The View from Entropy Hall (Online Archive) - From Ed Meskys - RR2 Box 63 - 322 Whitter Hwy - Center Harbor NH 03226
Home | Newest Issue | Browse Archive | Email Ed

Issue #7

The View From Entropy Hall #7 for APA-Q 401, 16 Nov/. 1996, from Ed Meskys, RR #2 Box 63, Center Harbor NH 03226-9708, [email protected], 603-253-6207.



written by Irving M. Zeitling, Polity Press, Cambridge England, 1988, recorded by the Jewish Braille Institute, analyses the Christian writings as a historical document from a secular viewpoint. He seeks to determine just which parts are historically reliable from a secular viewpoint , and compares them with other near-contemporary writings. I found his viewpoint much like that of Isaac Asimov in his GUIDE TO THE BIBLE. Both write as non-believers but are fair and non-polemical in their analysis. Zeitling's aim is to learn what is reliable from a secular viewpoint about Yeshua, as he was known in his own time.

While the four Gospels were written 30 or more years after his death, many witnesses were still alive who would correct errors they perceived.

Catholics give strong reliability to oral tradition despite snide remarks like "oral tradition isn't worth the paper it isn't written on." Of course the Catholics used this to justify newly defined dogma like the "Assumption of Miriam" (as she was really known) in the '50s. While this is NOT in the canonical scriptures it is not newly invented. Proof of its early belief can be found in one of the apocryphal gospels dating from the second century. But to get back to Zeitling's point, the Mishna was not written down until the end of the second century and yet information in it was transferred accurately from the time of the dispersal of the Jews with the Roman destruction of the temple. Jews, and the early Christians were Jews, had a long tradition of memorizing long passages from the scriptures and the Christians would have carried accurate renderings of Jeshua's words. Zeitling concludes that the actual quotes were accurately retained orally, and perhaps as a written list of quotes, until the evangelists wrote down their gospels. Each was writing for a different audience and was primarily trying to relate the words in context, not write a scientific biography, and was careless about the exact sequence of events and their accuracy. Some events, Zeitling speculates, were invented to give a context to the quotes. I have long known that at least some of Paul's letters predate all four gospels, but was surprised to read that Acts also predated the gospels. I had been under the impression that Luke and Acts were originally a single document which later editors divided. For a century now scholars have debated whether Mark or Matthew was written first, and whether there was a earlier lost "q document" on which the three synoptic gospels were based, or perhaps that there was an earlier version of Mark. Zeitlung feels that Matthew was first, there was no Q Document, but there might have been a collection of sayings of Yeshua.

He gives many details about the early Jewish historian Yozefus and discusses the content of his several books. He brings all this together with information from the Mishna, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and other documents of the period. He concludes that Yeshua WAS a practicing Jew and had no intention of starting a new religion, nor did the first disciples. It was largely Paul who started the church. He shows how Yeshua fit into his time and correlates his life as quoted in the New Testament with what is known of Jewish life of that period. There were a number of "parties" in Palestine at that time, including the Pharasies, Saducies, Essenes, Zealots, and others. Zeitling feels that Yeshua was a charismatic preacher closer to the Pharasies than the other parties, but with some innovations of his own. He lived and died a Jew, and concludes from the quote on the cross, "Why have you forsaken me?" that Jeshua was expecting devine intervention. He treats the post-execution appearances as hallucinations and says Yeshua handled but did not eat food. I thought he did eat a fish on one of his appearances but my memory of the gospels could be faulty. Anyhow, Zeitling's attitudes are understandable since he is a non- believer.

He goes into great detail on the trial and execution and the Roman and Jewish laws of the time, and concludes that Yeshua was executed by the Romans as a rebel, not for religious "crimes." I was surprised to see that the two other persons executed with him were rebels, not thieves. I did not follow his justification for that claim.

Anyhow, while I could not agree with all his conclusions I did learn much about the period and its documentation and found the book very interesting.



I got a letter from the bankruptcy court in NYC that The Forbidden Planet bookstore had filed for Chap 11 bankruptcy. I got it because they owe NIEKAS $50 for merchandise received and not paid for. Since it is chapter 11 I guess they will not close but are trying to reorganize.



BLANK MANGE (Mark Blackman). I always thought your zine was BLACK MANGE as a sort of pun on your name, but my reader just corrected me to BLANK MANGE. Isn't that some sort of jelly or aspic?

In response to your comment to Boardman on his comment to me about the "space race"--I just read an article from the British magazine NEW SCIENTIST from about October, 1988, giving the history of the early days of our space program. I had vaguely heard that if the Republicans hadn't passed the two-term limit on the presidency in a fit of pique on Roosevelt Eisenhower would probably have had a third term and would have stopped any space program dead. I had found this puzzling since Project Vanguard had been announced as the US contribution to the International Geophysical Year during his administration. I learned from this article, "NASA Explores the High Frontier" by David Baker, that a committee had been given the job of developing a space program and they came up with a scenario which included exploring the moon AND PLANETS, setting up bases, and even colonies. Eisenhower took one look at this, and said "hell, no!" and tried to shut everything down. Americans had been smug about our total superiority and were shocked by Sputnik and its rapid successors, and that started the space race.

Speaking of space, in the late '40s I remember reading in POPULAR SCIENCE or POPULAR MECHANICS of a proposal to launch an artificial satellite. A few years later my father mentioned that the proposal had been made by the Secretary of the Navy (was that Forrestol? Nimitz?) who was so hounded and ridiculed that he killed himself. Does anyone remember anything about this?


DAGON (John Boardman). This time I wholeheartedly agree with your awarding the warmongering title to Dean Ing. Sometimes I thought you were stretching things in order to find a recipient for each issue. I remember reading about ten years ago Ing's PULLING THROUGH which told of the aftermath of a surprise nuclear attack by the Soviet empire. It was set in the San Francisco Bay Area and its protagonist was a single survivalist who emerged from his fallout shelter. He had as companion some species of large cat, details forgotten, which Ing said was the only one that had the personality of a dog and could be relied upon to be helpful. There was no nuclear winter, and the hero had an easy time of helping put the country back together. The other book by Ing that I read, about the same time, was SOFT TARGETS, which actually was pretty good. A man used ridicule and humor to de-fang terrorist bombers and hijackers and Ing made some good points. However at the end the terrorists tracked him down using high tech and killed him. My only other contact with Ing was the middle installment of a serial in ANALOG some 15 years ago. It was about a base on Venus floating like a giant dirigible at an altitude where the atmospheric pressure was tolerable, and a long-range of biological terraforming was under way .

I think I find a contradiction in your comment that those who are pushing space exploration are doing so in order to promote government welfare for the aerospace industry. Before, you said that private industry on its own was incapable of taking us into space but it must be done by the government. How else would the government do it other than by contracting with the aerospace industry? Or do you propose that government employees do everything with no industrial involvement?

You said that the magnetic interaction of the neutron could only be understood in terms of quantum effects. I thought its magnetic moment could be the result of a spinning electric multipole. Have experiments been done to check for an electric multipole moment of a neutron? Or is such an experiment impossible?

I have always disliked the mm/Hg or Torr as a unit of pressure. I would prefer something that easily translates into SI units like (milli)bars, Pascals, dynes/cm2, etc. One Torr is almost exactly 4/3 millibars and it really bugs me that vacuum workers don't use the latter.

Quayle is still making speeches about running for president some day. LAcon used the rat as its symbol in 84 and 96 because in Chinese asstrology both were years of the rat.

Since Leinster's "First Contact" was published in '45 (what month?) it must have been written before WWII ended and Russia was still our ally. How could it have been cold war paranoia?

When I was in public grade school in the mid '40s we had "assembly" once a week and part of the opening ceremonies always included reading a single verse from the bible. What good this single sentence was supposed to do I don't know.


DISPATCH FROM PENNSYLVANIA (Tom Byro). I found your whole issue very interesting and look forward to seeing more. It must feel good to have things back together again after all those horrid experiences. You are the severalth person I know whose wife abandoned him and their children.

Even today in the Inverness area there are people who can speak Scotts Gallic and there are enough to support a radio station which broadcasts in that language. I am told that the Lowlanders spoke Lalans, which linguists considered as a different language and not just a dialect of English. Lalans was the language Robert Burns wrote in. I did not hear people speaking in Lalans in any of the three cities I visited, Edinburgh, Glasgow, or Inverness. It would have been almost understandable and I am surprised that it hasn't survived as a dialect of sorts. Gallic, on the other hand, is totally incomprehensible to an English speaker and all its speakers were bi-lingual (thanks to the oppressive school system, I suppose). I understand that on some of the small islands the natives are still monolingual in Gallic. Probably the tyrannical British government schools never reached them and they were educated at home.

In a phone conversation with Anne Braude she brought up John D. MacDonald. When he died rumor was that he had left a last Travis McGee book, like Agatha Christie and her last Herculet Perout (spelling?) book. No such book was ever published. Has anyone heard whether there was no such mss or whether his estate and/or publishers decided not to publish it? Also, she has a collection of his crime shorts, GOOD OLD STUFF. She believes there were two other collections, one of SF. Do you know and have titles? Does anyone else?

Back to Issue Archive      
End of Page

Hosted by