Pranks of the Apostles

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear as those whacky Apostles show us a fresh side to their personalities.

Many folks who read my previous post about “The Acts of the Apostles” (Reading the Bible for All the Wrong Reasons) think that the Apostles were all serious and, well, apostolic as they went around raising people from the dead, healing cripples, filibustering, getting stoned, escaping from prison and spreading the Word. As we know, the Acts is a sequel to the Gospel attributed to Luke, written sometime around 80-90 C.E. (possibly a bit later) — well after the fall of Jerusalem.

But newly discovered parchments from Nag Sunnislope offer a completely different view of these loveable “merry pranksters”! The scrolls, discovered near the Dead Salt River in the desert of the Phoenicians, show a heartwarming other side to the disciples of the first century.

Here’s a list of some of the shenanigans, mischief and tomfoolery that was going on in Galilee.

  • Substituting red-colored vinegar for actual wine at seders and marriage fests. Imagine the fun of sitting a new convert down for a Passover dinner and as he lifts up his cup for the first of the four seder toasts you watch him do an involuntary spit take: “Ewwww… This mother hath definitely turned! Get thee down to Joseph the Trader for something drinkable.”

 

  • Short sheeting each others’ tunics. This never gets old.

 

  • Cursing fig trees…just for the heck of it. [see Mark 11, Matt 21]

  • Pretending to speak in tongues to strangers…but actually just spewing gibberish. This is strictly a tag team prank since you need a confederate you can talk to who pretends to understand as you spew out “Alacka kalamino aminoacido etgay the eckhay ehindbay emay.” [see Acts 2:4]

 

  • Making up goofy nicknames and catchphrases for the Holy Spirit: “The Holy Poltergeist,” “Casperius,” “WhoYaGonnaCall.” It is written that the Blessed Mary was particularly fond of walking into a wedding feast and cheerfully calling out, “Where’s that darn Casperius when a virgin needs him?”

Of course, not all the mischief was totally lighthearted:

  • Giving hot foots to gentiles, apostates and synagogue-avoiders: “We’re making it hot for you, sinner!”

 

  • Pranking local herdsmen by pretending to send demons into their pigs and then spooking the critters into jumping off a cliff. Be prepared for a quick getaway, though, when the pig herdsman or shepherd gets wise to your monkeyshines. [See Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-39]

 

  • Setting up the “Holy Dunk Tank” and telling a prospective convert that this is an “initiation” to see if they’re really prepared for a proper baptism.*

 

  • The classic “lower him through the tile roof” skit. This takes some teamwork, along with a paralyzed person, but it’s worth all the production when you hear the appreciative giggles from your audience. [see Luke 5:17]

What you do is tell a suffering soul that the healer is inside the house but, unfortunately, the crowd is too thick to take him through the front door. “So we’ll just take you up to the roof and lower you through the tiles, Ok?” But guess what? Turns out the roofs in this province are all thatched/mud construction. Of course the author of Luke, probably from Antioch, may not have known diddly about the architecture of Capernaum, but it’s fun to think that he didn’t mind some high jinks when comic relief from Roman oppressors and laugh-deprived Temple high-priest killjoys was needed.

 

  • Circumcision. No! just kidding. This is not one of the pranks.

 


+ Adapted from photo: Four seder wine cups
+Tunics (adapted from Roman Life/Women’s Hairstyles)
+ Fig tree (adapted from The Cursing of the Fig Tree – Father Melvin)
+ Hot foot photo illustration (adapted from photo at The Health Site)
+ Happy pigs (adapted from cartoon by David Hayward)
+ Dunk tank  (from “Dodgers and Dips – the Dark History of the Dunk Tank”)
*Meanwhile, those irrepressible medieval apostles liked to get into the fun too! (Elizabethan cucking stool)

+ Rooftop gang illustration (from “Assembly – The Paralysed Man” by Paul Hitchcock; illustration by Brian Chalmers).
Advertisements

16 Fun Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Dr. Pussyfoot

Those who follow this blog for its hilarious political commentary, ingenious language notes, intrepid neighborhood travel curiosities. discourteous religious lampoons and trenchant cultural observations may wonder what category this falls into…and why you’ve bothered to follow.

Simply put, I just finished a biography of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and thought you might be intrigued to see some lesser-known aspects of this founding Reformation figure without (much of) the usual droll commentary.

(Page numbers refer to Bainton. Go directly to #12 if you just want to see the Pussyfoot item.)

Now, good luck finding a category for this as you see the other side of the great indulgence denier.

  1. Accomplished lute player (340)
  2. Sung as a tenor
  3. Insomniac
  4. Had 6 children by his wife Katie, adopted 4 more and at one time had as many as 25 people in the household including student boarders (a financial recourse) (294). Katie was one of 12 nuns he helped escape (see ‘Marriage’ section) from a Cistercian convent.
  5. Referred to his wife, Katie, as “my lord.” (290)
  6. Biggest mistake: advised Philip I, Landgrave (sort of like a duke) of Hesse, to commit bigamy (373-5). Biographer Martin Brecht says, “giving confessional advice for Philip of Hesse was one of the worst mistakes Luther made.” (see ‘Bigamy’ section)
  7. Compared choral singing to “square dancing in heaven” (343)
  8. Reduced number of Catholic sacraments from 7 to 2 (137)
  9. Frequently confessed daily, once as long as 6 hours (54)
  10. Dressed as a knight and grew a long beard calling himself “Knight George” during exile—“my Patmos.” (195)
  11. Marriage: pigtails on the pillow. “There is a lot to get used to in the first year of marriage. One wakes up in the morning and finds a pair of pigtails on the pillow which were not there before.” (290)
  12. Taunted by his religious rival, Müntzer, as “Dr. Pussyfoot” (“Doktor Leisetritt”) for various complicated theological reasons; also, “Dr. Easychair” (262, 277, also Huntson) — and those were the nicer ones!
  13. The famous “Ninety-Five Theses” were actually more like “debate topics” in accord with the common practice of the day (79, 83)
  14. His “Table Talk” — the collection of Luther’s sayings mostly around the dinner table — has more than 6,500 entries. These are based on notes taken by various students of Luther between 1531 and 1544. (295)
  15. Sometimes “stacked his prayers” for up to 3 weeks when he was still a monk and fell in arrears in saying the canonical hours (matins, tierce, nones, vespers, complin). As a university professor, village preacher and director of 11 monasteries, he was simply too busy to keep up. (195)
  16. Appalled by the frivolity of Italian priests who could rattle through 6 or 7 masses while he was saying one. (49)

Now, the less fun side

  1. Undoubtedly, Luther was a manic-depressive, as we now understand the term.

The word he used, though, was Anfechtung – possibly a trial sent by God to test man “comprising all the doubt, turmoil, pang, tremor, panic, despair, desolation, and desperation which invade the spirit of man.” (42, 62, 335, 357, 361). Other words used to translate the term include ‘temptation,’ ‘trial,’ ‘affliction,’ ‘tribulation.’ Scholars are not necessarily in agreement on the ex post facto bipolar diagnosis since he apparently exhibited a prodigious, continuous capacity for work. (28) “Though some have tried to explain Luther’s anfechtungen as clinical depression, such explanations are not satisfactory” (Bucher). However, there is no question that Luther was subject to recurrent periods of exaltation and depression and these oscillations plagued him throughout his life.

  1. In his later years, health impairments made him “an irascible old man, petulant, peevish, unrestrained and at times positively coarse.” (373)

Bainton, Roland. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. Abingdon Press, 1950 (All woodcut illustrations are from this book).
Brecht, Martin, Martin Luther, tr. James L. Schaaf, Fortress Press, 1985–93, 3:214
Bucher, Richard. Luther’s Anfechtungen: Setting for the Reformation. Undated blog post. Bucher is pastor of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Lexington, KY. “This was the Law of God accusing and condemning Luther, not some delusional imaginations of Luther himself. For Luther, these afflictions were spiritual not psychological.”
Scaer, David P.  “The Concept of Anfechtung in Luther’s Thought.” Concordia Theological Quarterly, Vol. 47, No. 1, Jan. 1983
Williams, George Huntson. The Radical Reformation. Truman State University, 1992. Third edition. (Discussion of “Dr. Pussyfoot” on p. 133)

Reading the Bible for All the Wrong Reasons – II

Part 2

We continue our journey through those wacky “Acts of the Apostles.” Last time, we looked at how the first Christians (technically “pre-Christians”) were, literally, communists; about the horrible deaths of Ananias and Sapphira–convicted of holding back some funds from the commune; and the death of the very loquacious Stephen who filibustered himself into a stoning.

Today we’ll see how Paul bores a man into falling off a balcony, the million-dollar book (er…magical scroll) burning, and a “knock knock” joke about Peter on the lam.

Without no further ado…

Paul bores a young man into falling off a 3rd-story window ledge

Paul was no stranger to the ill effects of endless blathering as we learn in Chapter 20, during his third missionary journey.

On his way to Macedonia, Paul and Luke stop in Troas (near ancient Troy) for a week. As he was to leave the next morning, he can’t stop himself from preaching to his entourage, “prolonging his address until midnight.” (20:7) A young man named Eutychus was so overcome with weariness at Paul’s droning on “at great length” that he fell asleep and toppled down from the third story to the ground, where he was pronounced dead.

Paul, a tentmaker or possibly weaver by trade, seems to know more than anyone else there about death signs and simply tells the crowd “Do not be alarmed, life is still in him.” (20:11). Unfazed, the entourage has a late night snack while Paul continues preaching till daybreak and then departs. Turns out the boy was alive and all were “not a little comforted.” Tip: Get ready for a night of de-caf coffee when Paul is on a preaching roll.

Million-dollar book burning in Ephesus

There was a certain Sceva, a Jewish high priest in Ephesus who had seven sons engaged in exorcisms. Meanwhile Paul and his bro’s were working more than the usual miracles, literally healing nearly everyone in sight, so much so that they didn’t even need to be “in sight.” Indeed, all Paul had to do was send his “handkerchiefs and aprons” to the sick to eject the evil spirits causing disease. Since those who refused to believe were labeled “obstinate” it’s easy to imagine that Paul & Co. were not pleased with the competition from Sceva. The Jews and Gentiles of Ephesus convinced the rogue exorcists to confess their practices:

19 And many who had practised magical arts collected their scrolls and burnt them publicly and they reckoned up the prices…and found the sum to be fifty thousand pieces of silver. (Acts 19:19)

Roman denarius, c 75 CE, with image of Vespasian

While it’s a tricky business to calculate what a piece of silver from around 65 CE might amount to in terms we can understand, various estimates range around $20 per piece, thus making 50,000 pieces worth in the neighborhood of $1,000,000 to $1,082,000 depending on whether we’re using  Greek drachmas, the Roman denarius or the Hebrew silver shekel as our basis. So according to Luke, there were magical papyrus scrolls worth a million bucks lying around in Ephesus. Papyrus must have been pretty dang valuable. (As the old Egyptian joke goes, “Hey, that stuff doesn’t grow on trees, y’know!”)

“Knock knock.” “Who’s there?” – Peter on the lam

In Chapter 12 Peter is being held in prison by Herod Agrippa I. Not only are there four sentries guarding the door but he is sleeping between two soldiers and bound with two chains. It would take a true Houdini to get out of this…unless you have an angel visiting in the night.

As luck would have it, just such an angel is on hand to free him and, after reminding him to put on his sandals, off they go. They pass through various guarded gates until they’re out on the street, at which point the angel deserts him. Peter finds his way to the house of Mary, mother of John Mark (the apostolic deserter), and knocks at the outer door.

Here’s the fun part. The maid, Rhoda, comes to the door to answer the knock and immediately recognizes Peter’s voice. And even though she knows he must have escaped Herod’s prison and is now on the lam, “in her joy she did not open the gate.”

Nope. Instead she runs inside and announces that Peter’s outside at the gate. Peter continues knocking until the householders eventually come get him but they’re so noisy that Pete has to shush them, reminding them that he’s on the lam.

Knock knock

Who’s there?

Peter.

Peter who?

C’mon man, Peter, you know, Cephas?

Cephas who?

Stop fooling around you morons and let me in…and keep your blessed voices down!

I guess you had to be there to appreciate the joke.

cartoon by Jeff Hayden, posted in “The First Gentile Church”

Unfortunately for the guards, the next morning Herod orders them put to death. Not long after, Herod is struck down by an angel and is eaten by worms. (Acts 12.)


*The idea for this headline came to me one day as I was out by the pool studying the Qur’an. I had a paperback English translation, a larger English-Arabic version, my Arabic alphabet cheat sheet and a mobile device that I used for translation aid, commentaries and phonetic/oral help. A neighbor saw all my gear and asked if I was studying the bible. I figured it was too complicated to explain my project, which at times included the Book of Mormon and the history of early Christianity, so I just said, “Yeah, but for all the wrong reasons.”
The majority of scholars date Luke–Acts to 80–90 CE or as late at 120 CE, on various grounds, e.g. looks back on the destruction of Jerusalem, and does not seem to be aware of Paul’s letters (which began circulating late in the century); if, however, it does show awareness of Paul and also of Josephus, then a date early in the 2nd century is more likely.[13] In either case, there is evidence that it was still being substantially revised well into the 2nd century.” [WP – Acts of the Apostles]
Mack (1995) dates Acts to 120 CE (p167); Spong (1996) dates Acts to 90-95 CE (p171); Vermes (2000) dates to 90-100 CE (p127); Charlesworth (2008) dates 80-90 “or perhaps 90-110” (References are to books in my personal library)
Clearly, whoever the gentile-by-birth author of Luke-Acts was, he was far removed from the times and places he wrote about, including Luke’s gaffe at 5:19 about “tile roofs” (roofs were actually reeds and packed mud, see Korb 2010)
Spong (1996) sees a “midrash” of the Ananias story in Jeremiah’s story of Hananiah, “lying in the name of the Lord, and deceiving the people” where “the deceiver should be shortly cut off by death.” (Jeremiah 28: 15-17). Seems like a stretch to me, though Isaac Asimov (1969) seems to agree.
“Midrash” by the way, is the Jewish tradition dictating that everything to be venerated in the present must somehow be connected with a sacred moment in the past (Bringas p172). Spong (1996) quite persuasively makes the case that the entire NT is essentially a midrash of Hebrew Sabbath lectionaries (weekly scripture readings). In this light, Acts is a lectionary book written midrashically, designed to complement and parallel gospel readings. (p177) The Jewish practice of reading appointed Scriptures on given days or occasions dates back to the time of Moses and continues in Catholic masses among other liturgies.
The “magical papyrus scrolls” were also called “Ephesian letters.” Apparently, the Ephesians were greatly addicted to magic. Magic characters were marked on the crown, cincture (belt), and feet of Diana; at the preaching of Paul, many who used curious [magical] books, burnt them. (Acts 19.)

Reading the Bible for All the Wrong Reasons* – I

Part 1

I was recently checking the Christian New Testament book called The Acts of the Apostles to verify an idea that the first Christians were actually communists (spoiler alert: yes). In the course of this I decided to see what other fun facts were recorded in Luke’s gospel sequel.

I had actually read Acts in high school religion class (as evidenced by various mysterious circlings and underlines in my copy) but I had somehow forgotten all the incredible high jinx it contains:

  • Murder of a couple who lied about their income
  • Murder by boredom
  • Murder by stoning
  • Death of a king (Herod Agrippa) who was eaten by worms after being struck down by an angel (12:23)
  • Ecstatic visions (Peter dreams his tent fell on him, thus allowing Gentiles into the fold, so to speak) (11: 5)
  • Bewitchings
  • Numerous resurrections, so many resurrections  (e.g. 9:40)
(Between all the resurrections and hundreds and hundreds of miracle healings, it’s a wonder Asia Minor wasn’t in danger of an overpopulation crisis…but we digress)
  • Imprisonments, so many imprisonments
  • Jail breaks (usually at the hands of helpful angels)
  • Mysterious desertion of a missionary apostle (gospel writer John Mark, 16:38)
  • Earthquake (16:26)
  • Shipwreck
  • Filibustering
  • Sarcasm (17:22; 26:28)
  • Numerous repetitions of Saul’s journey to Damascus
  • Garment shaking
  • Blaspheming
  • Courtroom dramas
  • “worshiping women of rank” incited against Paul and Barnabas (13:50)
  • Burning of magic scrolls worth 50,000 pieces of silver (worth, depending on the method of estimation, from $1,000,000t o $1,082,000)
  • Interminable babbling, blathering, preaching

Here are just a few of the more intriguing stories.

Were the first Christians communists?

Let’s start with definitions

Definition of communism Merriam-Webster

a : a theory advocating elimination of private property

b : a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed

And in case you don’t like M-W, here’s the Oxford English Dictionary entry:

 

 

 

 

Now let’s look at what Acts 2 has to report:

    44 And all who believed were together and held all things in common…

The Catholic edition footnote on this says that this was not communism but a “spirit of fraternal charity.” Hmmph. Later on, in Acts 4, however, we find:

32The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul; no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, as everything they owned was held in common. 33. The apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power, and they were all accorded great respect. 34 None of their members was ever in want, as all those who owned land or houses would sell them, and bring the money from the sale of them, 35 to present it to the apostles; it was then distributed to any who might be in need. 36 There was a Levite of Cypriot origin called Joseph whom the apostles surnamed Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’). 37 He owned a piece of land and he sold it and brought the money and presented it to the apostles. <Acts 4: 32-37. Bíblia Católica Online>

Paul frightens believers who held back part of the price of their land to death

Here’s how it went down. A married couple, believers in “the Way” (before they were called Christians) named Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, sold some property and kept back part of the money for themselves but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

But we’ll let Acts 4 speak for itself:

3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. . . . 7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.” 9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” 10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died.To sum up this tale of avarice and cruelty, a man and his wife, early members of the faith, not wishing to be completely destitute, withhold a small amount of money from the commune. When Peter finds out, he frightens them both to death. At least they were buried. OK, OK, they lied, but you’re on notice, communistas: the Holy Ghost is taking no prisoners.

Stephen, the first martyr, filibusters himself into a stoning

We hate to “blame the victim,” but Stephen, who was chosen by the Twelve to go out and do the work of gaining converts while they devoted themselves to “prayer and to the ministry of the word” (6: 5) didn’t do himself any favors by his habit of blathering.

Here’s what happened, per Acts 6 and 7.

Stephen was going around working great wonders and signs among the people, which naturally annoyed the regular Jews of the synagogue who were “not able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit who spoke.” (6: 10) Stephen was seized and brought to the Sanhedrin for blaspheming: “This man never ceases speaking words against the Holy Place and the Law.” (6: 13)

As we’ll see, this habit of ‘never ceasing speaking” seems to be Stephen’s main talent.

So we’ve got Steve seated in front of the Sanhedrin and the high priest asks him a pretty simple question: “Are these things so”?

Instead of answering the question, Steve launches a monumentally pointless discourse, beginning with “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he settled in Haran…” (7:2) and continues on for the next 60 verses, recounting the history of Joseph, Moses, Mount Sinai, tents in the desert, the ark of the covenant . . . zzzz.

In fairness, my Catholic edition says that Stephen was simply refuting charges that he spoke against Moses and the temple, though nothing in his blathering testimony shows this.

He ends by accusing his accusers of betraying the Law and this is simply enough blathering for them. With much gnashing of teeth, they “stopped their ears and rushed upon him,” casting him out of the city for a proper stoning. (7:57)

Next time we’ll see how Paul bores a man into falling off a balcony, the million-dollar book (er…magical scroll) burning and a “knock knock” joke about Peter on the lam.


*The idea for this headline came to me one day as I was out by the pool studying the Qur’an. I had a paperback English translation, a larger English-Arabic version, my Arabic alphabet cheat sheet and a mobile device that I used for translation aid, commentaries and phonetic/oral help. A neighbor saw all my gear and asked if I was studying the bible. I figured it was too complicated to explain my project, which at times included the Book of Mormon and the history of early Christianity, so I just said, “Yeah, but for all the wrong reasons.”
Additional notes for bible wonks:
The majority of scholars date Luke-Acts to 80–90 CE, even as late at 120 CE (Mack 1995), on various grounds, e.g. it looks back on the destruction of Jerusalem, and does not seem to be aware of Paul’s letters (which began circulating late in the century); in either case, there is evidence that it was still being substantially revised well into the 2nd century.” [WP – Acts of the Apostles]
Clearly, whoever the author of Luke-Acts was, he was far removed from the times and places he wrote about, including Luke’s gaffe at 5:19 about “tile roofs” (roofs were actually reeds and packed mud, see Korb 2010)
Spong (1996) sees a “midrash” of the Ananias story in Jeremiah’s story of Hananiah, “lying in the name of the Lord, and deceiving the people” where “the deceiver should be shortly cut off by death.” (Jeremiah 28: 15-17). Seems like a stretch to me though Asimov (1969) seems to agree.
“Midrash” by the way, is the Jewish tradition dictating that everything to be venerated in the present must somehow be connected with a sacred moment in the past (Bringas p172). Spong (1996) quite persuasively makes the case that the entire NT is essentially a midrash of Hebrew Sabbath lectionaries (weekly scripture readings). In this light, Acts is a lectionary book written midrashically, designed to complement and parallel gospel readings. (p177) The Jewish practice of reading appointed Scriptures on given days or occasions dates back to the time of Moses and continues in Catholic masses.

Easter yoks, er, yolks

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one is from the inter-faith comic strip series, “Jesus & M0”

 

and my current favorite…Vermeer’s mystery muse.

 

Oh, all right, one final one, for you so-called golf fans:


FYI – in case you’re one of the folks who got the original version of this and are wondering why there’s a duplicate with a different headline: When I posted this on Facebook, the stupid system featured the wrong image. There’s currently no easy way to select the image you want to feature on the FB page (it apparently requires deep coding work), so I just made the original one private and re-did it without the wrong image…and then added it back in after it was posted. (I think)

Guess Who?

Consider how this notable presidential candidate was described:

  • Autocratic
  • Symptoms of “preposterous megalomania” (362)
  • Tendency to inflate numbers (363)
  • Talks incessantly about himself, what he has done and could do more than other mortals (340)
  • Authoritarian – “a man with absolute dominion over his people who brooks no advice that does not further his own daydreams and grinds out policies solely in the grist-mill of his own ambition” (354-55)
  • “A president of the United States, not a ‘party’ president, but a president of the whole people” (364)
  • Does not allow criticisms, even by his associates and “contradictions rouse in him the lion”; threatens to trample down enemies (355, 420)
  • Needs to confabulate stories — that is, make up stories out of whole cloth — but present them as real. Seems to be “formally” aware that claims are false but has overall impaired sense of reality (418)
  • Empire builder, real estate magnate, financial and land speculator — builder of temples, cities and kingdoms — but mostly “a constructor of continuing fantasy” (421)
  • Tremendous ability to gain free publicity (viii)
  • Known as an inveterate woman-chaser with multiple marriages
  • Unscientific racial theories (415, 423)

Have you guessed yet?

Here are a few more traits commonly ascribed to this public figure.

  • Habit of loose and wild utterances (420)
  • Destruction of media he regards as unfavorable (377)
  • Exuberant talent for improvisation with lack of care for consistency of detail (403, 409)
  • Personality traits of “jollity, love of sport and good living” (402)
  • “Impostor” personality with “omnipotence fantasy” (418)
  • Prodigious personal charm (402)
  • Nimble in explaining and extricating himself from failure (417)
  • Presidential campaign theme: “American liberty is on the wane and calamity is about to destroy the peace of the people”; “too much government” (341)
  • Good showman, absolutely dependent on having an audience (418)
  • Identification of God with material prosperity (402)

If you’re thinking “Dtrump-nose-cronald J. Trump” you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong, but the actual figure in question is Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Churchjoseph-smith-profile-2-rotate).

Smith started out as a gold-digger (literally) and treasure-hunting entrepreneur in his teens in Vermont and western New York in the 1820s; proclaimed a revelation from the Angel Moroni which resulted in the Book of Mormon; and journeyed westward where he founded businesses, cities, temples and got involved in numerous lawsuits involving his various properties and management practices.

Illustration of the murder of Joseph Smith (1805-1844), founder of the Mormon Church, along with his brother Hyrum. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Mansell/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Illustration of the murder of Joseph Smith (1805-1844), founder of the Mormon Church, along with his brother Hyrum. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Mansell/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

He actually did run for president of the U.S. in 1844 but ultimately died in July of that year trying to flee a murderous mob at the jail where he was imprisoned following his orders to his legion to destroy an anti-Mormon newspaper office that he considered “libelous.”

Smith clearly wanted complete control about what was said about him and his movement and his group’s destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor was described as the act of “an autocrat who could think only in terms of suppression.” (377).

Obviously I have structured the list above craftily to bring out the most obvious and egregious similarities between Smith and Trump.

But let’s just take one item, “confabulation,” to get a better understanding of how autocrats feel they can simply “make stuff up” without consequences.

Joseph Smith, not realizing that the mystery of Egyptian hieroglyphics would soon be revealed in America, came across some genuine Egyptian papyri in 1835 and, perhaps feeling the spirit of God once again descending on the same self-taught linguistic talents that produced the Book of Mormon, proclaimed that he had translated the papyri. The scrolls were, he declared, the writings of Abraham and Joseph (son of Jacob). Of course this was eventually exposed by scholars as pure confabulation.

(click on pic to enlarge)book-of-abraham-facsimile-compare

Likewise, Donald Trump confabulated, that is, simply imagined, at 9/11 that “thousands and thousands of people in New Jersey were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.” He says he saw it on TV despite no external evidence of such coverage or cheering. Anywhere. (See Trump Needs Apprentice for Fact-Checking)

He also claimed that the U.S. unemployment rate could be as high as 42 percent. And of course there’s the whopper that he had handpicked instructors for his dubious Trump “University.”

Earlier this year Trump said that there were 1.5 million people at his inauguration. “I’m like, wait a minute. I made a speech. I looked out, the field was, it looked like a million, million and a half people.” Confabulator extraordinaire!

Most recently, Trump claimed that his electoral college win was the biggest since Reagan. Confabulation elite status.

And of course there’s the on-again-off-again bromance with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Trump most recently boldly claimed that he has never met him, has no relationship: “I don’t know Putin, have no deals in Russia, and the haters are going crazy.”

Yet in a newly resurfaced 2015 interview with conservative talk radio host Michael Savage, Trump claimed that he met Putin and that they “got along great,” contradicting his later campaign trail claims that he never met or spoke with Putin.

The Washington Post has a very helpful chronology of the bromance, including this exchange:

TRUMP: I have no relationship with Putin. I don’t think I’ve ever met him. I never met him. I don’t think I’ve ever met him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You would know it if you did.

TRUMP: I think so.

It would be fascinating to book a trip in the Wayback Machine to bring Mr. Smith to Washington and put the Mormon up against the Trumpon.

Would they be like old fishing buddies spinning tall tales of giant marlins caught and thrown back? Or would they just glare at each other as poseurs to the title of Confabulator-in-Chief? Would Trump immediately nominate Smith to the new Cabinet post of Secretary of Religion? Would Joe offer advice on how to build a real temple?

My guess is that they would immediately set to work on a new self-absorbent prophetic novel: The Book of Trumpon.

book-of-trumpon-cover-2-emboss


Much of this information, including quotes,  is derived from Fawn Brodie’s excellent biography of Joseph Smith, No Man Knows My History: the Life of Joseph Smith.  (2nd edition, 1971). All page numbers refer to this edition.
Other sources include The Book of Mormon (1963 edition); Harry L. Rapp’s The Mormon Papers (1978); Joseph Smith, by C. Clark Julius, The Philalethes (August 1987); “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” (LDS.org), “Testimonies of Abigail Harris and Lucy Harris,” Palmyra, NY (1833); “People of State of New York vs. Joseph Smith,” Bainbridge, New York, March 20, 1826 (sworn statements accusing Smith of being an impostor and “disorderly person” (aka “juggler”) who deceived the public by looking in a stone placed in his hat to find buried treasures.); “Review of Book of Mormon,” unpublished, Veihdeffer, 2016, 14pp.
Trump nose courtesy of photoshop. (See “Trump Needs Apprentice for Fact Checking”)
Book of Trumpon cover by the author, adapted from his copy of the Book of Mormon