Sunday, 17 July 2011

Living Fossils of the Herbozoic (2)

I spent some time listening to Ernest L. Martin (ELM) tapes back in the eighties.  Martin left his job teaching at unaccredited Ambassador College in Pasadena in the mid-70s in order to follow his own star, drawing a significant number of people out after him.  Lester Grabbe left AC some time later, but the difference between the two men was significant.  While Grabbe went on to build a very real and deserved scholarly reputation, Martin established something called the Foundation for Biblical Research, and began issuing tapes and booklets to publicise his new teachings.  These included a variety of universalism (of the sort promoted by A. E. Knoch's Concordant Publishing Concern), 'progressive revelation', and a number of dissenting positions from his years serving under Herbert Armstrong (Sabbath, tithing, prophecy etc.) 

Martin's style was consistently approachable, perhaps largely because it had almost no historical critical content.  To say he was popular among his target audience is to understate things, and he was widely regarded in the ex-Armstrong diaspora as a gifted scholar.  Certainly he played the 'new truth' game extremely well.  Every issue of his newsletter, The Foundation Commentator, seemed to trumpet an exciting new biblical understanding, often related to 'prophecy', thus keeping his followers focused and motivated.  This enthusiastic approach was highly effective, however academically lightweight it may have been.  Martin proceeded to issue impressive looking books under his own imprint, many of which are still available.  Some regard his The Star that Astonished the World as the magnum opus, bringing together his fascination with the Bible and meteorology in an attempt to identify the "star of Bethlehem".  It was credible enough to inspire displays in many planetariums.

Martin died in 2002.  A group called Associates for Scriptural Knowledge carries on his legacy, and his son Samuel has another small ministry based in Jerusalem.  Helping facilitate both (along with James Tabor's Original Bible Project) is an intriguing Pasadena-based online bookstore operation, CenturyOne Books.

CenturyOne Books ("The First Century's Biggest Bookstore") regularly advertises the ELM-inspired "Original Order" Bible in the Biblical Archaeology Review, and is now recycling Ernest Martin's rambling tapes in CD form.  It was the sight of this full page ad in the May/June issue that created a jaw-dropping personal deja vu moment.

As I said at the beginning, I've heard a few of the ELM tapes.  To imagine that they've been repackaged as an "exciting new [?] 6-volume, 40-CD" 'oral commentary' series on the Hebrew Bible is, well, remarkable.  In fact, the thought of anyone spending all those hours listening to ELM is more than enough to make my eyes water.  Those who can read between the lines will be able to judge the quality of the "scholarly reviews" offered.  Take W. H. C. Frend's comments for example: "All neatly tied up, with other interesting speculations... Martin's reconstructions read convincingly."  Not exactly a ringing endorsement.  Nor is it likely that Frend, who died in 2005, was reviewing these 40-CD "capsule commentaries", despite the impression the ad gives.

The advertising copy in the BAR begins, "What better way to boost your 'Old Testament IQ'...!

I realise that it's a rhetorical question, but it wouldn't be too difficult to offer a fairly extensive list of suggestions...

16 comments:

  1. Dr. Martin at least stepped out of the box and took a stab at explaining the birth narratives of Jesus. Raymond Brown, author of The Birth and Death of the Messiah tomes found Dr. Martin to be unfortunately too literalist in his "Star" explanations and knew nothing about Midrash which was the style of writing that Matthew employed to tell his story of Jesus birth.

    Matthew took her story of Jesus from OT quotes terribly quoted and applied in making them mean what they never meant. Luke's story in now way is the same as Matthew's. Dr. Martin never understood this and like most, tried to make the stories literally true with proper explanations for phenomenon that were never meant to be taken literally

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  2. To me, although I have probably read relatively few of Ernest Martin's works, his chief value was in his ability to provide credible alternatives to what we had been given as iron-clad truth as WCG members. In other words, the thought provoking nature of his dissertations assisted in the reopening of my mind and the restoration of its God-given functionality.

    I tend to be very skeptical about most everything written by persons with Armstrongism in their personal backgrounds, because of the embedded residue on one hand, and the tendency to automatically assume the exact opposite of Armstrong on the other. Still, former insiders are most capable of the understanding required to dispel notoriously inaccurate doctrines in a way that theologians from other backgrounds could only be marginally effective.

    It's often a mine field, isn't it?
    It certainly demonstrates the ridiculousness of the idea that one group or one person can possess 100% truth or be the only true church.

    BB

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  3. I tend to be very skeptical about most everything written by persons with Armstrongism in their personal backgrounds, because of the embedded residue on one hand, and the tendency to automatically assume the exact opposite of Armstrong on the other.

    Right. The hirelings of the Dead False Prophet hie off to spin their own theology. Their minds so addled by a nut job that they can't think clearly.

    Trust. None.

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  4. Douglas said
    Trust. None
    Amazing how that just triggered memory I had not thought of for years. I don't know who said it but it is firmly stuck in my mind:

    Love all.
    Trust few.
    Harm none.


    That's wisdom that should be followed by "preachers". Unfortunately that is something I have never seen the enlightened practice.

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  5. I tend to be very skeptical about most everything written by persons with Armstrongism in their personal backgrounds,

    Me too, Bob, and I tend to be skeptical about most everything written by any religious persons, Armstrongism backgrounds or not.

    People who try to get you to believe something they can't prove and have no evidence for are people to not be believed. Otherwise, you may end up believing something you can't prove or have evidence for yourself.

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  6. "...he was widely regarded in the ex-Armstrong diaspora as a gifted scholar..."

    So much so, that ASK has been part of the Coulter bible project; a brief glance through their eyebleed-inducing website, will show quite clearly where they depart from WCG doctrine, however.

    (Yeah, yeah, I plugged "The Tithing Dilemma" endlessly, when I was an atheist. I think that speaks for itself, don't you?)

    Initially, the ASK papers sound good, on the surface; peel the onion, however, and it all ends in tears.

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  7. PH, I would love to hear an explanation of how you went from Christian to atheist and back to Christian??!!

    Must be a story there.

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  8. Larry,

    God is doing some pretty awesome things these days through these discussions on the internet. There have been some other very prominent examples of the phenomenon you noted over the past several years, and I assure you, there are going to be more! Jesus, in His ministry, was always very concerned with lost sheep!

    Because you've always been a believer, you might find this difficult to fathom. But, often, by ruling God out, one eventually becomes aware of all of the good things which God had brought to the party. One can then seek Him, and them, but from a tabula rasa state of mind. And, the results are so awesome that the angels are actually rejoicing!

    BB

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  9. Larry,

    Don't you remember this?

    The precis version of the story is now up at The Journal's website, which I expanded on, in the comments on Gavin's post.

    Matter of fact, you commented, too. Did you forget?

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  10. Actually, Bob, I think I've made it very clear, here and elsewhere, that God allowed me to become an atheist, precisely so I would not slip into the very false Christianity that you (and the other professing Christian ex-WCG members) seem (literally) hell-bent on promoting.

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  11. *Chortle* I saw that coming! Bob, your Christianity and Velvet's exist in a venn diagram where the circles don't touch, much less overlap.

    Velvet, your return to a naive appreciation of "Herbalism" lacks, whatever perceived benefits it brings you now, much in the way of either empathy or generosity of spirit. You're still "in the mode." Methinks you protesteth too much.

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  12. yes PH, I do remember. But your explanation at the time, and even now, didn't really strike me as getting to the hard core question of WHY?

    BB seems to explain by suggesting that once your mind was cleansed, you were able to think clearly; although Gavin doesn't think that you and BB are on the same page or even in the same book.

    I thought there might have been a traumatic event or a sudden epiphany. My experience is that God opens your mind and allows you to see what previously had been opaque. As I recall, it happened rather quickly.

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  13. "Bob, your Christianity and Velvet's exist in a venn diagram where the circles don't touch, much less overlap."

    Very nicely put, Gavin, may I borrow that?

    "...lacks, whatever perceived benefits it brings you now, much in the way of either empathy or generosity of spirit..."

    I freely admit that I lack empathy or generosity of spirit for professing Christians, falsely-so-called.

    I also admit (don't drop to the floor dead with the shock, now, Gavin) that this is a personal failing I need to pray about, and work on, in order to build a more godly character.

    My association with Friends (Quakers) seems to be helping in that regard. (I know, I know, it's shocking and outrageous.) Usually in the form of well-aimed verbal kicks to the head....

    In real life, outside of the Internet (yes, it exists), I am rather much more circumspect, and don't make any comments of the nature I make here, towards the dearth of professing Christians in my community, nor do I treat them any differently than I have been instructed to.

    That tends to get lost in translation, once it is reduced to words on a computer screen, however. You do have my promise, that I will try to improve, though.

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  14. "But your explanation at the time, and even now, didn't really strike me as getting to the hard core question of WHY?"

    Why ask why, Larry? God truly works in mysterious ways. I don't know why my mind has been opened to receive, and understand, the truth once again; I just know that it has, and that I must proceed as God leads me.

    "Gavin doesn't think that you and BB are on the same page or even in the same book."

    Gavin is correct. The way Gavin explained it (two Venn diagrams that don't even touch, never mind overlap) is absolutely spot-on accurate, in fact. My "statement of beliefs" or more accurately, the beliefs I was raised with, and now have returned to, can be found here.

    BB's statement of beliefs are, if I don't miss my guess, standard professing Christian fare, such as outlined in the "Traditional Christian Doctrines" section in the link, above.

    "As I recall, it happened rather quickly."

    The part that happened online, appeared to happen rather quickly. The signs had all been pointing in that direction (with me kicking and screaming in the opposite direction as much as possible) since about late 2009, however. So, no, not quickly at all.

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  15. Well, so much for ecumenical efforts! Guess it's every Christian for him or herself.

    BB

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  16. Bob,

    I did respond to your comment (with an olive branch or two), but apparently it didn't make the editorial cut. Rest assured, I apologized (and apologize) if I offended you in any manner.

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