Monday, June 18, 2018

Moses’ Example


There a number of times in the Scriptures where Moses is presented as being a good example to imitate.

One is in 2 Corinthians 3:15-16, which reads: “In fact, to this day whenever Moses [the Pentateuch] is read [in the Synagogue], a veil lies upon their hearts. 16 But when one turns to Jehovah, the veil is taken away.”

The NET Bible offers two enlightening footnotes here for verse 16. For “one,” it states:
Or perhaps “when(ever) he turns,” referring to Moses.
At the end of the verse, its footnote says:
An allusion to Exod 34:34. The entire verse may refer to Moses, viewing him as a type portraying the Jewish convert to Christianity in Paul’s day.
This makes a lot of sense, for Exodus 34:34 says: “But when Moses would go in before Jehovah to speak with him, he would take off the veil until he went out.” The application being that, the convert to Christianity can now act like Moses and remove the veil by studying the scriptures and seeing their fulfillment in Jesus Christ, seeing God’s glory as reflected by him.

Moses also provided an example of pleading before God at Numbers 12:13, in this case to heal Miriam from being stricken with leprosy. It says: “And Moses began to cry out to Jehovah, saying: ‘O God, please heal her! Please!’” (RNWT) This is quite a bit different than how the NET Bible presents it: “Heal her now, O God.” This is more like a dry, sterilized command to God to do his bidding. However, one scholar explains that:
In translation, it sounds straightforward. But in the original Hebrew what Moses actually said was, El Na Refah Na La -אֵל נָא רְפָא נָא לָהּ.

This five-word phrase has perfect symmetry. The central word Refah means “heal”. It is surrounded on both sides with the word Na, meaning “please”. The two outermost words are El (“God”) and La (her”), both containing the sound “L”. This short phrase has poetic symmetry, where the repetition of the word “please” strengthens Moses’ prayer.[1] (underline added)
So I’m afraid the New Word Translation enjoys superiority over the NET Bible, and any other translation similar to it here. Moses at Numbers 12:13 presents a good example to emulate in prayer, not forgetting to season your petitions with politeness and proper etiquette even if feeling desperate.


Footnotes:
[1] Moses’ holiest prayer.
lp.israelbiblicalstudies.com/lp_iibs_biblical_hebrew_shortest_prayer-en.html
Also the source for the opening graphic.

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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Ironic Ignorance


As the saying goes, “ignorance is bliss.” As seen here though, ignorance is ironic.

John 7 reveals some remarkable ignorance of the Scriptures among Jesus’ skeptics and enemies. Case in point: at John 7:41 “some were saying: ‘The Christ is not coming out of Galilee, is he?’” Here, the skeptics were ignorant of Isaiah 9:1-2 which specifically mentions Galilee in connection with a “great light.” Certainly it takes no great imagination to see that this could pass for the Messiah.[1] Then, at John 7:52 the Pharisees sneered: “You are not also out of Galilee, are you? Search and see that no prophet is to be raised up out of Galilee.” In saying this, they expressed ignorance that the prophet Jonah[2] hailed from Galilee as expressed in Jeremiah’s book 2 Kings 14:25. They also revealed ignorance of the messianic import of Isaiah 9:1-2.

In this, the NET Bible concurs in a footnote:
This claim by the leaders presents some difficulty, because Jonah had been from Gath Hepher, in Galilee (2 Kgs 14:25). Also the Babylonian Talmud later stated, “There was not a tribe in Israel from which there did not come prophets” (b. Sukkah 27b). Two explanations are possible: (1) In the heat of anger the members of the Sanhedrin overlooked the facts (this is perhaps the easiest explanation). (2) This anarthrous noun is to be understood as a reference to the prophet of Deut 18:15 (note the reading of P66 which is articular), by this time an eschatological figure in popular belief. This would produce in the text of John’s Gospel a high sense of irony indeed, since the religious authorities by their insistence that “the Prophet” could not come from Galilee displayed their true ignorance of where Jesus came from on two levels at once (Bethlehem, his birthplace, the fulfillment of Mic 5:2, but also heaven, from which he was sent by the Father). The author does not even bother to refute the false attestation of Jesus’ place of birth as Galilee (presumably Christians knew all too well where Jesus came from). [emphasis original]
This multilayered ignorance reveals just how unprepared Jesus’ contemporaries were. This is especially ironic considering that not all Jews were this unaware of their own scriptures, and this insight derives from a surprising source, the apocryphal book of Tobit. In it, Tobit is presented as being from the northern tribe of Naphtali in Galilee, the same place mentioned in the messianic prophecy of Isaiah 9:1-2. (Tobit 1:1) In this fable, the Archangel Raphael (meaning “God Heals”) became the man Azariah (“Jehovah Has Helped”) who claimed to be one of Tobit’s relatives from Hananiah (Tobit 5:12-13), therefore also from Naphtali and Galilee. As one scholar reported: “Presumably, Hananiah is a member of Tobit’s tribe of Naphtali, from Upper Galilee. Raphael has therefore taken on the guise of a Galilean Israelite with a verifiable history.”[3] In this story, Azariah is responsible for two healings, that of blindness (Tobit 11:12-14) and of demon-possession (Tobit 8:3), miracles that are associated with God’s blessing, especially the former. (Isaiah 35:5-6; 61:1-2) Thus it seems pretty clear that even though Tobit is unhistorical, that it does preserve a Jewish expectation that the Messiah would also hail from Galilee. Indeed: “Raphael, the savior of Tobit, should be understood as a theological template for Jesus’ followers when they identified him as a heavenly savior in human form.”[4] So the only ones who recognized the messianic expectations of Galilee were the Jewish composers of Tobit. Thus the characters in Tobit “acknowledged that the angel of the Lord had appeared to them” as a Galilean savior. (Tobit 12:22) To repeat, the fictional characters of Tobit were more enlightened than Jesus’ real-life opposers. Has irony ever been so great as this?

In conclusion, may we not be caught off-guard as Jesus’ ignorant or forgetful skeptics and opposers were, with their lack of meditation and study of the Scriptures.

See also my discussion of a similar case here: A case for Christ’s pre-human existence: Additional explanation http://jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2011/07/case-for-christs-pre-human-existence.html This reveals another case of the Pharisees being caught off-guard, in this instance with Christ’s exegesis of Psalm 110:1.

Footnotes:
[1] Regarding Isaiah 9:1-2 and the messianic connotation of the “great light,” The Complete Jewish Study Bible says:
[Isaiah] returns to the theme of future blessing. The Land that was to experience the Assyrian captivity would someday experience God’s blessing, mediated though the birth of a child who would rule on the throne of David. (vv. 6-7). The Targum uses the descriptions of these verses as titles for the Messiah.
Additionally, The Jewish Study Bible notes:
The ideal Davidic king. Isaiah describes the liberation from some form of adversity (perhaps the Assyrian conquests of Israelite territory… Most later readers (both Jewish and Christian) understood the passage to describe an ideal future ruler, i.e., the Messiah.
Thus the people in darkness seeing a great light are identified as living in the territory identified in verse 1, and that seeing a “great light” was indeed identified as being messianic.

[2] The Complete Jewish Study Bible in its introduction to Jonah says:
Though Yonah’s [Jonah’s] mission was to Ashur’s [Assyria’s] capital, the book is directed at Israel. … Israel is guilty not only of departing from God, but also of failing to carry out its great commission to the Gentiles.
So Jonah is recognized as a legitimate prophet and was grouped with the 12 Prophets in the Jewish Canon. Ironically, the Prophet Daniel was relegated to the Writings, showing that Jonah could have been too if he fell out of favor.

[3] Muñoa, Phillip. Raphael, Azariah and Jesus of Nazareth: Tobit’s Significance for Early Christology. Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha. (2012). 13

[4] Ibid. 15



Related blog entries:


Credits:
Opening graphic from jw.org.

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Friday, May 18, 2018

Quickly Refuting the Flat-Earth Folly

The position mentioned in the title argues that the earth is a flat disk and for geocentrism, and that this is the Biblical position.

This is a great folly, and is quickly refuted by one point:

Antipodal volcanism.

This is best seen in the Chicxulub crater and the Deccan Traps, lava flows which occurred nearly half-way around the earth following the Chicxulub impact.

See: Antipodal Volcanism and the K-T Extinction Event http://jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2015/10/antipodal-volcanism-and-k-t-extinction.html

This is a problem for the Flat Earth position as it does not believe in impact craters as they are incompatible with its geological model; instead, voices within that Flat Earth community call them sink holes due to childishly not understanding that the impactor disintegrated upon impact. See the following infographic:
It’s pure madness as described in 1 Timothy 6:4.

This problem has been humorously depicted in this graphic spread around the Internet that uses the Chicxulub impact as an example:

As should be self-explanatory, only a globe could withstand an impact of that nature, whereas a disk would be thrown-off balance or possibly even shattered.

But here are two potential replies and my responses:

Potential flat-earther reply 1: “Where’s the asteroid that reportedly made the Chicxulub crater?”
Me: Disintegrated. The only reason why impactors are rejected is due to being incompatible with Flat-Earth geology, which is circular reasoning.

Potential flat-earther reply 2: “Why couldn’t the Chicxulub crater and Deccan Traps have occurred independently of each other as they were only recently connected in time?”
Me: They could have occurred independently of each other, but that would leave the Deccan Traps without a clear cause, so it’s far more compelling that it was caused by the shockwaves of the Chicxulub impact. This is only compatible with the globe model, not the Flat-Earth model.

Impact craters and their associated antipodal volcanism are a gift that informs us of the earth’s spherical character. To deny this is to deny God’s Word in nature.—Romans 1:20.

It’s thus hard to imagine a position that’s more unreasonable than this. Unreasonableness of this type is a “work of the flesh” listed together with depraved sexual sins that Christians are admonished to avoid like the plague. (Galatians 5:19-21) As James said: “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above; it is earthly, animalistic, demonic.” (James 3:15) The NET Bible footnote explains that this “describes life apart from God, characteristic of earthly human life as opposed to what is spiritual. Cf. 1 Cor 2:14; 15:44-46; Jude 1:19.” It is totally depraved in its fallaciousness.

Appendix
  1. Hugh Ross Explains
  2. Flat Earth falls flat on the South Pole
Hugh Ross Explains
Recently, Astronomer Hugh Ross commented on the Flat-Earth folly on Facebook:

Question of the Week: What are the best scientific evidences for a spherical Earth that is best understood by laypeople?

My Answer: The three that I have found to be most effective are 1) to point out that airlines have their planes fly to faraway cities along curved paths rather than straight paths, 2) when on Earth you look at a faraway tall mountain the top of the mountain is visible but not the bottom, and 3) when you take a flight from Athens to Johannesburg on a clear night you can watch the constellation Orion gradually turn upside down.

https://www.facebook.com/RTBHughRoss/posts/1723067687771328

Question of the Week: How can one refute the claim made by atheists, skeptics, and even some Christians that the Bible a flat-earth book?

My Answer: First of all, the idea that the Bible promotes a flat-earth doctrine presupposes that people living 2–3 thousand years ago lacked the capacity to determine the true shape of Earth. That presupposition is incorrect. The fact that at different locations on Earth different stellar constellations are seen and they are seen at different orientations was sufficient to persuade ancient peoples that they were living on a spherical body. Aristotle wrting in the 4th century BC cited this evidence as proof that Earth is spherical. However, documented mentions of a spherical Earth by Greek philosophers date back to the 6th century BC. Erastosthenes in the 3rd century BC used the sunlight lines at summer solistice in wells at different latitudes to determine the diameter of Earth to 1 percent precision. Both ancient Greek and Egyptian astronomers pointed to the semi-circular shadow of Earth on the Moon during lunar eclipses as evidence for the sphericity of Earth.

The biblical texts most often cited in the claim that the Bible teaches a flat Earth are Job 38:5, 12-14, Isaiah 11:12, 40:22, and Revelation 7:1, 20:7. Of these passages, the most cited is Isaiah 40:22. The relevant part of Isaiah 40:22, referring to God, states, “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers.” Whether the “circle of the earth” refers to a human on Earth or God looking down on Earth from above, in both cases the phrase would be consistent with a spherically shaped Earth. It is worth noting that only a sphere always looks like a circle when seen from above.

The Isaiah 11:12 and Revelation 7:1, 20:7 all refer to the “four corners of the earth.” However, even today, astronomers, physicists, and educated people around the world recognize and use the “four corners of the earth” as phenomenalogical language referring to the most distant parts of Earth from the standpoint of an observer at a specific location of Earth. It is clear from an examination of the context for all three of these passages that the most distant parts of Earth is the intent implied by the use of the idiom, the four corners of the earth. As the Theolological Wordbook of the Old Testament points out, the Hebrew word for “corners” used in Isaiah 11:12, kanap, in most of its appearances in the Old Testament is used figuratively.

The passage in Job 38:5 referring to Earth states, “Who fixed its dimensions? Certainly you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?” The inference made by those claiming that the Bible is a flat-earth book is that the “measuring line” is a straight line which would be suitable for measuring a flat disk but not a sphere. This is an overinterpretation. Lines can be straight or curved. Also, it is customary to measure the diameter of a sphere with a straight-edge ruler.

Job 38:12-14 refers to the dawn seizing “the edges [or ends] of the earth” and earth taking “shape like clay under a seal.” What is interesting here is that for a spherical earth the arrival of dawn first shows up at the most distant horizon, end, or edge of the point of view of a human at a fixed point upon Earth’s surface. The taking shape like clay under a seal would apply to either a disk or a sphere and may be saying more about Earth’s rotation or its manufacture than its actual shape.

The irony of choosing Job 38:5, 12-14, Isaiah 11:12, 40:22, and Revelation 7:1, 20:7 to sustain the claim that the Bible is a flat Earth book is that these biblical texts better fit a spherical Earth than they do a flat Earth. While it would be an overinterpretation to conclude that these texts explicitly teach that Earth is a sphere, no where in the Bible do we find any text saying that Earth is flat. The Bible remains the only holy book for which we can say that it contains no provable errors or contradictions.

https://www.facebook.com/RTBHughRoss/posts/1716460378432059

Flat Earth falls flat on the South Pole
An official outlet for the Flat Earth Society reveals a division of opinion on Antarctica, the continent where the south pole is: it is either an ice wall boundary or a continent. This division in that geological model is a fatal flaw making its folly extremely obvious. This division is expressed in these terms:

There are two main theories concerning the nature and extent of Antarctica. The first and most widely accepted theory says that Antarctica is a portion of ice surrounding earth, and that in its end there is a huge wall of ice (with different sizes depending on the subtheory) which is the edge of the earth. The second theory says that the center of the earth's surface is the point where the Equator and the Prime Meridian meet, and therefore Antarctica is a distinct continent located at the South.

https://wiki.tfes.org/Antarctica

With this significant division of opinion over the south pole, with the later theory divorcing Antarctica from the south pole, the Flat Earth falls flat. As absurdity refutes itself, so the Flat Earth Society has explained the Flat Earth into oblivion.

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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Easter Ishtar?


“You like potato and I like potahto,
You like tomato and I like tomahto,
Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto.
Let’s call the whole thing off!”

This is the most popular comparison of differing pronunciations in the famous musical Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off.

There’s a similar contrast that many make today that is not as funny though: claiming that since Easter sounds like Ishtar, that they must be the same. Yes, both are pagan goddesses, the name Easter being Germanic and Ishtar being Babylonian. I know memes have been made making this connection, and are spread around the Internet, that the name Easter actually derives from the name of the Babylonian fertility goddess Ishtar. Both the function and the name of that goddess sound so compatible to Easter that many consider it to be more than merely coincidental. But we must be careful, for appearances can be deceiving. Denying this would be naive and sensational, traits Christians should avoid in order to reach out to maturity. Thus, claiming that they must be the same as they both sound similar and may share some similar traits would be immature. Rather, any such connection should be solidified by rigorous scholarship instead. Anything less would be amateurish and would ultimately be a disservice to ourselves and others.

With that said, I will share some notes that demonstrate that we must err on the side of caution here. First, for the sake of my Jehovah’s Witness audience, notice what some Awake! and Watchtower articles have said:


Awake! 1992 4/8 What Does Easter Mean to God?, box on page 6: What Is the Origin of the Word “Easter”?
  • “The name, which is in use only among the English- and German-speaking peoples, is derived, in all probability, from that of a goddess of the heathen Saxons, Ostara, Osterr, or Eastre. She was the personification of the East, of the morning, of the spring.”—Curiosities of Popular Customs, by William S. Walsh.
  • “We are told by an ancient English chronicler, the Venerable Bede, that the word ‘Easter’ was originally the name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn, known as Eostre or Ostara, whose principal festival was kept at the vernal equinox. We only have Bede’s word for it, for no record of such a goddess is to be found elsewhere, but it is unlikely that Bede, as a devout Christian, would have gone out of his way to invent a pagan origin for Easter. But whether or not there was ever such a goddess, it seems most likely that some historical connection must exist between the words ‘Easter’ and ‘East’, where the sun rises.”—Easter—Its Story and Meaning, by Alan W. Watts.
  • “The origin of the term for the feast of Christ’s Resurrection has been popularly considered to be from the Anglo-Saxon Eastre, a goddess of spring. However, recent studies by Knobloch . . . present another explanation.”—New Catholic Encyclopedia.
  • “The English name Easter, like the German Ostern, probably derives from Eostur, the Norse word for the spring season, and not from Eostre, the name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess.”—The Encyclopedia of Religion. [This source derives Easter from a word and not a goddess.]
Watchtower 1996 4/1 pp. 3-4 Easter or the Memorial—Which Should You Observe?
The name Easter, used in many lands, is not found in the Bible. The book Medieval Holidays and Festivals tells us that “the holiday is named after the pagan Goddess of the Dawn and of Spring, Eostre.” And who was this goddess? “Eostre it was who, according to the legend, opened the portals of Valhalla to receive Baldur, called the White God, because of his purity and also the Sun God, because his brow supplied light to mankind,” answers The American Book of Days. It adds: “There is no doubt that the Church in its early days adopted the old pagan customs and gave a Christian meaning to them. As the festival of Eostre was in celebration of the renewal of life in the spring it was easy to make it a celebration of the resurrection from the dead of Jesus, whose gospel they preached.”

[End quotes]

So the connection is not made with Ishtar, but with the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn “Eostre” or “Eastre” (if it is to be derived from a goddess at all). But does Eastre find her origin in Ishtar, or something else? One source states that:
There are a growing number of Christians that think that the [name] “Easter” is rooted in pagan Babylonian tradition. One of the basic assumptions is that the name “Easter” is but a Christian remake of “Ishtar”, a Babylonian goddess. Even though the words sound similar, they probably have no etymological connection. The English word “Easter” likely comes from the Proto-Germanic “austron”, which means “sunrise” – arguably a fitting name for the “rising from the dead.” (Is Easter a Pagan Holiday? by Dr. Faydra Shapiro and Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg. https://israelstudycenter.com/easter-pagan-holiday/)
Please focus on this quotation only, and do not be distracted by anything else on that webpage article, and shift focus to something you may dislike and then ignore what was quoted here for the purpose of dismissing it, as that would be dishonest and thus manifest an immature, shameful, and unchristian demeanor. So if you are mature enough to focus on what I quoted, then you see that Eastre would derive from the Proto-Germanic “austron,” or “sunrise,” not Ishtar. This is good to remember, and does not affect the true statement that Easter has been infused with pagan symbolism.

So while Ishtar is related to her equivalents of Astarte and Ashtoreth, it would be a mistake to apply this to the Germanic goddess Eastre. Lastly, one article on JW.org “What Does the Bible Say About Easter?” says:
Name: The Encyclopædia Britannica says: “The English name Easter is of uncertain origin; the Anglo-Saxon priest Venerable Bede in the 8th century derived it from the Anglo-Saxon spring goddess Eostre.” Others link it to Astarte, the Phoenician fertility goddess who had the Babylonian counterpart Ishtar. (https://www.jw.org/en/bible-teachings/questions/bible-about-easter/)
While it admitted that “others link it to Astarte, the Phoenician fertility goddess who had the Babylonian counterpart Ishtar,” this is not to be adopted dogmatically. I think including this line leans towards being a disservice for having the potential to produce ill-informed fanatics. But that was not their intention.

As we are reminded in Philippians 4:5: “Let your reasonableness become known to all men.” Thus, we should be “cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16) and only present information that has been proven to be reasonably true, not basing it on shoddy research that only results in confirmation bias. Scholarly, reasonable, and mature Christians then take the origin of the name Easter to its Germanic roots and leave it at that. Taking it any further would be sensational. To that I say:

Let’s call the whole thing off!


Chart:

Related blog post:

Additional reading:

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Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Reading Genesis


Genesis 1:28-30 presents some very beautiful language that is also imbued with just as much controversy. These verses read:
28 God blessed them [nascent humans] and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it! Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground.” 29 Then God said, “I now give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the entire earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the animals of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to all the creatures that move on the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.” It was so. (NET Bible, underscore added)
From this we learn two things:

First, the first humans were told to “subdue” the earth, ruling over the three domains occupied by the animals: the water, air, and land. The Hebrew word here is כבש [kabash]. As the NET Bible explains:
Elsewhere the Hebrew verb translated “subdue” means “to enslave” (2 Chr 28:10; Neh 5:5; Jer 34:11, 16), “to conquer,” (Num 32:22, 29; Josh 18:1; 2 Sam 8:11; 1 Chr 22:18; Zech 9:13; and probably Mic 7:19), and “to assault sexually” (Esth 7:8). None of these nuances adequately meets the demands of this context, for humankind is not viewed as having an adversarial relationship with the world. The general meaning of the verb appears to be “to bring under one’s control for one’s advantage.” In Gen 1:28 one might paraphrase it as follows: “harness its potential and use its resources for your benefit.” In an ancient Israelite context this would suggest cultivating its fields, mining its mineral riches, using its trees for construction, and domesticating its animals.
It also is an invitation to construct crafts that can dominate all three domains. Thus, to “rule over” רדה [radah] was also originally meant to be constructive, not abusive. Unfortunately, while not originally intended to have negative consequences on the animals, following Adam and Eve’s fall, the negative consequences bore their ugly heads with humanity abusing the animals’s realms.

Was Life Created?

Second, we learn about the basis for the food chain. Regarding the last two verses, the Jewish Study Bible presents a note that interprets the text in the most painfully literal way imaginable:
Humankind, animals, and birds all seem originally meant to be neither vegetarians nor carnivores, but frugivores, eating the seeds of plants and trees.
This illustrates what happens if one interprets these verses without getting the point, or, by ‘not seeing the forest through the trees.’ According to this, humans were meant not to just be exclusively herbivorous, but were to be exclusively frugivorous, and animals were not just to be exclusively herbivorous with no scavenging and certainly no predation, but were also meant to be exclusively frugivorous. This of course is completely unhistorical, and ignores that the entire spectrum of vegetables, grains, legumes, as well as mushrooms, all fall into the domain of “every seed-bearing plant.” Also, fauna has always included carnivores, both scavengers and predators. (Compare with Psalm 104:21 where faunal predation is celebrated in song and 2 Peter 2:12 where faunal predation is considered natural.) Fortunately, old-earth creationist and astronomer Hugh Ross explains these verses better:
In Genesis 1:29-30 and 9:2-3 God gave humanity some specific dietary guidelines appropriate to their circumstances at the time. … With reference to animals, who rely on instinct rather than choice in their eating habits, His instructions reflect no change from one passage and time frame to the next. God simply stated and reiterated the importance of green plants. Both humans and animals ingest some nongreen plants, such as mushrooms. However, green plants are the foundation of the food chain. It seems likely that God emphasized to Adam and Eve (and us) that since all life depends on green plants for survival, proper management of these plants would be essential. (A Matter of Days, 2nd edition. 2015. P. 93)
His comments have the advantage of also harmonizing with Genesis 2:15 where God commands Adam to “care for it and to maintain” the Garden of Eden. The NET Bible footnote explains further: “Note that man’s task is to care for and maintain the trees of the orchard.” (emphasis original) It is also not stating that no animals were scavengers or predators: that is just as unhistorical as saying they were exclusively frugivores.

Thus, the original purpose of humankind was to be a benefit for the earth, the precious jewel that God bequeathed to them and us. We were to cultivate the green vegetation as we peacefully occupied the domains previously ruled over by the animals. Only after the entry of human sin did kabash and radah inherit negative connotations.

Additional reading:

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Saturday, February 03, 2018

A case of smoke and mirrors


The NET Bible for John 8:58 says:

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am!”

Its footnote for this states:
I am! is an explicit claim to deity. Although each occurrence of the phrase “I am” in the Fourth Gospel needs to be examined individually in context to see if an association with Exod 3:14 is present, it seems clear that this is the case here (as the response of the Jewish authorities in the following verse shows).
As can be seen, it is presented as a “proof text” for the “deity of Christ,” which is a code-word (sociolect or circumlocution) for “second person of the Trinitarian Godhead.” The “I AM” of John 8:58 is connected to the “I AM” of Exodus 3:14. Let’s now explore this popular John 8:58-Exodus 3:14 connection:

1996 New Living Translation:

Jesus answered, “The truth is, I existed before Abraham was even born!” F42

F42 Or “Truly, truly, before Abraham was, I am.”

http://classic.studylight.org link

Exodus 3:14
God replied, “I AM THE ONE WHO ALWAYS IS.F7 Just tell them, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’“

F7 Or I AM WHO I AM, or I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.

http://classic.studylight.org link


New International Version (NIV):

Exodus 3:14
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.[a] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

[a] Exodus 3:14 Or I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE

My comments: Having the Hebrew not be “I AM” is highly significant for ones who think Jesus was calling himself “I AM” in John 8:58. This is especially true as John 8:58 does not necessarily state “I AM.”

Let’s now compare these two scriptures in both Hebrew and Greek:

click to enlarge

Question: If the “I AM” in John 8:58 is the “I AM” in Exodus 3:14 which the Pharisees wanted to stone Jesus for, then why do the Hebrew translations of John 8:58 NOT have the Hebrew of “I AM” in Exodus 3:14? If the Pharisees understood Jesus as saying “I AM” in Exodus 3:14, then why are the same Hebrew words not used in John 8:58?

This is a serious question for Trinitarians in light of what the Trinitarian Dr. Fred Sanders said concerning their alleged “proof texts”:
Some of these proof texts evaporated because they were, in fact, never anything but Trinitarian mirages.—The Triune God (2016) page 164.
The data just doesn’t add up to support the classic Trinitarian claim as expressed in the NET Bible footnote. The Trinitarian take on John 8:58 is a mirage—smoke and mirrors—nothing more. If you have used this erroneous and falsifiable reasoning before, then now is the time to cease and desist from doing so. Promoting falsehood and error is a disservice to everyone.

Additional reading:

Link to color-coded scripture source:

HUMOR:
“Sometimes the footnotes smell like actual feet.”
dilbert.com/strip/2008-08-07

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Items for sale

Ancient Inscriptions CD-ROM
This CD-ROM is highly recommended.

Star Wars posters - Rogue One and The Last Jedi
http://techspace3000.blogspot.com/2017/12/star-wars-posters-ebay.html

If interested, please contact me or leave a comment on those links.

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Thursday, January 04, 2018

Additional support identifying Ezekiel’s Edenic Cherub


As explained in my article “The Dirge Against the King of Tyre,”[1] Ezekiel 28:13-18 may not be comparing the King of Tyre to Satan in the Garden of Eden, but may be comparing him to Adam in the Garden of Eden, with the “anointed covering cherub” being with him and escorting him out of the Garden, being a righteous cherub. More support for translating the Hebrew text this way comes from a surprising source, the enigmatic book of 1 Enoch. In it, this understanding was accepted and preserved in an elaborate allusion to Ezekiel 28:13-18 in 1 Enoch 24-25. There, the prophet Enoch is being given a geographic tour by Michael, who is called the leader of the angels in 24:6 (and who is elsewhere in 1 Enoch entitled “archangel”). In this special tour, notice the following elements:
24:1 [Michael] showed me a mountain range of fire which burnt day and night. (2) And I went beyond it and saw seven magnificent mountains all differing each from the other, and the stones (thereof) were magnificent and beautiful, magnificent as a whole, of glorious appearance and fair exterior. … (3) And the seventh mountain was in the midst of these, and it excelled them in height, resembling the seat of a throne: and fragrant trees encircled the throne. [Verses 4-5 are about a beautiful sweet-smelling tree.]
Chapter 25 has Michael being with Enoch on this sacred mountain and its garden and explaining it to him, saying in verse 3:
This high mountain …, whose summit is like the throne of God, is His throne, where the Holy Great One, the Lord of Glory, the Eternal King, will sit, when He shall come down to visit the earth with goodness.
Dr. James VanderKam then compared these themes with his translation of Ezekiel 28:13-14:
You were in Eden, the Garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, … With an anointed cherub as guardian I placed you; you walked among the stones of fire.
He observes: “From Ezekiel the author [of 1 Enoch 24-25] has taken the stone imagery, the mountain, and the reference to stones of fire.”[2] But he has taken one more salient, defining feature: that of having a person be with the celestial, angelic figure—in the case of Ezekiel: the anonymous cherub, in 1 Enoch: Michael the leader of the angels.

Thus we have another weight on the scales on the side of the “Adam interpretation.”

Footnotes:
[1] jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-dirge-against-king-of-tyre.html You will want to familiarize yourself with this first before continuing.

[2] Enoch: A Man for All Generations. 1995. Pages 56-57

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Study Bible Media

There is an exciting new Study Bible gracing the Internet: the online study edition of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.[1] Regardless of your religious paradigm or persuasion, whether you are Muslim, Mormon, Trinitarian, or something else, this is really good news. For instance, it features study notes that “provide cultural, geographic, and linguistic insight into many Bible verses.” Additionally, it has a Media section that has photos and artwork, along with silent videos and animations that “illustrate various details recorded in the Bible.”[2] One such silent video is from a drone flight showing Bethphage, the Mount of Olives, and Jerusalem.

Significantly, it also showcases what it calls the “Nail in a Heel Bone.” In part, the explanation for this artifact explains why this is significant: “It provides archaeological evidence that nails were likely used in executions to fasten the person to a wooden stake. This nail may be similar to the nails employed by the Roman soldiers to fasten Jesus Christ to the stake. The artifact was found in a stone box, called an ossuary, into which the dried bones of a deceased person were placed after the flesh had decomposed. This indicates that someone executed on a stake could be given a burial.” (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:33; 24:39; John 19:18)[3]

Let me elaborate. The discovery of this artifact is absolutely amazing—it’s one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th Century, after the Dead Sea Scrolls. Additionally, there are remains of a wooden washer under the nail head, showing that the executioners went to great pains to secure the victim with nails. However, just looking at this heel bone may be confusing. Therefore, a restoration may be helpful:


Here, the heel bone is mirrored from the first image, and the rest of the foot bones are added along with the wooden washer. Thus, it can be more clearly seen now that this victim’s feet were nailed at the sides of the stake and not on top of each other through the metatarsals.

Now, while it’s possible that this nail was pounded directly into the vertical stake, as typically shown in restorations of this nailing, I suppose it is also possible that, in the spirit of wanting to preserve the stake from repeated nailing, that the heel was nailed to the end of a replaceable footrest attached to the stake. Such a location would also position the legs better for delivering the coup de grâce with the iron club, setting up a shear plane facilitating breaking the lower leg bones. The initial report explaining this discovery displayed another heel bone, not found in that ossuary but an actual one for comparison, with a nail hole through it for the purposes of illustration, which was not shattered.[4] This all shows that the Roman executioners knew how to nail a heel bone without breaking it: This would solidly secure the victim and would also reduce blood-loss. This proves that they were experienced, efficient, and equally brutal.

Considering this naturally invokes the question: Could Jesus’ feet have been nailed in this manner? The only scripture weighing in on this is Psalm 34:20 that John identified as a messianic prophecy, that “not a bone of his will be broken.” (John 19:36) However, considering that the heel bone was pierced, and not broken, may allow for this type of nailing to be permissible in Jesus’ case.

Be sure to also read about the “Sahidic Coptic Translation of John 1:1,” by navigating to John 1 and scrolling down on the right-hand side under the gem to its Media section, to see how its final clause may be translated as “the Word was a god.” This would be consistent with Biblical monotheism which is monolatrism. Displayed and discussed there is the Chester Beatty 813.


Footnotes:
[1] This can be accessed by navigating to the Bible from wol.jw.org and jw.org.

[2] As announced in the December 2017 Our Christian Life and Ministry—Meeting Workbook, “New Feature of the Midweek Meeting.”

[3] The Greek word typically translated as “crucified” (or loquaciously in the RNWT as “nailed him to the stake”) is σταυρόω (stow-ro’-o), which by itself does not necessarily imply nailing, but merely fastening the condemned by some means to the σταυρός (stauros), and could include ropes only. (BDAG, σταυρόω no. 1) Thus, the importance of this “Nail in a Heel Bone” artifact is emphasized due to it specifying nails, as specifically mentioned in Jesus’ case at Luke 24:39 (where nails are implied in Jesus’ “see my hands and my feet” directive) and at John 20:25 where Thomas said “nails” in accordance with eyewitness observation.

[4] N. Haas. Anthropological Observations on the Skeletal Remains from Giv'at ha-Mivtar. Israel Exploration Journal. Vol. 20, No. 1/2 (1970), Plate 21A p. 63. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27925210


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Thursday, December 14, 2017

A theology in crisis?


“the doctrine of the Trinity stands today at a point of crisis”
“the Trinity is a local phenomenon in the realm of systematic theology, with no provenance in the territory of New Testament scholarship”
“Some [Trinitarian] proof texts evaporated because they were, in fact, never anything but Trinitarian mirages.”
“Many arguments that once seemed foundational to Trinitarianism no longer apply.”

That is how the Trinitarian Dr. Fred Sanders appraised his theology in his 2016 academic tome The Triune God. This situation was showcased by Dr. Dale Tuggy in his podcast site where he read from The Triune God in “Review of Sanders’s The Deep Things of God – Part 2” (trinities.org/blog/podcast-193-review-of-sanderss-the-deep-things-of-god-part-2). There he read from pages 162-164 and 179, where Dr. Sanders expressed his call of alarm. What he said is worth repeating. Beginning on page 162, under the heading “The Shifting Foundation of Biblical Trinitarianism,” he wrote:


Although there has been no change in the material content of the doctrine of the Trinity, the epochal shifts in biblical interpretation in the modern period have greatly altered the available arguments for Trinitarianism. Indeed, the doctrine of the Trinity stands today at a point of crisis with regard to its ability to demonstrate its exegetical foundation. Theologians once approached this doctrine with a host of biblical prods, but one by one, many of those venerable old arguments [163] have been removed from the realm of plausibility. The steady march of grammatical-historical exegesis has tended in the direction of depleting Trinitarianism’s access to its traditional equipment, until a prominent feature of the current era is the growing unpersuasiveness and untenability of the traditional proof texts that were used to establish and demonstrate the doctrine.

[Dale Tuggy then mentioned that he skipped some quotes. I will not. These are:]

“Most theologians no longer expect to find in the New Testament a formal Trinitarianism, only and elemental Trinitarianism,” remarked conservative Jesuit theologian Edmund Fortman in 1972. The heightened historical consciousness of modern scholars has made the very idea that Trinitarian theology has a foothold on the documents of the New Testament seem laughable: “Whatever Jesus did or said in his earthly ministry,” wrote R. P. C. Hanson in 1985, “he did not walk the lanes of Galilee and the streets of Jerusalem laying down direct unmodified Trinitarian doctrine .” [R. P. C. Hanson, Studies in Christian Antiquity (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1985), 296.]

[Dale continued reading:]

The presupposition has become widespread that the doctrine of the Trinity is a local phenomenon in the realm of systematic theology, with no provenance in the territory of New Testament scholarship.

[Again, Dale skipped over a quote that I will not:]

So deep has this presupposition sunk into the practices of the field that Ulrich Mauser could write in 1990, “The historically trained New Testament scholar will today proceed with the task of interpretation without wasting a minute on the suspicion that the Trinitarian confessions of later centuries might be rooted in the New Testament itself, and that the Trinitarian creeds might continue to function as valuable hermeneutical signposts for a modern understanding.” [Ulrich Mauser, “One God and Trinitarian Language in the Letters of Paul,” Horizons in Biblical Theology 20:2 (1998): 100.]

[Dale continued reading, but I will skip ahead to this part:]

Perhaps no development in biblical studies has left the foundation of Trinitarianism [164] unaffected, partly because the long Christian exegetical tradition had at various times delighted to find the Trinity in nearly every layer and every section of Scripture. If the doctrine of the Trinity had come to be at home in every verse of the Bible, it was more or less implicated in revisionist approaches to every verse.

At any rate, the overall trend of sober historical-grammatical labors has been toward the gradual removal of the Trinitarian implications of passage after passage.

[Dale paused and noted that only one example of a “removal of the Trinitarian implications” of a passage was cited, 1 John 5:7. This skipped-over part reads:]

Some of these proof texts evaporated because they were, in fact, never anything but Trinitarian mirages: 1 John 5:7’s “three that bear witness in heaven,” for example, withered away at the first touch of “the lower criticism,” textual criticism. By overwhelming consensus, the comma johanneum is judged not to have been in the original manuscript, and therefore it should not be used as biblical support for Trinitarian theology, though it has some value as early Christian commentary on John’s letter. The discarding of the Johannine comma is perhaps the clearest example of the helpful, clarifying, and destructive work of biblical scholarship. … Nor is this cutting-edge research; it was seen and affirmed in the eighteenth century and disseminated in the early nineteenth. … [T]he complex clashes of premodern, modern, and postmodern modes of interpretation have left the field of Trinitarian exegesis in extensive disarray. Many arguments that once seemed foundational to Trinitarianism no longer apply.

[Dale then jumped over to page 179, which I will include the most succinct parts:]

There is something disconcerting in maintaining a doctrine while replacing many of the arguments for it. If Trinitarian theology can arise using one set of arguments, but then discard many of those and set about seeking better ones by which to maintain its claims, does this imply that Trinitarians intend to go on believing what they are believing, no matter what? … Proof-switching could signal that a system of orthodoxy is functioning like what Marxist analysis calls an ideology: a set of power relationships concealed behind ideas that really defend them by rationalization. … Buildings that have always stood firm can, on inspection, be found to have less than optimal support, and undergo seismic retrofitting without ever coming down. After the tectonic shifts of biblical criticism, Trinitarian theology is due for some seismic retrofitting.
[End quote.]


As noted, the reason for saying that “after the tectonic shifts of biblical criticism, Trinitarian theology is due for some seismic retrofitting,” is that “the overall trend of sober historical-grammatical labors has been toward the gradual removal of the Trinitarian implications of passage after passage. Some of these proof texts evaporated because they were, in fact, never anything but Trinitarian mirages.” The sole example of a “Trinitarian mirage” was 1 John 5:7. However, he likely also had in mind another Johannine scripture, the Trinitarian favorite John 8:58. He may also agree that another Trinitarian favorite of Jeremiah 23:6 is nothing more than a Trinitarian mirage. Resources explaining how these are Trinitarian mirages, scriptures stripped of their “Trinitarian implications,” (more like Trinitarian accretions) are:
  1. Articles here:
  2. YouTube videos from the Ask an Apologist channel:
(For the record, Dr. Hugh Ross is aware of these resources and has offered no rebuttal at all.)

The last video gives a more detailed explanation for Jeremiah 23:6.

So how extensive is Dr. Sanders’ call for a “seismic retrofitting”? After quoting Athanasius’ book On the Incarnation, he states that there has to be a “shift in register” to follow what Athanasius prescribes: “a good life, a pure soul, virtue, holiness, purity, and imitating the good deeds of the sacred writers.” That is, “a spiritual and ascetical training that will result in communion with the mind of Scripture’s authors … and promises hermeneutical insight.”[1] The problem with this approach though is that it does not demand that Trinitarianism be the outcome. For instance, ones who have indeed pursued “a good life, a pure soul, virtue, holiness, purity, and imitating the good deeds of the sacred writers” and ‘a spiritual and ascetical training resulting in communion with the mind of Scripture’s authors and producing hermeneutical insight,’ have arrived at a Patritheistic theology where the Father alone is the “only true God.” (John 17:1-5) Thus, claiming that a pious life can only result in adopting Trinitarianism is actually an act of hijacking and is quite unreasonable, and also reduces piety to intellectual snobbery. It is also a call to abandon the scriptures and rely on one’s own supposed piety, an act proscribed at 2 Corinthians 10:12. Christians are not to “measure themselves by themselves,” but rather are to “explain spiritual matters with spiritual words,” or “matching spiritual with spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 2:13, NWT, Byington) This is accomplished by becoming “doers of the word” (James 1:22), studying the Bible objectively and honestly to not have a deceptive heart.

Thus, Christians are instructed differently by “the sacred writers.” Indeed, David, Isaiah and James all urge us to search for God by drawing close to him with clean hands and pure hearts. (Psalm 145:18; Isaiah 55:6; James 4:8) This calls for humble objectivity to question the Trinitarian groupthink and transcend it, outwitting confirmation bias to find the true God that Scripture reveals. Trinitarianism is indeed “a theology in crisis.”

Questions for Dr. Fred Sanders:
  1. What other Scriptures do you think no longer support Trinitarianism and were just Trinitarian mirages (or, examples of Trinitarian confirmation bias) the entire time? John 1:1, 8:58, 20:28?
  2. Have you done any objective research into the life and character of Athanasius? Are you sure he was as savory and pious as you are portraying?


Footnotes:
[1] While Dr. Sanders quoted Athanasius as stressing the importance of piety, Athanasius himself was known for being extremely impious, as a slanderer and wicked schemer. On this outrageous hypocrisy, see Dr. Dale Tuggy, “Assessing Athanasius and his Arguments” trinities.org/blog/podcast-171-assessing-athanasius-and-his-arguments and Barnes, Timothy D., Athanasius and Constantius: Theology and Politics in the Constantinian Empire (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1993), 37.


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