Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Rooting for the Undergods

From the April 2013 E-Block.
***
At reader request, we are now checking out an article titled, “Israelite Religion to Judaism: the Evolution of the Religion of Israel” by David Steinberg. It is difficult to assess Steinberg as a whole because he professes to have studied seriously on these subjects, but he appears to be published only on the Internet. In any event, we will evaluate his points in the article, which includes a great deal that is non-controversial, and which is written not as a narrative, but as a collection of notes. We will seek out and focus on main points about which the inquiry was made; namely, claims having to do with the premise that Israelite religion "evolved from" Canaanite religion.
Initialy, it seems obvious that Steinberg has no awareness of, or does not consider, scholarship defining the "monotheism" of the Old Testament (see link below). One of his initial queries illustrates the matter:
The discovery of advanced polytheism poses a central theological issue: if polytheism can have such positive attributes, what is the purpose of monotheism? Did the Bible simply substitute another system, one that represented no advance towards a better understanding of the universe and a more equitable way of living? Indeed, were there some aspects of paganism lost in the transition that present, in fact, a more positive way of living in the world?
If, however, the religion of Israel was better described as monolatry; and if it is kept in mind that elohim does not carry the semantic freight of our word god, especially with a capital “G”, then there really isn't another "system" at all. Rather, it was a simple matter of selecting one elohim for exclusive devotion , which conceptually doesn't require any hard thinking, any more than it did for Akhenaten. And thus as well, there is no need to ask what the "purpose" of monotheism is. The obvious answer is that it was considered advantageous to align one's self with the most powerful patron/suzerain -- one that not so incidentally had the ability to manage all aspects of creation, whereas with the pagan elohim each had their own domains (oddly enough, later on Steinberg does note this distinction, but does not apply it to his findings in other places).
Eventually we get to the gist of the matter, which is to argue for some connection between the Elohim of the Bible (as we say, God the Father) and the Canaanite El. As usual, it is never considered that El is a distorted version of Elohim as it is instead assumed that Israel cleaned up El. But let us grant the former premise for the sake of argument. Steinberg quotes another as saying:
The common identity shared by El and Yahweh is impressive…. In the various texts El and Yahweh were both portrayed as 1) father figures, 2) judges, 3) compassionate and merciful, 4) revealing themselves through dreams, 5) capable of healing those who are sick, 6) dwelling in a cosmic tent, 7) dwelling over the great cosmic waters or at the source of the primordial rivers, which is also on top of a mountain, 8) favorable to the widow, 9) kings in the heavenly realm exercising authority over the other gods, who may be called ‘sons of gods’, 10) warrior deities who led the other gods in battle, 11) creator deities, 12) aged and venerable in appearance, and most significantly, 13) capable of guiding the destinies of people in the social arena.
To those who consider this "impressive," I can only say…they need to get out more. Nearly all of these would be commonplaces for any major deity in any world religion. The first from the above, for example, represents typical in-group collectivist language. #2 represents a natural duty for any deity -- has anyone heard of a major deity that declines to judge at all? At the same time, has anyone bothered to list out differences between El and Yahweh the same way, and determined their comparative weight and significance? And, if we're going to cite things like #12, why not site differences like the fact that El wears bull horns, but Yahweh does not? Shouldn't these comparisons be thorough in order to be both accurate and also honest?
The next points of comparison concern parallel mythologies. Since Glenn Miller has already thoroughly addressed these issues (link below), we will engage them no further.
In terms of the Biblical record, as is usual for such presentations, theory is used to interpret the facts. OT authors are accused of "projecting their religious values in idealized fashion back into the past" though Steinberg merely quotes conclusions to this effect rather than actually ever arguing the points.
Our next area of concern has to do with the origins of Israelite religion. Said to "fit very well" with the evidence is this scenario:
Israelite religion was originally a local variety of the pattern in Iron Age Phoenicia in which there was a triad of deities: a protective god of the city (often El), a goddess, often his wife or companion (in Ugarit and Israel Asherah) who symbolizes the fertile earth; and a young god (in Ugarit and Israel Baal usually her or their son), whose resurrection expresses the annual cycle of vegetation [57]. Through the processes of convergence and differentiation this developed into Biblical Monotheism. At an early stage a new god Yahweh was brought in from outside urban Canaan, identified with the Canaanite High God El [58], and accepted as the main object of worship by the emerging Israelite confederacy i.e. association of clans and tribes.
One has to ask, how does this "fit well"? As yet we are not told. What we do see is a tendentious abuse of the word "resurrection" to describe a "dying and rising god" associated with vegetation, and so far, a mere assumption of development. Steinberg does, however, consider alternatives, but they mostly get the short shrift. For example, this alternative:
It developed from early Semitic religion which was a “practical monotheism” in which only El was worshiped [59].
...is not one I'd argue, but Steinberg merely waves it off in one sentence, which wrongly assumes he is already correct:
Unlikely since the biblical evidence is that Israelite religion was preceded by polytheism.
Of the alternatives that follow, the one closest to my own view is:
3.1.1 Traditional Jewish Divine Revelation [61] – God gave Moses on Mt. Sinai the written Pentateuch that we have today together with the Oral Law i.e. the tools for developing the laws of the Pentateuch to meet all future needs. This Oral Law was later embodied in the Talmuds and other Rabbinic literature;
But actually, it's barely 50% in line with my views. I would not hold that the oral law was also given at this time. Nevertheless, Steinberg also dismisses this with a single sentence:
The results of Higher Criticism of the Bible make this extremely unlikely.
And that is all! One supposes, charitably, that Steinberg here meant to give only summaries of views, not arguments for them; and it is to that end that he also merely quotes conclusions that are amenable to his views. In that respect, Steinberg's material is like Evidence Demands a Verdict for the higher critic of the OT!
Further on, others are quoted concerning the reputed "process" whereby polytheism evolved into monotheism, but such offerings are too vague and non-specific to be worth much more than a non-sequitur label, such as follows:
The great gods of the Canaanite pantheon were cosmic deities. There is, indeed, a double movement clearly discernible in Syro-Palestinian religion. A great god such as 'El or 'Asherah appears in local manifestations in the cult places and gains special titles, attributes, hypostases [71]. In the process, one cult or title may split apart and a new god emerge to take his place beside 'El or 'Asherah in the pantheon. On the other hand, there is a basic syncretistic impulse in Near Eastern polytheism which tends to merge gods with similar traits and functions. A minor deity, worshipped by a small group of adherents, may become popular and merge with a great deity; major deities in a single culture's pantheon may fuse; or deities holding similar positions in separate pantheons may be identified.
But why should we believe this happened with Israel's religion…and we are not told. This is no better an argument than pointing to the process of writing historical novels as evidence that historical information was actually fictional.
Then again there are points like these:
In order to meet the needs of farmers Yahwism also owes a debt to the myths of Ba'al. In the earliest poetic sources the language depicting Yahweh as divine warrior manifest is borrowed almost directly from Canaanite descriptions of the theophany of Ba'al as storm god.
But, once again, this proves nothing of what Steinberg wishes to prove, for at least two reasons. The first is that "divine warrior" would be the accepted and expected role of any deity recognized as a suzerain over their people. The second is that even if it is correct that language was "borrowed" -- and Steinberg does not provide any record of meaningful parallels to show this -- it would be a matter of honor for one group (whether Israel or Canaan) to claim and take over the language of the other group, not because one "evolved" from the other, but in order to claim the honor of the language for their own suzerain/deity, and deny it to the other. Steinberg's reference here is not only non-sequitur; it also shows no awareness of a more likely conclusion based on the social context.
Further claims are little more than, "this is how it must have happened" arguments, such as:  Perhaps spurred on by the establishment of Astarte-Ishtar-Queen of Heaven worship in the 8th- 7th centuries; the Deuteronomic movement of the late 7th century BCE demanded the rejection of the native Asherah as un-Israelite and disloyal to YHWH. By this time Asherah may just have been seen as a manifestation of the nurturing side of YHWH. As far as feasible, given YHWH’s male language, Ashera’s characteristics are appropriated by YHWH.
Again, why believe this? We are given no reason to do so. And, the traditional view of revelation, is merely waved off in one sentence:
There is nothing that can be said about it from a secular-critical point of view. Again, one hopes this is not meant to be an argument , which, quite obviously, it is not!
At one point, we finally get to a linguistic argument for evolution:
A … plausibility attaches to those interpretations of the name Yahweh which identify him as a storm god. Thus the name has been connected with the meaning 'to fall' (also attested in Syriac) …. Another suggestion is to link the name with the meaning 'to blow', said of the wind (cf. Syr hawwe, 'wind')….
Storm god? Really? Apparently Steinberg thinks a storm is the only reason one might "blow." He has forgotten that God is reported in the OT as the source of the "Spirit of God" -- the literal word where "spirit" also means wind or breath. Steinberg also tendentiously takes the identification of the pagan Arameans of Yahweh as a "god of the mountains" as evidence for the "storm god" notion. Why the word of this pagan (whom God goes on to refute in battle) should be taken as anything more than battle propaganda, designed to inspire his troops, is not explained.
Expected as well, Steinberg takes evidence of localized cults of Yahweh being evidence for "poly-Yahwism" as an original. This, of course, merely begs the question of which came first, and which was authoritative as well.
Then we have this for consideration:
That Solomon founded a polytheistic cult for Judah has been noted, since it is hard to miss the passage in I Kings 11:1-10….
True, but since it is considered an act of disobedience, what is the point, unless we beg that same question of origin and authority? Later, Steinberg quotes to the effect that the mere mention of these other deities being worshipped "demonstrate that these deities were established in the official religion as it was practiced at the time and not some bizarre aberration easily discounted as irrelevant to the cult. " But again, how this conclusion is reached is not explained, and the explanation remains a non-sequitur.
Next, Steinberg notes a connection between the angels of the OT and the lower deities of Ugarit. This we hardly need dispute; nor do we need to dispute the commonality of a tiered cosmos, though the presumption does remain that any and all ideas held by pagans must also have been held by e.g., the author of Psalms.
A peculiar note is this one:
The gods Resheph and Deber appear in Habakkuk 3:5 as part of the military retinue of Yahweh.
Really? Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet.
Apparently the words "pestilence" and "burning coals" here are taken as names of gods, though both words are used elsewhere in the OT in ways that make it clear they are not used of gods. It is only tendentious reading that identifies these words with pagan deities in Habakkuk.
Also worth noting is the appeal to inscriptions/depictions in which Yahweh is given a female consort, such as at Kuntillet Ajrud. Once again, it is enough to point out that it is merely a question begging to suppose that such depictions represent evidence of "evolution" as opposed to corruption. Certainly, we need not deny corruption, for not only does the Biblical record testify to it as being such, but it is evident in the actual process of religious "evolution" known from historical example. Even in modern times we see examples of various cults that are merely corruptions of a mainstream religious tradition.
In a later section, records are offered of instances where Israel "borrowed" from other cultures i.e., such things like administrative/government functions, literary images and so on. It never quite gets to the point where an abrupt non-sequitur is committed, such that these are used to say Israel must also have borrowed their ideas about religion. That said, it should be noted that for things like God and Baal both controlling weather, this is manifestly not meaningful, as we'd hardly expect any powerful god to not be able to do such things. In other cases, borrowing of images and titles reflect stakes of honor: That is, Baal is called "Lord," but since Yahweh is our God, it is He who really deserves the title, not Baal, so we'll take it for Him.
Thus ends our survey of Steinberg's notes.  
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  • Wednesday, June 15, 2016

    Did Jesus Commit Suicide?

    A reader requested that we look into this question, that on the surface, may seem absurd: Did Jesus commit suicide? Now, before answering, it is necessary to lay some groundwork.
    Initially, the question may be asked of a critic, with a certain defining context associated with modernity and the Western world. In our daily experience, "suicide" comes with specific associations: A person who is mentally unstable, depressed, or otherwise in some sort of mentally or spiritually undesirable state. Thus, a critic who argues that Jesus committed suicide may do so under the pretense that if the answer is "yes," it in some way implies that Jesus suffered from some sort of mental instability.
    The immediate problem with this, of course, is that this is a modern view. While there were undoubtedly mentally unstable people who killed themselves in the ancient world, suicide was more widely perceived as a noble way to die under certain specific circumstances. The samuari warrior, the Roman gladiator, and the Greek philosopher Socrates might all be viewed in these terms. Even today, the well-worn example of the soldier who throws himself on a grenade to save others is, technically, definable as a suicide; but because of the aforementioned connotations of that word, people tend to avoid that term when describing a death associated with heroic or honorable measures.
    The point is, that in the end, even answering "Did Jesus commit suicide" with a "yes" does not serve any rhetorical purpose in establishing e.g., mental instability. As related in the New Testament, even a human Jesus would have perceived his cause as a noble one worth giving his life away for, and so would have fit the mold of the samurai, or of Socrates. With that in mind, let us now address claims and questions associated with this overall issue.
    Since Jesus knew he was going to die, and freely went to his death when the time came, he committed suicide.
    Under these circumstances, the appeal to divine foreknowledge seeks to clinch the case, but it is really beside the point. A person who steps in to defend someone from another person with a gun surely knows there is a high likelihood that they may die in the effort, but this does not place them any closer to "suicide" (as technically, rather than metaphorically, defined) than someone who performs the same act with a bulletproof vest.
    The point is, foreknowledge is not a defining criterion for a suicide. We can see this further in the next question:
    John 10:17-18 has Jesus saying he lays down his life. Isn't that suicide?
    Here is where we run into that rather fuzzy area, one might say…the difference between suicide and noble sacrifice. Let's bring that into a modern narrative setting. In the movie Armageddon, the character played by Bruce Willis was compelled to stay behind on an asteroid as the rest of his crew left, in order to be assured that it would be destroyed.
    Willis' character had sufficient foreknowledge to know he would be resigning himself to death, and, he also could be said to have laid down his life. Yet what modern person would call that a "suicide"? Given the pejorative connotations of the word today, none would -- not unless they wished to be perceived as boorish and insensitive.
    But suicide is always morally wrong. Jesus would never have done that!
    Anyway, based on what we have discussed, Jesus' death was not suicide. However, there is a due caution to be observed here, as the modern person does not always understand the difference between a suicide and a noble death. Certain critics are apt to argue that even the noble samurai's death is a moral wrong.
    In this regard, one might also consider that certain Biblical deaths, while technically able to be called suicide, are seen in a noble light because of the purpose they served. Samson stands out as a particularly good example of one who redeemed himself in a death that was essentially self-caused. In contrast, self-inflicted deaths by moral cowards like Judas are seen in a poorer light, precisely because they were not honorable.
    So, what are we left with? In the end, if we are to account for all the examples -- ranging from Jesus to Socrates to the samurai -- "suicide", as defined, seems to require that a person:
  • In some way effect their own deaths
  • Do so for self-concered reasons only
  • It is the second aspect that ultimately allows us to reject terming Jesus' death a suicide -- even in modern terms.

    Tuesday, June 7, 2016

    Not a Lot on Lots

    From the April 2013 E-Block.
    **
    A reader has requested a look at the Biblical subject of the "casting of lots". As it happens, this is one of those topics were we have little information to work with, but here's what I have gathered from a series of OT and NT commentaries. As an interesting note of trivia, lots are most often mentioned in the Bible in the book of Joshua, which accounts for a third of all OT references.

    What were "lots"? The exact nature of these items is particularly uncertain. The best guess seems to be that they were small rocks with "dark" and "light" sides. Normally two were used, and results were gauged as follows:
  • Two dark face up -- no
  • Two light face up -- yes
  • One of each face up -- recast


  • What were lots used for? Lots were seen as an impartial and unbiased way to determine the will of God. I gather that no one had figured a way to "load" lots the way modern dice can be loaded. If they were rocks, then it would have required boring or drilling to load them, and that would be rather obvious to see.

    So, this wasn't just chance? No. Even among pagans, who used lots (Jonah 1:7), it was assumed that the gods controlled the outcome. Prov. 16:33 makes this belief clear: "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord."

    But isn't this like gambling? No. As I said in an article on this some years ago:



    Practically speaking, the Bible has nothing to say about gambling as we know it, and the only real, practical example of it is that of Roman soldiers gambling for Jesus' robe. But even then there would be a sea of difference between how we regard gambling and how the ancients would have regarded it.

    The modern gambler is a person who -- depending upon his poison -- works with a mix of what is generally thought to be random chance and personal gaming skill. Obviously, the level of each varies from effort to effort; the roulette wheel takes no skill at all, while poker is more of a mix of skill levels.

    The chance aspect, however, is generally worked out under the assumption that the result could come out any particular way, due to "luck" or "chance", as a nebulous non-force that does the bidding.

    Pious gamblers may go as far to claim that God influenced things to make them win (but of course, not to make them or the others lose). And such persons would actually be far closer to an ancient view than a modern one. As Pilch and Malina note in the Handbook of Biblical Social Values [79ff], the ancients as a whole believed in the fixed fate or fortune of each person.

    Gambling would then not be a matter of throwing things to chance, but of determining the will of the gods (and in Israel's case, God). This can be seen in that the drawing of lots was used to determine tribal land apportionments (Num. 26:55-56; Josh. 14-21).

    One may note at once, beyond the difference in view, that the Israelite practice of drawing lots for land was far from the intent found in modern gambling. It was not a game in which one person won out while everyone else went home with far less, or wearing a barrel. Each participant "won" something of equitable value (i.e., like going to Las Vegas and every slot machine returning a nickel for every nickel put in). The many places where lots are cast in the Bible were all done as a way of quickly and easily determining God's will. No one was risking money or livelihood for the gain of others. Actually, the ancients, as a whole, were too poor to take such risks, and of course currency was not a primary item of trade for most of them.

    Some would add that gambling is contrary to the Bible because it puts faith in chance and fate rather than in the providence of God. I would prefer to appeal to the general Biblical principle of responsible stewardship to argue against gambling, but for our purposes, we would only point out that Bible "gambling" was not the limited-sum and uncontrolled game that modern gambling generally is.

    I am reminded of a joke a large local church once played on the pastor while he was on vacation, and shortly after the lottery had started in Florida. The church staff had the local paper print a mock-up with a story saying that while the pastor had been gone, the church had used budget money to buy every possible lottery ticket number combination, in order to win a large prize that was then being given. The mock story said that they did not view it as gambling, because they knew they would win no matter what. The effect is funny, but it does suggest a relevant truth: Gambling is only gambling when someone loses while they are trying to "take advantage" of the non-force of chance.



    No doubt people used lots or similar devices for gambling as well --- or eventually did so. But that's not how the Bible sees their use.


    So, can we use lots now? That wouldn't be a good idea unless you live in a theocracy under God's covenant. Use of lots was primarily reserved for the Levitical priests and in the NT for the apostles.

    Friday, May 27, 2016

    Game, Set, Match

    From the March 2013 E-Block.**This item is done by reader request to examine a few samples of what is colloquially called "Game." Despite the innocuous designation, the premise of Game stems from a somewhat anti-feminist movement among Christians, and those of similar profession, in which adherents boldly declare what might be called a radical complementarian view of male-female relationships.
    Giving the reader an idea what I mean, here are some samples from "Game" oriented online essays: One website compares relationship advice from a modern website to that from a 1890s book, which includes such directives as this one:
    Does your husband love to see things in order, then be careful and keep the house in good shape. Does he love a good dinner, then study your cook book and study his tastes. Does he like to be caressed, do your prettiest in that line.
    Does he admire beauty in women, then dress neatly and tidily and try to keep clean and in good health, and meet him with a smile. Is he a man of literary tastes, cultivate your literary taste, and be appreciative of his ability. If he loves beautiful things, study house decorations and defer to his tastes….

    Expressing a pointed preference for the 1890s view, the site declares, "Women: Most of the relationship advice you will find nowadays is worse than useless. Ignore it. Bad advice is worse than no advice at all."
  • The same site also encourages "men to stop listening to inanity from women about wanting them to open up and share their feelings all the time" and expresses a preference for "men to experience all-male spaces again where they can support one another."
  • The same site (which, by the way, is by a woman) expresses a desire to "be remembered as the generation during which the Nineteenth Amendment was repealed" (that is, the amendment which gave women the right to vote).
  • An article on one site comments on the reputed proclivity of women to criticize men for engaging in "manly" activities like gaming, sports, or going off to bars with their friends. Although the article doesn't say specifically what we are supposed to do about this, it indicates that women who engage in such criticism are simply unjustly complaining -- though the exact word they use begins with a "b," if the reader catches my drift. Commenters suggest that women do this because they have a desire to be controlling. The posting also includes jokes indicating that women who, for example, favored temperance in the early 20th century did so because they were ugly.
  • Another site remarks upon the recent NFL trial of Lauren Silberman, to the effect that it is an example of an attitude that "causes women to reach for things that are far out of their grasp." A comment on another site also offers insight into the view in question:
  • When Charles Lindbergh was being celebrated for his incredible feat of creativity, skill, and risk taking, feminists were beside themselves. Here was a man who was being celebrated for masculine virtues; they needed a woman to pretend to do something similar so they could tamp down this troubling national celebration of masculinity. So, feminists found a woman with a pilot’s license who wrote newspaper columns about flying and they had her ride as a passenger on a transatlantic flight; then they threw her a hero’s welcome as Lady Lindy, complete with a ticker tape parade and an invitation to the White House.

    And:
    The whole point of putting women in combat is to make sure we can never again say: Thanks to the men who sacrificed so much for us without feminists chiming in “and women too!” This is why no unit can be left untouched, even elite ones.

    And:
    A fundamental change in Christian thinking is the acceptance of the ever present threat of divorce, should the wife become unhappy. This isn’t a grudging acknowledgement of unfortunate legal reality, but a full-fledged internalization of the secular world-view on divorce. It is now unquestioningly accepted that a Christian husband’s first priority must be to prevent his wife from becoming unhappy and divorcing him.

    In practice, the modern Christian approach to marital difficulties ends up being the same approach followed in the secular world; the wife shares her feelings at great length and the husband must listen and do something about it. This inverts the biblical relationship of the husband and his wife’s emotions. In biblical marriage, the husband is his wife’s emotional rock, and he lovingly anchors and shelters her when her emotions storm over her. If he didn’t, she would become untethered. In this new bastardized version of Christian marriage the wife’s emotions rule both persons.
  • Here's a representative commentary from one site, responding to a feminist critique of Valentine's Day:
  • The gifts, the flowers, the candy, they’re great and all . . . but they aren’t enough. You see, that sets up the idea that the women in question might feel OBLIGATED to have sex with the men in their lives ("husbands"), the ones who just shelled out a car payment on an expression of their affection that can be adequately bragged about at work. And if men are getting anything out of it, then it has to be BAD for women.
  • The same site also offers this illustration:  
  • Consider this example: Mrs. Apple would really prefer Mr. Apple to get her a little more juiced by presenting more Alpha – more, she’d like to see him really take charge and handle things, now that they’re both fairly secure in their marriage. But Mr. Apple is hesitant. He’s been told all of his life that GOOD husbands don’t assert themselves and their male privilege in a marriage, because that’s WRONG and means he’s a bad person.
    He feels that deferring to Mrs. Apple is the only way to be happy in a marriage, and he accepts this because a) he’s been made to feel guilty for and ashamed about his masculinity and b) because it allows him to escape the accountability of traditional masculinity...
    ...She wants the dependable, loving, empathetic provider, a man adept with comfort-building Beta skills. But she craves the strong, decisive, resolute and protective Alpha male she reads about, sees in the media, and may even know in real life . . . and hubby ain't him. Some days she wonders if they're even in the same species. She desperately wants him to be that man, but at the same time she fears losing control of both him and the relationship. Encouraging his Alpha is dangerous, after all. That's why she wants it. And fears it.
    What to make of all this?
    Overall, not a whole lot. While I've only observed a sample of material, none of the material is produced by anyone I'd regard as a qualified expert in any subject related to human behavior, relationships, or psychology -- though I dare not say none such exists. I also found nothing in the way of systematic analysis and explanation of views. Much of what the above comes from barely passes the level of "sustained rant" for the most part.
    It’s also not clear to me whether "Game" proponents are arguing that their way of pursuing male-female relationships is the only viable course. The last item quoted above does lean in that direction, as even the last quoted portion shows. The impression I am left with (maybe wrong) is that of a "one size fits all" approach to relationships.
    Some Game proponents, as noted, profess to be Christians. Not all of the sites quoted above include such a disclosure, and I am not sure that some, in particular, are Christian. However, it is enough that some Christian or Christian-aligned spokesman have aligned themselves with the movement and its presuppositions. Chief among these, I have been told, is the commentator Vox Day, though I did not read any of his material.
    In terms of Scriptural backup, Game adherents, who do profess some form of Christianity, don't accomplish a great deal, especially when it comes to contextualization. The passages appealed to are of the usual fare, such as Titus 2:3-5 and all the usual "wives, submit to your husbands" references. There is no awareness that these passages reflect the standard "household codes" of the first century, which reflected a necessary order for daily survival in the harsh conditions of the ancient world. Nor is there any perception of how these passages might be interpreted contextually. Indeed, based on many of the writings I found, it would shock these commentators to learn that marriages, in the Biblical world, were arranged, and that husband and wife frequently did not meet until their wedding day. Much of the advice given assumes otherwise, which is a hazardous thing when attempting to apply Biblical text to the modern world.
    I found a few outright errors of the fundamentalist-exegesis variety. One of the sites says: "...many Protestants accept divorce in the case of abuse even though no such escape clause exists in the Bible." Well, yes, actually it does -- as a little serious contextual study clearly shows. (Link below.) Thankfully, the site does at least allow for separation in cases of "extreme physical abuse" (one wonders HOW "extreme" it has to be for satisfaction). On the other hand, it also virtually says Christians who engage in what it considers illicit divorce will end up in hell.
    What, once again, is one to make of this? "Game" seems to be a reactive pendulum swing to radical feminism, and to that extent, it is, at times, its own form of extremism. Reading the text above on "Alpha" vs. "Beta" manhood, I cannot but think that many pastors, spiritual leaders, and apologists (myself included) would be sloughed off as "Beta" dross. I got the impression of persons who lived in their own secluded world, within narrow confines of what may be properly defined as being human. Maybe I am wrong, and can only hope that more investigation would prove otherwise.
    Since there isn't much within my expertise to address otherwise, I'll close with my own observations. As some readers know that I lean towards an egalitarian view. This does not mean I think men and women are "exactly the same" or that "anything a ___ can do, a ___ can do better." (Insert "boy" or "girl" in either order; I have heard it done both ways.) What I do think is illustrated by my creative efforts in my Annals of Hearthstone web-comic. In my own Narnian paradise, the sexes are equal in privilege and rights, just as "there is neither male nor female" in Christ. However, the sexes also recognize their differences, and relish in them as a way to combine their strengths to meet common goals. Thus, for example, among the warrior races of Hearthstone, both male and female may serve in combat situations, but they perform different duties according to their respective gifts. As hand to hand fighters, the males possess greater strength, but the females possess greater agility and intuition. Either one might win a hand to hand contest against the other, but that would be based on the application of skills, and not on any matter related to gender.
    In the end, it is perhaps best to color me "confused" by the exchanges associated with Game theorists. By the reckoning of some of them, my 22+ year marriage to my beloved Mrs. H is heading for trouble, and is likely to end in divorce within the next 10 minutes. Either that, or Mrs. H, they would say, uses me as a whipping post, though that is nothing of the truth, and it is probable that Mrs. H would gladly use anyone as a whipping post who insinuated otherwise. The two of us are vastly different personalities that complement each other, making us an effective, efficient, and more than that, enormously happy team. That's a problem?
    I can only hope not. Our examination of "Game" ideas will, for now, end here, but at some future date, if readers request it, we may pick up the topic again.

    Link

    Friday, May 20, 2016

    The Quiverfull Movement, Part 2

    The legal fundraiser is over for the time being; I may report on some more results and related issues later. For now it's time to get back to some old E-Block postings, and here's one from March 2013.

    ***

    This is our second and, for now, final look at the Quiverfull movement, with my subject being the book A Full Quiver (FQ) by Rick and Jan Hess. In this, I will be looking in the main for anything new compared to our prior essay that was in the last issue. I did not find much that was new.
    For the record, we should briefly cover the points which are mirrored in our prior essay.
  • Scripturally speaking, the Hesses add little or nothing to the case for having a "full quiver." The usual citation from Psalm 127:3-5 is said to reflect "God's eternal feelings about children." Absolutely no consideration is given to relevant contexts (i.e., the presentation of this thought in a Psalm, a poem nonetheless[!], and in the setting of the ancient world where infant and child mortality was so high). Once again offered, are statements by Jesus praising children, and a claim that Satan is deceiving Christians into not wanting as many children as they really could have. With that, of course, we have the admonition that if Christians would have more babies, we could take over [167] the White House and most of the Senate, House, and governor's mansions by 2088. Really? What if unbelievers get wind of this idea and start having large families to counter Christians? What then is the plan from the Hesses, to have 16 children instead of 8?
  • The theme of "trusting God" is used, as before, as a club -- those that don't simply let themselves have children without discretion are implicitly accused of lacking trust in God. As they put it: "If the couples have a deep desire to be godly and to follow Christ in their marriage, God will make the necessary changes in their lives." [123] Of course, if things don't work quite that way, it's easy to predict the Hesses response -- they will offer a version of what we have called here "parking space theology". Whatever does happen, they will say, God had a plan for you and you should just shut up and accept that it is God's will that you deal with these problems. Not that Scriptural support for this view is any better; we find the Hesses pressing into service Psalm 37:25-26, in which David says that he has never seen the righteous begging bread. This the Hesses take as meaning: "you can predict that believers with large families will be taken care of." [144] We need not comment again on the irresponsibility of using a poetic passage for support of literalist doctrine, but we can no doubt add that if this doesn't bear out from statistics, the Hesses will surely have some ready pious explanation such as, "You're not faithful as believers" or "God has a plan for your suffering."
  • Also as before, potentiality arguments are thrown into consideration, for which the opposing potentiality is ignored. It is noted, for example, that many famous figures, like George Washington, were fourth or later to be born to their parents. Just as before, this sort of argument is worthless to the extent that it can readily be turned around (i.e., if we find a serial killer who was the eighth child in a family, what does that prove about having large families? Nothing!). Potentiality is also extended into the realm of stating that we should avoid vasectomies because "we wouldn't be at all surprised to discover all sorts of unexpected ill effects from this attempt to thwart God's design for the male body." [127] By the same logic, why not say, "we wouldn't be at all surprised to discover all sorts of unexpected health benefits" from the same procedure?
    With that…let us now turn to what is unique in FQ.
  • The authors make much of what they perceive to be unfair treatment of those with children. For example, they compare a loudly coughing elderly man with an occasionally cooing baby, asking which one gets the hard stares in church. Well, from what I have seen, they both do; or sometimes one and not the other. Either way, it's hard to buy what comes across as a persecution complex by the Hesses. That we wish for a church service where it is possible to concentrate without interruptions by noisy children does not express, as they indicate, that people do not "love" children.
  • Perhaps the most radical (and outlandish) point offered by the Hesses comes of their analysis of how several Biblical women experienced miraculous pregnancies. From this infinitesimally small sample, the authors conclude, with the massive non sequitur, that ALL pregnancies are the result of direct action by God. When the Hesses advise readers that, "we would do well to give God control over how many children we have," [57] they do not simply mean we should allow God to be sovereign; rather, they envision God as having direct, micro-managerial command of conception ("lock, stock, and baby" as they put it [94], and elsewhere, "pregnancy is not going to occur except through God's active agency" [106], and yet again, "...the Scriptures prove that God Himself is our birth Controller" [141], and finally, "God Himself is all the birth control we need" [158]…and let us add, as a related point, this quote: "Menopause occurs at exactly the time in a woman's life when God decrees that she is to bear no more children." [189] I have not seen even a Calvinist assign God that much micro-managerial control!). In line with this radical view, the Hesses go as far as indicating that sexual intercourse between married couples is off limits unless there is at least an option for procreation. Thus, in reply to someone who says that they have health problems (which would mean pregnancy could literally kill them), the Hesses legalistically say, "If you're too sick to have babies, you're too sick to have sex." [102] Apparently, the Hesses have no conception (pun not intended) of there being any difference in how particular acts may affect particular conditions. For them, it is "all or nothing" – representing an appalling lack of logic.
    Adding to the self-centered character of their response, the Hesses add that "God has a way of miraculously healing people, too -- sometimes through the very pregnancies that were supposed to kill them." [102] In support of this view, they offer a single, undocumented anecdote of such a thing happening -- certainly an excellent data pool on which to base such a critical decision!
    Even more outlandishly, the Hesses put God directly in charge of genetics, asking, "does God decide eye color or does Mendel's Law?" [183] and, quoting a source as saying: "God individually chose and gave each child his or her blue eyes. We have to keep in mind that God can modify or abolish genetic or reproductive trends as He wills." [184]
  • One chapter features 20 questions the authors have apparently been asked. Most are rather odd, but a few are valid. One, for example, relates to questions of overpopulation and stewardship of our environment. As before, the answers are too simplistic to be taken seriously. For the Hesses, it amounts to thinking that if it were not for overpopulation, "some suffering baboon in Upper Bongo-Bongo would have had enough living space, food, lumber, and minerals." [71] While I am by no means a radical environmentalist, this sort of issue is hardly little more than the leftist political football they make it out to be, and the sarcasm, lacking as it does in hard facts, does more to indicate irresponsible childishness than it does responsible stewardship. The Hesses only reply source is a booklet from a group called "Basic Life Principles", which contains no documentation for its claims, and some points that are outlandish on their face. One is a point we have seen prior, about how the world's population (back then, 4.5 billion) could fit into an area the same as Jacksonville, Florida, with each person being given 2.6 square feet. I would very much like to see the Hesses and other Quiverfull advocates live within such a space for as little as a few months just to actually see how they like it and just how that works out (i.e., the typical prison cell, in contrast, holds two inmates within a space of about 50-100 square feet)! A little later they allow for some expansion, of up to the area of Nebraska, Kansas, and a bit of South Dakota, allowing 1000 square feet per person. It is very considerate of the Hesses to declare that each of us can have a space equal to ten prison cells so that they can have as many children as "God" leads them to have.
    Another section relates how the Hesses respond to someone who asks why they have so many children. A response they say "never fails to stop them in their tracks" is, "to pay for your Social Security." My retort would be: "Good, because I will need it to pay for groceries when everyone has as many children as you do, causing the food supply to be short, which in turn will raise food prices to astronomical levels." While that's rather simplistic, so is the Hesses retort. The Quiverfull movement doesn't seem too keen on basic economic principles of supply and demand.
  • The Hesses rather naively assume that admonitions for household management in the New Testament reflect some sort of universal blueprint, such that wives always and forever are to stay at home and be mothers. They are apparently unaware that the NT here substantially mirrors the household codes of that day. Their logic is no better than the "Dr. Laura" fundamentalist who could not explain to President Bartlett why some OT laws were still to be obeyed and others would not be obeyed.
  • The Hesses claim to have Scriptural support for their views would be aided considerably if they did not commit abuses like this one: They note 1 Cor. 7:5, which says, "Stop depriving each other, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you." The Hesses say that this verse shows that "the rhythm method [of birth control] is unacceptable." [116] As with all their exegesis so far, this is a vast non sequitur -- their assumption is that because Paul gave a specific reason to withhold sexual relations, no other reason to do so is permitted! In this the Hesses mirror the horrendous legalism of fundamentalists like the Church of Christ, who forbid musical instruments in church on the same flimsy grounds.
    This closes our look at Quiverfull literature, at least for now. The nicest thing I can say is that FQ is no better in terms of having anything to commend it as a reasoned and Scripturally valid expression of the movement. We'll close with a reminder that in our last issue, we affirmed that none of this is intended to condemn those who choose to have large families; however, if one wishes to do so, FQ will not provide any formal sanction for it from Scripture over and above those who select to do otherwise.
  • Friday, February 26, 2016

    URGENT: Legal Defense Fund for Tekton/TheologyWeb

    Update 4/13/2016: The fundraiser has reached nearly $6000 at this point. See more details below.
     
    2/28/2016: See note below regarding comments from others, including Rene Salm.

    ***

     This, I imagine, will be something of a ton of bricks to drop. It hasn't been discussed publicly until now for reasons that will be obvious.

    In July 2015, 20 members of the TheologyWeb forum were named as targets of a “libel” lawsuit by a former atheist member.


    So far only one of those 20 -- me -- has been served with complaint and summons, and litigation is in process. The other 19 include several owners and moderators, and a handful of "everyday" members. I'll leave it to them as to whether they wish to be identified, save that I'll note that one of them is my ministry partner, Nick Peters. He's the only one of the 20 besides me who is a public figure to any extent.


    I had planned to do the defense myself (pro se), but logistical problems led me to decide it was better to hire an attorney in the area where this atheist lives, which I did. He's been working on the case since October.


    A win for me in court will help shield the other 19 targeted defendants. We humbly ask for the assistance of others in defending ourselves from this lawsuit.

    Any funds gathered will be used as follows:


    1) To defray my attorney expenses, which have so far been just short of $8,000. Currently we are working on a motion to dismiss the case based on lack of personal jurisdiction (I do not live in the same state as the Plaintiff).
    2) To prepare a similar defense for any of the others in the group, should they be served with a suit. At least 3 of the 19 others are in this Plaintiff's immediate crosshairs, including Nick.
    3) To prepare an alternate defense, should either 1) fail, or should one of us be sued in our own home state.


    I've set up a crowdfund page at
    Funded Justice, which is a special website for legal fundraising only. I'm told it's a bit of a pain to register and donate, but it's also possible to choose an option to donate as a "guest" of the site:
     
    https://www.fundedjustice.com/en/projects/28507-Tekton-TheologyWeb-Legal-Defense-Fund
     
    That's all for now. For obvious reasons, I can't give too many details about the case, but I can be emailed (jphold@att.net) with specific questions and general questions can be answered at a thread on  TheologyWeb (where I posted an earlier version of this post as an  opening post):


    http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/showthread.php?9852-Tekton-TheologyWeb-Legal-Defense-Fund

    Since the nature of this post is urgent, I will not be adding any more to the Ticker for a while. 

    ***
    As might be expected, certain fundy atheists out there are already adding to the story and making foolish remarks. For example, here's a corrective to Rene Salm's posting on the subject:

    1)That's definitely NOT a picture of me he's got up.

    2) Despite Salm's wishful fantasies, Tekton has NOT "been brought to its knees and must suspend all upcoming projects." I'm only not updating the Ticker blog for a while, so the fund appeal can stay on top. Everything else on my ministry plate (e-books, vids, etc) is proceeding as usual; the Ticker blog just represents 1% of my activity -- posting old E-Block articles.
     

     3) My wife got a good job back long ago. That crisis has been over for months.

    It just goes to show that you can't count on the fundy atheist crowd to get ANYTHING right.

    Friday, February 19, 2016

    Countercounterforgery, Part 2

    From the Janaury 2013 E-Block.
    **
    We pick up our evaluation of Ehrman's FAC with his brief commentary on 2 Peter. 

    Ehrman spends far more time explaining why he thinks 2 Peter was forged than actually arguing for it being forged. He appeals to the usual external testimonies, which are negated by the fact that in the final analysis, 2 Peter was accepted as canonical, and then arguably after serious critical consideration of the sort Ehrman assumes the early church lacked. There is also the usual supposition that "an Aramaic-speaking peasant", like Peter, could not write in this sort of Greek, but this is merely an insult to pre-literate peoples as a whole. In an age when people in their 90s get a GED, it seems rather bigoted of Ehrman to suppose that after several decades of life, Peter would be unable to learn to read and write in another language, even, to have been able to do so particularly well. The elaborate style Ehrman sees is also not particularly problematic for someone who would have been attuned to oral performance, as clearly was the source for Mark. 

    Further objections by Ehrman assume the usual eschatological issues my preterist view renders moot, and that beg the standard question assuming Peter couldn't possibly know of his imminent death; though really, 2 Peter 1:14 need not reflect any special prophetic knowledge, either. Human beings may have a sense of being "not much longer for this world" without prophecy telling them so like: a certain unease of health, or by advanced signs of aging, which are more than enough for Peter to say that he must "shortly" put off his own tabernacle.
    There is also the usual appeal to the parallels to Jude, and reference to Paul's collected letters, which we dealt with in Trusting the New Testament.

    A final objection is rather odd, as Ehrman says that 2 Peter has "nothing Jewish about it." Our answer: So what? By any reckoning 2 Peter is written to Gentile converts. It is also a very short epistle, mainly for exhortation. Why does it need to be peculiarly "Jewish"? Why on earth should Peter tell such people, as Ehrman implies, to not follow "standard, high morals" rather than the Law? What about the fact that by the time of 2 Peter, Peter would have lived for decades among Gentiles in Rome where he would have become quite acculturated. Does audience and context mean nothing to Ehrman?

    1 Peter

    The next book to be dealt with moves us back one in the canon. Ehrman hauls in a scattershot of objections, many of which he admits are "subsidiary" even as he uses them. Those we have not covered in TNT:
  • He says there is no evidence that Christianity had spread to the provinces of Asia Minor listed in 1 Peter 1:1, by Peter's day. Ehrman is right. We should simply assume that on the way from Jerusalem and Syria to Rome in the 50s (to those whom Paul writes his letter), Christian missionaries grew wings and flew over the provinces of Asia Minor in between, not stopping to spread their message. And of course, Paul was writing to some other Galatia than the one in Asia Minor.
  • He says, "other traditions do not associate Peter with Christians in the general region." The answer that is sufficient is, "so what"? Ehrman doesn't respect the accuracy of church traditions from the likes of Papias, when it comes to Matthew's authorship, so why would he want one about Peter associating with churches in Asia Minor? Needless to say, traditions are helpful, but no one thinks they are comprehensive, and unless Peter too grew wings, he had to pass by the area to get from Jerusalem to Rome.
  • He says Peter, if the author, "gives no indication that he was a companion" to Jesus. Perhaps Ehrman fails to recognize, even after rejecting such ideas, that he is making the same argument Earl Doherty makes of Paul to declare Jesus never existed at all. The answer is much the same: High context authors do not need to re-specify what their readers already know.
  • Relatedly, Ehrman wonders why Peter calls himself a "presbyter" (5:1). Apparently, Ehrman forgets that the word used means elder, as in, an older person. In so describing himself, Peter is claiming for himself the honor and authority that went with age in his social world, and also using it for relational purposes towards the elders in his audience. This also emasculates Ehrman's objection of this term as reflecting a too-early instance of the office of "elder". Ehrman mistakenly thinks the references to oversight (5:2) mean "elder" is an office, when it is actually the normal in-group function of those wise and advanced in years.
  • Ehrman appeals to the use of "Christian" (4:16) as a sign of a late date, though to do so, he must date Acts to the late first century and assume the reference there (26:28) is an anachronism. Ehrman also reads 4:14 with appalling fundamentalist literalism, arguing that no one would be persecuted "simply" because of the name of Christ. Has he forgotten that the word "name" in the Biblical world doesn't "simply" mean nomenclature, but also has to do with authority and identity.
    A particularly outlandish argument for placing 1 Peter after 70 AD is derived from Hunzinger, under the assumption (with which we agree) that Rome is "Babylon" (5:13). Hunzinger argues that Rome was called this because it destroyed the Temple, and so he concludes there can be no other reason 1 Peter would call Rome "Babylon" -- such as you know, being a chief headquarters for idolatrous practices, or being well known for licentious behavior, or having enmity against the people of God. The connection made by Hunzinger is, at any rate, weak. The passages he appeals to, from 4 Ezra 3 and Syr. Baruch 11, indicate no cause-effect relationship between the destruction of Jerusalem and the naming of Rome as "Babylon." Rome is simply called "Babylon" as though it were a given. We owe it to Ehrman's lack of imagination that he cannot see any "obvious and palpable" reason to call Rome "Babylon" until the Temple is destroyed.
  • There is the usual replay of objections about Peter's illiteracy; we need not engage that in detail, as Ehrman has (as seen in the last installment) dispensed with scribal activity with a wave of his hand. He also spends far more time explaining why he thinks 1 (and 2) Peter were forged versus defending the proposition that they were.
    Acts

    This section by Ehrman begins with an unpromising recital of the usual "Peter vs. Paul" canard (see link below), where Ehrman gets the source of the dispute wrong (it was not about being "gentile to the Gentiles," but about ritual purity). Ehrman quickly dispenses with the inclusion of Luke within the "we passages" of Acts with the expedient that Acts doesn't relate much about the life of Paul, an objection we covered in TNT, and alleged contradictions with Paul's letters, which we covered in the link below. With that summed up so, Ehrman moves on from the argument in a mere handful of sentences, having failed to interact with widely available contrary arguments.

    James

    Ehrman's centerpiece against James as author is the usual canard that James could not read or write; here he doesn't even consider a scribe in a role that not even he has bothered to object to earlier i.e., that of writing down more or less exactly what James said. He elaborates on this point for several paragraphs, oblivious to the single question we have asked. We also dealt, briefly, with the "illiteracy" argument in TNT, by noting that the same argument could be used to claim that Paul was illiterate and could not have written his letters.

    Ehrman also offers arguments that the epistle does not accord with what we know of James elsewhere:
  • He says that Gal. 2:12, Acts, and Hegesippus show that James wanted people to maintain their Jewish identity by observance of the law. But, while he elaborates extensively on the evidence showing this proclivity of James, he fails to show that the epistle is contrary to any of this. Instead, he asserts rather strangely that James' lack of mention of such issues in the epistle is a point against! This is simply absurd, because as Ehrman admits, James' readership is itself Jewish. This means that his readers would already be wholly in agreement with James on the point of honorary law-observance -- so why does Ehrman think it ought to have been brought up?
  • Even weaker is the point that the emphasis on the importance of good works is thought by Ehrman to reflect a later stage of the Christian church (the 60s), after James had died. Is Ehrman serious here? Does he think concern for good works, as part of a movement founded by a teacher of morals (Jesus), would lie dormant for decades, and do so in an atmosphere where good works were also a concern of Jews and pagans alike?
  • Weaker yet is the claim that commentary on the wealthy in James surely could not have been a problem this early in the Christian church. Apparently Ehrman forgets that Wayne Meeks has shown abundantly that well-off people were a higher than usual part of the church, and that even those who were of what we would regard as modest means would be "wealthy" by the measure of the typical peasant. And that's not even accounting for the potential presence of persons like Nicodemus. At the same time, wealthy people amount to "1%" of the population today, and there are more than enough critics of their ways as their power is disproportionate to their numbers. The same would also have been the case in the first century. The real question is, how can Ehrman be so insensate as to think there would NOT be a commentary on the wealthy? Ehrman adds some of his usual reliance on eschatology as a problem, and that sums it up. He also offers the usual error on James vs. Paul (see link below).

    Jude

    Ehrman's treatment of Jude is very brief and brings up nothing we have not covered in TNT. I might add that Ehrman shows an extraordinary lack of faith in the ability of humans to learn. In remarking on the alleged impossibility of someone like Jude learning to read and write proficient Greek, Ehrman imposes all manner of artificial barriers, such as an alleged lack of time to learn. I can only say in response that Ehrman needs to have a little more faith in humanity and in the intelligence of persons other than himself. I have met, over my lifetime, many persons who have learned to read, or mastered a second language in a decade or even less (usually, Spanish/English), and given that ancient languages lacked one huge hurdle of modern languages -- namely, vocabularies of several hundred thousand words (Koine Greek had only a few thousand in general use) -- it can only have been easier, not harder, for a self-teacher to pick up a second language, or to learn to write.

    When it comes to Greek in particular -- the lingua franca of the Empire -- Ehrman underestimates the at hand available resources and motivation to learn. As noted in an article linked below:

    Although aristocratic Romans monopolized formal education in Greek, the lower classes in Rome did not exclusively speak Latin; on the contrary, bilingualism in both Latin and Greek thrived in the city during the late Republic and Principate, and the usage of the Greek language developed both private and public functions. Rome’s geographic location exposed the city to Greek culture and language, which helped shape the development of Latin, and the importation of slaves exponentially increased the number of Greek-speakers in the city. Finally, epigraphic evidence, population analyses, and contemporary literary sources demonstrate how Latin and Greek bilingualism undertook both public and private roles in the social classes outside of the Roman aristocracy.

    Determining how extensive Latin-Greek bilingualism was during the first and second centuries of the Principate in Rome intrinsically rests on the extent of the ethnic diversity of its population during that time period. Prior to the Augustan period, Romans had already been in contact with neighboring Greeks for centuries through trade and war, an exchange that helped Latin evolve and mirror its Hellenic counterpart. Evidence of nominal exposure to the Greek language at this time period is best represented through Latin’s assimilation of foreign terms and adaptation of Greek phonetic sounds.

    Of course, the Jews had been in contact with Greeks for several centuries by the time of Jesus -- including some rather unpleasant interactions with Hellenization.

    The article notes that slavery, and the duties associated with it, as motivation for slaves to learn Greek, which in turn brought it to others. Christians had their own motive to learn; namely, evangelism. This does not mean slaves mastered "complex Greek syntax and grammar," but the degree of motivation and purpose must be accounted for. As in-group leaders of a diverse movement, like James or Jude, had every reason to want to learn to speak and write as well as they could in Greek.

    Furthermore, it is noted that once learned, bilingualism was "passed on" in families. Given the forced Hellenization of the Jews in an earlier period, men like James and Jude would already have had a basic introduction to Greek from birth, especially in the neighborhood of Sepphoris, where basic Greek would be needed to conduct business.

    In short, at the very least, this point deserves far more than the breezy dismissal and rhetorically-posed yet uninvestigated questions Ehrman offers.

    John's Letters

    For these, Ehrman hardly even bothers to advance arguments for forgery but merely assumes the letters are forged, and gives explanations for what he takes to be their purpose in being forged.

    Ehrman's treatment of canonical material ends here, and as has been shown, though Ehrman's length of dissertation has increased, his devotion to substance has remained harmfully minimalistic.

    Pete vs. Paul
    Acts vs. Paul
    James vs. Paul
    On bilingualism