20 May 2018

Nothing New Under the Sun

Religious 23 Comments

In my Bible study we are plodding through Numbers and we looked up the maps to see the Israelites’ route over the 40 years from the Exodus until entering the Promised Land. (TL;DR it was out of Egypt, through modern-day Israel, Jordan, and maybe Syria [just eyeballing the map].) It was amazing to me, since all of this stuff is so topical right now with U.S. foreign policy.

Believers in the Abrahamaic faiths would say, “Yep, it’s not surprising that people are still fighting over this sacred land,” and many Christian fundamentalists of course think the Bible predicts end times stuff going down in the Middle East.

I suppose on the other hand secular rationalists would say this is a (literally) self-fulfilling prophecy where a bunch of people believe some nonsense in old texts and this is fueling warfare today.


23 Responses to “Nothing New Under the Sun”

    • Craw says:

      A less faith-friendly, more detailed discussion is in the book The Bible Unearthed by Finkelstein and Silberman.

      Lots of fiction in the NT and the Koran too.

      So yes, nonsense in old texts fueling this.

      • E. Harding says:

        TBU isn’t correct in all its arguments and is rather out of date. A real Exodus is possible, but the evidence for such a thing is very weak.

  1. Mark says:

    Christ-hater Craw uses his father’s approach to the Bible from Genesis 3:1 and tries to cast doubt on God’s word. Jesus told us that God’s word is truth (John 17:17.) Who ya gonna believe?



    Craw simply chooses not to believe – and that has eternal consequences.

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      Mark, I’m curious, what do Christians believe you should do if you find a contradiction between what the Bible says and what you observe with the senses? Should you believe the Bible, or should you believe your own eyes?

      At least in Hinduism, we believe in an epistemological hierarchy. There are three means of knowledge: perception, inference, and Hindu scripture. Inference is authoritative only over those matters over which perception is silent. And Hindu scripture is authoritative only over those matters over which perception and inference are silent.

      • Mark says:

        In the next day or two, I’ll write something up re history, archaeology, etc, in the Bible and who/what you should believe. But in the meantime, assuming I’m understanding you correctly, can you give me an example of what you mean by personal perception and the Bible being in conflict?

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          I’m not saying such contradictions actually exist, I’m asking what you should do if you were to find one. Like let’s say the Bible says that God never creates blue frogs and then you find a blue frog. What do you do? Do you conclude that the Bible is wrong, or do you conclude that you didn’t see the color of the frog correctly, or what?

          • Craw says:

            Or imagine the Bible says that the mustard seed is the smallest seed, and then you come across the poppy seed. What then? (Do you say the poppy has evolved since Biblical Times?)

          • Harold says:

            The value of Pi? I am sure this has been dealt with many times, but in face of it this description gives a value of 3.
            ” Then he made the sea of cast metal. It was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference”
            2 Chronicles 4.2

            • Mark says:

              It *has* been dealt with many times. The main point to realize, as mentioned here https://creation.com/does-the-bible-say-pi-equals-3 , is “[T]he Bible does not defy geometry with regard to the value of pi, and in particular it does not say that pi equals 3.0.”

              Also, http://www.tektonics.org/lp/piwrong.php

            • Keshav Srinivasan says:

              I think that’s very clearly a case where an approximate value was given for the circumference.

              • Craw says:

                An answer foreclosed to Biblical literalists though. That’s the point: either you are allowed to interpret, or you are not. If you are then the Bible cannot be the final arbiter of all things. If you are not then Harold is right, it implies pi = 3.

          • Mark says:

            I probably won’t get to the other thing I was going to write until Saturday, so check back.

            As far as hypotheticals go, we’ve had about 2000 to 3500 years and haven’t found any of those blue frog type contradictions. Of course, that’s because, as Jesus said (speaking to the Father), “Your word is truth” and God is not going to contradict Himself.

            • Harold says:

              Interpretation is totally necessary, for the Bible and for the constitution. There is no such thing a literal meaning that is unambiguous.

              For the bible, a good test to me would be somethning like is the form of words the best that could be used to convey the meaning without error?

              SO the mustard seed, sure it is not the smallest seed, but it may well be the smallest seed the farmers were familiar with, so it is OK to use the mustard seed as the example. My question is could the phrasing be better in any way? If God inspiredit, it surely will be as good as it could be to convey the message. Yet had the phrasing been something like the mustard seed is very small and yet grows to be a big tree, this contains no inaccuracy. In this case he says “the smallest seed you plant in the ground” so I think that is OK as “you”. ie the farmer, does not plant poppy or orchid seeds. But the test should not really be “can we interpret this without contradiction” but “could the same message have been put without an apparent (if not actual) error?”

      • Mark says:

        Keshav, Your comment that “Hindu scripture is authoritative only over those matters over which perception and inference are silent,” seems quite bizarre to me. Since one man’s perception and inference could lead him to believe murder is ok, and another that it is not, it seems Hindu scripture is silent when it might be needed the most. On to your question:

        Ken Ham from Answers in Genesis has a DVD series called Foundations. One of his talks is called “In Six Days,” which, I’m sure you can guess, concerns the six days of the creation week in Genesis 1. I’m jumping into the middle of a section where Ham is talking about Christians that are questioning the meaning of the word ‘day’ in the first chapter of Genesis in light of what the some dating methods appear to say about the age of the earth. Ham says,

        “If we’re Christians, and we believe this is the authoritative word of God, are we first of all prepared to stand on God’s word, and if the word ‘day’ means an ordinary day, it’s obvious that it means an ordinary day from scripture, that Genesis is written as historical narrative, which it is, if we take Genesis the same way Jesus took Genesis, Paul took Genesis, Peter took Genesis, and so on, and they’re ordinary days, despite things that we don’t understand about dating methods and what they’re saying about billions of years, are we prepared to stand on the authority of God’s word? That’s my challenge. And then are we prepared to say, like my father taught me, when something looks like it contradicts the Bible, you make sure you go to the Bible, you make sure you look at the context, make sure you look at the literature, make sure you understand it correctly, and if you’re sure of what it’s saying and there’s still that contradiction, you don’t question God’s word, you question fallible man’s word – man who doesn’t know everything, who hasn’t always been there, who knows nothing compared to God, and you search for answers. And we won’t get all the answers. We’ll never have all the answers. Because only God is infinite in knowledge and wisdom. Do you realize – people say what are we going to do for eternity? There’s always going to be an infinite amount more to know. We’re finite beings. Compared to what God knows, we know nothing.”

        In Genesis 3:1, Satan cast doubt on God’s word (“Did God really say?”)That’s been going on now for thousands of years. Of course, scientific and archaeological discoveries have confirmed the Bible countless times in the meantime, and yet people still question it. Ham’s challenge above is the brief answer to your question. Bottom line, if something correctly understood in the Bible appears to contradict a scientific, historical, chemical, biological, archaeological, astronomical, or any other -al, discovery or artifact or principle that the Bible addresses, Christians are to believe the infinite, infallible God who was there, rather than finite, fallible man, who was not.

        So whether we are talking about the age of the universe/earth, the creation account in Genesis, evolution, Noah’s flood, the resurrection of Christ, etc., we know that God cannot lie, but man, who is always looking to explain everything without God, quite often is a fool. And sometimes a deliberate liar. Critics often say the Bible is not a science textbook – and that’s true. Because if it were, it would have to be revised every year. But instead, as it says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8

        Again, you are never going to find the blue frog scenario in life, and you will never find an error in the Bible. And a Christian can relax knowing there will never come a time when scripture and real science and/or history will ever be contradictory – the same God is the author of both.

        • Keshav Srinvasan says:

          “Keshav, Your comment that “Hindu scripture is authoritative only over those matters over which perception and inference are silent,” seems quite bizarre to me. Since one man’s perception and inference could lead him to believe murder is ok, and another that it is not, it seems Hindu scripture is silent when it might be needed the most.” Mark, I think you’re misunderstanding what I said. Perception refers to what can be directly gleaned from the senses, for instance if you see an apple you conclude there is an apple. Inference refers to deducing things you do not perceive based on what you do perceive, for instance if you see smoke you conclude that there is fire.

          Perception and inference can never be used to reach conclusions about morality. Morality is not a physical property of objects that you can perceive with the senses, and it cannot be logically deduced from what you perceive. So Hindu scripture is definitely authoritative concerning morality.

          Another thing that Hindu scripture is authoritative about is the existence and nature of God. This is one area where Hinduism differs from religions like Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc. Other religions start with the existence of God and then claim that God authored their scripture. Whereas we say that the core scriptures of Hinduism, the Vedas, are authorless and eternal, i.e. not even authored by God. So we first prove that Hindu scripture is authoritative, and then we use Hindu scripture to prove the existence of God.

          • Mark says:

            Well, since you didn’t comment on my reply to your original question, let’s hope you have some interest in spiritual truth. To that end, may I suggest you start here: https://carm.org/hinduism

            • Keshav Srinivasan says:

              Regarding your reply to my original question, you still haven’t quite answered my question, which is what you would do IF you came across a blue-frog type contradiction, not whether you think such a contradiction would ever be found. But I think the quote you provided does answer my question: “when something looks like it contradicts the Bible, you make sure you go to the Bible, you make sure you look at the context, make sure you look at the literature, make sure you understand it correctly, and if you’re sure of what it’s saying and there’s still that contradiction, you don’t question God’s word, you question fallible man’s word”. So I think what Ken Ham would say is that’s when you see what seems contradiction is you should what God said anyway. So if you see a blue frog you should conclude that it must not have really been blue, it must have just looked blue due to a trick of the light or something.

            • Keshav Srinivasan says:

              And thanks for the link Mark. I read the whole thing, but it was uttterly unconvincing. It was full of question-begging, logical fallacies, and misrepresentations of what Hindus believe. There were two quotes that were particularly egregious:

              “It is basically impossible for a person to get out of samsara since they are continually sinning. Christianity has a notion of grace, but Hinduism does not. In Hinduism, one must continually strive to be morally perfect and to never act on any desire. However, such perfection has never been reached by any Hindu. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, was morally perfect. Due to the sinful nature of humans, He offers salvation as a free gift” But Hinduism does not say that salvation requires moral perfection. There are two main paths to salvation in Hinduism, salvation through knowledge of God and salvation through surrender to God. Salvation through surrender is akin to the Christian notion of accepting Jesus Christ as your lord and savior and being forgiven for your sins.

              “The problem is that each person had a first incarnation.  That means that each person then had perfect Karma since he had no previous life and had done nothing wrong.  Therefore, if he had perfect Karma and didn’t learn or do what he was supposed to in his first life, then what makes him think that after hundreds of incarnations with accumulated bad karma that he will be able to achieve the perfect state of union with the divine consciousness that reincarnation moves him toward?  It doesn’t make any sense.” There’s two things wrong with this. First of all, knowledge of God does not require perfect Karma. Second of all, Hindus don’t believe that there was a firstborn incarnation. We believe that every person has had infinitely many past births going infinitely far back in time.

              I think if I wanted to lead people away from the truth, I would be able to make a better (yet still fallacious) case for Hinduism being false and Christianity being true. I don’t think this website wouldn’t persuade very many Hindus, at least Hindus who have some rudimentary knowledge of their own religion. And it would especially not persuade Hindus who know the proof that Hinduism is true.

              • Craw says:

                No proof that Hinduism is true can be simultaneously clear, simple, transitive and non-dictatorial.

  2. Marc says:

    What is amazing about it?

    Rational people whether religious or secularist would say it is about oil and other resources and a modern phenomenon called zionism.

    • Fred says:

      Rational antisemites? Haven’t seen one yet.

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