Codex Sinaiticus

The Codex Sinaiticus (c. 330-60) is one of the oldest Bibles in the world and has the world’s oldest complete New Testament. Much of it is at the British Library, in the room next to Codex Alexandrinus. Russia, Germany and Egypt also have parts of it. You can see the whole thing in one place at its website, codexsinaiticus.org.

It is one of the four Great Uncial Codices, the four oldest Bibles (all dates approximate):

  • 325-50: Codex Vaticanus
  • 330-60: Codex Sinaiticus
  • 400-40: Codex Alexandrinus
  • 450: Codex Ephraemi

Sinaiticus is riddled with mistakes – it has some 23,000 corrections, some of them made before it even left the workshop, some made as late as the 1200s. But it and Vaticanus are so old that wherever their text agrees, Western scholars assume that it is a correct copy of a yet older manuscript, possibly from the 100s.

Shovelware: One of the most striking things about Sinaiticus is that when you open it, the text is laid out like in an unrolled papyrus scroll. That is why it has all those columns of text (pictured above). The 300s was a period when books were changing over from the papyrus scroll to the parchment codex, the bound book. The oldest bits of the New Testament, from the 100s and 200s, are on scraps of papyrus, probably from just such scrolls as Sinaiticus seems to be copying.

Parchment: The paper is made of parchment or vellum – animals skins. In particular, the skins of some 365 calves and sheep. Not cheap! Some have argued that Sinaiticus was made for an emperor, like maybe Constantine I of Rome (r. 306-37) – or (see below) Nicholas I of Russia (r. 1825-55).

Discovery: It was discovered by Count Constantin von Tischendorf of Germany. His life’s mission was to find the world’s oldest New Testament. He found it at the convent of St Catherine at the foot of Mount Sinai in Egypt. The convent was built in the early 500s and has been continuously occupied ever since, suffering no disasters. Kind of like the bristlecone pines of Nevada. Tischendorf found the first pages of it in 1844 and “permanently borrowed” most of the rest in the 1850s.

Possible fake: In 1862, another Constantin, Constantin Simonides, wrote to The Guardian claiming he wrote the Codex Sinaiticus! Not as a forgery, but to help his uncle in the 1840s to make an antique Bible for Tsar Nicholas. Two people backed him up, but The Guardian said it could not confirm his story. Sinaiticus does look surprisingly new. And the introductory first 16 pages are missing. Unlike the Dead Sea Scrolls, or even Codex 2427, it has not been carbon-dated.

Contents: Relative to a King James Bible with an Apocrypha:

  • Old Testament: Based on the Septuagint. Half of it is gone.
    • adds: 4 Maccabees.
  • New Testament: in a somewhat different order.
    • adds: Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas
    • missing verses:
      • Matthew 12:47, 16:2b-3, 17:21, 18:11, 23:14, 24:35
      • Mark 1:33, 7:16, 9:44, 9:46, 10:36, 11:26, 15:28, 16:9-20 (long ending)
      • Luke 10:32, 17:36
      • John 5:4, 7:53–8:11 (woman caught in adultery), 16:15, 19:20, 20:5b-6, 21:25
      • Acts 8:37; 15:34; 24:7; 28:29
      • Romans 16:24
      • and parts of other verses

This is a big reason why Bibles translated since 1881 have fewer verses.

– Abagond, 2021.

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My autumn reading for 2021

I did not get much reading done this summer! But, as many of my books are about to go into storage and are likely remain there till at least the end of the year, I have to decide what I want to read now. What I need is a Desert Island reading plan for autumn (September 22nd to December 21st).


  1. A book must be at least 170 years old. (See my 1851 media diet. This post is an update.)
  2. Read works by an author together, but otherwise:
  3. Read books in the order in which they were written.

So, I will read these books in this order:

  • 1773: Phillis Wheatley: Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral
  • 1794: Olaudah Equiano: The Interesting Narrative
  • 1837: Hosea Easton: A Treatise On the Intellectual Character, and Civil and Political Condition of the Colored People of the U. States; And the Prejudice Exercised Towards Them; With A Sermon on the Duty of the Church To Them
  • 1840: Tocqueville: Democracy in America
  • 1841: James W.C. Pennington: A Text Book of the Origin and History, etc. of the Colored People
  • 1847: Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre
  • 1849: Thoreau: Civil Disobedience
  • 1850: Sojourner Truth: Narrative
  • 1851: Frederick Douglass: Speeches, 1841-51
  • 1851: Herman Melville: Moby-Dick

If I average 30 pages a day, I should just about get through them all by Christmas.

I already have all of these books, so it is just a matter of setting them aside and making sure they do not get packed away.

I have read Thoreau, Bronte and half of Melville before, a long time ago. But I suspect I will get way more out of them now.

In addition:

  • Daily:
    • a chapter of the King James Bible
    • The day’s entry in Thoreau’s 1851 journal.
  • Weekly:
    • a chapter of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (to match its serialization in 1851-52).

Something I have more or less been keeping up on.

New Testament: In the case of the Bible, I am reading the New Testament. The same rules apply: read its books in the order written. I will use the timeline of Marcus J. Borg in “The Evolution of the Word” (2012):

  • 50s AD: 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 Corinthians, Philemon, Philippians, 2 Corinthians, Romans
  • 60s:
  • 70s: Mark
  • 80s: James, Colossians, Matthew, Hebrews
  • 90s: John, Ephesians, Revelation
  • 100s: Jude, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John
  • 110s: Luke, Acts, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Peter, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus
  • 120s: 2 Peter

In my experience, when you read books in the order written, you notice things you would not otherwise see. Instead of a mishmash you get an unfolding.

Of the other bits of my 1851 media diet, I will continue to read The Economist and Frederick Douglass’ Newspaper from exactly 170 years ago in 1851.

Dropped from my 1851 media diet:

  • Books by Maria Stewart and Martin Delany because I do not have copies of them yet. I hope to read them in winter.
  • The diary of George Templeton Strong. Trying to read wide columns of handwritten text through a clunky image-dump interface is just too painful. The Economist and Douglass’ are archived in the same format, but they have printed columns of texts, so it is manageable.

– Abagond, 2021.

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Codex 2427 (Archaic Mark)

Codex 2427, also known as Archaic Mark, is a small, 88-page book of the Gospel of Mark with colourful pictures, dated to the 1300s. The opening pages is pictured above. In 1945, when its discovery was announced, Bible scholar Ernest Colwell of the University of Chicago said it preserved the Gospel of Mark:

“in a more primitive form than any other known manuscript”

Even though it was dated to the 1300s, the text closely matched that of the Codex Vaticanus of the 300s, but not exactly, so it seemed that the scribe was copying a yet older manuscript. It was considered one of the best ancient manuscripts of Mark. If you have a Catholic or Protestant Bible that was translated between 1993 and 2011, its Gospel of Mark was based in part on this book.

In 2006 the University of Chicago, which owns the book, put clear pictures of all 88 pages on the Internet. Within weeks it was found to be a fake! What Bible scholars did not see for 70 years was seen by an amateur, Stephen Carlson.

In 2009, Science Daily reported:

“A biblical expert at the University of Chicago, Margaret M. Mitchell, together with experts in micro-chemical analysis and medieval bookmaking, has concluded that one of the University Library’s most enigmatic possessions is a forgery.”

As if you needed all of that fancy science to tell it was a fake:

Just looking at the text you could tell that it was copied from a modern book. First, because it had some modern Greek words!!! Second, as Carlson noticed, the skips in the text do not match the lines of the narrow columns of ancient books, but the much longer lines of a modern book without columns. As it turned out, that book was:

Philipp Buttman’s 1860 Greek New Testament. Buttman was copying a copy of Codex Vaticanus and made 85 mistakes of his own. Archaic Mark copies 81 of those mistakes! And the skips match whole lines of text in his book.

All the “micro-chemical analysis” did was to narrow down when the copy was made. The parchment and leather cover were carbon-dated to about 1550, give or take 100 years. The ink was from some time after the early 1600s. But one of the paint chemicals, lithopone, was not available till 1874. The pictures were not retouched.

Archaic Mark comes from John Askitopoulos, an Athenian antiquities dealer. We do not know where he got it from. His family says it was found among his things after his death in 1917. It later made its way to the University of Chicago, which was hungry to build up its manuscript collection.

So the forgery was done sometime between 1874 and probably 1917. There were suspicions that it was a fake as early as 1947, but that did not stop it from becoming one of the “oldest and best” manuscripts of the New Testament from 1945 to 2006.

In 2012 it was stripped out of the footnotes of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, the 28th edition. Nestle-Aland is the version of the Greek New Testament that nearly all modern Catholic and Protestant Bibles translate – ESV, NIV, NAB, NASB, TLB, NRSV, etc.

– Abagond, 2021.

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Champaign: How ‘Bout Us


This song is probably way better known in the Netherlands than in their native US: in 1981 it was the number one song  there for 8 weeks, from May 30th to July 24th. In the US it went to #4 on the R&B chart, #12 on the pop chart. They are named after their hometown, Champaign, Illinois.

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Ooh, short and sweet
No sense in draggin’ on past our needs
Let’s don’t keep it hangin’ on
If the fire’s out, we should both be gone

Some people are made for each other
Some people can love one another for life
How ’bout us
Some people can hold it together
Last through all kinds of weather
Can’t we

Now don’t you get me wrong (watcha you saying to me baby)
‘Cause I’m not tryin’ now to end it all (let’s start something new)
It’s just that I have seen (what have you seen)
Too many lover’s hearts lose their dreams (we won’t lose it)

Some people are made for each other
Some people can love one another for life
How ’bout us
Some people can hold it together
Last through all kinds of weather
Can’t we

How about us, how about us baby
How about us, how about us baby
How about us, how about us baby

Are we going to make it girl
Or are we gonna drift and drift and drift together

Ohhhh love

Some people are made for each other
Some people are made for another for life, how ’bout us
Some people can hold it together
Last through all kinds of weather, tell me, can we

Source: AZLyrics.

9/11: Original TV broadcast

Exactly 20 years ago, here is what NBC showed on September 11th 2001 from 8.47am to 10.26am EDT (12:47 to 14:26 GMT). This is the one with Katie Couric.

What I remember: I was on my way to work on a bus in New Jersey headed for the Lincoln Tunnel to Manhattan. We had a new driver. He got lost and we were running late. We heard about the first plane and thought it was an accident. Then we heard about the second plane and knew it was not. A few minutes later we came up over the ridge near the tunnel and saw Manhattan laid out before us across the Hudson River. Just like in a poster – except that more smoke than I had ever seen in my life was coming out of the Twin Towers. The crisp blue morning sky somehow made it more horrifying.

The bus driver said the tunnel was shut down. We would have to turn back. A man on the bus started shouting, saying he had an important meeting to get to. What? He demanded the driver take him to the PATH train station. That was probably shut down too, but the driver let him off and turned the bus around.

Trying to call on the phone just gave the message, “all circuits are busy” – as if I were calling overseas, not home.

As we drove away from Manhattan you could see the huge plume of smoke until you could see it no more.

And then.

And then came the sickening news: one of Twin Towers had collapsed. And then the other one fell.

One of my childhood memories is seeing the cranes on top of the Twin Towers when they were building them. I thought they would stand for hundreds of years, long after I was gone. Like the cathedrals or pyramids or Stonehenge. It never once crossed my mind that I would outlive them. Not even when I saw them on fire.

And yet:

In 1992, a year before the first terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, I had a strange dream. Iraqi fighter jets were attacking New York. There was broken glass in the streets, smoke in the air, people screaming. I can still remember looking up and seeing the planes in the sky. I was hardly the only New Yorker who had strange premonitions like that.

Requiescant in pace.

– Abagond, 2021.

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Texas voting law of 2021

Governor Greg Abbott signs the new voting bill into Texas law, September 7th 2021.

The Texas voting law of 2021, aka SB 1, was signed by Governor Greg Abbott on September 7th 2021. Texas is one of 18 states to pass stricter voting laws in wake of the 2020 election. Texas already had the strictest voting laws in the  nation. Now they just got stricter.

Three lawsuits have already been filed to block it.

Democratic lawmakers tried to block it in July by leaving the state. That worked for 38 days, but then some of them returned and the legislature had enough members present to continue business – including passing a law that bans most abortions.


  • Poll watchers will have new powers.
  • Drive-thru voting – is now out for most voters.
  • 24-hour voting – gone. The state decides when polls can be open.
  • Drop boxes – gone.
  • Mail-in ballots can only be given to those who are 65 or older, have a disability or who will be out of the state during voting. And only if they ask for a ballot.
  • Early voting before Election Day (a Tuesday) will be extended, but:
  • Sunday voting: not before one o’clock.
  • Employers must let workers vote on Election Day or during early voting
  • Signatures: To vote you must sign your name in ink on paper and supply your driver’s license number, election identification certificate or the last four digits of your Social Security number (so that your signature can be compared to state records).
  • Helping someone to vote: If you help someone vote, you must give your name, address, relationship to the voter, say whether you were paid by a political party, and take an oath, under penalty of perjury.

Why: Much of this is fighting the last election, where Republicans saw mail-in ballots as the main threat (they made it too easy to vote. Wait till they hear about the Internet!), and where poll watchers and challenging signatures became two of the main ways to discredit close elections.

When Governor Abbot signed the law, he said:

“Election integrity is now law in the state of Texas.”

Yet, when the state attorney general spent millions of dollars looking for cases of voter fraud in the 2020 election, only a handful of cases turned up – in a state where 11 million voted.

The manifesto of the El Paso shooter, Patrick Crusius, son of Texas, is likely closer to the truth:

“The heavy Hispanic population in Texas will make us a Democrat stronghold. Losing Texas and a few other states with heavy Hispanic population to the Democrats is all it would take for them to win nearly every presidential election. … At least with Republicans, the process of mass immigration and citizenship can be greatly reduced.”

Texas has been a red state since 1980, but it is becoming decidedly purple. In 2016 and 2020, Trump scraped by on 52%. Thanks to the Southern Strategy, the Republican Party has hitched its wagon to the wrong demographic star: Anglos (non-Hispanic Whites). In about 2019 they became a minority among those who could vote in Texas.

States of Change: The Demographic Evolution of the American Electorate, 1974-2060, by the Center for American Progress, the American Enterprise Institute, and William H. Frey of the Brookings Institution. Via Vox.

– Abagond, 2021.

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Meet Addy

“Meet Addy” (1993) by Connie Porter is a book about Addy Walker, a fictional nine-year-old girl living in the US in 1864. It is the first of a series of books about her pre-teen experiences under slavery and freedom, during the American Civil War and after.

American Girl: Addy is an American Girl, with a capital G, part of a line of dolls sold by Mattel (they who also sell Barbie dolls). Addy was the fifth American Girl to come out and the first Black one. She came with this book. Like her, each Historical American Girl is age 8 to 11 and represents a particular ethnicity and period of US history. Each book they come with is a window onto US history through the eyes of a girl.

What a wonderful idea – but expensive! Addy and her book currently sell for $149.95 on Amazon. I remember parents complaining about this in the 2000s and it still seems to be true in the 2020s.

That said…

The book was way better than I expected. Though, to be fair, my expectations for children’s books and for books about slave times are at rock bottom. Nor am I a pre-teen girl, the target demographic. But it was such a relief not to have to tiptoe (too much) round fragile White egos or to see Blacks minstrelized. It can be done! Addy does not speak in Standard English, but neither does she speak in some horrid dialect of minstrelese. Whites are evil without being cartoonishly evil (the Racist Uncle trope). And it had way more depth than I expected. “Addy”, for example, is short for Aduke, the Yoruba name her great-grandmother had in West Africa before she was made a slave. It compares the Underground Railroad with the Middle Passage of slave ships – opposite yet alike.

Our story: I do not want to give it away, but the set-up is that Addy is a slave who lives on a tobacco plantation in North Carolina in 1864, far from the war.  It seems like the war will soon be over and the slaves freed. But meanwhile times are hard and masters are selling slaves to raise ready money. Poppa thinks the only way to keep the family together is to run. A station of the Underground Railroad is two days away on foot….

On hating White people: Addy wants to hate all White people after Certain Events take place. But Momma says it will eat her alive. For the good of herself and her family, she needs to be founded on love. Oh, and have that blank look when White people do something terrible.  Besides, Not All Whites are terrible – as proved by Miss Caroline, who runs the nearby station of the Underground Railroad.

Black dolls, of which Addy is one, are themselves part of US history. It was an experiment with dolls, of all things, which helped bring down Jim Crow: the Clark Doll Experiment. It found that even little Black children are affected by racism, so much so that most prefer a White doll over an identical Black doll.

– Abagond, 2021.

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Hurricane Ida

Hurricane Ida (2021) made landfall in Louisiana on Sunday August 29th 2021, on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It hit both New Orleans (August 29th) and New York City (September 1st).

Death toll: 77 in the US (53 in the north-east, 20 in Louisiana) and 20 in Venezuela. That counts both direct and indirect deaths – like people dying of carbon monoxide poisoning from their electric generators because Ida knocked out the power grid.

More powerful than Katrina: Ida made landfall as a Category 4. Katrina was “only” a Category 3. In fact, with wind speeds of 240 kph (150 mph), Ida is one of the three worst (best) in Louisiana history:

  • 1865: Last Island: 240 kph
  • 2020: Laura: 240 kph
  • 2021: Ida: 240 kph

To compare, Katrina made landfall in Louisiana with winds of 200 kph (125 mph).

By midnight Ida was down to a Category 1, by the next morning on August 30th it was downgraded to a tropical storm.

Bourbon Street in New Orleans, August 30th 2021. The light is from a TV crew.  Via 8News (David Grunfeld/The Advocate via AP)

New Orleans: Ida did not hit New Orleans directly – the eye passed 80 km (50 miles) to the west, but it knocked out the city’s electric power, leaving more than a million people without electricity. The city went mostly dark, though some of the skyline was still lit up because some buildings generate their own power. As of September 6th over 530,000 were still without power and the New Orleans skyline was still darkened.

Levees: The good news is that the city’s levees (flood walls) held. Half of New Orleans is below sea level. It was the failure of the levees in 2005 that made Katrina so horrifying. It wound up killing some 1,800 people. Since then billions of dollars have been poured into the levees to make them withstand a Category 3 hurricane (winds up to 208 kph). At least two levees outside the city failed, though.

Pandemic: Ida comes just as the Delta variant of the coronavirus has been surging in Louisiana, with hospitals nearly full. Some fear that evacuations will make the pandemic worse and wind up killing way more people than the hurricane itself. It already kills about 60 people a week. Only 40% of Louisiana is vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in the nation.

The north-east: By the time Ida reached the US north-east, some 3 days and 2,000 km later, it was just a huge rain storm – yet was far deadlier. It killed 53. And dumped 3.15 inches (8.00 cm) of rain on Central Park in just one hour, a record. Across the north-east, it set off flash flooding and tornadoes. One tornado touched down at Cape Cod. Another one killed a man in Pennsylvania. Tornadoes are unusual in that part of the country. Much of New York City’s subway and commuter trains were shut down. Ida interrupted the US Open.

The damage: Ida caused at least $50 billion in damage, which easily puts it in the top ten of the costliest Atlantic cyclones on record:

  1. Katrina, 2005: $175b (in 2021 dollars)
  2. Harvey, 2017: $139b
  3. Maria, 2017: $102b
  4. Irma, 2017: $86.0b
  5. Sandy, 2012: $81.7b
  6. Andrew, 1992: $53.1b
  7. Ida, 2021: $50.0b+
  8. Ike, 2008: $48.2b
  9. Wilma, 2005: $38.3b
  10. Ivan, 2004: $37.7b

So, roughly half as bad as Maria.

Climate change: No single hurricane can be blamed on global warming. But warmer waters in the tropics do mean stronger and more frequent hurricanes.

– Abagond, 2021.

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Latin Bible translations

Gutenberg Bible

Latin Bible translations (c. 180- ) were the main Bibles in the West till the 1500s and even today, in 2021, the Roman Catholic Church’s official text of the Bible is in Latin, though kept up-to-date with the latest in Bible scholarship.

Notable Latin translations through the years:

  • 180 AD: Vetus Latina or the Old Latin Bible. This was when people in Roman Africa, like Tertullian, are beginning to quote the Bible in Latin. And it was just about this time that Augustine said that half-educated Christian missionaries arrived there and did a cringey translation of the Bible – that even-less-educated Christians held as a model of good Latin! The most famous part, the Gallican Psalms, are pretty bad, but were so singable and so beloved and so informed the Latin Christian imagination, that even St Jerome had to begrudingly include (a revised version of) them in his famous translation:
  • 405: the Vulgate by St Jerome, his update to the Old Latin Bible to put it on a sound footing, something the Church could push. Some books he barely touched, like those of the Apocrypha, some of which which still bear traces of African Latin. But most of the Old Testament he translated from the Hebrew Masoretic text, not the Greek Septuagint. That is common now among Catholics and Protestants, but most Christians back then, and Eastern Orthodox today, follow the Septuagint. If it was good enough for St Paul, it was good enough for them!
  • 1455: the Gutenberg Bible: This was a version of the Vulgate. The keyword is “a” – because, amazingly, there was not yet a standard version of the Vulgate maintained by the Church. So the Gutenberg Bible had verses that Jerome probably did not, like 1 John 5:7-8 (the Johannine Comma) and angels troubling the water in John 5:4.
  • 1592: Sixto-Clementine Vulgate: Catholic scholars in the late 1500s tried to make sense of the mishmash of different versions of the Vulgate. In the end Pope Clement VIII (after a failed attempt by Pope Sixtus V) picked a text and made it official. It was not exactly what Jerome wrote, hardly, but the pope said it was close enough, confirmed by long use by the Church to be good for determining faith and morals.
  • 1975: Stuttgart Vulgate – a scholarly reconstruction of what Jerome wrote. There are few manuscripts of the Vulgate before the 800s, so (brace yourself) they sometimes go by the scholarly reconstructions of the Hebrew and Greek text, like the Nestle-Aland, to guess at Jerome’s translation. Like that horrifying “restoration” of the Last Supper in the 1950s.
  • 1979: Nova Vulgata – the current official version of the Vulgate.  Jerome corrected! Edited to be fully compliant with Catholic doctrine. The Church sees itself, not the Bible, as the ultimate source of truth. The idea of sola scriptura, that all religious truth must come from the Bible alone, is a Protestant teaching, not a Catholic one. The Nova Vulgata is informed by the Nestle-Aland reconstruction of the Greek New Testament. Nestle-Aland in turn quotes the Nova Vulgata!

So, in conclusion: Yikes!

– Abagond, 2021.

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Some now-lost books I had in 1981, with the covers I remember them having, listed from oldest to newest (based on year of first publication):

Aeschylus: Oresteia (-458) – in the Fagles translation. My favourite character by far: Cassandra! This is one of my favourite Greek books.

Augustine: City of God (426) – I was so impressed with his “Confessions” (398) that I bought this and slogged through it, in amazement. I can still remember reading it while waiting for my mother to get off work.

Martin Gardner: The Annotated Alice (1960) – has both Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (1865) and “Through the Looking Glass” (1871). Probably my favourite book at this point. More of a Bible to me than the Bible itself.

Isaac Asimov: Adding a  Dimension (1964) – a book of his science essays. Not only do I no longer have this book, neither does the library! I used to think books were forever. This book first came out in 1964, but, like most of my books, what I had was a paperback edition from the 1970s (pictured above).

Poul Anderson: Ensign Flandry (1966) – I bought this book on the strength of the cover and that my father liked Poul Anderson. But I could not get into it.

Larry Niven: Ringworld (1970) – Larry Niven used to be my favourite science fiction writer. I used to read his books like popcorn, but now I cannot bear them.

John G. Taylor: Black Holes: The End of the Universe? (1973) – where I first read about black holes at length. I remember reading this while my sister was reading “Dombey and Son” (1848) by Charles Dickens. Thanks to English class, I already hated Dickens.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (1974) – I loved dictionaries! I would spend hours just reading them. This was one of the ones I had.

Gerard K. O’Neill: The High Frontier (1976) – about building L5 space colonies equidistant from the Earth and Moon. Jeff Bezos was clearly a fan of this book too – he wants to build one!

World Almanac 1978 (1977) – I used to adore almanacs!

George Alec Effinger: Utopia 3 (1978) – I used this as an example of a terrible book in my post on How to find a good book: the 15 Year Rule.

Stephen King: The Stand (1978) – the first Stephen King book I read. I loved the deep blue cover.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr: Robert  Kennedy and His Times (1978) – at least two posts were partly inspired by this book: The Baldwin-Kennedy meeting and Robert Kennedy at Creighton University. Schlesinger worked on his 1968 presidential campaign and that is the best part of the book by far.

Carl Sagan, etc: Murmurs of Earth (1978) – his book about the Golden Record that was put on the two Voyager spacecrafts before they were sent out among the stars.

The Next Whole Earth Catalog (1980) – this book was so big that I used it to keep important papers flat. It also has plenty of book recommendations, like the space colony book listed above.

Compare these to the books I was made to read at school!

– Abagond, 2021.

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In 1970 this went to #4 on the US R&B chart, #2 on the pop chart. Four years later it went to #4 in the UK. It is a way better song than the 1963 original by Ruby and the Romantics. As you might imagine, in 1982 Stacy Lattisaw did a cover. Holman gender-switched the song, not Ruby or Stacy. Holman wanted to become a gospel singer, but his wife talked him into doing this song, thinking it would be a hit. And thus a one-hit-wonder star was born.

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Hey there lonely girl, lonely girl
Let me make your broken heart like new
Hey there lonely girl, lonely girl
Don’t you know this lonely boy loves you

Ever since he broke your heart you seem so lost
Each time you pass my way
Oh, how I long to take your hand
And say don’t cry, I’ll kiss your tears away

Hey there lonely girl, my lonely girl
Let me make your broken heart like new
Hey there lonely girl, lonely girl
Don’t you know this lonely boy loves you

You think that only his two lips can kiss your lips
And make your heart stand still
But once you’re in my arms you’ll see
No one can kiss your lips the way I will
The way I will

Hey there lonely girl, lonely girl
Let me make your broken heart like new

Hey there lonely girl, lonely girl
Don’t you know this lonely boy loves you
Don’t you know this lonely boy loves you
Hey there lonely, lonely, lonely lonely girl (lonely girl, lonely girl)

Source: Songfacts.

KJV Only

KJV Only (1930- ) is the belief that the King James or Authorized Version of the Bible (KJV/AV) is the only English translation that can be trusted. The key word is “only”. The KJV is not merely the “most” trustworthy English translation – but the “only” one! At least in this age.

Trying to separate the arguments that actual KJV Onlyists make from the straw man arguments of their opponents:

The argument goes like this, as I currently understand it:

  1. The Bible is the Word of God.
  2. God promised to preserve his word for each generation, not just for certain periods of history. For example, Psalm 12:6-7 says:

    “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.”

  3. Therefore the Bible is what has been passed down through the ages. Not what can only be found in manuscripts lost for hundreds of years.
  4. Therefore the Majority Text, based on what the majority of manuscripts say, should be favoured. Not the Critical Text, which is based on the oldest manuscripts, a text that is constantly updated as lost manuscripts are discovered.
  5. The KJV translates the Textus Receptus, a Majority Text. Nearly all other current English Bibles – like the NIV, ESV, NRSV, NAB, TLB, etc – translate the Nestle-Aland/UBS (NU), a Critical Text.
  6. Therefore the KJV only is the word of God in English.

In short: the KJV is what has come down to us (in the English-speaking world) through the ages. Literally. Therefore it is what God has promised to preserve as his word.

The Critical Text currently leaves out Mark 16:9-20 (where Jesus rises from the dead and talks about snakes), John 7:53-8:11 (where Jesus saves an adulteress from stoning) and more than a dozen other verses, like Acts 8:37, and parts of dozens more, like Luke 4:4 (see my post on the ESV for more such verses). If you have memorized one of the affected verses of the King James, it can be pretty horrifying seeing it (or not seeing it) in a modern translation.

The Majority Text: the Textus Receptus (TR) is a Majority Text, but there are others, like the one used by the Eastern Orthodox Church. The two most notable non-majority readings in the KJV are 1 John 5:7-8 (the Johannine Comma) and, ironically, Revelation 22:19. These seem to be outright mistakes! I will do a separate post on the Johannine Comma.

Near, but no beer: The NKJV and the MEV also translate the Textus Receptus. But KJV Onlyists find fault with them too, based on their translation of words. That said, the NKJV does seem to be a gateway drug to KJV Onlyism (maybe because of its footnotes).

The future: KJV Onlyists seem to understand that a clearly better English translation might come along one of these centuries. But part of the KJV’s appeal is its age, archaic language, and fixed, unchanging text – useful qualities for any book that claims to offer the wisdom of the ages.

– Abagond, 2021.

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Salafists in Tunisia in 2012.

Salafism (by 1900) is a fundamentalist form of Sunni Islam. Some Salafists are Islamists (believing in political Islam), some are jihadists (believing in violent Islam), but most are quietists. What Salafists or Salafis all have in common is wanting to Make Islam Great Again by following the example of their namesake, al-salaf al-salih, the “pious forefathers” of the first 200 years or so of Islam. For jihadists that means bringing back the Caliphate, the Muslim empire.

Examples: Al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, the Wahhabist rulers of Saudi Arabia. Maybe 6% of Egyptians.

Note: Salafists hardly have a monopoly on violence or protest. The Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, are not mainly Salafist. Most jihadists these days, though, do seem to be Salafists, but it is hardly a requirement. You can be Sufi and jihadist, for example.

Location: not just in Muslim-majority countries, but also in Western nations like the US, UK, and the Netherlands. And even in China – not just among the Hui, a Muslim ethnic group, but even among Han Chinese converts.

Follow the money: Saudi oil money is poured into Salafist mosques, madrasas (religious schools), and extremist groups.

Beliefs: Islam is corrupt and threatened by secularism. Muslims need to return to their roots, to go back to the Islam of the 800s: the Koran and the Sunna (the words and actions of Muhammad), and the example of:

Al-salaf al-salih (pious forefathers) include Muhammad and his Companions, their Successors, and the Successors of the Successors – roughly the years 622 to 855 AD (or 1 to 241 AH, up to the death of legal scholar Ahmad ibn Hanbal).

Mythic Past: Fundamentalists, whether Muslim, Christian or Jew, see themselves as returning to a Mythic Past. But their stripped-down, strict, literalist, purist form of religion probably never was. They are not “stuck in the past” – they are trying to recreate it! But their understanding of religion was rare before 1900. Fundamentalism seems to be a reaction to modernity and secularism.

  • for: sharia law, the veil, beards, long white robes.
  • against: Shias, Sufis, Coptic Christians, interest payments, alcohol, religious innovations.
  • maybe: terrorism – some condemn it, others practise it.

The three main kinds of Salafists:

  1. activists – believe in protest and politics to effect change. Kuwait, Egypt and Tunisia have Salafist politicians. Their big thing is sharia law. The political compromises needed to get anything done, though, can make them look like sell-outs. The Arab Spring of 2011 was their shining moment. After that failed, some activists became:
  2. jihadists – believe in holy war to bring back the Caliphate. The ISIS Caliphate of 2014-17 in Iraq and Syria was their shining moment. Trying to make a comeback in Afghanistan.
  3. quietists – leave it in God’s hands, not those of hotheads. They feel vindicated by the failure of ISIS and the Arab Spring. They favour preaching and religious education. And obeying the government no matter how crooked or tyrannical. Yet disgust with government seems to be part of what drives Salafism.

Most Salafists are quietists, but, almost by definition, they are not the ones who make the news.

– Abagond, 2021.

Sources: The Week (2019); Brookings (2016); The Economist (2015); Open Democracy (2012); “Encyclopedia of Islam” (2009) by Juan E. Campo.

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Trajan’s Column, 117 AD.

Punctuation through the years (using the same English text):

117 AD: The Roman alphabet had been invented (except for J, U and W), but not spaces between words:


The Library of Alexandria in the -200s had invented the counterpart to our comma, colon and period (full stop), but it did not catch on. Public speaking mattered way more than reading or writing. No one expected reading to be easy.



400s: The Roman Empire had been taken over by a cult based on a holy book – the Bible. Reading mattered. And paper was now much smoother – made of parchment not papyrus. Letters became smaller, more rounded, easier to read. And two bits of punctuation start to catch on: the space to show the end of a sentence or verse, and a raised dot, an early colon (shown here as a modern colon):

Andiesusansuueredhimsaying:itisuurittenthatmanshallnotliveby breadalonebutbyeueryuuordofgod


600s: The space ( ) is invented by Irish and Scottish monks. What geniuses! Reading was no longer a game of WordSearch:

And iesus ansuuered him saying: it is uuritten that man shall not live by bread alone but by euery uuord of god


800s: The period (.) starts to become common:

And iesus ansuuered him saying: it is uuritten that man shall not live by bread alone but by euery uuord of god.





1300s: Arabic numerals: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.

1400s: upper and lower-case letters (not just large letters at the beginning of sentences or paragraphs), the letter w, and exclamation marks!

And Iesus answered him saying: it is written that man shall not live by bread alone but by euery word of God.

1500s: Commas (,), semicolons (;), colons (:) and periods (.) to show pauses of increasing length, not syntax or grammar. And capitalization to show quoted text. This is just how they are used in the King James Bible to this day (thus its strange use of colons and semicolons).

And Iesus answered him, saying, It is written, that man shall not liue by bread alone, but by euery word of God.

Also: the apostrophe (‘) to show that letters have been dropped: can’t, couldn’t.

1600s: Question mark (?). And italics, a typeface invented by Aldus Manutius in 1500, now regularly used to show emphasis.

1700s: Now j’s and v’s appear as letters separate from i and u:

And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.


  • an apostrophe (‘) to show possessive s: “Seward’s folly”, etc.
  • And the dollar sign ($) by the 1770s.


1900s: Quotation marks (“) go back to the late 1600s, but do not begin to appear in Bibles till the middle 1900s:

And Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.'”

By 1927 there were already air quotes.

By 1955, “10%” becomes more common than “10 per cent” or “10 percent”.

2000s: emojis – on the Internet but not (yet in 2021) in books or formal writing.

– Abagond, 2021.

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Islamic State, Khorasan Province (2015- ) is also known in English as:

  • ISIS-K (CNN, NPR, New York Times, Washington Post, ABC News, Yahoo, Democracy Now, President Biden).
  • ISKP (Economist, Guardian, Aljazeera).
  • IS-K (BBC, CSIS).
  • ISIL-KP  (Wikipedia, UN).

By whatever name, it is the branch of the Islamic State or ISIS in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries. They are the ones who bombed the Kabul airport last week (on August 26th 2021), killing up to 170.

In 2017 when President Trump dropped the Mother of all Bombs in Afghanistan, it was dropped on ISIS-K.

Khorasan: They call the region Khorasan, the name it had during the glory days of the Caliphate (Muslim empire) that they want to bring back. The name also calls to mind the words of the Prophet Muhammad:

“If you see the black banners coming from Khurasan, join that army, even if you have to crawl over ice; no power will be able to stop them. And they will finally reach Baitul Maqdis [Jerusalem], where they will erect their flags.”

Size: 1,000 to 10,000, made up of Afghans, Arabs, Pakistanis, and others. As ISIS lost ground in Iraq and Syria, some of its fighters joined the Khorasan branch. So have some of the more extreme members of the Taliban. ISIS-K recruits veteran jihadists and alienated Muslim youth in the cities. From 2015 to 2020, the US killed many of their leaders and kept their numbers in check.

Tactics: Bombings mainly, even suicide bombings. Assassination and kidnapping too. Aims to create doubt and uncertainty about the government and other fighting forces.

Targets: police, military, government, journalists, aid workers, Shia Muslim schoolgirls, even maternity wards. Mainly in eastern Afghanistan, but also in Pakistan, India and (so far unsuccessfully) Europe.

Enemies: Taliban, Shia Muslims, the West.

  • It wants Afghanistan as a beach head for the Caliphate. The Taliban, who took it over in 2021, are not jihadists but “filthy nationalists” who sold out to (= made peace with) the West in “posh hotels” in Doha, Qatar. The Taliban outnumbers ISIS-K by at least 7 to 1. But in the past ISIS-K was mainly kept in check by US air power. If the Taliban asks the US for help, it will be a propaganda victory for ISIS-K.
  • Their terrorist attack in Europe in 2018 was thwarted.
  • It wants to lift “the Black Banner above Jerusalem and the White House”.

Funding: ISIS, and presumably smuggling: they are based in Nangarhar, near where drugs and people are smuggled in and out of Pakistan.

Ideology: Salafist and jihadist: They want to fight a holy war to restore the Muslim world to its glory days of the Caliphate in the 600s, militarily and spiritually. The appeal is to a Mythic Past: Make Islam Great Again. They want to return to the old-old-time religion, which they imagine as fundamentalist, strict and pure. In fact, fundamentalism was rare before 1900. Sees the Taliban as too soft on Shia Muslims, but ISIS-K’s strict sharia laws do not seem to win hearts and minds among mom-and-pop Afghans.

– Abagond, 2021.

See also:


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