Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part Three

One of the blogs I have begun following, entitled “hessianwithteeth” (HWT), has posted a series of articles entitled “Why I Can’t Agree with the Bible“. These articles basically list questions that the author has as she reads through the Bible, starting with Genesis. I will now attempt to answer some of the questions she has from the book of Genesis, using the criteria set forth in my introductory article.

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Questions? We all have them.

Previous articles in this series:

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part Two

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part One

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Introduction

We go back to the nakedness being evil thing again when Ham, Noah’s son, sees Noah naked. So Noah curses Ham’s son Canaan (oh look, the Hebrew Canaanites) for Ham seeing him naked, and he praises his son Shem for covering him (though both of Ham’s brothers apparently covered him, so why did only one get praised?). How does Noah know what has happened to him since he seemed to immediately wake up and curse Canaan? Why is Ham seeing him naked (by accident) so bad that Noah curses his own grandson as punishment? Why does he curse Canaan instead of Ham?

 Unfortunately I do not have a whole lot of light to shed on this particular subject. However, I find myself in good company, as the research I’ve done and the questions I’ve asked have borne little fruit.  I will tackle these questions one by one and answer them as best I can.

HWT: “[Shem and Japheth] apparently covered him, so why did only one get praised?”

Actually, they were both praised (or, more accurately, blessed).

And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. (Gen 9:26-27)

HWT: “How does Noah know what has happened to him since he seemed to immediately wake up and curse Canaan?”

This is a good question, and the text does not reveal the answer overtly. It could be that by “awakened” the author is saying he sobered up from being drunk, and remembered what happened while he was drunk. Or, alternatively, his wife or other children may have informed him of what happened. These seem to be the simplest and most parsimonious answers.

HWT: “Why is Ham seeing him naked (by accident) so bad that Noah curses his own grandson as punishment?”

Here, you have made an assumption that is not contained within the text, i.e. “by accident.”

And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. (Gen 9:22)

Now granted, it doesn’t say it was on purpose either. However, because of the severity of the punishment, I am inclined to think it was more than an accidental peek. However, exactly what happened is definitely the $64 question. There are many hypotheses ranging from Ham castrating Noah to Ham sleeping with Noah’s wife (Ham’s mother). While I would call the castration hypothesis hogwash, at least the infidelity with Noah’s wife has some merit based on a phrase used later in the giving of the law.

Lev 18:8 The nakedness of thy father’s wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father’s nakedness.

Lev 20:11 And the man that lieth with his father’s wife hath uncovered his father’s nakedness…

In the light of these verses it is plausible that Ham at least purposely saw his mother in a compromising position and that possibly more occurred than just his viewing of her. It would also explain why Shem and Japheth backed into the tent to cover up their mother, when that measure seemingly wouldn’t be absolutely necessary were it just their father who was in need of covering. At any rate, it would seem from the result (Noah’s cursing of Canaan) that the cause was more than an innocent viewing of Noah in a compromising position.

HWT: “Why does he curse Canaan instead of Ham?”

This is another mystery. Some have posited that Canaan was involved in the transgression in some way, but the text simply doesn’t give any indication to that effect. At this juncture, speculation could indeed run rampant, but given the lack of evidence in this account and the lack of further details later in the revelation, I think it is quite appropriate to say “I don’t know.”

I do have a counter question for you, however. When I initially asked you to narrow down the focus of your questions, and you said “These are the questions that I am most interested in having answered”, why did you choose these, in particular?

This passage and those like it are examples of the brutal honesty of the Bible. Noah was as much a hero as any man could ever hope to be. I mean heck, he literally SAVED HUMANITY from extinction. Yet, the last picture we see of this hero is an old man naked and drunk, and cursing his grandchild. Not a pretty picture, but the Bible tells it, warts and all. There is no attempt to cover up this dark period of Noah’s life, nor the problems of many other Biblical heroes such as Abraham and David, and even Peter and Thomas and other Apostles in the New Testament had their moments. Their flaws are not covered or glossed over, but are told about and dealt with honestly, for our benefit.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Horus and Jesus: Practically Twins! (well, not really….)

As I wrote in my last post, there are many different sources that claim a multitude of similarities between the Egyptian sky god Horus and Jesus of Nazareth. Does closer scrutiny bear out these claims? The devil, as they say, is in the details…

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Jesus? Is that you?

The similarities claimed to exist include ” born on December 25th. His mother was a virgin. His birth was announced by an angel, attended by shepherds and heralded by a star. At 30 years of age he was baptized in a river, and the one who baptized him was later beheaded. He had 12 disciples, performed miracles, exorcized demons, raised someone from the dead, and even walked on water.” According to which site you visit, there may be even more similarities listed. As I discussed in my last post, many other mythological figures have been credited with some of these same similarities, including Mithras, Krishna, Attis, Dionysis, and many others.

Now, as discussed in the last article, if in fact these similarities were to be accurate, that obviously does not preclude the existence of the historical figure, Jesus of Nazareth. In addition, one would actually expect to find at least some similarities when dealing with supernatural deific beings. For instance, one would expect a god to be able to supersede and rule over nature (i.e. perform miracles). A god would be able to rule over death. A god would be mentally superior to men, and seem to be all-knowing. A god who lived among men would draw men (disciples) to him. So we see that these types of similarities, if they existed, would be expected.

On the birthday claim: Nowhere in the Bible is Jesus’s birth date mentioned. The date was chosen by emperor Aurelian in the third century. In fact many believe, because of evidences offered in the Bible surrounding the account of Jesus’s birth, that he was not born in the winter time, but that’s a different subject. The point is, a claim of being born on December 25th (or at the winter solstice) simply seems to be suspiciously convenient, especially once the claims are more closely scrutinized.

When one looks more closely, at books and web sites that are dedicated to scholarship and not tearing down the Christian faith, a different picture emerges. For instance, the “Tour Egypt” website:

We offer scholarly articles on historical as well as contemporary issues and we are always looking to renovate our services to live up to the expectations of our millions of visitors.

Their account of Horus seems to be very different from the ones presented at those other websites that seem to have an agenda. There is no mention of any of those similarities I mentioned above. Indeed, when you read the article offered at the “Tour Egypt” web site, you would be hard pressed to find many similarities at all between the falcon deity Horus and Jesus of Nazareth.

In an effort to avoid the accusation of cherry-picking web sites that “agree with my agenda”, I will list two more sites that are more scholarly in nature and “agendaless”:

Encyclopedia Mythica: Horus

Ancient Egypt Online: Horus

It seems an honest look at the evidence would lead the unbiased observer to admit that there are not really that many similarities between the Egyptian sky god Horus and Jesus of Nazareth after all. Now, I will be the first to admit that I have not personally tracked down every single claim made about the supposed similarities that exist between Jesus and these other mythological figures. However, I have seen enough evidence on the few I have bothered to check, and read work by others who have done the “heavy lifting” and really run these claims to the ground, that these similarity claims are, to put it in a southern vernacular, hogwash. It almost seems as if these things have been made up purely to discredit the four independent eyewitness testimonies about the life of Jesus of Nazareth contained in the Bible as a case of mythological plagiarism. Surely no one would purposely just make stuff up just to do that though…. would they?

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Answering Quotes and Memes

Sometimes people post what they consider to be clever quotes that attack or question worldviews with which they don’t agree. (Sometimes these quotes are encapsulated in an image for a more impactful visual effect; this is commonly called a meme).

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This one’s pretty good!

Over at the blog “hessianwithteeth” there is a good example of this practice. In their article entitled “My Thoughts on a Few Quotes” they have delineated several examples of quotes that seem to inveigh against the Christian worldview, but they are eminently answerable. Because the Christian worldview is consistent with reality and internally coherent, these questions and those like them pose little challenge if one is willing to apply some careful thought.

Instead of trying to tackle each quote within the article, I will pick one and give simple and consistent answers.

“If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him? If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning the future? If he knows all, why warn him of our needs and fatigue him with prayers? If he is everywhere, why erect temples to him? Percy Bysshe Shelley

[HWT’s commentary] I like this quote because it asks some good questions. The Old Testament says many times that God should be feared, but many people believe in a benevolent God. If God has ultimate wisdom, then shouldn’t the future be set? Shouldn’t we know for sure if and when everything is going to end? Though I like the temple bit best. Are religious buildings necessary? If they aren’t, why treat them with any sort of deference?

Let’s take these one by one shall we?

Q: If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him?

A: An infinitely good God is infinitely just. We all have a sense of wrongdoing in our lives. We fear an infinetly good and just God because we realize we deserve punishment.

Q: If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning the future?

A: We have doubts because although God is infinitely wise, we are not. We can not see the end of the next minute much less the end of all time. Some of these answers are given through His revelation, but in general our lives are lived day to day in ignorance of what is coming next. We trust in Him to be with us through the trials and we fear because we lack perfect trust as a result of our fallen nature.

Q: If he knows all, why warn him of our needs and fatigue him with prayers?

A: First of all, God can not be fatigued, with prayers or otherwise. He desires our prayers, not because he does not know what we stand in need of, but because when we pray to Him it reminds us of where and how our needs are met. His answers to our prayers often differ from what we have asked for, and is always better for us. We don’t pray to change His mind but to change our own.

Q: If he is everywhere, why erect temples to him?

A: In the Old Testament under the Mosaic Law there was ONE tabernacle and then ONE temple, not “temples.” It was a physical place where the Israelites were told to go to make sacrifices to and worship God. This was part of setting Israel aside as a “peculiar people.” Under the New Testament, those old things have passed away. God dwells within the hearts His people in the form of the Holy Spirit, and our bodies are His temple. We serve Him through the way we live our lives and serve others. We meet in physical buildings as part of the church (the called out body of people) but the buildings have nothing to do with the actual worship service other than to provide physical shelter and comfort to those doing the worshiping.

HWT:  The Old Testament says many times that God should be feared, but many people believe in a benevolent God.

A: The covenant between Israel and God was contingent on their obedience to the Mosaic Law. God was clear with them about the blessings that they would receive for their obedience. and about the consequences of disobedience. Look at it this way: If you are driving down the freeway and are obeying the traffic laws and speed limit, and you see a police officer, you have respect for their authority but are not fearful of punishment. However when you are exceeding the speed limit and weaving in and out of traffic, you fearfully look out for the same officer because you know you are in the wrong.

HWT:  If God has ultimate wisdom, then shouldn’t the future be set? Shouldn’t we know for sure if and when everything is going to end?

A: He does, and it is. However He has not shared that information with us, so no, we shouldn’t know.

HWT: Though I like the temple bit best. Are religious buildings necessary? If they aren’t, why treat them with any sort of deference?

A. No, they are not necessary, except as used by the church as a place to meet. We should treat them with the same deference, for instance, as one would expect others to treat their home, because they are privately owned buildings and are another’s property.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

For another example of this tactic and a thoughtful response you can go to Andrew Crigler’s article entitled BILLY GOES BOOM- BECAUSE GOD KILLS THE INNOCENT (RIGHT?) He has other good articles on dealing with these types of situations as well.

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part Two

One of the blogs I have begun following, entitled “hessianwithteeth” (HWT), has posted a series of articles entitled “Why I Can’t Agree with the Bible“. These articles basically list questions that the author has as she reads through the Bible, starting with Genesis. I will now attempt to answer some of the questions she has from the book of Genesis, using the criteria set forth in my introductory article.

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Questions are only natural.

Who are the sons of God? Are they angels? Demi-gods? Holy people? If they’re gods, then the Bible isn’t monotheistic, and angels are commonly thought to be creations like humans, not children of God. But if they are holy men, how do you explain the implication that, while Enoch was a man of God, the rest of the people weren’t? And how do you explain the later claim that all people only ever have evil in their hearts? And why would they marry human women?

These questions are from the sixth chapter of Genesis, which is an account of the state of humanity leading up to the flood.

And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. (Gen 6:1-2, emphasis mine)

This passage has created quite a stir in Christianity, unnecessarily in my opinion, because the answer that best fits the criteria I have set forth and that is also the most parsimonious is actually rather dull, especially compared to some of the more outlandish answers that some have given. “Who are the sons of God [mentioned in Genesis 6:2]?” They are simply the men who called upon the name of the Lord.

And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD. (Gen 4:26)

Often we find that the Bible is its own best interpreter. When a term or phrase is confusing, sometimes we can get a better grasp on it by finding other examples of the term or phrase in other areas of scripture. In this case, our phrase is defined for us in the book of Romans.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (Rom 8:14, emphasis mine)

So we see that the simplest reading of the text, and the one that fits the criteria for internal coherence with the rest of the narrative, points to the sons of God merely being men who were serving God the best way they knew how with the light they had at the time. HWT asked “But if they are holy men, how do you explain the implication that, while Enoch was a man of God, the rest of the people weren’t?” First, I’m not sure “holy men” is the right description. I try to serve God as well, but I in no way consider myself a “holy man.”  Also, I’m not sure I see that particular implication. There is no doubt that for whatever reason Enoch was special in God’s sight, and God “took him.” However the text doesn’t indicate that the rest of the people in Enoch’s time were “ungodly.”

And how do you explain the later claim that all people only ever have evil in their hearts?

There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
(Gen 6:4-5)

This is a result of the sons of God becoming “unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14) with the daughters of men. Today’s equivalent would be a Christian marrying a Buddhist, Muslim or atheist. This type of marriage is typically detrimental to the Christian’s walk with God. In the days of Noah, there were no governments or laws such as we have in this day, and the evil in their hearts was unrestrained by the societal norms we have in this day. The men who were unequally yoked were turned from serving God by their wives, and/or their children were not taught to serve God by their mothers. Because of this their fallen and selfish natures were unrestrained by neither religion nor society. I imagine that it was a pretty dangerous time to live in.

My interpretation of “the sons of God” may be considered somewhat controversial by some, however it seems to be the answer that makes the most sense. The phrase is used in one instance (Job 38:7) where I struggle to make this interpretation make sense, but every other time it appears in the Bible, this interpretation fits nicely. To view the phrase as representing angels, as some have, just adds an additional level of complication to the narrative, much like the positing of the special creation of wives for the sons of Adam and Eve, complications which are never “worked out” subsequently in the narrative. In addition, the things that we do know about angels and biology through Biblical revelation seem to inveigh against angel/human marriage and reproduction.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Previous articles in this series:

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part One

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Introduction

 

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part One

One of the blogs I have begun following, entitled “hessianwithteeth” (HWT), has posted a series of articles entitled “Why I Can’t Agree with the Bible“. These articles basically list questions that the author has as she reads through the Bible, starting with Genesis. I will now attempt to answer some of the questions she has from the book of Genesis, using the criteria set forth in my introductory article.

genesis-bible-book-of-moses

Questions are only natural.

And if Adam and Eve [A&E] were the first people, and Cain, Abel, and Seth were their only children and all sons, where did their wives come from? Did God create other people but they weren’t allowed inside Eden? Did God create them for Cain and Seth?

It’s funny, but I can remember asking these same questions the first time I read Genesis as well. In fact, it would seem that these questions would naturally pop into anyone’s mind as they read the text, considering the information given. In addition to the criteria I detailed in my introductory post, I would like to take a moment to talk about the methods I try to use in my hermaneutics. First, I try to be parsimonious when trying to answer questions like these, meaning that I try to come up with the simplest answer I can come up with. (This could also be known as employing Occam’s Razor.) This doesn’t always yield the right answer, or one that meets my self-imposed criteria, but it is usually a good start. And now- to the answers!

First, remember that by the time A&E had children they had already fallen (sinned), and they had been kicked out of Eden. My position is that God most likely did not specially create wives for A&E’s sons, although certainly He was able to if He so willed. My reasoning behind this is two-fold: first, it is not in the text. Second, if it were so, it would create a dilemma. When Adam sinned against God, he separated the entire human race (his descendants) from relationship with God. This is the doctrine of original sin, or the fall. (Go here for a fuller explanation.) If God specially created mates for A&E’s sons, they would be un-fallen (sinless) and hence immortal (because death is caused by sin). There are texts throughout the Bible that specifically address the fallen nature of all mankind without exception, and these hypothetical wives would be an exception. Because we don’t have any reason to posit this hypothesis of special creation, and because of the additional problems it would cause to the coherence of the narrative that were never addressed, and finally because this is not the most parsimonious (or simplest) possibility, my considered opinion is that God did not specially create wives for A&E’s sons.

There are other possibilities that I have seen posited in different places, but for the sake of brevity I will simply share my position: Cain married his sister (or possibly a niece). The narrative mentions that A&E first had Cain, and then Abel. Genesis 4:3 begins with “in the process of time”… meaning that after an indeterminate amount of time had passed. It is plausible that during the passage of this indeterminate amount of time that A&E had a daughter, or more than one. Cain took one of his sisters to wife, seeing as how at the time there were no other options. (Or, Abel did, and produced a daughter which Cain then married. This seems less likely, however.)

This position is actually fairly non-controversial among mainstream theologians. I’m not afraid to “go against the grain” when I feel I have good reason to, but I am content to stick with the consensus on this subject. HWT, I invite you to respond to this post in the manner you feel best, whether in the comment box here, or a separate article on your blog. I look forward to reading your thoughts about my answers to your questions. Thank you for your willingness to engage in conversation on these matters.

 

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Introduction

One of the blogs I have begun following, entitled “hessianwithteeth” (HWT), has posted a series of articles entitled “Why I Can’t Agree with the Bible“. These articles basically list questions that the author has as she reads through the Bible, starting with Genesis. She has many questions! I asked the author if she would mind whittling down the number of her questions to those she found most essential, and she has attempted to do so. I will now attempt to write a series of my own articles, and attempt to answer her questions as completely as possible.

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Got questions?

There are a few principles that need to be kept in mind throughout this process. First, some of the questions she has asked can not be answered with any certainty whatsoever, because the information is just not there. Next, some of the questions she has asked may have more than one possible answer. I will give what I feel is the best answer, but I freely admit I could be wrong. I am not a Biblical scholar, or a trained theologian. My only claim to any knowledge of the Bible is what I have learned through reading, study, and hearing the preaching of God’s word.

What makes a good answer for these questions? I will attempt to establish some criteria for my answers, and for each answer I will attempt to meet the criteria I have established. (HWT, if you have suggestions for these criteria, I am open to them.)

  1. The answer should be logically consistent in the context of the narrative in question. One goal I have is to make sure I don’t go so far out on a branch in attempting to answer these questions that I walk out of the tree.
  2. The answer should be internally coherent with the classical Biblical and Christian worldview. For instance, I love going to movies. All I ask from a movie is to be internally coherent. This means that whatever ‘world” the director is trying to present needs to make sense throughout the movie. In The Avengers, for example, the heroes and villains have certain powers, strengths, and weaknesses. These attributes should be consistent throughout the movie, or it is not internally coherent.
  3. My goal is not to try to satisfy the question asker with an answer that will fit any other worldview other than that listed in #2. For instance, the Christian worldview holds that God exists, and He has certain attributes. I won’t try to defend these initial premises on their own merits (although I have begun to do so in other articles), except when to show how they pertain to the specific questions at hand. For the purposes of this exercise, we will again resort to  The Avengers example. The director has asked us to “suspend our disbelief” as we watch the movie, meaning we know that these things aren’t true in the real world, but for the duration of the movie we accept them as being true, and as long as the movie is internally coherent, then no matter how fantastical the story gets, it is still a good story. HWT, I ask the same thing of you. I understand you don’t believe these things you are reading. That’s ok. All I ask is that you evaluate the answers I attempt to give on the merits of being internally consistent within what you believe is the work of fiction called the Bible.

I hope to be able to show the writer at HWT and other Biblical skeptics that there are plausible explanations for the questions they have. Hopefully we can at least agree on that much, whether or not she finds my answers compelling enough to accept as satisfying. Finally, HWT has asked more questions than I have time to devote to give complete and reasonable responses for, so I will sort of pick and choose my way through her questions, answering those that I think I can offer the best and most complete answers for. I will also give her ample opportunity to rebut my answers or to ask for further clarification.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

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