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:

Posteo en Facebook

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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3

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.

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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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Portada de Pablo el Emisario

Quería informarles vía mi blog que ya se ha publicado la tercera edición de mi libro Pablo el Emisario. Para los detalles en torno a dónde lo pueden conseguir o dónde descargarlo gratis, visiten su página cibernética: http://pablo.pmrb.net.

Los que hayan leído las dos ediciones anteriores (aquí está el acceso a la segunda edición) y esta nueva edición se sorprenderán de varias cosas. Lo primero que salta a la vista fue el añadido de ilustraciones y gráficas en el texto. En parte, mi intención era estética. Un libro con ilustraciones hace más agradable la lectura. Sin embargo, no quería añadir demasiadas, no fuera que resultara ser una distracción y que tuviera como resultado una lectura del contenido mucho más difícil. Además, haría la edición a colores (la edición de lujo) mucho más hermosa. Sin embargo, una gran parte de estas iban más allá del puro aspecto estético. Como en el caso del Apéndice C, ayudan al lector a ilustrar parte de la discusión del texto. Así también el caso del retrato de la Caverna de Santa Tecla, que presenta una evidencia física del desprecio de ciertos cristianos al ministerio o autoridad de las mujeres en el cristianismo medieval. La ilustración no se discute en el texto, pero da una idea de lo que ocurrió después de que el cristianismo del primer y segundo siglo fue marginando a las mujeres del ministerio y las subordinaba a la autoridad de los hombres.

Han habido toda una variedad de cambios al texto y, aunque las tesis principales no varían mucho, ha habido una elaboración más detalladas de estas. En otros casos, ha habido unos cambios radicales en otras posiciones. La más notable la pueden encontrar en el capítulo 6, en relación con la cristología paulina. Antes adopté una posición en la que supuse que una cristología paulina que sostuviera a Jesús como Dios era demasiado temprana para ser supuesta por Pablo, por lo que adopté la posición de Senén Vidal y otros en relación con el tema. Tras el estudio del libro de Bart Ehrman, How Jesus Became God, del libro de Susan Garrett, No Ordinary Angel y finalmente la lectura de los libros de Larry Hurtado, ¿Cómo llegó Jesús a ser Dios?One God, One Lord, cambié de parecer. No solo la convicción de que Jesús era Dios era temprana en el cristianismo primitivo, sino que sostengo que fue la teología sostenida por el movimiento de Jesús como resultado de la proclamación de su resurrección, tal como presenta Hecho de los Apóstoles en un momento dado (Hechos 5:30-31; 13:32-33).

El otro cambio sustancial tiene que ver con la llamada “Nueva perspectiva” de Pablo, en la que se le concibe como judío practicante y observante de la Torah después de sus experiencias revelatorias y cambio de vocación. Para él, se le eximía a los gentiles (no a los judíos, incluyéndolo a él) de la observancia de ciertas disposiciones de la Torah. En varios capítulos enfatizo este punto cardinal que adopté como parte del planteamiento central del libro.

También hubo otro cambio bien importante. En el 2015, Senén Vidal publicó su excelentísima traducción del Nuevo Testamento y la utilicé como texto para citar el Nuevo Testamento cristiano.

En cuanto al resto del libro:

  1. En el capítulo 1 no hubo cambios sustanciales, pero sí correcciones de contenido y de descuidos gramaticales. Pulí el estilo para que fuera más fácil su lectura. Hice lo mismo en los demás capítulos.
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  2. En el capítulo 2 tampoco hubo cambios sustanciales.
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  3. En el capítulo 3, tampoco hubo cambio sustancial de contenido excepto una porción del texto que entendía que entorpecía un poco la línea de discusión en torno a las razones de las persecuciones de Pablo al cristianismo primitivo. Lo discutido en dicha porción se colocó en el Apéndice A.
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  4. En el capítulo 4 podemos observar ya unos cambios de parecer en torno a una diversidad de temas. Esto se dio como resultado de mi lectura de diversas obras del filólogo español Antonio Piñero: Guía para entender el Nuevo TestamentoGuía para entender a Pablo de Tarso, La verdadera historia de la Pasión (coautoría junto a Eugenio Gómez Segura) y El Juicio Final (coautoría junto a Eugenio Gómez Segura).
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    En la primera y segunda ediciones de mi libro asocié equivocadamente la noción expiatoria del Siervo Sufriente como la comprendían los cristianos primitivos con la noción de sacrificio (derrame de sangre) vicario. Algunos eruditos también hacen lo mismo y pensaba que esa era la posición mayoritaria (aunque en realidad es un poco disputada). Sin embargo, Piñero informa que el primero sí era consistente con el contexto judío, mientras que el segundo no. Aunque no muchos eruditos siguen esa línea de pensamiento (que creo que para muchos es novel), creo que su argumento es sólido.
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    También cometí el error de acercar demasiado las cosmovisiones de Jesús y la de Pablo. Eso me llevó a no aclarar una diferencia fundamental entre la manera en que Jesús concebía el Reino de Yahveh (como terrenal) y la de Pablo (como celestial). De hecho, ahora acepto lo que no aceptaba en las ediciones anteriores: que Pablo sí ha sido influenciado en mayor grado (más de lo que inicialmente pensaba) por la filosofía helenística. Aunque no creo que el fuera filósofo (y continúo sosteniendo esta posición), sí creo lo que Piñero sostiene: que Pablo fue influenciado por una especie de “platonismo vulgar” característico de su ambiente helenístico y que afectó el pensamiento del judaísmo de la diáspora en general.
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    Por lo demás, menciono las citas directas e indirectas de Jesús que encontramos en Pablo y añadí una concerniente a la convicción del favor de la otorgación del conocimiento divino a los humildes y no a los sabios.
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  5. Otro de los grandes cambios se pueden notar en el capítulo 5. Pensé que en las ediciones anteriores dejé un gran “hueco” en la discusión en torno a las iglesias y congregaciones primitivas. ¿Cómo estaban constituidas? ¿Cuál fue el proceso de su establecimiento? ¿Cómo se estructuraron carismáticamente las congregaciones judeohelenistas como las de Corinto? (En este último punto contribuyó mucho la lectura de un ensayo de Juan Bek) El resto del capítulo es prácticamente idéntico a las ediciones anteriores.
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  6. El capítulo 6 (que ya discutimos un poco), trabaja otro “hueco” que quedó de mis ediciones anteriores. El cristianismo primitivo sostenía una gran diversidad de cristologías (lo que yo llamo “sopa de cristologías primitivas”) y las identifico. Más tarde, trabajo el problema de cómo Pablo entendía a Cristo como deidad y su relación con el Padre. Como nota interesante, añado una posible reciente interpretación: que para Pablo, Jesús era un ángel (mensajero divino). Elaboro los detalles que parecen justificar esta perspectiva, aunque me muestro indeciso en torno al asunto. Puede ser posible que Pablo viera en Jesús un ángel (quizás el Ángel de Yahveh), pero no hay realmente pasajes claros de ello. A pesar de ello, no deja de ser una perspectiva muy interesante.
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  7. En el capítulo 7, correspondiente al capítulo 6 de mis ediciones anteriores, hago unas pequeñas correcciones, pero fundamentalmente no altera mucho el texto.
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  8. En el capítulo 8, correspondiente al capítulo 7 de las ediciones anteriores, no hubo muchos cambios, fuera de correcciones menores.
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  9. En el capítulo 9, correspondiente al capítulo 8 de las ediciones anteriores, tampoco hubo cambios significativos.
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  10. En el capítulo 10, que corresponde al capítulo 9 de las ediciones anteriores, sí sufrió cambios. El más evidente es el título del capítulo y la inclusión del tema de la llamada “obsesión paulina” en relación con la virginidad. El capítulo se encarga de ponerla en perspectiva. Además, quise adentrarme en el tema de la supuesta homosexualidad de Pablo con un mayor sentido de justicia con mis oponentes y utilizo uno de los textos del obispo Shelby Spong como referente de su posición. Utilizando su obra, muestro que el obispo Spong y los que sostienen que Pablo era homosexual están rotundamente equivocados. Cuando discuto el tema de cómo Pablo trata el tema de la homosexualidad, utilicé información adicional que cayó en mis manos gracias a la reciente publicación de E. P. Sanders, Paul: The Apostle’s Life, Letters, and Thought.
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  11. El capítulo 11 es uno enteramente nuevo y que intenta responder a diversas vertientes del miticismo que tanto se ha vuelto de moda en los círculos ateos, agnósticos y escépticos. Después de leerlo, me doy cuenta de lo irritado que estaba cuando lo escribí, pero sostengo cada palabra que aparece allí. Para ser justo, reconozco una vertiente más sensata de un sector más académico y la distingo de la otra que es más producto de falseamiento decimonónico de la historia antigua, que pinta al cristianismo casi como una copia al carbón de las religiones antiguas de todo el mundo. La segunda es sencillamente falsa y no requiere discusión alguna. La primera, aunque más sofisticada, merecía una contestación más precisa. Sin embargo, solo me concentré en la manera en que se abusa de las cartas de Pablo para sostener las dos vertientes.
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  12. Este también es un capítulo casi completamente nuevo en el que elaboro mi hipótesis de que Pablo no era filósofo, que esa era una imagen creada por Hechos de los Apóstoles, entre otros factores. Sin embargo, las cartas de Pablo muestran que era un judeohelenista apocalipticista del siglo I y todo su pensamiento giraba dentro de esa cosmovisión, no a las diversas filosofías helenísticas. Aunque sí hay que admitir una influencia de un “platonismo vulgar” que se reflejaba en la cultura judeohelenista en general, no pasaba de eso. Pablo despreciaba la filosofía.

Además de lo anterior, añado una serie de apéndices. El Apéndice B muestra una serie de confesiones y credos valiosos que se pueden encontrar en las cartas paulinas. En la discusión de la Última Cena, me atreví a añadir la discusión minoritaria en el ámbito de la erudición bíblica (pero a mi juicio correcta) del Dr. Piñero. Sin embargo, en el momento de la publicación pasó inadvertida una aclaración que debí haber hecho:

  • El Dr. Piñero no parece sostener que los versos de Lucas 22:19b-20 fueron añadidos posteriormente. Sin embargo, lo que  quise decir, es que el hecho de que varios eruditos consideren este pasaje una interpolación posterior, sostiene mucho mejor su hipótesis de que el relato más conocido de la Última Cena se remite a Pablo y sus experiencias revelatorias (y que él no estaba transmitiendo una tradición de otros) y que Jesús originalmente celebró un kiddush.

Aunque he querido atenerme lo mejor posible a las posiciones consensuadas entre los expertos bíblicos, la argumentación de Piñero en este caso es TAN sólida, que creo que debería prestársele mucha mayor atención.

En el Apéndice C, elaboro más, pero con brevedad, la hipótesis de Richard Elliott Friedman y otros biblistas del Antiguo Testamento de que los levitas fueron los que originalmente “experimentaron” el llamado “Éxodo” y no todo el pueblo israelita. Utilizo como referencia el Himno del Mar.

Finalmente, en el Apéndice D, elaboro un poco más ciertas observaciones en torno al Canto de Déborah.

Espero que les guste el nuevo texto y que estoy abierto a cualquier crítica racional y constructiva al respecto.

 

Showing Jesus’ Historical Existence – 1

On April 22, 2016, in History, Religion, by prosario2000

Recently, I’ve been involved in some debates online regarding Jesus’ existence. One of them was in the Facebook account of LiberalAmerica.org, regarding this particular (bogus) article. I’ve refuted some of these claims before in a previous post written some years before my deconversion from Roman Catholicism, and my opinion on this matter hasn’t changed in the least.

Since, I’ve already refuted the claim, I want to make a more positive approach, that is, to present clear cases where the mythicist views of Jesus clearly fail, and the evidence for Jesus’ existence is positive. I want to begin with one of the known but least discussed stories about Jesus: his baptism.
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Almeida_Júnior_-_Batismo_de_Jesus,_1895

The Texts We Will Evaluate

There are no first-century texts outside the New Testament about Jesus’ baptism. The Gospel claims are pretty much all we have for now. Before we begin, we must remember the way they were written. The earliest Gospel we have is the Gospel of Mark (ca. 70 C.E.). The Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke were written later using Mark as a source, but also using another one scholars call Q. Even though Q is a hypothetical document, most scholars consider its existence as highly probable. For many, Q took its final form about the year 60 or 65 C.E.  Matthew and Luke were written about 80 to 90 C.E.  It is said that these gospels also had some other sources that scholars have called M and L respectively. The last of these first century writings is the Gospel of John (ca. 90-100 C.E.)  What do these Gospels have to say?  Let’s have a look (all of our quotes are from the New Revised Standard Version).
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The Gospel of Mark

What follows is our earliest account of Jesus’ baptism:

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John [the Baptist] in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:9-11).

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The Gospel of Matthew

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:13-17).

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The Gospel of Luke

So, with many other exhortations, [John the Baptist] proclaimed the good news to the people. But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, added to them all by shutting up John in prison.

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from the heaven: “You are my Son, today I have begotten you” (Luke 3:18-22, I have adopted the rare text as the most probable original, for more on this read Bart D. Ehrman’s The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture).

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The Gospel of John

The next day [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  This is he whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God” (John 1:29-34).

I hear some of you saying:

—“That’s it?!”

Me: “Yep, that’s it!”

—“But doesn’t John tell us the story of Jesus’ baptism?”

—“As I’ll show you, that’s exactly part of the evidence … John does NOT tell us anything about Jesus’ baptism. And THAT fact is a great piece of this puzzle.”
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Qualifying the Evidence

Qualifying Mark

Historians in general do not immediately suppose that whatever they read in a document is true. Quite the contrary. As Bart Ehrman has argued in his most recent book, eye-witness testimony is very unreliable. Yet, none of these Gospels come from eye-witnesses, but have received these traditions from earlier sources by word of mouth. Mark was written 40 years after the events, so that means that this took at least 40 years of oral tradition to reach the author of Mark. And THAT is a problem. We must keep this in mind when using this Ancient writing.

Yet, that does not mean that we cannot get some historical facts out of it. For instance, what was the purpose of the Gospel of Mark? Answer:  to show that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. How do we know that this was the purpose?  Simple. If you read all of that text you will realize that it has one very basic literary theme: that Jesus was the Messiah, but the people who heard him did not get that he was the Messiah, because Jesus didn’t want it revealed to the public; and that he also got upset with those who were close to him, because they didn’t understand his Messianic role.  Regarding the first part of the theme, we can see that Jesus often gets angry when people (and demons) confessed his Messianic role public; he literally tells them to shut up, and, despite the fact that later his fame spread like wild-fire (e.g. Mark 1:23-28,32-34,40-45; 3:10-12; 5:42-43; 8:11-13,22-26, 27-30). It is as if Mark were showing this particular fact about Jesus as “a secret” that he didn’t want to be known.

We could ask, why was there such an insistence on Mark. Think about it!  If Mark was written to convince people that Jesus was the Messiah, but shows him forbidding everyone to tell this “secret”, then what the text is doing is providing the readers the reason why Jesus never publicly proclaimed himself to be the Messiah! Notice that already the theory of Jesus’ non-existence starts to crumble. Someone may ask,

–“But wait! Didn’t everyone watch the heavens open and the Spirit speak?”

Ummm… no!  Read again the texts of Mark and Matthew. According to them only Jesus saw the heavens open up and watch the Spirit descend on him!

So, here is our first historical fact that happened to be very inconvenient to Christians: the historical Jesus never publicly claimed to be the Messiah or Son of God. These were claims made after he died. The Gospel of Mark was written to explain away this problem. If Jesus didn’t exist, then it would be hard to explain why the author of Mark wrote his Gospel as if he actually existed but never publicly claimed to be the Messiah. Why wouldn’t he have written the Gospel in such a way as if he did announce it?!

Yet, there is still another inconvenience in our story: Jesus’ own baptism! Isn’t Jesus’ vision of the Holy Spirit descend and proclaim his Sonship as convenient? Actually, no. If you read the first chapter of Mark in its entirety, you find what the writer had to say about John’s activity as a baptizer:

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized to him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins (Mark 1:4-5).

Why would Mark or any Christian at the time make up the story that Jesus was baptized if John’s baptism was for the repentance from sins? In their view, would it be acceptable that the Messiah repented from sins?  Obviously, there is a problem.  How can we explain this from a historical standpoint?

It is clear just from this text that before Jesus’ ministry, he began as John’s disciple who repented from his sins and was baptized (our second historical conclusion). Mark‘s story about Jesus’ vision was apologetic, he wanted to explain away why despite the fact that the “Messiah wasn’t a sinner”, he let himself be baptized. For Mark‘s author, Jesus was not baptized because he was a sinner, but because was going to adopted by God as His Son with this act. Mark wanted to persuade readers why, despite the fact that John’s baptism was about the repentance of sins, Jesus could still be considered the Messiah.

But wait … why didn’t Mark just omit the whole story of Jesus’ baptism in the first-place?!  Again, take into consideration that this is the earliest Gospel. This means that most probably some of the eye-witnesses to Jesus’ baptism could be living at the time, and someone like the author of Mark could not deny this simple fact. He needed to address this inconvenient fact when confronted by other people like, let’s say, John the Baptists’ disciples that still persisted at the time, or from other Jews who were acquainted with that same information. After all, Christianity’s custom of baptism clearly derived from John the Baptist’s activity, right?!

From Mark‘s text, we can also see that it omitted any reference to Jesus’ own activity as John’s disciple. As we can also observe, Jesus began his ministry, shortly after John was arrested (our third historical fact, Mark 1:14).

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Qualifying Matthew and Luke

The confirmation of the Christian embarrassment regarding Jesus’ baptism doesn’t stop with Mark, but continues with the gospels of Matthew and Luke. We can see that clearly they borrowed their respective stories from Mark. Let’s have a look at Matthew‘s account first.

One of the things that we notice at first glance is that Matthew‘s author adds a small dialogue between John the Baptist and Jesus. This exchange is made to address a concern that he attributes to John, but obviously is everyone‘s question when reading about Jesus being baptized, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”.  In other words, “Hey!  You are the Messiah!  You are above me!  You are sinless and blameless! If anything, this poor sinner should be baptized by YOU!” The account gives us Jesus’ (non)answer to his question: “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”

Why did Matthew include this awkward eye-brow-raising dialogue? Because, as in Mark’s case, he tried to explain away the reason for Jesus’ baptism:  it’s all God’s will, so that Jesus’ sonship will be revealed.

But the embarrassment in Matthew doesn’t stop there!  Matthew shares with Luke a story not found in Mark, which is a strong indicator that it comes from Q. After John was arrested, Q tells us this story:

When John heard [about all of these things], he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “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?'” … And [Jesus]  answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the [skin-diseased] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” (Luke 7:18-23; Matt. 11:2-6)

At first, we might be impressed by Jesus’ claim, but the most embarrassing section is the first part of the story.  Any attentive reader should stop and say: “Wait a minute! In Matthew‘s story of Jesus’ baptism, John knew perfectly well who Jesus’ was!  Now he is asking if he’s the Messiah?!  What is going on!” Scholars in general agree that this story contains what is perhaps a core historical event, when John really questioned whether his disciple, Jesus, was “the one who is to come”, the Son of Man or the Messiah. There is no certainty whether Jesus’ reply is historical or not, although it does seem to resemble apocalypticist language very well, as we can attest with the Dead Sea Scrolls. The story itself as a whole served both gospels in order to confirm their views of Jesus as the Messiah, but at the expense of revealing a historical inconvenience:  that John did not know that Jesus was the Messiah (our fourth historical fact).

As a matter of fact, Q’s story seems more coherent in Luke. There is no dialogue between John and Jesus in that text, and, most interestingly, there is no case of John baptizing Jesus in that gospel. Jesus was baptized, yes … but after John’s arrest. In other words, Luke is establishing a distance between John’s activities and Jesus’ baptism, so that it no longer looks as if Jesus was baptized because of his repentance of sins, which is what John proclaimed.

Yet, if we look thoroughly at Luke (that rhymed!), how come John never knew that Jesus was the Messiah, if chapters 1 and 2 made them cousins?  They should have known each other!  Yet, as many scholars have pointed out, it seems that its author’s original project intended to begin his gospel with chapter 3. After finishing his work (whether in that edition or a later one), the same author added chapters 1 and 2. As many scholars have pointed out, these chapters are too fantastic and too inconsistent with historical data to be historically reliable. Luke‘s author’s original intention was to present Jesus’ sonship as God’s adoption at the very moment of Jesus’ baptism. Yet, he went further back, and justified his sonship because he was the fruit of the Holy Spirit. So, in Luke‘s “original project”, apparently he made it as to make John totally oblivious regarding Jesus’ status as the Messiah.

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Qualifying John

As we have pointed out, there is no story of Jesus’ baptism in the Gospel of John. As many scholars know, many times when John omits information that is found in the Synoptic Gospels, it usually is a form of denial. For instance, in all three Synoptic Gospels we find the scene of Jesus’ agony in the garden, either throwing himself at the floor or kneeling, and asking God to keep his future suffering away from him (Mark 14:32-42; Matt. 26:36-46; Luke 22:40-46). Yet, in John we find no agony at all! On the contrary, the soldiers are the ones who throw themselves to the floor when Jesus reveals his divinity when he says “I am” (John 18:1-11). At one point in the Gospel, Jesus even denies that he is going to ask God to keep the crucifixion away from him (in John it is portrayed as his “moment of glorification”; John 12:27-28).

Notice also that this time, Jesus is not the one who sees the Holy Spirit, but John the Baptist! In other words, John recognizes Jesus as being the Messiah, does not baptize him,  and has the vision revealing him to be the Messiah. Being the one to write the Gospel at the very end of the first century C.E. has its advantages … the main one is that despite the gospel writer’s evident conflict with the disciples of John the Baptists, none of them are eye-witnesses of the event … hence none of them can deny the “truth” as John understands it.
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Conclusion

All of the evidence thus far screams for Jesus’ historicity as the best explanation for the way these texts have been written. Mythicists really have a very, VERY hard time explaining all of these texts from their standpoint. Some people might say that the story of John the Baptist as a whole is a carbon-copy of Horus’ Anup’s the Baptizer. People who argue this way forget two things:

  • The story of Anup baptizing the god Horus is a hoax. Scholars all over the world have recognized it as being a complete fabrication from late 19th or early 20th century so-called “scholars” who wanted to make up evidence to “disprove” Christianity’s “lies and fabrications”. People who keep believing that the Horus’ thing nonsense is true will never know the irony!
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  • The historicity of John the Baptist is well attested, not only by the Gospels, but also by external sources such as Josephus’ writings, particularly, Antiquities of the Jews. The way he is portrayed in that writing has convinced scholars that this was not a later addition by Christian hands. There is no debate that this is Josephus’ actual story about him.

From all of our analysis we can state the following as the most probable historical theory about Jesus:

  • He existed.
  • He probably began his apocalypticist journey by being a follower of John the Baptist.
  • Jesus was baptized by John, because he believed that he was a sinner, and repented.
  • After John was arrested, Jesus began his ministry.
  • It seems that at no point Jesus proclaimed publicly that he was the Messiah.
  • John the Baptist didn’t know that his disciple, Jesus, was the Messiah.

All of this tells us that Christians found Jesus’ baptism by John as being highly embarrassing to the point of us being able to see the efforts of explaining it away, or denying that Jesus was baptized by John, or even that he was not baptized at all! All of this only makes sense if he was actually baptized, which would inevitably mean that Jesus existed!

We will keep exploring more in the series. For now, just be aware that from just this post alone, we have established the unequivocal existence of Jesus, not only as the most probable theory, but as a very strong one.

For these, and many other reasons, scholars in general no longer argue about his existence. It is non-issue!

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I was going to write about my problems with Batman v. Superman movie, but others have expressed themselves better than me. I think that this article makes the very best reasons why BvS fails.

However, I want to write about what is screaming in my mind for some time now, and was voiced by a friend of mine online. I have the feeling that Batman has been ruined “forever” in the most recent DC world on the screen. I want to be clear that Ben Affleck is not responsible for this at all. If anything, he has proven to be a GREAT actor in BvS, and he should feel proud of it. I also want to say that almost all of the actors in this movie did GREAT, and did their very best with the mess of script given to them.

Yet, after watching the movie, as I thought about it time and again, I realized that the damage done to Batman in the film is beyond repair. Only two persons are to blame for this: Zack Snyder and, most especially, Frank Miller.

Miller has had a reputable history with comic books. I remember when I was young, I read for the first time one of his most popular graphic novels: Batman: Year One. If it were not for the fact I was so irritated with him right now, I would love for people to buy it. I also loved the animated feature version on DVD. I am less warm, but still OK, with The Dark Knight Returns graphic series. You can actually see some references to these in films. Christopher Nolan was inspired by Batman: Year One in many ways (like the use of bats for Batman to escape from the police). In BvS, you can see places where Snyder reminisces about some iconic scenes from The Dark Knight Returns.

Despite this fact, in the most recent years, Miller has changed for the worse, especially in the (in)famous All Star Batman and Robin (ASBAR) series, where Batman is literally presented as a psychopath with certain pedophilic desires, and whose detective abilities are close to zero. All of this is mixed with the most sexist versions of women possible, mixed with a Superman who is an a**hole. Don’t believe me? Here … watch these reviews made by Linkara in Atop the Fourth Wall regarding these series.

And THAT is the main problem we see in BvS.

Not taking into account that Frank Miller is behind its scenes and this newest version of Batman, will lead some people to have some misconceptions about Snyder’s intentions with the character.  For instance, in one of the trailers and the movie we see this:

Robin's Suit in BvS

Robin’s Suit in BvS

This is the Robin suit, which has been painted by the Joker. Yet, look at Robin’s weapon.  In the so-called “canonical” graphic novels, usually Robin is seen with a quarterstaff, but here, there is a different sort of weapons. The best guess made by anyone online about this object states that it is a sort of Halberd. It is a staff with a spear, and a sort of “axe-like” point that is deadly.

I want to show this because it goes to the heart of what is going on in Snyder’s version of Batman. I’ve heard too many times online that Batman “became more brutal” and “crossed the line of his own former code of ethics” when “Robin was killed by the Joker”.  I say that this reasoning is total B.S.  If you look at the Robin suit, you’ll see that Robin must have been just as brutal before his own death. His weapon is reminiscent of ASBAR (#7), when Batman gave Robin (aka “Dick Grayson, age twelve”) a choice in order for the latter to be “an avenger or a detective”, i.e. kill his parents’ killer with an axe or not (at least as I understood the pseudo-choice).

Batman is damaged beyond repair. Apparently, he has been a killer all of this time, and has taught Robin to do the same! And THAT was the reason why Snyder selected this particular view of Batman, because only this Batman would irrationally choose to kill Superman … no matter what!

It is not clear in BvS that by not killing Superman (because of coincidence of their respective moms’ names), Batman will stop killing altogether, but I can say this: Batman is no superhero in this film. He has no moral high ground in any way. He is just a mindless avenger with a very small mental capacity to be a detective.

Snyder has no understanding at all of these characters … and honestly, DC and Marvel must stop hiring Frank Miller.  His best years have been over a long time ago. I think that no amount of effort invested in this new version of Batman will “fix” this character.

 
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

OKAY!!! OKAY!!!! …. I’m going to talk about the Batman v. Superman (BvS) disas … oops… I mean … movie. Jeez!!! ~ Shaking my head ~ Sigh ~.

When I was little, I grew up with the Adam West version of Batman, and the Superfriends version of Superman. The former was too silly and the latter just lacked all personality and character (if it were not for the uniforms and the powers, you could literally interchange any of the superheroes with any of the others in those cartoon series, and you wouldn’t notice the difference).

The Superman being presented to us in both Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman is another example of the latter. I hoped that in this movie you would watch far more character development than Man of Steel had. Nope. It focused more on developing Bruce Wayne/Batman! So, in that sense I was disappointed. I also was upset at the fact that I didn’t see the relationship between Clark and Lois develop. She still continues being an emotional support for Superman (something that I like about her), but there is nothing beyond that. I also wish that she stopped playing the role of “Damsel in distress” (she played it too frequently in BvS).

If you are too worried about Ben Affleck being Batman, you can place your concerns to rest. As many of you have already noted in several non-spoiling reviews, Affleck is very easily the best Batman on screen to date. I can guarantee you, that in terms of acting, he is a shining star that will convince you that he is both Bruce Wayne *and* Batman. The fight scenes involving him are the most enjoyable moments in the movie.

If you are also worried that Gal Gadot does terrible as Wonder Woman, place also those concerns to rest. She does GREAT! If there is some hope that was fulfilled by the movie is the one I was whining about all of these years: that I wanted to see a WARRIOR Wonder Woman and not a “babe”, that Snyder should concentrate more on the fact that she is an Amazon, and worry less about “sexy outfits”. Gadot does NOT disappoint at all. All of us who complained about her not being the best choice for the role, can be considered hit on the face by Zack Snyder.

THAT BEING SAID, I want to identify the main reasons why this movie failed (at least for me):

  1. As I mentioned before, there is no character development on Superman. This will be the main reason why the emotional impact of the ending of the movie was not as great as should have been. (And what does happen? Well … I can’t say, because of the “no spoiler” thing … But if you think about it, hey!… We all know that Doomsday is in the movie, right? And if you are a comic book fan, you KNOW what THAT means!)
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  2. Even when every scene with Batman is enjoyable, and I loved Jeremy Irons as Alfred, I can’t help to note how irrational Bruce Wayne’s feelings are. Snyder rescues what Batman should have been in Christopher Nolan’s _Dark Knight_ trilogy: not exactly a “symbol of hope” (that properly Superman’s role), but a man who is moved by the grief of crime and the loss of his parents. That’s fine! … BUT, I understand that this movie goes too far with it. Sometimes it seems that Batman is suffering from a super-duper-hyper-non-plus-ultra PTSD. And I understand that he was traumatized with the impact of Superman’s fight with Zod …. but (MY GOD!) even to the point of not really caring about more immediate and much more serious threats than Superman?! Sorry, but I don’t buy it! His whole emotional motive to kill Superman seems too forced in the movie. At several points I thought that Batman was great with technology, but that his detective thinking was sometimes reduced to zero. I can’t say specifically what do do I mean, because that would drive me to spoil some stuff.
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  3. The Lex Luthor in this movie was a GREAT disappointment for me. Yes, he does a lot of evil, but when he took steps for it, my mind was telling me: “Why did he do that? … There was no reason to do that … THAT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE…. Why is he doing that???!!!!” For a bad guy to be compelling, he must not drive your pinky finger to your mouth and say: “I’m evil! Bwhuwhahahahaha!!!” NO! He or she must give me *a reason* for the madness. Give me SOMETHING! However, this Lex Luthor not only has zero motivation for what he is doing, but he is also the WORST Lex EVER! It seems as if Zack Snyder threw in the mixer Heath Ledger’s Joker, Jim Carrey, Jesse Eisenberg’s acting, lame Manichean cosmology, Nietzsche’s lamest views, and turned it on. Whatever came out of that, is BvS’s Lex Luthor!
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  4. Lex Luthor is the main antagonist in this movie, and his actions are senseless … this leads exactly to the main problem in this movie. Lex’s actions prepare a setting, but it is a *senseless* setting for a Batman and Superman fight that *has NO reason for being*. This combines with Batman’s unwarranted and non-sensical obsession with killing Superman. This is a confusing scenario. NOTHING MAKES SENSE IN THIS MOVIE!
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  5. The destruction porn in the movie did not concern me this time. Yet, the CGI (especially the one related to Doomsday) is horrible! Not for one second did I believe that Doomsday was menacing. Some other CG scenes were great, but this was not one of them. And I don’t mind that a CG scene doesn’t work IF the movie had a great plot and script. Yet, this was no such movie.
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  6. As other reviews have pointed out, anyone trying to follow the thread of the stories will be really confused by the “organization” (or rather “disorganization”) of the narrative. It feels all-over-the-place, because Snyder wants to throw many things at us in such a short time.
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  7. Last, but not least, about half of the movie is dedicated to set up the Justice League film, sometimes to the point of total confusion: there were some scenes where you didn’t know if they were dream sequences or not, but apparently they seem to be a set up for JL (like the scenes of Apocalypse) … And yes, Darkseid will be the villain in the next JL movie. Who the heck else?! This set up takes sometimes too much time, and a lot of the scenes of the movie could have been removed. In this sense, I totally agree with Chris Stuckmann, that now there is a continued aspiration of movie producers not to self-contain the stories, but to create movies that set up other movies. That movie producers and directors should just stop doing this and focus on the story.

There are so many other things that I either concerned me or made me upset about this movie. Yet, talking about them will lead me to spoilers. So, for now, I will end my review here.

 

Follow and Support this Skeptic ===> Jeff Holiday

On February 6, 2016, in Science, by prosario2000

Very recently, after I adopted the path of skepticism, not only as an intellectual but also as a spiritual path (as a Religious Naturalist), I’ve been watching a lot of skeptics who have become very popular on the Internet such as Rebecca Watson, Kavin Senapathy (follow her page in Forbes.com), Myles Power and James Gurney (both: The League of Nerds),  Yvette d’Entremont  (aka the SciBabe), José Miguel Mulet, The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, among many others. Through Patreon, I have supported three of them. Two whom I have mentioned: Rebecca Watson and Myles Power.  Yet, the third one has not received the attention he deserves: Jeff Holiday.

Don’t get me wrong, he is getting popular. He has more than 1,000 subscribers in Youtube, and that is a respectable number. What I like about him is a neuroscience student who wants to comment about the best science today with a great sense of humor, while demystifying certain BS people find on the Internet.

However, his comments are not limited to science, but he also talks about politics. Many times I’ve seen the headings of his political comments videos, and my initial reaction is a raise of an eyebrow. It may be that I end up disagreeing or agreeing with him, but whichever the outcome, I feel that he wants to provide the best rational basis for his views. He also posts some silly stuff just people to enjoy.

Here are some of my favorite videos:

… and one silly video:

He seems to be a great guy, and I honestly wish him all of the best.

I started supporting him in Patreon recently (within the capacities of my low budget, of course), because I believe that he should do many more videos, and talk to more people about science and skepticism. After some time, he posted a video thanking his supporters … or (to my surprise) his supporter … me! The ONLY Patreon supporter (“technically” at least)?!

In my humble opinion, I should not be the ONLY supporter in Patreon. I invite everyone to please support him if you have the chance. Honestly, it doesn’t take much. We need more people like him in Youtube, in Facebook, in Google+, in Twitter … everywhere!

Please, go and support him in Patreon.com. Visit his page: https://www.patreon.com/jeffholiday.
Also subscribe to his Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAldq8BAAGdsX9UyK_09-ZA.

 
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