History, heroes, villains and the Jesus/ Judas story

April 19, 2022

Of course history is always just a story. It always contains the biases and prejudices of the historian and always cherry-picks “facts” and speculates as necessary to suit the historian’s agenda. It is, I think, largely unjustified that writing labeled as “history” is considered more “truthful” than works of fiction.

Stories need that their good guys and bad guys be available for the reader to identify with. Very often the plot collapses without the villain. No murder mystery can work unless we first have a murderer. Sometimes the author is actually the villain. A case in point is Edward Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”. Edward Gibbon was not a nice man and his own peculiarities are now invisibly, but permanently, enshrined in his work. Most histories written during the 20th century are distorted by the political positions of their authors. But, not to worry. They are, after all, just works of fiction.

I observe that the Bible like any other story needs its villains for the plot to function. Easter week is just over and I started writing a post about history, the Bible and fiction. But I found I had already written about this 6 years ago which I reproduce below. (One forgets what one has written).

The Easter timeline suggests Judas was eliminated

But I have always been a little doubtful about the way in which poor Judas Iscariot is portrayed. It is not just coincidence that Easter week is a week of mystery.

Without the Resurrection, Christianity could still be a religion and a body of teachings with Jesus as a “great teacher”. But he would not then have demonstrated his divinity. He would not qualify to be the Son of God.

The capture of Jesus, in the plot of the Bible story, is a fundamental and necessary step for the Passion and the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. The role of Judas is utterly crucial to demonstrating the divinity of Jesus, but the Bible story is not very forthcoming as to his motivations. He is a traitor who “fingers” Jesus because Satan enters him. In some Gnostic writings he is a great soul who sacrificed himself for the necessary capture of Jesus – necessary for Jesus’ purposes. Judas was the cashier for the apostles and was entrusted with keeping all their monies. That thirty pieces of silver would be the motive for the betrayal does not convince.

The Bible story is somewhat unsatisfactory also in its details of the death (usually presumed to be suicide) of Judas. From the Bible story he either hanged himself or he fell into a field and burst such that he was disembowelled. The Gospel of Judas – found in the 1970s and dated to 280 AD – is considered a Gnostic text and is not accepted as being part of the Bible. Here Judas has visions of being stoned to death by the other apostles. It is only in the Gospel of Judas that we are told the story from the viewpoint of Judas and that Judas was actually acting on instructions from Jesus.

Consider the timeline of Holy Week in the Bible story.

  1. Day 1: Palm Sunday: Jesus triumphantly enters Jerusalem with all his apostles, riding humbly (?) on a donkey. Spends Sunday night at Bethany a little to the east of Jerusalem at the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
  2. Day 2: Monday: Returns to Jerusalem. Along the way he curses a poor fig tree because it had failed to bear any fruit. The tree withers. He enters the Temple to find it filled with money changers (forex dealers since the Temple only accepted Tyrian shekels) and merchants selling animals for sacrifice. He chases them out with much ado. He returns to Bethany to spend the night.
  3. Day 3: Tuesday: Jesus returned to the Temple in Jerusalem and played hide-and-seek with the priests who challenged his authority and tried to apprehend him. But he evaded them. In the afternoon he and his disciples climbed the Mount of Olives and he made prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem. He spent the night again in Bethany. Matthew reports that Judas negotiated his deal with the Sanhedrin on this day.
  4. Day 4: Wednesday: The Bible is silent about this day. It is presumed Jesus and his disciples stayed in Bethany and took it easy.
  5. Day 5: Thursday: Jesus sent Peter and John to “prepare” (presumably to reserve it as well) the Upper Room in Jerusalem (The Cenacle) for the Passover feast which would begin at twilight and continue on Friday. At twilight he washed the feet of his disciples and then began the Passover meal – the Last Supper. He prophecies that he will be betrayed by one of his disciples – which they each in turn deny. He identifies the traitor as being Judas by giving him a piece of bread soaked in the dish and as soon as he does so,  “Satan enters Judas” (?). From the Upper Room they all went to the Garden of Gethsemane. Here, late that evening, he is betrayed by Judas and arrested by the Sanhedrin and taken to the home of Caiaphas where the Sanhedrin Council have gathered.
  6. Day 6: Friday: Early on Friday morning, Judas is found dead. By the 3rd hour (9 am) the trial of Jesus has started. He is found guilty and forced to carry his cross to Calvary where he is crucified. By the ninth hour (3 pm) he is dead. Around the 12th hour (6 pm) his body is removed from the cross and is laid in a tomb guarded by Roman soldiers.
  7. Day 7: Saturday: The tomb is guarded by Roman soldiers all through the Sabbath day until dusk (12th hour – 6 pm). When the Sabbath ends, his body is anointed and prepared for burial by Nicodemus (himself a member of the Sanhedrin Council which found Jesus guilty).
  8. Day 8: Sunday: Early on Sunday several women went to the tomb and found it open and Jesus missing. He “appears” to five people during the day providing “proof” that he has been resurrected.

There are many, many writings by Bible scholars about the whole week. There are many interpretations of the symbolism but there is little controversy about the timeline. It is the timeline itself which makes me think that Judas was murdered. He identifies Jesus for the Sanhedrin on Thursday night and by dawn on Friday he is conveniently dead.

Applying the little grey cells a la Poirot,

  1. Jesus needs that someone close “betray” him.
  2. He picks Judas for that role
  3. He announces to all the apostles that Judas is the betrayer to be
  4. Judas follows instructions and identifies Jesus for arrest
  5. Judas dies before Jesus has even been tried and sentenced

The betrayal, death and resurrection of Jesus was the prophecy that needed to be fulfilled. The story that Judas killed himself in a fit of remorse, before Jesus even came to trial, sounds implausible to me. The accounts of his death also differ too much. Hanging cannot easily be mistaken for falling into a field and bursting. Both hanging and being thrown off a cliff could just as well have been murder as suicide. The parsimonious narrative that fits is that Jesus had to pick somebody – anybody – to be a scapegoat from among his disciples. Just turning himself in would not do, since it would not create the perception of being a martyr to a cause. He chose Judas to be the “betrayer” and put upon him that burden. However, the martyrdom of Jesus needed a “clean” betrayal; not one in which he was himself complicit. Judas was chosen as the scapegoat and had to be sacrificed to the greater cause. Jesus may well have realised that whoever he chose would incur the wrath of the other disciples. Why else did Jesus identify Judas as the betrayer to  the other disciples in advance of being betrayed? And Judas duly betrayed Jesus and incurred the wrath of the others. Before the night was out, and very conveniently, he was dead and the story-line of the betrayal was secure. Possibly Judas had been murdered (executed without trial) by the other disciples for the betrayal and they did not even realise that the story-line required Judas to die.

And since the Bible story is said to be written by his disciples, it is hardly likely that they would either mention that Judas was sacrificed by Jesus or that they had killed Judas to ensure his silence and protect the story-line. So did Jesus manipulate Judas to be the betrayer or did Judas act in full knowledge of his role? Did Jesus manipulate the other disciples to make sure Judas was silenced after he had played his part? It is not surprising that the Gospel of Judas is not accepted within the Bible. For that would mean that Jesus had orchestrated his own capture.

Poor Judas. He may have just been a dupe chosen by Jesus to be the scapegoat. But if he knowingly sacrificed his life and accepted being remembered in perpetuity as the “betrayer” of Jesus, his was probably a very great soul.


The subjectivity of objective

April 18, 2022

Absolute objectivity is a mirage. Objectivity, in itself, is always a value judgement and always subjective. There is no observation, no experience, no proposition, no fact, no truth, no logic which has not been filtered through human cognition and all its shortcomings. Nothing is completely objective. Nothing I write can be objective. That is a truth which comes before the beginning.

Let us start there.

Objective is not a useful word in framing an insult. “You objective scoundrel” somehow elevates a “scoundrel” and detracts from the insult. I cannot think of an example where being objective is considered bad. An objective evil or an objective crime are word combinations without meaning. At worst, objective is perceived as neutral. In regard to human thoughts and actions we assume that they are either based on logic and reason or on feelings and emotion. They are not necessarily opposed but it is implicit in our language that they are different. We perceive reasoning to be more objective than emotional reactions.

We allow the ability to distinguish objective from subjective to reside only in animate things having brains. We do not even allow artificial brains that ability. We know that brains are where both logic and reason on the one hand, and feelings and emotions on the other, reside. But we connect being objective with a brain’s exercise of logic and reason and untainted by emotions. Language does not permit an emotional rationality. Being subjective is also of a brain but is a characteristic of the individuality of that brain and its attendant emotions. Subjectivity is undefined without a brain which generates both reason and emotion. The practice of science and the law thus set a high value on the thing we call objectivity, whereas we appreciate, and expect, an individualistic subjectivity from an author or a musician or a painter or a teacher or a tennis champion.

But in seeking objectivity we are chasing a mirage.

Read the rest of this entry »

Call him Anonymous

April 6, 2022

Call him Anonymous.

He was born in a middle-size town to middle-class parents and he was then one of about 1,700 million people alive. He was an only child and rarely met his two cousins. He did not want for food or clothing and enjoyed an unremarkable but comfortable childhood. He was not bullied and did not bully anyone else. He was never beaten and never struck anyone. He finished school in the middle of his class. He went to an unremarkable university and graduated, without honours but without any adverse comments. He joined a large textile company as a junior clerk in the accounts department.

In due course he married his unremarkable cousin (twice removed) who was two years older and they had three unremarkable children. One died (a cot-death) in infancy. His children grew up unremarkably and without any great upheavals in their lives. He bought a house and a little car. His wife worked as a shop accountant before their children were born and also after they were teenagers. They did not want for food and clothing and they could afford an unremarkable holiday for a week or two every year. During the War he was seconded as an accountant to the Amy Pay Office. After the war he returned to his textile company employer. His performance as an accountant was always adequate and his career progressed unremarkably through the accounts department. By the age of fifty he had risen to be the Deputy Manager of the Reports and Financial Statement Department. His parents died unremarkably in their 80s.

His wife and he both retired at 60 and their combined pensions allowed them to continue living unremarkably in their house. She continued with her Lunch Club and Dramatic Society and he had his annual subscription to the Football and Bridge Clubs. Their children – and later 2 grandchildren – visited them in the summer and at Christmas. They were always invited to his company’s annual Christmas Party until the company was wound down and vanished after 120 years in business. She died quietly after a stroke when she was 78 and he continued living in his unremarkable little house for another 15 years. When he was 92 his children and the City authorities moved him to a home for the aged. His house was sold and the proceeds together with his pension were sufficient to ensure that he was cared for at a better than average home. He never became senile but his physical abilities gradually withered away. His children continued visiting him once or twice a year. He had no other visitors.

He died 11 years later at 103. It was a quiet death and his heart just stopped beating one night. It was during the pandemic and nobody could visit him. The Home organised his cremation and the disposal of his ashes in consultation with his children. This was in an environmentally approved tip since immersion of the ashes in the local river was not allowed. A short memorial service was live-streamed a month later and 4 people logged in.

He died alone among 7.5 billion people on the planet.

There is no doubt he did exist. An unremarkable living, a forgotten life

His name? Call him Anonymous.


And where lies the truth about Ukraine?

March 29, 2022

I believe very little of the ridiculous propaganda narratives either from the Western media or from the less accessible Russian sources.  The narrative in the Western media dominates the media space that is accessible to me. The counter-view is not politically correct and is largely ignored but the politically correct story that I am being bombarded with lacks somewhat in credibility.

What I do observe is the real oil and gas prices (spot price rather than futures), the real prices of food in the markets and the real performance of the world stock markets. Asia and the Middle East are resisting the wholesale acceptance of the NATO propaganda and are making their own nuanced judgements. And what I observe suggests that the Western media narrative which is flooding the air-waves is heavily (probably intentionally) flawed.

The Guardian’s view is utterly predictable and just a little too sanctimonious. The counter-view published by ANI may also be rather biased but is a necessary balance for the childish narrative peddled by the bulk of the Western media.

Well, time will tell, but I suspect that the end-game will include further “autonomous”, Russian speaking regions established in Eastern Ukraine and that Ukraine will be forced to give up its aspirations for any membership of NATO for the foreseeable future.


 

Holi Sleep today but happiness follows on the 20th

March 18, 2022

18th of March 2022

In India Holi is being celebrated today while the rest of the world celebrates(?) Annual Sleep Day. But not to worry – Happiness Day follows on the 20th (along with Flour, Oral Health, French Language and Storytelling).

March madness continues.

(In case you were wondering, the UN’s annual Russian language day is to be celebrated around the world on 6th June).

 

I observe that when humans virtuously associate in international groups the collective intelligence exhibited is significantly lower than the lowest common intelligence. Intelligence increases fast when sanctimony and self-assessments of virtue are discarded.


 

Women Judges and Kidneys today

March 10, 2022

Carrying on from my preceding post, I woke up this morning to find that 10th March is for celebrating Kidneys and is also the UN’s International Day for Women Judges in furtherance of a United Nations General Assembly resolution of 28th April, 2021.

They didn’t check that this Day had already been reserved for kidneys.

The collective wisdom of the UN General Assembly is particularly noticeable by its absence.

The deeper the experience of an absence of meaning – in other words, of absurdity – the more energetically meaning is sought.  – Vaclav Havel


 

UN’s international days prove the world is dumbing down – but very virtuously

March 9, 2022

Yesterday was designated International Women’s Day celebrating 50% of the world’s population. Already famous women were celebrated in news articles and on radio and TV. For the not-so-famous it was just another day. Last week on 1st March we had Zero Discrimination Day (but nobody even knew) and on 3rd March we had World Wildlife Day (and no wild animal knew).

The 2022 UN list has 192 designated international days and weeks. (100 between January and June and 92 during the second half of every calendar year).

Tomorrow is the International day of Women Judges!!

21st March is an important and a very busy day. We are supposed to celebrate many things. It is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, World Poetry Day, International Day of Nowruz, World Down Syndrome Day and the International Day of Forests. The rest of March is pretty crowded. World Water Day comes on the 22nd followed by World Meteorological Day, World Tuberculosis Day, the International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims, the International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members, and on the 25t of March we have the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

There are Days dedicated to Health, Chagas Disease, Tuberculosis, Mental Health, Aids, Diabetes and Malaria. There are Days dedicated to English, Chinese, Russian and and a number of other languages. The 16th of May is a Day dedicated for Living Together in Peace! There are Days for Bicycles, Albinism, Oceans, Yoga, Sustainable Gastronomy and Space Flight. Towards the end of the year the UN would like us to celebrate Toilets, Philosophy, Tolerance, Children, Banks, Soil and Mountains.

The list is an embarrassment to intelligence.

It is a very virtuous list. It proves that the UN believes it is the keeper of humanity’s conscience. It also proves my contention that the human race is dumbing down and the UN is also the proud keeper of human idiocy.

It is a list made by idiots and for idiots.


 

NATO expansionism a clear factor

February 25, 2022
Source: BBC

By any viewpoint NATO has been aggressively expansionist since 1997. It is not the only reason for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, of course, but it is probably the critical one.

The EU actively wooing Ukraine didn’t help, and NATO countries supplying weapons and weapons systems to Ukraine was intentionally provocative.

Whether sanctions can bite very hard without China and India is not very probable.

Kennedy and Cuba has some parallels to Putin and Ukraine. Though Czar Putin has taken it much further than Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs fiasco when he tried to covertly invade Cuba. 


 

Czar Vladimir invades Ukraine ….

February 24, 2022

And so it starts again….

People will die and borders will be redrawn. Where will it end? Hopefully not in a World War. Hopefully not in the use of battlefield nuclear weapons. But it could go there.

Vladimir Putin has more far-reaching and effective powers than any Czar in Russia ever had. Whether history will see him as Vladimir the Great or Vlad the Invader remains for the future to reveal.

An expansionist Czar? Partially but not entirely. A colonising Russia? Partially but not entirely. A response to NATO expansionism? Certainly but not entirely. A response to EU expansionism? Certainly but not entirely. Fuelled by a perception of US weakness? Very probably. Encouraged by Biden’s risk aversion? Certainly.

The lack of long-term response from the West to the annexation of the Crimea is probably a central part of the calculations. The Russian calculations are also probably that the US, NATO and the EU can do little more than enact sanctions and perhaps carry out a cyber war. Russian gas becomes a weapon in Russian hands only when winter comes to Germany at the end of 2022. I expect that Russian cyber attacks on Western institutions could well start soon

The Czar’s objective. Probably an Eastern Ukraine embedded within Greater Russia.

A minor incursion?


The innate goodness of liberals justifies their being authoritarian and even fascist

February 16, 2022

The fundamental truth is that a “liberal” is a member of a higher species, homo sapiens sapiens superieur.

To be a liberal is to be an enlightened, right-thinking, superior type of human being. The superiority is a moral and intellectual superiority which derives from the certainty of thinking correctly. Thus the liberal knows, without any shadow of doubt, that any opposing views, whether expressed openly or only hiding in the sewers of someone else’s mind, are wrong. The rightness of the liberal view is absolute and must be accepted as a brute fact of our universe. To challenge this is not just immoral, but evil. The innate goodness in a liberal is such that all thoughts and actions of a liberal are, per force, “good”. It follows that liberals must rule over non-liberals for the good of the non-liberals. Non-liberals must be forbidden from thinking or doing anything that may harm their own humanity. The use of coercive force to ensure that non-liberals follow the liberal rules – for their own good – is justified and inherently “good”. If necessary, any rotten non-liberals may be cancelled by liberals. The cancellation, in the extreme case, may consist of physical extermination. But it is a “good” extermination since exterminating a non-liberal is always a “good thing”.

For a member of a superior species, as any liberal is, members of lower species are to be taken care of for their own good, just as other pets are taken care of. A liberal does not indulge in unnecessary cruelty and only uses necessary force. Non-liberals are to be well treated and well trained and only culled as a last resort, and even then with great humanity. However the liberal – by definition – always acts responsibly. In exposed spaces, non-liberals are not to be allowed to run freely or destructively. They are to be kept on a leash whenever others are around. If there is a risk that they will say wrong things, they are to be muzzled. Non-liberals may be allowed to have a say in their own future but the liberal will exercise his veto if non-liberals are not thinking correctly.

A liberal enjoys an exalted state and has a place reserved in heaven. Nothing he can do can take that away from him. Normally, a reservation in heaven would be jeopardised by cruel and coercive behaviour to others. However, authoritarianism and fascism are perfectly allowable if one is first a liberal. Coercion with necessary force is permitted when applied to a lower species, such as non-liberals or pet dogs.



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