Maybe We Missed the Messiah After All

An interesting account from A.H.M Jones’ classic The Later Roman Empire, 284-602: a social, economic and administrative survey:

We possess a curious contemporary document. Jacob, a Palestinian Jew who arrived at Carthage in 634, was seized and forcefully baptised under a recent law of Heraclius. Pondering the Scriptures in prison he came to the same conclusion as the elder of the Jews at Sycaminon, and by his arguments persuaded the other Jews of Carthage that Jesus must have been the Messiah. Justus, another Palestinian Jew who arrived at Carthage at this juncture, upbraided him as a renegade, but Jacob asked him: ‘What do you think of the state of Romania? Does it stand as from the beginning, or has it been diminished?’ Justus replied dubiously: ‘Even if it has been somewhat diminished, we hope that it will rise again, because the Christ must come first, while the fourth beast, that is Romania, stands.’ But Jacob convinced him: ‘We see the nations believing in Christ and the fourth beast fallen and being torn in pieces by the nations, that the ten horns may prevail, and Hermolaus Satan, the Little Horn, may come.’

Justus added the convincing proof: the Little Horn had come. ‘My brother Abraham has written to me from Caesarea that a false prophet has appeared among the Saracens. “For when the candidatus Sergius was killed by the Saracens,” says Abraham, “I was at Caesarea, and I went by boat to Sycaminum; and they said, ‘the candidatus has been killed’, and we Jews had great joy. And they say that a prophet has appeared coming up with the Saracens and proclaims the coming of the anointed, the Christ who cometh. And when I Abraham came to Sycaminum, I went to the elder, a very learned man, and said to him: ‘What do you say, Rabbi, about the prophet who has appeared with the Saracens?’ And he groaned loudly and said: ‘He is false, for surely the prophets do not come with sword and chariot. Verily the troubles of today are works of confusion, and I fear lest the Christ who came first, whom the Christians worship, was himself he that was sent by God, and we shall receive Hermolaus instead of him. For Isaiah said that we Jews have hearts that have gone astray and been hardened, until all the earth be desolate. But go, Abraham, and enquire about the prophet that has appeared.’ And I Abraham made inquiry and learned from those that had met him, that you find nothing true in the so-called prophet, save shedding the blood of men; for he says that he holds the keys of paradise, which is untrue.” ‘ (Vol. 1, pp. 316-7)

The prophet who appeared with the Saracens was, of course, Mohammad; these were the beginning of the Islamic conquests of the Middle East and North Africa.

When God Threw His Wallet on the Table — vulcanhammer.info

One of the many “characters” in Vulcan’s long (144 year) history was Jesse H. Perry, Vulcan’s senior field service representative right up until his sudden death. As I mention elsewhere, it took a very special kind of person to do what Jess did. Construction is a high risk activity, and that’s especially true with offshore […]

via When God Threw His Wallet on the Table — vulcanhammer.info

Millennials Wasting Time with Astrology

As documented in this piece today on CBS This Morning:

I can remember growing up on the Miami Herald and seeing the horoscope buried well past the front page.  Now publications like Cosmopolitan put it front and centre.

That piece reminded me of a pithy observation by John McKenzie in his The Two-Edged Sword:

The more petty evils of the demons could be met by magical means and the tremendous mass of magical literature which Mesopotamia has left us is a pathetic witness to the superstition of one of the most intelligent, ingenious and charming peoples which the race has developed.  Bouché-Leclerq concluded his researches into Greek astrology with the desperate remark that it is not a waste of time to study how other people have wasted their time.

I always took a dim view of my contemporaries who suddenly became “scientific” with climate change.  Right or wrong, most of them have neither the aptitude nor the temperament to be really scientific about anything.  Evidently that hasn’t changed down the line either.

Additionally this is just another aspect of the idolatry that’s taking over our culture and even our churches.

Key principles of building on the indie web — Ad Orientem

(from https://indieweb.org/principles) Key principles of building on the indie web, numbered for reference, not necessarily for any kind of priority. ✊ Own your data. Your content, your metadata, your identity. 🔍 Use & publish visible data for humans first, machines second. See also DRY. 💪 Make what you need. Make tools, templates, etc. for yourself first, not for all of your […]

via Key principles of building on the indie web — Ad Orientem

A vegan claims that eating tofu is cultural appropriation — The Logical Place

Originally posted on Why Evolution Is True: I’ve written a fair bit about accusations of cultural appropriation, and I do so for several reasons. First, these accusations are almost always totally misguided, mistaking admiring imitation for bigotry and theft. Second, they clearly show the folly of the Authoritarian Left, both its virtue-flaunting and its adoption…

via A vegan claims that eating tofu is cultural appropriation — The Logical Place

My Rimsky-Korsakov Moment in Academia — vulcanhammer.net

In 1871, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov became a Professor of Practical Composition and Instrumentation at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. In retrospect, given the music he composed, this is not extraordinary. At the time, however, it was amazing. He was still in active service in the Russian Navy. More importantly, although he had had private music lessons and […]

via My Rimsky-Korsakov Moment in Academia — vulcanhammer.net

A Warm Reception

I posted this piece before WordPress times and thought it could use reposting now, with a few modifications.

On 4 July 1911, the citizens of Houma, Louisiana, in Terrebonne Parish, gathered together to celebrate the 135th birthday of the United States. The concept of a Fourth of July celebration in South Louisiana is interesting in itself, given that this part of the U.S. is very unique in many ways. One thing that wasn’t unique was that the politicians showed up to deliver speeches. One of these was Judge W.P. Martin, and he began his speech as follows:

Ladies and Gentlemen: At the outset permit me to thank you for your warm reception. I cannot say that it is unexpected because Terrebonne has always been generous with me in the distribution of her favors. Some of the happiest days of my boyhood were spent among you and many of my warmest and dearest friends are in this Parish. Terrebonne has always extended me a WARM reception. When as a young man I courted the favors of the fair sex, other young men who were courting the same girls saw to it that I received a WARM reception. When I sought political preference, my opponents here extended me a WARM reception. And when in the course of human events, I shall shuffle off this mortal coil, it is my earnest hope that my reception in the world to come will not be as WARM as it has always been in the Parish of Terrebone.

If you want to avoid a warm reception in eternity, click here.

Why I’m Leaving Facebook

It’s another New Year, an opportunity (hopefully) to do better than before. I’m taking the opportunity for new beginnings to do something I’ve thought about for a long time: leave Facebook. After nearly a decade on the medium (with the enormous amount of time to show for it) I’ve had enough. I’ll be leaving shortly. And I’m not alone either.

I like to take the long view of things, and that long view involves this site and its companions. I’ve been at this website thing for 21 years, had an internet presence long before the advent of social media or even the blogosphere. In the last decade that blogosphere reigned supreme, and although I was slow to adopt a real blogging platform I eventually did so. By that time social media was getting going and it has, tbh, eclipsed much of the activity of site such as this.

But deep down, I’ve always disliked the idea of being dependent upon someone else for expression. The internet, IMHO, was always supposed to be the place where ideas and knowledge could be disseminated openly, and being forced into a “gated community” like Facebook was never really to my taste. I always felt that, since it was their medium, they could control what went on it, and what you put on it one day could be altered or removed the next. But I was in the minority: the attitude was “this is great, what could go wrong?”

We now know what did go wrong: the medium was manipulated in many different ways, some with the connivance of Facebook, some without. And, of course, many on Facebook expressed their opinions which were, and are, contrary to the idea of the hegemons that control it. (Frankly I’m surprised they let it go on as long as they did, although this too contributed to their revenue stream.) The clampdown came, the people reacted in glee or horror, but the end result is that the growth of Facebook has stalled in this country and people’s trust in it across the political spectrum has diminished.

Much of that lack of trust as stemmed not only from the issue of manipulation but also from the data gathering problem. That too exposed peoples’ lack of sophistication. Anyone who has been online for any length of time and has thought about what is going one realises that anything to say or post on this medium–inside or outside the gated community–is is reality permanent and, like a police interrogation, can and will be used against you. I always tried to watch what I posted there, but it was still creepy when, while my wife attempted to make travel arrangements for our next trip, ads for hotels right where she was looking would pop up on Facebook. Obviously algorithms have outrun human caution.

As far as the experience, on the whole Facebook has been positive but time consuming. I’ve connected with many people, and those connections have lacked the acrimony (for the most part) others have experienced. As a medium to disseminate prayer requests and news, it has worked well. Two things stand out: one is my mother-in-law’s death over five years ago, where it’s easy to forget people who pass with so many miles (or kilometres) on the odometer. The other is my cousin’s trip to Jerusalem during the Temple Mount Rumble in 2017; she documented that event, complete with gunfire, while most reporters fled for safety. One thing that has become evident–and has driven my decision to depart–is that Facebook is limiting both what I look at from others and what others look at from me, and that defeats the whole purpose of the medium.

I’ll still be out there on social media; my Twitter feed is featured on this blog, and I’m also active on LinkedIn, to say nothing about this place and its companions. But with limited time and resources, I have to put them where they advance my objectives, and Facebook just doesn’t do that at this point. It’s been a good ride, but it’s time to move on.

Sexual Crimes Seem to Inspire Suspension of Due Process

That was certainly the case in early Byzantium, as recorded by Procopius in his Secret History, 11:

After that he (the Emperor Justinian) passed a law forbidding pederasty, not inquiring closely into those acts committed after the passing of the law but seeking out men who had succumbed to this malady some time in the past.  The prosecution of these cases was conducted in the most irregular fashion, since the penalty was imposed even when there was no accuser, and the word of a single man or boy, even if he happened to be a slave forced to give evidence most unwillingly against his owner, was accepted as final proof.  Men convicted in this way were castrated and paraded through the streets.  At first, however, not everyone was treated in this shocking manner, only those who were thought to be either Greens (an athletic/political party) or exceptionally wealthy (so their wealth could be confiscated), or who happened to have offended the rulers in some other way.

That’s One Way to Deal with Sexual Assault

This, from Livy, 38, 24: the Romans were conquering Galatia in Asia Minor, which the Gauls (the Romans’ frequent opponent) had occupied.  This incident tells us that Celtic women were as strong willed then as now:

The wife of the Gallic chieftain Ortiago was one of a number of prisoners.  She was a very attractive woman, and charged with guarding her was a centurion with the sexual appetite and the greed of a soldier.  This man at first attempted to seduce her, but seeing that consensual sex was abhorrent to her, he assaulted her person, which fortune had enslaved to him.  Later, to temper the humiliation of the assault, he gave the woman hope that she might return to her people, but even that was not offered free of charge, as by a lover.  The centurion negotiated the payment of a certain amount of gold and, not to have any of his men privy to his dealings, he allowed the woman to send any one of her fellow-prisoners she wished as a messenger to her people.  He picked a spot near the river to which no more than two of the prisoner’s kinsmen were to come to fetch her the following night, bringing the gold.  It so happened that a slave actually belonging to the woman was amongst the prisoners in custody with her.  This man was chosen as the messenger, and the centurion took him out at dusk beyond the guard-outposts.

The next night the woman’s two relatives came to the appointed place and the centurion also came with the prisoner.  Here they were showing the centurion the gold, which amounted to a full Attic talent–the price he had negotiated–when the woman told them in her own language to draw their swords and dispatch him while he was weighing the gold.  After they killed him she cut off his head, wrapped it in her dress and came with it to her husband Ortiago who had made good his escape home from Olympus.  Before she embraced him she threw the centurion’s head at his feet.  Ortiago was wondering whose head this was and what was the meaning of such unfeminine conduct, and she openly confessed to her husband the sexual assault and the retribution she had taken for the violation of her honour.  And it is said that by the moral purity and propriety she showed in the rest of her life she maintained to the end the esteem won by this act of a decent woman.

Polybius records her name as Chiomara.  it’s interesting to note that Livy implies that the centurion has the right to sexually assault her.  By the law and custom of the time that was correct; slaves had no rights to personal integrity.  That was the case until Christianity challenged that more than two centuries later.  But whatever was accepted custom did not dim Livy’s–or our–admiration for this woman.