Monday, 31 December 2007

Did God give us a false understanding of ourselves?

A further argument for freewill is that men think that it exists. Within my mind I am certain that I have freedom of my own choices. I think it likely that others think the same way. Granted some cultures have a more fatalistic view of life, but even if their outlook is, "If God wills it," they still think that they are making some decisions.

That I think I have freedom to make choices comes from God. If in reality I do not have that freedom, that is all my thoughts and actions are essentially God's thru me, then I think this implies that God is deceitful. Of course God can do as he wills, but deceiving all men totally (thru general revelation) about an aspect of reality does not seem to be in God's nature.

One may argue that my fallen nature prevents me fully understanding myself, let alone God. The problem with this argument is that it is not claiming that I do not fully understand my freewill, rather it is claiming that my belief I have freewill is completely incorrect. There are many attributes that we have because of God's image, and these are broken because we are fallen; The more we take on the mind of Christ the more we can rightly understand these attributes; but I can think of none that are so broken that our view is completely the opposite of reality.

Take justice. Even though this can be very distorted such that gross injustices are done, the concept that there is an ought remains. And those doing injustice frequently do so claiming they are doing true justice, the appeal to justice (albeit false) is still there.

Take design. Even an extreme Darwinian, while accepting a false path to the complexity of life, acknowledges that proteins, structures, cells and organisms work. So they would deny design but can still see function.

Take truth. Even liars are usually aware that they speaking unreality. It takes a long legacy of deceit to no longer be able to tell the difference between truth and untruth in one's own life, and even then there is an awareness of some aspects of reality.

The claim that freewill does not even exist but is only a false belief of our mind is not consistent with the other attributes. It is the odd one out. The claim is not that part of the image of God is broken, it is a claim that we think this way despite being completely incorrect. And even worse, freewill is an attribute that God does have, and we falsely think he has given it to us.

And those who are redeemed still have this sense of freedom within them. Even those who subscribe to no-freewill theology still feel they have some freedom of their decisions.

So we have a claim that humans think they have an attribute that God really has, yet they are incorrect in their thoughts (not just broken reasoning), and even redemption is not enough to alter these intrinsic thoughts.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

A father's foreknowledge

During a discussion on Jamsco's blog, Bnonn was suggesting that if God's knowledge is contingent on our actions then God cannot know about what we will never do.
  • P1. If human beings have libertarian free will, and God has definite knowledge of human actions, then it is necessary that God’s knowledge of those actions is logically contingent upon them.
  • P2. If God’s definite knowledge of human actions is logically contingent upon them, then God cannot have definite knowledge of human actions which will never occur.
  • P3. But God does have definite knowledge of human actions which will never occur.
  • C4. Therefore, human beings do not have libertarian free will.
I have previously said that while reasoning is good it is also fallen, so if our logic contradicts Scripture then we must check our premises or reasoning. I think the error is logic is related to the first premise. While reviewing the premises is useful, illustrations are also useful because if the illustration is feasible, then the argument probably needs modifying. This is an example from my daughters.
  • Bethyada: D1, for your snack you can have blue cheese on crackers or avocado on crackers.
  • D1: I'll have x.
I offered her this (a factual) and I knew her response would be x. I knew her response prior to the answer. My knowledge is not so much contingent on her actual choice, rather it is contingent on me knowing what her choice will be. But her choice is clearly hers and not mine.
  • Bethyada: D2, for your snack you can have blue cheese on crackers or avocado on crackers.
  • D2: I'll have y.
Now this is a hypothetical (counterfactual), I don't really do this, it is just a mind experiment. But I am still certain of her response. Clearly my knowledge here is not contingent on her choosing.

Note the answer is different for each of them given the same choice. It is not that I am forcing the answer I wish to have (do you want to eat a chocolate bar or a slug).

The reason I know the answers is because I know my daughters.

I would rephrase premise 1
  • P1. If human beings have (libertarian) freewill, and God has definite (fore)knowledge of human actions, then it is necessary that God’s knowledge of those actions is logically dependent on God knowing what humans will do.
God knows us better than I know my children so God always knows what our choice will or would be.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Getting the facts of Christmas sorted

Given the season it may be a good time to summarise the chronology and other details of the incarnation.

Joseph was engaged to Mary and they both dwelt in Nazareth. Nazareth was a small town in Galilee. Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel when her cousin Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant. Knowing when Elizabeth's husband Zechariah was serving in Jerusalem may give us some clues to the month of Jesus' conception and birth. Zechariah was a priest of the division of Abijah (compare Luke 1 with 1 Chronicles 24).

Joseph intended to divorce Mary when he learnt of her pregnancy; quietly so as not to shame her. Divorce is not the term we would use for breaking an engagement but a betrothal in Israel 2000 years ago was a strong commitment and divorce (apoluo) would be the single term used in both situations (unlike English which has more terms). This is not saying that betrothal is the same as marriage, sex was forbidden until after the wedding.

An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and informed him of the situation and Joseph then married Mary. He did not have sex with her until after Jesus was born. Mary had already conceived Jesus so the activity would not have made Joseph the biological father, but abstaining presumably honoured God in the situation. So Jesus was conceived when Mary was betrothed and born after Mary was married, but still a virgin.

The genealogy given in Matthew is that of Joseph. The genealogy in Luke is that of Mary. Heli was likely Mary's father. Luke 3 states:
Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli,...
Some have considered Heli the adoptive father of Joseph if Heli had no sons of his own, though I believe the passage may be acceptably translated as:
Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son, as it was supposed, of Joseph, but was actually the son of Heli,...
Caesar Augustus sent out a decree that a registration was to be performed. The time frame for this is uncertain. What is known is that Quirinius was governor of Syria. The registration is frequently referred to as a census, presumably for taxation purposes. However Luke does not say that it is a tax census, he specifies they were registered (apographo) for a registration (apographe). Dating Jesus birth has proven difficult, for several reasons, not the least historically identifying the tax census that occurred during Jesus birth. However if the registration was not for taxation then the range of possible dates is potentially expanded. Some have suggested in was a registration to make a proclamation about Caesar Augustus. Ernest Martin suggests that the title Pater Patriae (father of the Fatherland) was bestowed on Augustus about this time and the registration was for the inhabitants of the Roman Empire to swear an oath of obedience to the Emperor.

Joseph with his new bride went from Nazareth to Bethlehem because he was descended from David whose home town was Bethlehem. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Angels appeared to the shepherds that night and they visited Mary, Joseph and Jesus. There is some evidence to suggest that Jesus may have been born in autumn, perhaps in the month of Tishri which corresponds to about September. I think it likely that Jesus was born about 2 or 3 BC.

8 days later Jesus was circumcised according to the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12). Joseph and Mary presented Jesus at the temple at Jerusalem 40 days after he was born and a sacrifice of doves was offered. Leviticus states that a lamb is to be offered but a pigeon is acceptable for the poorer Israelites. Joseph and Mary were therefore poor.

Some time after this while Joseph and Mary were still in Bethlehem the Magi from the East arrived in Jerusalem. We are not told the number who came. That 3 are depicted may relate to the number of gifts. The Magi were from the region of Persia and were interested in, amongst other things, astrology. They interpreted the skies as pointing to the birth of the king of the Jews. Much speculation has been made on what the star was. Matthew quotes the Magi saying,
Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.
and he further comments,
the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. (Matthew 2)
It is likely that the star was a conjunction between planets or planets and stars. The best suggestion is that of Martin who mentions several astronomical events of significance including Jupiter stopping (at the time of its retrogression). The Magi had an audience with Herod in Jerusalem and were informed by the priests and scribes that the king was to be born in Bethlehem based on Micah's prophecy. When Jupiter stopped in the sky (for 6 days) its position was over Bethlehem as viewed from Jerusalem. The date was December 25, 2 BC. Jupiter was in the constellation of Virgo.

This was probably not the time of Jesus' birth sometime later. Jesus was a young child (paidion), though that word probably does not aid us as to exactly how old Jesus was. Herod ordered the massacre of children under the age of 2 in his attempt to kill Jesus. Herod choose this age in accordance with the time he ascertained from the wise men. If Jesus was born in 3 BC he would have been approximately 15 months old; if in 2 BC, 3 months. Joseph had previously been warned by an angel to depart and they were already in Egypt. On Herod's death an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream for the third time and Joseph returned with Mary and Jesus to his home town of Nazareth. Herod probably died in early 1 BC, only some weeks or months after the Magi's visit.

Flash presentation of astronomical events near the time of Jesus' birth.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Objects of wrath

The fall of Adam put us in opposition to God. It changed our nature and our relationship with God.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2)
This is not just some, it is all mankind. All men prior to redemption are by nature children of wrath. Even if we desire God's ways we still sin and fall under God's wrath. We deserve judgment.

This is not the pleasure of God. God does not desire that the wicked are destroyed. Jesus says,
God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3)
Paul tells us,
...God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2)
And Peter informs why the day of the Lord is delayed:
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3)
Jesus, Paul and Peter all state that God desires the salvation of every man. He would that heaven be filled, that not a single person lost.

Sure, the destruction of the wicked will demonstrate God's glory but their condemnation his not his desire. God gains much greater glory by showing mercy than by just judgment. If God judges by justice alone he will send every man to hell.

So how do we square Jesus' offer of mercy to all men with Paul's comment on God's mercy?
So then God has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. (Romans 9)
I find it interesting that the actions here are not opposites. God is described as hardening men, but not softening them. I am sure God can soften hearts, but the point is the context contrasts hardening and having mercy. These actions of God can be seen in connection to our response to God. We are all children of wrath because of our nature. So when one rejects God's work in his life he is resisting the work of God in drawing him to himself. If we reject God and refuse his ways then God cannot gain glory by offering mercy to us. There is nothing else but to harden us that God's glory may be maximised in our lives; not as objects of mercy, which is God's preference, but as objects of wrath: that all may see that the rebellious will not prevail against God.

And for those who choose God, yet who by their nature are children of wrath, he offers mercy so that they may become children of God. If in judging those who deserve judgment God is glorified, how much more so when he shows mercy to those who deserve judgment!
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! (Romans 11)

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Sovereignty and free will

There is an interesting passage in Jeremiah which inputs into the Calvinism debate:
The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: "Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words." So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Then the word of the LORD came to me: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: 'Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.' (Jeremiah 18)
There is a lot here that points to God's activity in the world: God gives a command to Jeremiah (which presumes obedience is possible); if Jeremiah is obedient then God will allow him to hear his words; God can build up nations and destroy them.

The potter motif is interesting. God gives Jeremiah an analogy to act out. It is important to understand this analogy, what God is saying thru it and what God is not saying thru it—while there may be more than one meaning in many passages of Scripture, we must not over read it: for example in this story God is like the potter, the potter is mortal, this does not imply that God is mortal.

We have a potter forming an object, this becomes marred, the object is reworked into something different, the potter chooses what he makes.

God says that if the potter is able to work the clay as he sees fit, how much more so is God able to do as he wills: "...can I not do with you as this potter has done?" But further than this, not only does God have a right to do this, he is also able to do this: "Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel."

In what way is the house of Israel, or a nation, like clay. The answer is in God's subsequent pronouncement. They are similar in that God is able to destroy a nation or prosper it, just as the potter is able to make an object of his choosing. They are similar in that God is able to change his plans for the nation, to destroy a nation he was planning to prosper, or vice versa, just as the potter can change what vessel he is making.

One must be careful in making claims about the nature of the clay from this analogy. One must look to what is given in explanation. The clay is spoiled in the potter's hands. Is that because of flaws in the clay or flaws in the potter? Is it relevant? The point is just that the potter has sovereignty over the clay, before and after its spoiling. Theoretically the potter could have destroyed the whole project and started again according to his original plan, but God wanted to use the change in the object being fashioned to reveal himself.

The spoiling of the clay is the change in behaviours of a nation. Though "spoiled" carries a negative connotation, this is not the case in the explanation. This discrepancy suggests that the spoiling may not carry over any analogous qualities. Nations can behave in positive or negative ways. They can repent, a good response, or they can commit evil, a bad response.

And while clay has no will, clearly the nation does. God appeals to the nation to listen to his warning: "If... I declare..., and if that nation... turns from its evil, I will relent...."

While God has declared his sovereignty, that he has the right to do and is able to do exactly as he wills, he also states that his actions are contingent on the actions of the nations. He will change his behaviour based on our actions. It is not that we can force God's hand, make him do what we want, rather that there are opportunities in which we can choose our path. God may limit the number of paths available to us, but there are outcomes we can determine, or rather outcomes (the specifics of which are determined by God) can be accepted or rejected by us. God does not force us or manipulate our thoughts to make a decision for him or against him.

In this passage God is talking about nations. Does the same apply to individuals? God's commands to and requirements of nations are not always the same as that to individuals: the state is given a mandate to execute criminals, individuals, in general, are not. That this principle is relevant to individuals can be seen by comparing to Ezekiel.
But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice and does the same abominations that the wicked person does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, for them he shall die. (Ezekiel 18)
While this passage describes God's abundant mercy, the call to repentance comes thru out the Old and New Testaments. We may not be able to save ourselves, but we are able to choose to avail ourselves of this salvation.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Quoting wikipedia

Several reports have denounced the use of wikipedia in university assignments. This is rightly so. To conclude that wikipedia is therefore unreliable may be somewhat excessive. So is wikipedia generally correct or not? Is it free of bias or not?

I use wikipedia at least weekly. I think it is a useful source. As with all material, an appreciation for presuppositions helps one decide what he can and cannot use.

It is therefore appropriate to use or point someone to wikipedia for general information. But it is not helpful in argument to refer to wikipedia as an authority. I may have material on a subject; that some random editor has judged my material and found it wanting, or is unaware of its existence, or claims that it is an inadequate/ inappropriate source for use in an encyclopaedia (even if my material is true!)—none of that invalidates my material or argument. An appeal to wikipedia is merely an appeal to an authority with which I disagree; rather my material needs to be refuted on its own grounds.

So someone's reference to wikipedia at one time does not justify your appeal to wikipedia on the basis that he has done the same prior; he hasn't.

Encyclopaedias are more useful for breadth of knowledge, less so for depth, and they are inappropriate to refute those who knowledge of the subject is similar to the author's.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Absense of evidence equals legend?

In a Nature article in May Haim Watzman writes
One way to experience the Elad view of the City of David is to tour the site with an Elad-trained guide. It is possible to visit the excavations on your own or with a guide you've brought yourself. But the default option for tourists and school groups is to hear the narrative that asserts the Jewish claim and historical connection to the site, say Greenberg and his colleagues.

There is some truth to these claims, as a Nature visit to the site suggests. The tour guide provided by Elad was well-spoken and knowledgeable, but mixed myth and fact in her presentation. For example, she asserted that the reason David chose the site for his capital is that it lies just below the Temple Mount, which is identical to Mount Moriah, the site where, according to the Bible, Abraham took his son Isaac to offer him as a sacrifice to God. Although the identification of the Temple Mount with Mount Moriah is well-established in Jewish tradition, there is no archaeological evidence for Abraham's presence on the site — or indeed for the existence of Abraham and Isaac.

In fact, a handful of archaeologists go so far as to say that David and Solomon may also be largely mythical characters. This view is rejected by most experts on the period — they tend to agree that it is likely the two ancient rulers did reign in Jerusalem. But many scholars argue that the evidence discovered so far — both at the City of David and at other sites in the region — indicates that the biblical description of the extent and wealth of their kingdoms is exaggerated.
Besides the interesting assumption that a Nature writer is the unbiased judge of a archaeological/ tourist guide (which may or may not be valid), how exactly has the guide mixed myth with fact?

Identifying Mount Moriah with the Temple Mount is enough for a fact for Watzman because of tradition (and presumably some archaeological data) and because many archaeologists happen to think there is some substance to idea that David and Solomon existed; but Abraham is a myth because of lack of archaeological evidence?

Then what of the well-established Jewish tradition for the existence of Abraham and Isaac? Since when is lack of a specific type of evidence evidence of myth? And what specific archaeological evidence does one expect to find for a specific individual that lived 4000 years ago?

Documentary evidence is strong evidence and the Bible gives documentary evidence that Abraham existed. Abraham is discussed in the genre of historical narrative. His ancestry, geography and activities are well described. His behaviour, both good and bad, are mentioned which can only add to the authenticity of the accounts. Moriah is even mentioned by name in connection with Abraham.
He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." (Genesis 22)
With regard to his slight on David and Solomon, a reading of opinions concerning the existence of Nineveh and Babylon from a century ago should caution men against having too much faith in "scholars."

Monday, 10 December 2007

Random quote

Better the world know you as a sinner than God know you as a hypocrite.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

New temple wall findings

Archaeologists have uncovered a wall near the Temple Mount.

Wall from above From Arutz Sheva
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced Wednesday afternoon the discovery of a large-sized house from the Second Temple Period several dozen meters south of the Temple Mount.
It is a reasonably large structure
The find includes massive foundations, walls whose remains soar five meters high in some places, two-story-tall halls, a basement, ritual baths (mikvaot), remains of colored frescoes, and more.
The reports are speculating whose house they think the wall was part of. Of more interest is the location
The wall was found beneath a parking lot about 300 meters south of the area known as the Temple Mount to Jews and al-Haram al-Sharif to Muslims.
Unfortunately I do not know the layout of the area around the temple mount. I have created an annotated map, I assume the parking lot is between the Temple Mount and the Gihon Spring. Below is the current reconstruction of the old city.

Reconstruction of the Old City However Ernest Martin makes a good case for the temple being 600 metres south of the Temple Mount, near the area of the Gihon Spring. He comes to this conclusion after getting an architect to draw the temple based on the descriptions of Josephus Flavius. The reconstruction based on the eyewitness account put the temple further south with the south-east corner going down into the Kidron Valley. He claims the temple mount is in fact part of Fort Antonia, thus the Wailing Wall is part of the fort and not of the temple.

Reconstruction of Herod's temple and Fort AntoniaIf Martin is correct, finds like this and future finds may challenge the ruling paradigm and the correct location of the temple can be acknowledged. And the Muslim claim to the Temple Mount should not prevent the rebuilding of the temple today. View an animation and commentary of the reconstruction here.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Freedom of man

Reading Calvinists I am not certain they always understand the opposing view. There are several things that need to be understood by Calvinists if they are to adequately interact with those who do not subscribe to the reformed view.

I myself have not read Calvin or a great deal of defence of Calvinism. I have however read a lot of material written by Calvinists, some of which covers questions of salvation and predestination. And my current Bible is a Reformation Study Bible.

An aside: I am somewhat concerned that "reformed" is synonymous with "Calvinism." Protestants in general trace theological ancestry back to the Reformation and many of them do not hold to a "reformed" view; but the term is well established. I actually object to Open View being called consistent Arminianism because it steals a term which already has meaning, and makes a judgment about deniers of Open View theology—that of inconsistency. Always be wary of those who frame debates in terms of manipulating language and the meanings of words!

Further, I have not studied up on Arminian theology, I just disagree with Calvinism so I think my ideas likely have an Arminian flavour.

Problems I have with Calvinist theology

  • I cannot see how God can cause something to happen directly and not be the source of it. Therefore I think that Calvinism makes God the author of sin. This is so contrary to what the Bible seems to teach that I cannot bide by it.
  • God repeatedly calls us to repent. The Bible is full of examples of God calling men to obey him and punishing men for disobedience. That God causes the disobedience that he so frequently rebukes men for just seems preposterous.
  • Other than a few verses (eg. Romans 9) the Bible does not seem to read in a Calvinist way.
  • Verses that seem to contradict Calvinism are given interpretations by Calvinists that seem to me to be unusual or bizarre.
  • A genetic fallacy I know—but it seems, from the little I know, that Calvin was influenced by Augustine who wrongly married aspects of Greek philosophy to Christianity.

How I see some Calvinists misunderstand non-Calvinists

We do not necessarily take the polar opposite to Calvinists.

Men are created in the image of God. They are also fallen. So they have many aspects in common with God but these aspects are frequently broken. They are broken beyond repair in that they can only be fixed by Christ, but they are not broken beyond recognition, nor use.

Take reason. Our ability to reason is because of God's image in us, but we make mistakes in our reason.
  • We may not follow logic completely
  • We accept false premises
  • We prefer to think reality conforms to our sinful nature
  • We will defend our sin rather than face it.
But also
  • We can follow some logical arguments
  • We accept some true premises (to a varying degree) even if we do not know Christ
  • Some men do realise that things are not all right with man
  • And, even if we are unwilling to see evil in ourselves, most see it to some degree in others.
Now it may well be God's sustaining power and work in our lives that allows us to do things while broken, but those thoughts remain ours, at least at the level of whether we choose to agree with God or disagree with him. That is, God is not forcing certain men to reject him, rather he is calling all, and all can respond, though not all choose to.

While God gives us much freedom, this does not mean we deny that God can override that freedom, at least in action; though he may prevent a thought or prevent a thought developing. Nor is deism true— God did not set up the world leaving us to do what we may, God is very actively involved in his creation. He responds to our prayers, he guides us, he gives us ideas, he speaks in dreams, visions and audibly at times. God is probably far more active in this world than most people appreciate.

But the key idea is that we have freedom of choice. While God has preferences for us we can choose to accept them or choose to rebel against them. We can oppose God. While God's ultimate will (final plan or thing that he has determined to happen) cannot be thwarted, we can surely rage against him.

God is able to bring good out of evil, even greater good than would have been had the evil not occurred, but that he does that is testimony to his goodness; to claim that God willed evil to bring about a greater good seems, to me, to be inconsistent with the nature of God.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Open View Theology

I have been wanting to make some comments since Vox started debating jamsco. To me it seems that the debate is covering several issues which are not always well defined. The question over whether God knows the future is discussed alongside free will and God's micromanagement of our lives.

These 2 issues actually create a trilemma. God either knows the future specifically or he does not. God either controls every aspect of our lives including all our thoughts and actions, or he does not. But the 2 issues can be held separately.

To avert confusion, by "God ordains" I mean everything that happens in the world, good and evil, thoughts and actions of all men, has its origin in God's will; ie. men do not really have their own will that can be at odds with God. By "knows the future" I mean the specific future, not all possible futures and not a general knowledge based on what he causes to eventuate.

The 4 options are
  1. God ordains everything and knows the future
  2. God ordains everything and does not know the future
  3. God does not ordain everything and knows the future
  4. God does not ordain everything and does not know the future
The above 4 options are really only 3. It seems to me that if God ordains every event then he knows the future pragmatically (brings about one specific future) even if theoretically he did not know it intrinsically.

I am not certain the micromanagement (predestination)/ freewill debate, which essentially the Calvinist/ Arminian debate, will be resolved easily. Though it is important for both sides to know the other side and understand it reasonably well. (I also think that the word predestination carries too much baggage to be used without clarification.)

Bible verses may support one's underlying philosophy, but one also uses his philosophy when reading Scripture in general, and therefore interprets passages as being consistent with that philosophy—even when that interpretation is more strained than other readings. Vox phrases the error well,
  1. Take a Bible verse
  2. Assign a possible meaning to it.
  3. Insist this is the ONLY possible meaning, even when the meaning doesn't make sense. (In this case, the problem is apparent a priori, but usually it is only evident when considered in context with other, contradictory verses.)
  4. Ignore all other plausible interpretations, especially more logical and Biblically supported ones.
In general terms one has to show that the Bible as a whole supports his theology.

At minimum show that a passage can only be interpreted in a specific way or that the other view contradicts Scripture*.

My position for the above options is 3. God does not micromanage everything but he does know the future specifically, nothing takes him by surprise. I will discuss both these options in future posts (God willing, I am not omniscient).

*A passage can only be interpreted in a specific way
  • P→Q
Example: Verse x means Calvinism.

The other view contradicts Scripture
  • R→S,
  • ~S→~R
Example: Open view implies y. Scripture says that y is not true (or the opposite of y is true) therefore open view is false.

What is unhelpful is using consistency which is non discriminatory
  • T→V
  • V→T
Which is logically unsound because U may also imply V. Example: Calvinism suggests z and Scripture says z. But Arminianism also suggests z!

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Happiness or truth?

Vox interviews atheist Jonathan Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis.

I think conservatives are right, there are certain things that are better off veiled. There are certain things better off not being exposed to the light. Now, to the scientist, that's a terrible thing to say and I'm not saying that science should necessarily stop. But I think if we respect and even revere our founders, if we have things that bind us together and make us proud of who we are and what our nation is, we're much better off than if we do all the careful historical research and then advertise the fact that our Founding Fathers all have warts and moral lapses.

If he believes this it is way scary! Now I don't necessarily place my pearls before swine, but he is essentially justifying "the end justifies the means" which he later condemns. Better to believe a lie for the sake of community? How far is that from better to lie to the community for its benefit that reveal the truth to its detriment? Historical revisionism and politics determining truth and all that evil.

Give me truth any day. I'd have warts over a unity of lies!

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Green religion

While this does not prove whether global warming is true or false, it is a sober warning about the diabolical nature of the environmental movement.
Because when Toni terminated her pregnancy, she did so in the firm belief she was helping to save the planet.

Incredibly, so determined was she that the terrible "mistake" of pregnancy should never happen again, that she begged the doctor who performed the abortion to sterilise her at the same time.

He refused, but Toni - who works for an environmental charity - "relentlessly hunted down a doctor who would perform the irreversible surgery. Finally, eight years ago, Toni got her way.

..."Having children is selfish. It's all about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet," says Toni, 35.

...And a woman like me, who is not having children in order to save the planet, is considered barking mad. "What I consider mad are those women who ferry their children short distances in gas-guzzling cars."

She is not alone.

"I realised then that a baby would pollute the planet - and that never having a child was the most environmentally friendly thing I could do."

..."I didn't want to have an 'accident' if contraception didn't work - we would be faced with the dilemma of whether to keep the baby."

...Mark adds: "Sarah and I live as green a life a possible. We don't have a car, cycle everywhere instead, and we never fly.

"We recycle, use low-energy light bulbs and eat only organic, locally produced food. "In short, we do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint. But all this would be undone if we had a child.

"That's why I had a vasectomy. It would be morally wrong for me to add to climate change and the destruction of Earth.
The first person has an abortion so as not to badly impact the planet. She is then sterilised so that she will never get pregnant again.

The second couple get sterilised because pregnancy would pose a dilemma, keep the child and damage the planet or have an abortion.

It is not for me to forbid these women sterilisation. I would also add that them not raising children is possibly a good thing (though raising children can challenge beliefs).

What is certain is that the conclusions of these people are a gross error. The error is obvious in that their conclusions contradict Scripture.
And 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." (Genesis 1)
Logically this means that their reasoning is errant or their premises are false. I am not certain what global false religion will develop—it will likely be one that contradicts Christianity as much Satan can convince men of—but I have wondered for a time whether the environmental movement will be a component of it. There is a suggestion of this in Romans:
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1)
The devotion these people have towards the environment is such that they are idolising the earth. Their worship or devotion is not toward God but the creation. It may appear a little more sophisticated than ancient nature religions, though it is just as wrong, and in reality possibly not a lot different for some of these people.

Stewardship of the earth is a command to man. But we are to use the resources to aid man while not causing detrimental pollution, we are not to worship nature for its own sake.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Time and eternity

While I have thought that eternity is outside time for sometime now, recently I was pondering the thought that time itself may be a subset of eternity. In fact it seems to me that this must be the case.

God always has been. There are several scriptures that mention this. And he always will be.
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: (Isaiah 57)

Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting! (Psalm 41)

Your throne is established from of old;
you are from everlasting. (Psalm 93)

Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God. (Genesis 21)

The eternal God is your dwelling place,
and underneath are the everlasting arms. (Deuteronomy 33)

For to us a child is born,to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder,and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9)

The sun shall be no more your light by day,nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the LORD will be your everlasting light,and your God will be your glory. (Isaiah 60)

But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. (Jeremiah 10)

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. (2 Peter 3)
The Bible uses words that have a temporal component, this is reasonable given that we dwell in time and conceiving anything outside time may well be impossible. Nonetheless, this does not necessarily imply just that time is and God has been forever. The first words of the Bible are:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
This presupposes there was a beginning. A time when time itself was created. Yet God was already there.

We can call this eternity. Not just forever past to forever future but beyond time.

Whether eternity is a time dimension is unknown, but whatever qualities it has (if it is any more that just the existence of God) time is surely a subset of it. In the same way that past present and future are all subsets of all time, time itself must be a subset of eternity, as eternity does not cease when time was created and therefore time exists in it.

An analogy to space can help. 1 dimension is a subset of 2 dimensions. 2 dimensions has a infinite number of single dimensions, but no 1 dimension is a preferential reference frame. Now one can define (read create) a primary reference frame for a line but the 2 dimensions do not cease to exist. Time as it now exists may have meant little or nothing in eternity until it was defined/ created.

I am not suggesting that eternity is 2 (or 3) dimensions of time. I am not suggesting that cause and effect are not real. Rather just the idea that while eternity is different to time, it may be different in that it is more than time, that it contains it.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Self opposite

I find it interesting that the same word can have opposite meanings. It just goes to show that it is context that determines meaning. I can think of 2 words in English.

Cleave: join together and separate
Chilli/chilly: hot and cold

Are there others?

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Has the year always been the same duration?

There are some writings that claim that the year was previously shorter than it is now. Some people have suggested the year has been 360 days long in the past. Velikovsky mentions a myth that says 5 days were taken from the moon and given to the sun. That is the previous lunar year was 12 × 30 (= 360) days and the old solar year was 360 days. The current lunar year is now 354 and a bit days, solar year 365 and a bit.

Some suggest that the year may have been even shorter prior to this.

If the year has been of different duration (measured in days) there are 2 options:
Scenario 1. The earth's spin was previously slower and has since speed up. Scenario 2. The earth's orbit was previously closer to the sun.

Of course it could be a combination of the 2.

Scenario 1
If the earth's spin was slightly slower and has speed up (presumably by a factor of ~365/360) then the absolute duration of the year is unchanged but more days pass in a year because the days are now shorter.

Scenario 2
If the day length is unchanged then a shorter year would be absolutely shorter, the duration of the year is related to the distance from the earth to the sun (and eccentricity of the orbit, though the earth's orbit is close to circular)

The month is currently 29.5 days long. Scenario 2 with an altered earth orbit would have a shorter year but the same duration of the month. Scenario 1 would have a longer old day of 24.35 hours (360/365.25×24) which would make the previous month seem shorter at 29 old days rather than the 29.5 days it currently is. Of course the orbit of the moon could have changed at the same time (or at another time). The asymmetrical cratering of the moon suggests catastrophe in the heavens.

An idea that came to me reading a footnote in the book In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown. I have not actually read the book so this may have been in the book, nevertheless I have not seen it previously: If the atmosphere pre-flood had a lot of water in it to precipitate (eg. vapour canopy theory), it would have some mass. After the flood the mass would now be at sea level, and by conservation of angular momentum, the earth would speed up, the amount depending on the height from which it precipitated. Consequently shortening the day and "lengthening" the year (in number of days).

It would be interesting to look into this in terms of the amount of water and the original height of the water. The mass may be completely insignificant and the change in spin speed inconsequential, but I haven't seen figures.

Of course any change in the earth's year may be unrelated to this and be all to do with the earth's interaction with the moon and other celestial phenomenon. Or the change in year length may have been at a different time than the flood: note Joshua's long day and Hezekiah's sundial. Or perhaps there was more than one episode.

Or course the duration of the day and the month may have been the same as the current figures since creation. It does make one wonder why the ancients had stories to the contrary though.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

That is your interpretation

It seems some people think the refrain, "That is just your interpretation," is legitimate. By implication they are saying that there are a multitude of interpretations and, further, that any particular one is as legitimate as another. While it is true that some statements can have more than one interpretation, there are many they cannot have.

I was contemplating a hymn I enjoy, Be thou my vision. The first 2 lines are:
Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Be all else but naught to me, save that thou art.
Consider the phrase, "Be all else but naught to me." What could it mean? If the word "be" refers to "Lord" of the preceding line the phrase stated unambiguously is
Lord be everything except nothing to me
If the word "be" refers to the "all else" which follows then the meaning would be
Everything be nothing to me
So this phrase can potentially have more than one meaning. Of course the phrase cannot mean
Lord, you mean nothing to me
however you parse it.

In this hymn there is only one meaning, the following clause limitis the options to the second interpretation—"save that thou art" makes sense with one idea but not the other. Despite the fact I like the poetic flavour of the first interpretation, it doesn't quite make sense:
Lord be everything except nothing to me, except you.
Whereas what is intended is:
Everything be nothing to me, except you (Lord)
There are not a multitude of interpretations for every statement, and not all possible interpretations have equal validity.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Friday, 2 November 2007

Commitment succeeds when feelings fail

Many of my readers likely read Vox Popoli more than they read here but in case you missed it this is worth repeating. CJ shares about his parents
My mom stayed with my dad after he left his six-figure job to hang out
with Absolut, Stoli, and Smirnoff around the time I was born. After ten
years of public embarassment, poverty, and one incident of abuse, he
dried himself out and got back to the person he had been before the
alcohol. They are the most sickeningly sweet 60+ year olds you'll ever

In my late teens, I asked her was it love that kept them together. She
said no, it wasn't love. That for a while she had stopped loving him
and prayed that God would let him die. So I asked why didn't she just
divorce him and her reply, which I'll never forget: "Because I don't
believe in divorce. Marriage isn't about love, it's about commitment.
Till death do you part means just what it says. If you can't handle
that, you shouldn't get married."

And now that my mom is suffering with cancer, with my dad waiting on
her hand and foot, she asked "are you sure you want to stay with me
through this?" His answer? "You stayed during my drinking didn't you?"

That's commitment.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Comments on the emerging church

A good friend has started attending an emerging church which has led us into conversation about it. I have read some about it but not extensively and no books by any of its more well known proponents.

From early on I have had some caution about the movement but I have found it difficult to critique. I now realise that this is because I could never find a set of beliefs to interact with. The fact that there does not seem to be given beliefs makes me uneasy. This post gives a helpful distinction between hard and soft postmodernism within the emerging church.

Now I am aware that Jesus rewards us according to our love for him and our neighbours, and our obedience; not our knowledge. I do not intend to be divisive solely because of variant beliefs. Nor do I think that salvation is about right beliefs (it is about who we follow), but right belief is important in that right behaviour is more likely to follow from right belief than wrong belief (though it is no guarantee of it).

Beliefs can be important in at least 2 ways. They are important in terms of how foundational they are to Christianity. They are also important in terms of how much weight we put on them.

A person can claim a particular theological issue is peripheral. It either is or it is not. If it is peripheral it may be dealt with in such depth and regularity it becomes important.

Consider tithing 10% of one's income. If a Christian thought men should tithe, that tithing is a major issue, and he frequently thought about it, or he taught on it regularly and influenced others about it; then it is important for him to have correct belief because of how much of an issue it is in his life or because others are affected by his influence; even if tithing intrinsically is a lesser doctrine.

The emerging church emphasises minimising our differences. This minimisation and not insisting our beliefs are true supposedly leads to unity and away from judgment and divisiveness.

I agree that Christians can be too judgmental. This is a problem of men because of sin, not because of truth. I can know the truth and speak the truth in love or in hate. And interestingly, if I hold my ideas with conviction, I can be judged as being divisive by those who claim not to judge! Kind of like "tolerant" men being intolerant of intolerance.

The anti-judgment claim allows the more liberal view to inappropriately claim the moral high ground. If one group claims God allows something and another that God forbids it, the group claiming freedom may blame the banning group for being divisive. However this is only the case if they are indeed correct, in which case the other group may be being divisive. If the freedom group are actually incorrect then they are encouraging sin; they are
ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4)
So the issue is not about how inclusive we are, it is about what is true. In fact Jude states that divisive men are not the men who are emphasising truth, rather the ungodly:
"... In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions." It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. (Jude 1:18-19)
I think the solution to excessive judgment is not so much a focus on inclusion, but a reminder that we all stand before Christ and it is he who judges. I actually think Jesus is quite confrontational; he intends to divide based on truth and error. We are for Jesus or against him. More so, he does not let us stay as we are but changes us to be conformed to his will. And, whether we like it or not, God does, at time, use men in this process. (We should therefore be careful in how we do God's will, and be certain it is God's agenda and not our own we seek).

So my advice to my friend was: Enjoy your new friends and encourage them in their love for Jesus but stay very grounded in Scripture.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Saved by a nose

Currently I am doing devotions with my daughters following thru a children's devotional book. It referenced the fact that Jesus is God's promised saviour unlike Buddha or Muhammed. To which my eldest daughter (9) asked, "Who is Booger?"

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Afflicted 400 years

I have been revisiting the Egyptian sojourn in some recent correspondence. It raised the possibility of another option I had not previously considered.
Then the LORD said to Abram, "Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for 400 years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete." (Genesis 15)
I wondered if the "for 400 years" could be read "until 400 years" giving the translation:
Then the LORD said to Abram, "Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted until 400 years (from now).
I would appreciate thoughts from anyone who can read Hebrew.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Does one need always tell the truth?

My general view has been that there is a hierarchy of absolutes, so if one is faced with doing one or other of 2 usually wrong actions he needs to decide what is the right thing to do. If we are faced with a genuine conflict of morality, we are to choose that which conforms to loving God and loving our neighbour.

That being said I cannot think of a situation where murder would ever be the eumoral choice; of course murder is not the same as killing and if killing is ever justified then the killing is unlikely to come under the definition of murder.

With lying it is more complex. I personally think that Rahab did the right thing with the spies and the authorities of Jericho. Although previously I would have classified this under graded absolutism (ie. hierarchy of absolutes as above) my more recent thoughts have been that I think it depends on whether you are voluntarily giving information or you are being forced to.

If you are trying to convince someone of what you believe, or in general share your thoughts, you are morally obligated to tell the truth. But if others demand information that you do not desire to give them the situation is not the same. If someone is forcing you into a position of sharing information I wonder if that removes any obligation to tell the truth. I am not aware biblically that one is morally required to give information to someone they do not wish to. So being vague or evasive is not necessarily morally wrong, one has to weigh up the consequences of sharing that information. And if sharing that information causes damage to others (Nazi's looking for Jews) then love of one's neighbour may dictate that lying is justified.

We have liberty to our opinions and what we do with them, if someone tries to remove that liberty (eg. by forcing information out of us) we are released from any moral obligation in our answers. Further, if people misunderstand what we are saying when we do not wish them party to our information we are under no obligation to correct that misbelief.

However, God is not happy if we choose to keep our mouths shut in order to allow the miscarriage of justice.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

The postdiluvian patriarchs

Only the age at the birth of the son and the remaining years are mentioned for the postdiluvian patriarchs. The age at which they died can easily be calculated. Again the figures vary depending on the texttype.

Texttype Masoretic Septuagint Samaritan
Name Son Years Died Son Years Died Son Years Died
950 502 448 950 502 448 950
Shem 100 500 600 100 500 600 100 500 600
35 403 438 135 430 565 135 303 438
30 403 433 130 330 460 130 303 433
34 430 464 134 370 504 134 270 404
30 209 239 130 209 339 130 109 239
32 207 239 132 207 339 132 107 239
30 200 230 130 200
330 130 100 230
Nahor 29 119 148 79 129 208 79 69 148
Terah 70 135 205 70 135 205 70 75 145

The figures for Terah are to his first son. Genesis 12 and Acts 7 imply that Abram was 75 at Terah's death and therefore Terah was 130 when Abram was born, so the year in which Abram was born is 75 years prior to Terah's death.

So we can calculate the year of the flood, the year in which Abram was born and the time elapsed.

Texttype Masoretic Septuagint Samaritan
Period Flood Gap Abram Flood Gap Abram Flood Gap Abram

1656 352

Again I prefer the Masoretic. There seems to be a rationale for lengthening the times so as to make one's culture ancient, but to shorten the timeframe would seem unlikely. As there is no summary age as there is in Genesis 5, the fact of the systematic change in Genesis 5 and the frequent difference of 100 years suggests this was conscious, not accidental.

If the Masoretic is original, then the Samaritan has added years till the year of the first child but subtracted them for the remaining years leaving the total calculated age the same even though this is not given in Scripture. The exceptions being Eber and Nahor. The interesting thing about Eber is that the age after the son was born is 100 years less than the Septuagint. Was there are further Hebrew text which gave 370 years to Eber after his son was born?

Explaining the derivation of the Septuagint is difficult. Arphaxad, Salah and Eber don't appear to derive from the Masoretic at all. A smoothing effect (so that the ages drop off steadily from 900 years) is not clearly apparent and is an inadequate explanation.

If the Masoretic is correct we have the situation where Abram potentially could have known his ancestors. Abram was born in 2008 AM. Note the year of death.

Name BirthDeath
1056 2006
Shem 1558 2158
Arphaxad 1658 2096
Shelah 1693 2126
Eber 1723 2187
Peleg 1757 1996
Reu 1787 2026
Serug 1819 2049
Nahor 1849 1997
Terah 1878 2083
Abram 2008 2183

Of Abram's 10 ancestors following the Flood, 7 of them were alive at his birth. Noah died 2 years before Abram was born. And Peleg and Nahor also died prior to his birth. The others were all alive. Shem, who had seen the Flood, only died 25 years before Abram, Abram would have been 150 years old and Isaac 50. Eber, from whom the Hebrews derive their name, outlived Abram!

Monday, 8 October 2007

Physics is descriptive not prescriptive

It is important to remember the laws of physics come from observations. We observe regular patterns and attempt to come up with mathematical models that explain the data and predict related phenomena. The predictive component is validates the model, it suggests that the model is more likely to represent reality. Explaining anomalous data is less impressive because models can usually be adjusted to fit. Models with simple equations, symmetry and covering more fields are generally favoured.

Kepler and Newton came up with orbital equations and gravitational theory that explained the movement of the the planets. Using gravitational laws we can predict the movements of the moon around the earth to great accuracy.

But the moon does not orbit the earth because of these equations, the moon orbits the earth and these equations describe the movements.

God set up the universe to function how it does. But God also sustains it, this means that it is not wound up and would run without him, if God removed his sustaining power the universe would instantly cease to exist. Anti-theists complain that this means we cannot do science, that we are at the whim of a God. Well we are dependant on him, but that does not mean that the universe is irregular and unpredictable. Leaving aside the fact that an atheist view of the universe gives us no reason to even trust our senses, if God is not capricious, then we can rely on his usual providence. We can therefore examine the universe with an assumption of a constant God who set up the world with a high degree of predictability.

This predictability has been known by all cultures and predates the scientific method—the scientific method gives a tool to gain underlying knowledge and make predictions based on models. As the earliest scientists said, they were thinking God's thoughts after him. Isaac Newton stated,
This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being.
Because God sustains the universe he can manipulate it at his will. Not that he necessarily does this on frequent basis. This intervention we refer to as (specific) providence if God's hand guides specific events according to his will, or even at our request; we refer to it as miracle if it involves the overriding of physical law. Both the general upholding of the universe and a specific change to how the world usually operates are of equal ease for him. If God can stretch out the fabric of space then the multiplying of loaves and fish is of little difficulty.

That is why science is unable to disprove miracles. Miracles are not within the domain of operational science. Miracles are God's specific activity, not his general activity. We cannot observe regularity in miracles to formulate physical law. However they are provable, just via another method: testimony. Proof of miracles is via witnesses.

Miracle is also proof of the supernatural. Science can say the the world operates "like so" under the normal scheme of things. Observations that contradict what we know may be due to miracle and science can say nothing against it—science does not describe specific providence, only the general. Dead men do not come back to life according to biological science, but there is nothing to prevent God doing this in a specific case if he so wishes.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

The antediluvian patriarchs

The ages the patriarchs had their sons and their age at death differs according to the various text types. Most English Bibles use the Masoretic figures.

Texttype Masoretic Septuagint Samaritan
Name Son Years Died Son Years Died Son Years Died
Adam 130 800 930 230 700 930 130 800 930
Seth 105 807 912 205 707 912 105 807 912
Enosh 90 815 905 190 715 905 90 815 905
Kenan 70 840 910 170 740 910 70 840 910
Mahalaleel 65 830 895 165 730 895 65 830 895
Jared 162 800 962 162 800 962 62 785 847
Enoch 65 300 365 165 200 365 65 300 365
Methuselah 187 782 969 167 802 969 67 653 720
Lamech 182 595 777 188 565 753 53 600 653
Noah 500 450 950 500 450 950 500 450 950

Noah was 500 when he became the father of Japheth. Genesis 7 tells us that Noah was 600 when the Flood came. This would make the date of the Flood according to the various texttypes:
  • 1656 AM, Masoretic
  • 2242 AM, Septuagint
  • 1307 AM, Samaritan
So which is correct?

The corrupt texts have been deliberately changed. This is obvious because in Genesis 5 the age of fathering the son, the remaining years and the total age is given. As the first 2 figures sum to the 3rd an error in one of the figures would lead to an incorrect sum yet in all texttypes all figures add up. Josephus gives different figures again though they are similar to the Septuagint. I have not seen figures for the Dead Sea Scrolls, I do not know whether there are any manuscripts of the early chapters of Genesis found. It would be interesting to know as some Dead Sea Scrolls preserve in Hebrew a more Septuagint texttype.

One thing that points away from the Septuagint is that by its chronology Methuselah outlives the Flood which is not possible. If the meaning of Methselah is "when he dies it shall be sent," then this points to the accuracy of the Masoretic and the Samaritan which both have Methuselah's death in the year of the Deluge.

A further possible argument against the Septuagint is that is was translated perhaps 250 BC. Many cultures claimed antiquity for themselves. There may have been a desire to lengthen Hebrew history, either to make claims for priority, or to allow time to accommodate the claims of other cultures; it would not do to have Yahweh creating the earth many years after Egypt was founded. Egyptian history is not as old as is sometimes claimed, it postdates the Flood which leaves even less time for it to develop, but this is a possible argument for the translators changing the figures in Genesis 5 and 11. Interestingly the age at fatherhood for the Septuagint is exactly 100 years greater than the Masoretic for most men. Setterfield suggests a mark for 100 has been omitted in the switch from paleo-Hebrew glyphs to the square Hebrew (Setterfield favours the Septuagint as being original as did many church fathers). I am not convinced this is an adequate explanation as there is a loss of 100 years for the years they lived after fathering the relevant descendant: a deliberate change in whichever texttype is errant.

This does raise an interesting point though, how old was Jared when Enoch was born? If the Masoretic is original and the Septugint routinely added 100 years (except for Noah for other reasons) why not make Jared 262? Is the Samaritan correct here? Was 262 seen as just too old? Noah was 500. Does the Samaritan decrease the age in line with the surrounding patriarchs? But why would a culture want to minimise its ancestry? And if we decide to follow the Samaritan then both Methuselah and Lamech die in the year of the Flood. Possible but it does seem a little convenient.

The fact that the first 2 figures add up to the third in all versions (corrupt and original) is evidence that the men changing the ages in translation understood the chronology to be airtight, there are no gaps.

Though I think the Septuagint is underrated in current English translations, I tend towards the Masoretic figures in Genesis 5. I have no desire to make the world any older or shorter than it is. Claims of cultural antiquity no longer bother me, all cultures must post date the Flood and even using the Septuagint leaves one at odds with secular dating for many post-Flood artefacts. And good arguments can be made for shortening many chronologies.

There is a place for looking for common themes amongst the varying figures. The problem is that the corrupt figures are not accidental, they are deliberate, and deducing the original is that much harder. It is not the case that a misread letter explains variant readings. The most similarities can do is fix ages for specific men. The only agreement for the antediluvian patriarchs across all 3 texttypes is that of Noah.

It would be wonderful to find a manuscript in paleo-Hebrew. It may help point us toward the original.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus?

The pharaoh who was in power when Moses fled Egypt died (Exodus 2:23). A subsequent pharaoh, perhaps the next, continued to oppress the Hebrews. Moses returned to Egypt c. 2513 AM. Moses appeared before Pharoah with a sign of a staff turning into a snake. This pharaoh had 2 magicians named Jannes and Jambres (2 Timothy 3).

God sent 10 plagues over several months. They were the plagues of blood, frogs, gnats, flies, pestilence on the livestock, boils, thunder/ hail/ fire, locusts, darkness, and death of firstborn. The death of the firstborn was on the 13th or 14th of Nisan in the year 2514 AM.

~2,000,000 Hebrews and Egyptians left Egypt from Rameses and Sukkoth. They went thru the wilderness to Etham on the edge of the desert then to Pi-hahiroth. Pharaoh with his army caught up to them there at which point the Hebrews crossed the Red Sea but the pursuing army, including Pharaoh, drowned in the Red Sea.

Some of the places may prove difficult to identify but there is plenty of information given to help us identify the pharaoh. There are several catastophes which befell Egypt that there may be records of. Pharaoh died in the Red Sea and therefore his body was not mummified. His eldest son died so did not ascend the throne. It is possible that this pharaoh was the last in his family line. Egypt was also without an army for sometime.

Several persons have variably identified the pharaoh of the Exodus based on the biblical data. Some correlate the plagues to verses in the Ipuwer Papyrus, this may be so though the main theme of the poem seems to be a reversal of social order.

Various identities for this pharaoh are:

Neferhotep I
This identity is made by David Down. Neferhotep is a pharaoh of the 13th dynasty. The chronology of the 13th dynasty is difficult to untangle. Down places him as the last pharaoh of this dynasty before the Intermediate Period dominated by the Hyksos whom he identifies with the Amalekites as per Velikovsky who first proposed this. Neferhotep's corpse has not been identified.

This is the proposal by Immanuel Velikovsky. I am unable to identify him further though Velikovsky places him at the end of the middle kingdom which would be about the 13th dynasty.

Which in Greek would be Cencheres. Donovan Courville identifies a 13th dynasty pharaoh by this name. Neferhotep is also known by his throne name Khasekhemre and his brother Sobekhotep IV has the throne name Khaneferre; both names having some resemblance. Courville suggests that Brugsch identified Ka-Ankh-Re as Sobekhotep IV (or V). Charles Taylor agrees with Courville on KaAnkh-Re being the pharaoh of the Exodus.

Amenemhat IV
Alan Montogomery suggests that this is the pharaoh of the Exodus. Amenemhat was earlier than Neferhotep, the former belonging to the 12th dynasty, though possibly not by many years (< 100).

? Menrenre Nemtyemsaf II
Bruce Alan Killian suggests that the long reign of Pepe II corresponds to the birth and life of Moses for the first 80 years. He suggests that Pepe's successor was the pharaoh who pursued the Hebrews and died in the Red Sea. He does not mention the pharaoh by name so Nemtyemsaf is my guess. Pepe II reigned during the 6th dynasty.

Dudimose I
Or Tutimaeus. This is suggested by Barry Setterfield based on Manetho who gives this pharaoh as the last one before the invasion of the Hyksos. Again the relationship to the other pharaohs is not immediately apparent because of the messy state of affairs with ancient Egyptian chronology and the multiplicity of names. Setterfield states Dudimose comes after Khaneferre whom he places at the time when Moses flees Egypt.

Amenhotep II
Curt Sewell proposes this pharaoh of the 18th dynasty. This is consistent with his identification of Moses adoptive mother as Hatshepsut, also of the 18th dynasty. My difficulty with this is Amenhotep's body has been identified. Sewell claims that while the army is at the bottom of the Red Sea, the pharaoh did not follow them in and thus survived. While Exodus does not specifically state that pharaoh dies (though it is a reasonable inference), Psalm 136 does.

There have been multiple attempts at identifying the pharaoh of the Exodus. I have surveyed a few who take the biblical record seriously. We know that there were 10 plagues in the months prior to the Exodus and the Egyptian economy was devastated; there was a mass exodus of slaves and some of the natives from Egypt; and Pharaoh and his army drowned in the Rea Sea. I think that the identification of Sewell contradicts a scriptural passage, as mentioned above, which leaves the identities proposed as being the later kings on the 13th dynasty except Montogomery who suggests the 12 dynasty and Killian the 6th. The 12th and 13th dynasties were closely aligned and the 13th may not have lasted very long. The documentation of the 13th dynasty is in shambles which would not be unexpected if it ended in such disaster. Interestingly, Courville claims dynasties 6 and 12 were concurrent. While these chronologists are not independent, a not unreasonable inerrantist identification of the pharaoh of the Exodus is a late or final pharaoh of what is commonly identified as the 13th dynasty.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Character Deficiency Syndrome

An interesting article that I have read recently is Character Deficiency Syndrome by Garry D. Nation. He states that the Bible translates 4 different words as fool into English and that these different words describe different, and likely progressive stages, of foolishness. The words are pethi which he calls a naive fool; kesil which he calls the self-confident fool, though I prefer cocky fool; 'evil which he calls the committed fool, though there is also the word nabal which describes a full blown version of that person; and luts which he calls the scornful fool, though I prefer mocker or mocking fool. His descriptions are:
  1. The first degree is the Simple or Naive Fool, who is unthinking, gullible. He lacks the most basic understanding of moral cause and effect.

  2. The second degree is the Self-Confident Fool. He is known by his stubbornness, and by his big mouth.

  3. The third degree is the Committed Fool, who has decisively rejected wisdom, and instead pledged his allegiance to destructive ideas and behaviors.

  4. The fourth degree or terminal stage of Character Deficiency Syndrome is reached by the Scornful Fool, a mocker who is openly contemptuous of spiritual truth and moral righteousness.
The cocky fool is not amenable to reason:
Proverbs 26, verses 4 and 5, back to back proverbs, seem to contradict each other. "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. / Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit." The contradiction isn't in the Scripture, it's in the fool! One is compelled to reply to his aggravating foolishness, yet it's pointless to do so. You never get anywhere talking to him.
Of the mocker Nation writes,
Other fools may be abominations to God, but the Scorner is even an abomination to men! The Bible expends few words describing such a one. It simply warns the wise believer to stay away from him. ...[he] does serve one civic purpose: he provides an object lesson.
Well worth a read.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Reconciling the talion

We read in the Law of Moses about punishment for crime which causes permanent injury. The law states that the same injury the offender has caused should be meted out to him.
"When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman's husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. (Exodus 21:22-25)
"Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death. Whoever takes an animal's life shall make it good, life for life. If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him. (Leviticus 24:17-20)
Further, even if a person intends to cause injury by false accusation they are to punished in the way they intended to harm.
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. (Deuteronomy 19:16-21)
How is this reconciled with Jesus' teaching? Jesus' views on the inerrancy of Scripture are clear. In commenting on the law he preludes his statements with:
"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. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew5:17-20)
Then he discusses anger/ murder, lust/ adultery, divorce, making oaths, talion, and loving your enemy.

The introduction to each topic is:
  • "You have heard that it was said to those of old,..."
    • for anger and taking oaths
  • "You have heard that it was said,..."
    • for lust, talion, and love
  • "It was also said,..."
    • for divorce, though this is relating to the discussion on adultery.
In mentioning "those of old" Jesus is obviously referring to the Hebrews receiving the Mosaic Law. Although Jesus doesn't say "to those of old" for 3 of them (lust, talion, love), the context suggests he is still referring to the Law. As mentioned the divorce commentary is tied into the lust/ adultery commentary so is not a separate discussion. The Old Testament references are:
  • Murder
    • Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17
  • Adultery
    • Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:14 and Deuteronomy 5:18
  • Divorce
    • Deuteronomy 24:1
  • Making oaths
    • Numbers 30:2
  • Talion
    • passages mentioned above
  • Loving your neighbour
    • Leviticus 19:18
The Old Testament does not have a direct parallel command to hate one's enemies. It may have been (incorrectly) surmised from the Leviticus passage, though there are commands for Israel to fight her enemies. If the idea of hating one's enemies had been incorrectly surmised by many Jews then Jesus is correcting this wrong belief.

However the talion is clearly taught in the Law yet 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. (Matthew 5:38-39)
How do we reconcile these passages? Jesus' says, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets" which precludes a resolution that denies the truthfulness of Scripture.

There are at least 3 solutions to this issue, though all may come into play.

The first is that the laws were a limit on punishment. While it may have been appropriate to invoke a judgment that matched the crime, it also limited judgment. It disallows punishments that were excessive, and likely common at the time in other cultures. It rejects the possibility of a sentence of hand amputation for stealing. A man cannot be executed for breaking another's arm. It forced justice to be just.

Second, it may be that this law is for the government and people were applying it personally. What God allows the state to do may frequently be very different to the responsibility of individuals—this concept needs expanding at another time. So the talion may have been a commandment to judges that they may judge justly and men were (wrongly) applying the principle individually. This allows a judge to sentence in this way but prevents individuals from vigilante justice. Jesus was, in effect, saying not to seek one's own justice. If Jesus is saying this here, this message is very consistent with Old Testament teaching: seek justice for others and let God fight for you. We see examples of this in the life of David where he refused to take what would become his but waited for God to give it to him.

A third possibility is that Jesus was calling for a higher way. It is not that justice is wrong, God is very just; rather that mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2). Jesus is saying that forgiveness is greater than vengeance. And this is the message of the gospel: that we owe God a debt we cannot pay but he forgives us if we come to him and ask him to. If we don't, judgment is all that remains possible. We are not to respond like God in the area of judgment as we are still in the era where God is seeking men. We are part of that activity of God and therefore must act in love. If men reject it, punishment will come, but we are to leave that part to God.

So 2 seemingly disparate passages are in fact complementary. We can reject difficult passages as being too hard, we can reject God claiming his Word errs, or we can seek to understand what initially appears contradictory and come to a greater understanding of the ways of God.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11)
While I have attempted to reconcile the issue, I have not really explained what turning the other cheek means; that may prove more difficult.


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