Michael Bird: Jesus had multiple erections throughout his life

Theologian Michael Bird (Ridley College) appeared on Australian national television last night, talking about Jesus’ erections.

Here’s the rush transcript of Michael Bird discussing the rigidity of Our Lord’s penis with ABC interviewer, Tom Ballard:

Michael Bird: I’ll tell you a real funny story. I taught religious education to some students … and I asked them a very provocative question. I said to them, ‘Did Jesus ever have an erection?’

Tom Ballard: ‘Did Jesus ever have an erection?’?

Michael Bird: I believe he did.

Tom Ballard: Multiple erections.

Michael Bird: Throughout the course of his life.

Tom Ballard: Would he have had an orgasm?

Michael Bird: I don’t know. He may have had, he probably had a nocturnal emission as a teenager.

Tom Ballard: OK.

Michael Bird: We all have…

Tom Ballard: Would he have… helped that along, if he was a red-blooded, normal man?

Michael Bird: What do you mean by ‘helped it along’? You mean like…

Tom Ballard: Would he have…

Michael Bird: … choked the chicken?

Tom Ballard: Yeah.

Michael Bird: Ah. I don’t know about that.

Tom Ballard: Just to be clear, you brought up Jesus and erections. I wanna make that very clear. I know I’m from the godless ABC, but that was your call, Sir.

So Michael Bird has made the daring theological proposition that Jesus Christ had erections, even orgasms, while refraining from commenting on whether the Son of God ever had a wank.

On national television.

If you watch the video above, you will see that Michael Bird goes on to sing a few songs from Jesus Christ Superstar with Tom Ballard. But let’s try to put that to the side, to concentrate on the weightier theological ramifications of the alleged tumescence of Jesus’ penis.

As it so happens, one of my varied fields of expertise is the erections of Jesus, as the New Adam. I can confirm that it is theological Orthodoxy that a Perfect Man, as was Adam before the Fall, and as was Our Lord throughout his earthly life, would only have had an erection if he had willed it with his mind. Yes, the prelapsarian Adam and Jesus had perfect control over the stiffness of their penises. They could control their penises with their minds! The penis, in this respect was just like any other part of the body, say the hand.

As I documented in my recent article,

The Perfect Penis of Eden“,

St. Augustine considered that penises today are mere shadows of the perfect penis of Eden, ‘neither arising nor subsiding at the bidding of the mind’ (De pec. mer. 1.57). Jesus came to Earth for the purpose, among other things, to restore a perfect penis to man.

So for Michael Bird to suggest that Jesus himself would have unwanted erections and unwanted nocturnal emissions is blatant Heresy. It may be classified as neo-phallo-Ebionitism, a variation on what was a dangerous early Heresy. Christian Orthodoxy, with St. Augustine, rightly holds that Jesus exercised perfect control over his penis, having the mind of the prelapsarian Adam. Michael Bird makes the gravest theological error in thinking that it is ‘fully human’ for Christ to have unwanted erections and wet dreams. For Jesus was made incarnate in the body of the unfallen Adam, not the fallen Adam whose mind no longer had perfect control over his penis. And as Our Lord had no use for an erect phallus, he willed it not.

With the utmost sincerity, I call upon Michael Bird to recant his heretical neo-phallo-Ebionitism, and affirm Jesus’ perfect control over his penis.




Larry Hurtado versus Richard Carrier on Jesus Mythicism

There is a curious exchange going on at the moment between New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado and Jesus mythicist and historian Richard Carrier. “Jesus Mythicism”, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, is the position that there was no historical Jesus. Jesus never existed! Instead, Jesus was only ever a mythical figure.

The current exchange began with Hurtado’s largely positive review (27 Nov 2017) of Tim O’Neill’s site, History for Atheists. Hurtado drew attention to O’Neill’s post on Jesus Mythicism, “The Jesus Myth: The Jesus Myth Theory, Again” (31 May 2017).

In that post, Hurtado also mentioned his own earlier discussions of Jesus Mythicism, which he wrote following Bart Ehrman’s book-length response to Jesus mythicism, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (HarperOne, 2012). Hurtado’s posts at that time were as follows:

The ‘Did Jesus Exist’ Controversy and Its Precedents” (23 July 2012)

The ‘Did Jesus Exist’ Controversy–Encore” (27 July 2012)

On Competence, Scholarly Authority, and Open Discussion” (2 August 2012)

The Jesus-Discussion: Let’s Move On” (9 August 2012)

There were also some responses to Hurtado from Neil Godfrey (Vridar): “Larry Hurtado’s Wearying Historical Jesus Question” (26 July 2012), “Larry Hurtado’s Wearying (and Irresponsible?) Encore” (29 July 2012). Hurtado later posted on the same subject, in “Talking Sense about Jesus’ Historicity” (28 Jan 2014).

Since then, Carrier has published a book on mythicism with Sheffield Academic Press: On the Historicity of Jesus: Why we might have reason for doubt (2014). The book relies for its methodology on the discussion of Bayes’s Theorem in Carrier’s earlier publication, Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus (Prometheus Books, 2012). Sheffield Academic Press was a mainstream publisher of biblical studies, before its acquisition by Bloomsbury. Given the frequent mentions of Carrier’s book in published reviews and internet discussions, I imagine it sells very well.

So when Hurtado began his recent series of replies to Carrier, I was surprised to see this admission:

You don’t have to read the 700+ pages of Carrier’s book, however, to see if it’s persuasive.  To cite an ancient saying, you don’t have to drink the whole of the ocean to judge that it’s salty.

Yes, Hurtado has not in fact read Carrier’s book. And yet, Hurtado has now written an extensive series of posts in reply to Carrier:

The ‘Mythic’ Jesus’ Last Hurrah” (30 Nov 2017)

Why the “Mythical Jesus” Claim Has No Traction with Scholars” (2 Dec 2017)

“Mythical Jesus”: The Fatal Flaws” (4 Dec 2017)

Focus, Focus, Focus!” (6 Dec 2017)

Gee, Dr. Carrier, You’re Really Upset!” (7 Dec 2017)

The last of these posts was in reply to Carrier’s response to Hurtado, “The Bizarre Fugue of Larry Hurtado” (7 Dec 2017).

[Since then, Carrier replied with “The Difference Between a Historian and an Apologist” (9 December 2017), and Hurtado with “Greek Prepositions and Careful Exegesis” 11 December 2017), ““The Real Jesus”in National Geographic” (11 December 2017), and “On Accurate Representation of Texts” (11 December 2017).]

In addition, Neil Godfrey (Vridar) has posted comments on the exchange in “Reply to Larry Hurtado: ‘Why the “Mythical Jesus” Claim Has No Traction with Scholars’” (2 Dec 2017); “Thinking through the “James, the brother of the Lord” passage in Galatians 1:19” (3 Dec 2017); “On Larry Hurtado’s Response” (5 Dec 2017); “Focus, Focus, Focus — but Not Blinkered” (6 Dec 2017) [, and “The Hurtado-Carrier debate has become unpleasant” (11 December 2017], as has Nicholas Covington (Hume’s Apprentice), with full points for alliteration: “Hurtado’s Horrible Happening” (5 Dec 2017) [, James McGrath, “Richard Carrier as False Prophet” (10 December 2017), with a reply from Nicholas Covington, “McGrath’s Mythicist Gaffes” (12 December 2017)].

Hurtado makes many good points in reply to Jesus mythicism. But it is never responsible to comment in respect of a book which one has not even read. I can understand simply ignoring Jesus mythicism as an unfeasible position, and not deigning to comment on it. But to engage a specific author, and a specific book, without having read it, is indefensible practice. It can only lead to the response of ‘aha – I told you so!’ among Jesus mythicists. The error in judgment can be rectified though – by making a more informed reply after reading the book.

Lastly, Daniel Gullotta has just published an extensive critique of Richard Carrier’s book, “On Richard Carrier’s Doubts: A Response to Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt,” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 15, no. 2 (2017): 310 – 346. Here is the abstract:

The Jesus Myth theory is the view that the person known as Jesus of Nazareth had no historical existence. Throughout the centuries this view has had a few but notable adherents such as Bruno Bauer, Arthur Drews, G.A. Wells, and Robert M. Price. Recently, Richard Carrier’s work On the Historicity of Jesus (Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2014) has attempted to reexamine the question in a rigorous academic fashion. According to Carrier, within the earliest days of Christianity, Jesus was not understood as a historic-human figure, but rather as a celestial-angelic being, akin to Gabriel in Islam or to Moroni in Mormonism, and only came to be understood as a historical person later. While Carrier’s hypothesis is problematic and unpersuasive, there are several key points related to his work that this article specifically challenges and critiques.

And there is a post in response to Gullotta’s article by Neil Godfrey (“Daniel Gullotta’s Review of Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus“; 13 December 2017), who promises many more posts in response.

David and Goliath: The Very Scary Giant

Sunny Griffin (text) and Donna Lee Hill (illustrations),
David and The Very Scary Giant.
Ashland, OH: Landoll, 1994.

Some children’s books are quite oblique when it comes to explaining what happens to Goliath at the end of the story of David and Goliath. After a very slow build-up, with lots of background about David as a young boy and how he looked after his sheep – David and The Very Scary Giant suddenly gets to the climax:

The text explains that David’s stone killed Goliath. That is, however, the last page. There’s no actual depiction of David killing Goliath, just the expectation in Goliath’s eyes. And there is definitely no head-chopping.

David and Goliath: Toddlers Bible Library

My favourite David and Goliath children’s books are the ones aimed at very young readers. To be clear, they are my favourite. I wouldn’t let them near actual children.

Take this one, a short board book, in the series “The Toddlers Bible Library”: V. Gilbert Beers (text), David Fights a Giant. The Toddlers Bible Library (Wheaton: Paradise Press, 1993).

I dunno – something about that series title (The Toddlers Bible Library) might have perhaps provided a hint that the David & Goliath story wasn’t really suitable.

Yet the authors attempt to make it suitable for toddlers by making it obscure how exactly David killed Goliath. The two characters never appear in the same shot, but only on successive pages. So your toddler doesn’t get to see this whole scene, which I’ve spliced together for older readers (R18):

And then you get a shot of Goliath lying down. One is not quite sure why he is lying down. To sanitise it for toddlers, the authors have had to make the plot undecipherable. But they do make the reason clear for why David defeated the giant: because he asked God for help, whereas Goliath did not. (No mention that it was ‘help’ … to kill someone.)

This is either a very confusing story for toddlers, or – if their parents explain what’s happening – a very unsuitable story for toddlers. All this explains a lot about how Christians turn out, though.

Bart Ehrman now podcasts… via a prophet

Bart Ehrman, Professor of New Testament at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has commenced a podcast: The Bart Ehrman Podcast. But his words are spoken by another, his prophet on earth, John P. Mueller.

It involves a weekly podcast in which John reads two posts that have previously appeared on the blog, some of recent vintage and some archived, often from long ago.

So John P. Mueller reads posts from The Bart Ehrman Blog. The Blog is only available in full behind a paywall (to raise money for charities fighting poverty, hunger, and homelessness). The podcast is free, but only includes a selection of the posts on Ehrman’s blog. That is, the blog is not-for-profit but not via prophet, and the podcast involves no fee but is via prophet.

While Mueller’s voice differs from Ehrman’s slightly, his words are the ipsissima verba of Ehrman, a feature which is – after all – much more than can be said for the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible/ Old Testament.

John J. Collins on the Invention of Judaism

In ASOR’s publication, The Ancient Near East Today (August 2017, vol. 5, no. 8), John J. Collins provides a very informative summary of his new book:

The Invention of Judaism: Torah and Jewish Identity from Deuteronomy to Paul. Taubman Lectures in Jewish Studies 7. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2017.

Notably, for Collins, there is something distinctly religious (in concept, if not in name) about being Jewish by the second century BCE:

“In the second century BCE, the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes issued a decree proscribing the ancestral laws of Judea…. According to 2 Maccabees, chapter 6 “it was impossible either to keep the Sabbath, to observe the ancestral festivals, or openly confess oneself to be a Ioudaios.”…  It is clear that Epiphanes was not forbidding people to say where they were from. The decree presupposed a normative understanding of what it meant to be a Ioudaios: to observe the Law of Moses, at least in its distinctive practices. What Epiphanes tried to do was to suppress the distinctive identity of the people of Judah, by proscribing the traditional formulation of their way of life.”

Collins then describes how the Jewish Torah (Law) was largely unknown before Ezra’s arrival in Judah (traditionally dated to 458 BCE), and even then its laws were not followed in any literal sense until “the attempt by Antiochus Epiphanes to suppress it”.

It’s a good summary of the early development of Judaism, Jewish identity, and Torah observance: read the article here.

Is Og with the Quick or the Dead? New article from Laura Quick

Laura Quick has just published a useful discussion of the issues surrounding interpretation of King Og’s ערשׂ, in Deuteronomy 3.11, which she interprets as a literal sleeping bed rather than as a coffin or sarcophagus:

Laying Og to Rest: Deuteronomy 3 and the Making of a Myth,” Biblica 98:2 (2017): 161–172.

Quick argues first of all that there are no grounds for interpreting Og as having a link to the dead within the context of the biblical narrative in Deuteronomy 3. She points out, rightly I think, that the Rephaim, of which Og is the last member, were in the perspective of the biblical narrative alive at the time of the biblical conquest. While the Rephaim are long-dead in other poetic biblical passages, that is not the case here, because this is precisely the early pre-Israelite biblical period when the Rephaim are presented as still alive. Similarly, Francesca Stavrakopolou has argued that “It might be supposed, with Mario Liverani and others before him, that the biblical writers recast the Rephaim as giants because they believed that ‘before being dead they must have been alive . . . They should thus have been a people, one that exists no more, but lived in Palestine before [the Israelites’] arrival’” (Land of Our Fathers, 67, citing “Liverani, Israel’s History, 276. See also Loretz, Götter – Ahnen – Könige als gerechte Richter, 259–66″).

However, I note that from the perspective of the author of Deuteronomy, who knows of Og’s ערשׂ being on display in Ammon in his own day, the fact that Og is alive in the biblical narrative is evidentially neutral for identifying his ערשׂ – he’s been long dead and buried. So as King Og is now remembered as one of the long dead, it’s still just as plausible that we’re talking about his sarcophagus.

Quick also agrees with Allan Millard’s view that a bed made with iron indicates a literal sleeping bed rather than a sarcophagus, which would be made of stone. (See also Ulrich Hübner, “Og von Baschan und sein Bett in Rabbat-Ammon (Deuteronomium 3,11)”, ZAW 105 (1993): 86–92.) This is a plausible argument. And yet, as the history of debate has shown, there is a lot of uncertainty that remains. For example (and there are further possibilities), Driver (Deuteronomy, 54) suggested that the ברזל might be basalt rather than iron. As the ערשׂ is evidently on display in Ammon, in Deuteronomy’s day, this is quite understandable as a gigantic basalt tomb; but it is less understandable that there would be an enormous manmade bed with iron parts. It’s possible, but at the very least, the case is hardly laid to rest on the basis of the “iron”/”basalt”.

So Quick tries to rebut the links between Og and the dead which rely on data from outside of the biblical narrative in Deuteronomy 3, that is: the Ugaritic text KTU 1.108 (tablet ca. 1200 B.C.E.), Psalm 68, and a Phoenician tomb inscription from the early fifth century B.C.E., Byblos 13. Her reasoning here seems to be that, if these texts don’t support a chthonic connection to Og, this removes the supporting arguments upon which some scholars have relied to interpret Og’s ערשׂ as a sarcophagus rather than a bed. So this is not a direct argument for the interpretation of Og’s ערשׂ as a sleeping bed or sarcophagus. And it cannot logically have the power to put the issue to rest.

Yet Quick is right that the the general article before ʿg in the Byblos 13 inscription makes it difficult to translate the term as the proper name ‘Og’, and that the reference to Bashan/bashan in Psalm 68 is not in the immediate context related to the dead. But in respect of the Ugaritic KTU 1.108, her assertion that  “the translation preferred by the majority of Ugaritologists reads these lexemes not as toponyms, but as divine names, Aṯtartu and Haddu” – which cites only (the often idiosyncratic) de Moor – is not convincing. The relevant part of the text reads (with my translation):

yšt rpˀu mlk ˁlm He is established, the rpˀu, the eternal king,
           wyšt [ˀil?] gṯr wyqr             and established is [the god(?),] Gathar-and-Yaqar;
ˀil yṯb bˁṯtrt the god who sits (enthroned) in Athtarat,
           ˀil ṯpṭ bhdrˁy the god who rules in Hedrey.

Contra Quick, most interpreters do identify the parallel words in KTU 1.108 with the cities situated in the Hauran (biblical Bashan), south of Damascus, north of the Yarmuk River. In Deut. 1:4; Josh. 12:4; 13:12, 31, the two cities are associated especially with King Og, who is described as enthroned (Heb. √ישׁב, cf. Ug. √yṯb) in the same two cities and also as one of the Rephaim. In favour of this interpretation are Michael C. Astour, ‘Two Ugaritic Serpent Charms’, JNES 27 (1968), 21; Margulis, ‘A Ugaritic Psalm’, 294 (‘the Honor of El sits (enthroned) in Ashtaroth’); Marvin H. Pope, ‘Notes on the Rephaim Texts’, in Essays on the Ancient Near East in Memory of Jacob Joel Finkelstein, ed. Maria de Jong Ellis, MCAAS 19 (Hamden: Archon, 1977), 170 (‘the god who dwells in Ashtaroth’); Sergio Ribichini and Paolo Xella, ‘Milk‘aštart, MLK(M) e la tradizione Siro-palestinese sui Refaim’, RSF 7 (1979), 154 (‘e Yqr il risiede in ˁAṯtartu’); Johannes C. de Moor, An Anthology of Religious Texts from Ugarit, Nisaba, 16 (Leiden: Brill, 1987), 187 (‘the god who is dwelling in Athtartu’); Dennis C. Pardee, Les textes para-mythologiques de la 24e campagne (1961), Ras Shamra-Ougarit 4 (Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisation, 1988), 81 (‘le dieu qui siege à ˁAshtarot’); Wyatt, Religious Texts from Ugarit, 395 (‘the god enthroned in Athtarat’); Gregorio del Olmo Lete, Canaanite Religion: According to the Liturgical Texts of Ugarit, tr. Wilfred G. E. Watson (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2004), 186 (‘(the) god who sits in ˁAṯtartu’); DULAT, 195 (‘the god who sits in TN’); Aïcha Rahmouni, Divine Epithets in the Ugaritic Alphabetic Texts, HO, Section One: The Near and Middle East 93, tr. J. N. Ford (Leiden and Boston: Brill), 208 (‘The god who sits (enthroned) in ˁAṯtartu’).

In addition, the preposition b- does not ever mean ‘with, in the company of (a person)’, which favours the toponymic interpretation (Rahmouni, Divine Epithets, 38).

The spelling of Ug. hdrˁy versus Heb. אדרעי is not a common transition in North-West Semitic but is not unattested (e.g., Akkad. ewūm ‘to become’, cf. Aram. hǝwā: Sabatino Moscati, Anton Spitaler, Edward Ullendorff, and Wolfram Von Soden, An Introduction to The Comparative Grammar of the Semitic Languages: Phonology and Morphology, PLONS 6 (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1969), 42. Alternatively, Baruch Margulis suggests a scribal error of hdrˁy for ˀidrˁy, given the similarity of h and ˀi and the single, small missing wedge which would be involved (‘A Ugaritic Psalm (RS 24.252)’, JBL 89 (1970): 294). Nicolas Wyatt dismisses the difference as insignificant, imploring, ‘This is a school exercise!’ (Religious Texts from Ugarit: The Words of Ilimilku and His Colleagues, BS 53 [Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1998], 396 n. 8).

So there is life yet in King Og’s sarcophagus, I think.