Saturday, April 9, 2016

Paleo-Orthodoxy: Did the Nicene Council Remove Books From the Bible?

I want to address an article written by self proclaimed historian and theologian, and sub-level fringe author, Scotty Roberts. For those who are unfamiliar with Roberts, he is the organizer of the Paradigm Symposium (a gathering of both New Age types, occultists, and Historical Revisionists), and an author of two mediocre books that appeal to the same audience that watches Ancient Aliens religiously, and believe everything it posits. Roberts penned an article titled "The Madness of the Divine", ostensibly to review the film Noah. However, Roberts' review was more a showcase of his own particular brand of fringe thought than a film review. Throughout the article Roberts does not hide his dislike for orthodox Christianity.

Roberts writes, "The appeal of Noah, then, had to be strong enough to allow the movie to stand on the dictates and anticipation of the audience. And let’s not be coy, here, it needed to appease a certain religious mindset, while drawing the attention of those who are uninterested in bearded-bathrobe-and-bed-sheet biblical offerings."

The fact of the matter is, the producer of the film, a self avowed atheist, Darren Aronofsky, referred to the film in the Washington Times as, "the least Biblical film ever made." He also stated he is proud that he took the Bible and made a secular film of it. Where Roberts got his idea that the film had to appease a "certain religious mindset" is anyone's guess. Perhaps it comes more from the obvious rejection of Christianity that the author exhibits in all of his writings, rather than from any real motivation on the producer's behalf. In fact, the word "God" is mentioned only once in the film. 

Roberts continues speaking of Glenn Beck's take on the film, "Much to Beck’s credit, he apologized openly for jumping on the religious bandwagon, and took up the studio’s offer to come see the film, himself. He still didn’t like it, but I found his critique of the film to be based less on the story as a whole, and more on the fact that it didn’t perfectly align with the “evangelical Christian” story of the great Old Testament patriarch and his zoological boat. This seemed to me to represent a mindset that wanted only one version of the tale told, and that would be the version that aligns perfectly with their point-of-view and religious teachings. Ignore the fact that real humans in such off-the-normal-scale circumstances, would be a tale set in the ordeal of trauma, tragedy, survival and recovery, with the characters struggling to assert themselves as more than mere pawns in an enigmatic game – and you’ve got to admit: it doesn’t get much more enigmatic than an invisible, Almighty Deity casting all of his creation into chaos and holocaust, all while creating a “mulligan” for only a handful of his sinful humans in the form of a protective ark."

The logical problem with Roberts' line of thinking eluded him here when he decries those who "wanted only one version of the tale told". Perhaps Roberts can point me to another "version", since there is none. As the history of Noah is indeed a Biblical one, logically people would expect a film maker to actually present the story as it is, and to use the primary source material to do so. After all, that is what historians do. Not so for the atheist who produced the film with his own agenda, and apparently not so for those given to fringe thought- even those self proclaimed historians such as Roberts. Keeping in mind that Roberts is very much a part of the historical revisionist milieu, a subculture which places emphasis on the absurdities of aliens, Templar "mysteries", Nephilim, and other laughable replacements for actual history, it isn't a surprise at all to find him taking the position he does. As for the rest of his statement, I share it by way of establishing the apparent disdain which Roberts, a former Baptist, clearly holds for the Christian faith. 

He goes on, "What these sort of religious critics (generally found incorporated and invested in the “Religious Right” movement) did not seem to acknowledge – or, quite possibly completely overlooked due to an ignorance birthed from a singular religious point-of-view, is that the movie, Noah, was based not only on the story as found in the Book of Genesis, but also on other ancient, biblical accounts as sourced in the books of Enoch and Jashur, two Old Testament books that had been eliminated from the biblical canon of scripture under the councils convoked by Roman emperor Constantine in the mid-forth century A.D.

And just in case you are not up on your history, Constantine was a thoroughly Pagan emperor who utilized Christianity to coalesce his empire. When he launched the Council of Nicea, among several others, gathering Catholic bishops together to determine matters of church polity, governance and scriptural veracity, the mandate was not “Go seek the truth.” The mandate was to establish unanimity. The bottom line for Constantine had nothing to do with truth. It was all about quelling dissent.
The books eventually ejected from the canon of scripture were done so on the basis that the council could not come to a unanimous agreement as to whether or not it was truly “God-breathed.” Some of these books were regarded with such a difference of opinion by the members of the council, that they were simply set aside, placed in a grouping of writings known as the Apocrypha, and there they sat while others were tossed out completely."
Before I deal with his claims, I want to point out that Roberts employs here the standard language of Cultural Marxism in accusing the "religious right" ( read, orthodox Christians) of ignorance. This rhetoric is more an appeal to the typically agnostic and liberal adherents of fringe thought who comprise his audience, more than to substantive fact. Orthodox Christians must be vilified as ignorant brutes, even if by subtle implication. Elsewhere in the article Roberts accuses evangelicals of not even knowing the existence of these books he writes of, which is absurd. Evangelical scholars, pastors and researchers are very familiar with apocryphal literature, despite Roberts' claim. 

Interestingly, Roberts reveals an ignorance all his own when he fallaciously claims the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jasher, along with other unnamed books, were "ejected from the canon" by the Council of Nicaea. Now for Roberts, who is a self proclaimed theologian and historian, to state such a glaring historical fallacy should be embarrassing. The fact of the matter is, the Council of Nicaea did not address the issue of the canon of scripture whatsoever. It convened to discuss the theological issue of the nature and character of Christ, and to condemn the errors of Arianism. 

It is an oft repeated myth in the fringe circles Roberts circulates in that the council tossed books out of the canon of scripture. Why Roberts repeats this lie is beyond me, as a simple Google search would reveal the truth. One of the problems of the fringe subculture is exactly this; that rather than research issues in a valid historical methodology, they simply repeat the standard myths of the subculture, quoting one another rather than do the work of research. Thus, you have egregious errors such as that Roberts makes in his article. 

In fact, the canon of scripture was fairly established before this council, as is evidenced in the lists of books accepted as canon in the writings of the Ante-Nicene Fathers. By 100 A.D. all 27 books of the New Testament canon were known and accepted. Origen writes:

"But when our Lord Jesus Christ comes, whose arrival that prior son of Nun designated, he sends priests, his apostles, bearing “trumpets hammered thin,” the magnificent and heavenly instruction of proclamation. Matthew first sounded the priestly trumpet in his Gospel; Mark also; Luke and John each played their own priestly trumpets. Even Peter cries out with trumpets in two of his epistles; also James and Jude. In addition, John also sounds the trumpet through his epistles and Revelation, and Luke, as he describes the Acts of the Apostles. And now that last one comes, the one who said, “I think God displays us apostles last,” and in fourteen of his epistles, thundering with trumpets, he casts down the walls of Jericho and all the devices of idolatry and dogmas of philosophers, all the way to the foundations." (Hom. Jos. 7.1)

What is evidenced here is that all 27 books were known as scripture before the Nicene Council. (Origen and other Church Fathers considered Hebrews to have been written by Paul, thus he lists 14 epistles attributed to him.)

Roberts continues:
"The mention of the Watchers in the movie, was something scoffed at by many reviewers, when in fact, the Watchers, while not mentioned by the same name in Genesis, were spoken of to great extent in Enoch and Jashur, two books removed from the canonical scriptures. Yet, even the Book of Genesis mentions the Watchers by another name, “The Sons of God.” In the Hebrew language, the English translation of “Sons of God” is literally “bene ha’ Elohim” (“those of the Elohim”) And when you begin an arduous research into comparative scriptures in the Old Testament, you find reference to the Elohim as corresponding, not to angels, but to Enoch’s Watchers. Same beings, different labels."
This is Roberts' favorite myth, and the one which has earned him his following. The only problem is his take on it has more in common with the racist Christian Identity Movement than orthodox Christian theology, though I am not suggesting he is a racist (I don't believe he is whatsoever to be exact), only that the theology he proposes shares all of the same features and claims with Christian Identity theology. He states in his review that the Hebrew word translated "righteous" actually means Noah is racially or genetically pure. Where he gets such an idea is anyone's guess. Consulting several Hebrew to English dictionaries, as well as using Strong's Hebrew dictionary and Bible Works' Hebrew to English literal translation reveals a consistent result across the board. The Hebrew word for righteous is "tzaddik". In literally every source the word is given the following definitions, and no others.

blameless, innocent, just, one in the right, right, righteous, righteous man, righteous men, Righteous One, righteous one, righteous ones, righteously, who are in the right.


Nowhere is the word given any racial or genetic import other than in Christian Identity theology, and Roberts' review. Of course, this sort of fact doesn't deter the committed fringe theorist, who generally see conspiracies at work behind even the most mundane facts that conflict with their hazardously constructed worldview.
All in all, what emerges from Roberts' review is not the reasoned view of a film critic, or even an informed historian or theologian at odds with orthodoxy. What emerges is a microcosm of everything wrong with historical revision and the fringe subculture; standard rhetorical structures where research should be, a woeful grasp on the history of the Christian faith, and an ideological agenda disguised as "open mindedness". After reading Roberts' review I was left, not with a sense of the madness of the divine, but a clear example of the madness of fringe thought.

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