Thursday, October 10, 2013

... to Hitchens on Revelation, Decalogue and Evidence for Moses.

1) Creation vs Evolution : Heard of Libby Anne? , 2) Did Libby Anne misunderstand at least Something about Young Earth Creationism? Or: Why don't they teach logic in these schools?! 3) Further Faulty Logic in Craig A. James's "refutation of a dialogue" 4) Stupid Word Game, Craig A. James? 5) Whose assumptions are best or least well proven? 6) Somewhere else : Is the Genesis "the Basis of the Whole Bible" or are there others? 7) Great Bishop of Geneva! : How is Chick erroneous about where we got the Bible from? 8) Assorted retorts from yahoo boards and elsewhere : ... to Hitchens on Revelation, Decalogue and Evidence for Moses. 9) Correspondence de / of / van Hans-Georg Lundahl : Notifying Craig A. James of a refutation of his refutation ...

FreeInquisition : God Is Not Great, VII. "Revelation; The nightmare of the Old Testament" part 1 of 2

At the very start he gets on to stating the obvious, that since there are many purported divine revelations and since they contradict each other ...

"Some of them are false and illusory."

Sure. Theogony was revealed by Muses claiming themselves to be able to speak both truth and to lie. And also they had before adressing themselves to the shepherd Hesiod (whom they insulted) been singing hymns to a list of gods starting with Zeus but ending with "Kronos of the crooked mind" (αγκυλομητης).

"It could be that only one of them is genuine ...

But first of all this is dubious and second it necessitates religious war to decide ..."

Well, we have already had religious wars and Communists and other promoters of Atheism have brought further ones on us.

Second (answering his "first") the fact of it being dubious in advance to an enquiry taking Hitchens as a starting point does not mean it need remain so or that others have not gone beyond doubt to reasonable faith. The fact that X has no sufficient proof for N does not mean that Y has no sufficient proof for it either. The fact that it is doubtful to Hitchens does not imply it should be doubtful to a Christian.

"The tendency ... to reveal himself only to illiterate and quasihistorical ..."

Yeah, as if Hebrews had not been the spur behind what was good in Greeks and Romans, notably in opposing Egypt and Babylon-Persia. As if a Hebrew scholar who did not know every verse of the Torah by heart would not have called himself "illiterate" without being so compared to us. And "quasi-historical" just reflects his bias against the Christian historiography.

"The Quran does not blame the Jews for the murder of Jesus, as one book of the New Testament does ..."

Which Gospel does not blame those known during the life of Jesus as "Pharisees and Sadducees, High Priests and Scribes" and the multitude they seduced? Who are with hindsight also called Jews (since those of that origin who became Christian ceased to be called Jews)?

Now, he goes on to Moses on Sinai, and calls the three first commandments (Catholics and Lutherans would consider them two as image prohibition is only part of first commandment) variations on one, he criticises the visiting of the sins of the fathers:

"This negates the reasonable idea that children are innocent of their fathers' offenses"

Unless they follow in the fathers' bad footsteps. A Roman Catholic commentary on this would include that it was understood of sons following in their fathers' bad footsteps, as a parallel passage also seems to indicate.

There is also a ritual visiting of iniquity of fathers on sons during Old Testament, i e an exclusion from Temple Worship and from other marks of ritual purity of those whose father or grandfather was guilty of a sin.

Hence the ritual exclusion of three rather than just one generation between Solomon and the Babylonic captivity in the genealogy of St Matthew. But in that case it seems the son and grandson of Athaliah's husband were not personally innocent either.

"It is added as in Genesis that God made the world in Six days and rested on the Seventh which leaves room for speculation on what He did on the Eighth day."

Well, this is as clear a "back-link" from Moses during Exodus to Genesis (which he wrote himself mainly using documents or traditions and of the six days that happened mainly before Adam was created he had a vision) as the "back-link" Christ gives in the Gospel when talking about marriage "from the beginning of creation".

If Genesis is wrong, not only Gospel but also Exodus must be wrong. Fortunately there is nothing to show it is wrong, except speculation based on atheist methodology of research or on merely misunderstanding what has been observed, what has been conclusively concluded and what has been concluded only as guesswork. Lots of the latter is regarded as falling within the first.

Hitchens goes on with a criticism of the V or IV commandment. Now, honour thy father and thy mother is of course good in its own right, but it is also reasonable to attach a blessing of longevity to those that follow it. Any life, thus longevity too, is attached to father and mother as physical origin.

He then summarises the four shalt nots and at last gives the final prohibition of covetuousness so that the word "wife" comes before the words "or other chattel".

It may be of interest that in Douay-Rheims and any other Bible I have seen (including my remote memory of King James), "wife" comes immediately after the first "this is thy neighbour's keep off even desire", and that first is "house".

Exodus 20:[17] Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour' s house: neither shalt thou desire his wife, nor his servant, nor his handmaid, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is his.

Now, if house means just the building the enumeration as written makes little sense. But if house means "whole household" and desire means to desire to replace neighbour as chief in it, it makes sense this is worse than desiring adultery, just as honouring the parents does come before not actually committing adultery.

The first criticism of Hitchens after the summary is not about this point, but it is about "a sharp reminder to work and only to relax when the absolute monarch says so."

What a false analysis. Even a dishonest one, unless it is stupid. But who would have thought that about Christopher Hitchens?

Exodus 20:[8] Remember that thou keep holy the sabbath day. [9] Six days shalt thou labour, and shalt do all thy works. [10] But on the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: thou shalt do no work on it, thou nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy beast, nor the stranger that is within thy gates. [11] For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them, and rested on the seventh day: therefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it.

The indication to work is about what God calls in relation to each "thy works". Not "thy works for me" or "thy works for thy rulers" or "thy works for my priests" but "thy works". He does not say they shall be many. There is no Calvinistic Work ethic about it. When the Israelites first practise this, in the desert, the work was picking up mannah, and only on fridays should they pick for two days, for the day and for the following saturday or rather sabbath. Working more than required for survival made no sense. But not only does God not say they shall be many, he also calls them "thy", meaning the one obeying is responsible for them. And responsible generally to noone but himself and his close kin. Of course, mending clothes as they needed it would also be on six days out of seven only.

On a later occasion he warns Israelites not to take a King, least they get burdened by High Taxes and thus by a greater workload. Not to mention the possibility the King might not keep the commandment against covetuousness. Once his neighbours are his subjects.

Hitchens' analysis of this commandment is so backward, one could imagine he was really thinking of something else than the passage he purported to read. He might have decided in advance if the words could be strained that way they must, "since everyone back then" believed we had been created by gods to work relentlessly for them with no rest except such as agreed from their representatives on earth. Just as another debater was so sure a certain passage that could be strained into the earth being flat must in fact be so read, since "everyone back then" believed the earth was flat. And who are the Israelite Bible authors ("illiterate and quasihistorical") to be ahead of their time? Or he might have been very much thinking about the kind of mean creation motive world view we can find in another itchin', namely Zechariah Sitchens account of how mankind was created "by Enki himself" (as an adherent would call him) after the annunaki took such a decision for such a purpose namely of getting a work force.

God never said He needed those things. That is a miraculous discrepancy between Ancient Hebrew religion and the other Oriental ones in that time.

And Israelites believing in a God who doesn't need human work for himself, though he occasionally takes such, must have struck the Ancients as a very "irresponsible" people. It is no coincidence if they were called Dionysus worshippers. It is indeed possible they were branded as drunkards seduced by a demon nearly as soon as Egyptians got over the first shock of what the drowning of Pharao's army did to them. It is even possible Dionysus was first considered a demon and later a god to appease all the while being modelled on Moses before Pharao.

But the commandment really means that we are not God's economic assets. It means our efforts are our own, only subordinate to God and to His command of resting from them.

This may very well have inspired parts of the Greek and Roman culture that were later to distinguish Greece and Rome from the Oriental Despoties.

Under the rule of Priam in Troy and even more so Agamemnon in Mykenai we may be sure the economy was on the Oriental model. Earth was tilled and wine or oil was produced in function of taxes to be paid to temples and kingds representing the gods. This, like dependence on Hittite Empire was one of the traits Homer forgot about when writing about that society's from an events point of view. And even Troyan War itself was after Moses and the Exodus. So the change in society which reflects in heros speaking as the freemen of later Greek society rather than as slaves to the state which they were in the times described may well have been inspired by Hebrews. If Philistines were Achaeans we can see no difficulty in explaining how certain ones of them might have heard of the Hebrews, even if for polytheistic "pieties" they refused to speak very much of the monotheistic society. Directly and before all.

Next Hitchens makes a point that Hebrews already knew murder and adultery, theft and perjury were not OK and parallels to the good Samaritan who had never heard of Christianity ...

"let alone following the pitiless teachings of the God of Moses who never mentions human solidarity or compassion at all"

In a way Hitchens really has a point and it was made by St Paul (against sodomy among other vices found among Romans). There is such a thing as the Natural law, there is such a thing as the law God wrote in every human being's heart, including of course Hitchens'. And the good Samaritan was no exception to this, and the Hebrews were no exception to this.

But first one correction: Samaritans though disobedient to the "commandments of the first tablet" by notably worshipping elsewhere than the Temple and also by tolerating that some of them actually worshipped in the temple of Jupiter Hospitalis or Zeus Xenius, they did generally believe the Torah and even the Heptateuch - Torah plus Joshua plus Judges. Only from Ruth on did they reject the Jewish canon, out of rejection of the Davidic line.

Second an observation which both Chesterton and C. S. Lewis have made about morals. Revealed morals are not about revealing smething previously unknown but aboutv reminding of something previously known - and perhaps a bit forgotten. "We need to be reminded more often than instructed" is sth that Lewis loved to quote.

Third, just after the Exodus from a slavery where they were "oppressed so hard they could not stand" they might have needed a reminder in time before they started doing to less fortunates as they had been done by. Like driving slaves to work 29 days of the Lunar month, instead of giving them four days rest (or five if both first and last day are a Sabbath).

Likewise, just before entering Canaan they might have needed a reminder of the universality of obligations prohibiting murder and unchastity - since in Canaan there were cults that included those into their religious rites. And as for prohibitions against theft and perjury, would not certain societies even honour those who were successful at those things? Like favoured by "Hermes" or by "Mercurius" or by "Odin". And of course the persons honoured as for instance "Odin" during their lifetime (it might have been his real name, but the cosmic or cosmogonic background was not his background)if such were very damnable liars. Condemned by the command against false witness as much as by the first few commandments. Those very few but important ones about the one True God.

And it is a half truth to say the God of Moses does not mention human solidarity. The word solidarity is two edged. Sometimes it means kindness and charity, especially to someone in need. In that sense the God of Moses really did command it. In many ways and in some not really found in the Babylonian or Egyptian mores. A poor man pawns his mantle - were Babylonian or Egyptian creditors in the habit of lending it back to him each night so he need not freeze?

On the other hand "solidarity" may mean a thing like "there is work to be done, al share, noone shirk" ... and in that sense solidarity is not always recommendable and indeed irrelevant for the Samaritan but very relevant for evil deeds like the Tower built at Babel. It was the rationale behind persecuting Christians for not praying to the Emperor's genius. That genius was supposed to be the protector of the Emperor and thus the Empire. Not praying to it to make its work really well would have seemed unsolidaric to the Roman Pagans. And Jews got away though as impopular, because Judaic worship had been explicitly granted as a licit religion, but Christians were persecuted for lack of solidarity.

I fear some people who want to build peace between adherents of different religions on peace agreements between religions (formal ones like Balamand agreement between "Catholic Church" and "Orthodox Church", or even worse Assisi Prayer Meetings or informal ones like an informal agreement to avoid awkward claims of truth or exclusive salvation or other exclusive claims) may one day persecute real Catholic Christians and obviously Fundamentalists as well, for not being solidaric enough with this kind of "peace agreement."

"it is absurd to banish envy of other people's possessions or fortunes"

It seems Hitchens came to Atheism from a Protestant background of the Black Tulip - you know the Five points of Calvinism where the very first point, the T of TULIP is "Total Corruption".

It is a part of the Christian creed that God does not demand or command the impossible and so it is not impossible to banish from one's heart envy. But as a Calvinist would not know that, the Atheist Hitchens does not know that. Seems that, like Shaw (according to the good diagnosis of GKC), Hitchens stood for "Calvinism minus what remains of Christianity in it".

"the spirit of envy can lead to emulation and ambition and have positive consequences"

Emulation in itself is not coveting one's neighbours own possessions. Just as the desire to marry is not coveting the wife who is already one's neighbours.

"If God had really wanted people to be free from these thoughts, he should have taken better care to invent a different species"

Ah no. Let no man say, when he is tempted, it is the Lord who tempts me.

Man is capable of succumbing to plague but also capable of not catching it. Plague is not human nature like two eyes and one mouth are human nature, and neither is grasping after your neighbour's possessions. After what your neighbour already owns. Meaning the individual items he owns. Saying "I want his swimming pool" is a sin, saying "I want a swimming pool like that" is not a sin.

"Is it too modern to note there is nothing about protection of children from cruelty? Nothing about rape? Nothing about slavery?"

Protecting children from being sacrificed to Moloch was in the heart of the conquest of Joshua. But societally protecting children from getting beaten a bit harder than they deserve is not something that can be done except by interference of say social assistants. And that exposes children to the cruelty of the incompetence of non-parents who have many cases and do not really know them personally.

Rape is diversely related to the prohibition of adultery. In case the victim is someone's wife, the rapist was stoned.

In case the victim was unbetrothed, and not guilty of neglecting to resist if possible, her father had the option to either exact judicially the equivalent of a dowry for his daughter or exact the perpetrator making up for it by marrying his victim.

If Hitchens really does not want to insult the Hebrews of those days, he can count on the father usually doing what the daughter asks. Meaning rapes between friends with relations getting out of hand were likelier to end in marriages than such where the perpetrator was a stranger.

Slaves, as to Hebrews they were protected by a law making it compulsory for a slave owner to free his slave after seven years unless he wanted to marry within the household. As to non-Hebrews, specifically Canaanean slaves, they were at least less likely to be working on Sabbaths or to be sacrificed than the slaves of Pagan peoples (in Uppsala the nine men sacrificed every ninth year to Odin were typically slaves).

"... to say nothing about Genocide"

It seems the man who entitled a chapter of his book "the nightmare of the Old Testament" just overlooked what a nightmare Cananean society was. Before some of their societies were wiped out.

Note that this kind of wiping out could only be done by God's command, and that in eth New Testament we have a directly contrary command: mission to all nations.

Hitchens claims the law of Moses positively recommends some of the things (cruelty to children, rape, slavery, genocide), since next chapter includes instructions

"on the conditions under which they may buy or sell slaves"

Regulating and recommending are two differnet things.

St Louis IX regulated prostitution, it does not follow he recommended it.

Next complaint is against "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" ... according to King James.

But Douay Rheims has:

Exodus 22:[18] Wizards thou shalt not suffer to live.

According to Hitchens "Christians" used above verse to kill and torture women who were not conforming socially.

If he is speaking of Salem Witch trials, there seem to be indications witchcraft was really going on, unless you dismiss the eye-witness testimony. I heard about this being stated in a book I never read, back nearly thrity years ago, so I am not quite sure it was the Salem Witch trials.

I am sure Calvinism is not properly speaking Christianity as such.

I am sure Magic is not limited to women, nor are they more culpable than men if using it. But women may be more prone. It seem Hebrew text has "a witch" but Septuagint and at any rate the Vulgate (I just looked) the masculine which in such a context really stands for gender neutral. As one used to say always "man" for what is now often called "human being".

I am also sure that women not conforming socially may be very many other things than practitioners of witchcraft, like St Clare becoming the first Franciscan nun against her father's wish. Or like St Joan of Arc saving France on God's command and being falsely accused of witchcraft - while the real culprit in that respect, Gilles de Rais, was a man and went unmolested.

Also, some witches can be dealt with very simply by exorcism. The death penalty was limited to certain grave cases in the New Covenant (in Visigothic law when witchcraft had caused a death, for instance). Generous possibilities of penance were given. Madame de Montespan who had hired witches (but perhaps not been initiated herself) in order to get Louis XIV was sent to do penance in a Monastery. Witches condemned by Spanish Inquisition were often sentenced to do the Pilgrimage of Santiago.

Under Old Testament some witches who should have been dealt with by death back then were not so. Witch of Endor is a known example.

Then he continues with a lamentation for the Canaanite population. As if there were no crimes meriting something like that, or as if Israel getting out of Egypt would have been ready for a peaceful mission with lots of martyrs like later the Christian conversion of Roman Empire.

"This supposed Covenant is the basis for a Nineteenth Century irredentist claim to Palestine which has brought us endless trouble up to the present day."

I agree about the irredentist claim a k a Zionism. So did Pope Saint Pius X.

Now, the "supposed" part would not have been se good about the Covenant as such as about "basis". You see, Palestinians also are Israelites. Though, since Christians or Muslims, not Jews.

Of course some Moslem Palestinians claim descent from Mohammed and therefore from Ishmael. That is the Moslem Aristocracy. But the population over all did not come there with Muslims. There was an indigenous Semitic population in the Holy Land well before Omar's armies. These forced some but not other Beduin tribes to become Muslims (this I know from The Desert a City*). Meaning there were Christian Beduins there under Roman rule. Obviously they would descend as much from the Christian inhabitants of Judea, Samaria and Galilea as their neighbours East of Jordan from Edom, Moab and Ammon.

And this also explains why some of them under Chosroës (my source is still Derwas Chitty*) apostasised to Judaism and followed Chosroës to Persia after he was defeated by Heraclius. If they had had no Jewish background earlier on, they would not have felt as mcuh attraction to those things.

It is a bit funny on the one hand to mourn for Palestinians being victims of Zionism of Jews and on the other hand lamenting the Palestinians came there through their Israelite ancestors under Joshua.

"It goes without saying that none of the gruesome events described in Exodus ever took place"

If he had said something like that about Lanzmann's Holocoast TV series, in certain parts of Europe, he would have gone further than most so called Revisionists or Negationists - and would like them have been sued and fined or put in prison.

I skip a discussion of who the archaeologists were and go to the discussion of the evidence:

"No Egyptian Chronicle mentions this even in passing"

Well, Egyptian ones no, Greek yes.

Dionysus taking gruesome revenge on Pentheus may well be a very distorted recalling of Moses who threatened with the Ten Plagues of Egypt. Notably the Bacchae getting off may well reflect the Israelites getting off. The daughter of Pentheus killing her own son may well reflect - in a gruesome and demonically distorted way - two different events, namely the daughter of one Pharao saving Moses and the oldest son of another one (remember Moses had been 40 years in the desert) dying in the night when Israelites painted Blood of the Easter Lamb on their doors. Isralites have been called Dionysus worshippers and Feast of Tabernacles a Dionysus Feast by Pagans who did not grasp what Monotheism was.

Joshua's miracle of staying the Sun was more closely echoed in two episodes connected to Agamemnon: Sun going reverse way when his father Atreus made his uncle Thyestes physically commit an atrocity. And a memory of this not being the original setting for a Sun bhaving curiously, namely Agamemnon pursuing the Troyans and praying the Sun would stop so he had time to rout them. It did not and he had not.

Egyptian motive for distortion of story obviously the trauma with its immediate loss of prestige for Pharao. Greek motive, or rather Achaean one (since Greeks seem to have arisen from a mixture of Achaeans and those whom they had conquered), was the similar loss of prestige for Agamemnon. He was not able to repeat Joshua's miracle.

"But all the Mosaic myths can be safely and easily discarded."

Like Italian archaeologists discard Romulus and Aeneas? Well, I do not.

Archaeology is not able to prove all of the past events, nor all of those recorded in reliable history. Lack of archaeological evidence does not make history unreliable. It can show so many soldiers from either side of Napoleonic and English and Prussian armis lie buried there, but cannot show what happened to the soldiers who survived Waterloo nor which side won.

Creationist archaeologists have been revisiting the evidence and finding items overlooked by the Israelis. Whether we go to periods of Egypt fitting the Moses story (like the suggestion Moses could be Amenemhet IV of 12th Dynasty as co-ruler of Pharao he fled from and thus the Exodus with the drowning of Pharao's army (attested by wheels and battle wagon axes of Ancient Egyptian models found in Red Sea) preceded narrowly the Hyksos invasion.**

Or like making alternative datings of Jericho with its walls. Notably those that did fall outwards.***

Israeli expertise would often enough have a Sadducee bias. Basically meaning they are Atheists. If so, they would not want to find unwelcome evidence of the supernatural. Especially God.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Bpi, Georges Pompidou
St Francis of Borgia, S. J.

*The Desert a City: An Introduction to the Study of Egyptian and Palestian Monasticism Under the Christian Empire (Paperback)
by Derwas James Chitty(Author)

**CMI : Searching for Moses
by David Down

***The walls of Jericho
Bryant Wood

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