(NOTE: THIS IS MY ACADEMIC SUBMISSION FOR A CLASS I AM TAKING TOWARDS MY DEGREE TO BECOME A TEACHER FOR SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN. IN THIS CORE CURRICULUM CLASS WE HAD TO WRITE TWO LITERARY ANALYSIS PAPERS, ONE FICTON AND ONE NON-FICTION THIS IS ONE OF THEM)
(by Christopher Fredrickson)
In the Seminaries there is some confusion that troubles Christian scholars and has for almost 2,000 years and that is how the 4 gospels are supposed to harmonize. There seem to be striking differences in the 4 when read as a literal text. So the Christian community decided there is a source which all the gospel writers copied from and from each other that they decided to call Q. Now first of all it must be noted that there is no evidence whatsoever that a Q source ever existed, none of the early commentators sourced a source named Q or a source which all the gospel writers copied from. This theory was taken out of mid air. What is the problem then? Are the gospels fake? Was the Bible written by fallible men who made many mistakes in the text? Or, was the hermeneutic much older than something in the 1st century? And are the gospels not supposed to “harmonize”?
Most scholars attribute the differences in the texts based on the supposed backgrounds of the 4 gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Now the thing that is interesting is that all but one of these guys had Jewish names. This tidbit of information helps greatly in his writing style. If we analyze the gospels from a literary perspective and from the vantage point of hermeneutic as well as who these people were, we see the reason why the number of people Yeshua (Jesus) fed varies and chronology differs.
There is an ancient hermeneutic known by the acronym PaRDeS (which is a Phoenician word meaning “Paradise”) but to Hebrew speaking individuals it has another meaning. It is an acronym for a Biblical hermeneutic known as Pashat, Remez, Drash and Sod. We will get into what exactly these mean as we progress.
The book of Mark, is very linear, which would make sense it is written on the hermeneutic level of Pashat, which is the literal form of interpretation. We see Mark go into great detail in the when Yeshua (Jesus) healed the paralyzed man, he paints a picture for you that you can visualize literally the events happening. Mark is the shortest gospel and he is writing his gospel as though he were reporting stories for a newspaper. Everything is cut and dry with Mark this is why he uses amazing detail in terms of the surroundings and the places Yeshua was at, the things that were said to him, how he responded etc. You can read Mark like a novel and the spiritual message is cut and dry within Mark.
The book of Luke is written on the level of Remez. Remez means the “hint” level of hermeneutic. You are given a taste of something but not the full meaning, it is almost like subliminal messages being inserted into the text. Putting something familiar in a text to make you think of something else. It is like if one were to write a book and they would pay homage to the Wendy’s corporation by inserting the lines “where’s the beef?” in the story. Adding that phrase would direct the reader to think of Wendy’s and the old commercial indicating that there was hardly any meat on her sandwich. Luke does the same thing. In chapters 1-2 Luke is inserting the prophecies of Zechariah, directing them to read Zechariah to understand the message he is giving. He does the same thing in Luke 1:7 where he says, “But they had no child, because Elisheva was barren…” Luke is pointing to Genesis 11:30 where it makes note of Sarah not being able to conceive. Luke is trying to show immaculate conception and the parallel to understand story and forcing the reader to use research as opposed to Mark who hands it to the reader on the plate. Luke kind of speaks like Yoda from Star Wars essentially.
Luke is likened to that of a level of jewish writings known as “Mishna”, mishna means repetition. This is why Luke keeps harboring back to the previous sources to give people the correct connotation of what is going on, so they do not split up into 30,000 denominations. Luke is essentially saying you need to know and apply the old to understand the new. Mark does not do this. This would be likened to the old testament book of Deuteronomy which is considered a “mishna torah” (a repetition of the Torah, where the same laws are mentioned throughout but given more clarity and also pointing to the Sanhedrin saying “these guys have authority to tell you how to do these things if they are not covered here”) .
The next step in the Rabbinic ladder is the gemara, which parallels the book of Matthew and the Drash level of interpretation. The drash is the sermon level of interpretation known in Judaism as “Midrashim”. What the Gemara does then, is he explains the repetition (the mishna) and has the foundation as the pashat. It s like, if a scroll written in Hebrew has the letter tzadi written like ץ at the beginning of a word instead of צ the question would be asked, “was this a mistake that the sofit version of the letter tzadi ץ was at the beginning instead of the beginning form of the letter tzadi צ or is there a message being given to us because it is upright at the beginning as opposed to the end of the word (brief tidbit here: there are letters called sofit in Hebrew that have a different form if they appear at the beginning or the middle of a word than they do at the end of a word as the last letter, the tzadi is one of them). The drash level text has these textural anomalies often indicating there is another message beneath the text through the letters and through the message itself. Now it must be noted that the gospels were originally written in Aramaic via the Khabouris Codex but Aramaic follows the same rules as Hebrew. You find a lot of word play in the Aramaic you don’t find in the other gospels that have confused the greek translators because they didn’t understand this level of hermeneutic. Such as Matthew 19:24 Yeshua says, “it is harder for a rich man to get into heaven than for a gamala to go through the eye of a needle. Now, in Aramaic you have half vowels as opposed to whole vowels. The greek translators rendered it gamla as opposed to gamala, thinking it said “camel” as opposed to “heavy rope”. When properly translated to “heavy rope, through the eye of the needle” there is a spiritual dimension that is given to the text that it didn’t have before. Because, in the drash level of hermeneutic you have to think about the process. One has to ask, “did Yeshua say it was impossible for a rich man to get into heaven?” G-d forbid. Instead, he said it was really hard, so if you think of a heavy rope, a heavy rope is made up of many strands forming a sturdy rope, which represents financial strength but if a person takes a strand at a time they can fit that heavy rope through the eye of a needle. Showing the rich man must not be controlled by his wealth and he must unravel it as a safeguard one strand at a time. (As a side note my argumentative paper may be on Aramaic vs Greek Primacy).
To understand the Drash level a person first of all must understand the first 2 levels of hermeneutic (Pashat and Remez) and they must also know idiomatic expression such as “snakes a vipers” (Matthew 23:33) if it was meant as the level of insult Christians claim it is then why would he say to listen to them and do as they say 20 verses previously in Matthew 23:3? It would seem to be a contradiction correct? But the fact is it isn’t because because even the Rabbis of the Orthodox call each other “snakes and vipers” meaning their theological strike comes through the knowledge in the head as opposed to the heart. Though it was an insult it wasn’t like calling someone a “piece of crap” in today’s time.
Finally there is the Sod level of hermeneutic which is the gospel of John, as well as Revelation and several other “mystical” books of the Bible. The Sod level is the mystical level of interpretation. It uses a lot of numbers and word play. This is why John’s census numbers do not align with Mark’s, because John’s is not an actual number. They deal with gemaria values (which is saying that each letter represents a number and you add up the numbers in a word to reveal a parallel or message). Take for instance John 3:14 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness so must the son of man be lifted up”. Now there is a parallel here, because the semitic word for snake is “nachash” has a gematria value of 358, the word Mashiach (meaning Messiah) also has a gematria value of 358.
With the Sod level texts, you cannot get the full meaning from a translation either. You have to go back to the original texts and languages. One example of this is the first line in John, which is “Bereishit atohi hwa miltha….” Most render this as “in the beginning was the word.” Though technically correct it does not render but ¼ of the meaning. Because the word “miltha” has several meanings all of which are correct and each one the reader is expected to know and understand. The word “miltha” means “manifestation, word, instance and substance.” The greek translation which renders “logos” has taken away a great deal of the meaning thus causing the text to not fully be understood.
With these writing styles, through the hermeneutic process of PaRDeS we can think of it as the Pashat being like a child’s understanding and having a pop-up book being read to them. They can visualize easily what is being said. The Remez being like the old Boxcar Kids books, which were novels written on the elementary school level to young teens level. The Drosh is like your James Patterson and the popular authors today. Obviously, language skills are defined at this time. Then the Sod is likened unto Einstein’s paper presented to his acclaimed peers in the science community .
These premises are not understood in the western world, because the seminaries teach the same as the academic world from elementary school through low level college classes as the world being linear and thought patterns linear. Voiding the texts of any internal meaning. This is why the sages of Judaism said, “cursed is any man who teaches greek or raises swine and teaches greek wisdom.” Now this was said to the Jewish community not to the rest of the world, keep this in mind. Linear thought, does not work in Biblical hermeneutic, otherwise we have issues for instance when it says in Exodus 33:20 “But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live." But in Exodus 33:11 it says “The L-RD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.” But when student must write their senior thesis or they take a philosophy course, then they see through Jewish thought in many ways because they see the world as three dimensional in the hermeneutic of life.
One can tend to see the greek mind is the knowledge one obtains in school to become a surgeon, they learn where the heart is and all the vital organs. But the Jewish mind kicks in when they actually do surgery and there are judgment calls that need to be made. They learn and develop through seeing things as three dimensional and endless in terms of possibility and practice. Dr Ben Carson for instance was able to separate siamese twins successfully by looking beyond the textbook and applying the foundation and building off of it. Taking the established things that may not seem on the surface to be interconnected such as “math’ and “english” and applying the two together when the action must be carried out.
It can also be compared to the formation of a soft drink, Coca Cola and Dr Pepper are both soft drinks correct? They have similarities, even though Dr Pepper is an independent bottling company, and Coca Cola is made by Coca Cola Corp. many of the ingredients are the same, though they may taste very different. Both still classify as a soft drink. Thus, all 4 gospels are not based on a mystical Q source but rather the Torah (aka the Pentateuch) and one goes down the rabbit trail deeper than the other. Though all 4 are true, each was written on a level of understanding and interpretation. Would Fonzie be saying “Eyyyyyy” in the 21st Century if they were to remake Happy Days and Fonzie was in his 50s? Would he be wearing a leather jacket or Dr Shouls?
Let me conclude with saying, I am not speaking in any way shape or form Unitarianism, like that would matter in an academic setting anyway. But what I am saying is an incompatible hermeneutic or a “make it up as you go along” mentality doesn’t work when doing a textural analysis of ancient texts. There is a different level and dynamic that is often ignored. When a person takes a 1st Century text they cannot analyze it without looking at how people at that time would have written and analyzed it. But sadly today, the Biblical “academic” community such as the CBL do just that. It is like saying, “why didn’t Herman Melville give his protagonist a speed boat or a military vessel in Moby Dick with sonar gear to track down that whale?”. If I wrote that paper in a college they would find me to be a nit-wit and I would fail that paper horribly.
Therefore, I would conclude with this paper in saying, that one thing we have yet to cover in this class and the text book doesn’t say which I personally think it should; is when doing literary analysis one must take into account where the author resided, where he received his education, what time period he existed in, cultural implications to his writing style and the language which his text was originally in. If a person analyses any paper in this fashion, they will in turn get more out of their academic achievements because they can back up their theories on the texts in question.
(NOTE: THIS IS MY ACADEMIC SUBMISSION FOR A CLASS I AM TAKING TOWARDS MY DEGREE TO BECOME A TEACHER FOR SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN. IN THIS CORE CURRICULUM CLASS WE HAD TO WRITE TWO LITERARY ANALYSIS PAPERS, ONE FICTON AND ONE NON-FICTION THIS IS ONE OF THEM)
(by Christopher Fredrickson)
Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, by today’s standards seemed that when it was written in the 1800s could have been a revolutionary publication. It is considered very “out of the box” and imaginative. Yet, it is very possible that the literary masterpiece, which is, Frankenstein actually dates back 100 years before Mary Shelly was even born, with the legend of the Golem of Prague.
The story of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is about a doctor (who is named Frankenstein….the monster is not named Frankenstein) who reanimates a dead corpse using things at his disposal. His experiment is successful and the monster is created. The monster reeks havoc among the people in the village and call for the head of the monster.
Mary Shelly then humanizes the monster, which is something that was indeed revolutionary at the time, there were glimmers of gentleness in the monster when he approached children. This was unheard of, and I think it is possible that Mary Shelly was influenced by the history of Petrus Gonsalvus, a man who lived in the middle ages that had a condition known as Ambras Syndrome. Ambras Syndrome is a condition that causes a person to be covered in hair from head to toe. Petrus was captured and jailed in Spain, and the guards and scientists discovered he had human like characteristics though he was on the cusp of being feral. But luckily he was a child, they found he possessed intelligence and gave him an education. He then was made a nobleman, despite his appearance. He was given a wife by the queen of amazing beauty and they had children together. Sadly the children were sold by the rulers as “pets” essentially. But a people they found to be “beasts” and have been recorded as “beasts” since the dawn of time in the instance of Petrus Gonsalvus was considered to be slightly human for the first time. And this is where you get the story of Beauty and the Beast. Yet this hasn’t been done in a literary source as of yet, and it is a trend that has continued and influenced many other great novels and movies, so with this we can give Mary Shelly credit in this respect.
However the entire story of Frankenstein, was “borrowed” with literary license obviously taken, from something that the Jewish community still maintains actually happened in the 16th Century with the story of the Golem of Prague. The story of the Golem was not written down till many years after the supposed event. And since that time, countless authors have battled over whether this happened or whether it was just folklore. The story is a very bizzare story, yet at the same time, there are indeed evidences that it is possible these events happened.
The story starts in Prague, in Prague the Jewish community is under attack by the Catholic community. At this time Europe became predominantly Catholic and when you look at the history of Constantine, The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust you see the Catholic Church has not taken to kindly to the Jewish people. This was the case in Prague, the Bishops of the church would blame the Jewish leaders whenever disappearances of Catholic children saying that the Jews used the blood of Catholics to make their matzah bread. This is something the Muslims now claim against the Jews as well. The Jews refused to leave, despite this. Then physical violence broke out, many Jews were murdered in the village of Prague during the curfew hours. No witnesses, came forward because all stayed inside. When Rabbi Loew (also known as the Maharal of Prague) found that several of those in his congregation had been arrested for crimes they did not commit, he set out to put a stop to it.
The story goes that the Maharal (Rabbi Loew) went into the woods with his son in-law and some say they drew the figure of a man in the sand, others say they built a man out of mud, they went in a circle around the figure or mudman and recited the 72 letter name for G-d found in the book of Exodus (known as the Shemhamphorasch). On the forehead of the mud man they wrote the word אמת (emet: meaning in Hebrew “truth”). And the mud man came to life. The mud man for the most part was under the control of the Maharal. But it became increasingly harder for the Maharal to control the golem (which is what the mud man was “golem” is the Hebrew word for a beast without a soul, the word is used in Isaiah and in the book of Revelation when it comes to “The Beast”). The golem’s job was to protect the Jewish people and the children of Prague from the persecution that was happening. The golem would wander the streets after curfew and intimidate the judge in the courts by sitting in the court room with a blank stare.
But the golem, like Frankenstein, got out of control. The Maharal could no longer control the golem. The golem started to destroy structures and scare the people. Now the golem, “lived”, in a room above the synagogue. During one service the Golem was making a lot of noise and caused the chandeliers to shake, the noise was over powering. So the Maharal left the service went upstairs to the room of the Golem and erased the letter א from the head of the golem, rendering the word מת (Met: which in Hebrew means “death”) and the golem turned into a pile of sand and died.
The similarity of the stories, are that you have a monster that was created by a person of high education, yet the understanding of the human intellect no matter how brilliant they may be cannot create life by unnatural means that functions at the same caliber as the Creator. The only real difference between the two stories were the attempts to make the creature discussed human in some way. Mary Shelly was able to humanize Frankenstein’s monster to a level of degree in which you feel sorry for the monster. The story has made it’s way into modern culture as a social commentary almost in sociological circles. The golem however, did not possess these characteristics, though I am sure, many of the Jewish community were thankful for the service of the golem they were happy he was killed by the Maharal.
This also brings about a stark difference in social commentary. One could say that the story of Frankenstein is to see the human element and to embrace the differences and that is why the death of the monster in Frankenstein was seen as tragic despite the fact it reeked havoc on the people and killed a little girl. The story of the Golem of Prague however, has cast speculation in Jewish communities on the Kabbalist Maharal. He was considered a great man till this point. In fact, in his most popular work Derech Chaim (The Way of Life), which was a commentary on a tractate in the Talmud called Pirkei Avos (The Ethics of the Fathers) is something that has been studied for over 300 years in Jewish Yeshivot (schools). It is considered one of the greatest commentaries of oral Torah (law) ever written.
The lesson in the story of the Maharal however is very much different. It is saying that a man cannot play G-d. The Jewish sages in the Zohar say that Hashem (G-d) puts a divine spark into each thing he creates, an eternal nefesh (soul) that exemplifies their personality and causes it to be. The golem had no personality, thus he wasn’t considered “living” a stark difference to Frankenstein’s monster, the doctor exclaimed in those famous words “it’s alive.” The golem may have been animated but he wasn’t alive. He was essentially a robot who had his motherboard messed up and went haywire.
The social commentary of both of these stories are both applicable. If we render social acceptance as the message of Frankenstein, or if we render that man cannot create a soul from the story of the Golem of Prague. This is actually a moral dilemma that has been going on for close to 20 years since the cloning of the first sheep to embryonic vs adult stem cell research. This is a constant social commentary in which no matter how archaic it may seem from the stories of Frankenstein and the Golem of Prague, both of these stories have lived on in their respected communities because of the wars of acceptance and who has the authority to create life outside of natural means. Both also have extreme views as well that have been implanted into them in the 21st Century.
These extreme views are ones that we see in movies and television and other media and alternative media today. We live in a society where the most popular series on Netflix is The Making of a Murderer, where they try and humanize this monster of a person who slaughtered a woman and make him out to be the victim. This is like saying that “Hitler was just misunderstood.”
The other, would be those who push against modern medicine and say that it is poison. As an individual who is a type 1 diabetic I thank G-d for the advances in modern medicine. One individual once told me because I take insulin I am being kept alive artificially and thus my soul has departed from me and I am no more than a Golem. This is ridiculous and crazy talk.
The fact of the matter is that there is a balance where the stories of Frankenstein and the Golem of Prague and when read objectively through the messages of acceptance and the ideal of who creates life and has the authority over it then we can see the truth of the matters are in the grey matter. As we get older, we realize that truth אמת (remember that word emet?) is in the grey 90% of the time, and only 10% of the time black and white.
(by Christopher Fredrickson)
My Instagram and Twitter has blown up with people going to see this new movie "Risen". Many telling me, "this is the most accurate film about Biblical events that has ever been made." I found it interesting because most people in Christianity and the Hebrew Roots condemn any movie that comes out about Biblical things because they tend to not fit the story the way they want to interpret it. Most still think still on this linear greek aspect that the linear greek, pashat only way of seeing the Scripture is the only way to see it, based on their own viewpoint and anyone else's be damned.
Because of my education I didn't see the movie Noah as the huge abomination most in the Hebrew Roots and Christianity did, because I praised how in the movie Noah they took much from the information found in the Talmud and the Zohar and Jewish thought in terms of the story of Noah. How the rock men were a symbolism of the golem, which is actually a parallel to the beast of Revelation, how they showed the heathens eating live animals, which is the way goyim (heathens) are presented in Biblical literature and Jewish thought, and Noah making teffilfin from the snakeskin of the serpent from the garden is straight from the Zohar. I had never seen such a jewish movie in my life. Most however thought, "these were things added into the story of Noah from the film makers" it simply isn't so. So I was curious about this new movie, Risen. The trailer looked interesting and so I went to it, thinking I would be pumping my fist in the air because of authenticity. Sadly, I couldn't do that.
The premise of the film is wonderful, The premise is about stopping a revolt because Yeshua said he would be resurrected from the dead. When this happens Clavius, a Roman soldier, sets out to get the facts on this matter. He works side by side with Pontus Pilate. When the film ends, he becomes a follower of Yeshua and travels with the disciples of Yeshua. Sounds great right?
The issue is, the move presents the Romans to be the truth seekers, and the Jews as paying off people to left and right to say that Yeshua's body was stolen. They make the Jewish people look like the ones cutting all the deals and the Romans (including Pilate) as people who are just searching out for truth and those Jews are the trouble makers. The Passion of the Christ had hints of anti-Semitism, lets be honest, but the anti-Semitism in this movie, Rising, is 5x more obvious and in your face compared to the Passion of the Christ. I would dare say, the Passion of the Christ is a more Jewish movie by far than Rising.
I think the thing that got many people excited about this movie in the Hebrew Roots is the sacred name usage in the film. Any sacred name film or documentary they are quick to put their stamp of approval on and dismiss anything else. They were taken in awe that a variation of the 4 letter name of G-d was used every 2 minutes in the film and they rendered the Messiah as Yeshua as opposed to Jesus. Because of their feeling of validation for use of the sacred name of G-d in this film they see the film as something that shows the world "see I am right and Hollywood confirms it." Too many in the Hebrew Roots find that the use of the 4 letter name of G-d and the variation they choose is a salvational thing, not walking out the Torah (which the Torah isn't mentioned once in the film). These two things made me almost leave the theater several times, but I stuck it out.
Another major issue, is chronology. Many of the stories in the gospels before his death were presented as though they happened after his death, this is going to confuse many people first of all. Another thing is that the actors that played his disciples looked and acted like they were taken out of Woodstock and placed in this movie. The hippie vibe was prevalent in the way the disciples were depicted in this film. The one why played Bartholomew has the most lines out of any disciple and looked like he was stoned with acting, and it almost seemed like that is how they wanted to make the disciples seem, as stoned out hippies.
The film also does what was a staple of Hollywood, which has made it's way not the pulpits saying that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. Sadly, there is no indication of this in any of the Scriptures or even Jewish commentaries. This ideal was propagated in the early 20th century by the Hollywood. Not only does the film say she was a prostitute but still was a prostitute after the resurrection of Yeshua. Not only this but it has Mary Magdalene as being the teacher of the disciples after the resurrection.
To the film's credit on the other hand, the production was great, it was visually wonderful but it relied on style as opposed to substance. I do not give this film high marks at all, I personally found it to be horribly inaccurate and deeply anti-semitic and rather liberally political above all else.
I was recently interviewed for an article in Slate Magazine, they interviewed 5 podcasters who had been around from the beginning essentially, and in their words, "Podcasters who had gained a level of notoriety and following." I was honored to be interviewed. Only parts of the interview will be featured in the publication but here is the entire interview done through email correspondence.
Jennifer: Today with us we have Christopher Fredrickson, who has been one of the few podcasters to still be going strong after 12 years. Here to talk to us about the podcasting experience. Christopher, what kinds of changes have you seen in the podcasting market and brand?
Christopher: Well Jennifer, in all honesty not much has changed. Hosting companies have come and gone, the choices are more massive, Dr Laura is now doing podcasts exclusively and has left terrestrial radio, you have Adam Corolla falling in line and I think there is a bit of bubble right now in the branding.
Jennifer: What do you mean a bubble?
Christopher: Well, there is a show on Netflix called Maron, it is about the failed Air America host Mark Maron, and he is zealous over the fact he does a podcast in his garage. Now it almost seems ridiculous that he thinks he is something special because he has a podcast. The fact is, though it seems ridiculous, this is how most podcasters are these days. Mark Maron, actually does have a popular podcast and he is actually that way. He has this attitude like, “I have a podcast so what do you know?” When the fact is any kid with $12 can buy a microphone and have a podcast. Lets be honest here, if you go to the popular podcast servers you will find some beautifully produced programs that do not fit the format of terrestrial radio, but the top 3 in most categories are either brand new people, and maybe one who has been podcasting for 3 years and everything below there are programs of shows of people who thought it was cool for a few months and then they drop off the face of the earth. They haven’t produced anything for years. And the mentality of podcasters has changed in the past decade.
Jennifer: How so?
Christopher: Well, when I first started, podcasts were like audition tapes for terrestrial radio. Now it is working backwards and it is really bizarre. I started doing a conservative political podcast over a decade ago. My goal was to get a shot in terrestrial radio. At that time there were like a dozen podcasts for conservative politics, there was basically me, a guy named Mr L, and another guy who called himself David Cholesterol and that was about it. All of us, except for DC were basically auditioning and polishing our craft for terrestrial radio. I got a shot, and am in terrestrial radio now teaching on Judaism and the New Testament, but it didn’t happen over night. Now, I mentioned Dr Laura before, she is now doing podcasts and attempting to make a living off of podcasting. And lets be honest, she is not going to make Rush Limbaugh money or Howard Stern money podcasting. Because the advertisers are not there, and the fact is, she doesn’t even have a fraction of the audience she used to have and advertisers drop like flies because the volume of the audience isn’t there. Now people do podcasts and don’t have any ambition to go onto terrestrial radio. I have 3 AM and FM affiliates now, and I am still working to get better to get more affiliates, internet radio and podcasting the archives are still to me audition tapes for terrestrial radio spots.
Jennifer: So you don’t think podcasting is the future of broadcasting?
Christopher: Let me ask you, how many advertisers are looking to invest in podcasters? They are still paying out millions to terrestrial radio and satellite radio. When I mentioned before the bubble, look at how many podcasts are out there, it is a big pond and only a few fishing lines, if you say you want one out of a million fish in that pond and it has to be that specific fish, you are going to millions of others going after the same piece of food on the line. Like I said there was maybe a dozen conservative politic shows when I started and now there are thousands. Now I teach Messianic Judaism, most haven’t heard of Messianic Judaism but there are hundreds and hundreds of podcasts of “Messianic Jewish teachers” and only a dozen or so are actually qualified to be teaching and out of that dozen only maybe 3 are any good.
Jennifer: Do you put yourself in that 5?
Christopher: I walked right into that one didn’t I? Ummm, I would say that I do ok. I’m the middle ground. I think I am above the fray in quality considering the massive amounts I have spent in equipment in that respect. In production, my show doesn’t need to be flashy because it is broadcasted on terrestrial radio and they are not looking for Game of Thrones on radio, terrestrial radio is a different animal. In terms of my qualifications, I think I definitely have had the training the qualifies me to talk about what I do, which doesn’t mean I don’t have to correct myself at times, but at least I am honest and say, “I was wrong” when I am, and yes I have done that. I am just gonna say, I do ok.
Jennifer: From our RSS feed statistics you do very well in the listenership.
Christopher: Well, lets be honest here, I was also one of the very few teaching a Messianic Jewish podcast when I got into teaching on the podcast and radio. There may have been 30-40 at the time and I was one of them, but I am one of the few who has not quit. So I have massive archives, thousands of shows, on any topic you can think of, so if someone is searching for something Jewish or about the New Testament on iTunes….boom chances are Brutal Planet will pop up. Most search subjects some search people but most search subjects. People also find comfort in knowing that I have been doing this so long that I am not gonna just quit abruptly, so they know they are not wasting their time subscribing and then I leave them high and dry after they have started to enjoy the show. These are things that have worked in my favor and plus I think the knowledge I have on the subject.
Jennifer: Why do you think you have lasted as long as you have? And do you feel you will eventually quit.
Christopher: I think that feeling of excitement of being behind the mic still after all these years is one of the reasons. I have also never been a quitter, I started out horribly. If you heard my first few years of recordings, you would say, “this guy is horrible.” And I honestly was, and it is that drive to always get better at things I am not so great at. People now tell me I am a natural at it, and that would be true if I started doing this yesterday but the fact is I have been doing this over a decade, and I worked hard to get decent. And I think I always want to get better, I find myself reading a lot on the things I teach and I always get the “ooo ooo” moments when I see something others are not talking about or I haven’t heard other teachers talk about and that is always something that puts excitement in me to get behind the mic. Will I ever quit? I have tried in the past, but I cannot walk away now. There may be a time when I say, “ok that’s it…there is no more to say.” Or there may come a time when other things are more important in my personal life…..and then I will make that decision. When I do, it will be when I have no reservations of quitting. But I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
Jennifer: You have made the jump to video podcasting?
Christopher: Well, there is a podcast feed for my videos it is secret really and I use it for Nashama Chochmah Television, the reason it isn’t “official” is because the feed is filmed in 720p HD for the TV station in the on-demand section, that is the reason it was created. If a person subscribes to the video version on their tablets or phones it will eat up all their space because of the big file sizes, which ultimately hurts you in the long run in terms of your numbers.
Jennifer: Do you feel video podcasting is going to be the future?
Christopher: I think many are loosing interest in video podcasting because YouTube is so massive an you don’t have to eat up your storage space an your data usage on your cell phone plans replenish every month. The same is not true for hard drive space. Now with that being said, technology is advancing, what I would like to see happen, and I think Apple would be the company to do this. I would like to see hard drives become a thing of the past and everything go to Cloud servers. I didn’t get the cloud concept until recently when I switched to all Mac products and it is incredible. I don’t think that technology is far off either. Say you buy a laptop, and your laptop will have a limited amount of storage for when you are not connected to the internet to run applications, when you are connected things go automatically into the cloud and can be accessed on any device and you pay a certain fee each month or year and you can upgrade from 1 terabyte to 2 when you have filled the 1 terabyte. If that happens, then I think it would be a slight push for more video podcasts. But I don’t think it will ever be at the level that audio podcasts have been or can be. And the reason for that is because we like radio, that sounds simplistic but if a person is watching a video in their car then they are gonna have problems. Mp3s are compact they are small, and they are quickly downloaded for those long road trips. But you also have another side of the equation as well, audio technology in terms of podcasting has not changed much in the past decade….other than some servers coming and going. But the video technology is coming along quicker. It has a ways to go still. You can buy an HD movie on iTunes and it is going to look wonderful on your HD TV but it still is not gonna compare to the Blueray. But I think that technology will progress because of devices like the Roku and the AppleTV and the Chromecast and all the others. When you see the major networks such as CBS and NBC and Fox getting contracts with Hulu as well as launching their own on-demand channels on these devices…..I think cable will soon be a thing of the past because of things like SlingTV and USTVNow. But also there is a wall right now in terms of this progressing, new file formats are going to have to be created to make better quality video smaller for what is about to happen. In Japan right now they are making TVs that are double the quality of 1080p HD televisions we have today here in the states. Now for me to film a 1 hour teaching in 1080p that is a 1.5 GB file, it is massive and take hours to upload and it takes a while to buffer and it may have to buffer a while and then you pause it so it is not interrupted and then you have to hit play after it loads a little, everyone is familiar with this. Now, what happens when these televisions become the craze over here and makes you current HD TV look like an old black and white television? Well these streaming companies are going to have to up their game with…..bigger file sizes which means more buffering and more hard drive space being used. Right now, the internet services cannot handle it, they simply can’t. But in order for this technology to come here and for you to be able to watch Netflix on your TV the internet companies are gonna have to go to new cables and redo their entire systems to support this. This will also translate to higher monthly fees. You have numerous technologies that have to work together. YouTube has to rely on their servers, you rely on their servers as well as your device and your internet speed. Though YouTube us not a podcasting outlet, you see how all these things have to work together and when you incorporate new technologies that are being made every day, all these rely on each other and they have to move in sync with each other. So it is really complicated.
Jennifer: I know you do videos of your podcast also. This is why I ask. You have 150,000 weekly downloads with the podcast how do those compare to the videos? The Alexa numbers show big waves are made with your podcast.
Christopher: Well if we are up to 150,000 then they have gone up, I thought we were at 120,000 last time I looked. And the fact is the video numbers are not even close. I get 10% of those numbers on the videos. And this could be for numerous reasons. One being I have a face for radio, the second could be that I am on 4 radio affiliates, and only one television outlet that is only available on the Roku. And also, again it is more compact the mp3s. There is also the reasons of podcast feeds as opposed to stand alone videos where you have to go to a website to see them manually, there are many factors. Also…I don’t think the technology is there just yet….it is close, but not quite there yet. And it’s funny I work backwards compared to most. I use the videos to promote the mp3s, not the other way around. Because you have to ask, “how do I build an audience?” most say “social media”, and I am not on social media. It is about venues it is about distribution, now I a personally not a fan of YouTube, YouTube works great for many but not for me. Before my YouTube was hacked I had only 600 subscribers on there and YouTube really limits your capabilities. But I used to put them there anyway but I didn’t push the YouTube, I think Vimeo is where the serious promoter goes. Vimeo has a better format and they allow people to download the videos in various formats and so I put them on Vimeo, it is far superior for what I do and accessibility. I think in 10 years you will see YouTube fade and Vimeo will be the standard for stand alone videos.
Jennifer: What advice do you have for freshman podcasters?
Christopher: Consistency, consistency, consistency. Here is the reality. Many believe that they will do a few episodes and it will get amazingly popular because they have something interesting or important to say or because they have wonderful production, that is not enough. Consistency is what will help you retain an audience and help you build an audience. If they rely on a new show every week, and you do a show every week, you better do it, the first week you don’t you are at risk of loosing many listeners. Many of those who listen to podcasts see someone has not done an episode in the time span they usually have a new one up, they subconsciously feel the podcaster has quit because it happens so often. Even if you are behind, put a 2 minute podcast up explaining why a new episode will be late and that will help. Secondly, do not think you will get an audience at the beginning, you may get 30 subscribers the first month, don’t worry, know building an audience takes time. You mentioned my numbers before, when I first started I had like 12 subscribers in the first month. But, I kept at it and I changed formats to something that worked and I changed formats many times, I realized I needed to get better over time, too many attack others and don’t instead take criticism, criticism will help you in the long run. It will take a few years till you build a good sized and loyal audience. Thirdly, be yourself, don’t try and copy someone else. Fourth, don’t be fooled into thinking you will make money off of podcasting and sponsors will run to you, the reality is, it doesn’t happen. I have been doing this for over a decade and have not made a single penny, realize you will be paying out and not bringing in. Unless your name is Rush Limbaugh it is not gonna happen. Fourth, back up everything, every episode make sure you have copies on CDRs and an external harddrive. I lost my first 7 years of archives because of the fact the servers I was using quit doing business and I lost all those archives. Make sure you have them and do not skip around from server to server, you will loose a majority of your audience. What I did, was I have been utilizing Weebly Pro, to host my files because they have unlimited storage space, and I have been paying Squarespace $20 a month to make them RSS accessible, I just link the files to Squarespace and all my archives are in the feed. Be creative and make sure you have control over your episodes in terms of hosting. Lastly, slowly invest in equipment upgrades. Start out with a junky mic from Radio Shack or Wal-Mart, then set yourself a challenge, say, “when I reach 100 subscribers I am going to upgrade my mic” then upgrade to a mid-grade mic. Then, after another mark upgrade your editing software, then slowly progress. I usually buy a new mic every 2 years and I upgrade in the quality. Right now I am using a MXL, before I used the mics from Blue, such as the Snowball and the Yeti. Don’t invest thousands of dollars or even hundreds of dollars until you know you will be doing this for a while.
Jennifer: What is in your rig right now?
Christopher: I am using an MXL 900 microphone, with Phantom Power supplied to it. I use Audacity on my Macbook Air to record and Adobe Audition CS6 for editing. I use an iPad Air and a GoPro Hero as well as an SJ400 for the videos. I use Pinnacle Studio Pro for editing the videos and I make the slides for certain videos using Keynote. I host my files on my Weebly website and I make the RSS feeds for iTunes using Squarespace and of course nothing is better than iTunes for ID3 tagging, which you want to do for those who download individual files, you want to make sure they remember your name, and where they got the mp3s. When they import it into their mp3 devices they need to be reminded where they can get more, and inserting album artwork is always helpful.
Theological Insights from Rabbi Eved Banah from the Brutal Planet Radio Program