Monthly Archives: February 2009

Shin Buddhism vs. Christianity

It has long been known that there are some outward similarities between Jodo Shinshu Buddhism and Christianity.  Both claim a savior figure and a teaching of radical grace.  Both proclaim a wondrous mystical realm which is both transcendent and immanent:  in Christianity, this is the Kingdom of Heaven, which is both “beyond” and here and now; in Shin, this is the Pure Land, which is both a transcosmic Buddha Land as well as the here and now unfolding in us of Amida’s own dynamic spiritual activity.  But beyond these parallels there are essential differences.

Mainstream Christianity holds that God’s saving grace is mediated by his Son, Jesus Christ.  This divine grace is held to have been crucially dispensed by Jesus’ atoning death on the cross.   Christian salvation consists in accepting for oneself the efficacy of Jesus’ sacrifice.  Christianity also maintains that Jesus is ontologically – “by nature” – divine, the second person in a divine “Trinity.”   Believing in Jesus’ deity, in addition to accepting Jesus’ salfivic death, is the second essential facet in Christian soteriology.

(It is important at this point to mention that salvation by means of accepting Jesus as God, and accepting his atoning death, although foundational requirements in established Christianity as we now know it, there are other means of salvation to be found in the Christian scriptures.  But, through hundreds of years of doctrinal conflict, these two have emerged victorious, and are especially emphasized in Protestant communions.  Earlier types of Christianity emphasized various means of salvation, but their contributions have been de-emphasized, minimized, or rejected as heretical.  The present essay, when considering Christianity, concerns not these “alternative” or antiquated views, but mainstream Christianity as it is currently known and practiced.)

It is de riguer that Martin Luther emphasized Christian soteriology’s claims of salvation based on faith and grace.  Luther taught that Jesus was God’s free gift of salvation to a human race that could never save itself by its own efforts.  The human response to God’s grace through faith in Jesus, in Lutheran (and later Reformist views) ensured salvation.   Humankind on its own is powerless to procure salvation;  only God’s grace can perform the task.  This does resemble Shin’s “take” on grace, but it falls short of Shin’s purity and radicalism.

In Christianity, salvation, though given by God’s grace, remains to some degree dependent on the recipient; the recipient must place his or her faith in the person of Jesus, in his salvific death, and in his deity.  But as New Testament scholar Marcus J. Borg has pointed out, a gift of grace freely given can really have no pre-conditions or requirements, that is, if it is truly freely given.  If there is even one requirement – i.e., we must believe in Jesus’ saving death – then we no longer have a pure grace religion, but rather a “works” religion…perhaps a very refined and minimally-demanding religion, but a works religion nonetheless.  This is the point where Jodo Shinshu’s doctrine of radical grace becomes relevant.

While Amida Buddha is Shin’s savior figure, Amida differs from Jesus in some important ways.

First, Amida is not a god nor the son of a god.  Amida is difficult to define – not a creator, a sky father, an earth mother, a tribal totem, an elemental spirit, a mediator, an intercessor, an intervener or miracle worker – Amida is “Eternal Life” and “Unimpeded Light.”  A Presence in, but not of, the universe.  Amida’s nature is Compassion and Amida’s relationship with life is Grace.  Pure grace, eternal and… unimpeded.

Second, the free and unimpeded nature of Amida’s grace is such that it makes no requirement, religious or secular, of the recipient.  No faith is demanded – neither in the atoning sacrifice of a divine son, nor in the intervention of a creator-deity.  Amida’s grace permeates all things, whether or not they are aware of it or respond to it.  Amida’s eternal life (Amatayus) and unimpeded light (Amitabha) illumine the world already, and cannot be called upon to appear as if from an alien realm.  And it is not that Shin Buddhists do not call upon Amida.  On the contrary, the Nembutsu, “Calling on the Name” of Amida, is Shin’s primary practice.

But whereas the Christian calls upon Jesus as one who is to be informed of personal troubles, who may answer petitionary prayer, who may intervene in the petitioner’s life or sometimes even perform miracles, Amida Buddha conforms to none of these expectations.

When the Shin practitioner voices the nembutsu, this serves only serves two purposes:

1)  to phrase and express (either verbally or mentally)

2) the recipient’s gratitude for Amida’s grace.

Shin “prayer” is really affirmation;  affirmation that, as far as human salvation and realization of one’s own Buddha-Nature are concerned, “all is well” and as it should be.  Since Amida is neither a creator nor an intervener, Amida is not connected to typically Abrahamic-creatorist beliefs in petitionary prayer and divine intervention.

In brief, Amida’s grace is all-sufficient, and there is nothing that we must – there is nothing that we can – do in order to acquire this boon.  It is freely given moment to moment and we are immersed in it whether we know it or not;  and it is Shin’s special graciousness that offers a means that we may know it.

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Two Ufological Categories

There are two categories involving UFOs which deserve some comment.  The popular press mixes both categories while ignoring their respective differences.  These are the UFO report and the abduction narrative.

The UFO report is usually generated by puzzled witnesses from all professions and all life-perspectives.   Sometimes the reports are accompanied by multiple-witness testimony, ground/radar confirmation, luminescence, radiological, burn, soil, and other traces that, depending on the particular case, can be susceptable to analysis.  Thus, most UFO reports consist of sightings, and, occasionally, measurable “remains.”  Whether of “daylight discs” or of “nocturnal lights,” (to use J. A. Hynek’s terms), the UFO report is mainly distinguished by its embedding in a milieu of sighting/physical observation and occasional measurement.  Not so (usually) the abduction narrative.

The typical abduction narrative is not reported either as a sighting of anomalous objects or of non-human beings.   Rather, it is extracted (sometimes many years after the purported event) by hypnosis (sometimes amateur).  Often the hypnosis is inserted into the case by investigators;  sometimes “abductees” approach investigators or health professionals.  Many so-called abduction cases evolve out of dreams, nightmares, sleep paralysis, dream-like experiences, fantasies, hypnogogic states and other purely subjective situations.  Rarely are UFOs directly linked to the “alien” abduction, and abductees rarely seem able to point to a UFO as an essential part of their experience.  In short, they give out an abduction narrative, but rarely a UFO report.   Even if the UFO was an integral element of some  early reports, in later cases the UFO as event-instigator is no longer present or, perhaps, even necessary.   The UFO abduction narrative has thus over time become a (mere) abduction narrative.  (The present writer is unaware of any documented correlation between UFO abductions and UFO reports, Waves, or “flaps.”  One notable exception accrues to the classic Hill Abuction, where it has been revealed by researchers such as Jacques Vallee and Anne Druffel that a UFO was tracked by a nearby air base at the time and location of the Hill’s experience).

So it would seem that of the two alternatives, it is the UFO report that has the most likely potential for generating ufological data.  The abduction narrative, on the other hand, swims in psychological murk, and seems little-equipped to provide meaningful evidence.  One exception to this is, of course, the claims of stigmata on,  and implants in, claimants’ bodies.  If authenticated, such things could be a potential source of scientific data.   Conceivably they could be much better indicators than the UFO report.

However, authentication is exactly the crux of the problem.  We would expect a scientific revolution and a world-altering crisis if such claims were verified.  Of course, they have not been verified, or even – as far as this writer knows – subjected to peer review.  Or if they have, the conclusions have been sufficiently inconclusive to decide the matter.

So investigators are well-cautioned to attend to sighting reports and to relegate non-evidential abduction narratives to ufology’s back burner.

The Christian vs. the Jewish Messiah

It’s not news that Judaism as a whole rejected – and rejects –  Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, and for good reason.  Jesus did not fulfill Jewish messianic expectations.  The Jewish Messiah was to inaugurate a heaven on earth, governed from Jerusalem by God; to cause all nations to worship the Jewish god; to put an end to war and spread peace over the earth; to vanquish the Jewish god’s opponents.  Obviously Jesus did none of these things. Not only did the world continue as usual after his death, but his own nation fell to Rome two different times, in 70 CE and again in 135 CE.  His Jewish followers were persecuted by the Jewish priesthood and his movement only survived by passing into Hellenized Gentile hands, where it evolved into forms that would have been unrecognizable by Jesus and his first followers.

Yet for Christians, Jesus is “the Christ.”  This term means “(God’s) anointed one.”  It was applied to Jewish kings who received chrism when they were enthroned.  As supreme “king,” the Messiah would of course receive the ultimate anointing.  One of the earliest Jewish terms applied to Jesus was “Messiah.”  Paul brought this title to non-Jewish audiences by constantly referring to Jesus as “the Christ” or “Christ Jesus.”  The question here, of course, is how Jesus’  followers could think of him as Messiah when he had never fulfilled that role.

Obviously it was not Jesus’ earthly ministry that earned him the title.  Rather it was his resurrection and ascension to heaven at God’s “right hand” that constituted Jesus’ messiahship for his earliest followers.  How so?

Jesus’ resurrection/ascension glorified and exalted him to a status which, for those who accepted his posthumous victory, could only be thought of as “messianic.”  The mortal Galilean mystic and social reformer they had known, after suffering an ignominious death by crucifixion at the hands of “unclean” Gentiles, was now an angelic being.  He was now like the Enochian Metatron – the one who stands near God’s throne.  He was now like the mysterious angel Yahoel – who in the Torah was charged with executing divine judgment, and who carried in him the Divine Name.  These are exactly the functions ascribed to the “risen, living” Jesus.  He would come again to judge the world, and the Divine Name – before all knees must bend – dwelled in him.  Moreover, as God’s agent (and like God Himself) Jesus became the object of at least one type of Jewish-sectarian prayer, the Maranatha:  “Come, Lord Jesus” – which was a slogan common to both the Jewish and the Pauline Gentile churches.  Here Jesus was not seen as God –  but as God’s adopted, risen, exalted and glorified/angelic Son, he could now be addressed in prayer.  He was seen as a mediator having special access to God’s ear in the heavenly throne room.  So:  How else – how better – to describe him, but in the highest terms available to the current Judaism?  One of these terms was “Messiah,” and his Jewish followers applied it to him.

However, this early Jewish-Christian term describes not an earthly, but a heavenly Messiah.  Of course, broadly speaking, the earthly Jesus did fulfill certain very general Messianic capacities:  his parables described the here-and-now Kingdom of God;  he healed the sick, cast out demons, made the blind to see; he conceived his mission as ministering to “the lost sheep of the House of Israel.”  But he did not, as we have seen, fulfill the the essential, the crucial, world-changing messianic functions.

His followers, based on their experience of a Jesus exalted, glorified, and risen, maintained that he only became the Messiah when God vindicated his death, rewarded him with resurrection, and adopted him as a special son ascended to heaven.  That is, only “Now,” in the timeless heavenly realm, is Jesus fully the Messiah.  Only “Then,” when he returns to execute divine judgment and renew the world, will he be the complete Messiah.  As long as he is in heaven, Jesus functions as a kind of “Messiah-Designate.”  He will operate fully as Messiah only after he returns as the messianic Judge and World-Reformer.

Contemporary Judaism did not find anything especially messianic in Jesus’ ministry.  Nor did it see any reason to accept his resurrection, which after all, was an experience granted to a relative few.  So Jesus was not the Jewish Messiah.  He was, instead, the Jewish- sectarian, and later on, the Christian Messiah, that is, the Messiah as peculiarly defined by those sectarian Jews (and later Gentiles) who believed that he had been constituted adopted Son-Messiah by his posthumous resurrection, exaltation, ascension and glorification.

Word-clarification on this point could potentially aid the cause of ecumenism.  If Christians would admit that their Messiah is Messiah by virtue of a posthumous “enthronement,” rather than during his lifetime being the national/global Messiah of standard Jewish expectation, efforts toward mutual understanding between the two religions might be greatly furthered.

A Few Buddhist Quotes

It is often thought that the Buddha’s doctrine teaches us that suffering will disappear if one has meditated long enough, or if one sees everything differently.  It is not that at all.  Suffering isn’t going to go away; the one who suffers is going to go away. (Ayya Khema)

Meditation is the most important thing.  It is essential in order to transform one’s spiritual life. (HH the Dalai Lama)

Not knowing how close the truth is, we seek it far away – what a pity! (Kakuin Ekaku Zenji)

Buddhism is really about awakening and liberating our awareness, rather than prescribing new institutional structures for that awareness. (David Loy)

Getting Lovecraft Right

Sadly, there are very few Lovecraft-based films that succeed in communicating the Master’s ideas, themes, and feeling-toned prose.  There have been loads of  bad movies made and claiming to be made on Lovecraftian motifs, inside and outside the US, and most are ludicrous failures.  All too many newcomers to Lovecraft, as well as all too many over-eager fans, rush to produce “a Lovecraft film,” only to end up violating Lovecraft on every level.

One such well-known filmic monstrosity, The Dunwich Horror, (starring Guy Stockwell, Sandra Dee, and Ed Bagley) takes its title from Lovecraft’s novella, and then proceeds to savage the narrative.  Even allowing for its (badly executed) updating to modern times, the movie introduces elements completely foreign to HPL’s writing, such as a “cute, young” female protagonist (not found in the original story);  the main character Wilber Whately – in HPL’s tale a human-alien hybrid – is portrayed as a “Mod” dabbler in the occult;  a stereotypical presentation of the supernatural mostly severed from HPL’s own unique magical-demonic-alien realms;  location filming done on the California coast as opposed to the novella’s setting of rural Massachussetts (in which no oceans, Pacific or Atlantic, figure at all)… and many other troublesome departures from the tale as HPL told it.

This situation is paralleled in any number of films claiming to be based on Lovecraft’s stories:  too many veerings-away, for no apparent reason except indulgence of a producer’s ego and manufacturing mass/youth market “appeal.”  This even exists in films not crediting HPL for their major themes, but which “borrow” a Lovecraftian story line, an alien, a monster, a ritual or whatnot, only to misrepresent even those dessicated remains of the original.

How to fix this deplorable situation?  Not being a film maker or screenwriter, I’m not sure, but here are some intuitions based on the principle of making excellence and faithfulness to source material essential:

1)   Do the film as HPL wrote the story.  Do the stories as period pieces.  Film in color or b&w, but preserve Lovecraft’s settings.

2)   Update, but don’t mutilate, the story.  Do not introduce obnoxious, cliched, shallow young characters (very few of HPL’s characters are ever very young) from stock/schlock horror movies.  Very little cursing (there is none in Lovecraft), no cheap jokes and goofing around (none in Lovecraft), no sex (there is none in Lovecraft, except as related or implied at a distance), no non-Lovecraftian occult themes, demons, aliens, etc… no non-Lovecraftian rationales or explanations.  You are showcasing Lovecraft, not Richard Matheson, William Peter Blatty, Ridley Scott, Fritz Leiber, E. A. Poe, Rod Serling, Peter Straub, Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Stanley Kubrik, Erik Von Daaniken, or any other contributor to the genre, regardless of his or her relative value.

3)   Provide an original, serious musical score.  No pop/rock, no bands, no soloists, and no synthesizers if they can be avoided.  No “experimental” atonal electronic stuff, either.  Incidental music, even if pop/rock,  should be presented naturalistically (e.g., a radio or TV playing in the background).  Do not sell the film, or its soundtrack, on the “merits” of pop music and commercial bands and musicians.  If you can’t afford a film composer, hire a competant music editor, preferably someone with experience in locating and applying public domain and classical music for films, commercials, and documentaries.

4)   Have the $$ to provide realistic, convincing sfx.  If you don’t have the money, scrap the project.  You don’t need to make a film that has inadequate or laughable sfx.  Lovecraft deserves state of the art production values – music, sound, photography, editing… and sfx.  Don’t sink your film from the get-go because you don’t have funding for convincing sfx.  If another, wealthier producer really ought to be doing “your” film, be humble and accept it, or offer your script to or collaborate with more able artists.  After all, this is Lovecraft you are representing.

5)   Do not time-stretch a short story that should occupy only 45 minutes of screen time into the standard nearly-two-hour epic.  Do give the story its proper time allowance.  If it’s too short, then shoot (say) another one or two short stories – make it a trilogy or an anthology.

6)   Do not evaluate for HPL.  Present his ideas without commentary,  modification, expansion, or deletion.  He is the Master, you are his presenter.  Don’t forget that pecking order.

7)   For Azathoth’s sake:  Pay attention to Lovecraft’s narrative, and to his story-telling. Pace the film as the story itself is paced.  Naturally you will have difficulties with a tale like The Shadow Out of Time.  Juggle as necessary, but be conservative.  Tread lightly.

8)   For the love of Cthulhu:  Scrap the project if the story as written doesn’t seize and inspire you.  Film Steve King instead – or someone else whose material spurs you to make movies. Leave Lovecraft for Lovecraft lovers.

9)   Keep whatever horrifies and fascinates you about the story firmly in your mind’s eye at all times.  If it is Lovecraft’s story that scares you, that inspires your awe, then communicate the story’s “horror and awe” feeling-tone as faithfully as you can.  Remember, you are telling Lovecraft’s story, not King’s or Straub’s or Craven’s – or your own.

10)  Be respectful, if not reverential.  You are using HPL’s material.  Recognize that in putting his ouevre on the silver screen, you owe that workand HPL – a lot.  Don’t be cocky.  Serve the material.  Don’t allow it to serve you.  Approach it with humility.  Don’t be out to improve on it.  If you want to improve on Lovecraft, you’re not a true afficionado and you should be doing other projects.

I could probably say more, but these ten points present the gist of it:  If you’re going to do Lovecraft, do Lovecraft… or leave him alone. Do not produce another in a long line of disgraces.

H.P. Lovecraft: Rationalist, Mystic

Horror writer and man of letters H.P. Lovecraft made much of his stoic materialism, as do many of his fans, including his chief biographer, S.T. Joshi.  It is always comforting to share a life view with writers one admires, so it is not unnatural that so many Lovecraft followers find in him a champion of their own reductionist materialism.

However, Lovecraft was not an entirely happy materialist.  In his letters he affirms that the negation of the scientific, natural law he defends elsewhere is really his only reason for writing.  It brings him a certain satisfaction, and in his own words expresses his sense of cosmic revolt.  On the one hand, Lovecraft is intellectually a skeptic; on the other, his skepticism chafes – to the extent he must do something about it – namely, write “weird tales,” cosmic and supernatural horror stories.  Of course, no human being is a gray, uniform creature:  all of us are at the same time a universe and a multiverse.  Lovecraft was no exception.  What he was in his rational function is counterbalanced by what he was in his emotional and poetic character.  His mind was rationalistic, his soul mystic.

HPL was always something of a nature mystic.  This is affirmed not only in his letters.  It is embedded in his literature.  The central passages of The Whisperer in Darkness, The Colour Out of Space and The Dunwich Horror entire are unthinkable without Lovecraft’s loving description of New England hills, farms, mountains and woods, its dark brooks that never see the glint of sunlight, its swollen trees flourishing in wild forest belts.  Here his cosmic stoicism gives way to unabashed affection and a celebration of primal mystery.  If the world was not made for man, it can with some probity be said, rural New England was made for Lovecraft.

This is not all.  On rare occasions, HPL, like a Taoist (or even Camus on a good day) seemed to sense a meaning hidden in things.  Like many mystics, he cannot name what it is, but it fascinates, lures, tantalizes.

I cannot tell why some things hold for me

A sense of unplumbed marvels to befall,

Or of a rift in the horizon’s wall

Opening to worlds where only gods can be.

There is a breathless, vague expectancy..

It is in sunsets and strange city spires,

Old villages and woods and misty downs,

South winds, the sea, low hills, and lighted towns,

Old gardens, half-heard songs, and the moon’s fires.

But though its lure alone makes life worth living,

None gains or guesses what it hints at giving.

And:

There is in certain ancient things a grace

Of some dim essence – more than form or weight;

A tenuous aether, indeterminate,

Yet linked with all the laws of time and space.

A faint, veiled sign of continuities…

Of locked dimensions harbouring years gone by,

And out of reach except for hidden keys.

It moves me most when slanting sunbeams glow

On old farm buildings set against a hill,

And paint with life the shapes which linger still

From centuries less a dream than this we know.

In that strange light I feel I am not far

From the fixt mass whose sides the ages are.

With Lovecraft, we too might wonder at the veiled Mystery, forever established, eon-encircled… and about what hidden keys might open it to us.  The rift in the horizon beckons.

[Quotations from Lovecraft, H.P., Fungi from Yuggoth & Other Poems, Ballantine Books, NY: 1971, pp. 137-138.]

Jesus and the Eucharist

Next to baptism, the Eucharist is Christianity’s most central and significant sacrament.  It is an unsettling thought that the Eucharist, at least in its present form, did not originate with Jesus.  This assertion flows from the similarity of the Synoptic gospels’ “last supper” presentation with that of Paul.  Why is this a problem?  It’s a problem because Paul claims that he “received” this idea not from the historical Jesus or the Jerusalem community of his Jewish disciples.  Rather, Paul says, he got his Eucharist through a special revelation “from the Lord.”  The revelation is a mystical communication from the risen Jesus, or it is an idea derived from Paul’s own psychology.  In any case it does not derive from Jesus or his disciples.  Yet most of its wording shows up in the Synoptic accounts of Jesus’ final meal twenty to forty years after Paul wrote his letters.  The problem is obvious:  if Paul received the Eucharist from a private revelation, its near-perfect duplication in later communities indicates that their Eucharist, too, was based on Paul, not on Jesus or his close disciples.

Yet there is a tradition common to the Synoptics and to various early Christian groups that Jesus hosted a special meal, or a special series of meals, during the final months or weeks of his life.  None of the Synoptics supports the notion that this meal was simply a standard Passover meal.  For example, in none of the accounts is a lamb mentioned.  The “last” supper seems to have been a typical Jewish meal blessing-ritual with unique overtones imposed by Jesus.

The idea of a non-Pauline Eucharist celebrated in the primitive church is supported by the ancient liturgical document, the Didache.  In this text there is no mention of typically Pauline elements such as the ritual presence of “the Lord’s body,” the proclamation of the Lord’s death “until he comes again,” etc.  Instead, although the Didache is truly a Eucharist – a Thanksgiving – it gives thanks not for Jesus’ redeeming death, but rather for God’s gift of Jesus as God’s servant.  Here Jesus is not a dying-rising Messiah or uniquely-begotten Son, but a representative of “David’s vine.”  The Eucharistic elements are not imbued with a mystical presence of the Pauline Christ.  The text thus seems to be an early Jewish Christian document unrelated to Pauline theory.

Perhaps there was a Jewish Christian ritual meal extant when Paul was writing.  Perhaps Jesus had actually said over the bread, “This is my body,” and over the wine, “This is my blood,” and then somewhat later Paul received a revelation that was a development and commentary on these foundational phrases.  It is difficult to imagine Jesus, a first-century Palestinian Jew, personally identifying himself with bread and wine and then inviting his fellow Jews to “eat my flesh.”  There may, however, be a middle ground between these extremes.  New Testament scholar Bruce Chilton offers the following as a key to unlocking this Eucharistic riddle.

Chilton reminds us that the earliest conflict involving Jesus, his disciples, and his early Judean movement was with the Temple and its corrupt, collaborationist priesthood.  The priesthood’s leaders arranged to have Jesus executed and they persecuted his disciples after his death.  Jesus himself acted out his dissatisfaction with the priesthood by disrupting the Temple’s sacrificial market system (the so-called Cleansing of the Temple) – an act which probably delivered his fate directly into the priesthood’s hands.  The Gospels and the historical record as it has come down to us support the notion of an early and serious conflict between the Jesus movement and the priesthood.

John the Baptizer had set up an alternative means of sacrificial atonement separate from that in Jerusalem.  Apparently he thought that the Temple’s time was up, or at least due for a serious overhaul.  Other Jews felt the same, with the Qumran community creating its own alternative surrogate “Temple congregation.”  It would be fitting that Jesus, following in the Baptizer’s path, would devise an alternative “cultus” to countervene priestly abuses.  Chilton suggests that the Eucharist was Jesus’ response to the Temple.  How so?

The priesthood offered sacrifice by means of the slaughter of animals (animal flesh) and the sprinkling of the immolated animals’ life serum (animal blood).  Jesus broke entirely (Chilton argues) with this system.  Instead of a bloody sacrifice, Jesus proposed a new, bloodless sacrifice – one which, like John’s baptism, was relatively inexpensive and available to all.  The elements were simple bread and wine.

Instead of animal flesh, Jesus’ alternative offering was now bread;  instead of animal blood, Jesus’ sacrifice would now be wine.  So when Jesus said, “This – my flesh” he meant that this bread is the new sacrifice I will offer;  when he said “This – my blood” he meant that this wine is the new sacrifice I will offer.  Jesus was not identifying himself personally with bread and wine.  Instead he was christening them as his innovative, alternative, unbloody offering.  Perhaps this was in fact the historical basis for Christians thinking that the Covenant had, in the Eucharist, been renewed.  Perhaps Paul, learning of the social context of Jesus’ alternative sacrifice, “received” a complex interpretation which now linked the Eucharist with the dying-risen Christ instead of an alternative anti-Temple ritual.

If Chilton’s solution seems a bit of a stretch, the Pauline and especially the Johannine Eucharists are an even greater stretch, because they imagine that Jesus did personally identify himself with the bread and wine, and expected his followers to dine on him.  Chilton’s idea has the virtue of keeping the Eucharist reasonably historical and grounded in Jesus’ contemporary culture, while the Pauline and Johannine Eucharists lend themselves all too readily to paganizing influences and ritual theophagy – divine cannibalism – a harsh theological indictment indeed.