Friday, 31 August 2007

Commenting on blog posts

Have switched to HaloScan for commenting. I have commented with both HaloScan and the default at Blogger and I find the later less smooth.

I wish to allow all comments. To facilitate commenting the process should be smooth, fast and unmoderated with no character verification. In Blogger my settings were set thus but the process of commenting is stilted.

No moderation will allow unwanted comments and spam but Blogger does not seem to have the ability to remove these comments subsequently. Moderation delays the process and there is the psychological barrier that the blogmaster may not allow the comment to pass. HaloScan can be set with moderation on or off, but allows removal of comments subsequently. It gives more freedom in timestamping (code rather than a limited number of set options) but template design is better in Blogger. And I would like for a larger comment box but this does not seem to be available in the free version.

An improvement in commenting would be to show the preview as one types so mistakes in html code could be seen prior to publishing. I have seen this but can't remember where. Even easier would be formatting buttons similar to wikipedia.

The downside to this switch is previous comments are lost (or hidden somewhere in cyberspace).

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Skeptical of skepticism

Biological Research Institute for Theoretical Evolution Studies (Brites) interview skeptic Stan Scanton,
Dr. Stan Scanton, skeptic of all things spiritual for the last four decades, has announced that for the last three years he has been secretly skeptical of skepticism.

...

Should a skeptical scientist be skeptical of skepticism?

"Certainly," said Stanton. "Otherwise you are not a true skeptic. You are, at best, a selective skeptic. Scientists skeptical of only spiritual matters are selectively skeptical. Most people who call themselves skeptic are selective skeptics. People of faith who are totally skeptical of all science are also selectively skeptical. Pure selective skeptics learn nothing."

How is it that pure selective skeptics learn nothing?

"I'm a statistician, and it's like Type I and Type II errors in statistics. There is a tradeoff. If you want to learn nothing, be 100% skeptical. If you want to believe everything, be 100% gullible. True learning comes from an intelligent judicious tradeoff between the two."
The article is hilarious including the before and after photos. In fact many of the photos on the site are priceless.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Comparing the days of creation

The framework hypothesis claims Genesis 1 is a literary device not intended to teach chronology. It claims this is seen in the symmetry between the first 3 days and the second 3 days. Such symmetry would not deny a literal interpretation of Genesis 1. There are other examples of literal events that have symmetry (Numbers 7). There are also other arguments for a literal interpretation which I am not going to touch on here.

The argument is God created the environments on days 1 to 3, a different environment each day, and filled those environments on the next 3 days; day 4 corresponding to day 1, 5 to 2 and 6 to 3. So how symmetrical is Genesis 1?

Going thru Genesis 1 what is created when?
  • Day 1: Light, day(time), nighttime
  • Day 2: Expanse (sky, space, heavens)
  • Day 3: Land, seas, plants
  • Day 4: Sun, moon, stars
  • Day 5: Water animals, air animals
  • Day 6: Land animals, man
So we have day 4 creations residing in the expanse of day 2 while bearing the light that was created on day 1.

We have day 5 creatures filling the sea of day 3 and flying on the face of the expanse of day 2

And day 6 creatures live on the land of day 3.

While there is some correspondence between 1 and 4, 2 and 5, 3 and 6, it is neither exact nor compelling, and inadequate to override the several other evidences that Genesis 1 is literal narrative history.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Can we have a too high a view of Scripture?

The obvious answer to the above question is yes. All things are to lead us to Jesus, and loving anything, including good things, above God is idolatry. The Bible is to led us to Jesus, however it is possible to defend it, or hold many of it's claims to be true, yet not love Jesus. In fact Jesus castigated people for supposing to care for Scripture but were unable to recognize him at his coming.

But while Scripture is subservient to Christ, it is also representative of him; therefore we really cannot have too high a view of Scripture.

I propose that we should seek to have the same view of Scripture as Jesus; that view is one of inerrancy but it is also also one that views that which Scripture says God says. If we approach Scripture this way that will lead us to change beliefs that do not correspond to the Bible to beliefs that do.

By necessity I will be viewing Jesus' and the writers' of the New Testament views on the Old Testament (at that time being the Jewish Scriptures), but there is indications in the New Testament that we should view the New Testament in the same way (2 Peter 3:15-16).

Jesus commonly rebuked the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law for their unbelief. One may think they claimed a high view of Scripture. Are Jesus' rebukes a commentary about holding Scripture in too high a regard? No. Jesus rebuked their actions that deny their supposed belief in Scripture. He also rebuked them for holding their traditions above Scripture. If anything, Jesus' opinion was they had too low a view of Scripture, not too high.

Jesus' views on the Bible are well illustrated with his teaching on the resurrection.
The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, "Teacher, Moses said, 'If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.' Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her."

But Jesus answered them, "You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not God of the dead, but of the living." And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching. (Matthew 22:23-33)
This passage shows us in several ways how high Jesus' view of Scripture was. The Sadducees tell a story to invoke a conundrum using this to defend their concept that there is no resurrection. Jesus teaches them, graciously explaining the nature of the resurrection and thus solving a perceived problem.

He rebukes them for not knowing Scripture or the power of God. He expected them to have had an even greater knowledge of the Scriptures.

Comparing the story in Mark and Luke we see Jesus response:
And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? (Mark 12:26)
But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. (Luke 20:37)
Mark states: "... have you not read in the book of Moses,..." (Scripture states) and "God spoke to him". Luke's version says: "... Moses showed,..." (effectively, the Scripture says). In Matthew the rebuke is: "have you not read what was spoken to you by God."

While the passage is about God speaking, these New Testament parallels equate what Scripture says with God speaking.

The third lesson from the passage about Jesus' high regard for Scripture is his exegesis of Exodus 3:6 which states:
And he [God] said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Fuller context of this passage reads:
And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, "I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned." When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then he said, "Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." And he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3:2-6)
In calling Moses to his service God identifies himself as the God of Moses ancestors. God says he is the God of Abraham not he was. The time tense of this verse may seem a minor point, yet it was enough in Jesus' view to defend bodily resurrection. If Jesus thinks that every word of Scripture is trustworthy can we hold a lesser view?

Scripture in general is to be understood; Paul admonishes Timothy that:
Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NET)
Of course not all Scripture is easy to understand. Peter says that some things are hard to understand. But that we can learn from the minor aspects of Scripture is not licence for obscure interpretation.

We should be conforming our ideas to Scripture. We should not seek to use Scripture to prove our pet theories, but holding it in such high regard that should its teachings ever contradict our own beliefs, it is for us to change. This is all the more important the closer we get to the return of our Lord, for as Paul warns:
But evil people and charlatans will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived themselves. (2 Timothy 3:13 NET)
and
For there will be a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves, because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things. And they will turn away from hearing the truth, but on the other hand they will turn aside to myths.

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NIV)

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Cool inventions

New Zealand company AgResearch invents mithral.
...demonstration of heat- and stab-resistant fabric that has been developed by AgResearch’s Textiles Group. The fabric is made from a lightweight wool fibre backed with a high-strength gel-spun liquid crystal polymer.

“This fabric can be used as protection in terrorism situations, yet it’s lightweight and gives comfort not provided from the heavy flack jackets normally used in such situations,” says AgResearch Senior Scientist Ian McFarlane.
This wool/ polymer (the polymer is similar to kevlar I believe) blend is heat/ fire resistant. It is a fabric, not a rigid material, yet it is unable to be stabbed thru by a knife. The only negative thing that can be said about it is its name, Natural Easy Care (NEC) fabric.


Aerogel has a multitude of uses. It is light, strong, insulating, made from abundant materials and now is even lighter and more flexible.

Aerogel, one of the world’s lightest solids, can withstand a direct blast of
1kg of dynamite and protect against heat from a blowtorch at more than
1,300C....[It] is made by extracting water from a silica gel, then replacing it with gas such as carbon dioxide.
Potential uses include insulation, sports equipment, limiting explosion damage, and removing pollution.

While the most common form is made of silica it can be made from other materials such as carbon or include other materials such as platinum. Platinum aerogel has potential as platinum is a catalyst for many reactions including hydrogen and oxygen forming water. It can therefore be used in hydrogen fuel cells but apparently it is hoped it can be used in the production of hydrogen from water.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Inconsistent Christians

In his book The Battle for Truth, David Noebel comments in his conclusion,
Why do Christians so easily accept inconsistencies into their worldview? In this sense, non-Christians are much more consistent. There are no Marxist/Leninist creationists. There are no New Agers who believe in ethical absolutes. The Christian, who trusts the Scriptures and therefore has access to the one worldview based on eternal truth, should be the first person to recognise the bankruptcy of secular religious views. Yet all too often he is the first to embrace them!
This seems way too common. It is most unfortunate. Christians need to love the Lord with all their heart, soul and mind. I think there are several reasons why the above comment is the case—at least within the West.

Christianity is the truth, so where other worldviews contradict Christianity they are incorrect. Many Christians subscribe to a false worldview. To a subset of this group the inconsistencies between what they believe and Christianity may not be a compelling reason to reject their false beliefs, or conversely, Christianity. While some atheists may be somewhat more consistent, there is, fortunately, no shortage of inconsistent atheists. While atheists have no reason for universal, objective morality they do not all become nihilists, or mass-murderers like Stalin who was more consistent.

Part of Christians' inconsistency is their desire to hold onto Christ in a world that denies him. They have met him and believe but have yet to allow their false worldview to be completely transformed. It is admirable they remain in Christ but they need to be made aware that Christianity demands our worldview is conformed to Scripture. What is also difficult is that they live in a culture where they are now going against the flow. Christian beliefs are currently very antithetical to secular beliefs, therefore the Christian viewpoint is actively opposed. While that may not be a lot different to what the non-Western Christians face, the Western Christians are in the position of having emerged from a Christian heritage which had a more favourable view of Christianity.

A further reason is that there are weeds within the church. Some people are "within" the church but are not of God and they promote ideologies that oppose God. Christians need discernment, though with the basic lack of a Christian worldview this is more difficult; looking at the fruit of person's lives can be helpful in this area. Weeds appear like wheat early on, but they do produce fruit in the long term? fruit consistent with being in Christ. Rank heresy should not be too difficult to spot. Unfortunately it detracts some, and there is much that is more subtle than grossly heretical beliefs.

We have a tendency to agree with data that confirms our beliefs and explain away that which challenges it. This is understandable. It is a reasonable position if you are in the truth but an unreasonable one if you are in error; the problem is how do you know which camp you belong to?
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
The answer is not to assess if data conforms to your ideas but do you conform to Scripture.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Thursday, 16 August 2007

What is marriage?

In response to a recent illustration TL comments:
What constitutes marriage?

Does the Bible state what constitutes marriage?

Does it say to stand before a priest and say some words?

If they are living together in a committed, monogamous situation is it not marriage?

Boaz just claimed Ruth publicly and it was done. At least the story says nothing more about ceremony or priests.
While these questions are essentially rhetorical, it raises the issue of whether one needs to get married in a civil ceremony. Does God recognise a marriage that the state does not? In addressing this I wish to ask a related question, is being sexually active equivalent to marriage in God's eyes?

The Old Testament talks about couples who have sex getting married if the father of the girl consents. Given the intimacy involved and the spiritual connection that Paul alludes to I previously seriously considered whether being sexually active puts one into a covenantial relationship with the person. If that is the case one could argue that they should marry formally as they are married effectively. After reading what Jesus said to the woman at the well in John 4 I no longer think that sex equals marriage in God's eyes. At the well in Samaria Jesus said to the woman,
"Go, call your husband, and come here." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true."
This comment shows that one can be living with a person and be sexually intimate yet not be married. There must be a difference between the first 5 men and the current one. She lived with and had sex with all 6 so that cannot be it. I guess one could argue that the man had not committed himself to her, which he likely hadn't, but that raises the question of how you commit.

I tend to think that one should marry in the method of the culture. This is because the institution of marriage (not necessarily the ceremony) is public. It is not gossip to share that people are married. It is societal not private knowledge. So Boaz married Ruth in the method of the day, as did Isaac who took Rebekah into his mother's tent and married her.

If the society you live in has a way of getting married and it does not involve sinning against God there is no reason not to marry using that method. That is how your spouse and society recognise that marriage has occurred. This does not mean that government has to be involved, but there are at least cultural norms.

If you find yourself on a desert island then feel free to choose how you make a marriage covenant. And if marriage ceases to exist within the society in which you live then take your vows how you wish, or let the church marry those who wish to in ways they find useful.

The important thing for Christians is that they have a biblical view of what marriage entails, and attempt to behave rightly towards their spouse; but if society views being married differently to Christians, this is not an excuse to not get married in the usual way.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Who was Cain afraid of?

Cain murdered his brother Abel and as punishment was forced to wander the Earth. In Genesis 4 we read,
And the LORD said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth." Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me." Then the LORD said to him, "Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold." And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. (Genesis 4:10-17)
God's punishment meant that Cain was to wander the Earth and the inability for him to grow crops presumably was to help enforce this. The phrase "fugitive and a wanderer" (ESV) or "homeless wanderer" (NET) does not necessarily imply other people, other than his parents, existed at the time but the comment "whoever finds me will kill me" suggests there were other men. Later Cain builds a city which presumes several people lived there.

This has been raised as a difficulty, along with Cain's wife, if all men descend from Adam and Eve and Cain was their first son. Genesis does not give an exhaustive history of the world but there is minimal difficulty if one pays attention to what is told us.

Adam and Eve had many more children, we are told of 3 but given their perfection and longevity one would presume they had very many children. And Genesis informs us of this,
The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. (Genesis 5:4)
Birthrates for fertile women are every 2 to 4 years depending on breastfeeding method. Given that Cain was likely conceived shortly after the Fall which probably within several days of creation and assuming a gap of 2–4 years and no multiple births Eve would have had 26–51 children by age 100. I do not know the average age of menopause of women who live close to 1000 years though 500 would not be unreasonable. Sarah lived to 137 and was post-menopausal sometime before 90.

These children would have had further children, even with a low annual growth rate of 5% starting from 2 people we get ~250 people within 100 years, ~1100 people by 130 years and ~35000 by 200 years though the growth rate was possibly much higher at that time in history.

Cain married a sister as many of Adam's sons would have. Even as late as Abram born 2000 years after creation we have a man marrying a half-sister.

A key to understanding Cain's comment about men wanting to kill him comes from Seth's birth. I think it unlikely Seth was Adam's third son.
And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, "God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him." (Genesis 4:25)
This passage shows us that Eve viewed Seth as replacing Abel, but Seth was born when Adam was 130:
When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. (Genesis 5:3)
So the murder of Abel could have been as late as 130 years after creation with a conservative number of people being 1100. Some of whom Cain could have seen as a threat to his life. And even if Abel's murder was many years prior while many of the people were younger and the population fewer, the possibility of future attacks on Cain may have been on his mind.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Sinning or living in sin

I was talking recently with family who were relating a story about a music leader living with his girlfriend. The music leader had denied it to the leadership but it had become apparent he was lying. The pastors were made aware of the real situation and discussions were being had about the appropriateness of him leading the church musically. At that time the pastor's wife made the comment that she (herself) is not perfect, with the implication that all are sinners.

I tell this story to illustrate her misunderstanding as I doubt this type of story is unique. While her comment that none are perfect rings of humility and non-judgmentalism, I believe it is a betrays incorrect thinking. A correct understanding of salvation helps avoid this.

As I have previously written, the nature of salvation is not about a set of right beliefs or pronouncement of a creed. A discipleship is a follower. That is, we repent (turn around) and start following Jesus. This is why taking a snapshot of people can make it hard to see who is and who is not a Christian. It is not where we are on the road, it is what direction we are walking in. You can't tell by glancing at the tree, you need to see the fruit, and fruit takes time to develop.

This side of perfection we all sin, so the pastor's wife is correct in this regard. The issue is followers who stumble get up and keep walking (with the help of Christ). It is not the falling that defines us, it is the following. Where pastor's wife goes wrong is she is aligning her faltering with the music leader's turning away. Choosing to deliberately live in a way we know God opposes, with no attempt not live this way, is not the behaviour of one following Christ, it is the behaviour of one refusing to look at him. This is not necessarily apostasy, but it is placing oneself in a dangerous position.
He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck,/
will suddenly be broken beyond healing. (Proverbs 29:1)
I will add that positions of leadership in the church carry a great responsibility and there may be acts of sin that demand you step down, at least for a time, for the sake of the body. This sin may happen in the context of a person attempting to follow Jesus; this is not what I am addressing here.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Babies lie

Recent research shows that babies lie from as young as 6 months.
Until now, psychologists had thought the developing brains were not capable of the difficult art of lying until four years old.
Well obviously they did not know of or have any children under 4 years old.
Dr Vasudevi Reddy, of the University of Portsmouth's psychology department, says she has identified seven categories of deception used between six months and three-years-old.

Infants quickly learnt that using tactics such as fake crying and pretend laughing could win them attention. By eight months, more difficult deceptions became apparent, such as concealing forbidden activities or trying to distract parents' attention.

By the age of two, toddlers could use far more devious techniques, such as bluffing when threatened with a punishment.

Dr Reddy said: "Fake crying is one of the earliest forms of deception to emerge, and infants use it to get attention even though nothing is wrong. You can tell, as they will then pause while they wait to hear if their mother is responding, before crying again.
This is what we do know from this investigation but this does not preclude deception from a younger age that we have yet to identify.

Kind of gives more credence to those who think Adam's sin had consequences.

Christianity: All men are intrinsically bad but treat them well anyway.

Both the axioms of Christian belief and the behaviour demanded of its adherents excel the secular humanists.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Solar/ temperature data from 1980 onwards

Martin Durkin defended his documentary the Great Global Warming Swindle after a debate which followed its airing in Australia failed to allow him to adequately respond.

He has modified his documentary several times. I think this is a good thing. There were several criticisms and presumably he sort to address them. He also removed comments by the Professor of Physical Oceanography at MIT, who said he had been misrepresented. Using someone's beliefs to show consequences in a documentary that they do not support is not misrepresentation nor quoting out of context, it is a situation of using a hostile witness. Of course hostile witnesses hate their ideas being used by the opposition, otherwise they would not be hostile. Using the data of another but putting forward one's own theory as to the explanation is completely legitimate. Nevertheless Durkin has complied with the request which is honourable given that he didn't misquote originally.

In a previous post I discussed the sun temperature graph. Merchant made some accusations about data manipulation that turned out not to be true. He initially acknowledged this on his home page but currently just shows graphs of the data extended beyond 1980.



It appears that the new documentary has an updated graph. This one shows data for the 20 years beyond 1980 and shows that the prediction continues to hold.



I am not certain how these graphs line up. Given that Merchant was unaware of how the graph was constructed the first time, I will give Durkin's men the benefit of the doubt for the time being.

There is obviously far more research to be done on the subject of the sun influencing the Earth's weather. And we must be careful against making too much of one graph. But the correlation is strong enough to encourage further investigation into solar activity and the weather.

Merchant may have reasons to think that CO2 is a bigger influence on the climate, but the solar data are enough to suggest the sun may have some influence; on the variation that is, everyone acknowledges it warms the planet.

It may turn out that the Earth's weather is influenced by that enormous object of burning gas in the sky—who would have thought?

Monday, 6 August 2007

Should we favour the Septuagint or the Masoretic text?

I think undue emphasis has been placed on the Masoretic text in translating English Bibles. This is somewhat understandable in that we have many Masoretic manuscripts and they are very similar. Further, the Septugint, while not only varying from the Masoretic type, varies from manuscript to manuscript. I think, however, there are several issues that have been inadequately dealt with.

The similarity of the Septuagint to some Hebrew Dead Sea scrolls suggests that there was a Hebrew text type that the Septuagint was translated from, and that was not the Masoretic text type. One can argue that this Hebrew vorlage may be inferior to the Masoretic but that is another issue; the point is we have a competing text that must be interacted with.

Different books were likely translated by different scholars. So one cannot treat the Septuagint as a whole. I understand that much more attention was paid in translating the Pentateuch than the other books. Therefore it may be potentially legitimate to claim the the Septuagint's Pentateuch vorlage is closer to the original than the Masoretic, while arguing for the Masoretic with other books.

New Testament quotes of the Old Testament do not always conform to the Masoretic. Some quote the Masoretic, some the Septuagint. Horn states,
I am quite sure that Matthew quoted from a Hebrew text that agreed with the Vorlage that the Greek translators used.
Other options for the New Testament authors could include: a different source text, the source texts are similar enough at the passage to preclude identification, or the quote is a paraphrase. The authors of the New Testament would have been aware of Hebrew variants and the Greek translation had been used in some synagogues.

An aside, I have no concerns with the New Testament authors being free in their Old Testament quotes. If what they write has the same meaning as the original—in terms of the point they are drawing from it—then the quote is accurate. If, however, the point is only apparent in the variant and the variant is not original this becomes more difficult to justify. This is because the reason for quoting the Old Testament is its authoritative nature. It is similar to Christians defending the trinity from 1 John 5. The trinity can be defended from Scripture but not based on this verse if it is not original. (One may be able to show the early churches' views based on the insertion of this verse though).

Josephus (and others) don't use the Masoretic. Given that Josephus' ages of the ante- and postdiluvian patriarchs parallel the Septuagint (and these are most likely to have been changed in translation) he is likely quoting the Septuagint not a Hebrew variant, so this does not add further evidence. I vaguely recall that Josephus at times uses a text that is not comparable to Septuagint which may suggest a further text, or at least a variant Septuagint type.

A further issue of much importance is that while we can take confidence in the accuracy of the transmission of the Masoretic text, this does not automatically carry over to the origin of the Masoretic text. The proverbial weakest link in a chain. If the Masoretic endeavour began after the resurrection there could be ulterior motives of the scribes given the antagonism of many Jews to the new Christian sect. This could be as sinister as removing or changing a text, one that Christians interpreted favourably in their defence of Jesus' Messiahhood; or it could be by merely favouring a text type that provided less apologetic power to the Christians. This may not seem in line with what we know of the Masoretes. However selecting a text is not the same as fastidiously transmitting it over the centuries.

Those involved in recovering the original text of the Old Testament undoubtedly know all this and more. There may be other compelling reasons to favour the Masoretic text. But I think the pendulum needs to swing back a little and we need to give more credence to the Septuagint, at least parts of it, as did some of the church fathers. There are likely groups involved in trying to recreate the original Septuagint. If it was translated over time there may have been more than one early translation of the same passage.

Resolving the Hebrew the Septuagint translators used is possible (to a degree) and this is compared with the Masoretic text. I think we need to be prepared to weight some books of the Septuagint heavier than currently.

As it is currently, in some passages the Septuagint is thought to represent the original over the Masoretic. But we need to shift this bias. If we acknowledge the Septuagint is usable when the the Masoretic is clearly wrong, then it is obvious that the Septuagint is a preferable text some of the time. This means that it may be a preferable text in other places where the Masoretic is not clearly wrong but appears inferior. Then we go from the assumption that the Masoretic is reliable unless proven otherwise to the Masoretic is one among several competing witnesses.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Concerning the Old Testament sources

I have not read a lot on this topic but have some preliminary thoughts. I think the search for the original text is warranted and helpful. If the text is inerrant, there can be subtle things to learn from analysing the minutia of Scripture—so long one doesn't lose sight of the major themes. I doubt any significant doctrine of Christianity is affected by the current text we have. And there is always the issue over whether we appreciate what the text meant at the time even if we know exactly what it said.

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and a small amount in Aramaic. Major sources include the Masoretic text, the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls. There is a Samaritan Pentateuch which is a further source.

The Masoretic text in square Hebrew charcters post-dates the destruction of the temple. The text was hand copied down through the centuries. Many have written on the care that the Masoretes took with the text such that we can be very confident that the text we now have is similar to the text they started with. The oldest extant Masoretic texts come from the 9th century. The discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947 showed similarities in some manuscripts that suggest the Masoretic type text dates from at least the same time and demonstrated the accuracy of the Masoretes. Modern English Bibles place much weight on the Masoretic text.

The Septuagint is the Greek translation that post dates the completion of the Old Testament and predates Christ. It is thought to have been written approximately 250BC. It is possible that the Pentateuch was translated first with other books in the following years. Though some Septuagint fragments date to the 2nd century BC, more complete copies post-date the birth of Jesus by > 300 years.

The Dead Sea scrolls date over several centuries up until about the time of Jesus and the destruction of the Temple. While some manuscripts bear testimony to the Masoretic text, some of the Dead Sea scrolls seem to follow at text type similar to the Septuagint.

For reasons I will post on later, I think more credence should be given to parts of the Septuagint. The variations are not solely due to translation but existed in the source text. That this vorlage existed is confirmed by the Dead Sea scrolls. The question is whether it is more accurate at times.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Random quote

Some may say that they refuse to play the game that God has designed. The game that He has designed, however, is the Game of Life. If you are alive, you are already in the game, like it or not. It isn't a question, then, of refusing to play, but if you are going to play to win or play to lose.

A.S.A. Jones

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