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.’
wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1101985025#h=5

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.
wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1101985025#h=15

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
wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1101985017#h=43
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.

Footnotes:
[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: wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1102010346#h=74
[3] This book is available for viewing at the Internet Archive library: archive.org/details/lifehowdiditgeth00watc/

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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 jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2013/10/a-lesson-from-jesus-rebuke-in-order-for.html) 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.

Footnotes:
[1] In this video: Is Jesus God in the Gospel of Mark? youtu.be/wDjh47C6TiI
[2] About Yahweh, see: The reason for the name jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2021/06/the-reason-for-name.html
[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
jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2020/01/the-authentic-new-testament.html) Indeed, nor does the text align in the way they would like you to believe, as revealed here: A case of smoke and mirrors jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2018/02/a-case-of-smoke-and-mirrors.html. Lastly, previous printings of the NASB had “Or ‘I have been’” as a variant reading in the margin. (See: Identifying Jesus
jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2016/08/identifying-jesus.html) 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) jimspace3000-ya.blogspot.com/2014/06/when-jesus-said-no-one-is-good-except.html
[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.”


Appendix
  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.

Footnotes:
[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!)

Footnotes:
[1] Seventh edition, 1871. Published by Loizeaux Brothers, 1959.
[2] youtu.be/fueXd1YrJqQ











Link:
The complete book in a single webpage, with some added commentary interspersed: chcpublications.net/Two_Babylons.html

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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.

Introduction
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.”
Comments
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.

Conclusion
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.

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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]

Update:
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)

Footnotes:
[1] youtu.be/aGzXAgFSbnk
[2] At this mark: youtu.be/aGzXAgFSbnk?t=260. This was first aired on June 3, 1997.
[3] www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/transcripts/2106hum1.htm
[4] youtu.be/L_U9SCyWw4w
[5] Start of Lucy part: youtu.be/aGzXAgFSbnk?t=206
[6] “From forelimbs to two legs” by Mark Collard and Leslie C. Aiello
www.nature.com/articles/35006181 (or free PDF)
“Evidence that humans evolved from a knuckle-walking ancestor”
www.nature.com/articles/35006045 (or free PDF)
“These fists were made for walking”
www.nature.com/articles/news000323-7
[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. www.kent.edu/anthropology/dr-c-owen-lovejoy
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
www.techtimes.com/amp/articles/45780/20150413/baboon-bone-found-in-famous-lucy-skeleton-of-early-human-ancestor.htm

Video presentation by Professor Dave Explains:
Exposing the Discovery Institute Part 1: Casey Luskin
youtu.be/HRxq1Vrf_Js



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Friday, September 24, 2021

Fixing misstated arguments for Trinitarianism


When presenting an argument for something, it’s always good to use the right one and not a misstated version of it.

This became very relevant when a Trinitarian presented a case for the Trinity for my evaluation. When analyzing it, I noticed some misstated arguments that I had to first fix for him before proceeding. I could have just rightly dismissed them as nonsensical; but wanting to produce a thoughtful reply, I had to take the extra time to get this right.

So, here is what went down:

When I wrote before about Jehovah’s Witnesses, it was to confirm that they do not hold to the vocalization of “Jehovah” for salvation, but allow for Yahweh too.

But I see you want to talk about the Trinity with me, is that correct? Let me first say that I agree with Jesus’ preexistence, that he lived before in heaven before being born from his virgin mother. (I use “Jesus” as that is the common Anglicized form of his Hebrew name.) I will also use the NET Bible, as it has an impressive arsenal of footnotes that anyone can view for free on its website.

While I do not agree with Trinitarianism, I appreciate you taking the time to persuade me otherwise (or to accept a preliminary step towards embracing Trinitarian theology).

I will now review your message to me point by point:
Regarding some of the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses, we have compiled some information from the scriptures. We hope you find it interesting:

Below are some reasons from the O.T. for believing that Messiah is Elohim, and that Elohim is not just one person, and also an explanation of the Hebrew meaning of "one":
This should be interesting indeed as Jesus said that the Father person is the “only true God [Elohim]” in John 17:1-5 in accords with divine revelation seen in Deuteronomy 32:6, Isaiah 63:16, 64:8, Jeremiah 31:9, Psalm 89:26 and Malachi 2:10, which all in one way or another identify God or Yahweh as the Father.
Ps. 45:6-7 speaks of the throne of Elohim. Throne is the first key word showing that we are reading about the Messiah who was to sit on David's throne.
I agree. The NET Bible footnote here is very insightful: “The king is clearly the addressee here, as in vv. 2-5 and 7-9.” It adds that “this statement as another instance of the royal hyperbole that permeates the royal psalms. Because the Davidic king is God’s vice-regent on earth, the psalmist addresses him as if he were God incarnate. God energizes the king for battle and accomplishes justice through him. A similar use of hyperbole appears in Isa 9:6, where the ideal Davidic king of the eschaton is given the title “Mighty God” (see the note on this phrase there). Ancient Near Eastern art and literature picture gods training kings for battle, bestowing special weapons, and intervening in battle. According to Egyptian propaganda, the Hittites described Rameses II as follows: “No man is he who is among us, It is Seth great-of-strength, Baal in person; Not deeds of man are these his doings, They are of one who is unique” (see Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 2:67). Ps 45:6 and Isa 9:6 probably envision a similar kind of response when friends and foes alike look at the Davidic king in full battle regalia. When the king’s enemies oppose him on the battlefield, they are, as it were, fighting against God himself.”

So the Davidic king is not Elohim but sits on God’s throne as his representative.
In verse 7 it says "therefore O Elohim, your Elohim anointed you" - 'anointed' is yet another key word in Hebrew (Mashach) from which the word Mashiach is formed!
With all due respect, where do you get a vocative Elohim? All other translations I checked have it as nominative, as in “therefore God, your God.” For instance, The Jewish Study Bible has “rightly has God, your God, chosen to anoint you.” The NET Bible concurs, and has this explanation in a footnote: “For other examples of the repetition of Elohim, “God,” see Pss 43:4; 48:8, 14; 50:7; 51:14; 67: [6,] 7.” In each of these cases there is one Elohim being referred to. Psalms 50:7 (“I am God, your God!”) and 67:6 (“May God, our God, bless us!”) come the closest to 45:7.
So here we see that the Messiah is Elohim, and his Elohim anointed him!
I think you are mistaken here. The narrator is saying “God, your God” as a repetitive clarification as seen in the other Psalms. But perhaps you meant to say that Elohim in verse 6, not 7, is vocative. I’m fine with that, and refer to the NET Bible’s explanation on how it is representational, not ontological, for the Davidic king.
This passage is quoted in Hebrews 1:8-9.
Yes, and this demonstrates that Jesus is the Davidic king which in Psalm 45:6 “is God’s vice-regent on earth,” “as if he were God incarnate.” He is Elohim representationally and not ontologically.
See also Mat. 1:23, which is quoted from Is.7:14; Is.9:6-7; John 10:30 where Yeshua says in allusion to Is.9:6 and Deu. 6:4 that "I and the father are one".
You refer to Immanuel which was an Isaianic title for a Davidic king. This is stated in the NET Bible footnote for Matthew 1:23. Again, as the Davidic king was not ontologically Elohim then neither is Jesus, but is his chief representative on earth. Isaiah 9:6-7 referred to the Davidic king representing God, as good as God himself. Jesus then fulfilling that was also representing God. When citing John 10:30, it is appropriate to also cite the clarifying scripture John 17:11 where the same word for “one” is used in regards to his disciples. It is not a compound one of his disciples in one human, but one signifying unity. Same with Jesus and his God and Father: not two in one body but united in thought and purpose. Lastly, the NET Bible discussed the interpretations of “one” in Deuteronomy 6:4 and never mentioned plurality within YHWH.
here are some clear examples in the O.T. of Elohim being plural:

Gen 1:26 - Elohim refers to himself as being plural
Gen 11:6-9 - YHWH refers to himself as being plural
Gen 20:13 - Abraham uses plural verb referring to the true Elohim
Gen 35:7 - Jacob uses plural verb referring to the true Elohim
Josh 14:19 Joshua uses plural adjective referring to the true Elohim
Genesis 1:26 and 11:6-9 is not about collaboration within a Godhead, but is God talking to someone (the pre-human Jesus) in heaven in his court. Michael Heiser has said this too regarding Genesis 1:26, as does the NET Bible footnote at Genesis 1:26: “Many Christian theologians interpret it as an early hint of plurality within the Godhead, but this view imposes later trinitarian concepts on the ancient text. … In its ancient Israelite context the plural is most naturally understood as referring to God and his heavenly court (see 1 Kgs 22:19-22; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6; Isa 6:1-8).”

The NET Bible has this footnote for “wander” at Genesis 20:13, which states in part: “The Hebrew verb is plural. This may be a case of grammatical agreement with the name for God, which is plural in form. However, when this plural name refers to the one true God, accompanying predicates are usually singular in form. Perhaps Abraham is accommodating his speech to Abimelech’s polytheistic perspective.” So, it does not necessarily mean plurality within Elohim.

Similarly, the NET Bible has this footnote for “themselves” at Genesis 35:7, which states in part that perhaps Elohim “is here a numerical plural, referring both to God and the angelic beings that appeared to Jacob.”

You said “Josh 14:19” but probably meant Joshua 24:19. [It took some effort to find the scripture he really meant to use.] The NET Bible footnote for “holy God” says: “Normally the divine name, when referring to the one true God, takes singular modifiers, but this is a rare exception where the adjective agrees grammatically with the honorific plural noun.”

So, I’m afraid that none of those scriptures can be used to demand plurality within Elohim. It is not the only option. And, as I show below, we can be very thankful for that.
Now, what about the "YHWH is One" verse?? Good question, this is probably the no.1 argument of Jews against believers in Yeshua. I see that the answer is extremely clear from the Hebrew use of the word 'echad' (one) in the O.T. in fact we don't have to look any further than Genesis to get the answer:

In Gen. 2:24 it says that "they (plural, a man and a woman) will be one flesh." Two distinct persons can be one flesh. So, you have seen my Dad on the videos, but you have never seen my Mom, right? Yet Biblically speaking, they are one.
This is rather confusing as “one flesh” is figurative, as it refers to unity, not plurality within flesh.
This explains how humans can see Elohim without dying, they can see Yeshua who is the mediator and who is one with the Father.
I think you are referring to Exodus 33:22-23; 34:24. More on this below. Suffice to say, you told me at the outset that Jesus is also Elohim, but now you are comparing that to figurative language.
The second example is from Gen. 41:22-26: It clearly says that pharaoh had TWO dreams, that he woke up in-between, that the two dreams were different, and here comes Joseph and says to pharaoh, "Pharaoh's dream is one"!! It doesn't even say "are" but "is". So, is Joseph making Pharo a liar by saying that his dream (singular) is (singular) one (singular)?? No, this is the Hebrew way of saying 'united'. Joseph is not denying that Pharaoh had two dreams, or that they were different, he is saying that the two dreams are united, and that they give the same message.
Genesis 41:21 says Pharoah woke up after the cows dream, then had the grain dream. Verses 25 and 26 literally say one dream, but the NET Bible sees this as an idiom for “same meaning.” So I follow you here.
The same is true with YHWH. "YHWH is one" does not deny that there is more than one person.
This is not the only way to understand the Shema. This comparison with the dreams was clever, but in all due respect, I do not find it as conclusive as you do. [It is too dreamy as the two dreams have a common, singular meaning.]
This rather means (among many other things) that Yeshua will not teach differently than the Father, and that YHWH's spirit will not teach differently either.
But united is not the same as plurality within Elohim.
In fact, in Ex 34 it first says that Moses spoke to YHWH face to face, and then later in the same chapter it says "You can not see my face, for no flesh shall see me and live". - In the same chapter! NO ONE can see him and live? What is the solution to this seeming contradiction?
Exodus 33:22-23 says Moses cannot see God’s face and live, whereas 34:24 (in the next chapter) says Moses was to “appear before” God using the plural of “face.” The NET Bible passes over this without comment. It is seen as an idiom for appearing before God, not as a contradiction with Exodus 33:22-23.
YHWH appeared to Adam and Eve, walking with them in the garden, he appeared to Abraham Issac and Jacob, to Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu together with 70 elders of Israel on Mount Sinai.
He appeared to them in different ways, yes. Moses’ theophany was the most dynamic and the closest to reality as opposed to a vision or a torch.
Yeshua said, "Before Abraham was, I am" clearly claiming that he was there at the time of Abraham!
I agree John 8:58 supports Jesus’ prehuman existence in Abraham’s day.
It is also fascinating to see in the Hebrew gospel of John (that we are finalising), how much emphasis is placed on Yeshua being Elohim in the first few lines of Chapter 1, much more than in the Greek tradition! And that he created everything!
I see you just released your Gospel of John. The conclusions drawn about it will certainly lead to valuable discussion. I will have to see how experts in the field analyze your text and conclusions. In your preface you state: “There is currently a lot of foolish debate about Yeshua and whether he is Elohim or not.” I have no problem with him being the representative of Elohim, and refer to your translation of John 20:17 where Jesus said “my Father and unto your Father—my Eloah and your Eloah.” His Father is Eloah. This is seen also in Revelation 3:12, where the resurrected Lord Jesus says he has a God four times.

A final point: for Jesus’ ransom sacrifice to have any meaning, he had to be a man who was completely dead, no divine nature surviving. Jesus was very emphatic about this, as seen in the account at Matthew 16:21-23. He was to be dead, then resurrected.—John 10:11, 19:30 and Matthew 27:50; Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46 and Isaiah 53:12.

Thus, two points in conclusion: Jesus represents his God and Father but is not his God and Father, and Jesus was emphatic that he had to be dead (not still alive as a divine nature). If he was still alive as God, then his ransom sacrifice is a sham for he never died.
  1. Jesus represents his God and Father but is not his God and Father.
  2. Jesus was emphatic that he had to be dead (not still alive as a divine nature). If he was still alive as God, then his ransom sacrifice is a sham for he never died.
Months went by, and my Trinitarian interlocutor never bothered to reply.


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Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Use these scriptures with care

Pondering over the scriptures.

Job 26:7 is used a lot to prove the divine inspiration of the Bible.
“He stretches out the northern sky over empty space,
Suspending the earth upon nothing.”
Some respectful questions are in order: What if the “empty space” of the first part (7a) is in parallel with the “nothing” of the second part (7b), as a synonym?

If we take 7b literally (in isolation from 7a), should we take Job 26:11 literally too, which presents “the very pillars of heaven”?

However, while the first part of the verse is never commented on (and is hard to make sense of today), the last part of the verse still makes sense today! And I think that’s where the brilliance of the verse stands out, as being timeless!

Another observation is that no contemporary of Job or later Israelite recorded the earth as hanging in space orbiting the sun. These astronomical facts were only discovered centuries after Job, thus “suspending the earth upon nothing” still made sense to those people ignorant of the reality we take for granted today.

Thus, while Job 26:7b made sense to the astronomically-ignorant readers back then, it still makes sense today, and even more so. (But Job 26:7a and 11 do not make sense today, even though they did back then.)

Does Job 26:7 prove the divine inspiration of the Bible then? Only if used as a laser beam, not as a bazooka. As such, we have to aim the laser so that it does not reflect back at us, being careful to illuminate the timeless nature of the statement in 7b.

Isaiah 40:22 is used a lot to prove the divine inspiration of the Bible.
“There is One who dwells above the circle of the earth.
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers.
He is stretching out the heavens like a fine gauze,
And he spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.”
A respectful observation: Here we are hit with a semantic range in 22a, where the word translated as “circle” can mean “compass.” Thus, the NET Bible has “He is the one who sits on the earth’s horizon.” And what about the rest of the verse? The NET Bible has:
“He is the one who stretches out the sky like a thin curtain,
and spreads it out like a pitched tent.”
This made sense in Isaiah’s day, and no one needed a crash-course in astrophysics to comprehend it. With that observation, even if they didn’t think earth was a sphere, “the circle of the earth” still made sense to them. Today, we read that with the advantage of centuries of scientific discovery on our side and see an unmistakable sphere centuries before it was widely known.

Does Isaiah 40:22 prove the divine inspiration of the Bible then? Only if used as a laser beam, not as a bazooka. As such, we have to aim the laser so that it does not reflect back at us, being careful to illuminate the timeless nature of the ambiguity of 22a that can allow for the idea of “sphere.”

Ecclesiastes 12:10 is used to describe the whole Bible.
“The congregator sought to find delightful words and to record accurate words of truth.”
A respectful observation: The “congregator” is King Solomon who was writing, as the NET Bible heading has it, a “Concluding Epilogue” to Ecclesiastes, teaching that “The Teacher’s Advice is Wise.”

While “all Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight,” and while Jesus’ summary of scripture thus far as “your word is truth” is true, technically Ecclesiastes 12:10 is describing Ecclesiastes.—2 Timothy 3:16, 17; John 17:17.

Does Ecclesiastes 12:10 describe the whole Bible then? Only if used as a laser beam, not as a bazooka. As such, we have to aim the laser so that it does not reflect back at us, being careful to illuminate the point that “accurate words of truth” are used elsewhere in the Bible.

Conclusion
Please be thoughtful when using the Bible, and strive to apply 2 Timothy 2:15:
“Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.”
As one journal explained:
A soldier can wield his weapons effectively in warfare only if he has practiced and has learned to use them well. It is the same with the use of “the sword of the spirit” in our spiritual warfare. … We should be careful that we do not use the Bible to intimidate people. Though we can use the Scriptures to defend the truth, as Jesus did when he was tempted by the Devil, the Bible is not a club with which to browbeat our listeners.”—The Watchtower, February 15, 2010. Skillfully Wield “the Sword of the Spirit,” under Handle It Aright

The Greek word rendered “handling aright” literally means “straightly cutting” or “to cut a path in a straight direction.”—The Watchtower, November 15, 2003. ‘Handle God’s Word Aright’

Taking words out of context can distort their meaning, just as Satan distorted the meaning of Scripture when he tried to mislead Jesus. (Matthew 4:1-11) On the other hand, taking the context of a statement into account helps us to get a more accurate understanding of its meaning. For this reason, when we study a Bible verse, it is always wise to look at the context and see the verse in its setting in order to understand better what the writer was talking about. … In order to handle God’s Word aright, we need to understand it properly and then explain it honestly and accurately to others. Respect for Jehovah, the Bible’s Author, will move us to try to do that, and considering the context will be an important help.—The Watchtower, January 1, 2003. What Can Help Us to Handle the Word of the Truth Aright?
Being a scriptural workman then is hard work, but also rewarding and respectful.

Just a friendly reminder I felt the desire to share.


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Thursday, September 02, 2021

Jupiter and the real Father


The head of the ancient Roman pantheon, Jupiter, means “Father Jove.” Thus, moons of the planet Jupiter are called Jovian. In the past, I wondered if the god Jupiter had any origin with Jehovah after reading that Jove was involved in the confusion of languages, as Jehovah was in Genesis 11:1-9, as reported by Gaius Julius Hyginus (64 BCE-17 CE). He wrote: “Men for many centuries before lived without town or laws, speaking one tongue under the rule of Jove. But after Mercury had explained the languages of men … then discord arose among mortals, which was not pleasing to Jove.”[1] I reasoned that the name “Jehovah” could have been transmitted by their forefather Japheth.

See: However, there is a native etymology for Jove that explains Jupiter without having to go to the name Jehovah. Jupiter derives from Proto-Italic djous “day, sky” + patēr “father,” thus meaning “sky father.” Any similarity between Jove and Jehovah then is purely and amazingly coincidental!

See: What is ironic though is that enemies of Jehovah twice tried to turn Jehovah’s Temple in Jerusalem into a temple of Jupiter, and both attempts failed. Therefore, Jehovah emerged victorious as the real Father and God.—Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 63:16, 64:8; Jeremiah 31:9; Psalm 89:26; Malachi 2:10 and John 17:1-5.

See:

Footnotes:
[1] I initially read this quote from the infamous book The Two Babylons, on page 26. This book has a dangerous mixture of truth, fantasy, and wild speculation. It is to be read with great skepticism and caution. For instance, after “Jove,” it adds this interpretation in brackets: “evidently not the Roman Jupiter, but the Jehovah of the Hebrews.” This perfectly proves my point about wild speculation.

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Monday, August 23, 2021

Who is “Beelzebul the Prince of Demons”?


By Dr. Nicholas J. Schaser

When Jesus casts out demons, the Pharisees claim that his exorcisms come through the power of “Beelzebul the Prince of Demons.” So why would the Pharisees accuse Jesus of being in league with Beelzebul? Who is this mysterious figure? Is he the same as Satan? And what did the accusation mean in its original Jewish context?

When Jesus performs exorcisms, he is accused of doing so with the help of “Beelzebul, the prince of demons” (Matt 12:24; Lk 11:15; cf. Matt 10:25; 12:27; Mk 3:22; Lk 11:18-19). While Yeshua’s response associates this figure with “Satan” (Σατανᾶς; cf. Matt 12:26; Mk 3:24-26; Lk 11:18), Beelzebul’s identity is not limited to the Satan, or “the accuser” (השׂטן; ha’satan), that we encounter in the Hebrew Bible (cf. Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7; Zech 3:1-2; 1 Chron 21:1). According to Scripture, Beelzebul was a Philistine god with whom the Israelites came into contact through their neighbors in the land of Canaan.

“Beelzebul” (בעל זבול; Βεελζεβοὺλ) is made up of two Hebrew words that have equivalents in related languages: “Baal” (בעל) means “lord” or “master,” and “zebul” (זבול) means “high” or “exalted.” Thus, the name for this deity would mean something like, “Exalted Master,” or “Lord of the Heights.” Israel’s Scriptures contain an episode involving Ahaziah, a king of Israel, who becomes sick and asks his messengers, “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub (בעל זבוב), the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this illness” (2 Kings 1:2). In response, the prophet Elijah asks Ahaziah, “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub (בעל זבוב) the god of Ekron?” (1:3). Elijah tells the king that because he has chosen the help of Baal-zebub over the God of Israel, the monarch shall not recover (1:4).

You may have noticed a slight difference between the names in the New Testament and the Tanakh: in the Gospels, the latter half of the name is “zebul,” but the Hebrew Bible has “zebub.” [And English translations have “zebub.”] Whereas the New Testament Greek preserves this deity’s proper name, the Hebrew makes it into a derisive wordplay: by changing the final “l” (ל) to a “b” (ב), the Hebrew author makes Baalzebul (Exalted Lord) into Baalzebub: “Lord of the Flies.” One reason for this change may have been the tendency for flies to congregate on ancient sacrifices that were not properly consumed as burnt offerings. Israel was told to burn the uneaten parts of the offering so that the smoke would ascend to God as a “sweet-smelling savor” (ריח ניחח; reach nichoach; e.g., Lev 1-8), but the Israelites could mock the sacrifices of other nations when they saw flies covering the leftovers. In this way, the Hebrews highlight the superiority of their God over Baalzebul: with the switch of a single letter, the Israelites could say to their neighbors, “You think that your Baal is the ‘exalted lord,’ but we know that he’s really just the lord of the flies!”

Source: https://weekly.israelbiblecenter.com/beelzebul-prince-demons/ (all emphasis original)

I liked this explanation for clearly presenting the possible reason for the disparaging alteration to “flies.” What is more interesting is why the Pharisees chose to use this false god, and its proper name at that. In other words, why did their demonology include this name?

In any case, the prestigious Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (DDD) confirms: “The view that Βεελζεβοὺλ is the original form of the name of the deity in 2 Kgs 1 is further suggested by the titles zbl b’l and more frequently zbl b’l ‘ars appearing in Ugaritic texts.” (Baal Zebub, 154)

So to answer the question in the title, Beelzebul was the original name of the native deity that was mocked as Beelzebub in Hebrew, but was retained in Greek with the Pharisees’ accusation against Jesus that was used as weird circumlocution for Satan.


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Friday, August 20, 2021

Concordism and consequences


Concordism … is a hermeneutical approach to scripture. It is a hermeneutic which advocates interpreting scripture in light of modern science. One attempts to read modern science into the text. Concordism is a hermeneutic which may be adopted by Young Earthers or Old Earthers.

—Dr. William Lane Craig
Concordism | Reasonable Faith

With this definition, he also says:
Now I reject the hermeneutic of concordism. Instead we should adopt the hermeneutical approach of trying to determine how the original author and audience would have understood the text. Rather than trying to impose modern science onto the Genesis account of creation or to read it in light of modern science, we want to read the account as it would have been understood by the original people who read it. That requires us to bracket our knowledge of modern science and put ourselves in the shoes of these ancient Hebrews.

(By the way, concordism is not a heresy. It’s just bad hermeneutics which will obscure rather than illuminate the text.)
Thus, concordism is identified as “eisegesis,” the interpretation of a text (as of the Bible) by reading into it one’s own ideas.

While I respect this, I note that the sequence of events in Genesis 1 does nevertheless generally match the history of life on earth. But it was not written by us, or for us, it was written in the ancient past in the Near East, with a divine stamp of approval for teaching divine sovereignty over the creation.

But this also, consequently, produces a problem for Trinitarian theology. If reading modern science into Genesis 1 is concordism and eisegesis, then reading the post-biblically developed and formulized Trinitarian theology into the Bible would also be concordism and eisegesis. While Creation Concordism is rightly not heresy, Theological Concordism is not so fortunate. Thus, I will point out that the good doctor of philosophy has unintentionally categorized his theology as concordism and eisegesis.

See also:

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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

If errors start with S

The Scutum Fidei in the background.

When asked “What would be your proper definition of how we should define the Trinity?” one Trinitarian pastor answered:

“Yeah, so there’s three errors, and to alliterate, I just like to use the three S’s here that I use as sort of umbrella terms, they cover a number of different views.” These being Sabellianism (or Modalism), Subordinationism (or Arianism) and Socinianism. He proceeds with some preconceived bias though with all three of these being “errors” and his theology being correct, which has the advantage in his mind of not starting with an S. He then defines the Trinity, in typical Scutum Fidei terms as: 

Three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one true eternal God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory. And so, while these persons are one as to their essence or Godhood, they are distinguished according to their personal properties, namely the properties of paternity, affiliation and spiration; that is, the Father begat the Son, the Son is begotten of the Father and the Spirit is breathed or spirated. And so, that’s the doctrine of the Trinity in a nutshell.

He then elaborated:

And, one thing I would say about this, by the way, is if you’re thinking fundamentally about God and what we mean by “God,” one of the things you’re saying is that God is the underived and independently existing one. Right? He is the one who exists in and of himself and doesn’t depend on anything outside of himself, and who caused all other things to exist and depend on him. And so, any doctrine of God that’s going to be consistent with that fundamental presupposition is going to have to, you know, it can’t undermine that fundamental sense of independence. I mean that’s what it means to call God “God.” And in my mind, it’s only the doctrine of the Trinity that can actually preserve what we mean when we say God is independent. God has all life and glory and communion and blessedness and everything that, you know, we might say of a superlative being. He has all of that in and of himself and doesn’t have to look outside of himself to realize these things. There are no hidden potentialities in God. And so, it’s only in the doctrine of the Trinity that you actually have this sort of thing. In every other version of God, you know, God has to look outside of himself in order to realize his hidden potential for love or communion or communication or fellowship or whatever else it may be.

Responses I have to this detailed presentation are:

  • God can still be complete as a solitary person, the Father. He created not out of need but out of love.
  • His presentation failed to include how Jesus could have died and be resurrected by his Father.
  • His presentation failed to include how the Holy Spirit as a person was involved with Mary becoming pregnant with Jesus.

Thus, it is not “only the doctrine of the Trinity that can actually preserve what we mean when we say God is independent,” but God being the Father alone also preserves it. The doctrine of the Trinity then, as stated, appears to be opposed to Christianity, and is not something any Christian would want to believe in, either.

Thus, in closing, if errors start with S, then Trinitarianism is Scutum-Fidei-ism.

See also the entry “Trinitarian Samples” for a more detailed explanation: jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2016/04/trinitarian-samples.html

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