you have to do is put yourself in their shoes—are they going to welcome an invader? Or rather rally behind their leader, bad as he may be? The answer to me at least seems obvious. One Iraqi (an expatriate I think) observed that he was all for liberating Iraq; he just felt that the Iraqis should do it themselves. I would expect that to be the attitude.
Also disturbing is this bizarre insistence by the US authorities that Saddam Hussein is too dead or wounded, no matter how many times he appears on TV. Maybe they know what they’re talking about, and when all the cards are on the table we’ll see that they were right all along, but right now it’s embarrassing. It looks to me, and I think to the world, like Rumsfeld (or whoever was responsible for that hare-brained gun-jumping that started the invasion) is determined to justify the decision somehow, and just can’t admit that it didn’t pay off. I admit that I was suspicious of that first appearance myself, but the explanation is getting more and more strained to explain subsequent appearances. Sure, maybe Hussein anticipated his death or injury and put together a series of taped appearances in advance, allowing for different possible future scenarios, but gee whiz, how many people would actually do that? I might, maybe, but it’s not the normal approach. Anyway I wish they’d drop it and move on.
The Iraqis have been handling their press conferences fairly well up to now, with their making good their claims of having prisoners of war, and a downed helicopter, and so on and so forth. But today one of the officials announced that the Americans were running away from battles, which doesn’t even seem like good propaganda to me, in that we can see them on TV (thanks to the “embedded” journalists) and they’re not running. Lots of other screwed up things are happening (as they do in war) but not that.
And another thing—this “shock and awe” campaign sure seems to have fizzled. At the very least it has failed to live up to the advance booking, and I frankly think it has been a colossal failure, no matter how much the authorities claim otherwise. But the troops continue to advance, and the invasion grinds on, and really, things seem to me to be in pretty good shape.

23 March 2017

The Development of the Gospel of Mark [1999]

[Written 22–23 March 1999, with 2017 updates in brackets]
ne of the things I’ve been playing with for the last bit is a commentary on the Gospel of Mark, sort of what the Anchor Bible ought to have done instead of that crap they actually did. [This refers to the 1986 C. S. Mann commentary, not the excellent 2000 Joel Marcus commentary that replaced it.] God, what a waste. My commentary would be based on the assumption that Mark went through at least three stages—a pre-canonical stage (the version used by Matthew and presumably Luke), Secret Mark, and canonical Mark. [The Secret Mark stage is not necessary if the Clement of Alexandria letter discovered by Morton Smith is a twentieth-century forgery, as has been rather unconvincingly charged.] Personally I think an earlier stage yet is also detectable, in that there are episodes (the feeding of the four thousand, the rejection at Nazareth, the death of John the Baptist, for example) not in Luke’s Mark it seems to me. Luke either leaves them out altogether or substitutes a late version probably from an oral tradition. Behind Mark I can de­tect a couple of sources maybe from the 40s—the Controversies Source (akin to that sequence in the Recognitions in which mem­bers of various sects raise their particular objections) and a passion narrative also used (as I see it) in John and Peter. I suggest that the peculiar situation we find among the various Passion Narratives where now one and now another appears to be more primitive reflects developments—a long series of developments—before we ever get to the canonical (and quasi-canonical) stages. So anyway this suggests the following:
(1)    Sources: at least the Controversies Source and the Pas­sion Narrative. [In my current understanding I would delete the Passion Narrative as such and add two sequences of stories covering Jesus’ career from John the Baptist to (presumably) the resurrection, arbitrarily designated Form A and Form B. Form A lies behind Mk 1:5–6, 1:16–20, 6:1–6a, 6:45–52, 6:53–56(?), 7:24–30, 8:1–10, 8:22–26(?), and various bits of the Passion Narrative. Form B lies behind Mk 1:2–4, 2:13–17, 3:19b–35, 4:35–41, 5:1–20(?), 5:21–43, 6:30–44, 10:46–52(?), and likewise various bits of the Passion Narrative. A Form C lies behind certain stories in John.]
(2)    Mark I [Proto-Mark]: As used by Luke. Missing a long sequence as well as scattered stories elsewhere, but including a longer ver­sion of John’s prophecy and the temptation. [In my current understanding Form B was expanded by the addition of the Controversies Document, a Capernaum sequence, a collection of parables, the Synoptic Apocalypse (assuming it wasn’t the conclusion of the Controversies Document), and other items to form Proto-Mark, which (along with Q) was one of Luke’s major sources. Luke, conscious of its (apparent) defects, attempted to supply certain stories (the call of Peter, the rejection at Nazareth, etc) from oral tradition.]
(3)    Mark II: As used by Matthew. Reshaped, by the addition of stories like the call of the first disciples and the rejection at Nazareth, and by the addition of a long duplicate sequence including the feeding of the four thousand. [In my current understanding Form A (like Form B) was expanded by the addition of other material, including a source discussing defilement, signs, and leaven; an editor created Mark by combining Proto-Mark with the expanded Form A. This early version of Mark was used by Matthew.]
(4)    Mark III: In my view, Carpocration Mark. At least the story of the raising of the young man (presumably with the “naked man with naked man” bit), as well as further bits and pieces, some of which are still in the document. [While the possible existence of variant forms of Mark used in Alexandria provides hypothetical insights into the final stages of the document, until there is more solid evidence that Clement of Alexandria did in fact write the letter in question, I prefer to leave it out of consideration.]
(5)    Mark IV: Secret Mark—an attempt to counter Carpocratian Mark by pulling out some objectionable material, but still leav­ing some in. [Again, until there is more convincing evidence that Secret Mark ever existed, I am inclined to leave it out of consideration.]
(6)    Mark V: Canonical Mark—a still further attempt to re­move objectionable material from Secret Mark. [Canonical Mark differs from the early form Matthew used in several particulars—the extreme abbreviation of the temptation narrative (1:12–13), the addition of the saying about the Sabbath being made for man (2:27), the addition of the parable about the seed growing secretly (4:26–29), the reference to James and John being called sons of thunder (6:17), and so on. The manuscript from which it was derived appears to have been very defective; it begins and ends in mid-sentence, implying that both the beginning and ending are missing. It should be noted, however, that the differences between it and the form Matthew had in front of him are clearly minor—nothing like the differences between either of them and Proto-Mark, for instance.]
Another point for the commentary on Mark is the issue of Papias’s bizarre remarks on the origin of something or other that may bear on our gospel. As usual here, I’m working from memory, but the point is that Papias says that Mark is based on what Peter used to say (Mark was an “interpreter” of Peter (whatever that means) and used to follow him about writing things down as he spoke), and that Matthew is oracles in Hebrew. None of this sounds very promising in regard to our gospels. It is painfully obvious that his story about Matthew is not about our gospel (whatever the later church writers have to say about it), and frankly, I doubt that his remarks on Mark have anything to do with our Mark ei­ther. I mean, does our Mark look like the reminiscences of Pe­ter? I’d be looking for something more like the Kerygma Petrou—something Petrine at the very least. Even the Gospel of Peter seems more promising. What I think happened is—well, when the early church writers were looking for pedigrees for their anony­mous gospels they latched onto these remarks of Papias that had nothing to do with anything, and applied them inappropriately to our present works. In my view Papias gives us some interesting information about certain early lost Christian writings, but tells us nothing about the origins of our present gospels—and worse yet, since the various church fathers are clearly dependent on Papias for their versions of the origin of Mark, we lose all information on their origins. The other alternative is that Papias, who is demonstrably badly wrong on Matthew, is simply thoroughly unreliable. That whatever tradition existed had been thoroughly corrupted by his time, and that therefore anything he has to say on the subject is probably completely worthless. But I prefer the first option; I think Papias is writing about unknown early Christian works that have no connection to our pres­ent gospels. [I now lean toward the second option, but in any case the only reliable information we have on the origins of the gospels is what we can see for ourselves in the documents as they have come down to us, and in their literary interconnections. The stories recorded by the early writers are demonstrably wrong, and have to be disregarded.]

22 March 2017

Government Cheese [1984]

[From my pre-weblog, 22 March 1984]
’m watching satellite news twenty-four hours a day now, god knows why. Sleeping fitfully with that goddamn eye on the world glaring at me, bringing me live coverage of trials, congressional debates, and relentlessly updated news. I woke up the other day in the middle of the Senate vote on school prayer, a bad idea whose time has long since gone.
What extraordinary things people say they believe on TV! I see a woman who claims that it is impossible to force someone to engage in oral sex, a man who claims that no woman in this coun­try is afraid to report a rape, another man who says there is nothing wrong in appointing people to important positions in the government in return for cash. I see millions of people support­ing a president who has brought us defeat and disgrace in the Middle East, increased pollution throughout the nation, increased poverty, hunger, acid rain, unemployment, debt—fucking hell with it.
I stood for three-quarters of an hour the other day in a cheese line and watched prosperous middle-class women claim food intended for the starving (“Hey, our tax-dollars paid for this, right? We have a right to it…”). Nobody cares. It’s all propaganda, that’s all. Newspapers claim that a vast array of goods are going forth—cheese and butter and cornmeal and all kinds of good stuff—but when you get there all there is is pow­dered milk.
Peace talks collapse in Switzerland, Libya bombs Sudan, and a kidnapper is murdered before my eyes. Reagan defends Meese. Soviet and U.S. ships collide at sea, Iraq gasses Iran, and a kidnapper is murdered before my eyes. New Bedford protests (not the rape, but the conviction of the rapists), Jerry Falwell threatens, and a kidnapper is murdered before my eyes. Every fucking hour a kidnapper is murdered in front of me, and I don’t know if I even wanted to see it once.

21 March 2017

Supper of Sorts [1992]

[passage from my journal, 21/22 March 1992]
 after 8:29 m PST—Today. I got up around 6pm or so. My father was here, and he told me that my brother and the children had just taken off. He had bought some new toys—a tv for me and a small gas grill for the household. We had a supper of sorts here; leftover cabbage, potato, and corned beef, with some newly-steamed asparagus. The pleasure of the day was somewhat muted by our discovery that our pet spider had died—a pretty striped-legged creature that has lived in our kitchen window for about a year. My father took off for Canby after a bit, and I worked some on family documents [my great-uncle’s cricket poisoning account for one], and watched tv. I tried to watch Americathon, but our copy was so bad that I couldn’t stand it for long. We have to get a replacement, I guess. I’ve been screwing around recently with the so-called intertestamental period again; get­ting nowhere, but enjoying it. I started feeding Milik’s trans­lation of Aramaic Enoch into the word-mangler here, in hopes of having it available when needed.

20 March 2017

Three of My Cues Had Been Cut [1969]

[Passages from my journal, 20 March 1969]
8:06 am PST—So far today I arose, ate eggs and toast for breakfast, and left for school. I left somewhat late, due to the fact that I couldn’t find my Bi­ble. There were 47 people on the bus. Day 128. I’m in Advisory. 24 minutes to go.
12:12 pm PST—I went to Latin and watched a couple of chess games. There was a substitute for Mr. Bonnell there.
12:50 pm PST—I continued with perseverance unto Math. Not much happened—Chris left in the middle of the period. At the end of the period I went on to Contempt. For the first forty minutes or less we saw a film on the middle-east. This succeeded in boring me completely. When it ended, Connie presented a series of partially true, mainly distorted, partially false views that were supposed to represent the Arab view of the Israeli situation. It did little or no credit to Arab intelli­gence. They are supposed to have been presented by a man from Lebanon. One of the worst errors was that the Zionist movement was simply an imperialistic expansionist movement that originally wanted to settle Uganda. That Uganda bit comes from an early British offer to the Zionist Jews. They refused, of course since their purpose was to settle the holy land. The next detail was a policy statement by each member of the class. Since everyone merely stated the same thing, when it got to me I refused, saying that I had nothing to add to the discussion. This created a disturbance that lasted the rest of the period. When the bell rang, I asked Jonelle about Russian leaders and discovered that it was possible. Mr. Keire said that I should have given the class the benefit of my vast knowledge concerning the Bible (not in those words, of course). After the interview I went quickly to World History, where we had a long film presentation (actually slide) of Romantic paintings, and I wrote two more lines in my journal.
9:40 pm PST [at Portland Civic Theatre]—I next went to Lunch, and from there to the library for English. I spent much of the period reading Steppenwolf. Then, behold, a great sick­ness came upon me, my head ached and a fog surrounded me. And a halo came and surrounded the light and a thousand angels sang. And behold, a shaft of light illumined the room, and in the light I saw Chris. Then I saw an angel of the Lord and in his hand he held a book and on that book was written “The Abington Bible Commentary.” And I opened the book. A drum repeated, banging through my head. A great noise split the heavens, and I saw people shuffle through endless halls and I was in Study Hall.
♂♂ 8:05 am PST—I waited, feeling very sick, for the bus. I got on the bus. We rode home in almost record time—11:50—best is 11:45, next is 12:30. I arrived home and, although I felt sick, was taken by my father, who was going to Seattle, to the orth­odontist, where my teeth were tightened (at least, that’s what it felt like) and my archwire, which had come loose about a month ago, was put back in place. My mother arrived and took me home. I ate. I then argued with Bryan for awhile about Israel and Arabs. Then, gathering up my possessions, my Interpreter’s Bible Volume 2, Oxford Annotated Bible and Steppenwolf, I was taken by my mother with Bryan to the Portland Civic Theatre, where I immediately saw Pete, who directed me to the sound equipment in the closet up­stairs.
♂♂ 9:21 am PST—After getting out the sound equipment I found that three of my cues had been cut, leaving me only two during the entire play. Pete set up the sound equipment and eventually the play started. Beyond the fact that the settings on most of the lights had been changed, almost nothing went wrong. I arranged for Bryan to see the play Friday and at 11:15 my mother picked me up and took me home. Upon arriving I did my home­work and at one or so was able to go to bed.
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