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Saturday, 29 January 2011

Whatever does American Capitalism have to do with the Price of Tea in China?

Well, I'll get started on this post today just to keep up my days-in-a-row thing, but as my longtime readers may or may not have noticed, I never post on Sundays. So this will be the last day in a row anyway.
Today's linked news article is "Why China Does Capitalism Better than the U.S." The article opens with a claim that 'ironically', China is doing a better job of managing capitalism's crisis than the US is:
"Beijing's stimulus spending was larger, infinitely more effective at overcoming the slowdown and directed at laying the infrastructural tracks for further economic expansion."
Ha, ha, ha. What this really is all about is "Why China Does Socialism Better than the U.S." The reason why China Does Socialism Better than the U.S. is because socialism never works without coercion, and China is way better and more experienced at coercion than the U.S.

I suppose I could say more, but that's it in a nutshell.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Baptize, THEN disciple?

Back in 2011 I wrote:
. . . I've been working on a (heavy) post for Nazaroo's blog. I would have posted it here, but I fear lest I weary my longsuffering readers.
Well, since Nazaroo's blog is being shut down, here it is.

Matthew's Ending (28:19): The textual evidence

There's been a bit of a discussion over the past semester on the Ending of Matthew. Not the very last verse, mind you, but the penultimate one, verse 19 of chapter 28. Here are several extant versions of it (ignoring  ligatures and miniature uncials but indicating Nomina Sacra:  πρς = patros,   πνς = pneumatos):

01 (א) = Sinaiticus
πορευθεντες  μαθητευσατε παντα τα εθνη βαπτιζοντες αυτους εις το ονομα του  πρς και του υιου και του αγιου  πνς

02 (A) = Alexandrinus 
πορευθεντες  μαθητευσατε παντα τα εθνη βαπτιζοντες αυτους εις το ονομα του  πρς και του υυ και του αγιου  πνς

03 (B) = Vaticanus
πορευθεντες ουν μαθητευσατε παντα τα εθνη βαπτισαντες αυτους εις το ονομα του πατρος και του υιου και του αγιου πνευματος

05 (D) = Bezae
πορευεσθαι νυν μαθητευσατε παντα τα εθνη βαπτισαντες αυτους εις το ονομα του  πρς και υιου και του αγιου  πνς

032 (W) = Washingtonensis
πορευθεντες ουν μαθητευσατε παντα τα εθνη βαπτιζοντες αυτους εις το ονομα του  πρς και του υιου και του αγιου  πνς

Tischendorf, Majority Text (=01/א)
πορευθεντες  μαθητευσατε παντα τα εθνη βαπτιζοντες αυτους εις το ονομα του πατρος και του υιου και του αγιου πνευματος

Textus Receptus, Westcott & Hort, NA27 (=032/W)

πορευθεντες ουν μαθητευσατε παντα τα εθνη βαπτιζοντες αυτους εις το ονομα του πατρος και του υιου και του αγιου πνευματος

 First of all, let's consider the overall pattern of variants. Codex Bezae is wild as usual, with unique readings at all three locations, plus a missing article--reading just as if it were a translation from the Old Latin in the adjacent column.

Ah--oops, not quite so. Codex Vaticanus joins its wildness at βαπτίσαντες. I had to look these up in facsimile, as LaParola claims they both read βαπτίζαντες. They don't -- unless both facsimiles are wrong, which I strongly doubt.  It's evident that LaParola does not reflect the actual text of Bezae, just a general pattern of support and non-support for readings found elsewhere.

It's interesting to note--claims of 'accumulated errors' notwithstanding, the text that Erasmus found in a medieval minuscule (probably GA-1, Codex Basilensis A. N. IV. 2) turned out to read exactly as Codex Washingtoniensis -- nearly coeval with Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, and at least as old as Bezae. So it was that Westcott/Hort kept the Textus Receptus reading--which remains unchanged to this day in the NA27 text. 
Tischendorf, however, influenced by Sinaiticus, aligned with the reading in the youngest minuscules! All this should put to rest the idea that 'older is better' and 'youngest is worthless.'

Now, leaving aside the wild readings, let's focus on the variants themselves. 

1. Include or omit ουν.
Although it's included in Vaticanus, we can hardly call it an Alexandrian reading (especially since two of the Alexandrian witnesses, C and L, are lacunose here). It's actually more like the Caesarean reading, shared by a smattering of Alexandrian and Byzantine mss. Being the Vulgate reading, it found its way into the Textus Receptus by way of Erasmus' Caesarean manuscript GA-1.
Most manuscripts from 01 (א) onward omit it -- a most unusual situation in which one of the oldest manuscripts line up with most of the youngest ones, but one of the youngest ones lines up with most of the oldest.

2.  -- βαπτίζοντες vsβαπτίσαντες
The former is the present active form, the latter the aorist active form of the participle. Textual editors have rejected  the latter, despite its presence in Codex Vaticanus; I don't know why. This appears to be a Western influence in Vaticanus. LaParola is quite off here, misspelling their citation of the latter form.

There is only one more variant mentioned at LaParola (the UBS4 text), which is the deletion of the entire phrase βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦυἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος ("baptizing them in the name of the father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit"). 
According to LaParola, Origen  and Eusebius replace the entire phrase with ἐν τῳ ὀνόματι μου (i.e., = "in My name [only]"), when in fact Origin simply deletes it.

The story is far from being as simple as that. Actually, the full phrase is cited about 90 times in patristic writings, but none of them place the phrase at the end of Matthew's gospel--nor do any of the citations of Origen and Eusebius. In fact, neither of these attach  ἐν τῳ ὀνόματι μου to either form of the participle, but rather to the verb used earlier in the verse for making disciples of all nations.

If one were to hypothesize, as Conybeare did, that the Trinitarian Formula was not original to Matthew -- on the basis of Eusebius and Origen -- then he should go on to conclude that the entire baptismal formula, including any mention of a name, was a later development. But there simply isn't any direct textual or patristic evidence that Matthew's gospel ended without it.


Codex Vaticanus, the celebrated "oldest and best" manuscript behind NA-28 and UBS5, is not followed here, because its change to the text is best explained as an orthodox corruption: Jesus commanded his disciples to disciple and baptize the nations; however, what the guardians of that command ended up doing was subverting it to baptizing, THEN discipling; mass baptisms brought entire nations into the fold of Christendom knowing no more of Christianity than that they were now a part of it. This has long since ceased to be a practice, so it would be rather embarrassing to continue to give it the imprimatur of one of the best-known passages of Scripture.

But this returns us to the original question. If Jesus' command so could easily be altered to reflect the new reality of mass forced conversion, may it not as easily been altered to force a Trinitarian orthodoxy?

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Why Taco Bell is Good For You

Here's something light-hearted for today; I'm working on a heavier series of posts for the rest of the week.

Taco Bell is one of my favorite fast food restaurants, if for no other reason that that one can regularly pick up an entree there for only a dollar (plus tax). The last time I was at one, I participated in their twelve-for-ten-dollars special, and noticed that they also had a low-calorie menu. I don't usually go for the low-calorie items, considering what each calorie is costing me financially, but I am interested in not putting too much junk into my body on those rare occasions when I eat other than home-cooked food.

So it was with some interest that I read this article claiming that Taco Bell's taco filling is not pure hamburger, but some concoction of polymeric water, wheat, and oats that is barely a third actual ground beef (Taco Bell says it's more like 90%). Actually, that's quite fine with me. I prefer to graze as low on the food chain as possible, and I'd rather eat the wheat and oats than the steer that ate them.

I won't be getting there any time soon, but you can reasonably expect that my next expedition long and far from the home fires will include a stop at a Taco Bell.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Conjectural emendation and Bible Translation

Conjectural emendation, strictly speaking, refers only to making changes to an extant text. Textual critics for the most part avoid a process so fraught with opportunity for excess. But for all practical purposes, conjectural emendation is the bread and butter of Bible translators, who emend the meaning, if not the actual words, whenever they struggle to make sense of a corrupted original.

We have to go no further than the sixth verse of the New Testament for our first example. Leaving aside other variants here, the Greek text reads:

Δαυὶδ . . . ἐγέννησεν τὸν Σολομῶνα ἐκ τῆς τοῦ Οὐρίου
David . . . begat the (m) Solomon by the (f) of-the (m) Uriah

Now, it's pretty obvious that a word is missing here, right between the two 'the's: γυναικός (wife/woman/widow). And thus do most modern versions render it, as far back as the 1611 King James Version, which read:

David . . . begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias.

Notice the outright conjecture of γυναικός, even whilst the translators admitted that there were no tense markings in the original. Later editions of the KJV admit that everything between 'her' and 'of' was supplied by the translators. The tense markings, however, had long since been supplied by one of the earliest translators of Matthew, Jerome:

David . . . genuit Salomonem ex ea, quae fuit Uriae.
David . . . begat Solomon from her, who had been of Uriah.

Not having any articles to get in the way, the Latin flows smoothly enough without uxor. But when Wycliffe translated the Vulgate to English, he felt the need to tack it on to the end, in addition to translating the tense indicator:

Dauid . . . bigat Salamon, of hir that was Vries wijf.

And thus all English translators ever since have, for all practical purposes, conjectured πρότερα as well as γυναικός in this verse.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

An exercise in conjectural emendation

I'm going to see how many days in a row I can post, since I have a lot on my mind lately. We'll start with a short exercise in conjectural emendation.

Conjectural emendation is the process whereby a textual critic restores an allegedly corrupted text to its original form--one not known to have been transmitted to any extant copy. I say 'allegedly' because it is common for textual critics to disagree on whether a text is even corrupted or not to begin with. I'm of the school that looks for the following before conjecturing an emendation:

1. There's something grammatically wrong with the way the text now reads, or, if the text is technically grammatical, something still appears to be missing that is essential to the flow of thought.

2. Some mechanism exists which could likely account for the text being corrupt.

In both of these, necessary clues can usually be gleaned from an examination of the near context.

As an example, I've lifted a phrase out of an email which I received today from my financial adviser:

Whether you’re in the ‘"ore optimistic" or the "less optimistic" camp

First of all, 'ore optimistic' may possibly refer to gold speculation--especially if used as a play on words--but that's clearly not in the broader context here (I can say that, because I have the entire letter before me). Unfortunately for those who rely on Spell Check to do their proofreading, 'ore' is in fact a word, so it would at best have been flagged by Grammar Check.

What is in the immediate context is 'less optimistic,' which is in parallel to 'more optimistic.'  That is in fact what I would conjecture was the original reading.

Now, we can easily see how the corruption may have arisen, by a scribe correcting the original in five discrete stages.

STAGE 1 (autograph).
Whether you’re in the ‘more optimistic’ or the ‘less optimistic’ camp

STAGE 2 (begin the correction).
Whether you’re in the ‘more optimistic’ or the ‘less optimistic" camp

STAGE 3 (continue the correction).
Whether you’re in the ‘more optimistic’ or the "less optimistic" camp

STAGE 4 (last correct stage in the correction).
Whether you’re in the ‘more optimistic" or the "less optimistic" camp

STAGE 5 (begin the faulty correction).
Whether you’re in the ‘ore optimistic" or the "less optimistic" camp

STAGE 6 (conclude the faulty correction).
Whether you’re in the ‘"ore optimistic" or the "less optimistic" camp

As you can see, in the process of highlighting the [‘] and replacing it with ["], the scribe highlighted the adjacent character instead. Or, more likely, he hit the 'delete' key when his cursor was to the right of the ['] instead of to the left of it. Or hit the 'delete' key, intending to hit 'backspace' instead. In any case, he ended up replacing the [m] instead of the [‘].

Now, in the case of the Hebrew Bible, many corruptions can be brought to light by variants in the versions--but this is not always necessary. Sometimes translators did not emend the text when they translated it, so it's clear that they had the same allegedly corrupt text before them as we have now. But in the case where a version reads like an emendation, it may indicate an uncorrupted text, or it may not. For all we know, the original translator may have conjectured an emendation just as we did here, and just as any competent translator would in translating this phrase into Japanese.

It's not necessary to have versional evidence to conjecture an emendation, but it certainly doesn't hurt. Versional evidence is a strong indication that the text as we now have it was at one point corrupted, as well as evidence for the direction in which emendation should occur.

By the way, a bit of electrocodicology* here:  I had to play around with the font several times to accurately reproduce what happened. When I cut-and-pasted the phrase, I ended up with directional quotation marks in my copy. But after setting up the stages of correction, I realised that the exemplar must have contained only vertical quotation marks. Sure enough, when I blew up the screen enough, it did. So I had to go back and re-construct my reconstruction--a couple of times, until I was sure I got it right.

*electrocodicology (a word I just coined)
The study of electronic texts as visible objects, it encompasses a study of the electronic codes used to produce a visible image of the text; their origin, especially chronological; the various editions through which they may have passed; and the specific hardware upon which they could have existed at the time of the text's creation.

By a close examination of the codicological attributes of an electronic text, or even a physical printout thereof, it is sometimes possible to establish the history and provenance of a text, especially in proving that an alleged archived document is a recent forgery (see: Dan Rather, reasons for retirement of).

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Islam will not take over the world after all, it appears

This video shows that the changes I predicted would happen in Muslim countries are already underway.

UPDATE DEC 20, 2012
The overall US birth rate decreased by 8% between 2007 and 2010, with a drop of 14% among foreign-born women. The overall birth rate has fallen to 63.2 births per 1,000 women who are of childbearing age. That is down from 122.7 births in 1957 at the peak of the Baby Boom.

I may have spoken prematurely.  A closer look at the Pew Report shows that, whether they be way above replacement rate, or just barely, Muslim birthrates top those of non-Muslims in every area. So Muslims continue to grow as a proportion of every population.

A humbling distinction

The White Man is now listed as a Black Blog. I'm deeply humbled.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Why did the wolly mammoth go extinct?

Researchers aim to resurrect mammoth in five ...
Think about it. What possible good are tusks that curve back around 270 degrees?

Friday, 7 January 2011

A short review of two self-published books--and a warning

Run a google search on "someone killed erik," (with the word 'else' inserted as the second word) and you'll find one of the books I'm referring to. For the other one, use "he had to go feed hogs" (with the word 'his' inserted before the last word). That should be enough information to suffice, should anyone be determined to read the books. No purchase is required, but I must warn the reader: don't expect to get any sleep tonight once you get started.

These two fictional books were both written about the same time (1995-1997), so I don't think that the authors influenced each other. But they both carry the same theme: a series of targeted assassinations of members of the government who were perceived to be enemies of the American people, with the threat that there will be many more unless certain unconstitutional laws are repealed. The government resists, but in the end, the assassins' demands are met with a minimum of casualties to their side. Other than that, and an adherence to the low moral standards of modern publishing, the two books don't have a whole lot in common. Oh, there is one other thing: Black Americans, and the neighborhoods in which they live, aren't portrayed all that favourably in either book.

In 'Erik', the assassins are a handful of former Special Forces, and their targets are strictly limited to politicians who voted for a pork-barrel budget. The goal is likewise limited, to passing a constitutionally limited budget. Obviously, the assassins will need more motivation than just this, so it turns out that they have personal vendettas against at least one of the politicians. As the story unfolds, the President's Chief of Staff hires a renegade CIA agent to arrange the murders of a few more politicians who favoured a balance budget, both to take advantage of the general mayhem and to settle a score on the other side. The original assassins manage to track down and capture the renegade, and use sodium pentothal to get a taped confession out of him that would bring down the government were it ever to be released. Made aware of the tape, the government capitulates to their demands, and the assassins are never arrested--nor is the tape ever released. No long-term results ensue from this fast-paced but limited campaign.

In 'Hogs', the action is much more widespread, and for far more basic causes. The American gun culture has been chafing for decades under the heavy hand of federal regulation, but is never quite willing to summon a call to arms over it until the BATF stages yet another military-style assault on the home of one of its members, thought to be vacant at the time. The lone occupant of the house, another gun owner, discerning that the house is under attack by armed intruders but not that they are government agents, shoots most of them before realising what he has done. Recognising that he has now completed the first phase spoken of in the maxim, "The first one is expensive, but all the rest are free," he goes on to kill the rest of the team. But first he manages to elicit a videotaped confession from the leader of the raid. The information on the tape convinces him that killing the six BATF agents who had targeted him and his two friends wasn't enough; he has to set his sights on them all. Within twenty-four hours, he has killed eighteen more--all armed, and all seeking to do him and his law-abiding gun-owner friends serious harm in an attempt to part them from their weapons hoards.

At this point he launches an ingenious scheme, one that came to him while he was interrogating the BATF raid leader. He assumes the identity of the agent and begins to fill the internet with missives, supposedly from the now-renegade agent, calling Americans to arms against their jackbooted oppressors. It's now open season on gun confiscators and the legislators who enable them--a target group of thousands. A grass-roots movement emerges to spread the killing, and at a crucial moment the video is released, with the result that the FBI finds no one willing to cooperate with their investigations. As the killings mount, the President goes on nationwide TV to capitulate, proclaiming a general amnesty for the rebels, and the war is over--but not until three top government officials with collective blood on their hands from Ruby Ridge, Waco, and the recent BATF raids are shot in the face at point-blank range.

These works are both fictional, but there is a major difference in their publication history. The first, 'Erik', was written purely as a political thriller. Although no publisher would touch it when it came out, the author went on to write many such books--all best sellers (one of which was mentioned elsewhere in this blog), and his original work was then picked up by a major publisher in paperback. The second (though it preceded it in time) is more autobiographical, published within the gun culture and the author's only such work published to date. He has, indeed, been threatened against ever writing another one, and no major publisher has yet picked up paperback rights, although the first several printings sold out immediately. For some reason that I don't understand, however, both books can be read in their entirety without purchasing either--something extremely rare, and, even in this case, not widely known.

It would appear that the government knows there really isn't any danger of a few disgruntled ex-SEALs bringing down the administration just over pork-barrel spending. But they must have a lot to fear from a few million gun owners with nothing to lose turning their guns on those attempting to make them turn them over.

But here's the problem with fiction. Neither book, I believe, accurately depicts what sort of scenario would truly play out if targeted assassination became part of the American way of dealing with problems in their government. 'Erik', I think, comes the closest, with Erik saying:

"Last Friday we started a new chapter in our country's history, one that is potentially very dangerous. The idea that one small group can dictate, through violence, the policies of this country runs completely against all of the democratic principles upon which our nation was founded. These acts of terrorism absolutely and emphatically cannot be tolerated if we want to leave a civilized and democratic nation for future generations of Americans."
Shortly afterward, Erik was killed--by the other side, and in a far less civilised fashion, with all his bodyguards being blown up with him. Erik had a point, which 'Hogs' never quite developed: once you open season on law enforcement, you no longer control the battle. Killing will escalate on both sides. For example, in 'Hogs', there were some grisly murders of BATF agents along with their families by people with vendettas against them; but no corresponding wholesale murders of gun owners' families, despite the BATF and FBI's proven record at Ruby Ridge and Waco. Instead, the agents only target the gun owners themselves, and always in such a way as to give them a sporting chance (i.e., no more than six armed and armoured agents per gun owner at a time).

"He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword." These words were spoken by someone accused of insurrection and treason, who never took up the sword even when he knew that the jackboots were coming to lynch him. It's a maxim that the authors of 'Erik' and 'Hogs' don't quite seem to have caught on to; in their books, the good guys always win, and seldom suffer any casualties. It doesn't work that way in a real live war: the main goal in a war is for each side to inflict the maximum of casualties on the other side, while suffering the minimum of casualties on their own. The best proven way of accomplishing this is for the military on either side to focus the bulk of their killing machinery on the respective civilians on the other side. Thus, in a war, the African maxim is always proved true:

"When elephants fight, it is the grass that gets hurt the most."
I don't recommend that any of my readers try to implement government change by targeted assassination. Once let slip, the dogs of war are likely to come back and bite the hands--and throats--of those who loosed their bonds; and before too long, those of their wives and children as well.

UPDATE DEC '11: The 'hogs' search will no longer get you to the free book I review here; it will, however, lead in only two steps to a set of freeper books that are available for extensive preview and paint a more apocalyptic picture of this scenario, one in which the government rather than the gun owners fires the first shots, and is more than prepared for their backlash.