Tuesday 20 September 2016

"I Must Go Down to the Sea Again..."

"So where is this bl*%dy sea?"
I must go down to the sea again, 
to the lonely sea and the sky;
I left my shoes and socks there - 
I wonder if they're dry? 

Spike Milligan

I believe there's another earlier version of that verse, but Milligan is a personal favourite, so let's begin there.

I've been neglectful of Paul Davidson's excellent blog Is That In The Bible? and have only just come across his latest post on that famous biblical body of water, the Sea of Galilee. You know, stormy waters, ships foundering. You find it appearing in our first canonical gospel, Mark.

Davidson has one of those inquiring minds that makes me feel quite dense by comparison. He doesn't blog frequently, but when he does, watch out. His is a voice of reasoned discourse, and he documents his ideas and conclusions with great care. He uses the word "nerdy" in a self-deprecating way, but despite not being in the hallowed academy, he runs rings around those self-serving apologists who have gathered the wagons around to defend the often indefensible.

Anyway, the question in this case is, did the author of Mark just plain invent the Sea of Galilee? It's a question I never considered before, but Paul lays out the evidence. Absolutely intriguing.


Minimalist said...

Porphyry's smackdown of that stupid working-class religion infiltrating Rome was considered a classic, even though compiler Hoffmann admits the fragments we have are poorer than those for Celsus for example. Word was that, in its original form, Porphyry's 'Against the Christians' was even more devastating than Celsus, but it is lost thanks to Christian Censorship!

Pam said...

I have no dog in this fight, but I am always amazed at how "varied" the dogmatic statements are from one side or the other in this sort of discussion. Your author quotes Porphyry writing...

"Those who know the region well tell us that, in fact, there is no “sea” in the locality but only a tiny lake which springs from a river that flows through the hills of Galilee near Tiberias. Small boats can get across it within two hours. [And the lake is too small] to have seen whitecaps caused by storm. "

We can quibble about the "exact minimum dimensions" that ancient greek writers had in mind when using the word "sea." But I can tell you that a lake that takes two hours to cross isn't "tiny." I'm not sure comparing it to Lake Superior or whatever to somehow make the word "tiny" work is very useful. I've been on tiny lakes. If it would take me two hours to row across one to get to a picnic on the other side, I'd smack the next person to insist to me it was "tiny."

And then there's this ( :

"The Sea of Galilee is known for its violent storms, which can come up suddenly and be life-threatening for any on its waters. These tempests are caused by the situation of the lake in the Jordan Rift with steep hills on all sides. The cooler air masses from the surrounding mountains collide with the warm air in the lake’s basin. Winds sometimes funnel through the east-west-oriented valleys in the Galilean hill country and rush down the western hillsides of the lake. The most violent storms, however, are caused by the fierce winds which blow off the Golan Heights from the east. One such storm in March 1992 sent waves ten feet (3 meters) high crashing into downtown Tiberias and caused significant damage to the city."

So which is it? The lake can't even support "whitecaps," or it can support ten foot waves that can crash far inland?

I'm tempted to think that some folks (both atheists and biblical apologists...those apologizing for seeming discrepancies in the Bible ;-) ) are really good at cherry-picking whatever facts they want to support whatever theory they have...especially if it will sell more books or up the page views on one's blog.

Minimalist said...

Pam said...
" I have no dog in this fight"

Um, I think you do, as I notice you have a Christian apologist site defending your version of Christianity against "heresies".

I doubt if you have even read Hoffmann's reconstruction of 'Against the Christians' -- a book you Christians ordered all copies burned! Yeah, we're not going to make much progress burning books - and we didn't under the 1500 year Christian Caliphate!

Pam said...

Hey Minimalist...

If you are referring to the Field Guide (most of which I wrote 16 years ago, and haven't added anything to it in years except for some updating on religious groups like the latest WCG splits), I have to question how much of it you have really read. If ANY.

The purpose of the site isn't to defend "my version of Christianity" against "heresies." Number one, I don't have a version. :-) What I focus on is researching and sharing my concerns about individuals and groups that use abusive and/or deceptive methods in the context of ANY form of religion, particularly variations on Christianity, to deceive and control people. I have not the slightest interest in sorting out doctrinal "stuff." I just want people to be able to make decisions --about supporting and affiliating with any group or guru that might screw up their lives --with full disclosure of what they are getting themselves into. I have helped many people over the years to avoid or escape involvement with damn foolishness... I've had over a million visitors since I put the site up. (What have you been doing during that time?)

And I am bewildered by your reference to "you Christians." You don't know me at all, you don't know what I believe... or don't believe. You haven't a clue what I have or haven't read. And you most certainly do not know that I "ordered copies burned" of ANY book, let alone the one you are all excited about. I didn't.

I don't belong to any religious group or denomination, I don't attend any religious meetings of any kind.

Do you always jump to conclusions about what's inside the minds of complete strangers?? :) Am I to assume you DO have a dog in this fight? Don't try to sic 'im on me. I'll just tickle his tummy and give him a dog biscuit.

Paul D. said...

Pam, I admittedly did not live by Lake Tiberias in the first century and cannot personally attest to the weather conditions at that time. Porphyry's quotation is the only description by someone living in the region I am aware of. A few things to keep in mind, however:

1. The lake's size and water level are significantly greater today than they were in antiquity, thanks to a dam built at the south end of the lake in 1964 in order to ensure adequate water for regional agriculture. In earlier times, the lake was smaller at its high point and could shrink further during dry spells.

2. The claim of 10-foot waves was difficult to track down, since the same sentence has been copied and pasted onto dozens of apologetics and religion websites with no source given. The quote itself originates with the fall 2003 issue of the magazine Bible and Spade. Some digging revealed that one of the century's strongest storms occurred in Israel in March 1992, causing a snow storm in Jerusalem and perilously high water levels on Lake Tiberias due in part to the dam. A 1992 news release from JTA reports six-foot waves near the city of Tiberias.

What I take from this is that such conditions occur rarely (perhaps once every few decades) and are at least partly due to modern engineering of the Jordan river system.

Minimalist said...

Some great points there Paul D

I had seen reference to the dam but it didn't click that, of course, it would enlarge the lake greatly!

So then how disingenuous the modern apologists omitting this key factor with their undocumented 'Storm Reports'!

Miguel de la Rodente said...

Bodies of water change over 25 years, let alone 2,000. Visualize the situation with the Salton Sea or Mono Lake, both located in California. Also, people's reporting skills change in direct proportion to the general level of education, and style of expression. Commonly used units of measurement have also changed. Much of what we could know has probably been obscured by antiquity. Speaking of antiquity, much evidence of Egypt's Nubian Empire was submerged when the Aswan Dam was constructed. And then, has anyone ever heard of Gonwanaland, or the lost continent of Atlantis? Strange things happen with water.

Minimalist said...

Imagine how petite that desert lagoon was before the dam!
Not that it mattered to the Gospel creative-writer, because
he was never there; he was reworking elements of The Odyssey

Minimalist said...

Pam said:
" don't know what I believe.."
I suspect you are a Christian, as you jumped to defend the tale by cutting & pasting from a Christian propaganda website.