The following review, received in March 2014, is reproduced with permission.

J.H Hatfield
Why call me God? The Gospel Seen with a Single Eye
Capabel Press, 2009
What so many have missed for so long

I did enjoy this book so much... thank you Mr Hatfield! I read it through almost without a break within 24 hours and then spent the next two days re-reading it and checking details. Disclaimer: I seem to be Hatfield's coaeval, and spent my formative years with the Jesuits in St Ignatius' at Stamford Hill. Although initially drawn to classics I spent my professional life as a psychometrician, but always (hobby or obsession?) in search of the true documentary basis of my faith.

I discover that I have been handicapped by the word breaks in our Greek sources: as an experiment I put together some passages from the LXX Genesis in uncials without word spaces and discovered how to read such texts: you have to slowly spell them out, syllable by syllable (see p.51 !) . As indeed we read that many people in the ancient world read their texts. And when you're presented with a text like this, the anagrams, the word plays, the embedded words all begin to spring out at you.

Mind you, I doubt if there is going to be a market for an un-chaptered uncial edition of anything in the near future! But because words are separated by spaces in modern editions we do tend to read clumps of words as symbols and disregard their component parts - see for instance the nicely cited passage on p. 12 that did the rounds on the internet a few years ago. So it's not just that most people don't read our holy books in Greek - they don't read them in uncials without spaces. Thank goodness for computers and Visual C++.

An interesting theme that emerged for me was a fatal flaw in the insistence by translators of getting "good" sources. For the NT canon in Greek: right, good move - but then going back to a Masoretic text for the OT! A mistake made from Jerome to my own favourite translator, the immensely talented but unfortunate William Tyndale. Perhaps intellectual arrogance of a sort? These guys were good at languages so why not show off their mastery of Hebrew while they were at it? But the effect of this is to create such a disconnect between the OT and the NT that we cannot BUT take the OT, especially the rendering of the Torah, as an impenetrable allegory, the keys to which are in the NT and the hands of whomever we elect as authoritative commentators!

A return to the (circa 10th century) Masoretic origins makes every bit of sense for a Jewish reader, and establishing this was an impressive achievement. But it is time that the Christian churches in the West took firm hold of the proposition that the only logical precursor to the NT Christian canon is the LXX and to insist that, for Christian reading, the Bible OT should be the LXX, not any Masoretic textus. It won't do that much for the losses made in translation but it will be an affirmative start.

But if they were to take this step then the way is open for accounts such as Hatfield's which threatens to unravel a lot of received interpretation; or to the thesis that what we now know as Christianity started as a Judaic mystery cult dating from about 300 BCE popular among the diaspora. What's the betting they won't?

The account given in "Why Call Me God?" is fascinating, totally engrossing. I did a few checks in my Nestle-Aland, and after a few random spot checks I decided that Hatfield was most probably getting it right. If I were a serious academic reviewer I would be much more sceptical especially about the bits where Hatfield notices grammatical lapses in the Greek (hoping of course to be proved wrong and Hatfield right).

His contribution to the "numbers game" in the Mark feedings, and his careful dissection of the opening chapters of Genesis are outstanding. His account of the mis-translation of "ton anthropon" (p. 89) is startling, and of course it unlocks the NT "son of man" riddle, over which much ink has been spilt. I was trying to figure out how that sensitive and scrupulous man Tyndale got it so wrong. Perhaps a mind used to reading Latin would not have been alert to the difference, blinded (as it were) to the importance of the "ton" (can one say "uion anthropou" instead of "uion tou anthropou", ie. is it even possible to use the "tou" as a contrastive or do you always have to have it there in Koine Greek in this context?). Tyndale did the NT first, and so his blindness to the significance of the "ton" would have carried him over. And Tyndale of course is the source for the "King James" version with its added "points" so it could be "read in churches".

I have long tried to translate the first chapter of John intelligibly: that insidious word "pros" which the Vulgate glosses as "apud" and the difference between "theos" and "ton theon" (p.218) which the Vulgate misses entirely, and to which poor Tydale's eyes were totally blind. Thank you! It emphasises the point that in translation one's grammatical habits may spill over. So it's not just having the Greek text, I'm afraid: it's also being able to pick up the idiomatic Greek Koine nuances. A mind used to Latin is dulled ("conscia mens deflet peccamina vitae" indeed). The grammar nerd in me was thrilled, awakened.

I have three points of criticism to which I hope Hatfield will be able to respond positively.

First, perhaps minor, but if one is going to indulge in numerology then either one has to take it as an exact science or else one is going to be forever measuring the floor size of the great pyramid. On some occasions, Hatfield's use of counting digrams, CAINs and so on is impressively accurate. However, sometimes it does not work out precisely. For instance, the "seventy times seven" of Lamech (p.144) should yield 490 instances of CAIN in Genesis whereas he says we only have 488. Here is where pyramidology starts to settle in as Hatfield casts around for something suitable to fit the gap. LIAN? KANA? The problem is that we have no independent source of evidence that can help us decide. Perhaps the scribes missed a few? This sort of ad hoc fitting of evidence is the start of a slippery slope.

Numerology is a dangerous art. But I'm so far gone I picked up on the "serpents" in Luke 11:2 - 11:4 immediately on p. 299. Yes, what a nerd am I! But what about the eggs and the scorpions (there is an OPHIN hidden in the SKORPION in Luke 11:12?).

Secondly, all the evidence presented so far is confirmatory - Hatfield uses the argument from induction to prove that all ravens are black. In order to stand up to the harsh scrutiny that his thesis will be subjected to by professionals (if we are lucky) he is going to have to develop some hypotheses that are a priori falsifiable (not that falsificationism is in itself a touchstone for knowledge - but, simply, this will be the kind of test that Hatfield's examples will be put to by those whose command of the logic of scientific inquiry got frozen some time in the 1950s).

It feels entirely too easy to pick out anagrams and the "alpha-sigma" and "chi-theta" digrams (p. 278): can Hatfield show us passages in which (a) we would not expect to find such features, and (b) where we actually do not find them?

For instance, are we to understand that ALL the books of the NT canon are riddled with such crossword clues? Surely, there must be some that are not! Can we list these, and give a plausible explanation why not (ie. don't just pick out the outliers, but explain WHY they are outliers?). At the risk of sounding really boring, we do need what in science we have learnt to call "control conditions" - ie. conditions in which the independent variable (in this case, gnostic riddles) is entirely absent: and justify why it is absent. Can one find any in Josephus, for instance? If we can, then this is indeed a blow against Hatfield's method and we move into the world where President Kennedy's assasination is foretold in Moby Dick, thanks to Adbul-Rahman Klimaszewski.

Lastly, so far, Hatfield has presented a wonderful demolition job. Yes, the gnostic criticism deserves a serious answer from the scribes and the learned in (our Christian) law. But is this all that there is in our NT text? Is it all simply just one large admonishment not to take things at face value? Because once we start looking for these secret contradictions they appear everywhere! Or is it possible to find a positive message - that is, to use the same collection of methods to extract what the real hidden gospel is about? The "hidden message" cannot surely be simply that "there is no message." It would be a monstrous waste of time and energy for so many ancient authors to have spent so much time "with their right hand and left thigh" penning texts to prove conclusively that these texts tell lies. Shame that there are no Cathars about.

I understand that the author's starting position (Preface, p. v) may not have been to find the positive - Hatfield's starting point seems to have been to find where it all went wrong. But once on the tiger's back there is only one way forward. Or a smile on the face of the tiger.

Jurek Kirakowski,
Statutory Lecturer in the School of Applied Psychology,
University College Cork, Ireland

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