Zechariah and the Dead Sea Scrolls
On page 166 of The Christian Fallacy, I make the following statement;
And even the originators of the Dead Sea Scrolls seem to have had little or no interest in Zechariah: it is a curious fact that although manuscripts of most Old Testament books exist among the Scrolls, there is not a single one of Zechariah. And yet, as I have shown, Zechariah provides the sources for some of the key components of Christianity.
The italicised phrase is misleading; it should read ‘there is not a complete one of Zechariah’. In fact, there are several fragments of Zechariah located in scrolls of the ‘minor prophets’, but their comparative scarcity bears out my contention that ‘the originators of the Dead Sea Scrolls seem to have had little or no interest in Zechariah’. If my thesis concerning the centrality of Zechariah to the genesis of Christianity is correct, and if the Scrolls Sect was in some way ‘Christian’, we would surely expect to have seen a more prominent survival of Zechariah alone.
Independent Corroboration of Jesus ben Jehozedek as Messianic
I am researching the sequel to The Christian Fallacy, and this has involved a study of the Old Testament prophets. In the Book of Daniel, Chapter 9, there is a prophecy concerning events following the Jewish exile in Babylon:
. . . from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: . . . (Verse 25)
Fundamentalist Christians seize on this as a miraculous prophecy of their Messiah, Jesus Christ. It is of course nothing of the sort, and my new book will elucidate this and many other so-called prophecies within the context of my new paradigm. In the more rational and authoritative Yale Anchor Bible translation of this passage, ‘Messiah’ is rendered ‘anointed leader’. And it is interesting that in their commentary, the translators say, after reviewing the various candidates for the identity of this individual:
It seems much more likely, therefore, that the ‘anointed leader’ of 9:25 refers to the high priest, Joshua ben Jozadak.
It is the central contention of The Christian Fallacy that this figure, who appears as one of the ‘Two Sons of Oil’ in Zechariah, is the real ‘Jesus’ upon whom Christianity is founded. In that book, I showed how these two characters from Zechariah emerge in the founding visions of Christianity, experienced by John the Baptist, and recorded in the Book of Revelation. In the sequel, I shall show how Zechariah also plays a major part in the stories about Jesus recorded in the gospels themselves, reinforcing my contention that Joshua/Jesus ben Jozadak is the origin of the King Messiah described there – not a fictitious character called Jesus of Nazareth.
Criticisms so Far
It has been gratifying to see the positive response the book has had thus far from readers and reviewers. Three criticisms have been raised publicly that I shall deal with here:
1) That the book could have been more (darkly) humorous, in the manner of Christopher Hitchens.
It could have been (assuming I could write as well as Hitchens, which I would not claim for a moment), but it is quite a different kind of book to Hitchens’ God is Not Great: The latter is a brilliant atheist polemic; my book is quite a dense exercise in textual criticism. The biggest challenge for me was to find the right tone and voice. I wrote as lightly as I could given the genre, but at the end of the day, I felt that serious, rational arguments needed a serious, rational tone. I do not feel similarly constrained when writing my weekly blogs which I do try to make as humorous as possible – I leave you to judge if I succeed. And the sequel to The Christian Fallacy which I am currently writing, will be – while no less well researched – less restrained: it is about the lunacy of apocalyptic beliefs and they deserve more laughter than respect!
2) That the marketing blurb detracts from the seriousness of the book and will put some readers off purchasing it.
Guilty I suppose. It’s a matter of judgment isn’t it? Was I right to subtitle the book: ‘The Real Truth . . . ‘? Well, I think it is the real truth; and if I had called it ‘Some Tentative New Ideas . . .’ I don’t think anyone would have been impressed either. The sad fact is that most Christian believers will not read the book, whatever the marketing blurb; they have by definition thrown away their rational impartiality by making a commitment of faith to a set of beliefs with no rational proof at all. So my target readers have to be intelligent readers of non-fiction who are interested in this sort of thing but with no clear religious conviction. I don’t think anything about the book’s marketing will put them off. But we shall see.
3) That my choice of the King James Version of the Bible ignores modern scholarship and is a deliberate obfuscation.
I really must reject this in the strongest possible terms. I state absolutely clearly in the book that there is not a single argument that I advance for my cause that is in any way dependant on any contentious translation. I say that for this reason, any translation will do for the purpose. I did consider whether the archaic English of the KJV might put some people off, (and indeed, if I had been publishing in the USA rather than the UK, I might have used the Revised Standard Version which is more popular on that side of the Atlantic). But in the UK, the KJV is the version most people are brought up on, that they hear in Church, that they are most familiar with, and that they can lay hold of most easily. Those of a literary bent (like me) also consider it still to be the most felicitous to the eye and ear. And some of those of an Evangelical bent (unlike me) believe it to be the only translation actually inspired by the Almighty and therefore to be inerrant. I can imagine what they would have said if I had used any other version!
I do not ignore modern scholarship – quite the contrary in fact: I go out of my way to acknowledge the giant scholarly shoulders on which I stand, and devote considerable space in the book to describing the scholarly advances of the last two centuries in particular. But my book is about scholarly interpretation, not scholarly translation. If anyone is worried about translation, do feel free to read my book with their favourite version beside them: they will find that my arguments stand up in any language.