“Does the Old Testament Endorse Slavery? An Overview”

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A popular-level follow-up to Paul Copan’s book on the ethics of the Old Testament:

If Bible-believing Southerners had followed Israel’s law code, antebellum slavery would not have existed or been much of an issue.

[From Does the Old Testament Endorse Slavery? An Overview]

82 Responses

  1. I asked Paul to answer a question for me on his blog about the book, but he “skirted around the issue–so I asked it again. No answer.
    Let’s see if you can do better.

    Could you explain Hosea 13:16–and how an unborn fetus could have “rebelled” against your god and in so doing, deserved to die along with its mother as she was being “ripped open” with a sword?–or is that “hyperbole”? If that’s the case, then Jesus being the “son of god” could be hyperbole too! How does one distinguish what is hyperbole, and what is fact?

    The Jews admit to embellishments of the text, and in “The Bible Unearthed” Jewish archeologists provide evidence that the Exodus, and the majority of the Old Testament is mere emebellishment. (The Bible Unearthed, Did the Exodus Happen? p. 48)

  2. Tom Gilson says:

    Cathy,

    I don’t have handy the book you are referring to here, so I’m going to need some help. Do you have more than that? I’m not too big on arguments from bare authority, whether it’s the title of a book or the claim that one holds a position, as I’m sure you’ll understand. Your statement here concerning the Exodus and embellishments means nothing without something solid to back it up.

  3. Tom Gilson says:

    I’ll have to come back to your other question later. Thanks.

  4. Justinius says:

    Where does it say that infants rebelled in their womb? All Hosea seems to be saying is that they rebelled against God and will be conquered. Assyria conquered Samaria in about 722, by the sword. They were aggressive and brutal. I’m not seeing where there is any hyperbole at all. Assyrians weren’t known for their fine treatment of conquered people.

  5. Tom Gilson says:

    Cathy, your question wasn’t about slavery. See the related posts list above, please. As I’m sure you already noticed on my discussion policies page, I prefer to keep the comment discussions as closely related to the post topic as possible, and as you can see, there is another place where this would fit better. By all means please feel free to bring up your question under another post where it fits better.

    You’ll also note that there are links to an entire series I’ve done on this general question.

  6. Tom Gilson says:

    Or you might just want to be a bit more patient with Paul. I’m sure blogging isn’t the only thing on his mind today (http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/12/is-god-a-moral-monster/comment-page-1/#comment-51483).

  7. Paul Copan says:

    Tom, thanks for posting my essay. Yes, I do think it strange that Cathy Cooper jumped in on a completely different topic than Old Testament “slavery.”

    By the way, I did respond to her at Parchment and Pen on her question above: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/12/is-god-a-moral-monster/#comments:

    Cathy, I wasn’t dancing around the issue. This ultimately gets back to the problem of evil and the question of undeserved suffering, which I acknowledge takes place. Obviously the unborn child has done nothing wrong. Does this mean that God could have no overriding reasons for allowing certain evils, even if we don’t know what these reasons are? Indeed, evil is more problematic for the atheist.

    As for the question of embellishment, this misses the point of how a culture uses language. Overstatement need not be considered embellishment since ancient Near Eastern cultures utilize sweeping language routinely—but the original readers would have readily understood this.

    As to the ‘sexist’ nature of the text, I do note that the Old Testament law is given in a patriarchal setting with the father as the legal representative within the home. I cover a lot of this in my book. Have you read it?

    By the way, where do you teach in the Toronto area? ‘Was just up there.

  8. Tom Gilson says:

    Thank you for bringing that clarification, Paul.

  9. Tom,

    I will quote you from “The Bible Unearthed” itself, p. 63

    “The conclusion–that the Exodus
    did not happen at the time and in the manner described in the bible–seems irrefutable when we examine the evidence at specific sites where the children of Israel were said to have camped for extended periods during their wandering in the desert (Numbers 33)and where some archeological indication–if present–would almost certainly be found. …yet they revealed no trace of the wandering Israelites”

    You can view “The Bible Unearthed” on youtube. The book itself offers a wealth of archeological information, and is a worthy addition to any library.

  10. Paul Copan says:

    There’s a strong case to be made against such claims. Check out archaeologist/Egyptologist James Hoffmeier’s *Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus* and *Ancient Israel in Sinai* (both with Oxford University Press).

  11. Tom Gilson says:

    So it seems we have competing claims from authorities (books) that most of us will not have time to look up. This is a disagreement among claimed authorities. The argument from authority is of course an informal fallacy, yet on the other hand, if an authority’s trustworthiness (competence, integrity, etc.) can be established, it’s perfectly appropriate to call on that authority to support one’s case.

    So then …

    Paul has cited at least some reason to trust his sources, by letting us know something about who wrote and published them. Paul is a philosopher at Palm Beach Atlantic University, by the way, and the president of a major philosophical society. His C.V is available for perusal.

    Cathy, all we know about “The Bible Unearthed” so far is that you recommend it. Could you provide some further reason, please, to put some stock either in the book you cite or in your own qualifications?

  12. Paul Copan says:

    Okay, you asked! Here’s a clip from “Did the Exodus Never Happen?
    How two Egyptologists are countering scholars who want to turn the Old Testament into myth,”
    *Christianity Today* (7 September 1998), Vol. 42, No. 10):
    While direct evidence for the Exodus is missing, the following circumstantial evidence supports viewing the Exodus as a historical event rather than a late, fictive legend:
    • In a surviving Egyptian document called Leiden Papyrus 348, orders are given to “distribute grain rations to the soldiers and to the ‘Apiru who transport stones to the great pylon of Rames[s]es.” This brings to mind Exodus 1:11, which says the Hebrews “built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh.” While hotly debated, ‘Apiru is believed by some scholars to refer to the Hebrews, the ‘Ibri. If a future discovery of an inscription could link this word to the Hebrews, this document would prove to be our first direct extrabiblical reference to the children of Israel in slavery in Egypt.
    • Recent discoveries of military outposts on a road leading from Egypt into Canaan, built by Pharaoh Seti I and earlier kings in the thirteenth century B.C., shed new light on why a northern route for the Exodus would have meant war for the Israelites. Exodus 13:17 states: “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was nearer; for God thought, ‘If the people face war, they may change their minds and return to Egypt.’ ” Instead, the Bible explains, “God led the people by the roundabout way of the wilderness.”
    • While it is virtually impossible 3,000 years later to retrace the footsteps of a people who escaped over a sand-swept wilderness, an Egyptian letter (Anastasi III) from guards at a “border crossing” between Egypt and the Sinai helps explain Moses’ insistent cry, “Let my people go!” The text indicates that in the thirteenth century the Egyptians maintained a tight border control, allowing no one to pass without a permit. The letter describes two slaves who–in a striking parallel to the Israelite escape–flee from the city of Rameses at night, are pursued by soldiers, but disappear into the Sinai wilderness. “When my letter reaches you,” writes the official to the border guard, “write to me about all that has happened to [them]. Who found their tracks? Which watch found their tracks? Write to me about all that has happened to them and how many people you send out after them.” Another inscription from the same cache of documents (Anastasi VI) records that an entire tribe gained permission to enter Egypt from Edom in search of food.
    • If it seems incredible to believe that 600,000 men plus women and children could have survived as a people in the Sinai wilderness for 40 years, we may be misinterpreting the number, says Hoffmeier. Hebrew University professor Abraham Malamat, for one, points out that the Bible often refers to 600 and its multiples, as well as 1,000 and its multiples, typologically in order to convey the idea of a large military unit. “The issue of Exodus 12:37 is an interpretive one,” says Hoffmeier. “The Hebrew word eleph can be translated ‘thousand,’ but it is also rendered in the Bible as ‘clans’ and ‘military units.’ When I look at the question as an Egyptologist, I know that there are thought to have been 20,000 in the entire Egyptian army at the height of Egypt’s empire. And at the battle of Ai in Joshua 7, there was a severe military setback when 36 troops were killed. If you have an army of 600,000, that’s not a big setback.” In other words, the head count may have been far fewer than suggested by a literal reading of Exodus 12:37.
    • While conservative scholars debate an “early” and “late” date for the Exodus (fifteenth century or thirteenth century B.C.), all but the most skeptical scholars agree that the Israelites were in Canaan by the year 1208 B.C. This date was set a century ago with the discovery of the Merneptah Stele. This seven-foot high, black granite stone contains a victory hymn of Pharaoh Merneptah, which proclaims, “The Canaan is plundered with every hardship. / Ashkelon is taken, Gezer is captured, / [and] Yano’am reduced to nothing. / Israel is laid waste, his seed is no more.”
    Not surprisingly, the minimalists downplay its significance, claiming it simply refers to an insignificant early nomadic tribe–a proto-Israel, if you will. But the undeniable fact is that a pharaoh considered Israel’s defeat worth inscribing on stone, and that a people called Israel lived in Canaan by that time. Just as fascinating are pictorial carvings on a temple wall in Luxor, Egypt, which Egyptologist Frank Yurco believes depict the destruction of Ashkelon, Gezer, Yano’am, and the Israelites mentioned in the Merneptah Stele. If so, the first existing reference to Israel comes complete with pictures of them.

  13. Not that Paul needs more leverage, but I wanted to add to his mention of the Merneptah Stele and its explicit and implicit significance. Add to this the fact that ancient Egyptians were very egocentric in recording historical events and you have fairly good consistency. For details you can peruse my article on the Stele here – http://www.cltruth.com/evidence/biblical-archaeology/merneptah-stele/

  14. JAD says:

    One of the ironies about the slavery issue is that “new” atheists like Sam Harris try to use it to indict biblical Christianity. But what is his moral basis for this criticism. Not only theologically and morally, but also historically, I can argue that it was the Judeo-Christian moral ethic that has been uniquely the basis for the view of human rights that underlies western civilization and society. While ancient Greece and Rome also contributed in a positive sense to our moral thinking, the elitist Greco-Roman beliefs about slavery were not conducive to the concept of human dignity or equal rights. It was Christians acting upon the moral belief that in Christ, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free…” that led to the extinction of slavery not just once but twice in western society.

    In other words, Harris, whether he is conscious of it or not, has to use a biblical moral ethic to indict the use of a biblical moral ethic.

    The German sociologist and philosopher Jurgen Habermas agrees with me here. He writes:

    “For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of a continual critical reappropriation and reinterpretation. Up to this very day there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a post-national constellation, we must draw sustenance now, as in the past, from this substance. Everything else is idle postmodern talk.”[32]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%BCrgen_Habermas

  15. Tom Gilson says:

    Rodney Stark observes that every society in history that had the economic wherewithal to institute slavery has done so. That includes some heavily Christian-influenced societies, obviously. Greed and violence as expressed in slavery are explainable in terms of the Christian doctrine of universal sinfulness. But only in one cultural circumstance, generally speaking, has slavery been eliminated: in societies heavily influenced by Christianity. In every case, abolition has been traceable to Christian belief. So if you want a general theory that explains

    (a) What is wrong with slavery (see JAD’s post);
    (b) Why it is so universally practiced (see my comment here); except for
    (c) Why and where it has sometimes been abolished (see also here); and
    (d) Why and in what form it was tolerated among the people of God at one time (see Paul’s article),

    … then you pretty much have to look to biblical Christianity for that explanation.

  16. Tom Gilson says:

    Thank you for those references, Paul. I’ll be interested to see what Cathy can supply in response.

  17. Bill R. says:

    I’d also like to throw in this link to some really fascinating evidence for the historicity of the Bible.

    http://images.acswebnetworks.com/1/934/Historicity_of_Bible.pdf

    The presentation starts out a little cheezy, but is quite informative. It was compiled by my pastor, Dr. Gordon Hugenburger of Park Street Church (Boston, MA). A large section of it looks at whether the events described in the pentateuch fit best within the historical context of their purported period of authorship, or the period to which critical scholars ascribe them. My three favorite lines of evidence for dating the various accounts in the pentateuch are:

    1. The frequency of certain types of names, as a function of historical time period — turns out names like Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph were common around 1800 BC, but had virtually disappeared by 1000 BC.

    2. The effect of inflation on the price of slaves (speaking of slavery in the Bible…), as a function of time — the slave prices mentioned in Genesis (for Joseph) and Exodus/Leviticus (as part of the Mosaic law) match perfectly with when they supposedly were written, and are way too low for 1000 BC.

    3. Changes in the form and content of ANE covenant documents, as a function of time — three covenants are recorded in Genesis that resemble others from the early 2nd millennium BC, while the Sinai covenant resembles those from the late 2nd millennium BC; covenants from the 1st millennium BC look very different.

    There are many more fascinating details that I won’t include, for the sake of time.

    So, either i) the author of the pentateuch lived in 1000 BC and wrote some miraculously well-researched historical fiction (not to mention anticipated a new genre of literature thousands of years before its invention), ii) the author of the pentateuch wrote after the fact but had access to extremely reliable historical accounts, or iii) the author lived about the same time as many of the events he wrote about (and probably witnessed many of them).

  18. Good morning Tom,

    You asked if I had anything to “back up” my claims concerning the Exodus. I do not have the texts Paul cited, but I did read the reviews. They all agree there is no evidence for the Exodus.

    However, “The Bible Unearthed” presents evidence AGAINST an Exodus occurring on a biblical scale. For instance, as you mention the Egyptians were “very egocentric in recording historical events and you have fairly good consistency.”–but they have no records of any such Exodus. Now, the migration to and from Egypt certainly occurred (mostly due to famine and drought) but not on the scale of the Exodus. In fact, Egypt had fortification throughout the delta, in an effort to tighten control over Canaanite immigration, and if a group of fleeing Israelites had existed, an Egyptian record of this event should also exist–but it does not.
    The dates also do not correspond with the archeology. In fact, many scholars now believe the story of the Exodus came together under the pressure of a growing conflict with Egypt in the seventh century BCE.
    I highly recommend this text, as it logically explains the events according to historical and archeological evidence.

  19. Tom Gilson says:

    Cathy, I repeat:

    So it seems we have competing claims from authorities (books) that most of us will not have time to look up. This is a disagreement among claimed authorities. The argument from authority is of course an informal fallacy, yet on the other hand, if an authority’s trustworthiness (competence, integrity, etc.) can be established, it’s perfectly appropriate to call on that authority to support one’s case….

    Cathy, all we know about “The Bible Unearthed” so far is that you recommend it. Could you provide some further reason, please, to put some stock either in the book you cite or in your own qualifications?

    And which reviews did you read that agree there is no evidence for the Exodus?

    You’re still presenting us with nothing but your own word. There is no argument there other than your own authority, and the title of some book. Can you give us any reason at all to consider either you or this book to be authoritative?

    As I have said previously, this is proceeding as an argument from authority, which is valid if the claimed authority has credibility in that field. An argument from authority, when no reason is offered in support of that authority’s credibility, is no argument whatsoever. In effect you have told us nothing whatsoever. If someone were scoring this as a debate, they would have to chalk your side up (so far at least) as a “no show,” for you have literally presented no argument at all so far.

    I’m not saying it’s too late, and I do invite you to bring whatever argument you might have.

  20. Tom,

    The facts in “The Bible Unearthed” have been confirmed by archeological evidence, and the authors themselves are both archeologists and scholars. I can play that same game with the book Paul cited–but that is a waste of time. I checked out the 5 star review, which stated there is no “direct archeological evidence.”
    http://www.amazon.com/Israel-Egypt-Evidence-Authenticity-Tradition/product-reviews/019513088X/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

    That is my point–there is no direct archeological evidence for the Exodus–but there certainly is evidence AGAINST the Exodus, which I cited, and that you choose to ignore by way of a “red herring,” by making reference to my credentials and claiming I made an argument by authority–which I did not.

    The Jews after all, are known for their use of “hyperbole.”–you should keep this in mind when claiming things are true and historical, when there is no direct archeological evidence for your claims; while there is direct historical and archeological evidence going against such claims.

  21. Cathy, based on your reply I surmise that you failed to read the cited article. You stated,

    For instance, as you mention the Egyptians were “very egocentric in recording historical events and you have fairly good consistency.”–but they have no records of any such Exodus.

    I’m failing to see the reasoning here. Would we not expect revision and/or silence because of their egocentric treatment of historical events?

    Here’s the pasted relevant paragraph from the article for reference and the reason (in bold) why it would be foolish to expect a confession of an Israelite exodus from the Egyptians:

    It appears that they would reverse their defeats into victories when recording events, and at other times (perhaps when more difficult to revise history), they avoided making reference to events altogether. This is well demonstrated, for example, in the four-seated colossi of Rameses II overlooking the Nile (now Lake Nasser) at Abu-Simbel. Though Rameses is known to have barely escaped with his life at the battle of Kadesh against the Hittites, the recordings of the event inside the walls speaks of an enormous Egyptian victory. As such, we would not and should not expect to find some Egyptian historical record with a confession that under the rule of the pharaoh a large band of Jewish slaves successfully escaped from Egypt even though the Egyptians tried to prevent them. The Egyptian habit of historical revisionism and suppression, therefore, does not necessarily allow us to draw anything out of the silence of its historical records.

  22. Arthur,

    You fail to realize the significance of the fact Egypt controlled the entire area, and there are records of people paying taxes and being under their control–hence, the fortifications, and the archeological and historical evidence.

    It would be like someone saying there was a big exodus from the United States explained by, “They left New York, and they set up a big settlement in Los Angeles.”–now, see how silly that would be?

  23. Cathy, I’m disappointed that you’re continually choosing to ignore my point and are opting instead to beat your dead horse, but I’ll follow along. Are you saying that because Egypt controlled the region, that therefore it logically follows that the exodus never happened? This is a classic example of a non sequitur unless you can provide compelling evidence to fill the large gaps between.

  24. Arthur,

    I, like the archeologists who wrote the text, and many other other archeologists and historians, thinks it follows quite nicely–there is no non sequitur here.

    Now, if was to go out on the street and said 60,000 people escaped from the United States by moving from New York to Los Angeles, and they set up a settlement–they would find this quite odd as it “does not follow.”

    I just ran outside and asked a passerby what he thought of the exodus of a large group of people escaping the United States by moving from New York to Los Angeles, where they set up a settlement. He looked quizzically, and said that would be stupid, and laughed. He said that makes no sense at all, as they could not escape from the United States by moving to Los Angeles and putting up a settlement, because the United States controls Los Angeles.
    Why don’t you try it. Ask passersby whether that “follows”….:)

  25. Crude says:

    That is my point–there is no direct archeological evidence for the Exodus–but there certainly is evidence AGAINST the Exodus

    The review claims there is no direct archaeological evidence for the Exodus – but not that there is no evidence, period. Really that exact sentence goes on to note that there is considerable indirect evidence.

  26. Crude

    The overwhelming DIRECT evidence and indirect evidence suggests the Exodus never happened.

    The fact that your neighbor did not write about the fact you were drunk last night, does not mean you were not drunk last night! Furthermore, it is not the case that there is no indirect evidence, as you did drink something! So I guess you were drunk!

    I hope you see by my example, how ludicrous your type of reasoning is.

  27. Crude says:

    The overwhelming DIRECT evidence and indirect evidence suggests the Exodus never happened.

    Direct evidence that the Exodus did not happen? What evidence is that? Do you even understand what would comprise “direct evidence” in that situation?

    So far you’ve largely said “The Bible Unearthed is great!” and cited some book reviews. Pretty thin.

    I hope you see by my example, how ludicrous your type of reasoning is.

    My only contribution to this thread has been to point out that the very sentence you quoted went on to mention indirect evidence for the Exodus. If you claim that’s a display of “ludicrous reasoning”, I’m afraid that’s evidence that you’re actually kind of loopy.

    EDIT:

    The fact that your neighbor did not write about the fact you were drunk last night, does not mean you were not drunk last night! Furthermore, it is not the case that there is no indirect evidence, as you did drink something! So I guess you were drunk!

    1) Yes, the fact that your neighbor did not write about the fact that you were drunk last night, does not mean that you were not drunk.
    2) Yes, there could be indirect evidence that you were drunk. Empty liquor bottles out of the trash. Receipts from bars or liquor stores. Etc.
    3) Yes, depending on the indirect evidence, it’s possible one could conclude that you were, in fact, drunk. Certainly it’s possible for one to suspect as much.

    Are you really denying this?

  28. Paul Copan says:

    Not much time to comment but here you go:

    Here’s the full essay “Did the Exodus Never Happen?” (which I cited earlier): http://www.ch
    ristianitytoday.com/ct/1998/september7/8ta044.html

    Here’s a nice review of Hoffmeier’s *Israel in Egypt* by another historian of the ancient Near East:
    http://www.bookreviews.org/pdf/2041_1078.pdf

    Here’s another extensive article from *Biblical Archaeology* on the context of the exodus: http://www.bibleandscience.com/archaeology/exodus.htm

  29. Crude–

    I am not denying that that is possible, just like I am not denying it is possible Santa exists. So if you want to say the Bible and the Exodus is possible, as in almost anything is possible, then we can agree to disagree. I would not try to persuade a child who believes in Santa on this point either.

    Likewise, I hope you admit that it is possible that the Exodus did not happen.–wow, we really go far with that!…:)

    One last note, I think it is possible that you owe me one million dollars.

  30. Crude says:

    I am not denying that that is possible, just like I am not denying it is possible Santa exists.

    Are you really equating the example I gave – a pretty bland hypothetical example of coming to a reasonable conclusion based on indirect evidence – with claiming “Santa exists”?

    This isn’t exactly filling me with confidence in your reasoning capabilities.

  31. Justinius says:

    Saying the Exodus didn’t happen is along the lines of saying Jesus never existed. Most radical claims of this nature are from those with an obvious and overwhelming personal bias against religion. Such claims are really hard to take seriously, even when based on such “overwhelming evidence” as a lack of garbage in the desert or the apparent failure of Egyptians to write a news article about the event.

    The funny things is that there is a long history since the “enlightenment” of similar claims which archaeology has since found to be incorrect.

  32. Bill R. says:

    Ok, this is a complicated subject. We have an account, in the Bible, of a large group of Hebrews escaping from Egypt, wandering around the Sinai peninsula, and finally invading/settling in Canaan. Is the account historically accurate? People are bringing evidence for and against the account, and people are also talking about direct vs. indirect evidence.

    Direct evidence against the Exodus: Nobody has given any. In fact, it would be very difficult to find direct evidence against the Exodus. If it existed, it would have to be something like archaeological evidence that the Semitic culture existed continuously in Canaan from 1800BC to 600BC — something indicating that Israel was never in Egypt to begin with.

    Indirect evidence against the Exodus: Cathy, you have made three or four claims of such evidence, as far as I can tell.
    …..i) In your first claim (comment 9), you quoted from “The Bible Unearthed”

    …we examine the evidence at specific sites where the children of Israel were said to have camped for extended periods during their wandering in the desert (Numbers 33)and where some archeological indication–if present–would almost certainly be found. …yet they revealed no trace of the wandering Israelites

    Fair enough, but I trust that everyone can see that this argument actually hinges on an absence of evidence. The field of archaeology is really the poster child for the saying “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. Please see the presentation I linked to in comment 17 for many examples of archaeology overturning confident assertions, based on an absence of evidence, of the historical inaccuracy of the Bible.

    …..ii) Your second claim (comment 18):

    …the Egyptians… have no records of any such Exodus. Now, the migration to and from Egypt certainly occurred (mostly due to famine and drought) but not on the scale of the Exodus. In fact, Egypt had fortification throughout the delta, in an effort to tighten control over Canaanite immigration, and if a group of fleeing Israelites had existed, an Egyptian record of this event should also exist–but it does not.

    This is, again, an argument based on an absence of evidence. This time, however, there is a very good reason to expect an absence of evidence (as Arthur shows in comment 21): the Egyptians would never have recorded such a humiliating event.

    …..iii) Your third claim (comment 22):

    …Egypt controlled the entire area, and there are records of people paying taxes and being under their control–hence, the fortifications, and the archeological and historical evidence.

    It would be like someone saying there was a big exodus from the United States explained by, “They left New York, and they set up a big settlement in Los Angeles.”–now, see how silly that would be?

    I must admit that I am confused by a few things here. When you say “Egypt controlled the entire area”, do you mean the Mediterranean coast between the Nile and Canaan? Or the whole Sinai peninsula, including the desert? How do you know? At any rate, I think you’re saying that “because Egypt controlled the Sinai desert, it is incorrect to call the migration of Israel from the Nile region to Sinai an ‘exodus’ from Egypt; the Bible has, therefore, made an indefensible statement, on the order of ‘this square is a triangle’ “. Is that what you’re arguing? If so, then the question is whether the relocation of Israel was peaceful and small-scale or hostile and large-scale (you have asserted the former, but have not provided any evidence for it). If the Israelites traveled to Sinai under pursuit from the Egyptian army, and if that army was somehow defeated, then I think you could hardly fault the biblical author for calling it an “exodus”, even if Sinai was technically controlled by Egypt, and especially considering that the Israelites eventually ended up in Canaan, which was definitely not Egypt.

    …..iv) Your fourth claim (comment 18):

    The dates also do not correspond with the archeology. In fact, many scholars now believe the story of the Exodus came together under the pressure of a growing conflict with Egypt in the seventh century BCE.

    You will need to be more specific with this kind of thing. What archaeological findings establish which dates that fail to correspond to which biblical events? As it is right now, your statement is simply the kind of appeal to authority that Tom is talking about.

    Direct evidence for the Exodus: Nobody has given any… yet. But it is certainly possible that some new archaeological finding will vindicate the biblical account, as has happened with many other parts of the Bible.

    Indirect evidence for the Exodus: Lots of it has been cited here.
    …..i) Leiden Papyrus 348: reference to ‘Apiru as laborers in Egypt (Paul, comment 12)

    …..ii) Discovery of Egyptian military outposts on Mediterranean coastal road lends plausibility to the biblical statement that Israel went South into the desert (Paul, comment 12)

    …..iii) Account of some slaves (not the nation of Israel) fleeing into Sinai “wilderness” to escape Egypt lends plausibility to Sinai as a place where Israel might have escaped Egypt, which elsewhere had tight border controls (Paul, comment 12)

    …..iv) The Merneptah stele establishes that Israel was in Canaan by 1200 BC (comments 12 and 13). Together with point i), this piece of evidence suggests that Israel started in Egypt, and somehow got to Canaan. The question is: how? Was it a peaceful migration, or a violent exodus?

    …..v) There are numerous clues in the pentateuch that establish that it was either written in the period of history that it claims to describe, or written by someone with access to exceedingly good historical sources from that period. I summarized some of that evidence in comment 17, and linked to a source with more evidence. While dating the Exodus account to the proper period of history does not prove that it is accurate, it does show that it is not a late (post-1000 BC) fabrication. Plus, the practice of making up a fake story about contemporary events and recording it in the form of actual history — essentially writing a novel — was, as far as I know, unheard of in the ancient world.

    Summary: Nobody has presented any direct evidence, either for or against the Exodus (except for the biblical account itself, of course). Cathy, you have made a few points regarding indirect evidence against the Exodus, but in addition to needing more evidence, some of your arguments require further explanation. Others have brought in a lot of indirect evidence for the Exodus. Can you offer a rebuttal, or a link to a rebuttal (without appealing to authority)?

    Basically, I would say that the evidence is not overwhelming in either direction, but it does seem to weigh in favor of the biblical account. Consider, also, that when an ancient historical text is on trial, it is typically considered trustworthy until significant evidence accumulates against it. Thus, it is quite erroneous to equate belief in the Exodus with belief in Santa. While the historicity of the biblical account of the Exodus is not an absolute certainty (from a historical/archaeological point of view), there is more reason to trust it than to doubt it. In that sense, belief in the Exodus is more like belief in Thucydides’ “History of the Peloponnesian War”, or belief in the Apollo lunar landing, than belief in Santa.

  33. Bill,
    If what you say is true, in that:

    “the practice of making up a fake story about “contemporary” events and recording it in the form of actual history — essentially writing a novel — was, as far as I know, unheard of in the ancient world.”

    Then the Bhagavad Gita is true, the Illiad is true, and so on. Interesting. Then certainly, there is more than one god!

    The absence of evidence then also makes fairies true; the absence of evidence then also makes leprechauns true, and so on. But when we employ Ockham’s razor to the evidence that IS there as well as the lack of evidence, the Exodus, as stated in the Bible, does not make sense, for a variety of reasons.

    To confirm the historicity of the Exodus, there must be evidence from outside sources. In this case, from the Egyptians, or anyone else. But there is none. Therefore, there is no historicity to the claim of the Exodus taking place as stated in the Bible.

    Here are some of the findings of the authors of “The Bible Unearthed:

    –Archeological excavations in the eastern Nile delta have confirmed that conclusion and indicate that the Hyskos “invasion” was a gradual process in immigration from Canaan to Egypt, rather than a lightning military campaign.

    –Based on Egyptian records, the expulsion took place around 1570 BCE;1Kings 6:1 tells us the start of the construction of the temple in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign–480 years after exodus, and according to a correlation of the regnal dates of Israelite kings with outside Egyptian and Assyrian sources, this would roughly place the exodus in 1440 BCE–more than 100 years AFTER the date of the expulsion of the Hyskos.

    –The first pharaoh named Rameses came to the throne 1320 BCE–more than a century after the biblical date.

    –NO MENTION of the name Israel has been found in any of inscriptions or documents connected with the Hyskos period. Nor is it mention in later Egyptian inscriptions or in an extensive fourteenth century BCE cuniform archive found at Tell el Amarnain Egypt, whose nearly four hundred letters describe in detail the social, political and demographic conditions in Canaan at the time. The Merneptah stele refers to Israel as a group of people already living in Canaan.

    –After expulsion of the Hyskos, Egypt established a system of manned forts in the delta and a late 13th century BCE papyrus records how closely they monitored the movements of foreigners. This record mentions places connected to the exodus such as Succoth and Pithom–but there are no records of any great mass of fleeing Israelites.

    –In the 13th century BCE, Egypt was at the peak of its power–the dominant power of the world. So yes, this is why saying there was a mass exodus at that time is like saying there is was a mass exodus outside of the US from New York to LA. The entire area, including Canaan, was administered by Egypt, and the road known as the Ways of Horus, had forts, and wells and granaries a days march in between along the entire stretch. It is unlikely such a large group of Israelites could have gone unnoticed in an area which was heavily fortified with Egyptian military forces. Even if they avoided the road, their sojourn into the desert is also contradicted by archeology. (See the Bible Unearthed for details)

    Why the seventh century?

    “There is a timeless rhythm of migrations to Egypt in antiquity. There is the specific incident of the Hyskos domination of the delta in the Middle Bronze Age, There are the suggestive parallels to elements of the Ramesside era relating to Egypt–together with the first mention of Israel (Shihor in the eastern delta and the Israelites stopping place at Pi-ha-hiroth, seem to have Egyptian etymologies. They are all related to the geography of the Exodus, but they give no clear indication that they belong to a specific period in Egyptian history.”*except from The Bible Unearthed

    Archeological evidence is provided in “the Bible Unearthed” for this claim. Below is another excerpt from the conclusion of this chapter:

    “The seventh century was a time of great revival of both Egypt and Judah. In Egypt after a long period of decline and difficult years of subjection to the Assyrian empire, King Psammetichus I seized power and transformed Egypt into a major international power again. As the rule of the Assyrian empire began to crumble, Egypt moved in to fill the political vacuum, occupying former Assyrian territories and establishing permanent Egyptian rule.
    In Judah, this was the time of King Josiah. The idea that YHWH would ultimately fulfill the promises given to the patriarchs, to Moses, and to King David–of a vast and unified people of Israel living on their own land. It was a time when Josiah embarked on an ambitious attempt to take advantage of the Assyrian collapse and unite all Israelites under his rule. His program was to expand to the north of Judah, to the territories where Israelites were still living a century after the fall of the kingdom of Israel, and to realize the dream of a glorious united monarchy: a large and powerful state of all Israelites worshiping one God in one temple in one capital–Jerusalem–and ruled by one king of Davidic lineage.

    The ambitions of might Egypt to expand its empire and of tiny Judah to annex territories of the former kingdom of Israel and establish its independence were therefore in direct conflict. Egypt of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, with its imperial aspirations, stood in the way of the fulfillment of Josiah’s dreams. Images and memories from the past now became the ammunition in a national test of will between the children of Israel and the pharaoh and his charioteers.

    We can thus see the composition of the Exodus narrative from a striking new perspective. Just as the written form of the patriarchal narratives wove together the scattered traditions of origins in the service of a seventh century national revival in Judah, the fully elaborated story of conflict with Egypt–of the great power of the God of Israel and his miraculous rescue of his people–served an even more immediate political and military end. The great saga of a new beginning and a second chance must have resonated in the conscienceness of the seventh century’s readers, reminding them of their own difficulties and giving them hope for the future.

    Attitudes towards Egypt in the late monarchic Judah were always a mixture of awe and revulsion. On one hand, Egypt had always provided a safe haven in time of famine and an asylum for runaways, and was perceived as a potential ally against invasions from the north. At the same time there had always been suspicion and animosity towards the great southern neighbor, whose ambitions from the earliest times were to control the vital overland passage through the land of Israel northward to Asia Minor and Mesopotamia. Now, a young leader of Judah was prepared to confront the great pharaoh, and ancient traditions from many different sources were crafted into a single sweeping epic that bolstered Josiah’s political aims.

    New layers would be added to the Exodus story in subsequent centuries–during the exile in Babylonia and beyond. But we can now see how the astonishing composition came together under the pressure of a growing conflict with Egypt in the seventh century BCE. The saga of Israel’s growing conflict with Egypt is neither historical truth nor literary fiction. It is a powerful expression of memory and hope born in a world in the midst of change. The confrontation between Moses and pharaoh mirrored the momentous confrontation between the young King Josiah and the newly crowned Pharaoh Necho. To pin this biblical image down to a single date is to betray the story’s deepest meaning. Passover proves to be not a single event but a continuing experience of national resistance against the powers that be.”
    ________________

    This is the best explanation, via Ockham’s razor, for the events portrayed in the Bible. Considering that the Israelites were nomads and slaves, it makes logical sense that they employ hyperbole to create scenarios that elevate their status. In fact, in “Materialist Approaches to the Bible”,p. 6, some of the earliest known written works are from 1 Kings 1 and 2, and 2 Sam 9:20–the narration of the succession of David. Scribes of kings are known to exaggerate claims of the rulers who employ them, and this too can be said for the writers of the bible in their efforts to elevate their status in the world.

  34. Tom Gilson says:

    I’ll admit this is not my area of expertise. It seems that some contributors to this discussion are basing their archaeological conclusions on a single source. I’d like to ask you all to consider bringing more to the table, please; otherwise it’s hard to see this as a discussion where anybody has real expertise. A single source does not a scholar make.

    (For contrast, I invite you to consider Paul’s 100 or so sources on a topic more closely related to the one we started with here.)

  35. Tom,

    The Bible Unearthed lists well over 100 sources in its bibliography–as you are right, a single source does not a scholar make. But as they have supplied the sources, I do not have to, as they say “reinvent the wheel”…:)

  36. Crude says:

    The absence of evidence then also makes fairies true

    You keep making this claim, and the response will keep coming back: Indirect evidence remains evidence. Even the biblical account qualifies as evidence: Hence the need to ‘confirm’ it.

    Until you’re willing to admit that there is evidence for Exodus – even if you believe there’s evidence against it, even if you believe the weight of the evidence is against it – it’s hard to take you seriously. And really, given your last exchange where you claimed that using indirect evidence to infer that someone was drunk is on the level of believing in Santa Claus… it really suggests that you’re not going to be the swiftest judge of data, regardless of its quality.

  37. Crude

    The “evidence” for lack of an argument for your case is in your repeated ad hominem attacks–which is why I do not take you seriously.

  38. Crude says:

    The “evidence” for lack of an argument for your case is in your repeated ad hominem attacks–which is why I do not take you seriously.

    Do you know what ad hominem means? Can you explain where I’ve employed it here?

    I haven’t even touched on Exodus much yet – I’ve been addressing your claims about what does and does not count as evidence, direct and indirect. When you bungled “indirect evidence” using your very own example of someone being drunk, pointing out the really poor reasoning skills employed therein is not “ad hominem”.

  39. Justinius says:

    Here’s one article in a series of many outlining one theory that Amenhotep II(a) was the pharaoh at the time of the Exodus. This article (in the series) has 179 citations. Must be almost twice as accurate as “The Bible Unearthed”.

    http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2010/02/04/Amenhotep-II-and-the-Historicity-of-the-Exodus-Pharaoh.aspx

    I’d actually like to hear some thoughts on the original topic, though, since slavery is one of the main subjects I encounter when exploring the Bible with non-believers.

    Based on my very limited reading about slavery, it’s something God did not intend, but rather tolerated due to the hardness of human hearts. It seems like being a slave to an Israeli was more akin to “having a job” today than with antebellum slavery in the South, or for that matter, slavery in Rome during the first century. The system seemed to have served as a form of welfare system where the debtors and unemployed actually worked for their living, were able to own property, could negotiate their own freedom, etc. And apparently, it happened often enough that slaves chose to stay with their employer/owner that they had rules about how to deal with slaves who didn’t want to be set free at the jubilee.

  40. Cathy,

    An argument from silence is not really an argument at all. If you feel like you are as justified and have as good a reason to believe in fairies and unicorns, more power to you. I wish you good luck with that. I can’t believe you’re actually trying to get your arguments verified by passers-by on the street. How old were you again? Again, you have not presented a logical chain of arguments for anyone here to take you seriously.

    In any case, let’s approach this another way. At the present do you doubt that the city of Jericho mentioned in the Bible existed? What if you lived before 1930 when it was discovered? What about the Assyrian empire? The Hittites? The Babylonian captivity? Are these all myths as well? Would you have claimed these all to be myths before their discoveries? Do you see a pattern here? Critics of the biblical narratives have continually looked foolish as their claims have been routinely dismantled by future research. Generations and discoveries since have continually left all previous critics in the dust of their own perilous skepticism.

    I fear you’re more interested in creating a sensation and/or trying to sooth your ego, rather than an honest, humble, measured search for truth.

  41. Paul Copan says:

    Justinius, just a quick reply to your recent comment. You’re right about the issue of OT servitude—radically different that antebellum slavery. Here is an article I wrote on this topic (part of a popular-level series), which summarizes some of the themes I cover in my book *Is God a Moral Monster?* http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/201102/201102_108_slavery.htm.cfm.

  42. Arthur,

    My analogy was to illustrate an absurdity.

    Interesting that you and others bring up the fact I mentioned “lack of evidence for fairies”–but you totally ignore the fact that if, as Bill said, (I think he may have erased it though, but I mention his quote in my reply to him)

    “the practice of making up a fake story about “contemporary” events and recording it in the form of actual history — essentially writing a novel — was, as far as I know, unheard of in the ancient world.”

    Now, if I was a lawyer, and you or anyone else made this claim, and you were on the stand, you would have to admit that then the Bhagavad Gita, the Illiad, and numerous other historical religious documents would then be true, and therefore, there are many gods and goddesses–or commit perjury. But you all ignored it.

    So, either you would have to admit that the other religious holy books are also historical, or claim they are fiction. If you say they are fiction, that would suggest that when people write holy books like that, they are most likely to be fiction–this would include the bible.

    Again—very interesting.

  43. Crude says:

    So, either you would have to admit that the other religious holy books are also historical, or claim they are fiction. If you say they are fiction, that would suggest that when people write holy books like that, they are most likely to be fiction–this would include the bible.

    Or, they would have to compare and contrast the Old Testament versus the Iliad versus the Gita (Do you really think the Iliad for example – notice the spelling, by the way – is a “holy book”? Do you think any document that mentions the supernatural is a “holy book”? Do you realize that the Old Testament is not “A book”, but a collection of books?), compare the direct an indirect evidence for both, the intentions of the authors, etc…

    And most of all, they would have to do them with someone reasonable. What would the be point of trying to explain these things to a person who – putting questions of bias aside – thinks that using indirect evidence to infer that a person was drunk, regardless of that indirect evidence, is on the level of believing Santa Claus is real?

    You’re illustrating absurdity so far, but I don’t think it’s quite the absurdity you originally intended.

  44. Bill R. says:

    Cathy, you have completely missed the point of my statement that you just quoted (by the way, I haven’t erased it, as you could have easily verified in about 30 seconds; there’s no need to start flinging false accusations around). The quote, again, was

    the practice of making up a fake story about contemporary events and recording it in the form of actual history — essentially writing a novel — was, as far as I know, unheard of in the ancient world.

    Notice the emphasis on “contemporary”, which is in my original text. I am well aware that authors in antiquity wrote epics about the distant past by making up stories, or cobbling together various oral traditions, in service of a non-historical agenda (such that the end product was not history, but literature). Your examples — the Iliad and the Bhagavad Gita — probably fit this description, and thus do not contradict my statement.

    I’m not an expert in Classics, but a quick consultation of wikipedia suggests that most scholars date Homer (if he was a real person) or the compilation of the Iliad (if he was not) to between the 9th and 6th centuries BC. The Iliad was set in the 12th century BC; therefore, Homer (or whoever) created a story about events in the distant past, not about contemporary events. Nice try, but the Iliad does not contradict my statement. (side note: while nobody takes the Iliad as a historical text, there may have been a historical Trojan War that happened in the early 12th century BC, attested by archaeological evidence of a “catastrophic burning” in Troy around that time).

    The Bhagavad Gita is, apparently, impossible to date with any accuracy. Was it written about contemporary events, or about events in the distant past? We just don’t know, and, as such, it’s a very weak counterexample to my statement above.

    If the Exodus account was formulated in the 7th century BC, as many scholars speculate (for the time being, anyway), then it would be yet another example of an author embellishing the distant past to serve a non-historical agenda. It would fall right in line with Homer, Virgil, and probably the Bhagavad Gita.

    However, there is plenty of evidence (what I cited above is not just a single source, but a compilation of evidence from many scholarly works) that strongly suggests that the Exodus account was written by someone with detailed knowledge of the 15th century BC, who knew to include the proper frequency of names beginning with “Y”, the inflation-adjusted price of slaves, the contemporary legal format of covenant documents, the size and shape of certain artifacts from that era, etc. Unless some Israelite in the 7th century invented historical research, archaeology, and statistical analysis; the Exodus account must have originated at the time of the events it describes, either as a written document or as oral traditions that were accurately preserved and committed to writing.

    The question is, was the Exodus account an attempt to accurately record those events as they were happening, or was it a fictional story that fabricated contemporary events and set them against an accurate, contemporary social/cultural backdrop? The first option has precedent in the ancient world, but the second does not (at least you haven’t shown any, nor have I seen any examples).

  45. Jusinius says:

    Thanks for the link, Paul! Is God a Moral Monster has been on my Kindle for about two months now, waiting on me to catch up with my other reading! Guess I might bump it up!

  46. Bill,

    I apologize for my error. I did go back and look, but sometimes my eyes deceive me.

    I too am not an expert in the Classics, but I am sure Homer would have some knowledge of history, just as many other authors do who incorporate it into their writings. The bible writers too wrote about their distant past, as they cobbled together various oral traditions–they are no different than the writers of other holy texts, and are virtually unknown. (Even the Torah writer/s are claimed by some scholars to be unknown as they do not believe Moses could have written it, as it speaks of his own death in Deuteronomy; also, the style of writing differs)

    The Jews have admitted to “embellishments” of their text, so it cannot be deemed reliable. This goes for any text. What is embellished and what is not? We have no way of knowing–especially with the lack of archeological evidence to back any claims made. Besides that, I would like to recommend a very good reference which deals with the materialist/historical aspects of the bible, which is “Materialist Approaches to the Bible”–Clevenot

    It is a small book, and I would like to quote two paragraphs which deal with the political agendas of the rulers of that time, which in turn, influenced biblical texts:

    “The Same Politics

    A particular episode of the J document in the book of the Exodus deserves our attention for a moment Exodus 47:13-26 shows, in effect the agrarian politics undertaken by Joseph, one of the sons of Jacob-Israel and and eponymous ancestor of the northern tribes, who became prime minister of the Pharaoh. He took advantage of a prolonged famine to buy from the Egyptians their cattle, then their lands, and them themselves, who he reduced to serfdom. Now we shall see, in studying the E document, this was precisely the politics which the people of the north accused the royal state of having implemented at their expense (1Sam 8) It is, therefore, interesting to see the scribes of Solomon put on the shoulders of Joseph, the ancestor of the tribes of the north exploited by Solomon, the very principle of these politics.

    The Same God

    If the relationship Abraham-Isaac-Jacob was a product of the J authors, even more so was the God of Abraham, of Issac and of Jacob–the God who spoke to Moses (Exodus 3:16). It is perfectly obvious that the patriarchs each had separated and distinct god to who the text still witnessed in the title of the holy places where their memory was honored: El Shaddai at Hebron, El Olam at Beersheba and El Berith at Sehechem. In making a single god out of all the local divinities and in giving him the name Yahweh, which is in a way the secret of the Elohist document, the J document assimilated the traditions of the northern tribes and tried to reinforce the political power of Solomon by basing it on a unified religious ideology that, thus idealized, that would give him a better grip on power.” (P. 24-25)

    This is a very interesting book and deals with the social/political aspects of the time period of both Old and New Testaments, and explains the “materiality” of biblical text.

    If one wishes to gain real knowledge, we must examine every aspect, and employ techniques which lead us to the “best explanation”. I was once a theist too, but I, and many others have come to realize that God, either your god, or any god or goddess is not the “best explanation.” I do not claim to know how the universe began, or why I am here. All I know is that I am. That is enough for me until there is empirical evidence to show otherwise.

  47. Paul Copan says:

    I think that when doing biblical archaeology, we see an excellent match-up at verifiable points between the Old Testament and archaeology and that extreme skepticism is unwarranted. Let me list a few items, but you can find good info in Walter Kaiser’s *The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant?* (IVP) and Jeffery Sheler’s *Is the Bible True?* (Zondervan). Let me list a few items.

    When it comes to biblical archaeology, we’ve seen over and over again that claims that the Hittites, the Horites/Hivites, the region of Ophir, or Sargon king of Assyria and (up until the early 20th century) Assyria itself didn’t exist—despite what the Bible claimed. With further research and discovery, things look very promising for general historical reliability of the Bible. We must remember that we sometimes don’t have a lot to work with (e.g., papyrus documents—i.e., made from reeds—don’t do well in moist climates; so many records were lost to this factor alone).
    Let me cite some notable examples:

    ABRAHAM: Why don’t we have records of Abraham’s leaving Ur of the Chaldees (in modern-day Iraq)? But in response, Abraham isn’t exactly a geopolitical figure who rules a nation or exerts influence on an empire; so we shouldn’t expect to find mention of him in ancient Near East records.
    Furthermore, many of the names used of in Genesis around the time of Abraham start with the i/y (which is called the Amorite imperfective) that fit an era prior to 1500 BC:

    • Yishmael = Ishmael
    • Yiztchak = Isaac
    • Ya’akov = Jacob
    • Yoseph = Joseph

    So it is unlikely that these names were fabricated by a much later writer from the 5th century BC. These names basically dropped out of use in much of the Ancient Near East by 1500 BC.

    The Bible tells us that Abraham had camels in his herds, but scholars argued that this was a later embellishment. Why? Because before 1950, we couldn’t find camels on any ancient Near East livestock lists. But discoveries in Sumerian texts that significantly predate Abraham and the surfacing of camel remains in 1955 and 1960 showed such a reference was possible.

    THE PHILISTINES: Until recently, scholars doubted the existence of this group of people who lived on the Mediterranean Sea and were ancient enemies of Israel (we get the word “Palestine” from “Philistine”). But archeology has helped confirm the biblical record who they were. Ancient Egyptian inscriptions revealed that these were the “Sea Peoples” who most likely came from the island of Crete in the Mediterranean. Jeremiah 47:4 and Deut. 2:23 link them with Caphtor—most likely, the island of Crete.
    Also, the Bible depicts them as metallurgists: “Now there was no smith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, ‘The Hebrews must not make swords or spears for themselves” (1 Sam. 13:19). Archaeologists have indeed found that they were expert metal-workers, which gave them a military advantage over their neighbors. One archaeologist Trude Dothan put it this way:
    When we went to the Philistine sites, we were not looking to prove the Bible or to find where David fought Goliath. Our aim was to bring to light this ancient civilization, to learn how the people lived, how they built their cities, what their culture was like. The Bible was an important ingredient in helping us understand what they were seeing.

    DAVID: The idea of a David and a Davidic dynasty has been challenged as late as the 1990s. In 1994, an inscription at Tel Dan showed up with the letter byt dwd [= beyt dawid]. The phrase means “house of David,” confirming the existence of his royal line with him at its root, being mentioned in conjunction with “king of Israel [mlk ysr’l = melek yisrael].” Scholar André Lemaire notes:
    The inscription easily establishes the importance of Israel and Judah on the international scene at this time—no doubt to the chagrin of those modern scholars who maintain that nothing in the Bible before the Babylonian exile can lay claim to any historical accuracy.

    The Israeli archaeologist Israel Finkelstein from Tel Aviv University, who tends to be more of a skeptic, admitted: “Biblical nihilism collapsed overnight with the discovery of the David inscription.”

    SLAVERY IN THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST: We can track the rising price of slaves in the Bible with what we know archaeologically from the ancient Near East.

    Compare: Genesis 37:28: Joseph sold into slavery for 20 shekels of silver.
    18th/19th centuries BC in Mesopotamia: 20 silver shekels (from ancient Mesopotamian and Syrian [Mari] documents]

    2 Kings 15:20: “Every wealthy person had to contribute 50 shekels of silver to the king of Assyria.”
    8th century BC (Assyrian empire): 50-60 shekels.

    Then in the 4th/5th centuries BC (Persian empire): slaves go for 90-130 shekels

    The Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen (University of Liverpool) asks: If the story of Joseph had been fabricated by a Jewish scribe in the 6th century, then “why isn’t the price in Exodus also ninety to one hundred shekels? It’s more reasonable to assume that the biblical data reflect reality.”

    As biblical scholar Darrell Bock writes:
    “Now archaeology cannot prove that events took place, but what it can show is that details noted in events, some of them incidental, fit in the time and culture of the text. What it also shows is that we should be cautious commenting confidently about errors in the Bible merely because only the Bible attests something. The unearthing of the right site may show that what we were working with was a very limited pool of knowledge. ”

    I could go on listing instances of the general reliability of the OT. I would urge all readers to look at Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen’s work *On the Reliability of the Old Testament* (Eerdmans). It is a gold mine of information.

    Okay, bowing out to grade more papers!

  48. Jusinius says:

    “Materialist Approaches to the Bible”–Clevenot

    Why should I give any credence to a book that in its method of inquiry it assumes its conclusion? Circularity is not an admirable quality in arguments.

  49. Jusinius,

    The method of inquiry in “Materialist Approaches to the Bible” is not circular. It examines the socio-economic climate, political life, and the struggles of the people, and those in power, in conjunction with the bible.

    The Jews were after all, polytheistic at one time, and had as many gods as towns (Jeremiah 11:13)–so having one all-powerful god, united the people and helped to establish the power of the king. It makes perfect sense.

  50. Tom Gilson says:

    Cathy,

    Is this materialist approach a conclusion the author derives from the research, or an assumption guiding his research and conclusions? From the title it sounds like the latter, and if so, it also seems likely to be a circular approach. To assume materialism at the beginning of one’s inquiry is to guarantee materialism as the outcome, which (if that is the case here) renders any anti-theistic or atheistic conclusions suspect at best, logically invalid and completely worthless at worst.

  51. Tom Gilson says:

    Or, how positively would you regard it if we supported our case with a book called, “Supernaturalistic Approaches to Archaeology”?

  52. Tom,

    “Materialist Approaches to the Bible” begins with an abduction/hypothesis as to how the text developed, and then goes on to explain why in the context of the socio-political climate of that time period. The text contains a wealth of notes and references, and it actually makes logical sense of the development of the biblical text, which is why I recommend reading it for yourself.

    A quote from the author explaining the process:

    “We shall envisage, therefore, the texts that make up the Bible as ideological products. Our project will be to analyze the conditions in which they were produced. And our first step will be to set up, in a way, a historical table of contents of the different biblical texts.” p.4

    To analyze the bible from a purely theological approach would be circular reasoning, if what you say is true, because you start off with the assumption that what the bible says is true, and then you set out to prove it true. That leads to a tendency to be blinded by faith and to reject valid sound arguments and evidence if they undermines ones’ faith. I propose to analyze the bible from different perspectives (including a theological perspective) in order to find the “best explanation.”

    I am presently working on my reply to your IBE comment. As I am a pragmatist, I find what you said amusing. But now I bring this up here because as a pragmatist, I will be arguing that abduction is no good without being validated by the H-D method. But here, you seem to be saying if one has an abduction, i.e. a hypothesis they start out with, it leads to circular reasoning! How odd–since you seem to think Craig is permitted to make an abduction, and then rule out other explanations/hypotheses without using the H-D method. How else can one tell if one explanation is “lovelier” than the other?–a “better explanation?” My response to that is, as I will show in my post, is to follow Peirce and the pragmatists. As Peirce said:

    “Concerning the validity of Abductive inference, there is little to be said, although that little is pertinent to the problem we have in hand.
    Abduction is the process of forming an explanatory hypothesis. It is the only logical operation which introduces any new idea; for induction does nothing but determine a value, and deduction merely evolves the necessary consequences of a pure hypothesis.

    Deduction proves that something must be; Induction shows that something actually is operative; Abduction merely suggests that something may be.
    Its only justification is that from its suggestion deduction can draw a prediction which can be tested by induction, and that, if we are ever to learn anything or to understand phenomena at all, it must be by abduction that this is to be brought about.

    “No reason whatsoever can be given for it, as far as I can discover; and it needs no reason, since it merely offers suggestions.” (Harvard Lectures on Pragmatism, CP 5.171-172, 1903)

    Now, in this case, the author, Michel Clevenot, begins with a historical materialist hypothesis, and then he argues that it is the “best explanation” given the evidence…:)

  53. Tom Gilson says:

    I only have a moment, but I have to ask two questions:

    1. Is this author saying a purely materialist approach is less circular than a “purely theological” one? If so, all I can say is wow, that’s pretty amazing.

    2. What is this “purely theological” approach to history and archaeology he is setting up his approach against? I don’t think there’s anyone really doing that.

    I’m reading/ responding on my mobile, so if I missed something I’ll try to catch it when I can read it on a real screen.

  54. Tom Gilson says:

    Okay, on a re-read I notice now that “purely theological” did not come from that author but directly from you. The same questions still apply.

  55. Tom Gilson says:

    Also, do you realize that “abduction” and “hypothesis” aren’t synonyms? Do you know what “abduction” means?

  56. Paul Copan says:

    “Professor” Cooper (for whom I’m still waiting at Parchment and Pen on public confirmation of an alleged teaching position!!) earlier admitted that she doesn’t know how the universe came into being. This and the universe’s fine-tuning are precisely what theism anticipated before there was scientific support for it. By contrast, we have good evidence that tooth fairies, say, *don’t* exist because we know why money shows up under a kid’s pillow in the morning.

    So, if the universe began to exist and all matter, energy, space, and time came into existence through the Big Bang, this is the sort of thing that favors a theistic hypothesis rather than naturalism. Surely this is the sort of relevant evidence we should be looking for if we’re talking about whether God exists or not.

    On the topic of the inference to the best explanation, I argue that God’s existence (when compared to naturalism) offers the requisite resources to account for fundamental features of the universe and human experience. What’s more, naturalistic thinkers themselves are frequently acknowledging that their worldview fails to account for these features. See the attachment from a chapter from my philosophy of religion book; the chapter addresses the topic of God as the best explanation.

    The point here is that if God exists (which we see by making an inference to the best explanation), then this opens the door for supernatural explanations for historical facts like those surrounding the first Easter, say. But I thought I’d throw this into the mix (since no one has even been talking about slavery anyway!):

    http://www.paulcopan.com/articles/pdf/Loving-Wisdom_Chapter-10.pdf

  57. Jusinius says:

    Taking the Bible at and testing its archaeological content isn’t presuming it to be true, nor is it circular.

    If the Bible says that the city of Ai was east of Bethel, that can be tested without presuming the truth of the Bible one way or the other. The Bible has been largely vindicated in this fashion, after many “critically thinking” debunkers have come and gone with their theories. At best, these efforts amount to a massive poisoning of the well for everyone else by creating busywork for people to rebut.

    A fine recent example was the discovery of a home where Nazareth was supposed to be that dates to the first century BC. “Materialist” scholarship prior to the find was that Nazareth didn’t exist at the time the New Testament said it did. Why? The typical argument from silence. We haven’t found it, so it must not exist, ergo the Bible is wrong.

    Did you read the link I offered? What did you think about it? It’s one of many competing theories about the Exodus.

    Can you explain what a “materialist approach” is besides the presumption that the Bible is false?

    The Jews were after all, polytheistic at one time, and had as many gods as towns (Jeremiah 11:13)–so having one all-powerful god, united the people and helped to establish the power of the king. It makes perfect sense.

    That’s a bit simplistic, but sure, there were periods of time where the Hebrews worshipped false idols. This was taught to me in Sunday school. What’s very interesting here is you have no problem taking the Bible at face value when it supports your worldview, and claim it’s a fraud when it doesn’t. That’s telling.

  58. olegt says:

    Paul Copan wrote:

    “Professor” Cooper (for whom I’m still waiting at Parchment and Pen on public confirmation of an alleged teaching position!!) earlier admitted that she doesn’t know how the universe came into being. This and the universe’s fine-tuning are precisely what theism anticipated before there was scientific support for it.

    Is Professor Copan making a God-of-the-gap argument? What if scientists will one day write an entirely naturalistic theory of the universe formation, just like they have explained the formation of the Earth, the Sun, and the solar system? Will God have to move into the next gap?

    And if theologians have such great predictive powers, why don’t they tell us some further details? We’re dying to know. What’s the mass of the Higgs boson? Are cosmologists right about inflation? What is the nature of dark matter? Come on, guys, don’t be shy.

  59. Tom Gilson says:

    Olegt,

    Happy Easter to you (based on the Western Church calendar, of course).

    Are you making a “what-if”-of-the-gaps argument?

  60. Tom Gilson says:

    Also, olegt, suppose some covering law or other were found that explained why the universe is the way it is. Can you imagine a naturalistic theory explaining that theory? David Heddle (Ph.D. physicist like yourself) has argued that any law or theory explaining the universe’s observed fine-tuning would have to be incredibly fine-tuned itself.

    “And if theologians have such great predictive powers….” That’s an ironic question you ask, for if you look into the deep history of the natural sciences, you’ll find theologians laying the foundation for answering questions like that. But they wouldn’t have been taken in by sophomoric expectations that as theologians their interest had to be confined to the pages of the Bible.

    Scientists investigating the Higgs boson are learning about God’s work in the world. That’s how the early scientists, who were by and large theists, conceived of their investigations. A good many of today’s scientists see their work otherwise, obviously, but I think they’re just wrong about that. They’re doing theology—understood as investigation into the character and works of God—even as they deny theology exists.

    God does not live in the gaps, my friend. He lives in both the known and the unknown, the familiar and the mysterious.

    Meanwhile, there is epistemic support for theism in what we know about the origin of the universe. You could play “what-if”-of-the-gaps the rest of your life, or you could recognize that based on what we know–not on what we don’t know, but what we know–there is support there for the existence of God.

  61. olegt says:

    Hi Tom,

    Happy Easter to you, too. It’s on the same for both Western and Orthodox churches this year.

    Also, olegt, suppose some covering law or other were found that explained why the universe is the way it is. Can you imagine a naturalistic theory explaining that theory? David Heddle (Ph.D. physicist like yourself) has argued that any law or theory explaining the universe’s observed fine-tuning would have to be incredibly fine-tuned itself.

    I am not sure about that. Heddle and I have not discussed this issue before. I am a little skeptical of that claim and I will be sure to ask him about it next time our paths cross. But to give one example to the contrary, one of the instances of fine tuning in particle physics is the hierarchy problem of the Higgs mass.

    In the Standard Model of particle physics, the mass of the Higgs boson is merely an input parameter. Attempts to calculate it* run into a problem: quantum corrections to this mass from virtual particles swarming in the vacuum lead to a nonsensical answer many orders of magnitude exceeding the expected value of a few hundred GeV. Unless these large corrections somehow, miraculously cancel out. Roughly speaking, the theory would add 1,000,000,000 and subtract 999,999,999 and in the end get 1. Why are the corrections so close to each other so that they cancel out?

    The anticipated answer to this anticipated problem is supersymmetry, which says that each particle that we know has a partner. If quantum statistics of the partners is opposite (e.g., photons are bosons, whereas photinos are fermions) then their quantum corrections tend to cancel out. They would cancel out exactly if the masses of the particles were exactly the same, but they are clearly not: supersymmetry is not an exact symmetry, it is broken. This proposed solution does not require fine tuning as far as I know.

    *Really, there is no accepted theory that calculates it. There are merely reasonable guesses, extensions of the Standard Model that are not yet tested experimentally.

  62. olegt says:

    On a related note, theologians love to point to the Big Bang as evidence for God’s intervention in the universe. Curiously, this enthusiasm was not shared by Reverend Monsignor George Lemaître. At the 1958 Solvay conference he said:

    As far as I can see, such a theory remains entirely outside any metaphysical or religious question. It leaves the materialist free to deny any transcendental Being. He may keep, for the bottom of space-time, the same attitude of mind he has been able to adopt for events occurring in nonsingular places in space-time. For the believer, it removes any attempt at familiarity with God, as were Laplace’s “flick” or Jean’s “finger [of God agitating the ether]” consonant, it is consonant with the wording of Isaiah’s speaking of a “Hidden God,” hidden even m the beginning of creation.

  63. Tom Gilson says:

    The point being…?

    It comes as no surprise that not all Christians agree on everything.

  64. Charlie says:

    And none ever claimed that the Big Bang hypothesis took away the atheist’s ability to deny the existence of God.

  65. JAD says:

    Let’s compare Lemaitre with steady state theorist Fred Hoyle.

    Lemaitre wrote:

    “As far as I can see, such a theory [the Big Bang theory] remains entirely outside any metaphysical or religious question. It leaves the materialist free to deny any transcendental Being… For the believer, it removes any attempt at familiarity with God… It is consonant with Isaiah speaking of the hidden God, hidden even in the beginning of the universe.”

    http://www.amnh.org/education/resources/rfl/web/essaybooks/cosmic/p_lemaitre.html

    Okay, for sake of argument let’s give Lemaitre the benefit of the doubt. His philosophical/ theological predispositions played no role in his scientific thinking. Can the same be said of some of the other players in the early debates about the origin of the universe?

    For example, here is the quote from the famous or maybe infamous radio broadcast where Hoyle coined the term “big bang’”.

    On scientific grounds this big bang assumption is much less the palatable of the two. For it is an irrational process that cannot be described in scientific terms. . . . On philosophical grounds too I cannot see any good reason for preferring the big bang idea. Indeed it seems to me in the philosophical sense to be a distinctly unsatisfactory notion, since it puts the basic assumption out of sight where it can never be challenged by a direct appeal to observation.

    — Fred Hoyle, penultimate lecture of a series of science broadcasts on the BBC in the Spring of 1949, and also contained in his 1950 book The Nature of the Universe. So the term Big Bang was popularized by someone who found it very troubling and preferred the Steady State thesis.
    http://www.spacequotations.com/astronomyquotes.html

    Notice that Hoyle admits that he is rejecting big bang cosmology for “philosophical” reasons.

    It appears to me that olegt, has something of a double standard. Atheistic or naturalistic metaphysical assumptions get an automatic pass. He then uses the cannard that theists are making a god-of-the-gaps claim, but then why not hold the atheist/ naturalist/ materialist to the same standard? Aren’t they by the same reasoning making a natural-causes-of-the-gap argument?

    To be fair shouldn’t all metaphysical assumption be judged the same? Or, do naturalistic/materialistic ones deserve a wink and nod preference from the scientific community?

  66. Jusinius

    I had much to do, but I did want to answer your questions. I recently posted on my blog and made reference to that article that you cited (which I read)

    As for “Sunday School”–academic study of religion is MUCH different than what you learn in Sunday School, or even church for that matter. I was given multiple explanations for the text, whereas the layperson is given but one, or if they question, perhaps 2.

    Now, your god did not say “Put no other idols before me.”–he said “Put no other gods before me.”(Deuteronomy 5:7)–which implies there were multiple gods.

    Historically, before the tribes merged, they each had their own pantheons of gods and goddesses. Yahweh is a storm/war god–similar to Zeus–and was made the only god when the tribes merged.

    Also, Genesis 6 tells us the “sons of god” took the women and had children with them. Idols CANNOT have children. They were not nephilim, as they were the sons OF the sons of gods, and the women on earth–similar to a Herculean type of being. If they were angels, it would have said angels, as there is a Hebrew word for ‘angel.’
    Therefore, they were gods, just as the Jews tell us they were–as they had MANY gods and goddesses.

    I hope this clarifies things for you.

    Another thing I wanted to point out is that I know many believers who “lost their Jesus” after entering academic study–that is how different it is.

  67. Tom Gilson says:

    Cathy,

    If you won’t answer the contentions brought against you here, then you owe it to us (and to yourself as well) to quit embarrassing yourself by posing as someone who has done academic study. I’m not saying you can’t answer. I’m saying you haven’t, despite having been repeatedly asked to do so. Other readers here may not know that full story, but I know you do.

    You put forward this “history” of the “pantheon” so smugly, and you represent your own “academic study” as the authority for your claim. You can’t help yourself, can you? On your own blog and on others you have said it’s the argument, not your credentials, that matter; but here all you offer are your claimed credentials, which you refuse to support with any information of any kind. You can’t keep from claiming this authority for yourself. But it’s empty. It’s nothing. You won’t back it up. And you don’t offer any substantive argument in its stead.

    Let me repeat: either one has authority by way of education and research, or one has an argument, or both, or neither. To have an education or to have done research does not mean you have proved a point, but at least it does tend to give one something to say in an argument like this one. The one who has neither argument nor credential can always ask questions (questions are always welcome), but otherwise has nothing to say. So far you have offered us neither of these. So far, in other words, you have said nothing. I can’t imagine why you bother. How satisfying is it, really, to come on Christian blogs, to try to refute Christianity (as you say your purpose is on your own blog) and to say nothing at all?

  68. Tom Gilson says:

    JAD, Justinius, and others, before you worry too much about anything else Cathy says, I suggest you look into the link I supplied in my last comment, and consider whether it’s worth even responding to her. It’s up to you, of course. I’m only recommending that you think about it.

  69. Cathy,
    Sorry to point out, but you’re wrong again on multiple counts.

    Now, your god did not say “Put no other idols before me.”–he said “Put no other gods before me.”(Deuteronomy 5:7)–which implies there were multiple gods.

    Your false conclusion here results from your misunderstanding of the text. “Before” does not imply a long line of gods from which the God of the Bible is requiring allegiance “before.” It is more properly understood to be “besides,” which is an edict to NOT believe in other [false] gods. False is implied here because the people knew the context very well, which you failed to consider. No Jewish person of the time in their right mind would mistake this to mean that Moses is supposedly calling the people to believe in YWHY, instead of a panoply of other earnestly believed “authentic” gods from which the people had the prerogative to choose from.

    Also, Genesis 6 tells us the “sons of god” took the women and had children with them.  Idols CANNOT have children. They were not nephilim, as they were the sons OF the sons of gods, and the women on earth–similar to a Herculean type of being.

    I’m not sure what exactly you are trying to say with this, but I think you’re trying to again make the point that the Jews had other false gods. This passage does have various interpretations, but your highly selective choice of interpretations to include is very telling. You’ve chosen the ones that will further your argument and avoided the ones that may be detrimental. The other and arguably better interpretation of the passage equates the “sons of God” with godly men (probably from the noble line of Abel). In contrast (as the context affords and even entails), “daughters of men” is understood to be the sinful women (probably from the wicked line of Cain). This intermarriage of the “Sethites” (ch.5) and the “Cainites” (ch.4) indicates the breakdown in the separation of the two distinct groups.

    If they were angels, it would have said angels, as there is a Hebrew word for ‘angel.’

    This is pure conjecture that carries very little weight.

    Therefore, they were gods, just as the Jews tell us they were–as they had MANY gods and goddesses.

    This is a false conclusion based on false premises.

    …they had MANY gods and goddesses.

    Yes, this is true. They had many FALSE gods and goddesses. Does this argue that there is no TRUE God? Absolute Not! To argue that it does is to commit a non sequitur logical fallacy. I can just as easily make the claim that since there were many false gods then there must be one TRUE God. You see the problem with this line of thinking? The conclusion does NOT follow from the arguments!

  70. Cathy, some introspection is in order. I’m continually utterly amazed at your lack of willingness to concede any of your failed points. Since humility must precede discernment I can only conclude that you do not really care to know the truth, but are intent on simply spreading a fictional tale that caters to your comfortable cocoon of unbelief. Good luck with that. Your arguments full of logical fallacies of various kinds have all failed masterfully, and I completely agree with Tom that there really is no need to answer to anything more you have to say. It is impossible to reason with someone who does NOT want to be reasonable, but thanks for displaying for all of us the immense intensity with which atheists are willing to bypass reason simply for trying to appear right in their own minds. I do wish you were a bit more authentic with everyone, but most importantly with yourself.

  71. Tom,

    My quick answer is that you claim I do NOT provide a response, but then you go on in your comment to JW Wartick and cite my response!

    Now, I cited physicists and scientists who offer support based on Quantum Physics that the universe is “in its own nature.” You also mention that I do this, which shows that my response is not just mere assertion, nor is just an appeal to authority. It uses the information provided by authorities who are legitimate sources. You can disagree, and offer counter arguments if you like. You do just that after you cite my reasons for arguing that the universe is “in its own nature,” and you mention the sources that I cite to support it. I said in response to Eric on my blog, who argued that given my argument, the universe is god, and would be “Pure Act”–which he claimed was ridiculous. I provided an argument by Alan Rhoda:

    “From this perspective, change requires that actualization of a potency. God is essentially Pure Act and so lacks potency. So God cannot change. Immutability, in short, is necessary to secure the Creator-creature distinction.

    I think this argument is fallacious. And to explain why I’d like to consider what it could mean to say that God’s essence is identical to his existence.”

    “So we arrive at a conception of the divine essence that contains two different sorts of properties: (1) properties that are necessary to God (like goodness), and (2) properties that God possesses contingently (like being a creator). What this means is that the fullness of being (pure actuality) is compatible with multiple possible determinations. Pure actuality in that sense is compatible both with God’s being a creator and with his not being a creator.

    But if God’s being Pure Act is compatible with multiple possible determinations, then there is no obvious contradiction in God’s changing with respect to some of his contingent properties all the while remaining Pure Act. In other words, being “Pure Act” in the sense of the fullness of being does not automatically entail being completely determinate without any potency.”(http://www.alanrhoda.net/blog/2006/08/pure-actuality-and-immutability.html)

    If this argument works and I think it does, the fact that the universe is expanding and is in potency would not rule it out from being “PURE ACT.”

    2. What are the implications of God as “PURE ACT” and does the universe meet the conditions of “PURE ACT.”

    A.) If God is His own Act of Being, then God is Act. Given my explanation of the universe and quantum mechanics,(in my blog post and comments) one plausible explanation is that the universe is its own “ACT of being.” I pointed out that this might be explained by quantum mechanics.

    B.) God is said to be indivisible. Quanta, one of the major components of quantum mechanics are indivisible within any theory that invokes them, and provides further support to a circular conception of time and the potentiality that the universe is finite and infinite.

    C.) God is said to be outside of time. Quanta,is said to outside of time.

    D.) God is said not to be in place, therefore God is not in the universe nor outside of it. Quanta are claimed to be space-less, and therefore quanta is not in the universe nor outside of it.

    E.) God is said to be everywhere. Quanta is said to be everywhere.

    http://sites.google.com/site/jdquirk/articles/circular-causality

    “Circular Causality
    A Physical Hypothesis of Eternal Recurrence:

    Let us speculate freely a bit on the nature of Nature. The basis of the “time-loop” hypothesis I propose in this essay is a relatively new perspective in quantum theory put forth by physicist John Cramer. While not universally accepted, his approach has enjoyed some success in scientific circles. In short, Cramer’s Transactional Interpretation of quantum physics states that at such a time as the wave function of a given quantum mechanical object such as a subatomic particle collapses due to its having assumed a definite state, that particle emits an “advanced wave” which travels backward in time to the instant of the particle’s creation and determines its future course. The present, then, is determined not only by the past, but by the future as well.”

    Here is another website where you can learn more about time:

    http://everythingforever.com/st_order.htm

    As I said, my credentials have nothing to do with my arguments, as my arguments speak for themselves. Also, your comment went automatically into “spam,” and as it is an ad hominem, I chose to leave it there.

  72. Arthur,

    My points are not failed, I can back them, as well as my arguments up.

    Your repeated use of Humpty Dumpty semantics to make the text mean whatever you want it to mean is pathetic.

    Believe me, I am more “self aware” than most.

  73. Arthur,

    As you point out, the writers of the Old Testament can’t get their facts straight about gods that you claim are false gods. For example, they tell the story about how the sons of gods came down and took the women of earth as wives and had children.

    Again, as you point out, they talk about lots of gods in the bible, that you are saying are false–illustrating that they can’t get their stories straight, and they made up lots of stories about gods and goddesses! If this is the case, then we should not trust their claims about Yahweh, as they are prone to just making up stories about “false gods”

  74. One last point–since the Hebrew word ‘god’ in “sons of god” means ‘angels’, I guess any reference to Yahweh being a god, just means he is an ‘angel’ And when it says, “put no other gods before me,” it means “put no other angels before me.”

    See how your Humpty Dumpty semantics work.

    Let me show you the actual Hebrew:
    וַיִּרְא֤וּ בְנֵי־ הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־ בְּנֹ֣ות הָֽאָדָ֔ם כִּ֥י טֹבֹ֖ת הֵ֑נָּה וַיִּקְח֤וּ לָהֶם֙ נָשִׁ֔ים מִכֹּ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר בָּחָֽרוּ׃

    In particular the Hebrew word–הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙ ha·’e·lo·him meaning ‘of god.

    Note, it does not say sons of “angels”–it says sons of god (actually, in the original Hebrew it says GODS–but scholars have been hiding this for centuries)

  75. As you point out, the writers of the Old Testament can’t get their facts straight about gods that you claim are false gods. For example, they tell the story about how the sons of gods came down and took the women of earth as wives and had children.

    Again, as you point out, they talk about lots of gods in the bible, that you are saying are false–illustrating that they can’t get their stories straight, and they made up lots of stories about gods and goddesses! If this is the case, then we should not trust their claims about Yahweh, as they are prone to just making up stories about “false gods”

    This makes no sense at all since you’ve not actually addressed anything I proposed. It feels to me like you’ve not really read my comment. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume this to be the case.

    Believe me, I am more “self aware” than most.

    I’m glad you feel that way, but what you’ve shown is a disingenuous approach to a discussion and an arrogance to refuse to address questions/arguments posed to you.

    One last point–since the Hebrew word ‘god’ in “sons of god” means ‘angels’, I guess any reference to Yahweh being a god, just means he is an ‘angel’ And when it says, “put no other gods before me,” it means “put no other angels before me.”

    See how your Humpty Dumpty semantics work.

    Let me show you the actual Hebrew:
    וַיִּרְא֤וּ בְנֵי־ הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־ בְּנֹ֣ות הָֽאָדָ֔ם כִּ֥י טֹבֹ֖ת הֵ֑נָּה וַיִּקְח֤וּ לָהֶם֙ נָשִׁ֔ים מִכֹּ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר בָּחָֽרוּ׃

    In particular the Hebrew word–הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙ ha·’e·lo·him meaning ‘of god.

    What you’ve done here is misrepresent my argument in order to easily debunk it. This is called a straw man argument. It is yet another logical fallacy.

  76. Justinius says:

    Scholars haven’t been hiding this for centuries. If elohim is accompanied by singular verbs and adjectives, it’s singular.

    In Genesis 1:1 “bara” is singular, describing God’s act of creating.
    In Genesis 1:3 the “uiamr” is also singular.
    In Genesis 1:4 the uira is also singular.
    In Exodus 7:1 God tells Moses he will make him a god to Pharaoh. God here is also elohim, though we know Moses was one person. There are many, many examples which use singular verbs and adjectives while using the “majestic plural”.

    It’s a nice conspiracy theory that the plural ending of elohim stems from the worship of multiple gods, except the verbs and adjectives are conjugated in the singular. Some Christians have even claimed that this was a foreshadowing of the Trinity, but this doesn’t seem to be the case.

    Sons of God in Genesis 6:2 is disputed, but in neither case is “God” construed to be “angels”.
    It is the “sons” that are argued by some to be angels. Some argue that the sons were the angles, others that sons refers to the children of Seth (as opposed to Cain – the “sons of men”).

  77. Arthur,
    You misrepresent my conclusion. Perhaps you have a problem following the arguments and remembering the premises and conclusions. Basically, what you say about me is what you do–and I DO NOT do.

    So, my conclusion was based on the fact that you claim the Jews talk about lots of gods in the bible that you claim are false, illustrating that they can’t get their stories straight, and they made up lots of stories about gods and goddesses! For ecample, Genesis 6, where the “sons of gods” come down and have children with women.” Is this a true story or a false story? If it is a false story, it illustrates that we should not trust their claims about Yahweh, as they are prone to just making up stories about “false gods” If it is true, then there are MANY gods!
    Either way, they are NOT reliable.

  78. Jusinius,

    Genesis 6 is making reference to SONS of gods, and is not making reference to humans, such as Seth. (And yes, many Christians do believe the sons of gods were “angels”) Shortly after this, Satan, who was also considered one of the “sons of gods” comes in the entourage of “sons of gods” in Job, and gives his report to Yahweh, as it is his duty to go down to earth to test people. Note, Satan is NOT an angel.

    To have “sons of gods” implies there must also be goddesses. And we have archeological proof that Yahweh had a consort named Asherah. Her symbol was the tree of life, and this was made reference to in Genesis. I explained this in a video I have posted on youtube.

  79. Justinius says:

    Well, sons of God is debatable. Definitely the first century view (Jewish and Christian both) seems to be that these were angels.

    Job doesn’t say that Satan wasn’t an angel. I’m not sure where you’re getting that from. Most all commentary on Satan that I’ve read from Rabbi’s teach that Satan was an angel. They disagree with Christians on whether Satan was “fallen” or not.

    And in several old testament books, (2nd Kings, Chronicles, Judges) they removed the Asherah poles and burned them. The reference to the tree of life in Genesis is not an Asherah pole.

    But I am seeing now that Tom was right.

  80. Tom Gilson says:

    Cathy,

    You are so sure of your interpretations. You are so sure that you understand Ancient Near East idioms (“sons of gods,” a term only used once in the OT). You are so sure that Satan is not an angel. You are so sure that we have proof that Yahweh had a consort named Asherah, and that that actually means something other than the acknowledged fact of syncretism creeping in on Israelite religion. What’s your authority?

    You say again that your credentials have nothing to do with your arguments—so why are you spouting them again?

    You say I presented an ad hominem against you on your blog. Not true. I presented an argument that was relevant to claims you made. Readers can see the same argument on J.W.’s blog. If you are misrepresenting your credentials, that misrepresentation is relevant even if the credentials are not.

    You also deleted substantive answers I provided to your argument (also visible on that same link), and then proceeded to post this statement:

    Now do you see that they will not address the argument, and like JW Wartick they make up things “Humpty Dumpty” style, and insist on using ad hominem and red herrings, so as not to address the arguments.

    That was false. I addressed the argument and you deleted it.

    Because you have prevented me from speaking my argument on my blog, and because I don’t see why I should make my blog a home for your misrepresentations while you also misrepresent me on your own, your participation here is now at an end.

  81. Cathy,

    You misrepresent my conclusion. Perhaps you have a problem following the arguments and remembering the premises and conclusions. Basically, what you say about me is what you do–and I DO NOT do.

    I’ve done no such thing. I was merely paraphrasing your argument back to you from another perspective in hopes that you would see how irrational it is.

    So, my conclusion was based on the fact that you claim the Jews talk about lots of gods in the bible that you claim are false, illustrating that they can’t get their stories straight, and they made up lots of stories about gods and goddesses!

    You are now sinking to depths of logic that defy every convention. Just because OT writers mention false gods doesn’t mean these are all made-up stories. In fact, we should ask about why OT writers would include mentions of these other gods if they were so worried that people named Cathy Cooper would have such a hard time grasping the difference between something that is believed to be true, which is in actuality false, and something that is true, which is discarded as false. You are confusing the difference between belief and actuality in order to try to prove the actuality false. As I said before multiple times this is a logical fallacy.

    Genesis 6, where the “sons of gods” come down and have children with women.” Is this a true story or a false story? If it is a false story, it illustrates that we should not trust their claims about Yahweh, as they are prone to just making up stories about “false gods” If it is true, then there are MANY gods!

    It is a true story, but you’re choosing to use the interpretation that best suits your purposes and mischaracterizing the text in order to argue against it. The problem with your reasoning here is that you are taking the meaning and interpretation of “sons of god” from other portions of the text to argue your point without considering who’s actually credited with the writing, how the author chose to use the phrase, and the context in which the text is being used. You are also choosing to ignore or are ignorant of the fact that words are equivocal, which means that they take on the context that the surrounding text gives them.

    If you were to read a letter that read, “I am in the can” would you not assume the person to be in jail? Or would you opt to assume the person to be trapped in a can of tuna? This is precisely what you are doing with your argument.

  82. Charlie says:

    Reading the pertinent Psalm 82 tonight, I decided to confirm that Jewish interpreters viewed “elohim” as both angels and mortal humans specifically associated with Israel. So did Jesus view them as humans, as He interpreted this Psalm.
    http://www.nd.edu/~jneyrey1/Gods.html