The End

Against Suicide: On Meaning and Suicide—Why Suicides Demonstrate that Life Has Meaning

“Romeo killed himself because he could not have Juliet. The meaning of life for him was to possess that woman.”[1]

Vladimir Solovyov

We sometimes hear people lament that life has no inherent meaning. After an anguished display of profound sadness, some such individuals commit suicide. One day they lament, the next day their blood is oozing, filling the voids of an un-vacuumed carpet. What once held life and meaning is now an empty token demonstrating empirically that no such meaning exists (or has ever existed). This seems to be the train of thought most depressed and suicidal individuals follow. They move from living a life of meaning to living a life of meaninglessness. And then they commit suicide. But is this really how things are? Do not people commit suicide precisely because they have discovered meaning? While this may, initially, not appear to be obvious, I think it is.

For years, I’ve read some of the most depressing and suicidal literature in the history of humankind. I’m talking about the writings of that melancholic Dane, Søren Kierkegaard. Moreover, I’ve also read Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus. I’ve amused myself with the musings of Jean-Paul Sartre, Dostovesky’s characters in Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov, and Immanuel Kant. Excepting the suicide-inducing characters of Dostoevsky, none of these philosophers have been able to really make an argument against suicide. What I mean to say is that I have not read anything that made me think: “Wow, I’ve never thought that before. I now want to live!” Usually, you read attacks on suicide and come away more depressed than ever.

Allow me to talk about Immanuel Kant’s views. Kant argued that human beings are bound to categorical imperatives. One such imperative, commonly known as the thought-experiment The Kingdom of Ends, articulates the idea that human beings are not “things” and cannot be treated as a means to an end. By committing suicide, a human individual is treating himself as a means to an end (i.e., a thing) and is also, by implication, willing for his action to become a universal maxim.

“He who contemplates suicide should ask himself whether his action can be consistent with the idea of humanity as an end in itself. If he destroys himself in order to escape from painful circumstances, he uses a person merely as a mean to maintain a tolerable condition up to the end of life. But a man is not a thing, that is to say, something which can be used merely as means, but must in all his actions be always considered as an end in himself.”[2]

While Kant is right, to an extent, his views make most sense in a perfect world. In a wretched place such as Earth, it is hard to find many suicidal people (if any) who would find his argument existentially convincing. Theoretically speaking, if I were ever suicidal, do me a favor and please do not read Kant to me!

And so, after years of reading literature on suicide, I’ve recently run into a lone-wolf philosopher who has written something (finally!) meaningful. And I hope that you, too, would share my sympathies. Vladimir Solovyov argued that those who commit suicide actually prove that life has meaning. How so? Well, the person committing suicide is, in retrospect, deeming his life meaningless due to a loss of meaning. The suicidal individual is actually the only individual who acutely knows and feels what it is like to live a meaningful life. Those who are suicidal are acutely aware of their loss of meaning. But in order for an individual to lose meaning one must have had meaning. A loss presupposes past possession. Given this state of affairs, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that suicidal people are some of the most meaning-driven people inhabiting our planet. These are individuals who seek meaning. In fact, they crave meaning so obsessively that they lose sight of meaning’s ever-changing reappearances. Meaning is something that reintroduces itself throughout the course of one’s life.

As a child, meaning (the noun) was identified with sucking on a lollipop. A few years later, meaning took the shape of another human being—be it a friend, girlfriend, or boyfriend. Years later, meaning took on another form. In old age, meaning can be rocking in a chair reading Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

In suicide, meaning is suspended. It is prevented from evolving. Meaning becomes static; it becomes frozen in time. Meaning is reduced to a non-evolving entity. It becomes a means to an end. It ceases to be something that changes, something that grows old with you. In essence, meaning becomes crucified.

Those of us who are suicidal have discovered just one form of meaning. Those who commit suicide due to a loss of a family member have crystallized meaning in the Other. Those who are suicidal have actually come to the epitome of meaning. They have come to a point in their lives where meaning becomes inextricably linked and made static in the Other. This is why Romeo’s suicide makes so much sense. Romeo lived because he had found meaning. He died because he lost that meaning.

And so, we now come to Solovyov’s point:

“Pessimists who are in earnest and commit suicide also involuntarily prove that life has a meaning. I am thinking of conscious and self-possessed suicides, who kill themselves because of disappointment or despair. They supposed that life had a certain meaning which made it worth living, but became convinced that that meaning did not hold good. Unwilling to submit passively and unconsciously—as the theoretical pessimists do—to a different and unknown meaning, they take their own life.”[3]

What is suicide, then? Suicidal thinking is the acute experience of an individual who has found—and then proceeded to lose—life’s meaning. It is the association made between meaning and some (possibly) external object taking on an unnecessarily static form. Once the object is frozen in space and time, loss of the object correlates to loss of meaning. However, if meaning is seen as an ever-changing “thing,” suicidal thinking becomes unnecessary. This is not to say that suicide is never an option; however, it is to say that many (if not all) suicides only serve to prove that life has meaning.

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Vladimir Solovyov, preface to The Justification of the Good: An Essay on Moral Philosophy, trans. Nathalie A. Duddington (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2005), xviii.

[2] Immanuel Kant, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Ethics, trans. Thomas Kingsmill Abbott, 2nd ed. (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1900), 56-7. Italics original.

[3] Solovyov, preface, xvii.

On the Axiomatic Self: The I as the Foundational Principle in Which “Truth” is Grounded

I have observed this for a very long time and have decided to write a short piece about it. This idea is not anything new; it has been articulated before. My present purpose is to repeat it in my own words, adding my own peculiar flavors to it. Human beings are interesting creatures. They are born with this innate tendency to view themselves, their own selves, as so-called “truth.” The human individual begins the conversation with the immediate—and unhealthy, in my view—assumption that whatever spews out of the individual’s mouth is truth ex cathedra. The individual’s I functions as a sort of “foundational principle” upon which the whole of reality is grounded.

One easily sees this when listening to a group of individuals debating. People do not seem to listen. They talk past each other. One of them, usually the center of attention, babbles away about a particular point. Adding volume to speech as if to increase the presupposed “truth’s” validity. The others babble away too. One points something out only to be ignored by the others. Another defends his position, grounding it in science. A third points out that the research is now obsolete, referring to another “scientific journal.” A fourth proclaims all such research “ideologically driven” and expounds upon his own version of “the truth.” A fifth accepts the fourth’s position, embracing it hook, line, and sinker; his identifying with the fourth’s position makes it his own, thereby making it synonymous with absolute “truth.”

One observes, also, just how passionate some people become when they argue. Disagreement over something as trivial as acceptance of moral luck (as popularized by Thomas Nagel) in ethics is unacceptable; they become angry, spewing out all kinds of rage at their opponents.

And this is precisely where my observation hits home. No longer is truth something that can be distinguished from the individual; “truth,” at least the individual’s conception of it, is to be made synonymous with the individual. In other words, moral luck, just to follow the aforementioned example, is no longer an idea (that can be held separate of the person); it is “truth.” Once such an association is made—where the individual fallaciously equates the idea of truth with the person of truth, thus forever erasing the demarcation between person and idea—every disagreement, every argument, every comment, becomes an attack on the individual holding the idea [of “truth”]. Once you identify the idea of truth with yourself as a person, you become susceptible to “attack” and “emotional distress.” Now every person criticizing your ideas is, according to such reasoning, criticizing you!

But this is all just hogwash. It is not really so. People disagree all the time. And, while we are on the subject, people’s own perception of “truth” changes with time. Most of us “grow up.” Most people, except those few geniuses born with correct innate knowledge, struggle along life’s path to figure out what is true. Such individuals believe now this and now that. Their person is, by and large, not identified with their particular beliefs. This is not to say that their beliefs do not influence them; of course they do. It is to say that the person holding an idea is separable from that particular idea. A person who used to be a utilitarian does not cease to exist once he or she converts to the correct view (!) of deontological ethics. The person still exists. Given this reality, it is strange to see people fighting over everything. Arguing to the point of murder (I’m referring to the Russians who recently got into a fight over Kant, which left one of them dead.) People everywhere need to simply recognize the reality that we are all thrown into: oceans of subjectivities vying for attention and significance. We wish to rise above the other subjectivities; we wish to become a kind of “herd mentality”; we want our version of reality to become not just a version of reality but the version of reality. This drive for universalization of our own truths is something that stems from what I have called “the axiomatic self.” The axiomatic self is precisely the self (the I) that articulates all truths, all arguments, and all reasons, with the idea that the self, the point of departure, is somehow both trustworthy and true. The self becomes the groundwork for everything else the individual says or does. From this, the individual, for whatever reason, seeks to establish his or her own subjective reality as the truth. The individual seeks to universalize something that probably is relativistic and contingent (…upon the individual).

To conclude: this observation is merely to be used as a properly basic idea when dealing with other human individuals. Humans work this way, at least most of them do, and we all should become familiar with their modus operandi.

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

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Bleak the Future

The one true question is that of suicide. All human activity is an attempt to either ignore suicide or suppress it. Suicide is the one question which all human beings are faced with, whether they like it or not. Meaning is an activity which suppresses suicide. Meaning keeps suicide out of the living quarters of our lives. Whatever gives our lives meaning is the very thing that gives our lives the impulse necessary to keep going. But we live in an age of meaninglessness. Chaotic obsoleteness. Human beings are increasingly faced with the reality that their lives are not only useless, they are utterly meaningless. It is true that the technological revolution brought humankind relief. It has. And humankind has found other forms of activities which distract from the question of suicide. The farmers dropped their pitch forks and picked up suitcases. Their lives lost an essential part of the stimulus which kept them going. The farmer lost his or her identity. And identity crisis ensued. We offered the farmer something that replaced his or her occupation. We gave them desk jobs. But with the epic progress in technological development, we are now entering a different age. No, this age will not offer human beings a “different” career. This age will offer human beings nothingness. It will render most of their activities useless. Not only will they be obsolete, they will become a burden.

Our scientific and technological progress will not save us here. For we are entering a different age indeed. This new age will not replace a certain role a human being has played; it will supplant the entire human being. The future is almost here. And the future is rendering human beings obsolete. Amazon.com has run thousands of bookstores out of business. RedBox has run movie stores out of business. Kiosks are taking over. But that’s just the beginning. We have not yet replaced the human being. Artificial intelligence is the future, whether you like it or not. Once the human is replaced, there can be analogical comparisons made between the future and prior epochs. No age has yet replaced the human being. The future will.

Meaning. That odd word few have time to think about.

Meaning is a complex term. Employment gives people meaning. Working gives people meaning. But knowing that you are replaceable, a burden, useless—that annihilates all sense of meaning. The future is coming and you are as obsolete as ever. Increasingly burdensome to the cycle of life.

Suicide. Such a strange word. But get used to it; it’s entering our vocabulary. The proverbial Indian farmers committing suicide by the thousands may not be a part of public discourse in modern America, but they soon will be. We, too, shall experience an identity crisis. It is, frankly, inevitable.

Religion will attempt to distract from our insignificance. Religion will exalt humankind over all other forms of life. Religion will pacify the masses. It will keep them entertained long enough to sip the poisonous Kool-Aid. But even religion will not be able to defend the weakest of the species. For once made obsolete, who shall rescue us?

Unemployment rates will rise. They have to. There is no need for a bank teller when machines do it error-free. There is no need for a nurse when robots in Japan make it happen. Computers can more accurately diagnose patients than real, living and breathing doctors. Doctors, obsolete; nurses, obsolete; farmers, obsolete; cashiers, obsolete; people, obsolete. Welcome to an era of uselessness. Bleak the future.

But it’s already here.

The philosophers have been contemplating our utter uselessness for a long time. Theologians have come up with ways to endow our lives with meaning. But all attempts have, so far as I can tell, failed.

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

RenSciRevoProject

The Ethics of Science: Gagging Science in an Age of Creationism, Homosexuality, and Toxic Ideology

It has been said that history repeats itself. Today, as in the past, science has come under attack. You’ve heard of creationists, Marxists, and Catholics gagging science, but have you heard of the LGBTQ persecution of science? Probably not. But it is most certainly happening.

In 1557 the Catholic Church established its “Index of Forbidden Books.” The Index would later include all writings written by Protestants, be they religious theologians, philosophers, or natural scientists. Anyone who was a “protestant” was not capable of writing anything worthy of being read by a Catholic. In 1633 the Catholic Church began its notorious persecution of Galileo Galilei. He proposed the then idiosyncratic idea that the sun was at the center of our universe, supporting Aristarchus of Samos, who first introduced the world to heliocentrism in the 4th century BCE, and Copernicus, who worked in the 16th century. Though the world at large did not buy into heliocentrism, the Catholic Church, for various reasons, decided that persecution was better than merely ignoring Galileo. And so began one of the most well known gaggings of science in religious history.[1]

The religious elite of the time, the ones who were in power, found scientific truth to be religiously offensive, as it (possibly) contradicted the Bible. Given such subjective “offensiveness,” Galileo was gagged. God forbid that some objective fact like heliocentrism might offend our religious tastes! However, as we all know, as time went on, people gradually accepted heliocentrism. They accepted this “offensive truth” and decided to deal with it rather than ignore it.

The persecution of Galileo did not go unnoticed by those who were writing on the borders of, what was then deemed, “orthodoxy” and “heterodoxy.” René Descartes, for example, hearing of Galileo’s persecution, considered burning all of his works in fear of his life.[2] Such was the state of science in an age of gagging and toxic ideologies.

Fast-forward several hundred years to a time where “science” is the god of the age. In November of 1978 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science located in Washington, D.C., before five hundred scientists, E. O. Wilson was about to deliver a speech on the then-emerging field of “sociobiology.” Before he could begin delivering his evidence-based lecture, a group of radical Marxists ran on stage chanting, “Racist Wilson, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide!” They grabbed at the microphone, caused all kinds of chaos, and ended up dumping a bucket of ice-cold water on Wilson, who was dressed in a business suit. He later got up to a standing ovation.[3] But the persecution in an age of gagging and toxic ideology did not stop there. A fellow friend of Wilson’s, biological anthropologist Lionel Tiger, relates that he had more than an “ice-bucket challenge” handed to him; he was served a bomb threat. “In addition to slander and calumny…I have received bomb threats at lectures…”[4]

Regarding these events, William D. Gairdner wittingly writes that, when it comes to offensive truths, the species to persecute those speaking such truths is none other than “Homo academicus.”[5] The radicals who attacked Wilson were social scientists specializing in the social sciences—where the word “science” is virtually silent. “They were scientists who knew they were under attack…but this time from science itself!”[6] And so we have the obvious: whatever subjectively “offends” a particular scientist must be ignored or, as so often happens, persecuted. If biological determinism offends a scientist, it must be treated with contempt. If sociobiology offends Marxists, it must be attacked. If anthropology, cosmology, archaeology, and biology threaten to disprove young-earth creationism, the young-earth creationist must attack “science,” for it most certainly “offends” him (or her).

In much more recent times, we have also witnessed the rise of young-earth creationism. This is a movement that does not deal with science. It is a movement that mostly attempts to ignore science or, much more commonly, explain it away. Science, in the broad sense, essentially is a systematic attempt to understand the natural world around us by empirical observation and reproducible experiment. Young-earth creationism mostly ignores “empirical observations” made by scientists. Why do they ignore the evidence? Simply because it offends them. Empirical evidence such as the “red-shift” or the visible light of stars a billion light-years away are explained away. “As most of us know, if light comes to us from an object that is a billion light-years away, then the light had to be travelling for a billion years.”[7] Apparently what appears obvious to most people is not obvious to others. So the young-earth creationists need to have their own theologians and Christian scientists try to talk some common sense into them. For every Ken Ham, Henry Morris, or Kent Hovind there are ten thousand scientists from a vast array of different religious persuasions, cultures, continents, etc. objecting to their ludicrous claims. It is no surprise, therefore, that what we have here is fear of science. Henry Morris honestly writes: “It is precisely because biblical revelation is absolutely authoritative and perspicuous that the scientific facts, rightly interpreted, will give the same testimony as that of Scripture.”[8] According to other sources, the original text further added this forthright sentence: “There is not the slightest possibility that the facts of science can contradict the Bible.”[9] Clearly, we are not dealing with science here; we are dealing with an ideology grounded in a particular interpretation of a set, authoritative, infallible text. The young-earth creationists are not out to do science, strictly speaking, they are out to explain away the evidence and, at times, ignore it. And if it sneaks up on them, they persecute it because it “offends” them.

Fast-forward a couple more decades and you come to the twenty-first century. We find ourselves at one of the most prestigious hospitals in the world: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The fact that it is associated with Harvard Medical School should make us cognizant of the fact that this certainly must be a place where reason, empirical research, and the scientific method reign. But this is not so. Science is again being threatened by a toxic ideology. Somebody is being offended. And offending somebody in an age of gagging, “witch-hunts,” and bomb threats is to be feared. A urologist of some thirty years is about to be fired because he invokes the scientific method and empirical data. But that’s not all: when the empirical evidence offends people, that’s when the shit really hits the fan. Dr. Paul Church is being persecuted by those who fear science. Like the Catholics who persecuted Galileo; like the Marxists who persecuted Wilson; like the young-earthers who felt offended by science, the LGBTQ community is offended by…science. And so science is being kicked out of…well, science. Apparently scientists can’t cite empirical data anymore—without fear of losing their jobs. Like Descartes of old, Dr. Paul Church is in a rush to “burn his papers.” What is Church’s crime? He wants homosexuals who are sexually active to be aware of the dangers of anal sex. “Although it has declined over the past few decades, two-thirds of all new HIV/AIDS infections in the U.S. are the result of men having sex with men. Fifty percent of ‘gay’ men will be infected with HIV by age 50. Those numbers are out there and they are staggering.”[10] In a world where scientists cannot practice science, where doctors cannot tell their patients what the empirical data suggests, this is the world of Catholic witch-hunts and the Dark Ages. This world, this very thing that Beth Israel is helping create, will not be a world in which its own existence will not be threatened. Who needs science when we have feelings—feelings that are, often times, “offended”?

In 2007, Church’s concerns were posted anonymously on a blog by Paul Levy. The blog received many comments. Some of them reflected this fear of science. He was called “ignorant and hateful.”[11] I assume by “ignorant” the commentator meant “aware of empirical evidence despite subjectively responsive feelings.”

My thoughts about these comments are numerous. If a patient comes into your clinic and you perform a CT scan and find a cancerous growth, are you obligated to “hurt” the patient’s feelings by giving them the empirical data or…? You find a couple that does not want to have more children come in for a visit. Upon ultrasound, you are pretty sure that the wife is pregnant. Do you withhold this “toxic” and “emotionally damaging” information? You have an obese patient come in for a yearly check up. The cholesterol levels are nearing a thousand. The man comes in with a bag of Doritos in one hand and a 32-ounce soda in the other. (With pizza from earlier in the morning stuck in his beard.) Do you warn the patient of health risks? You have a gay couple visit you. They practice anal sex four times a week. Are you obligated, as a physician, to tell them what the empirical evidence suggests? Or are you supposed to have them watch Oprah and tell them to eat Bon Bons?

We have come to the issue of ethics now. The ethics of science. As a scientist, what was Wilson to do? Was he to please the Marxist crowds and avoid discussing his findings? What are the cosmologists to do? Are they to stick to the a particular interpretation of the Bible and dismiss all evidence of a billion-year-old earth? What is Dr. Paul Church supposed to do as a physician who, inherently, must warn society of risky behaviors? At which point do we go into a science class and ask for feel-good psychology? We all know that in science classrooms they teach empirical science—without recourse to your “feelings” about the subject. We all know that in healthcare doctors and nurses are encouraged to engage in evidence-based practices.

I would like to conclude with the following thoughts. First, this old and new overbearing presence of toxic ideologies is damaging to the progress of science and reason. Such ideologies, to invoke a modified version of Morris’s dictum, are guided by the following: “It is precisely because homosexual propoganda is absolutely authoritative and perspicuous that the scientific facts, rightly interpreted, will give the same testimony as that of our feelings.” We didn’t need to change much (just the words in italics) and we have come full circle. Welcome to the golden age of gaggings: where the scientist is persecuted for offending creationists, homosexuals, social scientists, and all other people who believe their feelings make objective facts obsolete. Second, I must speak of the ethics of science. All science is to be practiced without the need of invoking emotions. Science is to remain untainted by the fountains of subjective feelings. As much as possible, scientists need to be free to present their evidence without fear of offending others. Science is the offense—it cares not about your feelings. If you want to exercise your feelings, go to a yoga class. As for Dr. Paul Church, kudos to him for standing behind science and reason.

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

FOOTNOTES:
[1] William E. Burns, The Scientific Revolution: An Encyclopedia, s.v. “Religion and Science,” (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2001).

[2] Ibid., 271.

[3] Ullica Segerstrale, Defenders of the Truth: The Battle for Science in the Sociobiology Debate and Beyond (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 23. Also see William D. Gairdner, The Book of Absolutes: A Critique of Relativism and a Defense of Universals (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2008), 120-2.

[4] Ibid., 143.

[5] William D. Gairdner, The Book of Absolutes: A Critique of Relativism and a Defense of Universals, 122.

[6] Ibid.

[7] David Snoke, A Biblical Case for an Old Earth (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006), 25.

[8] Henry M. Morris, Scientific Creationism (Green Forest: Master Books, 1974), 15.

[9] Alice B. Kehoe, “The Word of God,” in Scientists Confront Creationism, ed. Laurie R. Godfrey (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1983), 1. Italics original.

[10] Quoted in Jack Minor, “Doc Faces Boot for Citing ‘Gay’ Health Dangers,” World Net Daily, June 27, 2015, accessed July 10, 2015, http://www.wnd.com/2015/06/doc-faces-boot-for-citing-gay-health-dangers.

[11] Pete Baklinski, “Leading U.S. Hospital Fires Doctor for Raising Concerns About Health Risks of Gay Sex,” Life Site News, June 25, 2015, accessed July 10, 2015, http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/leading-boston-hospital-fires-doctor-for-raising-concerns-about-health-risk.

JesusPortrait

From “Behold the Man” to “Jesus the God”: An Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism and the Corruption of the Bible

Ancient copies of the New Testament attest to the fact that humans, as always, exaggerate the deeds and actions of their loved ones. Just like George Washington became the man who would not tell a lie—remember, that fictional cherry tree story where George sawed down a tree and admitted it—so Jesus Christ became not just ‘Jesus the Anointed’ (the literal meaning of the Hebrew word we commonly translated “Messiah”)[1] but “[Jesus] Christ, namely God” (as one ancient Old Latin manuscript has it).[2] We went from Jesus the Man to Jesus the God.

You see, it is so difficult to understand this textual change when most of us have grown up in a nation that teaches us from day one that Jesus Christ is God (within the Holy Trinity). Most of us have been taught that Jesus is, in one way or another, God in the flesh. It is precisely because of this that we cannot totally appreciate, and see the impact of, a scribe who changes “Jesus the Messiah” to “Jesus the God.” Most of us would shrug and say, “So what? Big deal. There is no difference between Jesus the Son of God and Jesus the God.” The problem is that there is a difference. A huge difference. Imagine for a second that the biographer of George Washington’s life started his story a bit differently. Suppose, for a second, that Mason Locke Weems— Washington’s first biographer and inventor of the cherry tree fable—started off his biography by calling Washington “the King.” If Washington was Jewish and living in ancient Israel, he would have been labeled, as Cyrus the Great was before him (Isa. 45:1),[3] “Washington the Anointed One.” And no Jew would even flinch. George would be called King.

Let us further speculate, suppose that a later author edited the text of the biography to read “Washington the Son of God” or, even more simply, “Washington, namely God.” What would the effect be? Obviously, we are dealing with some highly problematic textual changes! It is one thing to call George a king (even an “anointed king” at best), but completely another to call him God!

I am not suggesting that Jesus Christ is to be put on par with Washington, far from it. I am only trying to get the reader to understand the significance of such textual changes. According to the textual evidence, Jesus Christ was certainly the greatest Man (if it be appropriate to call Him a Man) who ever lived. In similar words, Flavius Josephus can say, “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was Christ.”[4] I agree with Josephus on this point. The point that I am stressing here, however, has to do with what I call “progressive exaggeration.” Progressive exaggeration is a part of human nature—we have seen it with George Washington. Early Christians tried to edit the text of the New Testament by making simple statements about Christ cheesier. They would take something as simple as the common name Jesus (also known as “Joshua”) and turn it into “Jesus the Messiah our Lord and Savior.” There is nothing wrong with this per se, but it is most definitely elaborative. Christian scribes would constantly highlight the fact that Jesus was not just an ordinary Joshua, but actually “the Lord.” Where Hebrews 13:20 once read “our Lord Jesus” the Old Latin changed it to “our God Jesus.”[5] One may argue that this is insignificant, but the problem is that it happens throughout the entire New Testament! Almost any space where an additional “Lord” or “God” could be added, it was added. The scribes made sure of it.

The problem with Christian (and heretical) scribes was the fact that they did not just make Jesus sound better—they went the extra mile, as Jesus ironically commanded, and eliminated things that made Jesus look human. One interesting change has to do with the text of John 19:5, the text about Jesus prior to His crucifixion.

Jesus Christ is standing before Pilate all wet in tears, saliva, and deep red blood. He is soaked in His own bodily fluids and is wearing a purple robe. Bearing the sins of the world, this God-Man looks more like a carcass than a once-living human. Jesus is crowned with thorns. He is crowned. Pilate presents Jesus the Messiah to the Jewish crowd by saying, “Behold the man.” Some ancient manuscripts totally eradicate this sentence.[6] It is not in the text. What is wrong with the text? Can anyone guess? Jesus Christ was obviously more than a man, thought a scribe. So, he deleted the fact that Pilate ever said such a thing. Matter of fact, it never happened. One of our oldest Biblical authorities, Codex Vaticanus, reads, “Behold a man.” This appears to have been another reading—it never got a wide audience. Anyone’s guess is as good as mine.

It should be obvious to the reader that Jesus Christ was being shaped by the crowd of scribes. He was being recast, so to speak. A scribe placed his ideas into the biblical text; be it out of love and affection, or out of need for correction (or so he thought…). I want to take a closer look at more such changes in the NT. It is my purpose here to reveal the textual evidence and to try to come to a decent conclusion that can do justice to the text.

The God Who Would Not Be

From the very beginning, if we are to take the Gospels as trustworthy literary accounts, Jesus denied the idea that He was God. The Gospel accounts do state in some places, or at least imply, that Jesus is, in fact, God, but even there we must go by mere implication. Because Jesus was such a radical figure, His image was distorted by the crowds and He was greatly misunderstood. Today, we have four Gospels that present us with slightly modified views of Jesus—Mark’s Jesus is human through and through; Matthew’s Jesus is Jewish and Law-abiding; Luke’s Jesus is a Mother Teresa figure out to help the poor; and John’s Jesus is the most divine figure of all time: his Jesus is none other than God Himself sometimes. But even with the most greatly divine Jesus—as He appears in the Gospel of John—Jesus denies the fact that He is God (the Father?). According to John’s gospel, Jesus tells the Jewish crowds, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30 ESV). But then He also tells them, “[T]he Father is greater than I” (14:28). Obviously, Jesus appears to have some sort of ‘schizophrenic’ existence in relation to God the Father. In no way am I being derogatory here—it, quite frankly, appears that Jesus wants His identity to remain sort of foggy and shrouded in mystery. Even in John’s gospel— which has the highest Christology in the entire NT—Jesus is still not completely and openly God. The text of John 5:18 clearly states that the Jews thought that Jesus was “making himself equal to God.” But even here, again, the disciples do not state openly that He is God; it’s almost as if they do not know exactly what He is—they know He has something divine about Him, but they cannot quite pinpoint it. In John 6:45, Jesus seems to imply that He may be God by stating, “It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (ESV). If Jesus is the so-called “Rabbi” and the so-called “Teacher,”[7] is He not, then, saying that He is God? (For they shall be taught by God—and He is the One doing the teaching!)

The problem is more magnified later in John’s gospel—after Jesus’ resurrection. In John 20:17, Jesus tells Mary, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (ESV). What is so ironic about this is that Thomas, a few verses later, worships Jesus and calls Him, “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28). Jesus either accepts the honorific titles or seems to shrug them off and ignore them—the text does not tell us what Jesus thought of Thomas’ statement. But, we must not quickly forget—in the air of such elaborate statements as Thomas’—that Jesus just called God the Father His God also!

In such an atmosphere of mystery and controversy, we come to the textual problem of John 1:18. The English Standard Version reads thus: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” Clearly, in conjunction with John 1:1—“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”—John appears to tell us, on the surface, that Jesus (the Divine Word) is God. The text seems to differentiate between both God the Father and God the Son. Nevertheless, both are Gods. That is the keyword here: God. Both are God(s).

The problem that concerns us is that John 1:18 has suffered damage at the hands of the scribes. To be blunt, the majority of manuscripts read differently. They read: “No one has seen God at any time, but the unique Son who is in the bosom of the Father, that one has made him known.”[8] It is the Alexandrian text-type that the translators of the ESV (and other translations) are following. This is ironic, since many fierce inerrantists—who solely adhere to the Byzantine (Textus Receptus) text-type—follow the “corrupt” Alexandrian text-type when it suits their purposes! This textual variant appears to have been corrupted by later orthodox scribes. Of course, one could argue that it were the heretics who corrupted the “original” text—which read “God” in place of “Son”—but that is not entirely the point. The point is that scribes were modifying the Scriptures to suit their theological beliefs.

We can take a closer look at this passage in light of what we know about the Gospel of John. In John, Jesus and God the Father are sort-of like two Beings that are equal sometimes and at ends with one another at other times. If, according to the text, Jesus was the “unique God” how is it that the Father also existed? By “unique” (Greek: μονογενης) John is trying to say that “God the Son” is somehow unique. The problem is that if God the Son were “unique,” would not that imply that no other God exists? It makes more sense to have “unique Son” in the text because it implies that Jesus Christ is a “unique son”—in the sense that He is not like the other so-called “sons of God” (Rom. 8:14) or “gods” (John 10:34). Matter of fact, for John, then, Jesus is the unique Son of God. Thus, it appears that scribes were taking “Jesus the Son of God” and making Him into “Jesus the Unique God.” And, by the way, there is a world of difference.

We’ve already seen how scribes wanted to exalt Jesus from Man to God (and now to Unique God). This will become more evident as we look at a few more good examples. What is of importance here though is for us to look at how heresy and ‘orthodoxy’ were involved in these scribal changes. It is one thing to talk about changes in the text, but an entirely other thing to see them come to life when you discover the character of their very producer.

Docetic Gnostics and Textual Variants

Many Gnostics believed that Jesus Christ did not actually suffer and die. According to The Second Treatise of the Great Seth, Jesus Christ did not die on the cross. He merely “appeared” to die—the Greek word for “appear” is dokein (“to seem,” “to appear”). We call such Gnostics “docetists”—they are the Gnostics who believed in the absolute divinity of Jesus Christ. Not bad, right? Well, the orthodox did not think so. Christ could not be the human of the Ebionites nor the ultra-divine God of the Docetic Gnostics. Because of such reasons, The Second Treatise of the Great Seth could have Jesus explain His insignificant “death”:

And I did not die in reality but in appearance, lest I be put to shame by them because these are my kinsfolk. I removed the shame from me and I did not become fainthearted in the face of what happened to me at their hands. I was about to succumb to fear, and I (suffered) according to their sight and thought, in order that they may never find any word to speak about them. For my death, which they think happened, (happened) to them in their error and blindness, since they nailed their man unto their death. For their Ennoias did not see me, for they were deaf and blind. But in doing these things, they condemn themselves. Yes, they saw me; they punished me. It was another, their father, who drank the gall and the vinegar; it was not I. They struck me with the reed; it was another, Simon, who bore the cross on his shoulder. I was another upon Whom they placed the crown of thorns. But I was rejoicing in the height over all the wealth of the archons and the offspring of their error, of their empty glory. And I was laughing at their ignorance.[9]

Jesus is saying that He never really died. It was Simon of Cyrene who did! Because the Docetic Gnostics held to this belief relatively strongly, they could not allow Scripture to speak about a Jesus who “died.” More to the point, they could not speak about a Jesus the Christ who died. The Messiah, who was probably the Good God Himself, could not have been bloodily crucified by evil and murderous human beings. This was absolute blasphemy for the Docetic Gnostics.

The orthodox (the so-called “majority” opinion) held to the idea that Jesus died on the cross. They stressed the fact that Jesus not only died human, but He was both human and God. In John 19:40, Jesus’ body is taken from the cross in preparation for burial. According to one of our most ancient authorities, Codex Alexandrinus, Joseph of Arimathea no longer takes the body of Jesus but the “body of God.” Because in ancient manuscripts (1st to 3rd century) the sacred names were contracted, this textual variant may have resulted from an innocent mistake. The nomina sacra (as they are called) would have been a ΘΥ (contracted possessive name of God—theou, Θεοῦ). On the other hand, the nomen sacrum (singular for nomina sacra) for Jesus would have been ΙΥ (contracted possessive name for Jesus—Isou, Ἰησοῦ). Because of the similarities between God (ΘΥ) and Jesus (ΙΥ) this textual variant may have been a mistake, but it is definitely a good mistake; something that makes the text say something completely different! Mistake or no, we now have an authoritative Greek manuscript saying something that is rather radical.

A similar textual variant occurs in 1 Timothy 3:16. Modern translators translate it thus: “He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels…” (NIV). The “he” in the text is translated from the Greek word for “who.” What we have seen with the nomina sacra, we see here again. The “who” in Greek is OΣ (hos) it looks almost exactly like the nominative nomen sacrum for God (theos, contracted to ΘΣ). All that is missing is a “dot” in the center and a dash above the theta and sigma for the name of God. Thus, some manuscripts, most notably Codex Alexandrinus,[10] substitute “God” for “who.” Now, instead of Jesus appearing in the flesh, it is “God appeared in the flesh.” This is a relatively radical idea, once again.

In 1 John 3:21-23 we are told that if we have confidence before God anything we ask will be given us. That is, if we “believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ” and love one another (v. 23). Some ancient manuscripts, like Codex Alexandrinus, lack the words for “son” (in Greek it would be tou uiou). Now the text simply tells us that we must believe in his name, Jesus Christ, and love one another in order to get what we want from God. The text makes Jesus’ name be equivalent to God’s name.[11] This, again, may be an innocent slip of the pen, but that is debatable.

Separationist Gnostics and Textual Variants

In early Christianity there were the “separationists” who believed that Jesus was just a regular born-of-a-woman man and that He was thoroughly fleshly. Some such separationist Christians were found amongst the Gnostic schools of thought. These Gnostics believed that some divine Spirit entered Jesus at His baptism. The spirit was actually a piece of the divine Godhead. It could have been in the form of a dove but, because of the textual variants, no one really knows for sure. The real “christ,” according to the separationists, actually used Jesus’ body only as a vessel—He was not really born or raised human. This “christ,” then, left Jesus prior to His death—that is why Christ said with His dying breath, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” According to the separationists, Jesus (the human) only said that because the “christ” (or that piece of the Godhead) left Jesus right before His death. The Spirit/“christ” that entered Jesus at His baptism had now left Him because the “christ” could not die. Since the separationist “christ” was a piece of the divine Godhead, it was impossible for a piece of God to die.

The reason the separationists stressed this is relatively simple to understand. For them, the Creator was actually a demiurge or lesser/inferior deity[12] who trapped pieces of divine sparks in only some human bodies (carcasses). Some fleshly carcasses contained this divine spark, and the humans that had this spark needed to be saved and freed from this fleshly prison. All the while, a greater god was planning to save us: a piece of this “good god” was someone known as “christ.” The “christ” was here to save the “chosen few” who had remnants of these divine sparks. Therefore, Jesus’ body was only used as a vessel to pass on secret and special divine gnosis to the few elect. The elect would respond positively to Jesus’ message (it was actually the Gnostic “christ” speaking through Jesus). They would respond and in turn be saved from this world and flesh.

It is no wonder that Christ could not have come in the flesh. Yes, He could have been a phantom (as the Docetic Gnostics held) but a Christ who separated Himself from the flesh appeared to be most logical for the separationists—He came and went, so to speak.

The majority of manuscripts for 1 John 4:3 read “every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” Some ancient witnesses read something vastly different. In these texts, it is “every spirit that looses Jesus is not from God.” The difference in Greek is striking, too—the words are either may homologei ton Iasoun (“not confess Jesus”) or luei ton Iasoun (“looses Jesus”). This is most obviously not a slip of the pen. The problem is that this text which speaks about false spirits “loosing Jesus” is not found in our best manuscripts. It appears to have been corrupted by some proto-orthodox scribes in the second century; Origen, Irenaeus, and Clement all know of this text. But what was the point of the change? It appears that “loosing Jesus” meant something like “separating Jesus.” This is probably a text that was changed in order to attack more openly the separationist claim that Christ entered Jesus, and before His death “separated” from Him.[13]

Another interesting variant is Luke 1:35. According to most ancient authorities, Luke’s gospel reads thus: “the child to be born will be called the Son of God” (NIV). On the other hand, according to some other manuscripts, the text inserts two words ek sou (“from you”). We get our word “exit” from the Greek root word ek (which means “out” or “from”). Now, with this addition, the text reads thus: “the child to be born from you will be called the Son of God.” But why would the text need to be changed to read “from you”? It should be obvious: Jesus was born not “of” Mary, but actually from Mary. Jesus was a flesh and blood human. Because this longer text hardly features in the textual tradition, it is virtually always condemned as addition by the scholarly community.[14]

The orthodox Christians were obviously having a field day with the text of the New Testament. Although such variants may appear to be a burden, they are not much so. Most such variants are quickly recognized as additions and quickly dismissed. Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge these changes and come to terms with them.

The God That Did Not Know

One professor would always begin his lectures by telling his eager conservative students that Jesus was ignorant. He would quote Mark 13:32, “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” He would then grin and emphasize how ignorant Jesus was, according to the very Word of God![15] In Matthew 24:36 this phrase is repeated. The textual problem with this verse is rather self-evident: how could Jesus, the very God of orthodox Christianity, not know about the end of the world? Well, the orthodox scribes had a solution: make Jesus more knowledgeable concerning “the times.” Most of our most ancient authorities—Alexandrian, Western, Caesarean traditions—include the phrase “nor the Son” (in Greek that would be oude ho uios). In these most ancient manuscripts, Jesus apparently does not know all things, like the omnipotent god(s) of Greek philosophy. For many Christians, raised in the Greek tradition, this did not, and could not, make any sense. If Jesus was God, even a lesser god, how could He not know something? Greek philosophical presuppositions would not allow such a god to exist. Therefore, orthodox scribes went into the text and changed it—they erased three words: “nor the Son.” This time, no heretic could claim that Jesus was not entirely God by using Matthew 24:36. A good amount of (later) manuscripts do not have this phrase. Even the so-called “inspired” text of the fundamentalist inerrantists—namely, Textus Receptus (almost identical to the Byzantine text-type)—has this phrase, “nor the Son,” omitted. Most of the Byzantine manuscripts lack the phrase, along with most of the Syriac and Coptic texts, including the Latin Vulgate.[16]

A few scribes managed to also delete this phrase from Mark’s gospel (at least two manuscripts have it removed: X and pc). It is almost self-evident that scribes were taking liberties when working with the text of the New Testament. That this phrase “nor the Son” created problems for later (orthodox) theologian-like scribes is more magnified by the textual history of one of our oldest biblical manuscripts: Codex Sinaiticus. The original writer of Matthew’s text in Codex Sinaiticus included this phrase, a second scribe (“Corrector #1”) erased it, and a third scribe restored it (he was “Corrector # 2”). To say that this phrase was not problematic for some Christians would be utterly misleading. In fact, it is still, to this day, extremely problematic—most of us would rather worship a Jesus that did know.

The Heretical Scribe’s Pen

It was not just the orthodox scribes that were focused on correcting and modifying the Scriptures. The heretic had much to offer too. The deletion between Luke 22:42 and 22:45 is still viciously being disputed by scholars today as to whether it is the original text of Luke or not. Bart D. Ehrman argues that it is an addition while von Harnack argues that it is the original text of Luke.[17] To me it appears to be original to the gospel of Luke—it was later edited out early in its textual history due to its portrayal of a human Jesus. Luke 22:43-44 reads, “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (NIV). Because Jesus was seen as being in anguish and sweating (human) blood, some scribes felt it necessary to edit out such descriptions of Jesus. For example, a Docetic Gnostic would never accept such a portrait of Jesus; this was impossible. And so, just like Marcion of Pontus, the Docetic Christians deleted verses that appeared to be problematic for them. Nay, they were correcting a mistake that orthodox scribes (obviously) added to the text! (Ehrman argues that Luke 22:43-44 was fabricated by the orthodox in response to Docetic heresy.)

Since Alexandria, Egypt was the breeding ground for Gnostic Christians, it is significant that this deletion features almost solely in the Alexandrian text-type! Clement and Origen, along with some early Greek manuscripts, eradicate this passage. Nevertheless, some very famous ancient manuscripts have the addition (Codex Bezae, for example). What should concern us here is that this passage is not found in the Alexandrian Church Fathers and the Alexandrian manuscript family. Since Gnosticism was the form of Christianity in Alexandria, it is almost certain that the Gnostics of Alexandria edited this passage and made it conform to their ideologies. In the middle of the second-century, both Justin Martyr and Irenaeus were already familiar with this passage.

Nonetheless, because Luke edits his Markan source in a few key places, some scholars believe that Luke could not have envisaged an agonized Jesus. For, where Mark has Jesus praying in agony and distress in Gethsemane, Luke silently omits that. Mark 14:33-34 reads, “He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ he said to them. ‘Stay here and keep watch.’” (NIV). Luke only mentions Jesus leaving the disciples to pray (22:41). Where Mark has Jesus “falling” (14:35) to the ground, Luke has Jesus solemnly “kneeling” (22:41) to the ground. Where Mark has Jesus praying that the “hour might pass” (14:36), Luke, again, has nothing—he simply omits this phrase when copying Mark. When Jesus utters the godless, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” phrase in Mark 15:34, Luke simply has Jesus say, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (23:46 NIV). Because of such variations, and there are many more, some scholars have decided that Luke 22:33-34 is an addition—Luke constantly makes Jesus appear calm and under control, how could he have included a bleeding, agonized, sweating Jesus? These scholars, nevertheless, stress a “relaxed” Jesus where there certainly is no relaxed Jesus. We know that Jesus’ death is horrible and that He does, even in Luke’s narrative, pray to have the cup taken from Him (22:42). Thus, I conclude, somewhat tentatively, that Luke 22:43-44 is a deletion made by the Gnostics of Alexandria.

Summarizing Textual Corruptions

There is no doubt that the New Testament has been corrupted with the passage of time. There is also no doubt that the NT has also suffered negative restoration (a scribe alters a passage because of an assumed previous mistake, which ends up being a mistake nonetheless!). There were scribes altering the text due to their integrity. They firmly believed that some previous scribe made mistakes in the manuscript. They were dead-set on “correcting” those mistakes. If a Gnostic scribe came across the passage in Luke 22:43-44, he clearly knew what happened here (!)—it was the orthodox scribe next door who added that passage into the text! It was that filthy orthodox scribe who wanted to make Jesus look human; as if He really did come in the human flesh! Imagine what the Gnostic scribe would think to himself, “Aha! I got him! That rascal, he must have added this passage. He must have. Jesus could not possibly have bled and sweated. No way!”

But then we must picture the worldview of the so-called orthodox scribe.[18] He, too, must have reacted in similar terms. He must have eyed every “divine,” anti-human passage with utter suspicion. If Jesus appeared to be the “invisible God,” that must have been an addition. If Jesus is called “man,” that must be an addition. The orthodox scribe had a most difficult task, in comparison to the heretical Gnostic scribe. The orthodox had to strike a balance between a divine Jesus and a human Jesus. How do you do that? Do you eliminate a passage that makes Jesus God? No? Maybe? What about a Jesus that is a bit too human? No? Maybe? The questions must have haunted the scribes even in their sleep.

We have already seen the additions. The next question that should be answered is How do we make sense of this data? Should we trust the New Testament? Do we continue to believe that somehow this entire process had been guided by the very Hands of God? Do we believe that the scribes were guided by God? Or do we just lift our hands in surrender and say that we do not know anything? Is it even possible to believe in the unifying Spirit of God when such a mess exists? Do we simply dismiss these textual variants? Do we simply close our eyes and wish that they would disappear? I suppose. Nevertheless, we must remind ourselves that most variants are not entirely important to our faith. In fact, most obnoxious variants can be properly eliminated via textual criticism. I believe that textual variants such as these must have needed to occur. What would we think of a perfect Bible? Would not we just discard it on the grounds that it was “recently compiled”? Would not a coherent text reveal its own youthfulness? I think it would. Had the New Testament been so detached from the fierce theological battles of past eras, it would have been viewed as a “text of recent composition.” Had it not suffered at the hands of human scribes, it would have become quickly disposed of. But because the New Testament was so powerful, so entrenched in history, it suffered. Because the New Testament was written by humans, for humans, and through humans, it suffered. Had the NT come from God directly, it would have been irrelevant to us humans. (I do not mean to say that God is irrelevant.) Much of the NT text can be restored with great certainty—there are those few scattered verses that have been tampered with. In spite of it all, the NT remains God’s Word. In a very real and human sense. In a historical sense.

Because Jesus was seen as super-God by some early Christians and super-human by others, it makes sense for us to allow some room for simple diversity. Maybe this exercise will allow us to be more loving towards other denominations. Maybe we can now understand the difficulty of establishing precisely who Christ was and is. In fact, according to Mark’s “messianic secret,” Jesus wanted His identity to remain a secret. Maybe it is fitting to end a discussion on Jesus identity by simply stating that it is still a secret/parable. “He told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables’” (Mark 4:11 NIV).

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

FOOTNOTES:

[1] מָשִׁיחַ (Māšîaḥ). We transliterate the word into the English “messiah.” In Greek, it was translated as Χριστός (Khristós), which means “annointed one.” The Greek is correct in the sense that the Hebrew originally meant “one who is anointed” (i.e., a king). Later, as some Jews awaited the coming of some King and High Priest that would save them, the term “anointed one” (and Jewish kings were anointed at the “induction ceremony”) came to mean more than just “anointed one” or even “king,” but “messiah” and “savior.”

[2] See Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effects of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament (New York, NY: Oxford University P, 1993), 85. The Old Latin manuscript ff2 for Luke 2:26 has Simeon being told that he will see “Christ, namely God” before his death.

[3] Cyrus the Great was called “anointed” many times by Isaiah the prophet. He was a gentile king who was viewed favorably by most peoples; being democratic and peaceful in spirit.

[4] Antiquities of the Jews, 18.63.

[5] Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, 87.

[6] Ibid., 94.

[7] John 1:38; 3:2;8:4; 11:28; Matt. 8:19;26:25 Mk 9: 5,17; Lk 20:39. These verses, and many more, clearly demonstrate that Jesus was known as the “Rabbi” and “Teacher” by both the disciples and His own enemies. It is also interesting to note that in the gentile Gospel of Luke, the name “Rabbi” never occurs—this reveals Luke’s bias.

[8] Ibid., 78-82. This entire exercise is dealt with in-depth by major commentaries and by Bart D. Ehrman. My text closely follows Ehrman.

[9] Selection taken from James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library, revised edition (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1990), 193.

[10] I will admit that the evidence that Codex Alexandrinus originally read theos instead of hos is relatively poor. If one examines the manuscript closely, one sees that a later scribe used a more modern ink and turned the hos into theos. Nevertheless, this is still relevant to my argument that scribes changed Scripture to suit their purposes—be it in the fourth or fifteenth century.

[11] Ibid., 83-84.

[12] For other Gnostics, the angels were the ones who created us. This view was espoused by Simon Magus, according to most of our ancient sources.

[13] Ibid., 125-135.

[14] Ibid., 139-140.

[15] This anecdote I got from reading Thom Stark’s excellent book on biblical inspiration, The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals When It Gets God Wrong (Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2011), 160.

[16] This entire argument is more detailed in Ehrman’s, Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, 91-92.

[17] Cf. Bart D. Ehrmann and Mark A. Plunkett, “The Angel and the Agony: the Textual Problem of Luke

22:43-44”, CBQ 45 (1983/3): 401-416. Also Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, 187-194.

[18] I speak with natural human limitations—there is simply no evidence for a coherent form of Christianity in the first two centuries. No reputable historian should make the claim that “orthodox” Christianity was easily separable from “heretical” Christianity. The NT is evidence itself of the diversity of “unified” Christianity. Paul’s words in Romans 14 must constantly remind us that there will always be those “weak” Christians. Not to mention the fact that 1 Corinthians 12-14 clearly demonstrates the fact that each member had different functions and possibly even beliefs (Rom. 14). I only use the words “orthodox” and “heretic” in extremely vague and general terms. Paul admired diversity, remember the battles between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Here “orthodox” just means what is most likely the “correct” view, and what was eventually considered by the majority the correct view. Thus, “orthodox” is synonymous with “majority opinion.”

cupcake-red-velvet

Hate Crimes, Gay-Phobia, Freedom-Phobia, Thought-Phobia and the Ethics of Freedom

Reading through many articles, blogs, newspapers, etc. regarding same-sex marriage and baking gay-friendly cakes, one common thread was to be found here: human hate. People just are awful! No, I’m not talking about the right-wing fundamentalists. Neither am I talking about the gay-friendly people. I am talking about all of them. Their stench has risen all the way to my lofty, up-in-the-clouds philosophy. I, the idealist, am now suffocating. So I must write. God damn it! I will write in spite of the following groups: the right-wing fundies, the left-wing gays, the left-right gay-fundies (you read that correctly, some are ambivalent about politics and gay rights).

To hell with what they all think; here are my thoughts (all comments will be deleted in line with recent gag-orders coming from the courts of Oregon—please refrain from commenting [I really don’t care what the gay-haters, gay-supporters, gay-neutralists think of my writing, they all can kiss my existentialist ass]). I’m baking my cake and it’s smelling damn good!

Stay out of my kitchen.

First of all, people are disgusting. Try reading the articles. You will find two extremes—for that is all a brain-dead, TV-leech, column-reading, Oprah-addicted, human being living today is (mostly) capable of doing. So, on the one hand, we have the extreme view that all gays are, well, damned. If you’re gay, you’re going to have warm weather in the afterlife. Everything gay is of limits. An ancient text—usually the Bible—is used to support this sort of approach. People laugh at gays waving their flags, being shot down with water canons. People make fun of those who love the same-sex. They laugh at those who don’t want to love the same-sex, who struggle (for whatever reason), trying to stop loving the same-sex. They laugh at those who lead regular, mundane, gay lives. Some even go out and publicly display their hatred, dislike, or whatever, of the gay community. They refuse to bake them cakes. They steal their cookies—yes, they are the Cookie Monster.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have—what I call—the “gay supremacist.” These people, generally speaking, are proud to be gay. They want you to know they’re gay. They tell their cat they’re gay. They sue little old grandmas who refuse to bake them cakes. (Today they sue, tomorrow they terrorize—French-revolution-style, anyone?) They paint sidewalks in rainbows. They walk on gay sidewalks. (Segregation, anyone? Maybe straight people should walk on straight sidewalks only? But what if a straight sidewalk decided to mate with a rainbow-colored one?) Anyone who happens to be straight is—inherently—“anti-gay.” You can’t possibly live in a world where four percent of the population is gay and remain straight, can you?

Second, this whole thing about baking cakes, suing people over cake, is ridiculous. Fuck. Oops, I said something. In a thousand years, your f***ing ridiculous wars over “cake” are going to be remembered; my f-word will not be. Rest assured, your stupidity far surpasses my audacity to abuse language. Seriously. Grow up. Our ancestors died fighting for…anything but cake. If a person doesn’t want to make cake, while self-employed, working in a private business—privately-owned—they should do what ever the hell they want! If they want to worship Jesus, they can. If they want to pray to Allah, they can. If they want to refuse to serve gays, they can. If they don’t want to serve me, they can. If they don’t like your face, they can. If they want to bake “gay cake,” they can. If they want to leave a comment on my blog, they can’t. Because in Oregon, they can’t. (Who the heck wants to live in Oregon? That place of non-stop rain, filth, and that wretched city Portland.)

Third, this whole thing has gotten really nasty. I mean, it’s bad. (You thought I was bad, eh?) I’ve read the conservative articles. People can be nasty. They say all kinds of very mean things. They say things that would offend the most obtuse of us. One commentator, seeing water from a water canon being forced down the throat of a fellow human being who had gay-inclinations, wrote that he should be used to having “things shoved down his throat.” Ouch.

And then there are the gay-friendly people (who—get this—are not so “friendly” after all). In fact, on one particular site, they had some very disturbing things to say about people who don’t agree with gay marriage.[1] One commentator called the anti-gay people, his/her “opponents,” too stupid to engage in dialogue. They lacked “rational” behavior. Another went on a rant calling everyone who disagreed with his position on gay marriage “morons, idiots, fanatics, bigots, etc.” And another commentator said something that stuck. He said that this family which has, as of recently, refused to bake a cake for a gay couple, has committed a “crime.” The commentator dropped “hate” and simply used “crime” instead.

I don’t believe in Allah. I want my readers to be aware of that. Now, given this reality, have I committed a “crime”? I mean, I don’t believe in pro-Allah supporters. I don’t support them. I don’t go to their “parades” (i.e., mosques). I don’t read their “propaganda” (i.e., Koran). Sure, I would make them a cake. But that’s just me. I doubt a Muslim would say I committed some kind of “crime.” I doubt a Muslim, knowing my rejection of Allah, the Koran, and Muhammad, would call me a “bigot” who has committed a “hate crime.” I, likewise, would not call another fellow human being a “bigot” for being a utilitarian (I myself am deontological Kantian.) I hate utilitarianism. It’s my own moral sense. I would not marry a utilitarian. Am I a bigot? Have I committed a “hate crime”? What the hell is a hate crime?

If I have seen any hate, it has been reading these articles. Hate is not a crime—it is a condition of the human heart. It is not something “out there.” It is—pointing at my chest—something “in here.” Now, please point a finger at yourself. That, right there, is capable of hate. No, not of hate crime (few of us are Hitlers). Few are capable of “hate crime.” Please do humanity a favor: speak of hate, but do not speak of hate crime. It is not a polite thing to mention in civilized society. I assure you, people don’t commit hate crimes when they disagree with you. Utilitarians are not committing hate crimes when they criticize us deontologists. Christians are not committing hate crimes when they debate atheists. Muslims are not committing hate crimes when they refuse to serve pork or alcohol. (The Gaystapo needs to come after them next. The idea was mine.) Gay people are not committing hate crimes when they marry someone they love.

Sexuality is not some end-all and be-all. (In America, maybe.) Enough human beings on earth care for other things. Monks and nuns are human beings, too—even if some of them are asexual (or sexually inactive). My sexuality is virtually non-existent. Am I less human? I’m a single, white male. Our obsession with sex has led to this. To this state of affairs. Pitirim Sorokin was right: we have become a “museum of pathology.” (Look at all the hate, petty lawsuits, etc.) I would like to elaborate on Sorokin’s comment: our culture is a “museum of sexuality.” The only thing we care about is what a male does with his dick. That’s disgusting. Pathetic. Base.

Mozart, please. I need some civilized shit in this place.

I am starting to lose faith in evolution. This society as a whole is scaring me. We are not progressing. We are regressing. Or so it seems. But I still have faith in us. We can break free. I believe in freedom. I defend disagreement. I actually like gay people. I actually like anti-gay people (my parents, for example, are very anti-gay). I like freedom. Since when have we—whether pro-gay or anti-gay—decided that freedom was not worth it? Since when have we placed grandmas in prison for acting on their beliefs, on their freedoms? Is this a world you want?

The political philosopher John Rawls developed the idea of creating policies created under a “veil of ignorance.” I would like us to imagine a world in which we don’t know who we would be. We don’t know if we’ll be the little, old anti-gay grandma making cookies. We don’t know if we’ll be born with feelings for the same-sex. We don’t know any of that. What kind of laws would we make? What kind of policies? What would we do? Would we punish people for acting on their beliefs when they resulted in no physical damage? Or, as in the Oregon case, would we sue people for “emotional damage”? (What the hell is that?) Imagine a world in which law suits could be initiated on the basis that somebody “felt” like somebody else “emotionally damaged” them. Imagine a world in which unrequited love was considered “emotional damage”? Where a gay person falling for a straight person sued the straight person for “not loving me back.” What if the straight person sued a gay person on similar grounds? Where do we stop? Where do we start?

We quickly see how hard it would be to handle and maintain such a world in which emotional stability and homeostasis was a right. But it’s not a right. I don’t sue my wife for causing emotional damage because she was involved in a car accident. I don’t sue my 2-year-old daughter for causing “emotional distress” because she was sick with the flu. I don’t sue people for believing things with which I disagree with. If my life was in danger, if their actions caused physical damage, a lawsuit would be appropriate. If people were starving, and someone refused to serve gays, that would be a problem.

Whatever the solutions may be, the stuff being discussed on the Internet right now, in our society, is ridiculous. I don’t buy it. (And, please, do disagree.) I don’t know the answers to our problems—and why should we even think such “answers” even exist?—but I know one thing for certain: all of this “hate crime talk” needs to stop. Right. Now.

Humans have been trying to figure out this “freedom” thing for a very long time. We are perfecting it. We haven’t yet reached our destination. The ethics of freedom sure could use a little bit of love, disagreement, diversity, tolerance, acceptance, etc. We certainly must allow people to disagree with us, with society. We certainly must allow people to believe whatever they’d like. I’m not one to punish thought-crime. I’m not one who has thought-phobia. At least not yet. I think we can do so much better.

[1] I am referring to lgbtqnation.com.