I didn’t think to write a second part of this article, but there is an issue with mythicists in general that really upsets me, and it has to do with their criticism of the criteria of embarrassment and dissimilarity as possible pointers toward Jesus’ historicity.

The argument in general as advocated by Robert Price and Richard Carrier, among others, goes like this (and I hope not to misrepresent their positions):

The arguments from embarrassment and dissimilarity are seriously flawed, because if the Gospel writers were “embarrassed” by the information they were sharing or told something that contradicted their narrative, they would not have included it in the text. Actually, if it was included, it is because it proves a point that the Gospel writer is trying to make.

Here is a fuller description of this rejection. I disagree with this statement, but to illustrate my point, I want to show how it is used, not only in New Testament criticism, but in actual historiographical labor regarding other historical subjects.
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Eusebius and an Angry Constantine Not Caring about Christ

Constantine

Emperor Constantine

It is known and very well established by scholars that Eusebius of Caesarea is not exactly the best reliable source in the universe if you want to know anything about the actual history of Christianity or what happened during the Emperor Constantine’s reign. Recently, Donald Robertson wrote an excellent article on how Eusebius seems to have made up the persecution against Christians supposedly engaged by Marcus Aurelius. The statement agrees fully with what scholars have found about stories of martyrdom in early Christianity, and which have been publicized by Candida Moss’ excellent book, The Myth of Persecution. In his article, Robertson quotes Eusebius himself when he states in one of his writings:

“That it will be necessary sometimes to use falsehood as a remedy for the benefit of those who require such a mode of treatment.”

Jakob Buckhardt, the nineteenth century historian of Antiquity, is famous for characterizing Eusebius as a compulsive liar, needless to say that for him, the description of Eusebius as “historian” does not fit well, but rather “propagandist”.

Therefore, if you want to read a book such as Eusebius’ Life of Constantine, we should expect more propaganda than and actual systematic objective narrative. For instance, most people think that Constantine’s apparition of the Cross in the heavens as told by that book is historical, and that it was the point where he converted to Christianity. Yet, when we go to the Arch of Constantine, which commemorates his victory in the Battle of  Milvian Bridge, there is no sign of Christ anywhere, nor of the Labarum, nor the chi-rho symbol that supposedly he saw with the Labarum, nor do his soldiers appear with it inscribed in their shields. We see evidence, though, of an homage to Sol Invictus. Needless to say that Constantine used Sol Invictus’ symbolism everywhere, from his statue, to coins, to legislation, etc. In fact, no one else knows Eusebius’ account of his conversion (notoriously different from Lactantius), and he says that Constantine told him the story in secret and under oath (!) (see Book 1, ch. 28). Yes we agree that the chi-rho sign was distinctive of Constantine’s reign and we have evidence for it (and the use of the Labarum), but is it clear that it is a Christian symbol? Some scholars dispute it, given that the earliest account of an actual vision apparently as told publicly by Constantine himself, occurred in 310 CE, where the Sol Invictus and the goddess Victory handed him a military standard with the description of a symbol that is suspiciously similar to the chi-rho sign. Of course, nobody was able to ask Constantine about any of the claims of the apparition of the Cross, given that when Eusebius’ book was written, the “sole eye-witness who swore this under oath to him and no one else” was dead.

Yet, not everything that Eusebius wrote about Constantine is a lie. Some of the facts he tells us did happen, perhaps not in the way he portrays it. Besides, there are many aspects where Eusebius seems to be surprisingly honest. For instance, when he reproduces Constantine’s own letters and official documents. How do we know that he didn’t distort them? Mainly because of … the criteria of embarrassment and dissimilarity. AS in the case of the Gospels, these letters actually served Eusebius to make an immediate point in his narrative, BUT by using this information, he reveals Constantine’s true attitudes towards Christianity that do not serve the author on other grounds.

If Eusebius’ writings are apologetic to the core, then we must ask, what was the purpose of his Life of Constantine? Apparently, from reading the text, and what we know about his exaggerated claims and omission of information, we can infer that Eusebius wanted to show Constantine as a Christian model, following the archetypal path of Biblical figures such as Moses and David. That is what we see page after page of Eusebius accounts. There is no question about it in the realm of scholarly Antiquity. Yet, in order to tell us about the Council of Niscea, and Constantine’s role in it, he has to tell us about Alexander and Arius’ dispute about the nature of Christ: Was Christ a lower divinity in the same nature as the Father, but not God Himself? Or was He as God as God the Father, coeternal and cosubstantial?

For Constantine, this was not a trivial matter, but not because he was bothered subjectively regarding this Christian conviction. He was worried because the dispute was generating a level of conflict that literally was tearing apart his Empire, the one he fought so hard for so many years to unify. Eusebius tells us that when he knew about this dispute, he was deeply saddened by it. In order to find unity among Christians, he wrote a letter calling Arius and Alexander, the Bishop of Alexandria, to peace. Because the letter itself could not resolve this dispute, Constantine called for a Council to decide this debate once after all. In this sense, the letter served Eusebius’ point, that Constantine cared for the peace and unity of Christians (a real Peacemaker with a capital “P”), especially by calling for a Council that decided what was the Truth (with a capital “T”).

Yet, if we read the letter itself, we can see Constantine’s true attitude towards the whole subject. His motives were political, not doctrinal in any sense. He couldn’t care less about whether Arius or Alexander was right. He wanted a unified Empire. This is transparent in the letter. Here are some observations about it (if you want to read the letter in its entirety, see Book II, chs. 64-72). From the letter we get that Constantine condemns Arius and Alexander, both, for disputing about a subject he describes with these words:

  • “… having made a careful inquiry into the origin and foundation of these differences, I find the cause to be of a truly insignificant character, and quite unworthy of such fierce contention” (ch. 68, my emphasis)
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  • “I should say, that you [Alexander] asked them something connected with an unprofitable question, then you, Arius, inconsiderately insisted on what ought never to have been conceived at all, or if conceived, should have been buried in profound silence” (ch. 69, my emphasis).
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  • “For those points of discussion which are enjoined by the authority of no law, but rather suggested by the contentious spirit which is fostered by misused leisure, even though they may be intended merely as an intellectual exercise, ought certainly to be confined to the region of our own thoughts, and not hastily produced in the popular assemblies, nor unadvisedly entrusted to the general ear. For how very few are there able either accurately to comprehend, or adequately to explain subjects so sublime and abstruse in their nature?” (ibid., my emphasis).
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  • “For as long as you continue to contend about these small and very insignificant questions, it is not fitting that so large a portion of God’s people should be under the direction of your judgment, since you are thus divided between yourselves. I believe it indeed to be not merely unbecoming, but positively evil, that such should be the case.” (ch. 71, my emphasis)
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  • “But let us still more thoughtfully and with closer attention examine what I have said, and see whether it be right that, on the ground of some trifling and foolish verbal difference between ourselves, brethren should assume towards each other the attitude of enemies, and the august meeting of the Synod be rent by profane disunion, because of you who wrangle together on points so trivial and altogether unessential? This is vulgar, and rather characteristic of childish ignorance, than consistent with the wisdom of priests and men of sense.” (ibid., my emphasis)
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  • “And this I say without in any way desiring to force you to entire unity of judgment in regard to this truly idle question, whatever its real nature may be. For the dignity of your synod may be preserved, and the communion of your whole body maintained unbroken, however wide a difference may exist among you as to unimportant matters” (ibid., my emphasis)
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  • “For while the people of God, whose fellow-servant I am, are thus divided among themselves by an unreasonable and pernicious spirit of contention, how is it possible that I shall be able to maintain tranquility of mind?” (ch. 72, my emphasis)

And HERE is where the criterion of embarrassment (and also dissimilarity) kicks in!

Does this letter serve Eusebius? Again, yes, it does!  Read in its totality, it serves to point out how much of a peacemaker he was towards Christians, and how concerned he was for “true peace” within the one true Catholic Church.

Yet, it also contains elements that do not favor the main thesis of his book! How likely is it, that Eusebius would make up a letter that has so much unflattering things to say about both sides of the discussion (including the “orthodox” side represented by Alexander)? There is next to no chance, since we know that Eusebius is notorious for distorting facts to his brand of Christianity. How likely is it that Eusebius would make Constantine regard the issue as “unimportant”, “a trivial and foolish verbal difference”, “positively evil”, and so on? Minute, almost non-existent. Yet, these elements are there for one reason… and one reason only: because historically, Constantine did write the letter, and because he did not care about Christology. This is the criterion of embarrassment in action! This is why it is useful in the field of history.

We are still left with a question. Why couldn’t he just forge the letter? For one simple reason: that he is still living in a time where Constantine just died, but his advisers, his friends, his militia, his scribes, Arian friends of the Emperor (like Eusebius of Nicomedia), and so on, were still living. He would have been caught with the forgery if that happened.

In general, it is unlikely that Eusebius could have made up material that would be contrary to his intent of presenting Constantine as a devout Christian, and in such “embarrassing” levels.  Yet, he still used the letter, because despite of some of its content, it “proves” that Constantine was a Peacemaker.

Is this criterion a sort of the criterion of dissimilarity? Yes. And all of the above shows that these criteria are useful in History as a discipline.
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The Criteria of Embarrassment and Dissimilarity in New Testament Scholarship

How does this apply to the New Testament? In our previous post, we saw that Jesus’ baptism was an inconvenient factor for all of the Gospels’ authors. They are not properly speaking “embarrassed” on the whole of the story, in the sense that it deals with how Jesus was actually declared Son of God at the moment of his baptism. As a matter of fact, the whole episode in the Synoptic reads like a prophet anointing a new king (just like Samuel anointed David). This is emphasized apparently in Luke, in whose original text (or at least according to some scholars) the Holy Spirit appears pronouncing the verses of Psalm 2, regarding the king being begotten as the Son of God (Ps. 2:7; Lk. 3:22).

John the Baptist

John the Baptist

But still, any attentive reader should feel nagged by the premise of John’s baptism:  this is a baptism of confession and repentance of sins!  That’s why people were being baptized by him. Why did Jesus go there? Why not just begin his ministry separately from John the Baptist. The historical answer is that Jesus began as John’s disciple. In order to eliminate the inconvenience of this undeniable fact, the Gospel writers (specifically Mark’s Gospel) changed the meaning of his baptism: Jesus’ is not a baptism of confession and repentance of sins; in this particular case, it was an “anointing” by a known prophet. Then, according to Mark, Jesus had a vision and knew that he was the Son of God … even though he never said that publicly!

An this fact is another inconvenience. What is the evidence that Jesus was the Son of God? The problem, Mark would say, is that when he was recognized as the Son of God by demons or others, he ordered them to shut up; but his disciples were supposed to know, yet never understood him.  There is no debate among scholars that this claim, as absurd as it sounds, is the literary motif of that Gospel.  Don’t believe me?  Read that Gospel from beginning to end! That’s the whole idea! Even after his resurrection, the women never told the disciples about those news (remember that the Gospel actually ends in Mark 16:8, the rest of the verses were a later addition).

Why? Again, Mark wanted to explain why Jesus historically never appeared to have called himself Son of God in public, and wanted to explain away why the Messiah, who knew since his baptism that He was the Son of God, never revealed it publicly: because he either shut people up about it, or he was misunderstood by his disciples.

If we go to the other synoptic Gospels, we find another inconvenience for both of their authors. This time, their common source, the Q text, tells us about John’s reaction when he heard the news about Jesus’ activity. According to Q (or at least what it supposedly should have said, Q is a hypothetical document):

The disciples of John reported all these things to him. So John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ When the men had come to him, they said, ‘John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” ’ Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind. And he answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me’ (Lk. 7:18-23; Mt. 11:2-6).

Of course, this served both Matthew and Luke regarding their immediate point: to confirm the authors’ conviction that Jesus was the Messiah, and that the miracles that he carried out proved without a doubt that he was “the one who is to come”. Yet, now a question nags: “But, wait a second! According to Matthew, John actually did know that Jesus was the Messiah (Matt. 3:14)! And in Luke, even when John didn’t baptize Jesus, he was a close relative of his and should have known all of the fantastic stuff that happened to Joseph, Mary, Zechariah, and his mother Elisabeth, and he must have known that Jesus was the Messiah, right? (Lk. 1-2)”  If you follow both Gospels, John should have known better than to ask that inconvenient question, and yet, historically speaking, John seems not to have known that Jesus was “the one to come”. Still with that problematic issue, both Gospel writers used it to prove their immediate point, that Jesus’ activity did show that he was the Messiah, and THAT was included in Jesus’ reply to John. This is the reason why scholars think that most probably this event of John sending his disciples to ask Jesus actually took place.

Now, why didn’t any of the Gospel writers follow the path of the Gospel of John, of omitting (or even denying) that Jesus was baptized? Very simple!  Because Mark’s account, which is the basis for both Matthew’s and Luke’s, apparently collected  early traditions among Christians. Besides, through critical scholarly analyses, we know that during the first century, John the Baptist also had disciples, and his sect gradually became confrontational with Christians. This can be shown in John’s Gospel, when (apparently responding to this sect) states clearly that John was not the Light, but he was a “witness to the Light” (John 1:6-8). Also, it was widely known at the time, that the custom of Baptism in Christianity had its roots from John’s activity as a baptizer. The author of the Gospel of John is far enough from that historical moment in order to omit (or deny?) that Jesus was ever baptized by John. Not so in the case of the earlier Gospels, whose writing took place when a wide variety of people, including Christians, did know that Jesus was baptized by John. Besides, the Gospels reflect an admiration for John that was shared by all Christians … they just think that Jesus was greater than John.

Note: If you want to read how can scholars have an idea of the disputes between Christians and the followers of John the Baptist, read Raymond Brown’s book, The Community of the Beloved Disciple.

So, they didn’t change the fact of the event initially, but rather changed the meaning of the event. This was at the beginning, but as I showed in my previous post, at least from a literary point of view, the first account of Jesus’ baptism shows him being baptized by John; in the second account (Matthews’) we see a bit of an effort of the Gospel writer to explain this fact; then in the third account (Luke’s) Jesus’ baptism is dissociated from John; until finally (in John’s Gospel0, Jesus was not baptized by John, nor baptized at all.

Everything in all four Gospels points at some level of “embarrassment” regarding these issues. The only explanation for why they initially had to tell the story, is because historically Jesus was baptized by John, and everyone knew that. If THAT is the case, then Jesus is not a fictional or mythical character of a story, and most probably (to the point of almost absolute certainty) he truly existed.
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The Limits of the Criterion of Embarrassment

Is this criterion infallible? Absolutely not. There are cases where it fails, and mythicists are right that it can fail often. Yet they forget some important factors:

  1. To discard this criterion because it fails sometimes does not mean that it will fail all of the time. We can see in this article at least four cases where it clearly shows that it does help us obtain some historical information: 1. that Jesus was baptized, 2. that he never claimed to be the Son of God, 3.that John didn’t know about Jesus being “the one to come”, and 4. that Constantine wrote a very unflattering letter to Christians and didn’t care about Christology.
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  2. They give the public the impression that these limits are not being discussed among New Testament scholars.

Regarding this second point, this is simply untrue. The limits of the criteria of embarrassment and dissimilarity are widely discussed by scholars in the field and are very well known (see here, here, here and here). However, we have several good news:

  • Although these criteria have a subjective degree that it cannot be denied, their discussion with scholars who hold very different points of view on the matter help refine their methodological use, given that they cannot be mechanically applied to everything (e.g. to Jesus’ cry of Psalm 22 on the Cross).
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  • These discussions also help combining these criteria with several others (criteria of coherence, consistency, social and cultural context, literary style and message, etc.)
  • Mythicists often complain against these criteria saying that many ancient writings contradict themselves. Yet, what they miss is that often these contradictions are examined by critical scholars and historians in order to explain them. When it is a appropriate, guess which two criteria (among many others) do they have in mind when they examine them?

In all this discussion, let’s remember that not only the NT reconstruction of the “historical Jesus”, but also all of the History is this incredibly difficult process of arming a coherent jigsaw puzzle that takes the bits and pieces left to us from the past (documents, archaeological discoveries, etc.) and reconstruct the past into the best picture we are able to. This is the reason why people often we see historians “revising” history. This is not because there was an original infallible picture of what happened in the past, and then those “damned liberal” historians want to distort it … History is rather an ongoing process of refining its methods, reevaluating the evidence, and refining their historical theories using criteria (all of themfallible) to formulate the best theoretical picture we have of what actually happened in the past.

Like the natural sciences, this happens frequently. Unlike the natural sciences, this is not an exact hard discipline like Physics. Finding an accurate picture of the past is a lot harder and includes a lot of things that Physics doesn’t have to deal with: for example, cognitive science, sociology, economics, political science, and so on.

So, if anything, we have shown once again the validity of the arguments of embarrassment and dissimilarity, and saw how they point at the fact of an actual historical Jesus.

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Like ghosts that constantly come back to haunt the public’s intellect, so does mythicism show up its infamous presence again and again, especially during the Christmas season and Lent.  There are two camps in this realm, one which is made up of non-experts who have absolutely no authority in the area, and will claim that Jesus’ life is crafted after Horus, who was crucified died and resurrected, as well as Krishna, Mithra, Buddha, and so on. Of course, any historian with the most basic knowledge of Antiquity can dismiss all of these claims as totally untrue.

Yet, there is another sector of mythicism that is more respectable and is being held by authoritative historians and scholars, such as is the well known cases of Robert Price and Richard Carrier. Of the two of them, Price is the only one with a Ph.D. in New Testament scholarship, Carrier is an expert in general Antiquity, not Bible scholarship.  This doesn’t mean that these are the only two academics who hold a mythicist view. For instance, there is also Raphael Lataster, who wrote an article for the Washington Post about two years ago regarding his view that Jesus didn’t exist. I will use this article to show why this academic mythicist view is simply wrong. Of course, I cannot respond to all of their claims, but I will give enough in this post to show why this is an extremely minor view held by academics, and why the overwhelming majority of specialists in the area reject it.

Before I begin, I want to accept that Lataster’s is an article with a limited space to argue his position with all due nuance. I will try my best not to take him out of context. I’m also aware that he is unable to respond to all of the objections presented against this mythicist view.

Oh! And another thing. I am not a Bible scholar with a degree in the field. This means that you should take my assertions with care, and talk to an actual professional Bible scholar about the issue. All I can promise you here is that my statements will abide as best as possible by the best Bible scholarship that I know.

What I Agree with Mythicists

Surprisingly enough, there are areas where, from a historical standpoint I can agree with mythicists. From a methodological naturalistic point of view assumed by history, it is very unlikely that there was a virgin birth, or that someone ascended “to the heavens” defying the laws of gravity. Most probably there were no miraculous healings in the strictest sense of the word, and most probably Lazarus didn’t rise from the dead. So, from a historiographical standpoint, I agree that there was no Jesus who was miraculously conceived, carried out miracles, died, resurrected, and ascended to heaven, etc.  A lot of this is a product of fantasy.

I also agree with one very important point brought constantly by mythicists.  There is no smoking gun that proves without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus existed. If you want to argue that there is no archaeological discovery of the first century that talks about Jesus, or that there is no text written by him, or that the information that we have from them is contradictory, written decades, even centuries later, etc., I would be forced to agree.

My Disagreement

Yet, as historians of Antiquity know very well, if these variables were the sole determinants of the existence of an ancient person, we would have to wipe out almost all of the information that we have gathered from Antiquity, and stay with a minutia of what we do have evidence for. We would have to erase from history, Thales of Miletus, Pythagoras, Socrates, Apolonius of Tiana, Spartacus, etc. Your 20 volumes of an encyclopedia of history would be reduced to a 20 pages pamphlet (I’m exaggerating, but you get the point), because besides claims made by documents, we have next to no evidence of a lot of claims that they make. History is not an exact science like Physics, and it can only suppose provisionally what documents can tell us after they have been rigorously qualified by the available evidence using the best methods that historians have available.

One of the things that most people don’t know, and mythicist continually exploit this ignorance, is that virtually all ancient documents do have agendas. None of them are neutral. Do you think that Julius Caesar was “100% objective” regarding his recount of his conquest of Gaul? No, many of his claims have been found to be false! Do you think that Josephus was “100% objective” with no agendas tied to the Roman Empire?  That Aristotle was “100%  objective”, especially with his tendency to demean other philosophers to make himself look greater? That Herodotus was “100% objective”? NO!  None of these authors were “agenda-free” historians or thinkers!  If this is the case … what does it mean when mythicist claim that you should never believe ANY information provided by Paul’s letters or the Gospels, because they have agendas?! If every historian behaved this way, we would know next to nothing about history. Of course, an “agenda” is something to keep in mind, but it does not discredit historical claims automatically.

Whether there was a historical Jesus beneath this fiction, I agree with the overwhelming consensus among scholars of Antiquity and the New Testament:  YES! Most probably a historical Jesus did indeed exist in the past.

Mythicists often argue that the reason why such consensus exists is because most of them are believers. Yet, this is overly simplistic, given that a lot of the most renowned scholars had trouble with their respective churches for holding such controversial use. The classic case of Rudolf Bultmann should be recalled, since he held in the nineteenth century that most of what the Gospel say didn’t happen. The Catholic priest, Raymond Brown, who has become a must-read for every New Testament scholar today, had huge problems with the Vatican due to inconvenient scholarship regarding his scholarly stance on Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as well as controversial statements regarding John’s Gospel (see his Community of the Beloved Disciple as an example). The priest John Meier has often differed scholarly from the dogmatic positions of Roman Catholicism (e.g., he holds from a scholarly view that Jesus had brothers and sisters who were the sons of Joseph and Maryagainst the Catholic dogma of the perpetual virginity of Mary).

Yet, briefly, for the sake of argument, let’s take believers out of the equation. The vast majority of non-believers in the field also hold that Jesus did indeed exist. In this case, mythicists argue that the problem is that the minds of these scholars have been manipulated and conditioned (they were brainwashed?) by previous Christian scholars. Yet, this claim has no more credibility than the allegation from the political Right-Wing that the anthropogenic view of climate change is held by most scientists as part of a conspiracy by the U.N. and Al Gore to take away the sovereignty of the countries of the world and steer them towards socialism; or the political Left claims that most scientists favor GMOs because they have been bought by Monsanto. It basically supposes that Bible scholars who agree with Jesus’ existence have no actual agency of their own, despite the fact that virtually all of them have studied Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, Coptic, have had historiographical education and instruction, and more often than not they learn to defy convention.

So, it is not surprising what Lataster says in his article:

Numerous secular scholars have presented their own versions of the so-called “Historical Jesus” – and most of them are, as biblical scholar J.D. Crossan puts it, “an academic embarrassment.” From Crossan’s view of Jesus as the wise sage, to Robert Eisenman’s Jesus the revolutionary, and Bart Ehrman’s apocalyptic prophet, about the only thing New Testament scholars seem to agree on is Jesus’ historical existence. But can even that be questioned?

And yet, of all of these listed above, Ehrman’s views corresponds better to the consensus, and most scholars reject Crossan and Eisenman’s views, even though these are still in debate. This is an idea defended by the some of the most hard core scholars such as John P. Meier, E. P. Sanders, Paula Fredriksen, Gerd Lüdemann, Antonio Piñero, among others. The reason why scholars gravitate towards the view that Jesus is an apocalyptic prophet is due to the whole primitive Christian movement was apocalypticist (as we shall see), and this can be inferred from Paul’s authentic letters as well from the Synoptic Gospels (the most primitive documents on Jesus we have). Yet, Jesus did not carry out any revolution nor was he thinking about an armed revolt. The most common view today is that Jesus was awaiting the Son of Man, who would dispense justice and place him as king of Israel with all twelve tribes ruled by the twelve Apostles (Mt. 19:28). Eisenman’s effort to present this “revolutionary Jesus” is based solely on his reading of some of the Dead Sea Scrolls which he holds some are Christian documents (especially the Habakkuk peshercarbon-14 put that matter to rest for good, as well as analyses made by the vast majority of experts in these ancient documents). Also his exotic views on James and Paul are not embraced by almost anyone in the field. Regarding Jesus as a sage, scholars have realized that Jesus’ wise views can only be understood within an apocalypticist context and framework, so, again, it is more reasonable to suppose that he was an apocalypticist prophet.

So, the situation is much less “embarrassing” than Lataster wants us to believe. Pointing out the discrepancy among three scholars hardly constitutes a case against Jesus’ existence.

The Early Sources

Lataster tells us:

The earliest sources only reference the clearly fictional Christ of Faith. These early sources, compiled decades after the alleged events, all stem from Christian authors eager to promote Christianity – which gives us reason to question them. The authors of the Gospels fail to name themselves, describe their qualifications, or show any criticism with their foundational sources – which they also fail to identify. Filled with mythical and non-historical information, and heavily edited over time, the Gospels certainly should not convince critics to trust even the more mundane claims made therein.

This is a non-sequitur. Even if the Gospel authors fail to name themselves, that by itself does not mean that they are not using earlier sources and traditions. Quite the opposite, all of the analysis made by scholars in the twentieth century have identified in the four Gospels many early sources that form the basis of their writings.

Also the fact that they want to promote Christianity doesn’t mean either that Jesus didn’t exist, or that the traditions lack any validity. At best, this argument is a red-herring, and tells us nothing about Jesus’ historicity or lack of it. Julius Caesar was heavily promoted by a lot of the literature of his time, including his own. They all present, strictly speaking, a fictional Caesar reconstructed as a form of propaganda in his favor. Does that mean that he didn’t exist? Through Virgil, we learn that Caesar Augustus is divine because he was a descendant of the hero Aeneas, who had Venus as his mother. Does that mean that Augustus didn’t exist? A divinized Jesus is nothing strange in Antiquity, and follows the tendency of turning eminent historical  people in his time to become divine. Bart Ehrman wrote an excellent book about this subject.

Even though we have no smoking gun-proof of Jesus’s existence, the question historians ask is where does the evidence tends to point at? Towards his existence or non-existence?

Criteria for Historicity

This is perhaps the weakest argument from mythicists.  The criteria of embarrassment, multiple attestation, and others are not perfect, yet they are not exactly useless either. It is overly simplistic to see one case where these don’t work, and then throw them to the waste basket. Each of these criteria has its own limitations, sometimes they need to be combined in order to work, in other cases they are not enough to decide whether a passage reflects history or not.

Yet, they are important and still extremely useful. Lataster discusses the three. I don’t have time to discuss all of them, but I will respond to this one to show how short-sighted are his (and other mythicists’) views on this subject. He says:

The methods traditionally used to tease out rare nuggets of truth from the Gospels are dubious. The criterion of embarrassment says that if a section would be embarrassing for the author, it is more likely authentic. Unfortunately, given the diverse nature of Christianity and Judaism back then (things have not changed all that much), and the anonymity of the authors, it is impossible to determine what truly would be embarrassing or counter-intuitive, let alone if that might not serve some evangelistic purpose.

And yet, anyone who has taken into consideration literary analysis of the Gospels and letters in the New Testament, can identify pretty accurately, regardless the anonymity of the authors, what he thinks, what he believes, what his public is, what is the literary message of the writing, and so on. Whoever establishes this as a problem simply does not know how to read a text. From the context itself we can know what the author is embarrassed about. I can use lots of examples, but for the sake of argument, I’ll use one particular case: Jesus’ baptism. All I require my reader to do is to actually read the passages I’m going to discuss in their New Testament (Don’t take my word for it!  Read them yourselves!)

We know today (and few academics challenge this view) that the Gospels were written between 68 and 100 CE in this order: Mark (68-70 CE), Matthew (80-90 CE), Luke (80-90 CE), John (90-100 CE). This is provisionally accepted by virtually all Bible scholars. So, regarding Jesus’ baptism, we see a gradual effort to distance him from John the Baptist’s ministry, and at the end negate the event of his baptism.

Let’s look at the passages carefully:

  • Mark 1:1-15 – Let’s note that this is our earliest Gospel, and says nothing about Jesus’ miraculous birth, nor early life in either Bethlehem or Nazareth. It limits the information to the fact that Jesus came from Nazareth, and that’s it!  But that’s not the actual beginning of the story. It begins with the preaching of John the Baptist, and establishes the reason why he was baptizing. He was inviting people to confess their sins and submerge them in water as a sign of being cleansed of the dirt of sin. It is a sign of conversion from a sinful life (Mark 1:1-4). Then Jesus appears, gets baptized, and sees the heavens open up with the Holy Spirit declaring him Son of God (Mark 1:11). After that, we are told that Jesus spent time in the desert, and only began his ministry after John was arrested (Mark 1:14). The whole episode feels rushed: Why did Jesus baptize? We are never told. Did Jesus become the Son of God after “repenting from his sins” or did he do it for any other reason? We are never told. Why did he spend time in the desert? We are not told. Why did he begin his ministry after John’s arrest? We are never told. It is as if the Gospel writer wanted to skip all of this information related to John the Baptist to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
    .
  • Matthew 3:1-16 – This story assumes the framework established by Mark, but apparently includes material that presumably comes from the text that scholars call Q. Yet, there is another difference between Mark’s and Matthew’s account: John stops Jesus briefly to ask him why is he going to be baptized, if John himself should be baptized by Jesus. After that, Jesus gives John a non-answer: “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15)  That’s it! Again, no explanation whatsoever.  It is as if the author of this Gospel was trying to explain away the reason why Jesus was baptized by John. Unfortunately, Jesus’ answer doesn’t explain anything, except to say that it is God’s will.
    .
  • Luke 3:1-22 – The story presented here is more curious than the preceding ones. Here, we find the same Markan framework, it includes Q material, plus more statements from John the Baptist. Yet, something curious happens. Question to you: In this Gospel, is Jesus baptized by John? Pay attention to the text! In vv. 19-20, we find that John was arrested and imprisoned. THEN, Jesus appears baptized! (vv. 21-22)  What?!  Who baptized Jesus? Was it John the Baptist before being arrested? We don’t know. The text says that he was already baptized and that when he was praying, he saw the Holy Spirit descend declaring him Son of God.
    .
  • John 1:19-34 – Of all of the Gospels, this one is the most interesting!  Why?  Well, I’m going to ask you a question: “Was Jesus baptized (by John or ANYONE)?”  Feel free to roam around the passage or the whole Gospel. Your answer is negative. There is NO story at all about Jesus being baptized! And as specialists of John’s Gospel will tell you, usually when a text is notoriously silent when it should not be, usually that’s the author negating the event. (For example: Jesus goes through no agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, and totally refuses to ask God to avoid his suffering. John 12:27; 18:1-12). As a matter of fact, in the Gospel of John’s version the story of John the Baptist, it is not Jesus, but John who sees the Holy Spirit revealing Jesus as the Son of God. It is as if, Jesus already knew he was the Son of God anyway. Why need the baptism? (John 1:33-34)

So here’s the scenario. Mark is extremely brief about the John the Baptist’s activities and tells us nothing about why Jesus went to be baptized (in the context where baptism clearly implies repentance from sin). In Matthew, there is an “attempt to explain” how the sinless and righteous Jesus needed to be baptized by John, although it doesn’t give us much to go on. In Luke, the author purposely dissociates Jesus’ baptism from John’s activities; it is as if Jesus’ baptism is different from the rest of the baptized. Finally, the Gospel of John, the last of the Gospels to be written in the first century, completely denies that Jesus was baptized by John.

That gives us a pattern, which can only be explained by the criterion of embarrassment. No historian today doubts the historicity of John the Baptist, since Josephus gives us clear testimony that he existed and tells us about his activities in many ways that are clearly not based on the Gospels (which means that the story was not created or interpolated by Christian hands). The Synoptics show John as being an apocalypticist typical of the era, calling for conversion, for the one to come (the Son of Man?) is close.

What explains these New Testament passages?  Why is there a pattern towards a gradual dissociation of Jesus from John? The reason is historically simple. Here it is:

Historically, Jesus went to John to repent from his sins to confess them and be baptized. He became John’s disciple. We don’t know if historically he went through the desert. What is clear from Mark (our earliest Gospel) is that once John was arrested, Jesus decided to begin his ministry by preaching an apocalypticist message (Mark 1:14-15), which basically said that the time for God’s Kingdom was very close and that the Son of Man was going to appear soon to judge the living and the dead, that the Messiah was going to rule this Kingdom. It is important to note that when John the Baptist heard about Jesus’ deeds in jail, he was particularly skeptical about it, another embarrassing fact revealed by the Gospels and based on Q (Matthew 11:2-3; Luke 7:18-19).

After Jesus died and his disciples began to proclaim his resurrection and that he was the Son of God, they had a problem! They were saying that the Messiah and Son of God … was baptized by John!!! He was baptized because he repented, because he wanted to be John’s disciple.  That seems embarrassing! Jesus, not John, was the Messiah. So our earliest Gospel only dwells just a bit on the story, and apologetically implies that Jesus was chosen Son of God after he was cleansed of his sins. Matthew went a bit further, and implied that Jesus was already sinless and righteous, but because “God wills it”, he chose to be baptized by John. Luke went further still and dissociated Jesus’ baptism from John’s. And John’s Gospel, the last of the Gospels, represents the culmination of all of this process: John did not baptize Jesus.

Now, we have two ways of looking at this: either Jesus existed and what is stated above is true, or Jesus did not exist, so, we are left wondering why the earliest portrayal of Jesus includes a story that reflects a notorious embarrassment for all four Gospels,  If Jesus existed, the explanation is pretty simple: Jesus’ baptism was an undeniable fact known to everyone in the movement, including to followers of John the Baptist. Each of the authors had to explain or negate in some way what actually happened. This information was very inconvenient for Christians.

So, if Jesus existing gives us the simplest and most plausible explanation for these attitudes regarding Jesus’ baptism in the Gospels, (voilà!) the criterion of embarrassment pointed out an actual historical event that apparently did take place: Jesus’ baptism.

Lataster’s view that this story was included in the Gospel because it was “convenient” for the authors or their churches does not even begin to make sense of the data we have just discussed. You will really have to do mental gymnastics in order to “save the mythicist theory” to then explain these attitudes reflected in the Gospels.

Paul’s Jesus:  The “Heavenly Christ Crucified by Spirits”?

One of the unresolved issues in New Testament scholarship is the attitude of indifference by Paul of Tarsus regarding the life and deeds of Jesus. I provide my reasons for this in my book Pablo el Emisario, although I don’t claim to have hit the jackpot regarding this matter: basically that his letters were not gospels or expositors of Jesus’ biography, but arguments to address very specific problems of the Christian communities in gentility. Yet, even when I accept that this is not wholly satisfactory, it would be misleading to then to take this factor and pretend that for Paul Jesus was a celestial being with no past presence on Earth, or that the crucifixion took place “in the heavens” (sublunar realm to be more exact) and was “carried out by demons”.

Quite the opposite, Paul does remind us about Jesus’ humanity. He was actually born from a woman under the dominion of the Torah, the Law (Galatians 4:4). According to Paul, where did the Torah rule? In the sublunar regions of the heavens?  No!  It ruled right here on Earth, particularly on the Jewish people. In other words, Jesus was born a Jew according to the flesh (that is, in a physical body), an idea he states clearly in his letters (Rom. 9:1-5). From this theological framework, we can understand perfectly Paul’s view on the soteriological dimension of Jesus’ crucifixion. Basically, Jesus was ruled under the Torah and was crucified, making himself damnable under the Torah — just like all gentiles are—, so that Jesus would assume the sins of the gentiles, and finally defeat death with his resurrection (Gal. 3:13-14; 1 Cor. 5:20-21; Rom. 5:20-21; 6:1-14). In other words, contrary to what Lataster and other mythicist claim, Paul did believe that Jesus existed as a historical and physical Jew born of a woman who was actually crucified on Earth. His theology would be incomprehensible if he believed otherwise.

He also states very clearly, in no uncertain terms, that Jesus had brothers, and one of them was called Jacob, who was the head of the Christian community in Jerusalem, and whom he met personally (Gal. 1:19; 1 Corinthians 9:5-6). This agrees perfectly with the list of names and references to Jesus’ own brothers and sisters in the Gospels and other writings (Mark 6:3; Jude 1). May I remind you, that in the earliest Gospel, there is no miraculous birth story, and portrays his relationship with his family as less than ideal (they believed that he was out of his mind), not a celestial status by any means, and completely consistent with his apocalypticist views (Mark 3:20-21,31-35; Luke 14:26). Paul didn’t tell us anything miraculous about his birth either, and by the adoption of the Greek word “adelphos“, he did believe that James and Jesus were brothers from the same mother and father.

But what about the passage mentioned by Lataster about Jesus being killed by demons (1 Cor. 2:6-10)? Actually, this issue is debated. Some scholars think that these powers are demons (spiritual powers). Other scholars think they refer to earthly powers (political powers). In my view, they are both. The problem is that he misses one basic fact about Paul … he was also an apocalypticist. Even when you can point out Hellenistic influence in his thinking (since he was formed in a Judeo-Hellenistic environment as most scholars agree), he was nonetheless an apocalypticist, just like all Christians at the time. You can see evidence of this in his genuine letters (e.g. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:28; 1 Cor. 7:25-35; 15:1-53). For apocalypticists, there is  an interplay between spiritual and earthly powers, all of them are acting simultaneously as forces of good or evil, forces of light and darkness. Those who believe are the sons of light, and those who disbelieve are in darkness. This is exactly what Paul believed (e.g. 1 Thes. 5:5-8; Rom. 13:12-13). Hence, what does 1 Cor. 2:6-10 tell us in this context? Very simple, that the spiritual powers acting in the world (through political and religious forces) led to Jesus’ crucifixion.  That they did not know that he was the Messiah and Son of God , so they crucified him.

If we add up all of the passages we have thus considered, one thing is clear: Paul did believe that the crucifixion took place here on Earth, not in the sublunar heavens … period!

About Carrier’s Views about a Gradual Descent from the Celestial Christ an Earthly Jesus

Richard Carrier and two or three other people hold that Jesus was originally conceived in Christianity as being a celestial being (an angel and Logos) to an Earthly Jesus who walked on Earth.

Yet, this is not the case. Carrier’s argument rests on his belief that Paul conceived Christ as a sort of Logos as held by Judeo-Hellenistic philosophies of the time. Only then he gradually started being portrayed as having walked this Earth (the “historization” of Jesus). With the exception of an extremely reduced number of academics, no New Testament scholar buys this for a second.

First, he mentions that for Philo of Alexandria, whose philosophy was written before Paul’s Letters and the Gospels, the Logos was called “Jesus” (“Joshua” to be more precise).  This claim has been refuted again and again by experts and knowledgeable non-experts alike, and they never cease to call Carrier’s position a big stretch, because he ignores on purpose the meaning of Philo’s text in order to make it fit his mythicist views.

But let’s go even further. The earliest writings we have of Christianity are Paul’s genuine letters. This is taken by mythicists to mean that Paul’s writings, which according to them present a “celestial Christ” and Logos, are the earliest form of Christology in early Christianity. They forget, for instance, that there are some traditions that Paul quotes in his letter that are even earlier, and whose content Paul didn’t share. For example, in his letter to the Romans, he is writing to a church established apparently by a Palestinian branch of Christianity, probably associated with the Church in Jerusalem. Paul has not visited this Church, but plans to do so after going to Jerusalem. In order to do that, the purpose of this letter is to gain its sympathy and explain his novel theological views about Christ. For this reason, he quotes the following creed:

… the gospel concerning [God’s] Son,

who was descended
from David
according to the flesh

and was declared to be
the Son of God [in power]
by the Spirit of Holiness

by the resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:3-4)

Due to literary criteria, some scholars have pointed out that this is an ancient creed of Aramaic origin (it contains Aramaisms such as the unusual “Spirit of holiness”, instead of Paul’s usual term “Holy Spirit”) in a poetic style where ideas from some verses match with others. The only element that does not fit the scheme is the term “in power” placed there by Paul in order to make it agree better with his incarnational Christology (Philippians 2:5b-11).

This creed was most probably of Palestinian origin, due to both the Aramaisms and the circumstances of the community Paul is addressing in this letter. Note that according to it Jesus became Son of God, not before his birth, not at the moment of his baptism, but at the time of his resurrection.  This is consistent with the primitive belief that we find in our earliest Gospel (Mark) where Jesus refused to call himself Son of God in public, which is “Mark’s” way of explaining away why Jesus never called himself  “Son of God” during his ministry (another historical revelation from embarrassment). The creed quoted by Paul is also preserved and repeated in another different way in the book of Acts (Acts 13:32-33).

What do these small creeds mean?  Simple, mythicists are purposely ignoring that there are even more primitive traditions in Paul’s writings: ones where Jesus was an earthly man who was to be the Messiah, and only became Son of God after his resurrection. The incarnational Christology held by Paul and others was elaborated later by Judeo-Hellenistic Jews, and which Paul adopted (as the Judeo-Hellenistic Jew that he was).  This is not explained by Carrier’s model.

As a matter of fact, for New Testament scholars in general, the tendency is exactly the opposite than pointed out by Carrier:

  1.  The initial Palestinian Christology preached a Jesus who was earthly, died crucified, and became Son of God when he resurrected; then a variety of Christologies branched, such as …
    .
  2. The adoptionists who believed that Jesus became the Son of God at the moment of his baptism (as we saw in Mark)
    .
  3. Incarnational which made Jesus Son of God because of the intervention of the Holy Spirit (Mt. 1:20b-23; Lc. 1:31-35)
    .
  4. Or that he was a pre-existent divine creature or angel who incarnated and was Son of God from the beginning (Philippians 2:5b-11)
    .
  5. Or that Jesus was a pre-existent Divine Wisdom, also God’s prime creature (Colossians 1:15-16).
    .
  6. Or that he was the divine Logos, sharing oneness in divinity with God (John 1).

If you look at the whole process, the texts where Christ is clearly identified as God’s celestial Wisdom or Logos are later Christologies: Colossians was not written by Paul, and it is dated approximately to 70 to 80 CE. John’s Gospel was written from 90 to 100 CE.

The same can be said about the Gospels: the most “human” Jesus appears in Mark, the earliest Gospel; the most celestial and deified Jesus as the Logos appears in John our latest Gospel.

In short, Carrier has zero evidence that the belief in Jesus began as a divine Logos and ended up historicized.  The tendency is the opposite: the belief in Jesus began as a flesh-and-blood historical actual Jesus on Earth who was born from of a woman and died on the cross, who was later divinized in different ways by Christians as time went by.

Conclusion

All of this has been shown again and again by scholars. The mythicists are the ones who refuse to see that the best explanation for all of the documents we have of Christianity is that Jesus existed. In order to save their theory, they need to either distort the original meaning of the documents or ignore clear evidence that place this content in a particular literary context.

I end up with Bart Ehrman’s own statements about mythicism. Please, pay attention to his words.

Comentario en cuanto a estas elecciones

On November 6, 2016, in Politics, Puerto Rico, by prosario2000

Uno de los pensadores que discuto en mi curso de Ética es a Adam Smith y las ideas generales de La riqueza de las naciones. De acuerdo con este distinguido moralista, la amplitud de la división de trabajo depende exclusivamente de un solo factor … el tamaño del mercado. Le digo a mis estudiantes que cualquier candidato o candidata a la gobernación que pretenda “crear empleos”, tiene que proveer también un programa de cómo aumentar el tamaño del nuestro mercado, especialmente en un mundo globalizado y de bloques económicos creados por diversos tratados comerciales internacionales. Les he dicho a mis estudiantes que si su candidato o candidata no provee mecanismos para insertarnos en el mercado mundial, miente cuando dice que creará empleos.

El problema de la mayoría de los candidatos a la gobernación es que en su mayoría no tienen idea alguna de cómo hacer esto:

* Ricardo Rosselló no tiene plan alguno de *cómo* insertarse en el mercado mundial para exportar nuestros productos, vender nuestros servicios y atraer capital de inversión (el que no me crea, busquen su programa de gobierno … no hay ninguno, y el que lo encuentre en línea, por favor me avisa). Lo mejor que he encontrado son los famosos 22 puntos del programa de Rosselló y no dice nada al respecto. Su candidata a Comisionada Residente está súper comprometida con mantener vigente la ley de cabotaje, algo que nos impide tener acceso efectivo al mercado estadounidense dentro de una realidad en que la mayoría de los países de Latinoamérica y otros tienen libre acceso a un costo mucho más barato.

* Bernier ha sido Secretario de Estado y sé que ha hecho lo indecible para que nuestros productos y servicios tengan acceso a varios sectores del mercado mundial. Sin embargo, el programa del PPD nos deja en el limbo en cuanto a cómo hacerlo más efectivamente, ya que eso implicaría discutir el escabroso tema del estatus. Aun cuando el coloniaje se muestra en todo su esplendor, Bernier se mantiene en la tradicional ambivalencia característica de los candidatos del pasado. Los soberanistas en el PPD todavía tienen problemas para hacer que su partido se decida por algún mecanismo funcional para resolver el problema del estatus.

* Manuel Cidre ha dejado el tema del estatus como uno puramente secundario y, en ocasiones, irrelevante ante los problemas internos del país. Habla de negociar con otros países con un tono de hombre de negocios, pero no nos dice absolutamente nada de cómo persuadir a dichas naciones a que inviertan en Puerto Rico dentro del contexto de los tratados de libre comercio a nivel internacional, de los cuales no participamos.

* Alexandra Lúgaro quiere que Puerto Rico avance y tiene en general buenas ideas. Sin embargo, rehúsa tratar con el tema del estatus como un genuino problema, sino que funciona bajo el marco de que “Puerto Rico tiene que prosperar antes de ser estado o independiente”. El problema, una vez más, es que puede desear todas las medidas internas para mejorar la situación de nuestro archipiélago borinqueño, pero sin no tratar directamente el problema del estatus conllevará una seria dificultad a la hora de ampliar nuestro mercado. Solicitar la derogación de la ley de cabotaje no será suficiente, ya que varios gobernadores y legislaturas lo han hecho (a veces unánimemente) sin resultado alguno. Sí le doy el mérito a Lúgaro de que podemos utilizar la Internet y la tecnología como mecanismos para acceder efectivamente a otros mercados (utiliza sabiamente el ejemplo de Eslovenia, si mi memoria no me falla). Ella ha hecho su propuesta del canabis un solo componente de estímulo económico, pero no *el* estímulo económico de Puerto Rico (como ha dicho la prensa). Todo esto es bueno, pero insuficiente.

* El PIP y el PPT son los únicos partidos que quieren enfrentarse directamente al tema. En el caso del PIP, está claro que la independencia permitiría acceso a esos mercados y hace su propuesta de asamblea de estatus. Aunque el PPT no tiene una posición oficial a favor de un estatus particular, sí reconoce oficialmente el coloniaje en Puerto Rico y recomienda la asamblea constitucional de estatus propuesto por el Colegio de Abogados.

La adquisición de mayores poderes para Puerto Rico es la única manera en que podemos entrar en acuerdos en un mercado del cual todos los días estamos más aislados. Pueden tomarse medidas locales temporales para estimular la economía, pero si no aumenta nuestro mercado, podemos olvidarnos de cualquier tipo de recuperación o desarrollo económico.

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Series: 1

In our first article in our series, we saw that there are some questions regarding the story of the Eucharist as it has come down to us. We have seen that most probably the original meal that Jesus carried out in the Last Supper was a kiddush, a ceremonial meal that Jesus would have interpreted as being the last one before the definitive establishment of the Kingdom of Yahweh on Earth.

We have seen that Acts of the Apostles and the Didaché talk about this ceremony, where the wine is presented first, and without any reference to an atoning sacrifice or a vicarian death of Jesus. Yet, in this section, I will argue that the author of the Gospel of Luke holds the very same tradition of the kiddush, not the Pauline one. This might seem a bit strange, given that Luke seems to be a fan of Paul. Yet, as I will argue (some time in my life), Luke agrees less with the historical Paul than with his reconstructed version of the eminent Apostle. Yet, note that it makes perfect sense when the celebration of a kiddush by the first Christians and their activities in the Temple agree with Acts‘ version of events. There, we don’t see any vicarian vision of the Eucharist, but only of a ceremony. Both books were written by the same author (we’ll call him “Luke”, although it is most probably not his name).

For such a purpose, I will set aside Antonio Piñero’s analysis for the moment, and embrace the analysis of the Last Supper in Luke made by Bart D. Ehrman in his famous book The Orthodox Corruption of Christianity.
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Luke’s Passage and Signs of Interpolation

Bart Ehrman, Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Bart Ehrman, Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

One of the passages explored by Ehrman in his book is the one on the Last Supper in Luke, where there are elements which he considers have been added by later Christian scribes in order to harmonize the passage with the other versions of the Gospels (Mark’s and Matthew’s). He also thinks that the scribe were holding “anti-Docetic” views, but I will not discuss that conviction in this blog post.

Here is the passage as it has come down to us in our versions of the Gospel of Luke:

When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took the loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body [which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.] But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined but woe to the one by whom he is betrayed!” (Luke 22:14-23).

As we pointed out, it seems as if Jesus presented the cup of wine twice. The passage in brackets and bold is the one under our scrutiny.

Contrary to practically all of the ancient manuscripts that we have, only very few of them appear with the shorter text, i.e. the text without the bracketed section (D a d ff2 i l syh). Ehrman points out that there are some of its aspects that are not Lukan in character: for instance saying “for you”, “remembrance”, or “new covenant”, three terms that only appear here and never elsewhere in Luke or Acts. The reason should be obvious for anyone who is acquainted with both books, and that is that their author does not portray Jesus’ death as an atonement for sins. In fact, he changes Mark’s texts where this theology appears. For Luke, Jesus’ death was a miscarriage of justice, and the death of an innocent who was vindicated at the moment of the resurrection (Acts 2:22-36; 3:12-16; 14:8-12; 7:51-56; 13:26-41). For example, when Jesus dies on the cross, this happens:

Now when a centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (Mark 15:39).

Luke’s Gospel says:

When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly, this man was innocent” (Luke 23:47).

Another example:  In Mark, we find the following passage:

You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:42-45).

In Luke we find the following:

The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one serves… (Luke 22:24-27).

Where is the reference to “giving his life as a ransom”? It is totally absent! Luke omitted the last part of the Markan passage.

In Acts, Luke quotes the Isaiah prophecy of the Suffering Servant, yet he is careful to choose which passages he quotes. For example, in Acts 8, an eunuch is trying to find the meaning of this passage of the Suffering Servant:

Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.

In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth (Is. 53:7-8a; Acts. 8:32-33).

Philip explains that it refers to Jesus. Yet, the author of Acts uses this passage to insist on the fact that Jesus is an innocent victim, and omits any reference to the Suffering Servant as atoning for sins (Is. 53:5,8b,10).

What does all of this mean? That, for all practical purposes Luke refuses to subscribe to the idea of Jesus either an atoning of sins or offering his life for others.

Given this scenario, what is more likely: that he changed all of the passages where Mark alludes to an atoning death of Jesus except this fragment of the text of the Last Supper, or that he also corrected Mark’s version and omitted the presentation of the wine as a new Covenant of Jesus’ blood, and that some other scribe added to the main text?  I think that the latter option seems to be most probable.

I think that the case presented by Ehrman is very strong.

Not only that, but I want to argue that Luke (whoever he was) chose to “correct” the Markan text in a very specific way: by making it fit the ceremonial form of the kiddush. He did this by making Jesus bless the wine first and the bread later. As a result, here we have Luke‘s original text:

When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took the loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body; but see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined but woe to the one by whom he is betrayed!”

And this is perfectly consistent with what we find in Acts 2:43-47, where Christians were celebrating a Eucharist that omitted all reference to an atoning or vicarian view.

Why did he adopt the kiddush variant of the Last Supper? My hypothesis: It is most probably because Luke’s church belonged to a tradition that practiced it, much like in the case of the churches that produced the Didaché. This tradition met its dead end when the process of institutionalization ended up adopting Paul’s, Mark‘s and Matthew‘s versions of the Last Supper.

Again, this reinforces the conviction that most probably the original story of the Last Supper was most probably a story of a farewell kiddush ceremony, and that the Gospel writers Mark and Matthew were most probably directly or indirectly influenced by Paul’s version of that event.
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Reference

Ehrman, Bart D. The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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Puerto Rico - Lares

Últimamente, me he quedado confundido ante la cantidad de gente que está planteando que no se ha hecho al pueblo propuesta de cómo sería la economía bajo el estatus de independencia. Ayer específicamente, me sorprendí cuando escuché a un comediante e ingeniero químico independentista (¡independentista!) decir que el independentismo necesita plantearle al pueblo un plan económico viable para los puertorriqueños.

¡¿De verdad?! Espero que mis lectores perdonen mi incredulidad, pero me fastidia que hayan gente que se llame “independentista” que diga en público que hace falta proveer un modelo económico viable de una República de Puerto Rico. Yo entiendo que un estadolibrista o un estadoísta lo cuestione, ¿pero un independentista? ¿En serio? Quiero decir que a lo sumo, lo que hace falta es mayor exposición al pueblo de las propuestas del independentismo, pero YA existe un modelo económico viable para la independencia.
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Las primeras propuestas económicas concretas 

La Independencia de Puerto RicoiComo mis lectores sabrán, he sido crítico de ciertas decisiones recientes del PIP, especialmente en relación con ciertas posiciones anticientíficas que ha adoptado en el área agrícola y alimentaria. Sin embargo, tengo que confesar que si de algo hay que quitarse el sombrero y reconocer es la excelentísima labor que ese partido llevó a cabo en el caso del proceso plebiscitario del Proyecto Johnston de 1989 a 1991. Antes de ese proyecto, la mejor propuesta del independentismo se había presentado en el libro del Lic. Rubén Berríos Martínez, La independencia de Puerto Rico: Razón y lucha. En esa obra, Berríos incluía varios artículos en torno a los falsos temores a la independencia: pérdida dramática en fondos federales, pérdida del acceso al mercado estadounidense, la salida de la inversión de corporaciones foráneas en Puerto Rico, entre otros. En aquel momento (1983), cuando lo más que había de “libre mercado” en el Caribe era la Iniciativa de la Cuenca del Caribe (o Plan Caribe) diseñada por el Presidente Ronald Reagan y otros tipos de acuerdos. Berríos afirmaba que no habría pérdida alguna de acceso al mercado norteamericano ni se tendría que ir la inversión estadounidense, que habría unos acuerdos amistosos con los Estados Unidos mientras que una República de Puerto Rico podría abrirse a establecer relaciones comerciales con otros países del mundo mucho más fácilmente.

Durante 1989 y 1991 se confirmó todo lo dicho por Berríos en su texto y más. Entre los logros conseguidos en aquella época están los siguientes:

  1. Los puertorriqueños continuarían recibiendo los fondos de sus derechos adquiridos (Seguro Social, veteranos, pensiones federales, etc.) bajo la independencia. Estos fondos constituyen del 60 al 70% de las transferencias federales a Puerto Rico. Para aquellos que estén cotizando para Seguro Social, el gobierno federal y el gobierno de la República de Puerto Rico estarían forjando un seguro social nuestro con las aportaciones que ya han hecho los trabajadores puertorriqueños por años. Este proceso de transición duraría aproximadamente 5 años.
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  2. Las transferencias otorgadas por el gobierno federal (e.g. PAN, Plan WIC, Plan 8, etc.) se recibirían en bloque por la misma cantidad que al inicio de la transición durante un periodo de 9 a 10 años, sujeto a renegociación posterior.
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  3. Las corporaciones estadounidenses podrían continuar invirtiendo en Puerto Rico bajo la Sección 901 del Código de Rentas Federal. El gobierno de la República podría utilizar la disposición del “crédito por contribuciones foráneas” e incentivar más la inversión foránea estadounidense en Puerto Rico. Simultáneamente, no habría impedimento alguno para forjar un programa de incentivos industriales para atraer capital de docenas de países alrededor del mundo. La capacidad de establecer tratados contributivos bajo la independencia posibilitaría esto.
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  4. Puerto Rico continuaría teniendo libre acceso al mercado estadounidense vía el Plan Caribe.
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  5. Aquellos nacidos con la ciudadanía estadounidense podrían retenerla, algo que fomentaría el libre tránsito entre ambas naciones y, por ende, el flujo de capital entre Puerto Rico y Estados Unidos. Además, aquellos que sean ciudadanos puertorriqueños (pero no ciudadanos estadounidenses) podrían gozar del libre tránsito a los Estados Unidos por un periodo de 30 años.
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  6. La continuación del uso del dólar estadounidense como moneda oficial de la república si así lo desea, con o sin una moneda nacional.

Lo único que en aquel momento se le había denegado a la opción de independencia era la eventual desmilitarización de Puerto Rico. Es interesante señalar que solamente a la independencia se le trató de manera tan favorable. Sin embargo, las opciones del Estado Libre Asociado y la estadidad salieron trasquiladas del proceso, ya que irónicamente (con todo y el plan de transición de nueve a diez años) la independencia se tornó en la alternativa menos costosa para los Estados Unidos. En resumen, lo menos que quería Estados Unidos era un “ELA mejorado” con mayor dependencia o una estadidad. Para mayor información, léase el libro de Rubén Berríos, Puerto Rico: Nacionalidad y plebiscito (1991).

Desde entonces, las relaciones globales de Estados Unidos a nivel mundial cambiaban dramáticamente. Ya no existía la Unión Soviética, se había implementado el Tratado de Libre Comercio de Norteamérica (NAFTA por sus siglas en inglés) y se tenía pensada la implementación del Área de Libre Comercio de las Américas (ALCA). Gradualmente, junto a la Unión Europea y Asia, el mundo se fue abriendo cada vez más a mayor interdependencia económica. Emergieron claramente Singapur, Taiwán, Hong Kong y Corea del Sur como los llamados “Tigres de Asia”. Singapur e Irlanda se convirtieron competidores de Puerto Rico, no solo porque muchas de las subsidiarias estadounidenses que estaban aquí bajo la Sección 936 se mudaron a esos países, sino porque habían superado por mucho el PDB per cápita de Puerto Rico. India y China se fueron convirtiendo gradualmente en las potencias económicas que hoy conocemos, entre muchas otras cosas.

Durante esta transformación del panorama mundial, en 1997 se radicó el famoso Proyecto Young, época en la que no solamente se podría hablar de una independencia sin pérdida al acceso al mercado estadounidense, sino que era perfectamente posible hablar de establecer diversos tratados, algunos de libre comercio, con los demás países del mundo. República Dominicana formaba parte del Convenio de Lomé (desde 1984) con los países de la Unión Europea y más tarde formó parte del CAFTA+RD. Ahora no habría que apelar al Plan Caribe, sino que se hacía cada vez más implausible la idea de que Puerto Rico fuera a perder acceso al mercado estadounidense en un mundo altamente globalizado e interdependiente.

El PIP presentó una nueva definición de independencia ante el Congreso para su inclusión en el Proyecto Young (en mi opinión, la mejor definición de independencia que se ha propuesto). Allí se afirmaba que los ciudadanos puertorriqueños (con o sin ciudadanía estadounidense) podrían gozar de libre tránsito a los Estados Unidos indefinidamente, como si no hubiera frontera de aduana entre Puerto Rico y Estados Unidos, lo cual permitiría libre flujo de capital entre ambos países y, a la vez, la posibilidad de visitar a familiares en Estados Unidos sin problema alguno. Se reafirmó a su vez la continuidad de los derechos adquiridos y la creación de medidas de transición a la independencia para el desfase de las transferencias otorgadas. Puerto Rico tendría libre acceso al mercado estadounidense mientras que tendría la facultad de acordar tratados con otros países y formar parte de bloques económicos. Bajo estas condiciones, la inversión de capital en Puerto Rico y la venta de bienes y servicios en Puerto Rico compensaría las transferencias otorgadas, posibilitando mayor número de empleos y políticas de estado beneficio para desempleados y necesitados.
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¿Me perdí en algún sitio?

En cuanto a las medidas de transición económica ya están más que claras, en gran medida gracias al PIP. Otras dimensiones de la independencia inevitablemente dependen de nosotros. El PIP ha propuesto un programa económico consistente con la social democracia: un sistema estado benefactor fundamentado en el capitalismo y libre mercado, pero regulado y con los servicios esenciales en manos del estado (seguro universal de salud, electricidad, acueductos, internet); además de la implementación de políticas de negociación colectiva, cuidado del medio ambiente, etc. Para mí, este es el modelo más viable que podría adoptar una República de Puerto Rico junto a un proceso de transición, pero es una apreciación personal.

Sería sumamente deshonesto decir que una vez implementada la independencia, entonces todo va a ser, como diríamos en español, “peaches and creme“. Sin embargo, es en este asunto que se presenta el problema principal de toda discusión de estatus: la independencia es un estatus que, en el contexto global actual, abre un abanico de posibilidades en cuanto a la adopción de medidas e instrumentos jurídicos locales e  internacionales para forjar un Puerto Rico próspero. Singapur lo pudo hacer y su despegue económico comenzó al copiarse de nuestro modelo de atracción de capital; ahora se mantiene sumamente próspero gracias a que utiliza todas las herramientas que su condición de independencia le otorga.

NOTA: … Y por favor, no me digan el repetido mantra de que Singapur llegó a la prosperidad con un sistema autoritario. Esa no fue la clave de su bonanza económica, sino más bien las medidas que tomó para lidiar con un problema étnico-religioso del que esta nación formaba parte en el contexto asiático. Además, han habido muchos países del mundo donde hay sistemas represivos y dejan mucho que desear económicamente. Puerto Rico puede ser próspero y democrático en el contexto caribeño. Países como República Dominicana, Barbados, Bahamas, Costa Rica, entre otros están mostrando este punto todos los días.

Puerto Rico tiene la infraestructura, la mano de obra adiestrada, el ambiente jurídico, preparación profesional, alfabetismo, entre otros factores para atraer inversiones de todas partes del mundo. Además, hay una gran cantidad de empresas a las que se les haría mucho más fácil su ofrecimiento de servicios. Con la derogación de la Ley de Cabotaje, sería muchísimo más fácil importar y exportar mercancías a precios que abaratarían el costo de vida de los puertorriqueños y nuestras empresas podrían competir mejor con otros países que ya tienen acceso al mercado estadounidense. Con el control de una moneda propia podemos adoptar medidas fiscales más convenientes a nuestra realidad o podríamos adoptar el dólar estadounidense como moneda oficial para propósitos de facilitar el comercio con los Estados Unidos.
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Y las demás opciones de estatus, ¿qué?…

Frecuentemente al independentismo se le pregunta constantemente y con una amnesia impresionante cuál sería el modelo económico bajo la independencia, pero, ¿y qué hay de las otras opciones de estatus? El ELA como está ya no sirve. El único modelo económico que se ha propuesto consiste en variaciones de lo que fue la Sección 936 (la 30A, la 956, la 933A, las zonas empresariales, etc.) y muchos todavía no se han dado cuenta que esa puerta ya está cerrada. Nos la cerró el Congreso de los Estados Unidos y el mercado global. El Congreso también le ha cerrado las puertas a lo “actual, pero mejorado”.

Lo que le queda a los estadolibristas es el llamado “ELA soberano”, que tiene tres problemas con su propuesta:

  • El principio de delegación es todavía impreciso. No se entiende exactamente qué se le delegaría a los Estados Unidos a cambio de transferencias de fondos federales o programas federales como los que tienen las Islas Palau y las Marshall. ¿Se delegaría la defensa? Además objetar a esta medida como independentista, el interés de Estados Unidos por fomentar su presencia militar en Puerto Rico parece ser casi ninguna a la luz de los avances tecnológicos de la armada estadounidense.
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  • En algunos casos, el plan de transición es impreciso. Una de las propuestas más concisas hechas por algunos soberanistas sugiere una transición de 60 años (¡mucho más que los que solicitamos los independentistas!)
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  • El asunto de la ciudadanía estadounidense por el que abogan es un problema serio dentro de la jurisprudencia estadounidense, especialmente si el nuevo ELA es “soberano”.

En cuanto a la estadidad, no tiene mucho que ofrecer que no sea mayor dependencia. La defensa de los estadoístas en general se reduce a tres:

  1. Las empresas estadounidenses en Puerto Rico invertirían mejor con un Estado de Puerto Rico ya que estaríamos asegurados por una jurisprudencia federal; dichas corporaciones mejor familiarizadas con las leyes estadounidenses que de cualquier otra en el mundo. El problema con este argumento es que está hartamente refutado con el fenómeno de la globalización. El capital no tiene patria e invertirá en aquel país  que le ofrezca los mejores incentivos. Esto explica el cierre de industrias manufactureras en Estados Unidos y su apertura en otras partes del mundo. Pregúntenle a Detroit al respecto.
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  2. Si Puerto Rico forma parte del Senado y la Cámara de Representantes, tendrá mayor acceso al presupuesto federal que 24 o 25 estados de la Unión; esto pondrá a nuestra disposición fondos de inversión para la infraestructura, la educación, entre otros. El problema con ese argumento es que rebota en contra de la opción de la estadidad a la hora de defenderla en el Congreso de Estados Unidos. No hay manera alguna que esos 24 o 25 estados de la Unión voten a favor de la estadidad para Puerto Rico, una cosa que conllevaría necesariamente perder su acceso al presupuesto.
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  3. Más fondos federales de transferencias otorgadas con tan solo el 30% de la población pagando impuestos federales. Una vez más, nos encontramos el problema del “rebote contra la estadidad” a la hora de defender este punto en el Congreso de Estados Unidos. No hay manera alguna que podamos defender $15 a $20 mil millones en fondos federales a un Estado de Puerto Rico y que solamente el 30% de los que trabajan paguen impuestos. Estados Unidos no llegó a ser una gran potencia económica mundial haciendo malos negocios.

La resistencia de Estados Unidos al mejoramiento del ELA es palpable estos días y la estadidad está más lejos que nunca. Parece que el Congreso nos deja a nuestra disposición estatus de soberanía, en la que es mucho más fácil para Puerto Rico adoptar aquellos modelos económicos de su conveniencia. Para mí, el mejor estatus de soberanía propia y plena que es económicamente viable es la independencia.

En vez de tener un caso de amnesia y preguntar repetidas veces cuál es el modelo viable de la independencia, los independentistas deberíamos hacer tres cosas:

  • Empaparnos del modelo o modelos viables de independencia lo más que podamos. Ya esto se ha laborado profundamente y el trabajo está hecho. Ahora es el momento que debemos darlo a conocer a un público que sufre de una amnesia a conveniencia ideológica en cuanto a este tema.
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  • Defender la independencia como opción en todos los foros políticos donde se discuta el tema del estatus.
  • En vez de preguntarnos a nosotros mismos cuál es el modelo económico de la independencia (¡el trabajo está hecho!), los independentistas debemos interrogar a las otras opciones de estatus: ¿qué tienen ellas que ofrecer?

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PD: Definición de “Independencia” defendida por el PIP para el Proyecto Young (1997)

La siguiente definición de independencia fue aceptada en ese momento para ser integrada al Proyecto Young sin objeción alguna de los congresistas estadounidenses:

  1. Puerto Rico es una república soberana, que en su libre ejercicio de su derecho inalienable a la independencia y libre autodeterminación, tiene completa autoridad sobre su propio territorio y población, bajo una constitución democráticamente adoptada por el Pueblo de Puerto Rico, que proveería el establecimiento de una forma republicana de gobierno y una amplia protección de derechos humanos, sujeto solo a la aprobación del Pueblo de Puerto Rico.
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  2. La República de Puerto Rico se convertirá en miembro de la comunidad de naciones, en igualdad de condiciones, investida con todos los derechos y prerrogativas que han sido reconocidos por el Derecho Internacional a los estados independientes y que incluye el poder de establecer sus propias políticas fiscales, monetarias, migratorias y de comercio internacional, el derecho a establecer tratados incluyendo económicos, tarifarios, a establecer relaciones con otras naciones y participar en organizaciones internacionales.
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  3. Los puertorriqueños serán ciudadanos de la República de Puerto Rico.
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  4. Los Estados Unidos concederá a los individuos de Puerto Ricos sus derechos adquiridos en virtud de servicios rendidos o contribuciones hechas a los Estados Unidos.
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  5. El futuro de las relaciones entre Puerto Rico y los Estados Unidos será definido por un Tratado de Amistad y Cooperación en relación con los asuntos de interés mutuo en conformidad con sus respectivos procesos constitucionales y a través del cual el Congreso expresaría su apoyo a los siguientes principios: un periodo de transición económica, incluyendo un Fondo de Desarrollo financiado con las contribuciones anuales basadas en la cantidad actual de gastos del gobierno federal en Puerto Rico; un libre comercio entre ambas naciones; un libre tránsito de ciudadanos puertorriqueños y ciudadanos de Estados Unidos entre ambas naciones; y la completa desmilitarización de Puerto Rico.
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Partes: 1, 2

March Against Myths

¿Cuándo sabes que tu adversario ha perdido un debate? En el noventa y tanto porciento de las veces, cuando no tiene más remedio que insultarte, porque le has ganado todas sus aserciones confrontándolas con evidencia y racionalidad. Por tanto, tiene que inventarse que “te has vendido a alguien o algo” o que eres ingenuo y una herramienta útil de __________ (llene el blanco: el imperio, las corporaciones, el nuevo orden mundial, los Illuminati, los extraterrestres … etc.)

Parece que ese es el tipo de alegaciones con el que me estoy encontrando en esta etapa del debate, algo que da mucha pena cuando se mira el estado de la izquierda política en Puerto Rico en este momento.

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Esta fue mi contestación:

______________, lo único que busco es evidencia científica de lo alegado, porque para mí es un asunto serio. Si Monsanto existe o deja de existir me importa poco.

Sin embargo, lo que sí me entristece es que los agricultores que están sufriendo sequía por el calentamiento global no puedan sembrar cultivos resistentes a sequía. Me da mucha pena con los celiacos que nunca tendrán acceso a productos con trigo genéticamente modificado para que no produzca gluten. Realmente me quedo un poco perplejo cuando muchos se oponen a la papa Innate de Simplot, genéticamente modificada para que no produzca acrilamida, un probable carcinógeno. Esto reduciría considerablemente la incidencia de cáncer a nivel mundial. Además, esa papa no se vuelve marrón después de una lesión, lo que reduce la probabilidad de desperdicio innecesario de alimentos en los supermercados.

Finalmente, me escandalizo cuando grupos se oponen a la yuca transgénica doradael plátano y el guineo dorado en África y el arroz dorado en Asia. Todos estos cultivos son sumamente baratos y accesibles a sus respectivas poblaciones, pero tienen escaso valor nutritivo. Como resultado, se da una enorme incidencia de ceguera y muertes por falta de vitamina A. La yuca, el plátano y el arroz dorado contienen un antecedente de la vitamina A, el beta-caroteno, que podría prevenir la ceguera y la muerte de más de un millón de personas en el mundo. Todos estos alimentos se han mostrado como seguros en el laboratorio. Por cierto, ninguno es producto de Monsanto.

En cuanto al planeta, ya tenemos el arroz que reduce considerablemente la emisión de metano (un gas de efecto de hibernadero peor que el bióxido de carbono) al medio ambiente. Se quiere prevenir el cultivo de transgénicos que no necesitan insecticida, o que son resistentes a bacterias o a virus (algo que también afecta a los agricultores más pobres del mundo). Cada fumigación representa una fuerte emisión de bióxido de carbono al ambiente. Ahora que estamos hablando del agua, hay cultivos genéticamente modificados para aumentar su eficiencia en la absorción de agua y nutrientes, por lo que requerirían considerablemente menos agua y nitrógeno en la actividad agrícola. Esto evitaría el enorme problema de las “zonas muertas” que han aparecido en el Golfo de México y en otras partes del mundo.

Lo único que ha prevenido que todas estas maravillas lleguen al mercado y, muy especialmente, a los más pobres del mundo son los opositores a los OGMs a nivel mundial. Cuando los científicos solicitan evidencia a los activistas, me responden como usted me ha respondido en este momento: diciendo la palabra “Monsanto”, aun cuando no tenga nada que ver. Aparentemente, la palabra “Monsanto” es suficiente para terminar una conversación sobre cosas que son urgentes en el mundo.

Lo único que deseo es evidencia fuerte de las mejores autoridades. Tengo que confesar que desde hace unos años hasta ahora he encontrado escasísimas muestras de que los OGMs “amenazan a la humanidad”. Cuando me di cuenta de ello, cambié mi posición de antiOGMs a proOGMs . Todo lo que me han podido mostrar el movimiento antitransgénicos son documentales (cuya selección de lo que muestran es altamente selectiva) y pobrísimos estudios en revistas académicas de baja calidad o revistas fraudulentas. Para mí el movimiento antitransgénico en la izquierda es el espejo de lo que ocurre en la derecha en cuanto al tema del cambio climático. Por ahora, mi posición proOGM es la de la inmensa mayoría de los científicos e instituciones científicas de buena reputación a nivel mundial: los OGMs no representan por ahora ninguna amenaza a la salud de nadie y pueden ayudar a solucionar muchos de los problemas más urgentes del mundo.

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March Against Myths

Ayer continuaron mis aventuras con algunos antitransgénicos y antiMonsanto que me dieron la impresión de que pensaban que yo era un “agente del gobierno” y de Monsanto. Los que me conocen saben que ese pensamiento es nada más lejos de la verdad.

Sin embargo, a mis planteamientos de ayer, alguien cuyo nombre no voy a mencionar, contestó de la siguiente manera:

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A su planteamiento, le respondí lo siguiente:

Hola ___________. Espero que esté pasando un buen día.

Seguí su consejo de buscar en Neurology Today en torno al tema. Quiero aclarar que Neurology Today no es propiamente una revista académica arbitrada, sino una revista de divulgación. La American Academy of Neurology tiene una revista académica arbitrada llamada Neurology.

Fui directamente a la página de Neurology Today para investigar la información a la que usted se refiere. La página de la revista se encuentra en: http://journals.lww.com/neurotodayonline/pages/default.aspx

Cuando usé su buscador, no pude encontrar absolutamente nada usando el término “glyphosate” ni tampoco el de “Roundup” (sí aparecieron dos artículos en que utilizaban el término “roundup” en un sentido distinto al del herbicida de Monsanto). Fue y busqué en PubMed bajo “glyphosate alzheimer’s” … tampoco encontré nada.

Busqué también por buen tiempo en Google sin encontrar nada. Lo más cercano fue un artículo medio paranoico de “Veterans Today“.

Debido a que no he encontrado la información, le pregunto a usted si me puede indicar dónde puedo encontrar el artículo de Neurology Today que vincula el glifosato con la enfermedad del Alzheimer’s.

Hasta ahora, donde único he escuchado esa vinculación en una revista académica fue en un artículo publicado por Stephanie Seneff en la revista Entropy (http://www.mdpi.com/journal/entropy). Esta revista es publicada por MDPI, considerada otra publicadora predadora (¡otra vez!) y muchos científicos la consideran fraudulenta. De hecho, se supone que la revista Entropy sea de física, pero el trabajo de Seneff fue en toxicología (¡¿?!). El escrito de ella se encuentra aquí: http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416

El artículo se ha tomado como referente imprescindible del movimiento antitransgénico porque acusa al glifosato de casi todo: Alzheimer, autismo, anorexia, depresión, cáncer, diabetes, etc. etc. etc. Seneff utilizó modelos matemáticos y algorítmicos hipotéticos, pero nunca hizo experimentos para corroborar su información. En algunos casos, también cayó en el serio problema de confundir correlación con causación. Mientras los antitransgénicos celebraban este malísimo estudio, la comunidad científica lo rechazó por completo.

Es más, el estudio era TAN malo, que una periodista antiMonsanto escribió un artículo en el Huffington Post para condenarlo. Aquí está: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tamar-haspel/condemning-monsanto-with-_b_3162694.html

Fuera de esto, no he visto ninguna evidencia entre la correlación entre el glifosato y el Alzheimer. No es un asunto de si uno está o no a favor de una empresa, sino exclusivamente de lo que nos ofrece la evidencia científica.


Una vez terminada la respuesta, decidí buscar otra vez y encontré alguna información. Le escribí de nuevo:

Hola _____________. Hice una segunda búsqueda en PubMed bajo “glyphosate alzheimer’s” y encontré un solo artículo al respecto … cuya autora es Stephanie Seneff y compañía. El artículo es esencialmente el mismo publicado por Entropy, pero esta vez publicado por una revista llamada Surgical Neurology International. Esta revista es predadora y seriamente cuestionada, ya que parece ser más política y conspiratoria que una revista de artículos genuinamente científicos. Véase al respecto la sección de comentarios en esta página: https://scholarlyoa.com/2015/01/15/strange-new-oa-publisher-launches-with-42-journals/.


A la hora que escribo esto (11:08pm), nadie ha respondido. Yo lo voy a dejar ahí por hoy y no seguiré comentando en la página del Prof. Bernabe. Sin embargo, ya he dejado evidencia suficiente de que la marcha antiMonsanto no tiene sentido alguno, al menos desde el punto de vista científico.

 

March Against Myths

No es secreto que a pesar de que me dejé de considerar de izquierda, simpatizo más con el Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño (PIP) y con el Partido del Pueblo Trabajador (PPT). Sin embargo, ayer vi lo siguiente en Facebook.

Propaganda PPT - Marcha Contra Monsanto

Como pueden imaginar, me quedé sorprendido por una asociación tan cuestionable entre Monsanto y la carencia de agua potable. Con mucho respeto, le dejé saber al Dr. Rafael Bernabe en su página de Facebook que si va a “exponer” los venenos de Monsanto, que más le valiera tener evidencia buena al respecto, porque —como he argumentado nuelemil veces— el movimiento irracional antitransgénico está repleto de estudios malísimos, extremadamente pobres y comprometidos con cierto sector industrial (usualmente la industria orgánica). Es bien interesante ver cómo muchos que apoyan al PPT reaccionaron adversamente a la imagen colocada por el Prof. Bernabe en su cuenta.

Sin embargo, una persona quiso argumentar a su favor y posteó como reacción a mi planteamiento este artículo  como evidencia de que el glifosato es altamente tóxico.

Killing Machine Article

Entonces me puse mentalmente mi sombrero de profesor …  pues soy profesor, ¡qué rayos! Lo que me gusta es enseñar. Como diría un muy buen amigo mío: “I’m a professor, damn it!!!!” Y le dediqué en dos comentarios en Facebook la siguiente respuesta (he omitido el nombre de ella):

Muy estimada _________:

Le agradezco muchísimo, pero MUCHÍSIMO que haya posteado exactamente ese ejemplo. Muestra exactamente TODAS las preocupaciones a las que me referí en mi intervención anterior.

En el artículo que usted posteó se enlazan tres artículos que muestran que el nivel del consumo del glifosato es relativamente alto, y que hay muestras de presencia en la orina, en la leche materna y que afecta los glóbulos rojos. Omitiré los enlaces de autoreferencia al website (una malísima costumbre de reportaje de ciencias).

Veamos lo que los tres artículos a los que el reportaje hace referencia:
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1

El primero que deseo destacar y que es más fácil de problematizar es el llamado “Detection of Glyphosate Residues in Animals and Humans” publicado por la Environmental & Analytical Toxicology. Cuando vi el título de esta revista, me sonó bien familiar. Cuando vi el URL y me di cuenta de dónde procedía, no pude sino sonreír. Esta revista procede de OMICS Publications (http://www.omicsonline.org/), una editorial con una ESPANTOSA reputación. ¿Se acuerda que en mi intervención anterior mencioné el problema de las revistas predadoras? ¡¡¡Esta es una de las PEORES!!!

¿Qué es una revista predadora? En términos sencillos, es una revista que un autor paga para publicar su artículo y que, en general, tiene pobres prácticas de arbitraje o ninguno en absoluto. Una muy buena parte de estas revistas se destacan por prácticas comerciales fraudulentas. Para una descripción más completa vea: https://scholarlyoa.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/criteria-2015.pdf. No me extenderé mi discusión sobre OMICS excepto para señalar que si usted quiere averiguar el nefasto historial, puede ir a Wikipedia, que menciona varios de los escándalos más notables (y esos son solo la punta del témpano): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OMICS_Publishing_Group. Es decir, no confío en NADA publicado por OMICS.
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2

Vayamos al siguiente caso, el estudio titulado: “Determination of Glyphosate residues in human urine samples from 18 European countries“, auspiciado por el grupo Amigos de la Tierra (específicamente, su rama alemana: BUND). De entrada hay que indicar que en el estudio no se hace aserción alguna en torno a conflictos de intereses, ya que AdT está ideológicamente comprometido por ser un movimiento antiOGM.

El laboratorio que trabajó las muestras fue el Laboratorio Médico de Brehmen, bajo la supervisión del director de estudios, el Dr. Hans-Wolfgang Hope. Es de notar que este señor fue uno de los autores del artículo publicado en OMICS. En otras palabras, es un médico que publicó en una revista de mala reputación y eso inmediatamente es razón para sospechar.

En el estudio de AdT, el laboratorio mide las muestras de orina obtenidas de voluntarios en 18 países de Europa se registra la presencia de glifosato. En otras palabras, en el caso de la orina, muestra que el glifosato que es consumido vía los alimentos en Europa es efectivamente excretado por el cuerpo humano … algo en el que todos los expertos en el glifosato coinciden. ¿Qué de nuevo trajo esto a la mesa de la discusión científica? Absolutamente nada. Lo que SÍ hubiera sido interesante es cuánto del glifosato consumido compara con el excretado (para saber si efectivamente el cuerpo absorbe el glifosato). Para nuestra desgracia, el estudio no nos dice nada al respecto. Otro asunto que no aclara es cuánto el nivel obtenido por orina compara con la dosis de toxicidad del glifosato (aproximadamente 140,000 mg/kg para una persona de peso corporal de 154lb.) y el límite de dosis estipulado por la EFSA (0.1 mg/kg). TODAS las cifras del glifosato que aparecen en el estudio están MUY por debajo de ese número (nota que todas las cifras están en MICROgramos por Litro, no MILIgramos por kg; en el caso del agua, 1 L (1 dm³), es casi igual a una masa de 1 kg). ¡Claro! No hacen esas medidas comparativas que he señalado porque obviamente el nivel de toxicidad del glifosato consumido [parecería] extremadamente insignificante. ¡Esa información no le convendría mucho a Amigos de la Tierra!

En otras palabras, Amigos de la Tierra y compañía gastaron dinero para absolutamente NADA en el orden científico, aunque sí para asustar a medio mundo con el glifosato. Un estudio como este no pasa de ser una excelente manipulación mediática que desea espantar al público cuando explota su desconocimiento en toxicología.
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En cuanto a la leche materna — Por mucho que citen estos estudios individuales y preliminares, estos han sido refutados por metaanálisis hechos en torno al tema. Recuerdo que los metaanálisis son los estudios MÁS SÓLIDOS de las ciencias. En NINGUNO de ellos se evidencia la detección de presencia de glifosato en la leche humana. Me remito a estos estudios:

*Glyphosate and aminomethylphosphonic acid are not detectable in human milk — este artículo tiene a tres autores que trabajaron para Monsanto, así que no puede considerarse totalmente independiente. Este artículo es de libre acceso: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2016/03/30/ajcn.115.126854.abstract. Este estudio también hace análisis de orina y corrobora exactamente el hecho de que el glifosato no es absorbido por el cuerpo, sino excretado. Este estudio ha sido muy bien recibido por la comunidad científica en general, ya que la metodología ha sido examinada y propiamente validada por un laboratorio de reputación, independiente de Monsanto (Covance Labs): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4743594/. Véase también: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150723133120.htm.

*Determination of Glyphosate Levels in Breast Milk Samples from Germany by LC-MS/MS and GC-MS/MS (este artículo es genuinamente *independiente* de intereses industriales), también es de libre acceso: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/acs.jafc.5b05852.

*Analysis of Glyphosate and Aminomethylphosphonic Acid in Nutritional Ingredients and Milk by Derivatization with Fluorenylmethyloxycarbonyl Chloride and Liquid Chromatography–Mass Spectrometry — http://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.jafc.5b04453. Este es un estudio de los laboratorios Abbott, cuyos intereses son independientes de Monsanto ni tiene vela en el asunto del glifosato.

En otras palabras, estudios de la industria y los independientes apuntan exactamente al mismo resultado. Así que a pesar de los alegatos de Moms Across America, los estudios que citan están BIEN refutados por evidencia sólida. Además de que ni hace falta corregir disparates del susodicho “estudio” de esa organización al decir que el “glifosato se asemeja a los PCBs”. Es interesante que el llamado “estudio” de esa organización vea con beneplácito al Dr. Don Huber, alguien que por más de 10 años ha alegado que tiene un patógeno producido por OGMs y el glifosato, pero que no ha querido someterlo al examen de la comunidad científica. A estas alturas, ningún científico le cree ese cuento. Eso revela el total desconocimiento de las ciencias por parte de Moms Across America y los “aliados” con los que cuenta el movimiento antitransgénico.

Finalmente, en cuanto al estudio “The effect of metabolites and impurities of glyphosate on human erythrocytes (in vitro)“, tengo que rascarme la cabeza y preguntarme si la gente está bromeando cuando lo cita. Sí, el glifosato afecta a los glóbulos rojos cuando se aplica EN GRANDES CONCENTRACIONES (lea el estudio). De acuerdo con los mismos estudios de los antitransgénicos, las concentraciones de glifosato son minúsculas. Por lo tanto, NO afectarían en lo absoluto a los glóbulos rojos. A fin de cuentas, el glifosato está brevemente en la sangre termina siempre en los riñones y en nuestro excremento donde después es expulsado del cuerpo.

Así pues, el reportaje de Natural Society, que tiene intereses económicos a favor de la industria orgánica y cuya atemorización de la sociedad le resulta en enormes ganancias (véase la tiendita: https://shop.naturalsociety.com/), sencillamente muestra una ignorancia generalizada en torno al tema del glifosato y de los transgénicos en general.

Así que, perdóneme, pero sencillamente este reportaje malísimo no me convence.

Captain America: Civil War

“Let’s give Marvel the D.C. licenses and let them do the stories.”
Angry Joe

Hey! I’m a D.C. guy. Ever since my childhood, I’ve always loved D.C. I used to like Spiderman and Hulk, but I loved Superman and Batman far more. So, writing this is very sad for me.

When yesterday I was leaving several books of mine in The Bookmark bookstore in San Patricio Plaza, I told one of the managers that I thought that Captain America: Civil War was what Batman v. Superman should have been. He was shocked by the comment, and said: “Ooooo… That hurt!” If you are the sort of person who likes the fights regardless of the story, you can disagree with me. Yet, I do care more about the story, because it gives the fight a meaning and a point.

If you have seen Batman v. Superman situations in comics or in the animated series (even the animated movies released by D.C.), you know that at the end of the day, it all comes down to the philosophical problem of fighting “along” government authorities against villains, how to deal with villains per-se, where you draw the line with your abilities or powers, and so on. You can even see this in The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel by Frank Miller (when he was still sane). I think that this idea is best developed in the Justice League animated series (especially Season 2), and brilliantly in the Justice League Unlimited animated series (especially Season 1). If you understand both Superman and Batman, you know that this is their basic difference, and the fight among both should have been about particular situations where both of their philosophies collide in practice, in the world arena.

Zack Snyder did not understand this when he directed Batman v. Superman. I don’t need to address the serious flaws of the movie, from the wacky “jokery” villain, to the unbelievable (in the negative sense of the word) reasons why Batman and Superman hated each other “to death”. Yet, if we were to mention the main flaw of the movie is this: everything feels forced. It is as if everyone acts in ways that don’t make any sense because the public is in the theater to watch a boxing match. Who cares about the story, right?! As a member of the public, I didn’t enjoy it much, simply because my mind kept nagging: “This looks cool and awesome, but why in the universe is this happening?” Then it wasn’t as cool or awesome as it should have been. Snyder wasted the chance completely. And since he didn’t develop the characters (especially Superman), I didn’t care whether anyone lived or died. As far as I could tell, these were two assholes and I hoped they killed each other.

Yet, in Captain America: Civil War, you already have developed characters (they had previous movies, and enough time for the public to know them). Even with this, the script writers didn’t use this as an excuse to stop developing them further, thus adding layers to a well-built tension among both groups of superheroes. Unlike Batman v. Superman, the movie exploits the best of what the actors had to offer. It deals also with a very important ethical matter: if you have all that power, and a lot of people die because of them, should it be regulated by governments or not? The whole movie mixes this problem with what, for the characters themselves, are very down-to-Earth situations, and this is where their philosophical views actually collide. I’ve seen these characters grow, I know them, I root for them, and to make matters more difficult, I actually understand their points of view, where did they come from, and how did they arrive to where they are. This is why I didn’t like to take sides regarding this issue. And even when I did (team Cap), I completely understood the other side. The main villain of the movie is not well developed, but at the very least the movie elaborates him enough so that you understand where he is coming from and why is he doing what he is doing. He is not a wacky Lex Luthor, but a mind who sets up a situation where main protagonists fight among themselves.

Not only that, but also the new characters (Black Panther and Spiderman) are enjoyable, and their scenes are easily some of the best parts of the movie. In the case of Spiderman, his contribution was creating a balance of tone in the movie, and Tom Holland did a great job playing this superhero … He did act like a teenager, like he should! For hormonal reasons, I also enjoyed Marisa Tomei as Aunt Mai … If I had an aunt like her … I would probably suffer from an expanded version of the Oedipus complex … but I digress! >ahem!<

That doesn’t mean that the movie is perfect. There was one annoying factor throughout it: the captions. My goodness! If you want to tell me that I am watching a scene in Queens or Bucharest, you don’t have to caption it ALL OVER THE SCREEN LIKE THIS to the point of covering the whole scene! It distracted me! Please, Marvel/Disney …. don’t do that again!!!!

I consider Captain America: Civil War as another lesson for D.C. regarding how to write a decent script. I recently learned the unfortunate news that Zack Snyder will be directing Justice League … Well, I can’t care any less about that at this stage. Marvel has done so much better on the big screen.

Sorry, D.C., but as far as movies in the big screen go, if Snyder is going to direct, I’ve given up on Justice League already.

P.S. – The Batman v. Superman review by the Nostalgia Critic and Angry Joe.

Tagged with:
 

The Last Supper - Tintoretto (1594)

When I used to be Roman Catholic, there was no ceremony or subject I would love more than the Eucharist, only followed by the devotion to Our Lady. It became the center of my religious life.

After I became a Religious Naturalist, my spirituality has changed considerably, although, some of my views are touched by drops of Eucharistic metaphors. While researching on Paul the Apostle for the publication of my book’s third edition, I found a perspective that apparently is becoming very popular in some Spanish scholarly circles. Unfortunately, due to the fact of language, many other Bible scholars around the world usually don’t engage very much with Spanish-speaking scholars or read works written in Spanish.

Antonio Piñero de Sáenz

Antonio Piñero de Sáenz

This perspective whose most visible representative figure in Spain is Antonio Piñero de Sáenz, I consider to be the most complete, sound, and thorough view on the Eucharist I have ever seen thus far. In these series on the Eucharist, I’m going to make an exposition of his views. I will also add a bit more information that might confirm them (I will note them so that people do not confuse his opinion with mine). The reason I’m doing this is because I detect a certain discomfort about this subject among scholars regarding the big elephant in the room, that the traditional story of the Eucharist has its actual roots in Paul, and not the Apostles, nor the Last Supper itself. I hope that I represent Piñero’s opinion accurately.

NOTE: I want to make clear that with these series I do NOT intend to present my position as being de facto superior to the opinions of the vast majority of scholars in the world. I think that I’m right, but another thing is if I am right. This is my opinion for the moment and an exposition of a respected scholar’s view that I think should get more attention in the English-speaking world. Yet, at the very end of the day, the consensus of Bible scholars is more authoritative than anything I write. I respect it! I am an outsider looking at what is going on in Bible scholarship. Do NOT take these blog series as being as authoritative as Biblical scholarship in general. On the contrary, be critical of everything I say. THAT said, let’s continue …

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The Stories of the Last Supper

In this first blog, I would like to make an exposition of the stories of the Last Supper as they appear in the New Testament in chronological order.

Let’s start with the earliest one we have, which appears in one of Paul’s genuine letters (all quotes are from the NRSV):

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat and drink from this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:23-26).

1 Corinthians is treated by scholars as being one whole letter written by Paul, while others think that they are two letters edited into one. Whichever the position, the content of 1 Corinthians seems to have been written around the years 52-54 C.E. This constitutes the earliest story we have regarding the Last Supper.

Let’s explore the next one, which appears in the Gospel of Mark, written around 65-70 C.E.

While they were eating, [Jesus] took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after  giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:22-25).

In the Gospel of Matthew, written around 80-90 C.E., we find a similar story.

While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never gain drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:26-29).

For now, these three versions look very similar to each other in form, structure, and words. There are slight differences, but it is one basic story.

Finally, we have the Gospel of Luke, also written around 80-90 C.E. Here we notice that the story changes in very strange ways:

When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took the loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined but woe to the one by whom he is betrayed!” (Luke 22:14-23).

What makes this passage particularly interesting is the fact that Jesus blesses and offers the cup twice. What is going on in this case?

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Earliest Sources on the Celebration of the Eucharist

What makes this issue a bit more interesting is the fact that we have some scarce news about the way the Eucharist was being celebrated at the time. Among them we find two (besides 1 Corinthians). One comes from the Acts of the Apostles, which expresses a very early tradition of the Jewish character of the Eucharist:

Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their good with glad generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved (Acts 2:43-47)

This passage talks about the “breaking of the bread” activity as a way to gather and share in community. Most scholars are careful with this passage, since it presents an excessively idealized situation that is later contradicted in that same book (e.g. Acts 6:1). Yet, in its story of the Eucharist, there is no allusion to any offering of  vicarian blood for others or atonement for the forgiveness of sins, and it also shows early Christians as being devoted Jews who celebrated in the Temple of Jerusalem.

The other more important source regarding the Eucharist comes from a text called the Didaché, also known as the Teachings of the Twelve Apostles, which many scholars date to the early or late second century C.E. The Lord’s Prayer appears there in its full version (Matthew’s) as well as several other important teachings and ceremonies. In it, we find the following, regarding the celebration of the Eucharist (from the New Advent, Catholic translation):

Now concerning the Thanksgiving (Eucharist), thus give thanks. First, concerning the cup: “We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of David Your servant, which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory for ever.” And concerning the broken bread: “We thank You, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Your kingdom; for Yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever.” But let no one eat or drink of your Thanksgiving (Eucharist), but they who have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs” (Didaché IX).

This is mostly odd, given that it is the cup that is blessed and offered first, before the bread. And in none of the words of thanksgiving do we find any reference at all to Jesus’ vicarian sacrifice or forgiveness of sins.

Again, what is going on here?
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Next Step: Beginning the Qualification of the Evidence

Maybe someone is asking: “What about John‘s version of events?” What is interesting regarding the Gospel of John is that it has a Last Supper, but has no blessing of the bread and wine, just a very long speech by Jesus (John 13-17). There may be a reason for this.  If you look at the passages in the Synoptic Gospels, we notice that they present the Last Supper as a Seder, that is, as a Passover meal. A Lamb is sacrificed the day before the Passover feasts begin, and then it is eaten afterwards. According to the Synoptics, this last part happened before the crucifixion. Yet, for John, the Lamb (i.e. Jesus Christ) would not be sacrificed until his crucifixion … the day before the Passover feasts begin. So there was no Eucharistic offering during the Last Supper. According to that Gospel, the moment of crucifixion would be the moment of glorification for “the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world”. So, the main reason, why the thanksgiving does not appear in its version of events is for theological reasons.

Besides this very special case, we find ourselves with a bunch of problems with the data provided by Paul and the Synoptic Gospels. Let’s look at them carefully.

  • First, one of the most notorious things that we notice of Paul’s version of events is that he does not tell us at all if the Last Supper was a Seder or another sort of ceremonial meal. He only limits himself to say that it occurred the night when “he was betrayed”. Although this is the current and popular translation, the word usually translated as “betrayed” could also mean “delivered {to other hands}” or “handed over” (“παρεδίδετο” from the term “παραδίδωμι”), which could mean the night when God delivered Jesus to be sacrificed. Yet, we are not clear when exactly did this happen in relation to Passover.
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  • The words attributed to Jesus in Paul’s version of events most probably were not pronounced by him. On the contrary, at best, this could be a later tradition elaborated after Jesus’ death, which was reinterpreted in light of the Suffering Servant’s expiatory act prophecy (Isaiah 53) by the Judeo-Christians in Palestine, which was later reinterpreted once again as a vicarian sacrifice in Judeo-Hellenistic circles. In here, I follow the conviction of many scholars, that it is plausible that Jesus did not know that he was going to be crucified as a way to sacrifice himself, and “spill blood” for everyone’s salvation (a vicarian notion of his death). The problem with this vicarian notion of Jesus’ death  is that not only did the Jews (including Jesus) NOT expect a Messiah who would be sacrificed, but that the notion of vicarian death was most probably regarded as Pagan, and foreign to Palestinian Jews in general.
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  • This leads us to the next problem. Not only the words, but also the very steps with which Jesus blesses and offers the bread and the cup, seems to break with ceremonial Jewish meals in a very radical manner.  In a Seder meal or in a kiddush, you find that the wine is blessed first and then the bread. Note that the Didaché version of the celebration of the Eucharist respects the kiddush order of events, even when the traditional story of the Last Supper reverses both. The words of prayer in the Didaché are also remarkably close to the ones pronounced as a Birkat ha-Mazon (a Grace after Meals as was practiced in Judaism).  The Synoptics’ main story also have a strange Passover meal, because there is no reference at all to the sacrificed lamb being consumed, nor is there any reference at all to the bitter herbs.
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  • The fact that early Christians celebrated the Eucharist on a daily or weekly basis may be a sign that it was not originally celebrated as a Passover meal (which would have been celebrated yearly). The fact that nothing in the Didaché version makes any allusion to Passover reinforces this conviction.
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  • The Gospels in general give different days for when the Last Supper occurred. For Mark, it happened in the day of the first day of Unleavened Bread, which he describes as the day when the Passover lamb was sacrificed (Mark 14:12). Actually, the lamb was sacrificed the day before. Yet, Matthew and Luke agree with MarkJohn disagrees for theological reasons … but ironically he might be closer to the truth. This is highly problematic, because later all of the Synoptic Gospels argue that Jesus was processed during a Passover feast day, which is highly improbable. The Jewish leadership would have been busy with Temple rituals and ceremonies, and would not have much time to address Jesus’ prosecution. If the Synoptics present the Last Supper as a Passover meal, it is most probably (also) for theological or a apologetical reasons: perhaps a memory of the nearness of Passover when Jesus was crucified, and the fact that gentile Christians began to not celebrate the Passover, and needed to justify it. After all, according to Luke, Jesus told his disciples that he wouldn’t celebrate the “Passover meal” again until the Kingdom of God is realized. Speaking of which …
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  • When we go to MarkMatthew, and Luke, we notice something that Paul’s version lacks, the following words of Jesus: “I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” This might be a hint of history, given that Jesus always compared God’s Kingdom with a collective meal (Q [Luke] 13:29; 14:15-21,23; Luke 22:29-30). It would indicate that the Last Supper may have been a sort of “farewell” meal.

What do we do with all of this? This is what these series are all about. But for now, let’s make some several statements:

  • Jesus’ crucifixion was a historical fact, there is no dispute among scholars about this. Yet, if there was a process by the Jewish authorities and by Pontius Pilate leading to his death, most probably it took much more than one evening and day, and the Gospels seem to have shrunk the whole story to one evening and day. Most possibly the crucifixion happened near the feast of Passover, perhaps the day before.
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  • There are huge problems interpreting Jesus’ activity as being a “Passover meal”. It is better understood at a historical level as a kiddush celebrated as a farewell meal. This is the basic tradition preserved by the Didaché, and (as I will argue in my next blog), the Gospel of Luke.
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  • There are also huge problems with the assumption that Jesus blessed the bread first and the cup second, while claiming that the former was his body and that the latter contained his blood (understood in expiatory or vicarian terms). Simply speaking, it is highly improbable that Jesus would have said these words.

Where did Jesus’ words come from? Our earliest source seems to mention exactly where it comes from:  from Paul’s own revelatory experiences. Jesus as he experienced him in his vision, revealed this story. Not every scholar accepts this interpretation. For example, we must take into account the criteria of multiple attestation that we find in the New Testament:  that multiple sources confirm the story. The word that Paul uses for receiving the information (“παρέλαβον” from the term “παραλαμβάνω”), seems to imply that it was transmitted as a result of an oral tradition whose source he believed was the Lord. Can these reasoning be contested? Piñero and others think so.

Then what really happened during the Last Supper? This will be examined in the next blog posts of these series. For now, let’s convene that apparently most scholars agree that the Last Supper was no Seder.
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Bibliography

Boff, Leonardo. Pasión de Cristo, pasión del mundo. Hechos, interpretaciones y significados. Ayer y hoy. Santander: Ediciones Sal Terrae, 1987.

Ehrman, Bart. “Does Paul Know about Judas Iscariot?” The Bart Ehrman Blog. December 9, 2015. http://ehrmanblog.org/does-paul-know-about-judas-iscariot/.

Klawans, Jonathan. “Was Jesus’ Last Supper a Seder?” in Biblical Archaeology. July 01, 2014. http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/jesus-historical-jesus/was-jesus-last-supper-a-seder/.

Mazza, Enrico. The Celebration of the Eucharist: The Origin of the Rite and the Development of Its Interpretation. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1999.

Piñero, Antonio. Guía para entender a Pablo de Tarso. Una interpretación del pensamiento paulino. Madrid: Editorial Trotta, 2015.

Piñero, Antonio y Eugenio Gómez Segura, editores. La verdadera historia de la Pasión. Según la investigación y el estudio histórico. Madrid: EDAF, 2011.

Riddle, M.B. and Kevin Knight, translators. Didaché. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0714.htm.

Vidal, Senén. Hechos de los Apóstoles y orígenes cristianos. Santander: Editorial Sal Terrae, 2015.

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