Monday, November 27, 2017

New Rand Letters Published - Including Ones to Sinclair Lewis and Josephy McCarthy

In The Objective Standard:

Here is the one letter which you can (in part) read if you don't have a subscription:

November 27, 1932
Dear Mrs. Lipton:
I was very, very happy to hear from you. Please forgive me for delaying my answer for such a long time. I have lots to tell you.
I have written to Mrs. Stone [another Chicago relative] several times, but I did not get any answer. I do hope the family isn’t angry at me for something. I hope you don’t think I am terribly ungrateful. I have not forgotten all that the family has done for me—nor will I ever forget it. I also remember that I owe a big debt—and I think I’ll soon be able to begin to repay it. I think—and hope—that I’m going to get on my feet now.
I’ve had a pretty hard time. However, I shouldn’t complain, for I have had a job all through this depression. That newspaper article you sent me just about covers all the essential news about me—except that they didn’t get straight the story about how I met Cecil DeMille. They had that wrong. But I did work in the wardrobe at RKO—for over three years. It was not a bad job—not sewing (for I still can’t sew a stitch), but in the wardrobe office. I wasn’t getting very much money—but enough to carry on. . . .

I recall that in Anne Heller's biography it was reported that the Stones thought Rand was ungrateful.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

J. Charles King Is An Anglican Priest

J. Charles King was the author of an excellent essay on Ayn Rand's ethics in the collection, The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand.  It was by far the best essay in the collection.

Harry Binswanger: John Hospers' Betrayal of Ayn Rand

Harry was at the now infamous meeting

My Review of Creating Christ

I reviewed James Valliant's Creating Christ:

Make sure to check out my comments.


James Valliant and Casey Fahy have written this book following a theme that has become somewhat common lately: the court of the Flavian Emperors created the Gospels as propaganda to pacify rebellious Jews and encourage the populace to obey the Roman state. Unlike, say Joseph Atwill, our authors contend that Paul was a real person (although they are uncertain about Jesus) and consider several of his letters authentic and written pre-AD 66. Paul, who preached a pro-Roman and more universalistic religion, clashed with James, who was a more traditional Jew. At some later point (probably after the destruction of the Temple in AD 70) the Gospels were written and made their way into the nascent Christian movement.

I don't find this thesis persuasive, but the reader can decide for himself. If there was a nascent Christian movement centered around Paul and James which did not have the Gospels, how were the Gospels introduced into the church without any trace in the historical memory? And why were they accepted by early Christians?

Some problems with the thesis:

1. For example, Paul's associate Epaphroditus is highly unlikely (as our authors claim) to be the same person as the Roman secretary of the same name or the person to whom Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews is dedicated - the proposed transmission belt for which Roman court ideas of Jesus were inserted into the nascent Christian movement). You'd have to assume Paul was complicit in some Roman attempt to create a different Jesus, which is inconsistent with his letters. It was a common enough name anyway.

2. The Romans were very conservative religiously. The idea of Romans creating a new religion is just bizarre. Remember Cicero saying we are great because we are most pious? You could get arrested for holding a meeting of more than a handful of people they were so paranoid about rebellion. The Romans attributed the success of their nation to the scrupulous nature of their religious observances.

3.The whole Q, Synoptics, John, etc problem is much more consistent with a bottom up religion than a top down. What's more likely - Joseph Smith created Mormonism or the LDS created Joseph Smith? As Twain said, "the Iliad wasn't written by Homer but by some guy they called Homer."

4. If Paul was a conduit between the Roman court and the Christian movement, then why did the Romans kill him? Kind of defeats the purpose. And Paul was killed under Nero, not the Flavians and his authentic writings date prior to the Flavians. I find it unlikely that the Flavians would have any interest in continuing a scheme of Nero.

Here's the problem with the the Flavian thesis: Either: (1) Jesus didn't exist and the Romans created a religion out of whole cloth which people for some reason believed; or (2) Jesus lived and his followers (or their followers) wrote down things they recalled him saying and doing (accurately or not).

And Valliant and Fahey have a bigger problem because they agree that Paul lived and wrote of Jesus (and knows some historical facts).* And James also was real (and probably others such as Peter). So their followers accepted Gospels that they knew probably had little connection to a real Jesus? This is implausible to say the least.

I have a few additional comments:

1. Although the authors breathlessly tell us that they have a combined 60 years of studying the New Testament, they show almost no familiarity with conservative, mainstream or even liberal New Testament scholarship. And they often misrepresent the findings of scholarship when they advance what they purport to be the consensus. There are quite a few scholars who date the Gospels to prior to the fall of Jerusalem and even many critical scholars who contend for a pre-66 date for Mark's Gospel. Our authors tell us that “most” academics reject to the historical accuracy of the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles and refer to leftists such as Ehrman and the Jesus Seminar. Of course neither Ehrman or any of the members of the Jesus Seminar represent mainstream New Testament scholarship. Perhaps our authors should familiarize themselves with such book as The Historical Reliability of the New Testament by Blomberg or the recent collections by Keener and Licona which evaluate the accuracy of the Gospels in light of the writing of its time.

2. When discussing Paul they rely (in part) on the book Operation Messiah by Voskuilen and Sheldon. Yeah, me neither. Many solid books have been written lately about Paul that could have been referenced such as by N.T. Wright, James Dunn, Michael Bird and Stanley Porter. Although perhaps appearing too late for our authors, Porter's When Paul Met Jesus: How An Idea Got Lost In History presents the evidence (now largely forgotten) that Paul did know Jesus.

3. The authors claim that much of the New Testament is pro-Roman propaganda, urging obedience to the Emperor and the Roman State. They seem totally unaware of recent scholarship (such as N.T. Wright) that sees on the contrary implicit criticism of growing Emperor worship, particularly in the East. I think some of this scholarship goes to far, but it's a useful corrective to our authors claims. (For a more balanced presentation see Jesus is Lord, Caesar is Not, by McKnight and Modica.) Our authors attempt to downplay the persecution of Christians by Rome is not persuasive and even they have to acknowledge that the Empire's execution of Paul and Peter runs contrary to their thesis. Apparently early Christians didn't get the message because most early writing touching on war opposed Christians serving in the Roman army.

4. Many matters are presented as fact which are highly debatable. The authors contend that the Virgin Birth is of pagan origin. However, there are relatively few virgin births outside Christianity and they are quite different from what is described in the Gospels. For more information the reader might consult Raymond Brown's The Birth of the Messiah.
*For a good discussion see Dunn's essay in The Historical Jesus: Five Views.

New Post By William Vallicella on Rand

Brief discussion of Rand and theism.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Ed Powell's New Essay On Immigration

Here it is an it's excellent: