Jesus and Cannabis?

I am quite used to seeing stories about the historical Jesus in the media around Christmas and Easter. It is a good time for the History channel to trot out reruns of Secret Mysteries of the Bible or The Bible and Aliens. And to be honest, I occasionally watch these shows for entertainment. They are usually thin on details, but at least they have a few experts I know. Mark Goodacre, for example, served as a consultant on the BBC miniseries on the Bible (2013) and the more recent The Jesus Mysteries for the National Geographic channel.

Jesus smoking potBut not all holidays need a historical Jesus tie-in. Yesterday was April 20, which for a variety of reasons I will not go into here has become an unofficial national pot smoking day. It used to be a few stoners would giggle when you said 4/20, but now the day has crawled out of the dim light of the hydroponic rooms and into popular media. Even Jesus has been dragged into this made-up holiday.

The website Core Spirit ran an article yesterday which claimed “Experts suggest that cannabis may have been a key ingredient in the “anointing oil” used by Jesus and his followers in rituals for healing.” The article cites Naturalnews as saying “the original Hebrew version of the recipe in Exodus (30:22-23), contained over six pounds of kaneh-bosem.” Since kaneh-bosem sounds a little like cannabis, the article suggests Jesus used cannabis in his healing rituals. Jesus anointed the sick with the oil described in Exodus, so he was using cannabis a natural remedy for illness. Although he did spit on blind people on a couple of occasions, Jesus never anointed anyone with oil in the New Testament.

Although the article does not say “Jesus smoked pot” (which would be an anachronism), it is a re-hash of a 2003 article in the Guardian which itself is almost entirely drawn from an earlier High Times article “Was Jesus a Stoner?” by Chris Bennett. This is not really expert support for a rather startling claim.

Blah. This is not at all accurate (obviously). The noun קִנָּמוֹן refers to cinnamon and  בֹּשֶׂם is perfume made from a balsam tree. The standard lexicon for Hebrew Bible studies, the Hebrew Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament identifies the these words clearly and provides their derivation. Although the combination is usually translated “aromatic spices,” cinnamon and balsam cannot be confused with cannabis.

Bible study group in Colorado combines love for God and marijuanaThe article concludes that “the Christ–cannabis connection debate is perhaps an example of an overdue reexamination of some of our collective beliefs that have been clouded by propaganda.” It then goes on to condemn the failed War on Drugs.

Core Spirit focuses on “Alternative and natural medicine” as well as “myth , magic and spirituality.” The expert they cite to support the idea Jesus may have used cannabis in his healing is Carl P. Ruck, professor of classical mythology at Boston University. Ruck is in fact a professor at Boston University, but he is more interested in magic mushrooms than history: “he identified the secret psychoactive ingredient in the visionary potion that was drunk by the initiates at the Eleusinian Mystery.” Seriously, look him up on Rate My Professor.

Anyone with minimal critical thinking skills will reject this article, although possibly critical thinking skills are a bit dull on April 20.

23 Biblical Studies Twitter Accounts NOT To Follow

grumpy-cat-meme-twitterI got this idea from John Scalzi, a SF writer who has been writing a blog since before there was such a thing. I read his collection of essays/blogs on a plane this summer (The Mallet of Loving Correction) in which he had a list of “25 Geeks NOT to Follow on Twitter” (@BathingInMayo, for example).

Scalzi’s idea was really a modern version “The Mad Library of Extremely Thin Books” from Mad Magazine. These were books which would be more or less blank inside, something like “Defusing Racial Tension by Donald Trump” or “Essentials of Calvinism by Joel Osteen.”

These are all fake twitter accounts (I hope) in the same tradition as Mad or Scalzi. I worked on this list over the last few months, but finished most of it up at AAR/SBL and thought it would make a reasonable “end of the year” list for Jim West to mock.

First, a comment on who you should follow on twitter. I would start with @BibleStudentSays, a few dead theologians, your favorite publishers and bloggers, especially @plong42. I am also a big fan of @ChrchCurmudgeon, and @BitterBlueBetty. If you mix your feed just right, twitter can be a useful tool for staying aware of new publications, great deals, or other issues getting their 15 minutes of fame. I recommend using TweetDeck in your browser of choice, or FlipBoard on a mobile device.

Here is the list of (fake) twitter accounts you should not follow:

@Rubio’sApocalypse. Seven signs of the end times from your favorite candidate.

@JenniferGuoFreeBookOfTheDay. Somehow she narrows down to only one…

@PostModernCalvin. Quotes from John Calvin re-mixed and mashed up with Brian McClaren and Rob Bell. They all end with, “well…um…yeah.”

@SarahPalin’sBible. All the verses that prove Jesus carried a Luger.

@JimWest’sEncourgingWords. Jim tweets highlights from his devotional reading in Joel Osteen.

@BestTVReligiousMovies. Mostly inactive.

@BadBibleTatoos. Pictures of people who copied Hebrew from a webpage for the “Jesus tattoo.”

@HamOnNye. The very best of Ken Ham’s extensive cooking library.

@BultmannInKlingon. Translations of Bultmann quotes translated to Klingon for the existential trekkie.

@BonoKnows. Either then theological musings of U2 frontman Bono, or Sonny Bono’s wit and wisdom. Either way, steer clear.

@DTSSays. Stuff written on the bathroom walls at Dallas Theological Seminary.

@JamesAndLily. James McGrath’s Harry Potter fanfic, with occasional Doctor Who crossovers.

@BaptistsForSanders. Also inactive.

@MartinLutherTrek. Theology from the great reformer as if it was spoken by James Kirk. “Here. I. Stand.”

@WWJE. What Jesus would eat, for the serious biblical dieter.

@Craig’sCommentaryList. Status updates for Craig Keener’s commentary projects. “Finished page 4539 today…”

@StuffJoelFound. Pictures of things Joel Watts found in his couch or under his car seats.

@BuddhistJohnPiper. The sayings of from John Piper that sound vaguely Buddhist to people who know very little about Buddhism.

@TebowFett. Tim Tebow tweets inspiring thoughts while watching Star Wars.

@BethMooreBibleStudiesForMen. Seriously frightening.

@SBLCreepShots. Hidden camera pics from AAR/SBL of biblical scholars in compromising situations, like browsing a book in the Answers in Genesis booth.

@DispensationalistNicholasCage. Updates on Nicholas Cage as he rightly divides the next Left Behind movie.

@ManbunsForJesus. Seminary students sporting Man Buns and tweedy sweaters.

What other biblical or theological twitter accounts should we avoid in the coming year? Add your suggestions in the comments…






More Ways to Fail a Bible Paper

Two years ago I thought it would be funny to write a few tweets with common student mistakes. This turned into a “top ten list” of things I have consistently read while grading Bible papers. I just did these as tweets over a couple of days (and yes, you should follow me on twitter, @Plong42).  Several people encouraged me to collect the tweets as a blog post, which I did. To my surprise, the “Top 10 Ways to Fail a Bible Paper” had the highest single day traffic on Reading Acts ever.

It has been two years so I thought I would create a second list of common mistakes when writing a Bible paper. First, I need to make a few clarifications. First, there is no one student in mind for any of the Top Ten. These are the types of things that regularly turn up in undergraduate Bible papers, from freshmen to seniors. Most of my students are very bright and write excellent papers. Occasionally even the best students backslide and make me question my ability to teach.

Second, I do want this list to have some positive influence on people writing papers for a Bible class. Too many students think a collect Bible class is just like Sunday School. All they need to do is say Jesus and the Bible a few times, share some feelings (maybe cry a little) and they deserve an A. But that is not at all what I am looking for and a paper for a Bible class ought to have the same academic quality as any other class. My guess is people who make these kids of mistakes are not passing an English or History either.

Here is my 2015 version of “The Top Ten Ways to Fail a Bible Paper.”

10. Using Jeremiah 29:11, unless you know what Jeremiah 29:11 is talking about. In fact, if you are writing a Gospels paper or a paper on Galatians, there is probably no reason for Jeremiah 29:11 to come up.

Jeremiah 29_11 Context9. Refer to every character in the Bible as holy and righteous. Other than Jesus, most are not even close. I seriously get papers referring to Abraham or David as a “good Christian.”

8. Cite a Mormon Theology website (unless you are at a Mormon School). This has happened more than once, and occasionally I get a reference to the Christadelphian commentary. First, do not do biblical research by googling your topic. Second, if you break that rule, at least think critically about the content. Who wrote the website? What is their theological emphasis?

7. A related topic is using extremely older and dated material. If you use an online Matthew Henry commentary as if it was an example of contemporary scholarship, you are not doing “research.” Matthew Henry was a great scholar, but he died in 1714. Not really cutting edge. By citing Matthew Henry (or John Gill, Darby’s Notes, Clarke’s Commentary, etc.) you are only telling your professor you used as your main resource and probably do not know how to find the library on campus. The reason these books are available online for free is that they are out of copyright, which means they are at least 75 years old.

Verse Wow6. Quote a verse, follow it with “Wow, that is a pretty crazy concept.” I get papers with this breathy moment of worship and nothing else. No substance, no connection to the topic. If you quote a passage of Scripture (and you really should in a Bible Paper), please keep it brief and use the text to support some point you are trying to make. I sometimes get papers which have pasted text from web-based Bibles, without any format changes. I get footnotes, changes in color, etc. If you are going to be lazy enough to paste in a chunk of the Bible and only say “wow, Jesus is really cool” at least change the font to match the rest of your paper!

5. “Many scholars say…” Name one, for example. Just one would make me happy. Usually students who say this mean “I think this is what people would say if I did a little research…”

4. “I have the kindle edition of textbook and I couldn’t figure out how to get accurate page numbers from the app.”  That is the problem trying to save money with a kindle. It is not a book so you cannot cite it properly. Usually a used textbook is cheaper than the kindle book, so unless you have an allergy to paper, man-up and buy the book. If the paper is a formal research paper, use the library copy of the book to cite it correctly.

3. Using a sermon you heard two weeks ago as the main source for your paper. I do think some pastors have good idea and I applaud a student to not only pays attention to a good teaching pastor but is moved to interact with that sermon in a paper, but a sermon cannot be the main source for your paper. When this is done right, the reference to the sermon appears in an introduction in order to raise the question or in a conclusion, making a final pastoral insight into the text.
Apostrophe 22. Stringing together a page full of quotes with no interaction with the material.
On the one hand, I am happy the student is using good resources and is citing them, but 750 words directly cited in a 1000 word paper is not good research. Students need to learn how to summarize and cite, but also how to interact with the material quoted. A paper ought to comment on the citation, disagree with the material, use the material to illustrate something in the text. Nothing makes me more angry that a 100 word block quote concluded with “and I agree.”

1. Learn to use an apostrophe. There is a huge difference between “God’s love” and “Gods love.” Unless you are writing a paper on the Canaanite pantheon, you are going to want to use a comma.

So there is my Top Ten, or Twenty if you combine both lists. What have I missed? Any other glaring mistakes other professors notice as they finish up their grading this semester?

The Liebster Award

liebsterDan Gullotta nominated me for a Liebster Award. I thank him kindly for this honor, and I am thrilled there is someone out there reading this blog who is not a Brazilian spammer trying to get me to buy Uggs. I am also happy to be on a list with Jim West that is not on a Post Office wall. Since these awards are the blogging equivalent of a chain letter, I better pass it on lest I be plagued with more plagues than usual.

“The Rules” according to the Wording Well, in order to accept the nomination you must follow these following guidelines:

  • Post the award on your blog.
  • Thank the blogger who presented this award and link back to his/her blog.
  • Write 5 random facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 5 bloggers (they should have less than 300 followers).
  • Answer 5 questions posted by the presenter and ask your nominees 5 questions.

Questions from Dan:

  1. If you were trapped on an island for the rest of your life and only had one book to read and only one movie to watch, what would they be? I suppose I ought to take a book on Tropical Medicine and Castaway….How am I watching this movie if I am on a deserted Island?
  2. What do you think is the biggest issue facing the world today and why? Apathy, people care more about what famous people are wearing than crimes against humanity committed every day.
  3. If you could have lunch with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why? I’d like to have coffee with Bob Dylan, after midnight in New Orleans.
  4. If you change something in your past, what would you alter? I should have started my PhD sooner.
  5. For pleasure only, what language would you love to be able to speak perfectly? Korean or Vietnmese, so I could know what they are saying about me.

I am also supposed to “write 5 random facts about yourself.”

  1. I had a letter published in Omni Magazine when I was 16 years old asking for a Philip K. Dick story.
  2. I met Phil Keaggy on an airplane once.
  3. I am often mistaken for V. Phillips Long. Often.
  4. I think Ron Swanson is an acceptable role-model.
  5. I plan my vacations around used book store locations.

Nominate 5 bloggers (they should have less than 300 followers).

  1. Mike Skinner at Cataclysmic
  2. Jennifer Guo at Jennifer Guo
  3. Vincent at Talmidimblogging
  4. Jeff Carter at That JeffCarter Was Here
  5. Claude Mariottini, at Dr. Claude Mariottini

Answer 5 questions posted by the presenter and ask your nominees 5 questions.

  1. You can only listen to one CD/record for the rest of your life – what is it?
  2. What book most shaped the way you think today? (Bonus points for not saying Atlas Shrugged)
  3. What movie are you most embarrassed about liking?
  4. You get to meet with the Pope alone for five minutes – what do you say to him?
  5. Which Simpsons character is your favorite?

So there it is. Go read these blogs, they are all very good. Thanks, Dan!