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.

Friday 21 September 2007

Pharaohs of the Bible

There several Pharaohs mentioned in the Bible. Many are unnamed and overlaps are not always certain. For example was the Pharaoh who spoke to Joseph at his father's death the same one who had the dreams? There are also at least 4 women of royal blood; the princess who adopted Moses, the princess Bithiah who married Mered, the princess who married Solomon, and (the) Queen (of) Sheba.

Correlating the biblical mentions with the Egyptian records is difficult for several reasons. The Pharaohs having several names and the difficulty in translating these names is one of them. But the main difficulty comes from incorrect synchronisms. If dates are held more tightly than events, then poor correspondences will be accepted and strong ones resisted. Conversely, if the persons and events are reviewed closely then we may have to play more freely with the dates. Obviously if events match the dates actually do match, it is just that the dates are not those that are commonly held.

The Flood occurred in 1656 anno mundi (AM, year of the world). The early Egyptians are descendants of Mizraim (Mizraim is the Hebrew for Egypt). Mizraim was a son of Ham. Mizraim or his early descendants established Egypt. The ancient kingdom of Egypt postdates the Flood and probably postdates Babel. Establishing the time of Babel is more elusive. If the reference to Peleg corresponds to the Babel event, it possibly occurred shortly before or around the time of Peleg's birth (1757 AM), certainly before his death (1996 AM).

If we take Peleg's birth as the earliest reasonable time for the establishment of Egypt then Mizraim, born after the flood, would have been less than 100 years old. The dynasties of Egypt cannot predate this year. 1757 AM is c. 2200 BC (my reckoning). The first Pharaoh of Egypt, Menes, conventionally dated c.3000 BC, actually started his reign nearly 1000 years later.

Sunday 16 September 2007

Reasons that Genesis 1 means a literal 6 days

Firstly I have a question for those who deny the days are literal: "If God decided to make the world in 6 days, how would he convey this so we would not misunderstand him?" I mean, if God did take 6 days, there is nothing he could say more than what already is in Genesis 1 to convince us. Whatever further details that could be written would be explained away by those who disagree just like they do now. If the days were not intended to be read as literal the wording used in Genesis seems an unusual choice, and there are plenty of ways in Hebrew to say otherwise.

Several reasons why I think the days in Genesis 1 are of 24 hour duration:
  1. Style is narrative. This is clear from just reading it, but technical analysis concurs.

  2. The word "day" is prefixed by a number. This always means a literal day elsewhere in Scripture. Some questions of interpretation of day with a number is raised when the passage is prophetic.

  3. The word "day" is prefixed by the phrase "there was evening and there was morning," a phrase that is also used for a literal day. Again, some dispute around prophetic usage.

  4. The first day also mentions the day was divided into daytime and nighttime according to whether it was light or dark.
    And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day(time)," and the darkness he called "night(time)." And there was evening and there was morning, one day. (Genesis 1:3-5)
  5. Comparison is made to creation when God commanded the Israelites to rest on the Sabbath. God said,
    Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 6 days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the 7th day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in 6 days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the 7th day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20)
    The reason this parallel is exact is because the word day is used. One can have a Sabbath of other time periods, usually years (Exodus 23, 2 Chronicles 36), but no comment is made about those periods being the same as the creation periods, ie. days.

    In fact the existence of the week is a strong pointer to the literalism of Genesis 1. Day, month and year all have astronomical events that define them. Other time divisions are clearly a division or multiplication of these 3 fundamental periods. Decade and century from the decimal numerical scheme; seconds, minutes and hours from the sexagesimal scheme. The week is clearly a period based on days that has no logical explanation other than divine decree.
The first day is particularly instructive because, in a way, it is acting as a definition. Not only is it literal because of the mention of a number and evening and morning, the day is defined based on a period of daylight followed by darkness.

For those who deny the days are 24 hours this needs explaining. And it is likely the proposed hermeneutic will be invoked because of a prior, extra-biblical commitment to an ancient earth.

Friday 7 September 2007

Who and why not how and when. Really?

A comment so frequent it would be difficult to attribute a source is:
Genesis 1 tells the creation story in terms of who and why not how and when.
Like many cliches it sounds pithy but on closer inspection lacks substance. The statement is analysing the first chapter of the Bible from the viewpoint of who, why, how and when. It is useful to read the chapter with these questions in mind.

The repeated use of the word God thru out the chapter certainly supports the observation that Genesis 1 tells us who created.

What about the "why"? I can see very little in the first chapter that tells us why God created the universe. That he did, yes; but his motivation for doing so, no. We are informed that the stellar objects are for light and time keeping and the vegetation is for food; so there is a "why" for creation in terms of man's relationship with them, but the reason for making man? In fact it is difficult to find much in the Bible that tells us why God created us. A explanation would be that he is love and created creatures, including man, to offer love as a gift. While that is likely true, it is an indirect teaching of Scripture and is not obvious in Genesis 1.

Does Genesis 1 tell us how God created? Only in a limited form. That all started from the deep (water) and hence possibly some creations were made from water; that space was created by separating the waters; in terms of land and seas being gathered together which may have some implications for geology. Genesis 2 gives information on the "how" of man. Male was made from dust and God's breath, which may have some theological implications but less certain scientific ones; and female from male, again for theological reasons: in order to teach us about marriage. While some "how" information may be garnered from the chapter, it is not a primary teaching.

Which leaves the "when". The term "when" in the phrase above is used to mean that Genesis 1 does not give us chronological information. So strictly the "when" is not given in the first chapter, it is from later chapters in Genesis and elsewhere in Scripture. But that Genesis 1 gives chronological information is certain. The chapter repeatedly uses statements that give a chronological flow.

Therefore if someone subscribes to a hermeneutic that doesn't agree with Genesis 1 describing 6 literal days, it is unreasonable to disparage those who think it does.

So the quote may be better rephrased:
Genesis 1 tells the creation story in terms of who and when but gives little information on how and why.

Sunday 2 September 2007

Random quote

What happens if I'm not arrogant, what if I am better than everybody else?


Saturday 1 September 2007

Orthodoxy or orthopraxy?

Flipside asks,
Do you think that in US/Western churches today we focus too much on knowing scripture in the intellectual sense, and not enough on living it? If we did not explicitly say that we are Christians to our friends and acquaintances, would they make the same observation of us as the people at Antioch did - Namely that we are like Jesus!
So, is right behaviour more important than right belief?

In drawing men to Christ a love of Christians for their brethren is attractive to those on the outside; they see our love for one another and that testifies to the love of God. As Jesus prayed,
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17)
There is also a place for telling the truth. Demolishing arguments and explaining the truth to unbelievers. In Athens Paul reasoned in the Areopagus and some believed (Acts 17).

So both our behaviour (love for each other) and our reasoning (explaining the truth) are important in attracting men to Christ.

But what in our own lives? How do we please God (though that may also influence others around us)? We are to please God first, even if unbelievers find this unattractive; we are the smell of Christ, fragrant to the elect and a stench to the rebellious.
For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. (2 Corinthians 2)
In our pleasing God it is right behaviour which is important. Jesus frequently states that those who love him will obey his commandments (John 14). We must obey him even when we struggle to understand him. In contrast it is possible to have right belief but not live it, or at least try to live it. Teaching people the truth but refusing to live it is hypocrisy; a practice Jesus frequently condemned. Orthopraxy triumphs orthodoxy.

An aside, doing the right thing when you think it is wrong is not recommended. For example eating food that has previously been offered to idols means nothing intrinsically as there is only one true God (1 Corinthians 8, 10). But if you have qualms about it you should avoid it. Eating food when you think the act offends God is an offence against him.

So why the huge emphasis on orthodoxy? Because belief and behaviour cannot easily be separated. Belief does actually lead to behaviour. Wrong belief frequently leads to wrong behaviour. So while one is to obey God, thinking you are doing God's will when in fact you are not is not obedience. Sincerity, while of some value, does not excuse sin. This is why we must continually return to Scripture. We must renew our minds to be conformed to be like Christ as well as obey him as he asks of us.
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.
There is a further benefit of learning truth: it becomes our default thought pattern. So when we face difficulties that challenge our emotions the struggle doesn't automatically cause a crisis of faith. Expecting suffering because we are told it will come may not make suffering any easier. It is, however, more likely to encourage us to ask God's help in our pain and less likely to see us asking questions like, "Is God real?" or "Does God love me?"


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