What I’ve been reading

The Virtue of Nationalism, by Yoram Hazony.  Falls into the “contrarian, but shouldn’t need to be contrarian” category.  It makes good points, but I felt it was interior to my knowledge set.

Karl Ove Knausgaard, Spring, a comeback for Knausgaard.

Gabriel Said Reynolds, The Quran and the Bible: Text and Commentary.  I won’t have the time soon to work through the thousand pages of this book, but it appears to be a major achievement and of very high quality.  Here is the book’s home page.  Here is a good piece by Reynolds on related topics.

Nick Polson and James Scott, AIQ: How People and Machines are Smarter Together, is a new and (believe it or not) original and very good take on this theme.

Heiner Rindermann, Cognitive Capitalism: Human Capital and Wellbeing of Nations perhaps covers too much ground, but is still a very useful 500 pp. plus survey of exactly what the title suggests.

Jan Assmann, The Invention of Religion: Faith and Covenant in the Book of Exodus.  One of the best introductory works on the best and most important book ever written.


Y 0 comments? Yo?

The opposite of nationalism is slavery. Either you put your country first and home rule first or you let the world or another country rule you. Take your choice.

Every nation that used to be a colony understand that. Anti-nationalism nations are like that guy who does not buy insurance because he thinks he will never be sick. And a simple stomache will leave them dying on the street.

Are you ready to give your orange messiah his Nobel peace prize? Better do it quick before Kim pulls out of the peace talks.

"Nick Polson and James Scott, AIQ: How People and Machines are Smarter Together, is a new and (believe it or not) original and very good take on this theme"

Try this: https://www.amazon.com/Humans-Are-Underrated-Achievers-Brilliant-ebook/dp/B00OZ0TLBK



Good review ;)

Gabriel Said Reynolds, The Quran and the Bible: Text and Commentary.

This is actually a very interesting article. It also links to some other pieces by Reynolds that are very good too - Jesus for Muslims for instance, and Word Perfect

There is so much that could be mentioned in that article. It is interesting to see him implicitly refute Edward Said - as he says Western scholarship on the Quran is largely a commentary on Islamic commentary on the Quran. It is not until very late, more or less at the time of decolonization, that you have Western scholars attempting to be properly scholarly about the text. John Wansbrough for instance was born in 1928. And was American anyway.

It is also interesting to see a serious - but again implicit - defense of Christoph Luxenberg’s The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran. The concept of the book is laughable when you hear it but if you read it, it is surprisingly convincing. Which is not to say all that convincing but considering how unlikely the claim is, it is much better than you would expect. Reynolds gives more reason to consider the Quran in the light of the Syriac Christian tradition. Which is obvious of you think of the commandment he discusses - to go to your woman and plow her as you will. An odd commandment from a region almost devoid of agriculture.

Jan Assmann, The Invention of Religion: Faith and Covenant in the Book of Exodus.

I hope he didn't send his children to an American school.

Incidentally, and off topic, Evan Lenow's Protestants and Contraception is very good too.


It is interesting to see how prophetic Humanae Vitae was. Whether you think it has been for the better or for the worse, the old Italian guy in a dress showed more understanding and insight than anyone else.

I was just about to post why this author is also not pseudonymous, given her apparently controversial subject. Sad that such things have to be done anonymously, after the Rushdie incident (" The conviction that the Qur’an was proclaimed in a Judeo-Christian context lies behind such controversial works as the pseudonymous Christoph Luxenberg’s The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran, first published in 2000.")

Says .... the pseudonymous Ray Lopez .....

@So Much,

Your comment is interesting. A while back I was writing a consolidation of the Gospels to organize my understanding of the commonalities and differences across these texts.

At the same time I was studying the origins of the Gospels.

This applies to your comment because if you go back and read the writings of Papias via Ireneaus and others on the origin of the Gospel of Mathew and Mark, you will come across the notion (which I think is likely given the various differences between tone of the chapters in Matt) that Matt was originally much more condensed and like Mark and was originally composed in a Hebrew dialect (which has been lost). This proto-Matt was distorted beyond comprehension by heterodox Christians as early as the beginning of the second century in the area. It got so bad the Church fathers went back and translated matt into Greek to preserve it unperverted (as Ireneaus notes... as best they could). Eventually the adultered Mathew was so distorted that it split off into its own line of apocryphal texts like the gospel of the ebionites.

Ireneaus and Papias write of how the fathers had to go back and reconstruct the Gospel of Mathew based on Apostolic tradition (that is the teachings of the Apostles. note Papias was a student of Polycarp who was a student of John the Apostle who was still alive at the time of these events) in Greek.

In event, you can already see how the heterodox were distorting the gospels as early as 100 years post ascension to teach heresies like the dual nature, non divine status, or inherited divine status of Jesus that perturbed the Apostles and their first descendants.

There is no doubt in my mind that Islam has roots to the syro-Aramaic communities that were already in conflict with the descendants of the Apostles for distorting their teachings.

Dude that's deep. I thought Q was deep but you've outdone it.

Not my ideas. The only thing original I would bring (which isn’t and isn’t in the original language cuz I suck and can’t read it) is that matt early and late, does not seem to be written like the rest. That’s pretty clear from just reading it in any translation.

Also a correction: Papias was a contemporary of Polycarp (and Ignatius of Antioch and Clement of Rome btw) who were students of John the Apostle (can’t say clement tho). Ireneaus was a student of Polycarp.

Apostolic succession and the Bishops and early history of the church rocks actually.

Also, FYI... Eusebius:


"An odd commandment from a region almost devoid of agriculture."

The Hijiaz (where are Meca and Medina) is an agricultural region (unlike Najd, who was a region of nomadic herders)

Westerners have been telling Palestinians for generations that they need to give up the gun and protest peacefully like Gandhi and MLK. It would certainly make it easier for their supporters in the West. So as the US Embassy moves to Jerusalem, they do. And they are shot in really quite respectable numbers. No one gives a damn.

Supporters of Israel are often accused of "nationalism for me but not for thee". Certainly there are people in the West who are appalled by the slightest hint of nationalism in the West but are strongly supportive of it in Israel. Even more supportive of it anywhere in the Third World. How many people condemning Trump's Wall are also condemning Israel shooting people protesting the Gaza Fence?

I suspect the author of the first book is doing neither:

Yoram Hazony is President of the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem and Director of the John Templeton Foundation's Project in Jewish Philosophical Theology. His books include The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel's Soul and The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture. He lives in Jerusalem.

You would expect any sensible Israeli scholar to support the idea of nationalism. Zionism is largely a response to Western nationalism resulting in the creation of a modern Zionism. Given what happened after, I doubt there are many Jews outside the fringe Communist world who doubt the wisdom of the Jewish state. But why is that not also true for the Germans or the French or the Hungarians and Poles? Or even for America.

I doubt the New York Times or NPR will be asking him to write for them again.

So as the US Embassy moves to Jerusalem, they do.


And they are shot in really quite respectable numbers.

The IDF always makes maximum effort to avoid unnecessary casualties.

With all such incidents, the Hamas narrative is always trumpeted by the MSM and later proven to be totally false. Google "Jenin Massacre", "Mohammed al-Dura" etc. etc.

So basically you should assume it is all inflammatory images and fakenews intended to get you riled up.

must be the palestinian controlled media.

" it is all inflammatory images and fakenews intended to get you riled up": like everything else from any party in the Middle East.


A more accurate picture of events is starting to emerge. But CNN, NYT, NYDN etc. are only interested in Fakenews.


CNN should be paying these guys for providing them with shocking fake video for their shocking fake newscasts.

"How many people condemning Trump's Wall are also condemning Israel shooting people protesting the Gaza Fence?"

Trump's wall, literally and of itself, is just stupid, wasteful, and distracting.

The creation of the State of Israel .. is looking in all aspects to have been a mistake. I mean sure, people face discrimination, but it is probably more efficient to live wherever, keep a bag packed, and an emergency fund kept as diamonds - than to go voluntarily live in a war zone.

Also that many American boosters are end-times nutjobs should not be lost on us.

Israel is a state with a unique language, unique national identity, and population of 8.5 million (more than e.g. Norway, Denmark, almost as many as Sweden). Israel is here to stay, as countries such as Bahrain and Tunisia are now acknowledging.

That's the question, isn't it?

Is a culture really more valuable than human life, in this moment? How many people should we kill to preserve an identity?

As opposed to for our safety. And it is in opposition. These people could go live in Florida (Trump immigration willing), and become a bit different over time. They could do that without killing anyone.

I'm not going to get in the face of any real live Jewish or Israeli person about this, in real life. But between us anonymous voices here on the internets, I'm not sure killing for culture is the high moral ground.

Interesting approach to resolving national conflicts worldwide: move away rather than defend yourself. Can work in the Korean peninsula (if the current initiatives fail), resolve the China/Taiwan issue etc. Same for the Ukraine, Georgia, and other FSU nations; just become part of Russia again. Great idea Mr. anonymous.

First of all, let's note that you dug yourself a bit of a hole. Because we all know "who else decided to kill for a culture."

Second, I don't think you can get out of your hole that way. By building a laundry list of tensions and saying that they are just culture. In fact, none of those are.

You are putting meanings into my words that simply are not there.

I do not know what you are actually thinking - but my guess is that if you were to articulate it, it wouldn't sound pretty.

The highest principle for any government, the one worthy of national pride, is self-determination for all its people. Use that rule on your laundry list.

And judge with suspicion anyone who defines "it's people" in a special way, to be not totally inclusive. For instance, Donald Trump and his "Mexican Judge."

The highest principle for any government, the one worthy of national pride, is self-determination for all its people ... And judge with suspicion anyone who defines "it's people" in a special way, to be not totally inclusive.

None of this makes any sense. There can be no such thing as "totally inclusive." If the Jews move into the Golan, it's no longer southern Syria, it's northern Israel. If the Turks decide to cross the Green Line, then Greek Cypriots no longer have self-determination.

(And of course many Palestinians and Israelis have made the decision to live elsewhere, in peace, over the last 50 years.)

Westerners have been telling Palestinians for generations that they need to give up the gun and protest peacefully like Gandhi and MLK.


It would certainly make it easier for their supporters in the West.

"Easier"?? You mean that you currently manage to support the Palestinians when they reject all compromise and like to shoot rockets into Israeli cities, but you "non-violence" would make it easier to support them?

So as the US Embassy moves to Jerusalem, they do.

Absolute nonsense. It's not your fault that you believe this however. Because the MSM has been lying and referring to the massive attacks on Israeli borders and personnel as "demonstrations". Just like when they the MSM pretends that the rockets from Gaza just fire themselves into Ashkelon.

Some stupid SJW at CNN decided it would cool to show a split screen of Ivanka and a Hamas-approved feed of the riots. And the result is that uncritical people like you write uninformed screeds like this.

Fakenews from the MSM is damaging the polity.

And they are shot in really quite respectable numbers. No one gives a damn.

What do you mean? It's all over the place.

In this post and the one above, you so completely misunderstand me that there is no point even replying. Especially as this is off topic on what is a perennial pointless issue on the internet.

However it is fine by me that you are patriotic. Doesn't bother me at all. It is just odd that some patriotisms are acceptable and some are not. If the US deployed snipers to the border to shoot a couple of dozen protesters - much less deployed them to Montgomery to stop people crossing that bridge - I think the response would be a lot louder.

It is nice to see that a Israeli academic is willing to defend nationalism.

It's complicated. Some Palestinians want to kill Israelis. Israelis don't want to be killed.

“Spring” was very good and would be a great introduction to Knausgaard for a new reader, especially the sort that would ever actually read this comment.

It probably helps while reading to know that Knausgaard’s wife filed for divorce the following Autumn.

Tyler by "The best and the most important book ever written" are you referring to the book of Exodus? If so why is it the most important book?

"The best and the most important book ever written": if by 'book' you mean work of fiction, you have a case. But surely some factual works might be better even if not more important?

"Exodus has shaped fundamental understandings of monotheistic practice and belief." And yet the Exodus version of the Ten Commandments is clearly polytheistic not monotheistic (assuming that translations into English are accurate). Does that imply that Exodus was concocted before the Babylonian Exile?

Hm. WKPD: "modern scholarship sees [Exodus] as initially a product of the Babylonian exile (6th century BCE) ... with final revisions in the Persian post-exilic period (5th century BCE)." I wonder what the scholars arguments are. I must look.

Depends what is meant by God and what is means by polytheistic. The monotheistic religions still believe in what might be called supernatural beings aside from the one that we call God.

if the translation is accurate "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" is clearly polytheistic. It's Jehovah's claim to be Boss God - a Zeus or an Odin -rather than a claim to be the only god.

"if the translation is accurate" .. "clearly polytheistic" ...

Generally it's a good idea to avoid making sweeping historical-theological statements based on one verse when you are not even in a position to judge the accuracy of a translation.

And yet comments 32 and 33 refer to experts who seem to agree with me.

HENOtheistic. To believe that there are many gods, but our God is the best, the greatest.

In a lecture A professor in a catholic seminary said that the authors of the torah believed in the existence of pegan gods but asserted that Yahway alone should be worshipped. He said only later did the jews come to hold only their god exists. So the authors of Exodus were monotheists in that they worshipped only one God but not monotheists in believing only one God exists.
I know some Hindus who worship only one Hindu deity but they accept existence of other deities.

My theology prof said the same thing. If y’all wanna learn a cool new word, he said that that kinda religious adherence is called Henotheism

Well there can be only one source of all being which is there can only be one God that merits worship. If you want to call angels and demons gods, it doesn't really alter Catholic or Jewish theology. I don't think modern Catholics or Jews must believe that pagans worshiped non-existent gods. They can believe that they had improper understanding of God (see Athens scene in Acts) or gave undue worship to lesser spirits or even evil spirits.

"Well there can be only one source of all being": why so?

I don’t have time to get into it, but it follows from an understanding of God as metaphysical necessity as opposed to merely a super duper powerful being.

For a great exposition see Thomas Aquinas’ 5 ways (which builds on Aristotle btw).

In short, everything in material existence has a cause. If it is, it was caused by something. So start thinking backwards...

This was caused by this which was caused by this, which was caused by this, etc.

Either that goes on forever (infinite existence = there was no beginning) or something existed which had to no cause.

Now since infinite regress is impossible, there must be something which is primal and an uncaused cause.... something totally different from everything else.

This we call God.

Given that Christians speak of the creation of other spiritual beings (such as angles and demons) but that they were not uncaused...

One can see how that can think what they think and still be monotheistic.

And please skip the well what caused God then... because that whole point. At some point on the line, there was a beginning with no cause... else there is nothing. That’s the whole point of the argument.

I don't know what "God as metaphysical necessity" means, or indeed whether it means anything much.

Almost everybody is uninterested in metaphysics; their interest is restricted to one or more gods who are more concrete than that. I've never once seen anyone demonstrate any relation whatever between a philosophical notion of God and - to take the example that's of most interest in the US - the nasty, genocidal, old brute who crops up in the Old Testament.

Why not also theodicy... the problem of evil.

It’s related. The different ways of God in the OT and NT is challenging. There are rationals to try and explain this tho. One should at least know of them.

'the Qur’an’s second chapter, which instructs (male) believers: “Your women are your field. Go into your field as you wish.”' That's evidence, new to me, for the argument that M's story did not happen in the current cities of Mecca and Medina in remote, desert Arabia, but somewhere on the edge of Palestine, where "fields" were well-known. I've seen Petra suggested as the original for Mecca.

Reynolds: Professor Reynolds had some very critical remarks on Twitter on the events yesterday in Israel: "First you lose your land, then you lose your freedom, then you are killed for protesting while the world watches and does nothing".

Assmann: For those who don't study such things, the Gospel of Matthew is patterned on the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).

The chaos produced by Trump reminds me of the famous essay by Hayek, Why I am Not a Conservative. I often express my preference for order and stability, traditionally very conservative priorities. Hayek emphasized the similar conservative attitude of opposition to change. Classical liberalism contrasted with classical conservatism, the former supportive of change while the latter opposed. Of course, the terms "liberal" and "liberalism" have very different meanings today. What would Hayek think of Trump? An agent of change or an agent of chaos? What does Cowen think of Trump? An agent of "disruption" or an agent of chaos? Is chaos preferable to order and stability? Paradoxically, Trump's political base is opposed to change, the type of change that has been brought about by the liberal world order, but supports the chaos that Trump creates.

" A mere 72 hours after the Chinese government agreed to put a half-billion dollars into an Indonesian project that will personally enrich Donald Trump, the president ordered a bailout for a Chinese-government-owned cellphone maker."

A chaos monkey, but a greedy one.

Can someone explain to me why Trump isn't charged with violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution? He's literally taking money from foreign agents.

For a canonical take on the last link, I suggest Kinship by Covenant by Scott Hahn.

With a title like "The Invention of Religion" I hoped it would discuss the re-use of the exodus pattern by Joseph Smith and Marcus Garvey and presumably others.

"interior to my knowledge set" is a really good backhanded compliment and I intend to deploy it regularly in conversation as soon as possible.

"interior to my knowledge set" also implies "I, Tyler, Know whatever you know, and more"

Future is based upon kind of technologies that will change the whole landscape, it’s where we must be wise and learn to be updated. As we have seen Crypto world having the gala time with Blockchain technology. And, there are projects like LightBitAtom coming up, it’s just making things work superbly. There is even bounty and airdrop campaign with them.

The Virtue of Nationalism — the ancient greeks and romans did not need a bible to develop nationalism. Ancient Greeks argued often about the virtues of pan-hellenic identity. Hazony in his videos claims the west only became nationalist by using ideas from the jewish bible.

"everything in material existence has a cause." Says who? Isn't that just conjuring with the word "cause"? What observational or experimental data can test - i.e. potentially refute - that statement? And, come to that, what does "material existence" mean?


"Now since infinite regress is impossible": why so? Mathematicians have been happily playing with such things as infinite series for centuries.

And, come to think of it, there's a logical howler right at the beginning: "everything in material existence has a cause". Surely one can easily believe in things that have two causes. And each of those might have two, or three, or more. Then your regress just takes you back and back into an effectively infinite morass of causes. Do you want to call this limitless swamp "God"? To what possible purpose?

Surely the Gospels considered as a single book is the most important book ever written. Exodus not close IMO

The opposite of nationalism is slavery??? I would love to know how you reached this train of thought.

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