Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Biblical inerrancy in the original manuscripts

Joseph Kelly from kolhaadam blog (now defunct) ran a 4 part series on why he is not an inerrantist. In part 1 he identifies the inerrantist's claim that only the original manuscripts are free from error. Kelly states that because there is no clear single autographical tradition the inerrantist's appeal to such is stillborn, there is no unique tradition. The example he gives is the book of Jeremiah. The Masoretic Jeremiah is significantly diverse from the Septuagintal Jeremiah, more than translational considerations allow. Kelly suggests than it is even possible Jeremiah and Baruch wrote several copies that were divergent and led to variant textual traditions.

I don't think this is a strong case against the inerrantist position for 2 reasons.
  1. It is possible that recensions are also inerrant; and
  2. The inerrantist appeal to the autographs is a minor feature of their position.
It seems likely that the Hebrew manuscripts were modified over the years after they were written. I take a relatively conservative approach to authorship, but even though I hold to the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, I don't think that the Deuteronomy postscript was written by Moses, and I think it likely that Moses compiled Genesis from sources that antedate him. Further, there were probably modifications to the Pentateuch over the centuries for explanatory reasons and the like. The Masoretics' aversion to modifying the text need not apply to pre-Christian Jewish scribes. This view even allows for Jeremiah to modify his writings resulting in a primitive and a modified textual tradition. Inerrantists could claim both to be without error, and the modified text to be the more complete revelation. Not that I necessarily hold this view of Jeremiah. But the argument about choosing manuscripts is more about textual criticism than it is about inerrancy.

The larger issue here is that the appeal to autographs is not the focus of inerrancy. Kelly seems to recognise this as he states,
This appeal to the autographs helps to escape the obvious error that occurred during transmission as well as the complexity behind identifying which textual tradition is the inerrant one.
The focus of inerrancy is that the Bible is without error of fact, not just doctrine. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (which I am comfortable with) affirms this. There are several articles to explain what is meant by this affirmation but some of these qualifiers mean that inerrantists are not compelled to defend pseudo-errors. One of the qualifiers is that the claim of inerrancy only applies to original wording of the manuscripts. Article 10 states,
We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.

We deny that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.
While Kelly is addressing text-types (or rather, the possibility of non-unique sources, which is within the larger concept of text-type veracity), the bigger issue for inerrancy is usually one of translation. In practice, appeal is made to the Bible in one's own language. I speak neither Hebrew nor Greek so my appeals must be to the English Bible. And I am confident that Bibles in other languages are accurate enough for inerrancy apologists of foreign speech. It is not that inerrantists continually appeal to the non-extant texts, rather it is to dismiss the claims of error that only exist as result of errant transcription and, more often, errant translation. It seems to me that the usual appeal is to the original language or the original words (as opposed to the original manuscript) to resolve a difficulty of translation. I am not certain that a large number of difficulties, that is issues of errancy, arise from the different text-types.

Monday, 25 January 2021

Monday quote

There is a difference between a prodigal who comes to his senses and returns home and a whore who pleads for her husband's security only until she finds someone else to take her on.

Dale Ralph Davis, Such a Great Salvation.

Sunday, 24 January 2021

An outline of Genesis 1 and 2

Following previous comments on the structure of Genesis 1 and 2 and their parallels, here is an outline.

1 Creation of the Universe (Gen 1:1–2:3)
1.1 Introduction of the Creator (Gen 1:1–2)
1.2 The Six Days of Creation (Gen 1:3–31)
1.2.1 Day 1: Light (Gen 1:3–5)
1.2.2 Day 2: The Sky (Gen 1:6–8)
1.2.3 Day 3: The Land and the Plants (Gen 1:9–13)
1.2.3.1 Land (Gen 1:9–10)
1.2.3.2 Plants (Gen 1:11–13)
1.2.4 Day 4: The Luminaries (Gen 1:14–19)
1.2.5 Day 5: Air and Sea Creatures (Gen 1:20–23)
1.2.6 Day 6: Land Creatures (Gen 1:24–31)
1.2.6.1 Creation of Animals (Gen 1:24–25)
1.2.6.2 Creation of Humans (Gen 1:26–28)
1.2.6.3 Plants for Food (1:29–31)
1.3 Conclusion: The Seventh Day (Gen 2:1–3)

Toledoth 1 (Gen 2:4–4:16)
Toledoth (Gen 2:4a)

2 The Garden of Eden (Gen 2:4b–2:25)
2.1 Introduction: State of the Land (2:4b–6)
2.2 The Six Stages of Eden (2:7–22)
2.2.1 Creation of Man (Gen 2:7)
2.2.2 God Plants Garden (Gen 2:8)
2.2.3 God Organises Garden (Gen 2:9–15)
2.2.3.1 Trees Grow (2:9–14)
2.2.3.2 Man Placed in Garden (Gen 2:15)
2.2.4 God Commands Man (Gen 2:16–17)
2.2.5 Man is Alone (Gen 2:18)
2.2.6 Search for Companion (Gen 2:19–24)
2.2.6.1 Animals Named (Gen 2:19–20)
2.2.6.2 Man Sleeps (Gen 2:21)
2.2.6.3 Woman Created (Gen 2:22)
2.3 Conclusion: Man and Woman Come Together (Gen 2:23–25)

Friday, 22 January 2021

Principles of the talion

God gave commands to the Israelites through Moses after deliverance from Egypt. One of the most significant principles he taught them was that of talion: the command that punishment is to be measured by the criminal act. As such it was measured: there were limitations as to how bad a punishment could be.

By the time of Jesus the principle was being misapplied. Men were using it is justify their desire for personal revenge and neglecting the matter of mercy. Ever seeking justice for themselves they failed to realise that what they most needed was forgiveness. If they wanted mercy from God they needed to offer mercy to men.

In our own age that has had 2000 years of Christendom teaching mercy we risk neglecting justice for others. It is true that we need to allow vengeance at God's hand and not pursue personal vendettas, even so, victims require justice, and God has given us his principles for justice.

At its most simple the principle of talion is to require the criminal to receive what he has done. This is restricted to permanent personal damage done intentionally, or at least caused by gross criminal negligence. Thus,
  • Remove an eye: lose an eye
  • Kill a person: be executed
The principle does not apply to non-permanent personal damage or to crimes of property. Thus a judge can request a man be lashed (though this is limited to 40 lashes for the sake of shame), and thieves can be fined more than what they stole to act as a future disincentive.

There are several aspects to the talion. The first is that punishment is limited. Limited to the level at which a crime is performed. If a man is intentionally causing permanent injury to another then the consequence for him can be no greater than the harm caused. If he blinds a man in one eye you cannot blind him in both. If he cuts off a finger you can't cut off an arm. Related to this is the fact that, excepting execution, one cannot be maimed for infractions that do not maim others. A thief is not to have his hand cut off. A voyeur is not to have his eye plucked out.[1]

Certain crimes are still capital offences. Treason, adultery, etc may still require the death penalty but judges are not permitted to maim and mutilate indiscriminately.

A second aspect is that men are to be punished if they give fraudulent evidence that may cause maiming. When a man falsely testifies to something that would lead to damage he is to receive the same,
If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Deu 19:16-21)
The command that your eye shall not pity may mean that the judge is not permitted to give a lesser punishment or substitute a fine; it is a minimum sentence.

The implications of this principle are striking. Essentially a false accusation incurs the guilt of the crime. A man accusing someone of murder bears the guilt of murder. A woman who falsely claims rape is as guilty as a rapist.


[1] The only exception appears to be if a woman grabs a man by his testicles during a fight. In this case she was to have her hand cut off and a fine could not be substituted (Deu 25:11-12). One possible explanation is that such behaviour could cause injury to the testicles (such as sterility, the context concerns descendants) so she was to receive a punishment that was appropriate. This would be her hand as females do not have testicles and she used her hand to commit the offence.

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Justice and mercy

Mercy triumphs over judgment.—James 2:13

In the Law we see the principle of the talion. Sins against men are addressed by doing to the sinner what he did to another. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. This principle applied to the body. A few maiming or capital punishments could be greater against a criminal in certain circumstances (eg. sexual crimes). But permanent destruction of a man or a part of his body was limited to what he had done to others. An example is in King Adonibezek who had cut off the thumbs and great toes of kings and the same was done unto him (Jug 1:7). He saw this as a punishment from God because of what he had done.

The punishment could exceed this in some circumstances, especially property crimes: A thief pays back more than he stole to act as a deterrent. Further, a man could be flogged for a crime because this did not cause permanent physical destruction of an organ.

The talion acted also limited punishments; it prohibited judges from sentencing excessive punishments.

Jesus speaks against the talion in his Sermon on the Mount. It is worth noting that he is teaching not against what is written, but what the people had be taught. When Jesus refutes his opponents he frequently appeals to Scripture saying, "It is written." The rebuke is in not believing Scripture. If his opponents claim to believe Scripture Jesus shows them how they err in their interpretation. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus refutes not what is written but what they have been taught. Jesus prefaces his teaching by denying that he is abolishing the Law,
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 5:17-19)
And then he says,
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ (Mat 5:21)
And
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ (Mat 5:27)
And
It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ (Mat 5:31)
And
Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ (Mat 5:33)
These are what they have been taught by the scribes. When Jesus addresses these teachings, which are based in the Torah, Jesus explains what they mean. He explains that murder originates in the heart and that lesser sins  such as hatred also violate the law. He explains that adultery can be in the heart. He corrects the teaching they have received on divorce. But consider this teaching,
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ (Mat 5:43)
Hating your enemies is not an Old Testament quote. He tells them to love their enemies.

When it comes to the talion Jesus says,
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. (Mat 5:38-42)
Jesus is not abolishing the Law as he has already said, but he is commenting about how they are applying the Law. None of the examples Jesus gives involves actually losing an eye, or a tooth, or one's life. Jesus is speaking against a spirit of retaliation. The talion was given to administer judgment and limit sentences, it was not given to justify our internal desire for revenge. This is what the Pharisees got wrong and why Jesus spoke so sternly to them in other situations. A spirit of revenge works against mercy. It subverts all that God wants to do. It is antagonistic to God's purposes. Punishment is not wrong, and the principle of the talion is not wrong, but if we let revenge take priority in our hearts we oppose what God is doing.

When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, God pronounced judgment against them. The judgment was severe: they became mortal, they were estranged from God, they had difficulty with children, difficulty between each other, difficulty in their ability to get enough food. And such a judgment was necessary, they now knew good and evil and the depths of depravity the human race was now capable meant that they had to be restrained.

Even so, look at the promise when God curses the serpent.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen 3:15)
The protevangelium contains the promise of deliverance. Even in the curse God is planning to redeem the problem. God does not intend for men to be alienated from him.

Jesus teaches the same thing.
No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light. (Luk 11:33-36)
When our eye is healthy, or generous, we view things rightly. We need to pay careful attention that we have healthy eyes. Luke writes this within the context of people saying Jesus operates by the power of Beelzebub. He warns them against having an unclean spirit, and he rebukes them for their unbelief. Then following this is a condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees.

Some have argued that Jesus opposes the religious but defends sinners by virtue of his kindness towards tax-collectors and prostitutes but frequent condemnation of the religious men of the day. This misreads what Jesus does and is doing. Jesus befriended sinners because they were lost. The sick need a physician. Yet the sinners we encounter in these verses are repentant sinners. Jesus offers mercy to those who repent. Jesus had a generous eye, one that defeats his enemies by making them his friends. It is this what the Pharisees get so wrong. They load up burdens on men's backs but do not help lift a finger (Mat 23:4).

It is not that mercy is right and justice is wrong, it is that people do not care for mercy which is a higher virtue. Love is above all.

And it is not that being a sinner gets one right with Jesus, it is repentance that matters. Jesus called Herod a fox (Luk 13:32), he warned the paralytic to stop sinning else something worse than paralysis would happen (Joh 5:14). And Jesus was gracious towards many righteous who were not sinners, including some who were Pharisees.

God is about redemption. He is about getting people into his kingdom. The pathway is faith demonstrated by repentance. The harsh words of Jesus against the Pharisees was because they opposed God's purposes which was to enable sinful men and women to repent and be accepted into the kingdom of Heaven. It matters not whether you consider yourself religious or not, what matters is that you have a heart inclined towards mercy.

But this is not a condemnation of justice. Justice remains. It is only in the context of justice that we can understand mercy. The men who refuse to call sin for what it is have neither justice nor mercy. They refuse to see that sin is an affront to God. They offer acceptance without repentance which is not mercy because it leaves people in their sin and outside God's family. They condemn religion while justifying the rebellious. Yet it is the very nature of justice which should make us so cautious.

Judgment will come. Heaven cries out,
her sins are heaped high as heaven,
and God has remembered her iniquities.
Pay her back as she herself has paid back others,
and repay her double for her deeds;
mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed. (Rev 18:5-6)
It is the certainty of judgment which men deserve which makes mercy so imperative. Jesus is against men who would refuse the repentant; such an attitude demonstrates that they themselves have not received mercy, that they remain outside the kingdom.
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” (Mat 21:31).

Monday, 18 January 2021

Monday quote

Make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.

Blaise Pascal

Saturday, 16 January 2021

The post-exilic chronology. Part 5: Other support for the sequential reconstruction of Ezra-Nehemiah


There are several other lines of evidence that point to the revised sequential reconstruction.

The table below contrasts the common and the sequential reconstructions. The year is referenced to Cyrus' first year as king over Babylon.

Event CommonSequentialReference
Jews return to Jerusalem1 1Ezr 1
Work begins on the temple. Foundation laid.2 2Ezr 3
Opposition to building2 2Ezr 4
Letter to Ahasuerus53–75 ?9–16Ezr 4
Letter to Artaxerxes75–116 ?9–17Ezr 4
Darius' 1st year18 18
Temple building resumes (Darius' 2nd year)19 19Ezr 6
Temple completed (Darius' 6th year)23 23Ezr 6
Artaxerxes 1st year 75 (18)
Ezra returns to Jerusalem81 24Ezr 7
Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem (Artaxerxes 20th year)94 37Neh 2
Wall completed94 ?37–49Neh 6
Nehemiah returns to Babylon (Artaxerxes 32nd year)106 49Neh 5, 13

The difference is significant. Note the variable sequences in the two reconstructions and the timeframes varying by up to 50 years. There is also disagreement over the identity of kings.

Other material from Ezra and Nehemiah fit the revised version better. This could also be said about parts of the book of Daniel.

The aspects I wish to cover here are
  1. The people opposing rebuilding
  2. The high priest line
  3. The mention of Darius the Persian
  4. Daniel's prophecy of the rebuilding
Rebuilding
People oppose the rebuilding on more than one occasion. That they are different times is seen by the names of the people conflicting with the Jews. There are different persons who are in opposition to the building or who send letters to the king.

In the time of Artaxerxes (Ezr 4) there is a letter written by Rehum and others objecting to the building of the city. In the 2nd year of Darius (Ezr 6) there is a request by Tattenai concerning Cyrus' decree. And in the 20th year or Artaxerxes—whom I identify as Darius—there is opposition from Sanballat and Tobiah. None of these names overlap which suggests that these are distinct events. This may not count as discriminatory evidence between the 2 reconstructions, though the lack of mention of Sanballat or Tobiah in the letter to Artaxerxes (Ezr 4) suggests that if the common reconstruction is followed, the letter was early in Artaxerxes reign.

KingOpponents Reference
ArtaxerxesBishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their associates. Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their associates.Ezr 4
DariusTattenai the governor, Shethar-bozenai, and his associates.Ezr 6
ArtaxerxesSanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant. Geshem the ArabNeh 2, 4

High priest genealogy
The high priest family line is helpful as it may give a rough indication of whether the times proposed by the various reconstructions are feasible. Jeshua (Joshua) son of Jehozadak was the high priest at the time of Ezra's return. Nehemiah gives a list of priests at the time of Zerrubbabel's return which includes Jeshua who returned with Zerubbabel (Erz 2:2). Nehemiah then gives a list of Levites and then he lists Jeshua's descendants.
Jeshua was the father of Joiakim, Joiakim the father of Eliashib, Eliashib the father of Joiada, Joiada the father of Jonathan, and Jonathan the father of Jaddua. (Neh 12:10–11)
That is
  1. Jeshua
  2. Joiakim
  3. Eliashib
  4. Joiada
  5. Jonathan (?Johanan)
  6. Jaddua
Nehemiah goes on to specify a list of priests during the time of Joiakim.
And in the days of Joiakim were priests, heads of fathers’ houses (Ne 12:12)
Among the list is Zechariah son of Iddo. Zechariah's first oracle was during the second year of Darius.

Nehemiah then states that
The family heads of the Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan and Jaddua, as well as those of the priests, were recorded in the reign of Darius the Persian. The family heads among the descendants of Levi up to the time of Johanan son of Eliashib were recorded in the book of the annals. And the leaders of the Levites were Hashabiah, Sherebiah, Jeshua son of Kadmiel, and their associates, who stood opposite them to give praise and thanksgiving, one section responding to the other, as prescribed by David the man of God. 
Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon and Akkub were gatekeepers who guarded the storerooms at the gates. They served in the days of Joiakim son of Joshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra the priest, the teacher of the Law. (Neh 12:22–26 NIV).
So there was documentation of the Levites in the days of Eliashib and his descendants. And specifically in the Book of the Annals from Eliashib to Johanan.

And the gatekeepers served during the time of Joiakim, Nehemiah, and Ezra.

Further, Eliashib the high priest helped fix the wall in the time of Nehemiah (Neh 3:1).

So
  1. Jeshua son of Jehozadak returns with Zerubbabel
  2. Zechariah son of Iddo is the head of a priestly family during the time of Joiakim
  3. Zechariah's first oracle is in second year of Darius
  4. The gatekeepers serve in the days of Joiakim son of Jeshua (Joiakim is possibly the high priest)
  5. The gatekeepers serve in the time of Ezra
  6. The gatekeepers serve in the time of Nehemiah
  7. Eliashib son of Joiakim helps repair the Sheep gate in the time of Nehemiah.
We know from Zechariah that Jeshua was the high priest in the second year of Darius, year "19" of Cyrus. Zechariah was alive at the time of Joiakim at some time after that. The gatekeepers served at the time of Joiakim and Ezra and Nehemiah, and by implication, Zechariah. But also, that Eliashib was highpriest at the time the wall was being repaired.

Darius the Persian
In Nehemiah mention is made of Darius the Persian
In the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, and Jaddua, the Levites were recorded as heads of fathers’ houses; and the priests in the reign of Darius the Persian. (Neh 12:22)
The structure of Nehemiah 12 is as follows

The time of Zerubbabel and Jeshua the highpriest, that is the time of the first return from Babylon. A list of priests then Levites.

Priests
These are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: [list of priests]. These were the chiefs of the priests and of their brothers in the days of Jeshua.
Levites
And the Levites: [list of Levites].
Then there is the highpriest genealogy
And Jeshua was the father of Joiakim, Joiakim the father of Eliashib, Eliashib the father of Joiada, Joiada the father of Jonathan, and Jonathan the father of Jaddua.
Then there is the list of priests in the time of Joiakim the highpriest, the son of Jeshua who returned with Zerubbabel.
And in the days of Joiakim were priests, heads of fathers’ houses: [list of priests].
The Levites of the time of Joiakim are not yet mentioned, but it skips to the time of Eliashib the highpriest, and his descendants.
In the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, and Jaddua, the Levites were recorded as heads of fathers’ houses; and the priests in the reign of Darius the Persian.
The Levites names were recorded during the time of these highpriests, but we are not given their names. But we are told that the names of the Levites during the first three of these highpriests are given elsewhere: Book of the Annals.
The sons of Levi, their heads of fathers’ houses were written in the Book of the Annals until the days of Johanan the son of Eliashib.

The names of the priests are also recorded: the priests in the reign of Darius the Persian.

Then we return to the Levites (and gatekeepers) and what they were doing during the time of Joiakim. 

And the heads of the Levites: [list of Levites] to praise and to give thanks... watch by watch. [List of gatekeepers] were gatekeepers standing guard at the storehouses of the gates.

 This was during the time of Joiakim, the highpriest during the time of Nehemiah and Ezra.

These were in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra, the priest and scribe.
The highpriest at the time of the return was Jeshua. The next highpriest was Joiakim and he was contemporary with Ezra and Nehemiah.

In summary Nehemiah 12 gives us a list of the priests and Levites at the time of Jeshua the highpriest at the time of the return. We then get a list of priests at the time of Joiakim and subsequently a list of Levites during his time. We get no list of priests or Levites for any subsequent highpriest. But the names of the heads of the father's houses, are recorded. Specifically the names of the Levites during the time of the 4 highpriests: Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, and Jaddua. And the names of the priests during the time of Darius the Persian.

This list demonstrates that Joiakim the highpriest after the return from exile was contemporary with Ezra and Nehemiah. It is also suggestive there was a Darius the Persian who was reigning at the time of Eliashib the highpriest.

Daniel's prophecy of the rebuilding

During prayer Gabriel appeared to Daniel and said,
70 sevens are decreed for your people and for your holy city: to finish the transgression and to seal up sin and to atone for guilt and to bring in everlasting righteousness and to seal vision and prophet and to anoint a holy of holies. Now know and understand: from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem until an anointed one, a prince—7 sevens and 62 sevens; it will be built again with streets and a moat, but in troubled times. And after the 62 sevens an anointed one shall be cut off, and he shall have nothing, and the city and the sanctuary will be destroyed by the people of the coming prince, and its end will be with the flood and to the end there shall be war; these desolations are determined. (Dan 9:24-26)
Now there is some difficulty translating this. Options include
from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem until an anointed one, a prince—7 sevens and 62 sevens; it will be built again with streets and a moat, but in troubled times. And after the 62 sevens...
and
from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem until an anointed one, a prince—7 sevens. And [during] 62 sevens it will be built again with streets and a moat, but in troubled times. And after the 62 sevens...
The first option suggests that the 7 sevens is the time until Jerusalem is rebuilt: that is 49 years, and the anointed one appears after a further 434 years. The second option implies that the anointed one comes after 49 years and Jerusalem would be built in the subsequent 434 years.

The Masoretic text implies a break between 7 sevens and 62 sevens which would favour the second translation. The problem with this is that Jerusalem would not start to be built until nearly 50 years after the decree. And also the the anointed one is cut off 434 years after he arrives.

If the first translation is more accurate then it takes 49 years from the decree for the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Then 434 years until the anointed one. This is more in keeping with the fact that building the temple and restoring the city occurred soon after the decree of Cyrus to return to Jerusalem.

In the common reconstruction we have work beginning on the temple within 2 years of the decree (Ezra 3:8). Opposition to the building of the city ~80 years after the decree and the completion of the wall within 100 years. In the sequential reconstruction we have work beginning on the temple within 2 years and the city shortly after. Opposition to the building of the city occurs and there is a decree to cease. The Jews start further work on the temple and send a request to continue. Subsequent to the temple completion the city is rebuilt and Nehemiah returns to rebuild the walls. Nehemiah finishes the wall by 49 years after the decree and returns to Babylon in the 49th year after the initial decree. Gabriel's word to Daniel is more consistent with the sequential chronology of Ezra/ Nehemiah.

Monday, 11 January 2021

Monday quote

A scheme which is supposed to help some, and does it by hurting others, grossly perverts Jesus' summary of the Law. This perversion can promote neither love for God nor for neighbor.

Edmund A. Opitz

Monday, 4 January 2021

Monday quote

Their scepticism about values is on the surface: it is for use on other people's values; about the values current in their own set, they are not nearly skeptical enough.

C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man.

Friday, 1 January 2021

Biblical Problems for Young Earth Creationism?

Michael Jones of Inspiring Philosophy has posted a video on what he considers the top 10 reasons from the Bible on why young earth creationism cannot be correct. These are biblical arguments on the error of creationism, not purported scientific errors.

His top 10 problems are:

  1. Genesis 17:17. Abraham's age when he was to father Isaac.
  2. Genesis 8:5-9. The extent of the Flood.
  3. Genesis 2:24. Metaphors in the creation account.
  4. Genesis 3:22. Are humans mortal or immortal?
  5. Genesis 2:4. Genesis 2 recaps Day 6 of creation.
  6. Jeremiah 4:23-26. Jeremiah alludes to creation.
  7. Genesis 1:14. Creation of light before the sun.
  8. Genesis 1:28. The meaning of subdue and rule.
  9. The meaning of bara. It does not mean "create out of nothing".
  10. Genesis 1:1. Earth created or modified.
Now Jones is well read on a variety of claims around the early chapters of the Bible, and the Christian appeals to reading the Bible through an Ancient Near East perspective, and a variety of archaeological claims. My concerns are several-fold: he does not appear to be well read on creationism, many of the issues he raises have been discussed for years; he gives too much credence to secular opinions that are often very antagonistic to Scripture; and, while he reads some things in Scripture closely, oftentimes he does not read Scripture closely enough.

Here are my brief responses to these claims and why I think they do not argue against God creating over 6 days a few thousand years ago.

10. Genesis 17:17

The claim is that God told Abraham that he was to father Isaac at age 100 and Abraham is incredulous. Jones thinks that Abraham had no reason to be incredulous because many of his ancestors fathered children over the age of 100 in the recent past, including his own father Terah. Presumably if Abraham's ancestors lived much further in the past, or if the ages given are non-literal then 100 would be too old, but if the genealogies are literal then why is Abraham incredulous?
And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”
Note carefully what Abraham says: "Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?" Abraham's age is given in the context of his wife's age. Abraham knows he has already had a child at age 86. Sarah even suggested Abraham take her maidservant as a concubine (Gen 16:2) which implies that Sarah thought Abraham was virile enough for this. Abraham is incredulous because of the promise that Abraham will father a son to Sarah. He will become a father with Sarah for the first time at age 100, and her at 90, despite them trying for children for decades. God had promised Abraham that he will father peoples before Abraham left Ur at age 75. God made a covenant with Abraham mentioning posterity when Abraham was possibly in his 80s (Gen 15). So this next promise when Abraham is 99 seems unbelievable. And more importantly, Sarah was not just barren, she was past the age of childbirth. Shortly after his promise to Abraham the Lord appears to Abraham and says
The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.” (Gen)
"The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah" means that her periods had ceased, Sarah was past menopause. This is why Abraham is incredulous. Yes, Abraham was old and he recognised this (Rom 4:19). But the predominant reason for incredulity is that Abraham and Sarah had tried for years to have children together but Sarah remained barren all that time, and now was past menopause. Could such a thing happen? Sarah conceive? The age of Abraham's ancestors fathering children is far less relevant in his own situation.

9. Genesis 8:5-9

Here it is argued that Genesis talks about the entire earth being covered. This is correct, Scripture is quite adamant on this: the entire earth, even all he mountains under the whole heavens, to 15 cubits.
The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. (Gen 7:17-20)
This does not seem to Jones to be compatible with the landing of the ark some months later.
God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen. (Gen 8:1-5)
Then Noah releases a dove which returns
But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. (Gen 8:9)
So "whole earth" apparently can exclude the tops of the mountains because Noah could see the tops of the mountains after the Ark came to rest on a mountain; and "whole earth" is subsequently mentioned  in Genesis 8:9. The argument is that "whole earth" is hyperbolic in Gen 8:9 and therefore hyperbolic in Genesis 7. Further, because the waters dried from the earth, but there is still water over most of the globe, then "earth" cannot mean the globe.

The problem here is that this reasoning does not follow. Something can be essentially true and still true, or it can be hyperbolic to illustrate a point. But being essentially true is not the same as hyperbolic language.

To use an example, if a school has 984 students and the  principle says he runs a school of a thousand, this is essentially true, though not fully precise. One doesn't get to say that because 1000 is not the same as 984, then the principle is using hyperbolic language and he really only has 18 kids at the school. That's not how language works.

In Genesis the author is using many words to emphasize the extent of the flood. Specifically, the noun "everything" (kol) describes both the earth and under the heavens.
The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains which were under all the heavens were covered. (Gen 7:19 NASB footnote)
The author really does mean the entire earth and goes out of his way to emphasize this. He specifically includes the mountains which give added clarity, and then the mountains are repeated to mention that the water is above them.

The later passages in Genesis 8 then specify that the mountain tops can be seen. We have a picture of the entire earth still covered with water, but which some mountain tops are seen. And the Ark seated on one of the mountains. So the author has again specified the environment carefully but adding the the waters were still over the earth. This is descriptive of the waters still essentially covering the earth, it not at all suggestive of hyperbole.

8. Genesis 2:24

Jones states that this passage has a metaphor and thus is not literal. This argument is a non sequitur. Creationists claim that they take the Bible in its straightforward reading. This often means that we take passages literally, especially historical narrative. The problem with the term "literal" is that it is misconstrued: either by pointing out non-literal passages, as here; or by insisting on hyperliteralistic readings of Scripture.

Genesis 2:24 says that the man and his wife shall become one flesh which is not literal because they are two beings and not one being. Granted, but the extended passage reads
And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
That the man and woman are two beings suggests that "one flesh" here has a more metaphorical meaning. Which is fine as Scripture has many non-literal readings: metaphors, fables, idioms. Even in Genesis chapters 1 through 3.

Interestingly though, even here, the metaphor has an element of literalism. The rib (or the side) refer to a literal part of Adam containing literal flesh and bone. Adam recognises that the woman like him in a way that the animals are not, and that she is made from him. It is not just that she has flesh and bone, as do other animals, but human flesh and bone from Adam. And the meaning of becoming one flesh carries more than the concept of companionship or marriage, it also alludes to coitus. And in coitus we see an act in which the male and the female are becoming one entity, one flesh in as much as it is possible for two creatures to do so. So much so that the act creates new flesh. So, there is an aspect to this metaphor, "one flesh", that is more literal than a standard metaphor (which solely seeks to show a similarity between two distinct items).

7. Genesis 3:22

Creationism states that death came about because of the Fall. Jones is arguing that the requirement to eat from the tree of life means that humans were created mortal, not immortal, thus they would have died had they not eaten from the tree of life.

All this is true enough. The question is: Are humans intrinsically mortal or intrinsically immortal (at least with regards to this life). 
  1. Did God create Adam intrinsically immortal such that he would not die? But God caused him to die after he ate the fruit of knowledge. Or;
  2. Did God create Adam conditionally immortal such that he would not die if he continued to eat the fruit of life? And then God bared Adam and Eve from the fruit of life so that he would die because he had eaten the fruit of knowledge.
This is an interesting question, and I favour the later of these two explanations: conditional immortality. But I fail to see how either of these options are fatal to creationism. Jones says that death is a possibility before the Fall. But only a theoretical possibility, not an actual possibility. Clearly death came to Adam because he ate the forbidden fruit. God says that Adam will die if he eats the forbidden fruit (Gen 2:17), then God prevents Adam from eating the tree of life so that he will not live forever (Gen 3:22), and Paul says that death came through one man:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Rom 5:12-14).
So there is no doubt that death came to Adam after he ate the forbidden fruit. Further, it is clear that the Fall affected creation. God cursed childbirth and work; both became a burden or toilsome. And elsewhere Paul says,
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (Rom 8:20-22)
Further, I think that Jones gets the dust reference wrong as well. He says that Adam is called dust because dust is an idiom for mortality. Which may well be true, but this ignores what God specifically says,
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return. (Gen 3:19)
This is a reference back to God creating Adam from the ground. Jones gets causation precisely backwards here.

6. Genesis 2:4

This verse states,
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
Which is a toledoth. There are 11 of these within Genesis. They introduce subsequent narratives and may represent underlying source documents for Genesis. Jones' claim is that toledoth always introduce what follows the phrase, it does not recap what came earlier. The first problem with this is that Genesis 1 is not introduced by a toledoth. And it is not clear whether Genesis 1 or Genesis 2 was written first. Chronologically Genesis 1 belongs before Genesis 2 but because Genesis 1 does not form part of the toledoth structure of Genesis it is hard to see why the first use of toledoth in Genesis 2 cannot cover material in Genesis 1, whether that be days 6 and 7, or even the entire week.

Secondly, this claim is not correct elsewhere in Genesis. Compare
When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. (Gen 5:2)
And
God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. (Gen 1:27-28)
Also, the toledoth of the sons of Noah (Genesis 10) gives Shem's descendants through Arpachshad, Shelah, Eber then Peleg. The toledoth of Shem (Genesis 11) repeats these 5 generations and then further.

There are two toledoths of Esau (Genesis 36) that largely cover the same material.

The material of Genesis 2 clearly covers Adam being placed in the garden and the creation of Eve which is largely parallel with Day 6 of creation in Genesis 1 and there is no convention that prohibits this. Even Jesus links the creation of man and the marriage of man
Jesus answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female [Gen 1:27], and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh [Gen 2:24]’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mat 19:4-5)
5. Jeremiah 4:23-26

When prophesying the destruction of Judah Jeremiah uses language that alludes to Genesis 1. The claim is that Jeremiah is metaphorical not literal, therefore Genesis can be metaphorical rather than literal.

The passage in Jeremiah uses several terms from Genesis and it is likely that Genesis 1 influences this prophecy. Though this is hardly unique in Scripture. Frequently authors of Scripture borrow from other passages. There are thousands of quotations and allusions in Scripture to other Scripture.

We need to consider the nature of prophecy, and the nature of historical narrative. Further, Jeremiah is not necessarily metaphorical as opposed to descriptive. To say something is empty and void can be somewhat descriptive. Darkness can be void of light without there being a complete absence of light. There can be a relative absence of men and birds compared to usual. If the town square is empty, it does not need to have no one present at all for this statement to be true. The claim it is metaphor in Jeremiah therefore metaphor in Genesis, is not true. Rather Jeremiah is using the concept of reversing creation to describe judgment. His language may be metaphorical, though it may be descriptive in a more literal sense, or both.

But a greater principle is that history can be used allegorically without denying history. Jesus is our Passover lamb and there really were actual Passovers with actual lamb slaughters even though Jesus was not literally ovine. Even in this passage Jeremiah calls for men to circumcise themselves and remove the foreskin of their hearts (Jer 4:4). Jeremiah is applying a metaphor to the Jews, but this in no way calls into question that Abraham and his household were literally circumcised.

4. Genesis 1:14:19

God made the sun and moon on Day 4 and appointed them to rule over the day and the night. It has been argued by creationists that God can make light on Day 1 without the sun and all that is needed is a light source to provide day and night to earth. This is correct. Jones addresses a peculiar argument about how the sun was made from gathered light. I do not intend to address this as these are speculative ideas that are worth pursuing but, if incorrect, do not argue against creationism.

Interestingly, Jones dismisses creationist claims on how the sun was made, but then skips the "made" aspect and offers his interpretation that the sun and moon were merely appointed as rulers. Yet, the passage both specifies that God made the sun and moon and that he appointed them rulers. That the sun and moon are appointed as rulers is fully consistent with creationism.

3. Genesis 1:28

The argument against creationism concerns the meaning of the words for "subdue" and "rule". Creationists argue that the earth was good before the Fall and there was no death of humans or animals. Jones says that the command to subdue and have dominion over the earth and all the animals means that the world was a wild place that needed to be brought under control. Further, that this command gave humans the right to use animals as they pleased including for food and clothing.

This passage and following verses say,
God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Gen 1:24-31)
It is worth noting that the passage itself tells us what God intends. God specifically states that plants are food for man and animals. Thus an argument that claims an intrinsic meaning for a word, and then what that meaning might imply, and then that this implication means something contradicting the very passage in which it occurs, is false on the face of it. It is a convoluted argument that overinterprets and misinterprets. Word studies are fine, but this illustrates how they should not be done. Even if the word "to have dominion" could be interpreted to include using an animal for food in certain contexts, it clearly does not mean this in this context where it says that plants are for food.

But do these words have only negative connotations? A word can have an intrinsically positive or negative connotation, or it could be relatively neutral with the context being positive or negative. Further, over time a neutral word can gain a positive or negative connotation if it is predominantly used in only positive or negative contexts.

"Subdue" is the Hebrew kabash which basically means "to place under". It occurs 14 times in the Old Testament. It is used concerning people or land (meaning the people of the land) in the majority of occurrences. Any context describing the subduing of people is going to have a somewhat negative connotation as the people are not subdued prior to becoming subdued. Nevertheless, the use of "subdue" need not imply that the land or animals are not good. Nor that it is inappropriate to put things under man's power that are supposed to be there. Further, something can be good and still be improved upon.

To "rule" or "have dominion" is the Hebrew radah having the meaning "to rule". It occurs 22 times in the Old Testament. It does not intrinsically mean "rule harshly". There are a couple of passages in Scripture where it as a neutral meaning. Leviticus (25:43; 46; 53) warns men against ruling (radah) ruthlessly; this implies one can rule kindly. Solomon is said to rule in several passages (1Ki 4:24; Psa 72:8) and Solomon was noted to have a peaceful kingdom. Solomon's chief officers ruled over the workers (1Ki 5:16; 9:23; 2Ch 8:10) and there is no hint that they were harsh. Benjamin is a ruler (Psa 68:27) and it is noted that his tribe is little, not descriptive of harsh ruling at all. The claim that this word (radah) implies injustice or oppression is just not true. 

What does the Genesis passage say? That man is the culmination of God's creation and that we are to rule over the earth. We are made kings of the realm.

The meaning of bara

Does the Hebrew "bara" intrinsically mean creation out of nothing? Jones argues no and many creationists agree with him. The word bara occurs 48 times in the Old Testament. It appears to only occur with God as the subject. It is frequently used (if not always) for God making something that did not previously exist, whether out of something that exists or out of nothing (ex nihilo).

(Jones reference to David eating is a different Hebrew word that sounds similar: "barah".)

But "bara" can refer to creating out of nothing depending on the context. So the issue is what does it mean in Genesis 1? And the context of Genesis 1, especially Genesis 1:1 suggests creation out of nothing.

Genesis 1:1

The first few verses of the Bible read,
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. (Gen 1:1-2)
Jones proposes that a better translation starts,
When God created the heavens and the earth the earth was formless and void,...
I do not have the knowledge of Hebrew to address this issue. It is worth noting that there is a long history of translating the first verse: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." In fact, a large number of English translations do not differ at all (save minor variability of "heaven" versus "heavens"): KJV, ASV, ESV, RSV, NIV, NASB, NKJV, NET, JB, HCSB, NLT. So one should really treat this as speculative (unless there is a strong argument otherwise).

But even if (for the sake of the argument) we allow for an ancient heavens and/or earth, we still have nothing on the earth. There is no vegetation, no animals, no birds, no humans. An ancient earth without flora and fauna does not achieve what it proponents want.

Summary

Several of Jones' claims are incorrect. Some of them rely on a specific creationist claim that he has come across but which is not necessarily intrinsic to creationism and, if false, says nothing about the creationist worldview.

Yet there are bigger issues here. One is the reliance on the ancient near eastern (ANE) perspective that has gained ground. Of course, there is nothing wrong with better understanding the thought processes of the ancients, but they do not have priority. Much can be gained by reading the Old Testament and seeing how the narrative unfolds. And the common practice of placing the Old Testament alongside ANE texts but often subtly underneath them, is somewhat reminiscent of the previous practice of comparing Luke with Josephus and assuming Luke is errant when they differ. There are many reasons to assume that the Old Testament has priority over both ANE texts and modernist claims for ANE worldviews.

Further, Jones added this comment to his video,
Let's remember YECs constantly claim theistic evolutionists have to add meaning to the Biblical texts, and they just take the plain reading. Well, in order to deal with the issues I brought up in the video they will have to add meaning to several of the passages I went over.
But this is not what creationists are arguing. Of course we need context. We can't even interpret the Bible if we don't know how to read or speak a language. And the better we understand the meaning of words and textual context, and the cultural context, and allusions to other Scripture, the better we can read the Bible. 

In the video Jones confuses imprecision with hyperbole; makes a word imply the exact opposite of what the text clearly states; uses non sequiturs; references books that make claims that are likely false. The Bible is not unclear in many places. It can be read in a relatively straightforward manner. That often means literal. Not everything is literal, but you don't get to turn factual statements into metaphor at will. Many difficult passages are known to be difficult. Readers can identify difficult passages readily. But there are clearer passages and there are less clear passages, and we don't get to reinterpret the perspicacious with the obscure.

The process of hermeneutics clarifies the apparent meaning, it may modify it, it seldom reverses it. And if it does, then this has to be demonstrated very carefully and rigorously.

Monday, 28 December 2020

Monday quote

Christmas is a time when kids tell Santa what they want and adults pay for it. Deficits are when adults tell the government what they want and their kids pay for it.

Richard Lamm

Monday, 21 December 2020

Monday quote

As difficult as the concept is for males to understand, feminine weakness is not a weakness.

Douglas Wilson, Federal Husband.

Monday, 14 December 2020

Monday quote

The cross is not the reason we ask for forgiveness daily. It's the reason we are confident that the answer is yes.

John Piper

Monday, 7 December 2020

Monday quote

The "Austrian" economic insight that money is a claim on resources, and that two people cannot hold the same claim on a resource at the same time, needs to be relentlessly rammed home.

Johnathan Pearce

Monday, 30 November 2020

Monday quote

Lies by omission are far more pernicious and damaging than people think. It’s like, ‘Oh, I just won’t pay attention to that’. Anything that you don’t pay attention to turns into a dragon.

Jordan Peterson

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