Jesus Christ: Prince of Peace or King of Swords with Shane Mage

The events surrounding the ~30CE trial and execution in Roman-dominated Palestine of the man Y’shua (or Yehoshua—both names transliterate to Joshua), generally referred to as Jesus Christ, are considered well known by perhaps half or more of the population of this planet. The only sources of this supposed knowledge are the four Gospels named Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. Unfortunately, all these accounts were compiled, written, and edited some two generations—at the earliest—after the events they portray (and after the Jewish uprising of 67-70 had been crushed by Vespasian and Titus) by people none of whom claim to have personally known that man, nor to have witnessed any of the events described, nor to have heard any of the words they quote as stated by “Jesus,” nor to cite any testimony of actual or supposed witnesses of these events. Moreover, though the languages of the indigenous people involved were Aramaic and Hebrew, the Gospels are written in koiné Greek before their translation into contemporary languages. For the historian, therefore, these are (at best*) fourth-hand sources (original accounts—later retold among various persons—later recounted to the Gospel Writers—and then put, with unknown correspondence to their original form, into Greek).

The Gospels, thus have absolutely no presumptive value as history. But neither are they pure fiction despite the patent absurdity of the whole Christian theology built upon them and their obviously falsified passages (especially the blood-libel of Jewish Deicide) designed to justify the inherently antisemitic nature of that Christian theology. The existence of the man Jesus is explicitly stated by the authoritative ancient historian Josephus. Archaeological excavations in and around Jerusalem have unearthed direct physical evidence for details of the gospel accounts, including the ossuaries (bone-boxes) containing the remnants of “Jesus” and his intimate family. Moreover, it has been established by biblical scholars over centuries that the gospels themselves were compiled from at least three different sources and that there were many other noncanonical “gospels” (compilations of sayings said to have been said by “Jesus”) of which the best-known is the so-called Gospel of Thomas. Therefore we are entitled as historians to believe that the Gospels, despite their total unreliability as a whole, do contain some information that is accurate and must, since they are our only real source, be used as the indispensable element for any historical reconstruction.

My basic approach is what is called “*tendenz kritik*.” Because the texts are the only available source for an account of real historical events, their *general* outline of those events is to be taken as a roughly factual account of those events. Because they are permeated by ideological bias, such bias must always be taken into account and ruthlessly corrected or ejected to remove that bias. In the present case this bias is, of course, clearly expressed over millennia in the Pauline Christian doctrines. Likewise, any words attributed to Jesus must undergo the same critique. The actual words are often presented within a broader Pauline Christian verbal context. Only what is sufficiently concise or strikingly memorable to have been passed down over decades to the eventual compilers should be granted presumptive validity. *Nothing* theological can ever be taken as historical. Only arguably accurate material facts can underly any historical reconstruction.

The Pilate Papers is my attempt at a version of such a speculative reconstruction. In it I do what (as far as I know) has not yet been tried by anyone—to present these events from an Imperial Roman point of view. It consists of reports to the Prefect of Judaea, Pontius Pilate, from his supposed Roman secret-police official signing himself  as M. Secundus, as transmitted to the office of Tiberius’s not-yet-purged Praetorian Prefect Aelius Sejanus with comments from Pilate himself.

Shane Mage’s dissertation was on Marx’s theory of the tendential fall in the rate of profit (Columbia U. 1963). Shane taught economics and philosophy at Brooklyn Polytechnic U and Grand Valley State U. He was senior editor for social sciences at Collier’s Encyclopedia through 1994. Among Shane’s publications are a pamphlet “Velikovsky and his Critics;” articles on “Plato and the Catastrophist Tradition” and “Jeroboam and the Israelite Revolution” in KRONOS magazine; articles “Communism” and “Economic History of the USSR” in Collier’s Encyclopedia; and (unpublished still) “The Pilate Papers,” an essay presenting a “Roman” view of the gospel story. At present he is working on a novel (“The Seducation of a Femtaur—a Bead Game”) set in the present and near future with a philosophical theme and elements of science fiction and magical realism.

Please write to info@marxedproject.org for a PDF of The Pilate Papers

Engels and the Dialectics of Nature

Considerations in a Universe of Quarks and Black Holes

A 9 session class and discussion with Alex Steinberg

This class will journey into quantum physics and 21st-century cosmology as background for a study of dialectics in natural science and philosophy. Readings include Engels’ Dialectics of Nature and excerpts from other philosophers and scientists writing since Engels. (The syllabus is below). We will explore themes from that classic text that are relevant for contemporary scientific thinking. Among questions we propose to address: Does quantum theory force us to abandon determinism? Did time exist before the Big Bang? Are the laws of nature eternal? Is there one universe or are there multiple parallel universes? What does it mean to call oneself a “materialist” when scientists use terms like “dark matter”? The goal of the class is a deep appreciation of dialectical thinking and how it helps us understand the real worlds in which we live and struggle.

ALEX STEINBERG is an independent scholar. He has has taught courses in the the philosophies of Marx, Hegel, Heidegger, and Nietzsche at alternative educational institutions such as New Space for Pluralistic Anti-Capitalist Education, the Brecht Forum, Marxist Education Project, and more. He has published papers on questions of philosophy and the natural sciences, including on Heidegger and Nazism, Marxism and Humanism, and Hegel’s Philosophy of History, and has presented at Left Forum, Historical Materialism Conference, and the First International Conference on Trotsky in Havana, Cuba.

 

all classes and events are sliding scale. We do not deny admission anyone who does not have the ability to pay. Please write to info@marxedproject.org for a link code to be able to participate.

 

Syllabus (week by week): Class 1: Dialectics – Fundamental features and its place in the history of philosophy, Class 2: Engels and the Dialectics of Nature, Class 3: The dialectical revolution in the Life Sciences. Class 4. The paradox of Schrodinger’s cat: The positivist solution of the Copenhagen interpretation. Class 5. The Many Worlds interpretation: From positivism to magical realism. Class 6. Resurgence of realism and dialectics in the work of the Marxist physicist David Bohm. Class 7. A brief survey of the conceptual revolution of relativity theory. Class 8. The Big Bang and the origin of the Universe. Class 9. The discovery of black holes and gravitational waves. Class 10. A Universe, a Multi-verse, Cyclical Universes and Cosmological Natural Selection

 

The Universe: Past, Present, Future

Alex Steinberg

10 WEEK SERIES: NO CLASS ON FEBRUARY 19
This class is for all who desire to explore together the mysteries and fascinations of our universe. No prior knowledge of astrophysics or mathematics is required. We will have two books from which we will read selected essays: Welcome to the Universe by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss and J. Richard Gott and Now: The Physics of Time by Richard A. Muller

Note: There is also a problem book supplement to Welcome to the Universe. We will be using the initial Welcome to the Universe book and not the supplement in this class series. Of course some students may wish to get the problem book on their own.

Together we will get to the bottom of a number of concepts that are widely discussed but poorly understood.

We will ask and look for answers to such questions as:

1. Is our universe finite or infinite?
2. Is it heading for a final state of entropy known as heat death
3. What exactly is meant by entropy?
4. What do we mean when we say two events happen at the same time?
5. Can you go backwards in time?
6. What was before the Big Bang?
7. How does understanding our galaxy, other galaxies, this broad universe, inform our living on our planet Earth?

The facilitator of this class, Alex Steinberg, has previously taught widely including on the philosophy of Hegel and Marx, the dialectics of nature, the implications of dialectics for contemporary science, and contemporary philosophical trends on the left and right inspired by Nietzsche. He recently conducted a walking tour centered on what Leon Trotsky did in his few months living in New York City prior to the Russian Revolution.

Life, the Universe and Everything

Life, the Universe and Everything: A Dialectical Guide to the Galaxy
7 more sessions
Tuesday, February 7 through March 21, 7:30 to 9:30 pm
Facilitated by Alex Steinberg

In this series we will be placing the dialectics of Marx and Engels within a broader philosophical tradition.

We will look at Engels discussion of the fundamental forces of nature: matter, time, space and motion in the context of the philosophical conflict between a relational view of the world and a mechanical one. We will also look at the conflict between Newton and Leibniz and the subsequent vindication of the relational view with Mach and Einstein.

Also examined will be the contemporary “crisis in physics” — the conclusion to which mechanical reductionism has led both in philosophy and in recent attempts to develop a cosmology that incorporates both relativity theory and quantum theory. Contributions of Hegel, Engels, C.S.Peirce, Einstein, and contemporary physicist such as Lee Smolin will form the basis for this discussion.

The sessions will conclude by tying the idea of the cosmos as a living system of dynamic evolving complexity to the Notion in Hegel’s Logic and from there to an interpretation of Marx’s Capital that places it firmly within the same Hegelian dialectic that is being developed in contemporary cosmology.

Alex Steinberg has previously taught a number of courses on Hegel at the New Space. He taught Engels and the Dialectics of Nature at the Brecht Forum. At the Marxist Education Project he has taught Spectres of the Dialectic, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Fascism and the Left Nietzscheans and Dialectics 101 previously, along with organizing a discussion of recent events in Greece and special events on The Radicalism of James Joyce. He has presented papers at the Left Forum and Historical Materialism Conferences.He has also lectured in Athens Greece on the subjects ranging from dialectics and the American political landscape. Alex has also served on the local and national boards of radio station WBAI.