Monday, January 09, 2023

Investigating Hindu parallels

The Hindu flood with Manu and 7 sages surviving in the boat on the right.
Hinduism presents some interesting myths that seem to be reminiscent of some Biblical narratives in Genesis: namely, Adam and the Noachian Deluge. Both the Adam- and Noah-figures are named Manu, two different figures. Discussing these parallels are two booklets on Hinduism from the 1980s published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Starting with the Flood first, in the Hindu flood myth Vishnu warns Manu of the coming diluvial disaster.

Our 1983 booklet From Kurukshetra to Armageddon, said:
Manu found favour with his god and was given divine warning to build a ship to save himself and seven other rishis (sages), a total of eight persons. (p. 16)
This quote made no small impact on me growing up. However, it has not been repeated that eight survived the Hindu flood. A reason for this may be that more research revealed that other Hindu texts include Manu’s family:
He was warned of the flood by the Matsya (fish) avatar of Vishnu, and built a boat that carried the Vedas, Manu’s family and the seven sages to safety, helped by Matsya.[1]
At the same time I also wondered if the “nu” from Manu derived from Noah. No. The Encyclopaedia Britannica says:
The name is cognate with the Indo-European “man” and also has an etymological connection with the Sanskrit verb man-, “to think.”
What made me wonder about the “nu” is The Two Babylons, where Alexander Hislop wrote that the “nu” of Vishnu was Noah. (This concept was printed in From Kurukshetra to Armageddon and in the 1989 book Reasoning From the Scriptures, but has since been dropped.)[2] However, the Encyclopaedia Britannica derives it from Sanskrit, meaning: “The Pervader.”[3] So “nu” is not Noah, they are letters nested within a Sanskrit name. And the eight survivors just depends on how you count the passengers.

Regarding the Manu Adam-figure, the 1980 booklet The Path of Divine Truth Leading to Liberation says of this Manu:
A late Rigveda hymn describes the personified rib, Parsu, as the daughter of the first man, Manu, by whom he fathers children —“a score of children at a birth”! (Rigveda 10. 86. 23) The first woman, as the divine product of the first man’s rib, could, in time, be traditionally viewed as his daughter. (p. 5)
The text Rigveda 10. 86. 23 specifically says:
Daughter of Manu, Parsu bare a score of children at a birth.
Her portion verily was bliss although her burthen caused her grief.
A paper in 1937 mentioned this.[4] There it is noted that Rigveda 10. 86. 23 “suggests an interesting parallel to the Biblical story of the creation.” It is an interesting parallel, with the only difference being that the rib was a daughter and not a wife, which the brochure tried to account for.

Incidentally, the paper also adds that:
We have seen, then, that in the Rig-Veda pársu means only “rib,” but that it came also to mean “sickle” in the Atharva-Veda. This semantic transfer becomes instantly clear when we take into consideration the rib-like shape of the instrument and realize that the rib of a horse was actually sharpened to make a sickle.
This shows that ribs were seen as very important bones. As the Hindu flood myth may derive from the Mesopotamian flood lore, the man with a rib-lady who produces life may also derive from the Sumerian myth of the goddess Ninti which means both “Lady of the Rib” and “Lady of Life.” Ninti was featured in the legend of Enki and Ninhursag which features Enki and his daughters. So this is probably where the Hindu myth of Manu and his daughter-rib derives from.

In closing, I find it encouraging that these Hindu myths are no longer seen as deriving from Biblical narratives in Genesis. While interesting for being reminiscent of the Genesis narratives, it is impossible to say they definitely derive from the Genesis accounts of Adam, Eve, and Noah. (This is true of another similairity not mentioned here, of seeing Genesis 3:15 in a Hindu goddess.[5])

[1] Manu (Hinduism), Wikipedia. “The tale is repeated with variations in other texts, including the Mahabharata and a few other Puranas. It is similar to other floods such as those associated with Gilgamesh and Noah.” The book Wikipedia cites adds: “We have several accounts of the deluge, which also plays a great role in the popular traditions of other cultures.” (Klaus K. Klostermaier. A Survey of Hinduism: Third Edition. SUNY Press. p. 97.)
[2] Page 135 of The Two Babylons:
In India, the god Vishnu, “the Preserver,” who is celebrated as having miraculously preserved one righteous family at the time when the world was drowned, not only has the story of Noah wrought up with his legend, but is called by his very name. Vishnu is just the Sanscrit form of the Chaldee “Ish-nuh,” “the man Noah,” or the “Man of rest.” (Footnote: We find the very word Ish, “man,” used in Sanscrit with the digamma prefixed: Thus Vishampati, “Lord of men.”—See Wilson’s India Three Thousand Years Ago, p. 59.)
First, Hislop misremembered the meaning of Vishnu, as it means the “Pervader” not “Preserver.” Second, Wilson’s book actually says: “Though he is called Vishpati, Visha'mpati and Manasaspati, the lord of men; …” So it was the last name that was identified as “the lord of men.” I cannot imagine Hislop being confused over this, so this is a clear case of him being a deceiver in order to bolster his baseless butchery of slicing the V off of Vishnu and chopping the ish off of nu. However, his charisma alone was persuasive enough to have it referred to twice:
One Hindu version says it was the god Vishnu who warned and preserved Manu. Interestingly, the name Vishnu without the digamma is Ish-nuh, which in Chaldee means “the man Noah,” or “the man of rest.” Hindu tradition has Vishnu ‘resting’ or sleeping on a coiled snake called Shesha, floating on an ocean. (Kurukshetra, 16-17)

Interestingly, the name of the Hindu god Vishnu, without the digamma, is Ish-nuh, which in Chaldee means “the man Noah.” (Reasoning, 22)
Fortunately, this reasoning is no longer used.

For more information on The Two Babylons, see: [3] The Online Etymology Dictionary adds regarding Manu: “Proto-Indo-European root meaning “man.” … Sanskrit manuh, Avestan manu-.” For Vishnu, it adds: “from Sanskrit Vishnu, probably from root vish- and meaning “all-pervader” or “worker.””
[4] William M. Austin and Henry Lee Smith, Jr., Sanskrit parśu and paraśu, Journal of the American Oriental Society Vol. 57, No. 1 (Mar., 1937), pp. 95-96.
[5] Regarding Lakshmi as seen in The Path of Divine Truth Leading to Liberation pages 15-17.


Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Incredible Encounters?

Imagine entering a Christian congregation during the first-century. What kinds of people would you see and meet? Imagine further that you were introduced to ones who had the special honor of being healed or resurrected by Jesus Christ. Even though their Lord was no longer in their midst, they could readily explain what Jesus did to them as seen in the Gospels. Interacting with such ones would be absolutely incredible and dramatically increase trust in the Gospel accounts.

Yet, these encounters were reported to have actually occurred. One Christian included this when writing to Emperor Hadrian in defense of the faith. Hadrian was born in 76 C.E. and reigned from 117 to 138 C.E. The writer was Quadratus, and he wrote a book now lost but was quoted from by church historian Eusebius.[1] Quadratus curiously wrote:
But the works of our Saviour were always present, for they were true, those who were cured, those who rose from the dead, who not merely appeared as cured and risen, but were constantly present, not only while the Saviour was living, but even for some time after he had gone, so that some of them survived even till our own time.[2]
Another translation presents:
But the works of our Saviour were always present, for they were genuine:—those that were healed, and those that were raised from the dead, who were seen not only when they were healed and when they were raised, but were also always present; and not merely while the Saviour was on earth, but also after his death, they were alive for quite a while, so that some of them lived even to our day.[3]
This translation points out that Quadratus “seems to introduce a contrast, and allows us to assume with some measure of assurance that an exposure of the pretended wonders of heathen magicians, who were numerous at that time, preceded this ocular proof of the genuineness of Christ’s miracles.” We are then cautioned that “Quadratus had evidently seen none of these persons himself; he had simply heard of them through others. We have no record elsewhere of the fact that any of those raised by Christ lived to a later age.” This is an important caution, and it raises the questions of when he wrote to the emperor and, most importantly, of life expectancy. First, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes that “He addressed a discourse to the Emperor Hadrian containing an apology for the Christian religion, during a visit which the latter made to Athens in 124 or 125.”[4] Another scholar noted this was “when Hadrian visited Athens and was initiated in the Eleusinian mysteries.” He also cautions that “it is improbable that any one contemporary with subjects of our Lord’s miracles should survive to 170 [sic 117?].”[5] This is a good point. To recap, Hadrian was born in 76. So, if a person was 30 and healed in 30 C.E., then he would be 76 in 76 C.E. But Jesus healed younger people too, like the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter, the daughter of Jairus, and the widow of Nain’s son—with only the daughter of Jairus being given an age, 12.[6] But it’s unlikely someone from Jesus’ time survived into the early second century. So Quadratus may have been flattering Hadrian by referring to the time of his year of birth. We also know nothing about when Quadratus was born.

Additionally, another scholar reports:
About half a century later, Irenaeus may have relied on Quadratus for his own discussions of miracles (Haer. 2.31.2 and 2.32.4), later copied by Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 5.7). Irenaeus claimed that in Christian churches there were those who “cure the sick by laying hands on them, and…the dead have been raised and remained with us for many years.” It is not absolutely certain what time frames either Quadratus or Irenaeus had in view.[7]
The bottom line is, people whom Jesus healed and resurrected were reported to have become Christians.

[1]This testimony was also presented in two issues of the Watchtower:
Further proof comes from fourth-century church historian Eusebius. In his book The History of the Church From Christ to Constantine, he quotes a certain Quadratus who sent a letter to the emperor in defense of Christianity. Quadratus wrote: “Our Saviour’s works were always there to see, for they were true—the people who had been cured and those raised from the dead, who had not merely been seen at the moment when they were cured or raised, but were always there to see, not only when the Saviour was among us, but for a long time after His departure; in fact some of them survived right up to my own time.” Scholar William Barclay observed: “Quadratus is saying that until his own day men on whom miracles had been worked could actually be produced. If that was untrue nothing would have been easier than for the Roman government to brand it as a lie.” w95 3/1 pp. 4-5 Jesus’ Miracles—History or Myth?

Eusebius of Caesarea, in The Ecclesiastical history, provides an interesting statement by a certain Quadratus, who wrote an “apology” in behalf of Christianity to Hadrian, emperor of Rome from 117 to 138 C.E. Quadratus declares: “The works of our Saviour were always conspicuous, for they were real. Both they that were healed, and they that were raised from the dead, were seen, not only when they were healed or raised, but for a long time afterwards; not only whilst he dwelt on this earth, but also after his departure and for a good while subsequent to it: insomuch that some of them have reached to our times.” w76 7/15 p. 430 A Look at Some Miracles of Jesus
[2] Loeb Classical Library
[3] Arthur Cushman McGiffert,_Eusebius_Caesariensis,_Historia_ecclesiastica_%5BSchaff%5D,_EN.pdf
[4] Quadratus of Athens
[5] Quadratus
[6] (Daughter of Jairus: Matthew 9:18, 19, 23-26. Mark 5:22-24, 35-43. Luke 8:41, 42, 49-56. Son of the widow of Nain: Luke 7:11-17. Daughter of the Syrophoenician: Matthew 15:22-28. Mark 7:26-30.) A list of Jesus’ miracles is here:
[7] Robert M. Grant, “Quadratus,” The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 582. See also: Quadratus of Athens

Credits: Picture generated from the iOS app Wonder.

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Thursday, December 01, 2022

Psalms of Despair and Rejoicing: Psalm 6

As in the previous post on despair in Psalms,[1] Psalm 6 presents us with the fear and dread of the psalmist and how he recovered. It is absolutely fascinating. Again, this will compare this psalm from the New World Translation and the NET Bible, with Jehovah[2] included in the later in place of “LORD.”

The first few verses bristle with terrified panic, from illness and/or persecution (this table is best viewed in the web version):

NET Bible
A request for favor
  • The dead do not praise God
  • God hears requests for favor
O Jehovah, do not reprove me in your anger,
And do not correct me in your rage.
2 Show me favor, O Jehovah, for I am growing weak.
Heal me, O Jehovah, for my bones are shaking.
3 Yes, I am greatly disturbed,
And I ask you, O Jehovah—how long will it be?
4 Return, O Jehovah, and rescue me;
Save me for the sake of your loyal love.
5 For in death there is no mention of you;
In the Grave, who will praise you?

[Research Guide reference: Psalm 89:48; Psalm 146:3, 4.
The above texts include three of the more than sixty occurrences in the Bible of the Hebrew word Sheol, which literally means “gravedom.” A corresponding word in the Greek Scriptures, Hades, which appears just ten times, means the same. Both of these words always refer, not to individual tombs, but to the “common grave,” where [we] go at death. This is a place of nonexistence, unconsciousness, where the dead must remain until God resurrects them. They are completely dead, but not without hope.
Hence, Sheol is obviously the place to which the dead go. It is not an individual grave but the common grave of dead mankind in general, where all conscious activity ceases. This is also what the New Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges to be the Biblical significance of Sheol, saying: “In the Bible it designates the place of complete inertia that one goes down to when one dies whether one be just or wicked, rich or poor.” —Vol. 13, p. 170.]

6 I have grown weary with my sighing;
All night long I soak my bed with tears;
I flood my couch with weeping.
7 My eye is weak from my grief;
It has dimmed because of all those harassing me.
8 Get away from me, all you who behave wickedly,
For Jehovah will hear the sound of my weeping.
9 Jehovah will hear my request for favor;
Jehovah will accept my prayer.

[Research Guide reference: Have there been times when you prayed to God and your prayers were not answered? Many have had this experience. Does it mean that prayers are of no value? No, God can both hear prayers and act upon them.]

10 All my enemies will be put to shame and dismayed;
They will fall back in sudden disgrace.

[Footnote: The psalmist begs Jehovah to withdraw his anger and spare his life. Having received a positive response to his prayer, the psalmist then confronts his enemies and describes how they retreat.]

Jehovah, do not rebuke me in your anger.
Do not discipline me in your raging fury.
2 Have mercy on me, Jehovah, for I am frail.
Heal me, Jehovah, for my bones are shaking.

[Footnote: Normally the verb בָּהַל (bahal) refers to an emotional response and means “tremble with fear, be terrified” (see vv. 3, 10). Perhaps here the “bones” are viewed as the seat of the psalmist’s emotions. However, the verb may describe one of the effects of his physical ailment, perhaps a fever. In Ezek 7:27 the verb describes how the hands of the people will shake with fear when they experience the horrors of divine judgment.]

3 I am absolutely terrified,
and you, Jehovah—how long will this continue?

[Footnote: Heb “and you, Jehovah, how long?” The suffering psalmist speaks in broken syntax. He addresses God, but then simply cries out with a brief, but poignant, question: How long will this (= his suffering) continue?]

4 Relent, Jehovah, rescue me!
Deliver me because of your faithfulness.
5 For no one remembers you in the realm of death.

[Footnote: Heb “for there is not in death your remembrance.” The Hebrew noun זֵכֶר (zekher, “remembrance”) here refers to the name of the Lord as invoked in liturgy and praise. Cf. Pss 30:4; 97:12. “Death” here refers to the realm of death where the dead reside. See the reference to Sheol in the next line.]

In Sheol who gives you thanks?

[Footnote: The rhetorical question anticipates the answer, “no one.”
sn In Sheol who gives you thanks? According to the OT, those who descend into the realm of death/Sheol are cut off from God’s mighty deeds and from the worshiping covenant community that experiences divine intervention (Pss 30:9; 88:10-12; Isa 38:18). In his effort to elicit a positive divine response, the psalmist reminds God that he will receive no praise or glory if he allows the psalmist to die. Dead men do not praise God!]

6 I am exhausted as I groan.
All night long I drench my bed in tears;
my tears saturate the cushion beneath me.
7 My eyes grow dim from suffering;
they grow weak because of all my enemies.
8 Turn back from me, all you who behave wickedly,
for Jehovah has heard the sound of my weeping.

[Footnote: Jehovah has heard. The psalmist’s mood abruptly changes because Jehovah responded positively to the lament and petition of vv. 1-7 and promised him deliverance.]

9 Jehovah has heard my appeal for mercy;
Jehovah has accepted my prayer.

[Footnote: The prefixed verbal form is probably a preterite here; it is parallel to a perfect and refers to the fact that Jehovah has responded favorably to the psalmist’s request.]

10 They will be humiliated and absolutely terrified.
All my enemies will turn back and be suddenly humiliated.

[Footnote: The psalmist uses the same expression in v. 3 to describe the terror he was experiencing. He is confident that the tables will be turned and his enemies will know what absolute terror feels like.]

When looking up Psalm 6 I noticed something peculiar about verses 8 and 9. The NWT says Jehovah “will hear” twice and “will accept.” However, other translations present “has heard” twice and “has accepted.” This difference is explained in the NET Bible footnote for verse 9. The Jewish Study Bible is similar, and has this translation in verses 8-10 (with Jehovah inserted again) and the following note:

Away from me, all you evildoers, for Jehovah heeds the sound of my weeping.
Jehovah heeds my plea,
Jehovah accepts my prayer.
All my enemies will be frustrated and stricken with terror; they will turn back in an instant, frustrated.

The note explains:
The Heb tenses are better reflected by rendering:
“Away … has heard … has heeded … will be frustrated.” The back-and-forth movement may express the psalmist’s religious conviction that God will hear his prayer, and thus he simultaneously expresses hope and certainty.
The note adds that “perhaps this is reflected in Lam. 3.57. “You have ever drawn nigh when I called You; You have said, ‘Do not fear!’”” It adds that this “may also be reflected in Ps. 12.6 [Ps. 12.5], where God is quoted in the middle of the psalm.”

In any case, we can appreciate that the psalmist began his heartfelt plea with trust in Jehovah, and closed it with his ironclad assurance that his prayer was heard and his enemies will therefore be absolutely defeated.

[1] Psalms of Despair and Rejoicing
[2] The reason for the name

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Friday, November 18, 2022

The lurking lion

Urmahlullu (“untamed lion man”) is a mythical ancient Mesopotamian beast with a lion-centaur appearance. It was seen as a guardian spirit, and its image was used to ward against various malign demons, including the winged death demon Mukīl rēš lemutti and the lavatory demon Šulak.

Mukīl rēš lemutti, meaning “he who holds the head of evil,” was an ancient Mesopotamian winged leonine (lion) demon, a harbinger of misfortune associated with benign headaches and wild swings in mood, where the afflicted “continually behaves like an animal caught in a trap.”

Šulak is a “lurker,” a type of demon who lies in wait in places where a potential victim is likely to be alone, as in a lavatory. There the concern was: “Šulak will hit him!” Šulak is described in Akkadian sources as a “rampant,” or bipedal but otherwise normal looking lion. Protective amulets in the form of Urmahlullu, or cuneiform tablets inscribed with spells to ward off Šulak, were often buried in the doorways of lavatories, or in the foundations of the house, or deposited in drainage pipes.

Now compare this to what God said to Cain in Genesis 4:7: “sin is crouching at the door, and its craving is to dominate you; but will you get the mastery over it?” Or, as the Contemporary English Version has it: “and now sin is waiting to attack you like a lion. Sin wants to destroy you, but don’t let it!”

Clark’s Commentary notes that this language is “used to express the lying down of a quadruped at the door of his fold.”

The NET Bible notes: “Sin is portrayed with animal imagery here as a beast crouching and ready to pounce (a figure of speech known as zoomorphism). An Akkadian cognate refers to a type of demon.”

Similarly, the HarperCollins Study Bible has this note: “Sin is … personified here as a ravenous beast or demon, which the individual can and must control.”

Thus, this warning in Genesis 4:7 has a historical context in the ancient Near East of lion demons who tried to invade homes and bathrooms.

Lastly, this lion imagery is last seen in 1 Peter 5:8, where Satan is called “a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.” Apparently, this aggressive demonic lion imagery was a known concept in the ancient world, haunting humanity from the dawn of time.



Friday, September 30, 2022

Did Chemosh defeat Jehovah in battle?

You read that right, did the Moabite god Chemosh defeat Jehovah in a brutal battle? Is this in the Bible?

There is an account in 2 Kings 3 that moves very quickly at a dizzying pace, and thus requires some very careful reading to understand it.

First, a coalition of Judah, Israel, and Edom was formed to subdue Moab. The background of this coalition was that Mesha king of Moab revolted against the control of Israel. However, it must be noted that the king of Israel, Jehoram, did not enjoy a good standing before Jehovah, as verse 2 says: “He kept doing what was bad in Jehovah’s eyes.” But King Jehoshaphat of Judah agreed to help King Jehoram and got the king of Edom to join them. Then, these three visited Jehovah’s prophet Elisha for a blessing. At this point it is extremely significant that Jehovah’s prophet Elisha told Jehoram to leave him as they had nothing in common, and to go consult the prophets of his apostate parents Ahab and Jezebel—prophets outside of Jehovah’s oversight. However, he only acquiesced to talk to him on account of Jehoshaphat. (2 Kings 3:13-14) After starting to prophecy, Elisha said that Jehovah “will also give Moab into your hand.” (2 Kings 3:18) Verse 19 specifies the condition for victory: “You must strike down every fortified city and every choice city, you should cut down every good tree, you should stop up all the springs of water, and you should ruin every good plot of land with stones.” Verse 25 describes that they did just that, until one city remained standing: “Finally only the stone walls of Kir-hareseth remained standing, and the slingers surrounded it and struck it down [or “attacked it” (ESV)].”

The last two verses of this account are where things get tricky. King Mesha of Moab “saw that the battle was lost,” so he had 700 swordmen attack the coalition “to break through to the king of Edom.” This effort failed. In an act of desperation, he made a sacrifice to their god Chemosh to rouse his support to smite the coalition. But it was not just any sacrifice. Verse 27 says King Mesha “took his firstborn son who was going to reign in his place and offered him up as a burnt sacrifice on the wall.” This is understood to be his own son and not the king of Edom’s, even though he is the antecedent as the target of the 700 swordmen. (Compare with Amos 2:1, which mentions an unrelated account of Moab burning the bones of the king of Edom.)

The result of this sacrifice to Chemosh is no less tricky to read. “And there came to be great indignation against Israel, so they withdrew from against him and returned to their land.” This is the final verse, and the next chapter starts a new narrative, notably one that supports Elisha’s credentials as a prophet.

So what was this “great indignation” and who was it from? Was this Chemosh defeating Jehovah in battle with a human sacrifice? Did Jehovah fail to fulfil his word through his prophet Elisha?

This passage has received much due attention from scholars. For instance, Robert Alter stated in his translation, starting with the sacrifice: “A king’s sacrifice of his own child, in an effort to placate the gods at a moment of military emergency, was a familiar practice in the ancient Near East.” This establishes that it was Mesha’s own son that he brutally murdered on an altar on the city wall and burned before the eyes of the coalition. Alter continues regarding the nature of the “great indignation”:
“Fury” (qetsef) is usually the term for God’s devastating rage against Israel when the people has transgressed. Here, however, Israel has done no wrong. And the descent of the fury explicitly reverses Elisha’s favorable prophecy. This turn of events might reflect an early tradition that accords Chemosh, the Moabite god, power that must be propitiated by human sacrifice, so that he will then blight the enemies of Moab. In any case, the story means to explain why Israel and its allies, after an initial victory, were obliged to retreat.
He then notes that this victory is apparently the subject of the famous Moabite Stone, “A Moabite inscription on a stele, discovered in 1868, in which Mesha speaks in the first person, triumphantly proclaims a sweeping victory over Israel.”

So as Israel was leading this attack, Israel retreating pulled the other two, Judah and Edom, into retreat as well. But what exactly made Israel retreat? The power of Chemosh over Jehovah? The Oxford Annotated Study Bible seems to agree, and offers this explanation: “[this sacrifice] saves this city from the fate of all the others, as wrath comes upon Israel and they withdraw from Moab. The nature of the wrath is left unspecified, although in this context it most likely refers to a superhuman fury [of Chemosh] that impels Mesha’s troops to victory.”[1] The NAB Catholic Study Bible likewise says: “The wrath against Israel: probably the wrath of Chemosh, the Moabite god to whom the child was offered. He was feared by the Israelites who lost heart on foreign soil.”

However, the ESV Study Bible offers a different and more down-to-earth explanation:
Facing defeat by Israel, Mesha offered his son as burnt offering on the wall. As a consequence, there came great wrath (Hb. qetsep) against Israel. This is not to be understood as divine anger, because on the one hand the biblical authors did not regard the Moabite god Chemosh as a real god (1 Kings 11:7), and on the other hand Israel’s God would surely not have acted on Moab’s behalf as a result of a ritual practice that was abhorrent to him (cf. 2 Kings 16:3; 17:17; 21:6). It seems, instead, that this “great wrath” is human wrath (as on both other occasions in Kings when qetsep appears, 5:11; 13:19): Mesha’s troops respond to his desperate act with an anger that carries them to victory against the odds.
The HCSB Study Bible similarly explains:
Finally the devastation came to the point at which the king of Moab offered his own crown prince and heir as a human sacrifice. The lesson of these two chapters is clear: God’s miraculous power could bring unfaithful Israel to the verge of victory, but God could also take that victory away. Whether from battle fatigue in foreign lands, shock at the desperate step the king of Moab took in sacrificing his son, superstitious fear of the magic power that such a sacrifice aimed to produce, or from seeing the wrath (whether of the Moabites or of God Almighty; the text is unclear), the coalition withdrew and Moab remained independent though thoroughly devastated.
Lastly, the Faithlife Study Bible coherently notes:
The Hebrew term used here describes anger toward wrongdoers (Nu 18:5; Dt 29:27; Jos 9:20; 22:20), but it is uncertain whose wrath the text refers to here. It may be the perceived anger of Chemosh, Moab’s patron god, leading to the Israelites’ defeat. However, this account does not portray a defeat of Yahweh by Chemosh; instead it depicts a defeat of God’s people after they lost faith in Yahweh’s ability. The OT portrays the Israelites as believing that the gods of other nations were real. Those gods were originally assigned to the nations by Yahweh (Dt 32:8-9). Given this worldview, which presumes the superiority of Yahweh, it seems that the Israelites were frightened by the human sacrifice, believed that the Moabites god was angry, and retreated.
Remember that the Israelites at this time were not on good terms with Jehovah, especially its King Jehoram whom Elisha initially dismissed. So if the Israelites lost heart on the battlefield with regrouped Moabite aggression energized by the sacrifice, it was not due to Jehovah but to their own weakness. King Jehoram could possibly have won the day if he had relied on Jehovah to not be bullied with the fearsome sight of child sacrifice on the wall. Elisha’s prophecy would have been completely fulfilled. Also, it is significant that he is still a trusted prophet in the next chapter.

To recap:
  • The Israelites were not fighting with Jehovah.
  • They failed to appeal to Jehovah in response to the child sacrifice propaganda.
  • If they shook off the shock and pressed their attack they could have won.
  • Elisha’s prophecy did not “fail.”
  • Elisha remained a trusted prophet.
So, this is obviously not about Jehovah losing to Chemosh. It is sensational to say otherwise, due to failing to take the preceding and highly relevant context into account. Instead, it is about unfaithful Israel not relying on Jehovah on the battlefield.

Did Chemosh defeat Jehovah in battle?
Short answer: Nope.

[1] The reknown work Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible states this event much more forcefully:
Of particular interest is the remark in 2 Kgs 3:27 that Mesha, in a critical situation of battle, offered his son on the wall of his city. The consequence of which was that the wrath of Chemosh began to destroy Israel instantly; nowhere else is the mighty activity of a foreign god conceded in such an unrestrained manner.
However, the text does not say that Chemosh did that, that he destroyed Israel instantly in his infernal wrath. Perhaps this wild misreading of the text is responsible for their concuding misgiving: “Unfortunately, we cannot reconcile this particular record with the largely ideological statements of the first Mesha inscription [Moabite Stone].” Yes, the reason being that it is based on a glaring sensationalized misreading of 2 Kings 3:27.

Additional learning:
Was Yahweh Defeated By Another god? By Inspiring Philosophy.
  • This video addresses this question differently and arrives at the same conclusion, that 2 Kings 3 is not portraying Chemosh defeating Yahweh. It is highly recommended.

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    Friday, September 09, 2022

    Notes on Paul’s seed analogy

    In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul used a seed analogy to describe the resurrection process into life in heaven. What follows are the study notes from the New Word Translation. Enjoy.

    1 Corinthians 15:36
    unless first it dies:
    When discussing the resurrection of an anointed Christian to life as a spirit person, Paul likens the burial of the physical body to the sowing of a seed. A seed dies in the sense that once planted, it disintegrates. Then it becomes a plant that differs entirely from the seed in form and appearance. (Compare Joh 12:24.) Similarly, a Christian who is chosen by God to be a joint heir with His Son and to receive incorruption and immortality in heaven must first die. At 1Co 15:42-44, Paul four times uses the concept of being sown in a figurative sense. He describes how a spirit-anointed Christian gives up the physical body and obtains a heavenly body by resurrection.—See study note on 1Co 15:38.

    1 Corinthians 15:38
    God gives it a body:
    Paul here continues to compare the resurrection of a spirit-anointed Christian to the germinating of a seed. (See study note on 1Co 15:36.) He uses the example of a tiny seed of wheat that bears no resemblance to the plant that will grow from it. It “dies” as a seed and becomes an emerging plant. (1Co 15:36, 37) Similarly, anointed Christians first die as humans. Then at his appointed time, God brings them back to life in entirely new bodies. (2Co 5:1, 2; Php 3:20, 21) They are resurrected in spirit bodies to live in the spirit realm.—1Co 15:44; 1Jo 3:2.
    My comments: Another way of looking at it is that the seed is transformed or grows into a plant. In this case it represents the continuity of the person from a dead human to a living heavenly person.
    1 Corinthians 15:41
    one star differs from another star in glory:
    Some Corinthians found it incredible that a flesh-and-blood human might die and be resurrected with a different sort of body, a spirit body, so Paul provides them with vivid examples. For instance, he refers to the stars. First-century observers could readily confirm that the stars varied in brightness and color. Paul’s point is that the God who created such variety would be able to resurrect a human and create a spirit body.

    1 Corinthians 15:42
    Incorruption (Greek, a·phthar·siʹa) refers to that which cannot decay or be corrupted, that which is imperishable. Having lived, served faithfully, and died in mortal, corruptible human bodies, the resurrected anointed ones receive an incorruptible spirit body. (1Co 15:44) Such a body that is “raised up in incorruption” will inherently be beyond decay or destruction and will apparently be self-sustaining.—Compare study note on 1Co 15:53.

    1 Corinthians 15:45
    The first man Adam ... The last Adam:
    In the first part of the verse, Paul quotes from Ge 2:7 (“the man became a living person”), but he adds the words “first” and “Adam.” In the second part of the verse, he calls Jesus “the last Adam.” Then at 1Co 15:47, Paul calls Adam “the first man [or, “human”]” and Jesus “the second man [or, “human”].” The first Adam disobeyed his Father and Life-Giver; the last Adam showed complete obedience to Him. The first Adam spread sin to his offspring; the last Adam gave his human life as a sin-atoning sacrifice. (Ro 5:12, 18, 19) Jehovah then restored Jesus to life as a spirit. (1Pe 3:18) Like Adam, Jesus was a perfect man, so in harmony with His own justice, Jehovah could accept Jesus’ sacrifice as “a corresponding ransom” to buy back Adam’s descendants. This ransom sacrifice would restore to humans the life prospects that the first Adam had forfeited. (1Ti 2:5, 6) Thus, Jesus could rightfully be called “the last Adam,” a term that indicates that there will be no need for another Adam after him.
    a living person: Or “a living soul.” Paul is here quoting from Ge 2:7, where the Hebrew word neʹphesh is rendered “person” or, according to the footnote, “soul.” This Hebrew word literally means “a breathing creature.”

    1 Corinthians 15:53
    The Greek word for “immortality” (a·tha·na·siʹa) occurs three times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, at 1Co 15:53, 54 and 1Ti 6:16. The basic meaning is “not subject to death.” It refers to the quality of life that is enjoyed, its endlessness and indestructibility. The anointed followers of Christ, who as mortal humans serve God faithfully, are resurrected as something more than spirit creatures having everlasting life. Jehovah gives them “indestructible life”—an outstanding demonstration of his confidence in them.—Heb 7:16; compare study note on 1Co 15:42.
    My comments: Paul’s “put on” formula (literally “to invest with clothing”) in verses 53 and 54, as in “corruptible must put on [clothe with] incorruption … mortal must put on immortality,” is metaphorical. Corruption does not literally add incorruption. It becomes incorruptible. This is made clear in other translations that have “this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.”
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    Thursday, August 11, 2022

    The Bible and the shape of the earth

    The following is pushback I wrote in response to flat earth propaganda I encountered on social media.[1] The propaganda was loaded with logical fallacies, including the reasoning that since the Bible presents flat earth, so flat earth must be true. Most disturbing was their claim that God only loves us if the earth is flat. My response:
    The Bible writers were not astronomers or geologists. They did not know about Australia or Antarctica for instance, nor did they know about galaxies.

    Thus, even if the Bible assumes flat earth, it is accommodating their beliefs at the time. It does not affect our modern cosmology based on our astronomy and geology centuries in the making.[2]

    Lastly, the Bible does not insist on a flat earth, and neither should we.

    For instance, no Bible writer knew about plate tectonics and continental drift or that marsupials migrated to Australia through Antarctica when it was a green continent connected to the other continents at the time. Nor did they know about antipodal volcanism and S- and P-Waves that we know about today. (Those are Secondary and Primary shockwaves from earthquakes that travel to the other side of the globe.)[3]

    Jehovah created life on a globe because He loves us.
    The key-word there is accommodation. God allows us the opportunity to make discoveries on our own. Accommodation is also the best way to teach, to reach the heart of your audience. Jesus did this in Matthew 13:31-32 and Mark 4:30-32, calling the mustard seed the tiniest because that is what his audience thought.

    In closing, the human race has learned a lot about astronomy and geology since the Bible was completed, including confirmation that we live on a globe.


    For the record, I have asked this person if she thinks the earth is flat or if she knows that her message teaches earth is flat. She chose not to answer. However, she later removed this propaganda. But since she inexcusably chose to ignore my clear, direct and pressing questions, this citation remains for future reference.
    [2] Use these scriptures with care
    [3] Regarding Recent Flat Earth Heckling
    Antipodal Volcanism and the K-T Extinction Event

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    Tuesday, June 28, 2022

    Stage Prop Analysis

    At the 2021 Powerful by Faith! Regional Convention a powerful video was shown of how three wayward friends were able to return to the fold.[1] Reenactments were made for the examples, and stage props of literature were used for two of them. For one, the text was readable for only a second. It was a prop of a book on evolution. To display visible, readable text for a book on this topic calls for a decision: have the text be gibberish or readable. If readable, from where? A real book on evolution? The prop also showed an iconic March of Progress of human evolution copied from our brochure The Origin of Life—Five Questions Worth Asking, p. 29.[2] Thus, with a recognizable picture from one of our publications, would it follow that the readable text also came from one of our publications? In this case, yes. I discovered that the readable text was copied from three pages in our 1985 book Life—How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation?, pages 180, 184 and 95.[3] The text is as follows:
    established fact. Often we hear or read phrases such as, ‘When man evolved from the lower animals,’ or, ‘Millions of years ago, when life evolved in the oceans.’

    An additional reason for evolution’s acceptance is the failure of conventional religion in both what it teaches and what it does, as well as its failure to represent properly the Bible’s creation account. Informed persons are well aware of the religious record of hypocrisy, oppression and inquisitions. They have observed clergy support for murderous dictators. They know that people of the same religion have killed one another by the millions in war, with the clergy backing each side. So they find no reason for considering the God whom those religions are supposed to represent. Too, absurd and unbiblical doctrines further this alienation. Such ideas as eternal torment—that God will roast people in a literal hellfire forever—are repugnant to reasoning persons.

    Neanderthal man (named after the Neander district in Germany where the first fossil was found) was undoubtedly human. At first he was pictured as bent over, stupid looking
    This is all I was able to clearly make-out. Other hawkeyed viewers may be able to recognize less-clear text.

    I am only reporting on a discovery I made looking at this stage prop.

    It makes sense to insert “safe” text if gibberish was not desired.

    [1] Saturday concluding talk: “Put Up a Hard Fight for the Faith”!, at marker 1:18:52 regarding Justin Ochoa. By the way, I would love to meet him and discuss the issues he raised.
    [2] As seen here:
    [3] This book is available for viewing at the Internet Archive library:


    Tuesday, March 08, 2022

    Is Jesus God in the Gospel of Mark?

    Recently Michael Jones and scholar Mike Licona had a discussion about the Gospel of Mark, if it teaches that Jesus is God or not.[1] As both accept the scholarly consensus that Mark was written first before the other Gospels, this makes Mark all the more important theologically. They also both accept the affirmative, that Mark presents Jesus as God, whom they call Yahweh.[2]

    What follows is my review of how the discussion went.

    At about the 4-minute mark Michael Jones stated about Mark:
    It doesn’t say Jesus is God with such explicit statements like you see in like John 8:15 or John 8:58 I believe it is.[3] So, is Mark in his biography painting Jesus as God and how would he go about doing that in the ancient cultural context?
    With that not-so-smooth introduction, let us see how their conversation played out. Was good evidence presented? The discussion opened with Mark 1:2-4, with a quotation of Isaiah 40:3 where John the Baptist prepares the way of the Lord Jesus instead of Yahweh in Isaiah 40:3. Thus Jesus replaces Yahweh. However, a solution that is not considered, and that will continue to haunt the rest of their discussion, is that Jesus represents Yahweh but is not Yahweh.

    Then the following Marcan texts were considered:

    Mark 2:7, with them both siding with the Pharisees against Jesus that only God can forgive sins. Dr. Licona even read verse 10 where it’s explained that Jesus had the authority from his God to forgive sins, but all Dr. Licona said to that was “well that’s interesting.” Christians should be careful to not side with Christ’s enemies.

    Mark 3:26-27, where Jesus said he is binding Satan, which appears to make him stronger than Michael the archangel who only rebukes Satan over Moses’ body (Jude 9). However, not considered is Revelation 12:7-9 where Michael does more than verbally rebuke Satan, but bodily displaces him. So, Michael rebuked Satan in the past, Jesus bound Satan in the Gospels, and Michael displaces Satan in Revelation. Thus, it could be said that like in Mark 2:10, Jesus has been given the authority to bind Satan just like Michael was given authority to defeat and displace Satan. It’s a moot point.

    Mark 4:39, where Jesus calms the storm. This was compared to Psalm 89:9, 107:28-29 and Ecclesiastes 8:8 where God does that. Not considered was the solution that that Jesus represents Yahweh but is not Yahweh.

    Mark 5:41-42, where Jesus resurrected Jairus’ daughter. Again, this was compared to Ecclesiastes 8:8 where only God has power over death. Also, it was pointed out that Jesus didn’t pray beforehand like Elijah, Elisha, and Peter did with their resurrections. (1 Kings 17:21; 2 Kings 4:33; Acts 9:40) However, Jesus has been given the authority to do that in Mark 2:10 for he represents Yahweh but is not Yahweh.

    Mark 6:48, where Jesus is walking on the sea and is about to walk by his friends. This is compared to Job 9:8, 11, where similar language is used of God walking on water and passing by. Again, Jesus has been given the authority to do what has been previously ascribed only to God in Mark 2:10 for he represents Yahweh but is not Yahweh.

    Then to change things up, some objections were raised:

    Mark 10:18, where Jesus responded to the praise of being called “good” but “only God is good.” Dr. Licona responded: “I think there are two ways of looking at that.” It could mean he’s not God, or, Jesus could mean “I’m not rebuking you, but by calling me good you’re calling me God.” This response is also seen in the NET Bible footnote, which says Jesus was making his interlocutor “stop and think for a moment about who Jesus really was.” However, not considered is another possibility, that Jesus was asking a Repellent Question indicating an objection. Jesus was no stranger to Repellent Questions, as he used one on his own mother in John 2:4, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” Meaning, “Don't tell me what to do, it’s not time yet.” Thus, as applied to this question, Jesus said: “Don’t call me good, for only God is good (and I’m not God)!”[4]

    The objection that none of these examples clearly teach that Jesus is God was then presented. In response, it was pointed out that Jesus is cryptic about being the Messiah. But he’s clear through his deeds who he is. I agree, and remind them of Mark 2:10 again.

    Then the discussion became a little deeper:

    Mark 14:61-63 was presented, where Jesus is not only the Messiah (not blasphemy), but the Son of Man in Daniel 7:13, 14 and the Similitudes of 1 Enoch who’s worshipped like only God is, which is blasphemy. However, while the Son of Man is worshipped in Daniel 7:14 and the Intertestamental Similitudes of 1 Enoch, subordination is still unmistakably included. In Daniel he is worshipped before the superior “Ancient of Days,” and in 1 Enoch he is placed on his throne by the superior Lord of Spirits. (1 Enoch 48:5, 10; 51:3; 61:8 62:1-2; 69:27[5]) So this point does nothing to make Jesus God.

    Then, at the end of minute mark 17 to the start of 18, Michael Jones summarized: “We’re not saying it proves Jesus is God, what we’re trying to demonstrate is at least the author of Mark thought Jesus was Yahweh in some sense.” Well, yes, I think all can agree to that. Jesus represented God and was the closest one could get to God. So he was “God” in that sense. But the point of this discussion was indeed to prove that Mark teaches that Jesus is God!

    At minute mark 18:43 Dr. Licona concluded that Paul in his letters, which he believes predate Mark’s composition, “is really clear that Jesus is God.” He wrapped up with a statement that I agree with that “there’s no [theological] evolution here, it’s the same from the earliest to the latest.” However, all the Pauline texts he may be referring to are obviously debatable, and we can ask if they are being treated as fairly as the Marcan texts were? As can be seen thus far, Mark was not treated very fairly at all, and neither was 1 Enoch.

    Lastly, I am very surprised that they missed Mark 13:32! This passage, which is parallel to Matthew 24:36, makes it very hard to suggest that Mark was teaching that Jesus is God. There Jesus says: “But as for that day or hour no one knows it—neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son—except the Father.” Indeed, the NET Bible footnote admits that “The phrase nor the Son has caused a great deal of theological debate because on the surface it appears to conflict with the concept of Jesus’ deity. … The best option for understanding Mark 13:32 and similar passages is to hold the two concepts in tension: The Son in his earthly life and ministry had limited knowledge of certain things, yet he was still deity.” Thus, one must appeal to nonsensical “dual nature” dogma that he was speaking as a man, and thus misleading his audience, doing them and us a grave disservice. This is unacceptable, and it is really devastating to their presentation that they missed Mark 13:32. Another thing inexcusably omitted is the Passion Narratives as exemplified in Mark 8:31-33, where Jesus condemned as a satanic lie that he would not be completely dead then resurrected. (Mark 9:31-32; 10:32-34) (See: A Lesson from Jesus’ Rebuke If Jesus was God, then how did he die in order to be resurrected? This problem is far too serious to leave unaddressed. Moreover, hot on the heels of the last Passion Narrative is Mark 10:40, where “James and John asked for positions of honor and rulership in the kingdom” (NET Bible footnote), and to which Jesus replied: “to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give.” If Jesus is God, then why was it above his paygrade to choose who ‘sits at his right or at his left’? We may see why by returning to chapter 1, in Mark 1:13. There, Jesus was “enduring temptations from Satan … and angels were ministering to his needs.” The reason should be clear now. God cannot be tempted or be in need of help. This is true even if Jesus had a divine nature as God on earth. Choosing his co-rulers would not be above his paygrade, he would not be tempted, and he would not need help from angels. These all needed to be addressed.

    Missed Mark scriptures:
    1. Mark 13:32, Jesus is ignorant of what only his Father knows.
    2. Mark 8:31-33 and Mark 9:31-32; 10:32-34, the Passion Narratives.
    3. Mark 10:40, choosing co-rulers is above Jesus’ paygrade.
    4. Mark 1:13, Jesus is tempted by Satan and is helped by angels.
    With the problems discussed above, together with these obvious restrictions on the available data, their discussion is entirely unpersuasive and massively missed the mark.

    [1] In this video: Is Jesus God in the Gospel of Mark?
    [2] About Yahweh, see: The reason for the name
    [3] Regarding John 8:58, Hugh J. Schonfield translated it as “Jesus told them, ‘I tell you for a positive fact, I existed before Abraham was born.’” Kenneth McKay translated it as “I have been in existence since before Abraham was born.” McKay adds that it would be translated this way “if it were not for the obsession with the simple words ‘I am.’” (See: The Authentic New Testament Indeed, nor does the text align in the way they would like you to believe, as revealed here: A case of smoke and mirrors Lastly, previous printings of the NASB had “Or ‘I have been’” as a variant reading in the margin. (See: Identifying Jesus So, it is clear that ones who employ John 8:58 as an “explicit statement” to Jesus being God must divorce themselves from scholarship and be inexcusably delusional.
    [4] See: “When Jesus said “No one is good except God alone”?” (Y!A)
    [5] These passages read:
    48:5, 10: “All who dwell on earth shall fall down and worship before him [the Son of Man], And will praise and bless and celebrate with song the Lord of Spirits.” 10. …“And there shall be no one to take them with his hands and raise them: For they have denied the Lord of Spirits and His Anointed. The name of the Lord of Spirits be blessed.”
    51:3: “And the Elect One shall in those days sit on My throne, And his mouth shall pour forth all the secrets of wisdom and counsel: For the Lord of Spirits hath given (them) to him and hath glorified him.”
    61:8: “And the Lord of Spirits placed the Elect one on the throne of glory. And he shall judge all the works of the holy above in the heaven, And in the balance shall their deeds be weighed.”
    62:1-2: “And thus the Lord commanded the kings and the mighty and the exalted, and those who dwell on the earth, and said: ‘Open your eyes and lift up your horns if ye are able to recognize the Elect One.’ 2. And the Lord of Spirits seated him on the throne of His glory, And the spirit of righteousness was poured out upon him, And the word of his mouth slays all the sinners, And all the unrighteous are destroyed from before his face.”
    69:27: “And he sat on the throne of his glory, And the sum of judgement was given unto the Son of Man, And he caused the sinners to pass away and be destroyed from off the face of the earth, And those who have led the world astray.”

    1. From the NLT Study Bible
    From the NLT Study Bible
    The NLT Study Bible gives this footnote for Mark 13:32:
    “In the miracle of the incarnation, Jesus experienced limitation (10:40; 13:32).”

    Yes, thus as a limited person he obviously was not God.

    For Mark 10:40 it gives this footnote:
    “Jesus did not have the authority to grant their request. Only God the Father could (see also 13:32).” (emphasis original)

    Thus, Jesus was not God.

    Lastly, it gives this notable footnote for John 8:58:
    “before Abraham was even born, I AM! (Or before Abraham was even born, I have always been alive; Greek reads before Abraham was, I am.) Jesus’ life spans the past from before creation (1:1-2) and sweeps beyond the present into eternity. *I AM: This title is reminiscent of God’s name given on Mount Sinai (Exod 3:14; cp. John 4:26; Isa 43:11-13; 12).”

    Thus, referring to his pre-human existence and is only “reminiscent” of Exodus 3:14, not a direct identification. See also footnote 3 above.

    Trinitarians: Please stop hijacking Mark and John 8:58. At this point it looks dishonest.Thank you for listening!

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    Thursday, January 13, 2022

    Whose house?

    The case of whose house in Judges 19:18.

    The 1984 Reference NWT had:
    We are passing along from Bethlehem in Judah to the remotest parts of the mountainous region of Ephraim. That is where I am from, but I went to Bethlehem in Judah; and it is to my own house that I am going, and there is nobody taking me on into the house.
    The footnote for “my own house” said: “To my own house,” LXX (compare vs 29); MSy, “to Jehovah’s house”; Vg, “to God’s house.” But KB, p. 369, states that in this case “Jehovah” may be a misunderstanding of the first-person sing. pronoun “my.”

    KB is the Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros, by L. Koehler and W. Baumgartner, Leiden, Netherlands, 1953. This is what it says on page 369:

    Figure 1

    In other words, this transformation of the Hebrew text is proposed:

    Figure 2[1]

    Since the LXX also had only “my house,” it could be that the Greek translators were looking at a Hebrew text that lacked the Tetragrammaton there.

    Moving on, the current 2013 NWT has:
    We are traveling from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area of the mountainous region of Ephraim, where I am from. I went to Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to the house of Jehovah, but nobody is taking me into his house.
    So now the input of KB was not followed. Additionally, this explanation was provided for the inclusion of the Tetragrammaton here: “one occurrence [of the Tetragrammaton] at Judges 19:18 was restored as a result of further study of ancient manuscripts.”[2] No ancient manuscript was identified, but the Aleppo Codex has it there.

    Lastly, the NET Bible has:
    I had business in Bethlehem in Judah, but now I’m heading home.
    Its footnote says:
    Heb “I went to Bethlehem in Judah, but [to] the house of the LORD I am going.” The Hebrew text has “house of the LORD,” which might refer to the shrine at Shiloh. The LXX reads “to my house.”
    As noted above with the Reference NWT footnote, complicating this text of Judges 19:18 is Judges 19:28-29, where the man simply went home. So, the situation in Judges 19:18 is ultimately a judgment call. It’s not something to be dogmatic over.

    Notes from Study Bibles
    Jewish Study Bible: This has “House of the LORD,” but has this note: “Meaning of Heb. uncertain; emendation yields “to my home”; cf. v. 29.”

    Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible: This has the same as above, and notes: “It is unclear why the Levite would reference visiting Shiloh (or Bethel), where it seems the ark of the covenant was kept (18:31; 20:18). This may be why the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the OT, reads “my house” instead (compare 19:29).”

    Robert Alter Translation: He too retains the Tetragrammaton, yet notes: “This is a little odd because there is no indication that he lives in a sanctuary back in the far reaches of the high country of Ephraim.” He adds: “Many, following the Septuagint, emend the two Hebrew words here to read, “to my house.””

    So these refer to two things: the oddity of going to the holy shrine, and him going to his home in Judges 19:29.

    [1] Courtesy of Bruno Neuckermans.
    [2] The Watchtower, December 2015. A Living Translation of God’s Word, 10.

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    Tuesday, January 04, 2022

    The habitation of nonsense

    That’s how yours truly summed up the infamous book The Two Babylons[1] in a recent video.[2] When researching for the script, I was surprised to learn that inspiration behind a main point in The Two Babylons came from the Pseudo-Clementine literature, spurious writings from around the 4th century CE. That point being that Ninus is Nimrod. Indeed, when perusing the two volumes of the Clementine literature, named Recognitions and Homilies, I was struck by how similar they were to The Two Babylons. Lastly, I reviewed the origin of Ninus and his wife Semiramis as coming from the Greek physician Ctesias. However, since the discovery of Assyrian records and the resulting rise of the science of Assyriology, we can now fact-check Ctesias—and he failed to be a reliable historian on this point. Unfortunately for Hislop, he wrote before Ninus was shown to be unhistorical. Semiramis was found to have a historical counterpart, but she lived much later than Ninus was presumed to have lived, and she was not his wife.

    Anyway, watch the video! (And don’t forget to like and subscribe!)

    [1] Seventh edition, 1871. Published by Loizeaux Brothers, 1959.

    The complete book in a single webpage, with some added commentary interspersed:


    Monday, December 06, 2021

    Who’s the talking donkey?

    An easy way to mock something is by using a sweeping generalization that fails to include details, qualifications, and nuances. An example of this is seen with a popular atheist mockery of the Bible, saying it has a talking snake and talking donkey and magic trees.

    First of all, no one believes the snake and donkey actually spoke of their own accord (like the donkey did in Shrek). Thus, claiming that they do is nothing more than a disparaging straw man fallacy. That’s like saying atheists believe that DNA came from rocks smashing together. This is an unfair claim just like the atheist claim.

    The Garden of Eden narrative with its special trees and the serpent is in its own literary genre apart from the donkey narrative. Each event is in its own unique set of circumstances and context. The later is more recent in time, being in Numbers, and will be examined here alone by considering what a number of commentators have to say in a handful of study Bibles.

    The account is in Numbers 22:21-33, with Peter summarizing in 2 Peter 2:16. The account is specifically about the prophet Balaam riding his donkey with a message in opposition to Jehovah the God of the Israelites:
    21 So Balaam got up in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab.
    22 But God’s anger blazed because he was going, and Jehovah’s angel stationed himself in the road to resist him. Now Balaam was riding on his donkey, and two of his attendants were with him.
    23 And when the donkey saw Jehovah’s angel standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it tried to turn off the road into the field. But Balaam began to beat the donkey to make it return to the road.
    24 Then Jehovah’s angel stood in a narrow path between two vineyards, with stone walls on both sides.
    25 When the donkey saw Jehovah’s angel, it began to squeeze itself against the wall and it jammed Balaam’s foot against the wall, and Balaam began beating it again.
    26 Jehovah’s angel now passed by again and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn to the right or to the left.
    27 When the donkey saw Jehovah’s angel, it lay down under Balaam, so Balaam became furious and kept beating the donkey with his staff.
    28 Finally Jehovah caused the donkey to speak, and it said to Balaam: “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”
    29 Balaam replied to the donkey: “It is because you have made a fool of me. If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you!”
    30 Then the donkey said to Balaam: “Am I not your donkey that you have ridden on all your life until today? Have I ever treated you this way before?” He replied: “No!”
    31 Then Jehovah uncovered Balaam’s eyes and he saw Jehovah’s angel standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand. At once he bowed low and prostrated himself on his face.
    32 Then Jehovah’s angel said to him: “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? Look! I myself came out to offer resistance, because your way is in defiance of my will.
    33 The donkey saw me and tried to turn away from me these three times. Supposing it had not turned away from me! By now I would have killed you and let the donkey live.”
    Notice the donkey is not conveying any information that Balaam didn’t already know.

    Any human words being heard derives from divine intervention on the donkey.

    Balaam is not portrayed as being startled that his donkey spoke. This could imply that the “speech” was implied from the donkey’s frantic braying. We talk to our animals, even our cars, in response to their sounds all the time.

    Peter summarized this event as follows: “A voiceless beast of burden speaking with a human voice (ἀνθρώπου φωνῇ) hindered the prophet’s mad course.” In his summary he is merely reporting on what the Hebrew text conveyed.

    Study Bible commentary
    Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible
    opened the donkey’s mouth.
    Tales of talking animals in the ancient world often contain warning, irony or saltire. In the Egyptian Story of Two Brothers, a cow advises one of the brothers to flee because his brother was seeking to kill him with a lance. From the Aramaic Words of Ahiqar (seventh century BC) comes a conversation between a lion, a leopard, a bear and a goat, each representing a human characteristic in facing the struggles of life before the gods.

    Interpretation of this Biblical event has given rise to two general options: (1) God gave the animal the power of speech similar to how he empowered Ezekiel to speak after a prolonged period of silence (Eze 3:27; 33:22); (2) the donkey’s normal braying was heightened such that it was perceived and interpreted by Balaam in a human manner. The scene is replete with irony in that the donkey is more perceptive of God and is able to speak God’s word in a manner superior to the internationally renowned expert. Balaam is reminded that he will only be allowed to speak what Yahweh, God of Israel, permits him to speak.

    The Jewish Study Bible
    This episode of Balaam and the she-ass derives from a different tradition that contradicts the favorable view of Balaam expressed by the main story (contrast esp. v. 20). In this version God is angry with the prophet (v. 22) and in turn depicts the donkey as the actual visionary. Balaam becomes the object of mockery: He is portrayed as being blind to divine will; it is the ass that sees what the seer cannot.

    The New Oxford Annotated Bible
    second request. 22-35: These verses come from a tradition different from the foregoing, as indicated by God’s anger at Balaam (v. 22) after having given permission to go (v. 20), by the seer’s apparent blindness to divine will which was not the case in vv. 7-21, and the redundancy in vv. 20 and 35. In this version of the story, his donkey is smarter than he (cf. Isa 1.3). This version, which is only partly incorporated in the larger context of ch 22-24, may have first recounted that Balaam went without consulting the deity. Except for 22.22-35, chs 22-24 present Balaam in a positive light (cf. Mic 6.5). Other biblical passages portray him negatively (31.8,16; Deut 23.5; Josh 13.22; 24.10; Neh 13.2).

    NASB Study Bible
    22:23 the donkey saw the angel of the LORD. The internationally known seer is blind to spiritual reality, but his proverbially dumb beast is able to see the angel of the Lord on the path. As a pagan prophet, Balaam was a specialist in animal divination, but his animal saw what he was blind to observe.
    22:29 If there had been a sword in my hand. A ridiculous picture of the hapless Balaam. A sword was nearby (see vv. 23, 31-33), but its victim was not going to be the donkey.
    22:31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam. The language follows the same structure as the opening words of v. 28. In some ways, the opening of the eyes of the pagan prophet to see the reality of the angel was the greater miracle.

    ESV Study Bible
    22:22-35 The Donkey and the Angel. This is a hilarious put-down of Balaam’s pretensions. The international expert on magic cannot see the angel, but his donkey can. And the angel upbraids him for his temper and cruelty. The whole episode reinforces the message that Balaam must speak only the word that I tell you (v. 35).

    HCSB Apologetics Study Bible
    22:22-40 The story takes an ironic turn, as God is displeased with Balaam on the journey to Moab. Critics question why God would be angry with Balaam for listening to Him. This story type fits into the category of faith-challenges similar to Jacob’s wrestling with the angel at Peniel on his return to the promised land (Gn 32:24-32) or Moses’ encounter with the Lord upon his return to Egypt (Ex 4:24-26). These accounts are reminders that a holy God demands complete obedience of His servants; on the journey to Moab Balaam’s female donkey was more sensitive to God’s moving than was this renowned prophet.

    Critics call the communication by the donkey fanciful story telling. But, as with Balaam himself, God will use whatever means necessary to accomplish His purpose. The donkey could see what the seer could not, and she brayed in such a manner as to convey to Balaam a distinct message of anger and resentment. She communicated in such a way that only her owner could understand the meaning of her intonation. Similarly, in Jn 12:28-30, what some thought was thunder or the voice of an angel was God speaking. When Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus, only Saul could understand his words, while those around him “stood speechless” (Ac 9:7), i.e. unable to make out the meaning of what they heard.

    With this insight, it’s no longer as funny as the talking donkey of Shrek fame, is it? The Balaam donkey narrative is now seen as more down-to-earth. With that said, the irony was that the donkey, instead of being “without understanding” (Psalm 32:9), was more spiritually perceptive than the prophet, who was now “without understanding” in role-reversal.

    Thus, ones wanting to generalize this narrative as a silly Shrek-like talking donkey are acting “without understanding” like donkeys themselves. As humans, we have to do better.

    Additional Reading: Credits:


    Friday, October 15, 2021

    Who committed fraud?

    The Discovery Institute is a thinktank for the Intelligent Design movement, which teaches that life is best explained as originating with an intelligence and not originating through evolution. This opposition to evolution is especially seen in how it tackled the subject of human origins in a video it released on October 13, 2021: “Human Evolution: The Monkey Bias — Science Uprising, Episode 8.”[1]

    This video refers to the PBS documentary “In Search of Human Origins, part one.”[2]

    In their “Monkey Bias” video, the following accusation was made by the narrator: “This PBS documentary shows Anthropologist Owen Lovejoy manipulating the fossils to make Lucy walk upright.” The video then shows Owen using a power tool to grind away at what is presumably the actual pelvis, with one audience member in “Monkey Bias” viewing this in obvious shock. This is an accusation of academic fraud, and one that was made publicly in a PBS documentary for all his colleagues to witness on TV. That accusation thus struck me as strange. Why would he commit academic fraud so brazenly and openly in a documentary? It did not add up in my mind. So, I tracked down the transcript of “In Search of Human Origins, part one,” and I saw obvious academic fraud, but not from Owen Lovejoy.

    The relevant portion of the transcript presents this, with my comments interspersed:
    DON JOHANSON: My suspicions were confirmed. As Lovejoy pointed out, the joint had all the hallmarks of a creature that moved around on two legs, not on all fours. Walking upright is something that only humans can do. And it needs a special kind of knee joint, one that can be locked straight. A chimp gets around on all fours. If it tries to walk upright, it's knee joint doesn’t lock. It’s forced to walk with a bent leg and that’s tiring. This mysterious fossil really perplexed us. What was a modern-looking human knee doing among fossils that were millions of years old. …
    [So Lucy had a lockable knee joint for walking upright.]
    The ape that stood up, it was a revolutionary idea. We needed Owen Lovejoy’s expertise again, because the evidence wasn’t quite adding up. The knee looked human, but the shape of her hip didn’t. Superficially, her hip resembled a chimpanzee’s, which meant that Lucy couldn’t possibly have walked like a modern human. But Lovejoy noticed something odd about the way the bones had been fossilized.

    OWEN LOVEJOY: When I put the two parts of the pelvis together that we had, this part of the pelvis has pressed so hard and so completely into this one, that it caused it to be broken into a series of individual pieces, which were then fused together in later fossilization.

    DON JOHANSON: After Lucy died, some of her bones lying in the mud must have been crushed or broken, perhaps by animals browsing at the lake shore.

    OWEN LOVEJOY: This has caused the two bones in fact to fit together so well that they’re in an anatomically impossible position.
    [So the hip bone was shattered and fused into an unnatural geometry.]
    DON JOHANSON: The perfect fit was an allusion that made Lucy’s hip bones seem to flair out like a chimp’s. But all was not lost. Lovejoy decided he could restore the pelvis to its natural shape. He didn’t want to tamper with the original, so he made a copy in plaster. He cut the damaged pieces out and put them back together the way they were before Lucy died. It was a tricky job, but after taking the kink out of the pelvis, it all fit together perfectly, like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. As a result, the angle of the hip looks nothing like a chimp’s, but a lot like ours. Anatomically at least, Lucy could stand like a human.[3]
    Accusation: “Anthropologist Owen Lovejoy manipulating the fossils.”
    Reality: “He didn’t want to tamper with the original, so he made a copy in plaster.”

    Lovejoy working on the plaster copy is also seen in a video snippet of the PBS documentary.[4]

    This also shows that “Monkey Bias” carefully removed the context of Lovejoy operating on the plaster copy, and presented the PBS documentary narration with the following underlined part removed:
    The perfect fit was an allusion that made Lucy’s hip bones seem to flair out like a chimp’s. But all was not lost. ✂️Lovejoy decided he could restore the pelvis to its natural shape. He didn’t want to tamper with the original, so he made a copy in plaster. He cut the damaged pieces out and put them back together the way they were before Lucy died. It was a tricky job, but after taking the kink out of the pelvis, it all fit together perfectly, like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle.✂️ As a result, the angle of the hip looks nothing like a chimp’s, but a lot like ours.
    “Monkey Bias” then had Discovery Institute senior fellow Casey Luskin comment: “And so Lucy’s pelvis had to be reconstructed using a quite a bit of evolutionary interpretation and imagination.” Thus, not only did “Monkey Bias” purposefully misportray Owen as damaging the original fossil, it also removed the original narration in the PBS documentary explaining that there was an anatomical problem with the pelvis, as it was shattered and fused differently than in life, as well as a paradox of a locking knee joint. Omitting reference to the knee joint is particularly problematic, as that explains why Owen was suspicious of the pelvis to begin with. So it was not “evolutionary interpretation and imagination,” but detailed knowledge of comparative anatomy.

    The conclusion from this is pretty troubling. Since it was the Discovery Institute and Casey Luskin who removed the relevant context to make Owen Lovejoy look like a biased vandal in committing academic fraud, it is actually the Discovery Institute and Casey Luskin who lied publicly and misrepresented Owen Lovejoy and the fossil evidence for their own biases, committing academic fraud. Opposing human evolution is one thing, but lying about it and slandering someone is unacceptable.

    I am only reporting this incidence as it is what I personally discovered based on my suspicion that there was some monkey-business a foot.

    Lastly, speaking of feet, “Monkey Bias” made a point about Lucy’s feet never being recovered but being human-like in restorations,[5] but completely left out any discussion of human-like footprints (the Laetoli Footprints) dated to her kind, the Australopithecines. It also ignored any discussion of the foreman magnum. (It has a more central position in the underside of the cranium, positioning the vertebral column directly under it, demanding an upright posture.)

    Casey Luskin then referred to a Nature magazine article “From forelimbs to two legs” which he claimed called Lucy a knuckle-walker.
    Screenshot from “Monkey Bias.” Click to enlarge.
    He said: “In fact, an article in the journal Nature studied the hand bones of Lucy, and found that she had the hand bones of a knuckle-walker.” (A video of a knuckle-walking gorilla was then displayed.) He said this while showing the actual text of the article, which he highlighted as saying: “These features are thought to be associated with knuckle-walking…” Does that match his claim of what it said? And why did he not point out the publication year: 2000, or share qualifying information published at the same time in the same journal that negates his claim? For instance, he showcased text from a preliminary article “From forelimbs to two legs” in “news and views” that was introducing the main paper “Evidence that humans evolved from a knuckle-walking ancestor” by Richmond and Strait. This main paper was summarized by Henry Gee in his supplement “These fists were made for walking,” where he said: “Richmond and Strait have looked at the wrist bones of two extinct members of the human family, Australopithecus anamensis from Kenya and Australopithecus afarensis (the famous ‘Lucy’ skeleton) from Ethiopia, as they report in Nature. … Both, for example, were bipeds—they walked as upright as you or I, and probably not on their knuckles.”[6] Why did Casey Luskin not quote that? Was he being incompetent or dishonest? This is absolutely appalling.[7]

    The moral of the story is, do not look for a “quick win.” Do competent research and fact-checking. Above all, be honest. There is no love or joy in doing anything less.[8]

    Sadly, the Discovery Institute is celebrating “Monkey Bias” and a video airing after it which merely repeated the same sensationalized and slanderous claims from the attorney Casey Luskin. For an organized body of public servants to act this way is reprehensibly careless and reveals a very slipshod view of truth. The need to fact-check news outlets now includes their website Evolution News. This is very dissapointing. See: Human Origins — The Scientific Imagination at Play and Luskin: The “Big Bang” of Human Origins by David Klinghoffer.

    Update 2:
    Sadly, Günter Bechly now joins the list of liars. He defended the obvious lies revealed above and claimed: “Neither Luskin nor the video narrator alleges that Lovejoy engaged in ‘fraud.’ … Neither the Science Uprising episode nor Luskin claims that Lovejoy damaged a precious original fossil in his work.” He is only making this situation worse, and is not helping his compatriot Casey by excusing his obvious deception and mischaracterizations. Günter Bechly is only correct that the PBS video narrator did not allege that Lovejoy engaged in fraud, because he did not! Again, I am deeply disappointed in the Discovery Institute, Evolution News, etc., and now Günter Bechly for their obvious dishonesty. My fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses should take note of these developments and have limited involvement with this insincere organization. It has become the Dishonesty Institute. (John 8:44; Revelation 21:8; 1 Corinthians 15:33) See: Examining “Professor Dave’s” Absurd Attack on Casey Luskin by Günter Bechly. (This title is grandstanding and contains two lies: “absurd” and “attack.” It was not “absurd” but spot-on, and not an “attack” but a sincere evaluation. This deceptive conduct from professionals, who call themselves Christians no less, is deeply disheartening!) (6/1/2022)

    [2] At this mark: This was first aired on June 3, 1997.
    [5] Start of Lucy part:
    [6] “From forelimbs to two legs” by Mark Collard and Leslie C. Aiello (or free PDF)
    “Evidence that humans evolved from a knuckle-walking ancestor” (or free PDF)
    “These fists were made for walking”
    [7] I asked the co-author of the Nature article, Dr. Richmond, if Casey Luskin was correct in his summary of it, that: “an article in the journal Nature studied the hand bones of Lucy, and found that she had the hand bones of a knuckle-walker.” He replied:
    Wow, yes, Luskin’s comment is a flagrant mischaracterization of our scientific results. Lucy did not have the hands of an active knuckle-walker. Rather, there is evidence from her anatomy that her ancestors seemed to have had knuckle-walking adaptations. (Personal correspondence dated November 22, 2021.)
    This is what I gathered from his article too. Why didn’t Casey Luskin draw a more responsible and professional conclusion? Could his vision be clouded with the lenses of confirmation bias?
    [8] Owen Lovejoy is alive and is a professor at Kent State University.
    He was kind enough to share with me his response to “Monkey Bias”:
    Hi Jim: Thanks for the notification and of your interest in our work. I did watch the video and I have rarely seen such colossal dishonesty in any film or video that I have ever seen. It’s amazing but terribly disheartening for the future of science that there are organized groups dispensing such trash. Sincerely, Owen (October 17, 2021)
    He is correct. What they produced is nothing more than a hit piece!

    Screenshots of correspondence:

    Additional reading:
    Baboon Bone Found In Famous Lucy Skeleton

    Video presentations by Professor Dave Explains:

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