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Posted by on Dec 24, 2012 in Uncategorized | 60 comments

My debate with on the Nativity with apologist Randal Rauser now available

My pre-recorded debate with Randal Rauser, a Christian apologist from Canada, is now available.

Let me know what you think, please. It is my first debate, and hopefully not my last! The format was a 20 minute opened, 15 minute rebuttal, 7 minute second rebuttal, another 5 minuter and then a 2 minute closing statement. Here is the amusing picture that Justin Schieber did, at Reasonable Doubts, who hosted it:

why_does_mary_look_like_a_dude

I think Mary is very good-looking. Didn’t know they had glasses in those days, though. Think link to the debate is here!

Comments below, please!

 

 

[UPDATE] Here are a collection of quotes about the debate. I have tried to be objective and give a balance, though I can only find one which praises Randal, though not many praise me, but criticise Randal. It seems to be not so much that I did well, but Randal was defending the indefensible…

“The truth of Christianity is not at stake in this debate.”

And yet Randal cites the off-topic resurrection scenes and the attributed teachings to support his position, name-dropping authors and taking their unstated arguments as a given. Then he criticises his opponent for not first debating the truth of Christianity, in order to argue against any details relevant to the nativity narratives and minor doctrines.

 

I expected less from Jonathan as the historicity of the nativity has been debated previously and very few irrefutable facts can be used to justify disbelief, I was satisfied in his rebuttals and counter points. Very well done.

 

Randal couldn’t rebut Jonathan without using irrelevant analogies that missed the point entirely while throwing in smugness and ignorance by attempting to utilize a counter point in his favor. I was both unimpressed and unmoved by his statements.

 

It was a good format actually. Very meaty. So meaty that I cant do chores at the same time and keep having to scroll back….will give up and make notes and stop multi tasking. hehe These two would be great on the show [Unbelievable on Premier Christian Radio] I think!

 

 I enjoyed this debate, particularly liking the format. I will also need to listen again but on the first pass I got the impression that many of JP’s points were either brushed aside or not addressed at all.

 

Randal: Just listened to your debate and I must say you did an excellent job! You argued your position so well. I have been reading your blog for quite some time and I commend you for taking the time to write so many interesting articles that challenge and stimulate thinking. We need more people like you who are honestly pursuing truth.

 

Wow, very disappointed with [Randal's] performance here. Your tortured analogies were literally painful for me to listen to. :(

 

I tried to put myself back into the mindset I had when I was a believer, to see if Randal’s arguments would have been fulfilling or persuasive. I failed, I guess, because I could not convince myself that Randal successfully shouldered the burden which was his to carry. He is an experienced debater and apologist, it would seem, but he also resorts to well-worn fallacies…. naked assertions, false analogies, and strawmen, oh my!

 

Well, I tried to listen to both sides with equal skepticism and criticism, but Randal’s continued twisting of each of Jonathan’s points just kept kneecapping me there. Randal is obviously no historian, and has no idea of how historians evaluate possible sources. I hate to break it to you, Randal, but Jonathan’s list is NOT “ad hoc”, nor is it unique or specially created just to cast doubt on the gospels. Rather, that list (the original, not your twisted, warped version of each point) is indeed a well-used, valuable, and insightful framework for such evaluations.

Jonathan, my only critique of your rebuttals is that I wish you had gone into a bit more depth to show how Randal did twist and exaggerate every point in that list in order to either discount it or make it seem as if it supported his argument. None of them did. Other than that, good job! I’m impressed that this was your first debate!

Finally, to Randal again: your express and careful wording of the point that (paraphrasing, obviously) Christianswould find your three selected points quite easy to believe, because they already start from a belief in God, is the classic example of begging the question, in the classic sense, not the modern mangled one. If one must start from such a belief to find the arguments for historical reliability of these three tidbits (let alone the rest of the gospels) convincing, then you haven’t proven the historical reliability one whit. Further, throwing all the rest of the gospels out and only concentrating on these three bits, which Jonathan rightly points out are unprovable by any means possible OTHER than prior belief in God and the supernatural, why then, to any impartial observer, you’ve conceded the debate before you’ve started.

 

To all those involved – thank you, especially Randall and Jonathan.

Randall, one thing that really jumped out at me was your comparison regarding the impact that the length of time between events and the writing has on it’s accuracy. You stated that it can actually improve the veracity of a historical account and compared books about WW II to the writing of M & L. I am wondering if you think that is really fair, given that there were still plenty of people to interview, probably millions of documents to be analyzed, photos, films, thousands of other assessments regarding the war that could only add to our understanding. Whereas with M & L there are only speculative common sources and it probably grew out of an oral passing of stories. Personally, I found this comparison so absurd that I had a hard time focusing on the rest of your arguments.

 

Randal says:

“Really? I’ve been teaching graduate level history classes for ten years. If you listened to the debate you would have heard that I carefully went through Jonathan’s stated criteria and pointed out how and why they fail.”

Really? Then I must wonder what criteria you have been teaching your students for evaluating historical sources, since this seems to be the first time you’ve encountered this list.

I did listen to the entire thing, and I heard you call it an “ad hoc” list several times, meaning “made up by Jonathan”, and indicating strongly that you’d not encountered them before. This impression was reinforced by the way you twisted several of them into strawmen in order to make them fail.

For instance, more than once you pretended that the evaluation was an all-or-nothing switch, and to be taken all by itself, rather than a shading of grey to add to the rest of the list (or addition of numbers to the probability equation, if you prefer). A measurement – an artifact opposed to a testimony, for instance – which makes a source “more credible” doesn’t mean that’s it, all you have to know is that it’s an artifact, and therefore is 100% reliable – or that testimony is 100% discountable with no other considerations necessary. It means take a raisin and put it on that (whichever) side of the scale, then move on down the rest of the list of evaluatory considerations.

Likewise, you twisted the measure of time, as mentioned by the previous commenter. All else being equal, a document written soon after the events in question would carry greater gravitas than one written several decades later. But in your two examples, all else was NOT equal. The two writers had different levels of access to a different breadth of documentation, different primary sources, had come from different backgrounds, etc etc ad nauseum. And it is all those other measures, amply (but not exhaustively) covered by Jonathan’s enumerated list, which would cause the evaluator of those two books to place a much lower weight to this particular measurement (that of time), or perhaps none at all. If Jonathan erred at all in his presentation, it was in not stressing the cumulative and variable weights given to each item of the list, and that the entire list – and more besides – are available to evaluate source reliability.

So again, I would dearly like to know: what are you teaching your students about how to evaluate sources?

I may return to your other point of intended audience and subsequent scope of argument later.

 

 

Why is it necessary for Jonathan to point out the obvious distinctions in post #20 above? [on the RD blog for the debate]
History is fascinating in part because there are so many mysteries, new discoveries and analysis can shed light on these from time to time and offer varying degrees of certainty for one or other series of events.
I enjoy rigorous debate about the bible’s authorship, history and relation to other contemporary writings.

Why debate an apologist? Almost invariably the lack of serious argument from the apologist leads to the audience cringing in horror at the sheer lack of intellectual credibility.

Randal was no exception. I had to stop listening several times. That Christians believe in the historicity of the story in which the god they believe in plays the staring roll is not an argument for historicity. Two documents agree on some, arguably theologically important elements of the story. Randal’s only evidence for historicity is these same two documents which both include other elements that are clearly unlikely to be historically accurate, were borrowed from other stories and/or seem to be constructed for theological rather than historical narrative purposes.

Surely there are better arguments for historicity of the nativity. From this debate it seems we have no grounds for assigning any positive value to the likelihood of any aspect of the story, other than say babies were born in Palestine in the first century.

 

  • http://www.www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

    Oops. You can hear a doorbell in the first audio section as he used the wrong file. Hey-ho. Perhaps it will get changed…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NZMJ7JRYKH7WR6YTXJGG3PU65E John Grove

    Good debate Johnny, just heard it. If this is the best that Christians can do for the nativity than they are indeed on sinking sand. It was painful for me to listen to Randal but I managed to survive the experience.

  • Pingback: Pearce / Rauser debate on Reasonable Doubts | Background Probability

  • JohnM

    Thank you for doing that, and sharing it with us. Made my drive yesterday, go a lot faster.

    I was very pleased with Randal’s performance. I found that he hit a lot of the things, I noted to myself, while listening to your talking sections.

    As you can imagine, I share a lot of his criticism of your methodology. I don’t think it’s a serious truth seeking setup. In my view, it’s very ad hoc, and designed to try and cast doubt.

    Furthermore, I don’t really find your case convincing.. I see it as unjustified doubt.

    And many of the so-called “contradictions” that you bring up, I have myself been looking into, my entire life. And I have found what I consider, not mere harmonizations, but actually good complimentary explanations, that together give new and important information.

    One of my frustrations, discussing the bible with atheist, is that you can’t just sit down and read it.. And understand everything. You need a high degree of insight to understand it..

    Take for example, the parable of the good Samaritan. Clearly the Samaritan role is cast as a bad guy.. Why is it a Samaritan?

    Or in John 4, Jesus tells a Samaritan woman : “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.”

    Why does Jesus tell the woman that? And why is it only John, ( which all seems to  agree is the later gospel ) that includes in his gospel?

    Furthermore, people tend to read the gospels, in the light of the reality that they themselves live in..  Like “How come the Jews could retell their ancestral line, many generations back?? That’s insane”.

    They completely lack insight into the ancient customs of Jews..  For Jews, their ancestral line was very important. They would identify each other by it.. “John, the son of… the son of” And they would learn to memorize their entire line backwards, and pass it on to their children. Which they then would used to select a bride..

    If you ever come across an orthodox Jews, try asking him what tribe of Israel that he’s from, and what who his forefathers were.. I bet you’ll be surprised by the details.

  • JohnM

    Actually, come to think of it.. You don’t even need to go find yourself an orthodox Jew.

    If you go back 100 years in this country, then every child in school, would have been able to recite the entire line of kings, there ever was in this country.

    The same is true of United states. I think they still teach the kids to remember, the entire line of US Presidents there ever was.

    So most people not knowing who their grandfather were, and not knowing who was king / president at the time, is actually a very recent phenomena.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NZMJ7JRYKH7WR6YTXJGG3PU65E John Grove

    JohnM will cheer on anybody who he is partisan with, which to me is a clear example of Johnny’s article on “Heads I win, Tails you lose #1″ mentality. A few examples:

    [[Furthermore, I don't really find your case convincing.. I see it as unjustified doubt.]]

    Clearly you did not listen or you lack critical thinking skills as do most Christians. As one reading stated with regard to Randal points: “…..they ..start from a belief in God, is the classic example
    of begging the question, in the classic sense, not the modern mangled
    one. If one must start from such a belief to find the arguments for
    historical reliability of these three tidbits (let alone the rest of the
    gospels) convincing, then you haven’t proven the historical reliability
    one whit.”

    The reviewer hit the nail on the head and is just another example of a Christian trying ever so hard to rationalize belief somehow.

    [[I was very pleased with Randal's performance. I found that he hit a lot of the things]]

    Ah confirmation bias in action. “Randal’s only evidence for historicity is these same two documents which
    both include other elements that are clearly unlikely to be historically
    accurate, were borrowed from other stories and/or seem to be
    constructed for theological rather than historical narrative purposes.”

    [[One of my frustrations, discussing the bible with atheist, is that you
    can't just sit down and read it.. And understand everything. You need a
    high degree of insight to understand it..]]

    A high degree of insight so you can twist and distort it to mean just about anything other than WHAT is plainly says. I see this time and time again with believers and especially with WLC.

    • JohnM

      Whine and Ad hominem as a replacement for real arguments.

      How am I supposed to that that serious?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NZMJ7JRYKH7WR6YTXJGG3PU65E John Grove

        Since when did anybody EVER take you serious? The Christian who whines all day on atheist blogs..

        • Andy_Schueler

          Yeah… JohnM and his “insight” when it comes to the Bible…
          I´m still laughing about his “insight” into Numbers 31:15-18

          “15 “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. 16 “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. 17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”

           
          which was:

          *sigh* In order to raise them as their own daughters, of course. Not to rape them…
          They would have been very young girls.. Only paedophiles would want to do that..   Seriously.. What kind of perverted, sick and degenerated mind, do you actually have, to get such thoughts from reading that text?
          Disgusting!
          – JohnM ( http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/12/18/god-is-a-consequentialist/#comment-743869239 )

          A totally plausible interpretation! I can picture it: a traumatized Midianite virgin – surrounded by the corpses of her murdered family, holding her murdered baby brother in her arms – and a soldier, his blade still dripping the blood of her family, telling her “hey little girl, who´s your daddy ?!“. 

          The mind of a fundie is a strange place isn´t it ? And they wonder why no one takes them serious ;-)

          • http://www.www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            i missed that harmonisation of John’s.

            I have heard a lot of attempted rationalisations. I have NEVER heard that one. 

            Wow.

            As the KJV says:

            “But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.”

            So why would it be important for them that they be virgins? Ans how does John explain the slaying of all the non-virgins! Man, that is hilarious exegesis, and pretty much destroys his credibility on all other exegetical matters!

          • Andy_Schueler

            So why would it be important for them that they be virgins?

            According to JohnM, “virgin” essentially means “female teenager” :

            That’s the equivalent of saying “every female teenager”. It’s an age thing.
            So spare me your sick thoughts.

            http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/12/18/god-is-a-consequentialist/#comment-743881386

            Ans how does John explain the slaying of all the non-virgins! 

            And the slaying of boys of all ages…. Yeah, we are still waiting for this explanation ;-) 

            Man, that is hilarious exegesis

            Yeah, this is even more hilarious than his interpration of Psalm 137, where he tried to argue the Psalmist who wrote Psalm 137 is actually not talking about killing babies by “dashing them against rocks”…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NZMJ7JRYKH7WR6YTXJGG3PU65E John Grove

    His theology is very poor and sloppy and his knowledge of church history seems to be nil.

  • Daydreamer1

    Hi,

      This is my first comment here.

      I thought Randal did quite well given what he has to work with. After all he is stuck in a single position and must defend it with what he has. Sadly that is not too much…

      As Jonathan stated Randal must somehow define why it is reasonable to privilege a few paragraphs from an ancient text and develop an epistemology that does this while isolating itself from raising everyone elses religion to an equal level of reasonableness – all while keeping a definition of reasonableness that works in all circumstances that we would expect it to and ably handles the distinction between mythology and history. A very tough call. He had a crack, and failed at what many people on the outside of his theology can see is an impossible task.

      His attempt to do it by simply declaring that so long as you are Christian it is really quite easy to do misses out a few steps I would love to have seen him explain. He has stated elsewhere that his intention was only to show the reasonableness of Christians making the jump, and presumably for us non-believers his desire is that we discover the reasonableness of being Christian elsewhere so we can then accept this (by implication smaller?) jump in reasonableness.

      However, in terms of this being a self contained debate leaving such a large part of the method in which you arrive at your conclusion off of the table left too large a gap for me personally. Similar to Craigs argument that the ressurection is easy to accept if you have already accepted the existence of God – well, what isn’t. Part of the criticism levelled at theologians is that it very much appears that your mind drops out at the point when you accept these things. The argument that ‘my interpretation X’ is easy to accept if you have already accepted God doesn’t help them quite as much as their intuition tells them it should – in part surely because accepting supernaturalism means accepting that anything goes, or did go. Thats fine, but you lose alot of descriptive power in your arguments too.

      So – onto his use of ‘reasonableness’. Jonathan, I understand the desire to be scientific and show where doubt does exist. I would hope that people would be open to aligning their personal doubts with the quantitative doubt that exists in any subject – though many seem not too; Randal included. I think in this though you both approached this from different angles and it might have helped to predict how someone in his corner might try and get out and work to better show flaws in his assumptions. What is reasonableness? Why allow him to get away with using it as if he was being? His definition of what was reasonable required certain assumptions that could have been directly challenged; though I appreciate that if he has spoken about how his epistemology allowed the Hadiths through then it would have addressed a few of them – no doubt why he ignored it even though it is very important he address it outside of his ‘its easy if you’re already Christian’ argument.

      His repetition of ‘prima facie independent credible’ witnesses was frustrating given the weaknesses of that argument. Raising the Synoptic Problem and Markian Priority would have been valid here by what I understand of them. You mentioned ‘Q’, but didn’t push it very far. I felt given the stress he was placing on with independence of M and L his whole case could easily be shaken much harder by looking at that in more depth – as well as undermining his personal definition of ‘reasonable’.

      His twist of your argument about inconsistencies showing independence was cute. I am not sure of the details here, but if it is the case I would have liked to have heard a rebuttal based around the location of the inconsistencies with relation to the Synoptic Problem’ and ‘Q’. After all, if the point is that Mark acts as a source and Matthew and Luke agree where something is in Mark, but disagree where it is not except for an unknown text we refer to as ‘Q’ then inconsistencies located outside of Mark and ‘Q’ are not showing independence at all, but revealing the dependence as well as the personal projects of M and L.

      I agree entirely about his attempt to stick rigidly to his preferred three points and ignore the maelstrom around him. He is not wrong to state that a central theme can be extracted from the Gospels, but he is wrong to ignore the mistakes of the authors he is asking people to trust. Sure there are themes, but surely the point is that we can expect them whether true or not. We see thematic narratives right across religions and literature and do not feel the need to suggest that the existence of the theme itself is evidence for it. Sure, it is expected if it is true - necessary even, but this in itself it is not a feature that guarantees its truth – or as Randal puts it, the ‘reasonableness’. This is the little inconvenience that Randal was hiding in his attempt to dig himself free – he has only shown that the stories tick a few of the boxes we would expect if they were true and from this he wants us to conclude that they very likely are. That is a fallacy, or as Hitchens would have said ‘all of his work is ahead of him’.

    • http://www.www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful and engaging response. Lots to talk about there.

      I thought Randal did quite well given what he has to work with.

      I tend to agree insofar as it is actually an impossible case to win, imho. I think I won the debate, if one can claim that, but not because of anything I said. I don’t think anyone defending that position could win since one has to hide behind paper-thin rationalisations. Randal made some interesting points, but as you point out, they are easy enough, given time, to refute. As I have said on the RD thread, I just ran out of time and so even had to ignore certain points he made. You cannot believe how quick the time goes until you do one of those things. Could I have used my time better? Undoubtedly! Did he get away with claims that went unanswered? Absolutely!

      Again, being my first debate, it is all a learning curve. As I said to Randal on the other thread:

      Hi Randal
      Let me evoke the heads you win tails I lose scenario, often adopted by Christians, as detailed here:
      http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/12/26/heads-you-win-tails-i-lose-1/

      This is where Christians claim contradictory or any criteria as supporting their evidential approach to biblical historicity (or evidence for God in any number of ways). Whether it be the criterion of dissimilarity being used in the same breath as the criterion of coherence; or whether is is a temporally closer Gospel is more accurate when it suits you, or further away in another context.

      What it seems that you are doing is heralding any claim about the Gospels (historiographically speaking) as either void or defending you position. In actual fact, there seems to be no epistemic way that the Gospels can fail. They are so close to the original eyewitnesses in comparison to so many other historical accounts that they are true! They are further away (90 years, if Jonathan is right) – but hang on, accounts further away are more often more accurate!

      And so on.

      These are the aspects we are fairly sure of:

      Authors of M and L do not use methodology associated with good historians (and you DID call them historians).
      They were not eyewitnesses.We have no knowledge of who their sources were.and so on, as mentioned.

      They could have been written by eyewitnesses, or contemporaneously. They weren’t.
      They could have been written much later using various authenticated sources and historical methods (as your analogies). They weren’t and didn’t.

      What does this leave us with?

      Not an awful lot.

      Can we have over 50% probability that they were reliable? Absolutely not. You can’t question them. When they are cross-referenced in the nativity narratives with other historical facts, they are found to be inaccurate and so on as mentioned. Yet, somehow, they receive what, to me, must be some way over 50% probability of being accurate to earn the title of historically reliable documents. Even though their claims are outlandish. Even though we don;t know who, where or when they were written beyond educated guesses. Even though we don’t know who the sources were. Even thought they are admitted ex post facto evangelising believers.

      etc etc

      • Daydreamer1

        Their H&T approach is an entirely valid criticism. I remember my shock at reading the comments of one theologian to another regarding creationist claims. It wasn’t that the methodology was flawed or that the evidence was against it, it was that God of the Gaps is a tool to be used effectively. By placing God in a position addressable by science the theologian, so the other claimed, weakened theology and weakened God. The best arguments for God are designed, positioned, out of reach not just of the non-believer, but also the believer. No-one should be able to find a weakness in the man made construct being claimed as God. Scientists discover space-time and now theologians have a new word to place God outside of. Lawrence Krauss shows how physicists are encroaching on ‘nothingness’ and theologians have a new definition to position God outside of.

        It is the job of theologians to position God outside of debate. The question is, to what degree will the public allow them to continue doing this? Beliefs founded in this way tend to behave more like fashions than scientific facts, and Christianity is becoming very unfashionable. I believe that in the end this will be its undoing.

    • http://www.www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      Similar to Craigs argument that the ressurection is easy to accept if you have already accepted the existence of God – well, what isn’t. Part of the criticism levelled at theologians is that it very much appears that your mind drops out at the point when you accept these things. 

      Too true. This altering of probabilities based on background information of that sort is problematic, for me, and demands an awful lot more unpicking.

      surely because accepting supernaturalism means accepting that anything goes, or did go. Thats fine, but you lose alot of descriptive power in your arguments too.

      Again, spot on.

      He never mentioned the Hadiths, though I brought them up, and I did call him out on that, and he still failed to answer the point, so I’ll chalk that one up.

      I did only mention Q and Goodacre’s thesis towards the end, which in hindsight, was a shame. I should have mentioned that earlier. This is what Randal has said elsewhere, though:

      Matthew and Luke both have two kinds of shared material. Some of it appears to be drawn from Mark and thus Mark is considered a source for Matthew and Luke. But there is another independent source which has led critics to speculate that there is another written source called Q (from the German for “Quelle” or source). Although other critics challenge the very existence of Q, and it is certainly possible to explain the shared non-Markan material in Matthew and Luke in other ways (e.g. shared oral tradition).

      Finally, there is material that is independent to Matthew and Luke. These sources are typically called the M source (for material unique to Matthew) and the L source (for material unique to Luke).

      To sum up, it seems that Matthew is composed of material from Mark, Q and material that Matthew compiled independently while Luke is composed of material from Mark, Q and material that Luke compiled independently.

      The Natitivity sources (which I called M and L) fit into the third source as material independent and unique to Matthew and Luke.

      Is it possible that the Nativity material could all be drawn from one large nativity narrative in Q? That’s possible in the same way that it is possible aliens could land on the White House lawn tomorrow. But we have to stick with most plausible reconstructions in history and that reconstruction is not at all plausible.

      Which lays his position out pretty explicitly. He does not seem to credit Goodacre’s thesis (that Q is very problematic, Matthew then embellishes Mark, and Luke relies on Matthew) with any kind of credibility.
      What it then looks like is that, for him, the core of the Gospels come from Mark, but they independently get their infancy narratives. It comes down to seeing which is more probable:

      Are the differences better explained by independent but reliable sources, or by inaccurate (independent or dependent) sources (or made up)?

      I tried to show at the end that, even if I was to concede much, the unknown factor of the sources should lead someone to only a 50% probability either way – not enough to claim with any kind of surety that the accounts ARE reliable.

      • Daydreamer1

        I liked your use of the 50% ‘could’ etc and the use of .25 x .4 to attempt to highlight his problem. He seemed to plain ignore it in building his case for ‘reasonableness’, which always felt like something he had come to terms with prior to the debate and accepted rather than something he was able to justify within the debate.

        I didn’t like his attempt to twist ‘could’ around though. At your use of ‘could’ he tries to apply your logic to yourself even though he ignored its relevance to him and even though the type of argument was different.

        It bugged me that he was keen to make the Humian slip as often as he did. David Hume in his rebuttal of design (I’m sure I don’t need to state this here, but in case I do not make my thoughts clear) showed the category error of using what you know to be designed in analogy for what you don’t. His use of Lincoln and the Second World War is the same. He takes what we have discovered by other means and applies it to what we are trying to discover about ancient documents without those means as if it was all the same thing. We cannot use scholarship on WWII or Abraham Lincoln for analogy because we can test that scholarship by other means. All we have with the points from M and L he is arguing is M and L, hence why your criticisms are not rebutted by our knowledge of Lincoln or WWII.

        • http://www.www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

          Absolutely. I really did think every analogy he made was false. Others have pointed this out too:
          http://freethoughtblogs.com/reasonabledoubts/2012/12/24/rd-extra-the-nativity-debate-with-jonathan-pearce-and-randal-rauser/#comment-10135

          His criticisms of my use of the criteria of dating, and then using those holocaust / ww2 analogies were problematic. I tried to show in the thread above that these criteria make more sense ceteris paribus, which i did not mention in the debate, which he then criticised me for.

          His Lincoln analogy i tried to turn back on him twice to which he failed to rebut effectively.

          • Daydreamer1

            One thing that I cannot settle within myself is to what degree I should respect theology as an academic subject. In one respect it requires dedication and effort, but from another if this is what is achieved then it is hard to consider it comparable in academic terms to other subjects. So when Randal defends his position by claiming that he has taught graduate history for a decade does it make a difference that this is in theology? Would the outcome of his study be the same if he was a Muslim? (When I worked in Saudi the prevalent view among the Muslims I met was that the Bible was thoroughly disproved, funnily using many of the same arguments we see here – except where in accord with the Koran of course). Hector Avalos in the End of Biblical Studies stated that upon inspection it appeared that theology departments were very easy places to do sloppy work and claim it as scholarship.

            I can take any subject from within my geology degree and be critical of it. Apart from a few things that have changed (possible models of the Earths magnetic field, water on Mars etc) I would not be a ‘non-geologist’ if I applied critical thinking to my subject. Is the same really true of theology? Randal seems to admit that it is not when he states that being Christian is an important part of reaching Christian conclusions. It seems little wonder to me that without being taught to believe as the start of the process (something I feel should only be granted at the end of a thought process) people do not naturally reach the Christian conclusion – and yet surely psychology and neuroscience give us a window on what is happening in the brain here… Is belief used to guide conclusions instead of as a result of them really intellectually moral? Do religions even contain a bracket for intellectual morality in how it might be understood today?

  • JohnM

    Jonathan MS Pearce :

    I have heard a lot of attempted rationalisations. I have NEVER heard that one.

    It’s the default understanding, if one don’t have a sick and paedophile mind…

    Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible
    http://mhc.biblecommenter.com/numbers/31.htm

    Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible
    http://gill.biblecommenter.com/numbers/31.htm

    • Andy_Schueler

      Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible 
      http://mhc.biblecommenter.com/

      Ok, so Matthew Henry thinks:
      “The women and children were not kept for sinful purposes, but for slaves, a custom every where practised in former times”
      => Makes TOTAL sense, murder the strong boys (who needs strong slaves, amirite ?!), murder the male babies and murder all females who have already slept with a man (because we all know that only virgins make good slaves amirite ?!). This OBVIOUSLY cannot have anything to do with sinful purposes! Because…. because… non-virgins and boys don´t make good slaves! 
      But seriously – Matthew Henry is not a good rape apologist.

      Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible 
      http://gill.biblecommenter.com

      Maybe Gill is a better rape apologist ? Let´s see:
      “But all the women children,…. The females among the little ones:
      that have not known a man by lying with him; which might be pretty clear, and easily concluded, from their age:
      keep for yourselves; either to be handmaids to them, or to be married among them when grown up, and become proselytes, and initiated into their religion.”
      => Nope, he admits that they should only keep the virgins and murder everyone else so they can fuck them later. 

      It’s the default understaind, if one don’t have a sick and paedophile mind…

      It´s “doesn´t”. 
      Also, go die in a fire you scumbag rape-excusing piece of shit.

      • http://www.www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

        Andy – I totally understand your frustration. I really do. John is twisting his own mind (this comment is as a result of many threads, some concurrent) into staggering contortions, and it is impossible to rationally justify. We’ll keep plugging away…
        Easy on the rhetoric, though.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Easy on the rhetoric, though.

          I edited the comment – sorry!

          • http://www.www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Andy, here is a link to the commentaries which John keeps linking.

            None of them mention his theory – all of them see it as literal children and vengeance:

            http://bible.cc/psalms/137-9.htm

          • Andy_Schueler

            Andy, here is a link to the commentaries which John keeps linking.None of them mention his theory – all of them see it as literal children and vengeance:

            I guess they are just lacking JohnM´s outstanding “insight” ;-).

    • http://www.www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      John. What a wonderful and wholly contradictory / downright disingenuous claim.

      Here is what you said:

      “in order to raise them as their own daughters, ”

      Here is what the link you sent saud:

      “The women and children were not kept for sinful purposes, but for slaves”

      Hmm, you claim they are to be raised as daughters and then provide support / proof of this by giving a link, probably thinking i would not refer to it. The link, in fact, supports a totally different reading, and one which is what we were in fact claiming (spoils of war – slave (sexual or otherwise).

  • JohnM

    Andy_Schueler :

    Yeah, this is even more hilarious than his interpration of Psalm 137, where he tried to argue the Psalmist who wrote Psalm 137 is actually not talking about killing babies by “dashing them against rocks”…

    If you read the bible like that, then you’ll end up concluding, that Jesus was a Sheep, or a branch of wood, and not a human being..

    Psalm 137 : 8-9
    Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us. Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

    The infants that are dashed agasint the rocks, are the infant, born of the daughter, of babylon. These are not babies as such. These are new converts of the babylon mystery religion. And it’s pretty standard biblical thermenology.  Just like all Christians, young or old, are reffered to as “Children of God”.

    • Andy_Schueler

      The infants that are dashed agasint the rocks, are the infant, born of the daughter, of babylon. These are not babies as such. These are new converts of the babylon mystery religion. And it’s pretty standard biblical thermenology.  Just like all Christians, young or old, are reffered to as “Children of God”.

      1. “Children” does not imply an age – a “child of God” or a “child of Baal” could be 80 years old. But Psalm 137 does not use the word “Child” – it uses “babies”, “infants” or “little ones”, depending on translation – no one ever translated it to mean “dashes your CHILDREN against the rocks”.
      2. You can easily “dash” infants against rocks – this is not humanly possible with adults however (try and throw(!) an adult human being)
      3. The “daughter of babylon” refers to the babylonian nation / the babylonian people just like the “daughter of zion” refers to the nation / people of israel (see Zechariah 2) not to a religion.
      4. It´s “terminology” and “referred”
      5. I explained all of this in an earlier thread to you. And you are repeating the exact same lies almost verbatim here…. 
      6. Seriously, get help.

      • http://www.www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

        John, Andy is spot on here. This is verbatim what has been argued with you before. You seem to take nothing on, going away from these thread and discussions having not listened at all. andy goes into a lot of depth to refute your positions. Please listen and do not bury your head in the sand.

    • http://www.www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      John

      AT THE VERY LEAST, God is countenancing ownership over virgin women by the victors. These days, that would run against every convention. If the UN forces in Afghanistan pulled out with all the Afghan virgins, the world would go utterly apeshit. And rightly so. At THE MOST CHARITABLE reading of that passage, it is still despicable.

      And we also know that God countenances this ownership right elsewhere in the Bible, and that God (monetarily, no less) values women half as much as men. You simply cannot defend this stuff and keep your head held high.

  • JohnM

    Andy_Schueler :

    The “daughter of babylon” refers to the babylonian nation

    No. Then it would just have said Babylon. Not the daughter of babylon.

    And had it been the people living in babylon, it would have said: Sons of babylon.

    The daughter of babylon, is neither the nation, nor the one lonely female citizens living there.

    Psalm 137 does not use the word “Child” – it uses “babies”, “infants” or “little ones”, depending on translation – no one ever translated it to mean “dashes your CHILDREN against the rocks”.

    The Daughter of Babylon never had any real children.

    And your lack of inisght into biblical terminology is rather obvious at this point.

    • Andy_Schueler

      No. Then it would just have said Babylon. Not the daughter of babylon.
      And had it been the people living in babylon, it would have said: Sons of babylon.
      The daughter of babylon, is neither the nation, nor the one lonely female citizens living there.

      Zechariah 2:6-11 (since your reading comprehension is abysmal, I´ll highlight the important parts for you)

      “6 “Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north,” declares the Lord, “for I have scattered you to the four winds of heaven,” declares the Lord.7 “Come, Zion! Escape, you who live(!!!!) in Daughter Babylon!” 8 For this is what the LordAlmighty says: “After the Glorious One has sent me against the nations that have plundered you—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye— 9 I will surely raise my hand against them so that their slaves will plunder them.[b] Then you will know that the LordAlmighty has sent me.10 “Shout and be glad, Daughter(!!!!!) Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord. 11 “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.”

      And your lack of inisght into biblical terminology is rather obvious at this point.

      Again, “insight” does not mean “making shit up”.Also, point to ONE – one single bible verse where “infant” / “baby” / “little one” unambigiously refers to an adult human being. And no – I don´t give a fuck about verses that talk about “children of god” which are clearly adults based on context, because PSALM 137 IS NOT TALKING ABOUT CHILDREN, IT TALKS ABOUT INFANTS(!!).
      GET. THE. POINT.

      • JohnM

         Zechariah 2

        V10 “Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord.

        The Daughter of Zion, is a Jewish Church in the end-times.

        V7 “Come, O Zion! Escape, you who live…

        Notice that it just says Zion here. Not the Daughter of Zion.

        Therefore meaning the people of Zion, who have yet to be part of the Church.

        …in the Daughter of Babylon!”

        This is not the old Babylon. This is the new Babylon, in the end-times. A pagan world-religion, surrounding Zion.

        V11 “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.

        Are the Jews one Church yet? No.

        Many are unbelievers and agnostics..  And they are still spread out over the world, in United States for example.

        So even though Israel is a state now, there are still many Jews out there, in many nations, that have yet to become a faithful people under God, at some point in the future.

        Romans 11 : 25 – 29

        I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

        “The deliverer will come from Zion;
        he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
        And this is my covenant with them
        when I take away their sins.”

        As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.

        • Andy_Schueler

          This is not the old Babylon. This is the new Babylon, in the end-times. A pagan world-religion, surrounding Zion.

          The theme for the first few chapters of the book of Zechariah is the babylonian exile – he is talking about the Jews living in babylonian captivity. FFS, read the damn thing!
          This has nothing to do with any end-time scenario (this comes later in the book of Zechariah) – the daughter of babylon is not a religion.

          The Daughter of Zion, is a Jewish Church in the end-times.

          No, it isn´t. The “daughter of Zion” is used 26 times as a phrase in the hebrew bible – and in each instance, it is used to either refer to the Temple Mount or to Jerusalem or to the jewish people. The daughter of Zion meaning the “Bride of Christ” as in Revelation only occurs in the NT.

  • JohnM

    Jonathan MS Pearce :

    AT THE VERY LEAST, God is countenancing ownership over virgin women by the victors. These days, that would run against every convention.

    God is not setting a standard for all people to follow in the future. This was a specific command, where he told the Israelites, how to deal with the ones who survived this particular battle.

    Also keep in mind that this is before the game-changer.. Aka Jesus Christ. This behaviour wouldn’t be acceptable for any Christian. We are not even to go to war. We are to change the other cheek. As those who live by the sword, die by the sword..

    If the UN forces in Afghanistan pulled out with all the Afghan virgins, the world would go utterly apeshit. And rightly so.

    No, not really.. Parentless children are adopted from Afghanistan to European Countries, all the time, and raised as their own.

    At THE MOST CHARITABLE reading of that passage, it is still despicable.

    I don’t really see that. They saved those children from being molested by their fathers.. ( pagans did that a lot you know ) and they saved them from growing up, worshipping despicable pagan idols.

    • Andy_Schueler

      God is not setting a standard for all people to follow in the future. 

      So much for “objective morality”.

      No, not really.. Parentless children are adopted from Afghanistan to European Countries, all the time, and raised as their own.

      Riiiiight, we murder entire afghan families including their baby boys and all girls that are already married and then we sell the virgins to “loving parents”.
      No wait… Sorry, my bad – you are full of shit again.

      I don’t really see that. They saved those children from being molested by their fathers..

      Yeah, it´s much better to be raped by the guy that just slaughtered her entire family including her baby brother and her married sister, isn´t it ? 

      ( pagans did that a lot you know )

      And that´s how genocides are possible – dehumanize your enemies with ridiculous lies. The Nazis used the same methods that you are trying to use on us – just replace “pagans” by “jews”.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_libel

      and they saved them from growing up, worshipping despicable pagan idols.

      Just like the Nazis “saved” thousands and thousands of jewish children from growing up without a “relationship with Jeebus” and sent them straight to heaven.

    • http://www.www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      I don’t really see that. They saved those children from being molested by their fathers.. ( pagans did that a lot you know ) and they saved them from growing up, worshipping despicable pagan idols.

      This is unbelievable. Now you are claiming that the Israelites were saving the virgin children from being raped by their own fathers because, apparently, pagans (but not Jews!) did this all of the time. Even though rape is countenanced and mentioned an awful lot in the OT with reference to the Jews.

      You are getting more and more deranged. I can’t tell whether this is funny, or upsetting that someone can twist their own rationality so much.

  • JohnM

    Zechariah 2 : 6
    “Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north,” declares the Lord, “for I have scattered you to the four winds of heaven,” declares the Lord.

    From the land of the North. That can’t possible be the old Babylon.

    For I have scattered you to the four winds of heaven.. Or to the nations of the world..

    Zechariah 2 : 10
    “Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord.

    The Lord himself is returning to live in Zion. This is an endtime prophecy.

    Zechariah 2 : 11
    “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.

    Babylon was one nation. This is many nations, becoming one people. This is clearly not about the exile in Babylon. This is the re-gathering of Israel as one people, no longer scattered to the nations of the world.

    The “daughter of Zion” is used 26 times as a phrase in the hebrew bible – and in each instance, it is used to either refer to the Temple Mount or to Jerusalem or to the jewish people. The daughter of Zion meaning the “Bride of Christ” as in Revelation only occurs in the NT.

    Isaiah 62 : 11-12
    The Lord has made proclamation
    to the ends of the earth:
    “Say to the Daughter of Zion,
    ‘See, your Savior comes!
    See, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense accompanies him.’”
    They will be called the Holy People,
    the Redeemed of the Lord;
    and you will be called Sought After,
    the City No Longer Deserted.

    A saviour comes to the Daughter of Zion. They will once again become a Holy People. Zion will no longer be “deserted”.

    This is exactly what Paul talks about in Romans 11 : 25 – 29

    Revelation 18 : 2-5

    “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!
    She has become a home for demons
    and a haunt for every evil spirit,
    a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird.
    For all the nations have drunk
    the maddening wine of her adulteries.
    The kings of the earth committed adultery with her,
    and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”
    Then I heard another voice from heaven say:
    “Come out of her, my people,
    so that you will not share in her sins,
    so that you will not receive any of her plagues;
    for her sins are piled up to heaven,
    and God has remembered her crimes.

    Come out of what?

    Babylon the great. A She.

    Who is she?

    The daughter of Babylon, a pagan world-religion, in the end-times.

    • Andy_Schueler

      From the land of the North. That can’t possible be the old Babylon.

      All Bible commentaries disagree, example:
      “The north country, although its capital and center was Babylon, was the whole Babylonian empire, called “the North” Jeremiah 1:13-14; Jeremiah 3:18; Jeremiah 4:6; Jeremiah 6:1, Jeremiah 6:22; Jeremiah 23:8 because its invasions always came upon Israel from the north.”
      http://bible.cc/zechariah/2-6.htm

      The Lord himself is returning to live in Zion. This is an endtime prophecy.
      ….
      Babylon was one nation. This is many nations, becoming one people. This is clearly not about the exile in Babylon. 

      He is talking about the Jews about to flee from the land of the North (Babylon) and right now LIVING IN(!!) daughter babylon.
      This is the babylonian captivity, it literally (yes, I mean literally) could not be any clearer.

  • JohnM

    Andy_Schueler:

    He is talking about the Jews about to flee from the land of the North (Babylon) and right now LIVING IN(!!) daughter babylon.

    They are scattered to the four winds of heaven ( v6 ) or the 4 corners of the earth, across many nations. They are living in the daughter of babylon. And God is telling them, to flee from her, and to return to Zion. So that many nations, will become one people.

    This prophecy could not have been fulfilled, prior to Israel being scattered as a nation.

    If “daughter Babylon” would be a “a pagan world-religion, in the end-times”, as you say – the Jews in the time of Zechariah could not have lived in her / it

    They didn’t live in her, at the time of Zechariah.

    The Decree of Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem around 538 BC. Zechariah’s prophetical career began around BC 520, about sixteen years after the return from their last Babylonian exile.

    He’s talking about a future event, as the last Babylonian exile thus far in history, had just ended.

    • Andy_Schueler

      To summarize:

      1. The “land of the North” is the babylonian empire:
      “The north country, although its capital and center was Babylon, was the whole Babylonian empire, called “the North” Jeremiah 1:13-14; Jeremiah 3:18; Jeremiah 4:6; Jeremiah 6:1, Jeremiah 6:22; Jeremiah 23:8 because its invasions always came upon Israel from the north.”http://bible.cc/zechariah/2-6.htm
      Not a single bible commentary disagrees.

      2. The “daughter Babylon” cannot be a religion and cannot refer to anything that is yet to be created in the future (e.g. some endtimes cult as you are asserting) because it is only mentioned in the hebrew bible in connection to the babylonian exile and because the verses refer to the Jews living(!!) in daughter babylon:

      “33 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “The Daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor at the time it is trampled; the time to harvest her will soon come.” 34 ”Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has devoured us, he has thrown us into confusion, he has made us an empty jar. Like a serpent he has swallowed us and filled his stomach with our delicacies, and then has spewed us out. 35 May the violence done to our fleshbe upon Babylon,” say the inhabitants of Zion. “May our blood be on those who live in Babylonia,” says Jerusalem. ”
      - Jeremiah 51:33-35 (note that he talks about Nebuchadnezzar, not some future king / religious leader etc.. Note as well that he refers to those “who live in Babylonia” and not to any religion)

      4 Our Redeemer–the LORD Almighty is his name– is the Holy One of Israel. 5 ”Sit in silence, go into darkness, Daughter of the Babylonians; no more will you be called queen of kingdoms. 6 I was angry with my people and desecrated my inheritance; I gave them into your hand, and you showed them no mercy. Even on the aged you laid a very heavy yoke. 
      - Isaiah 47:4-6 (Note that he is saying “gave them into your hand” not “will give them into your hand”)

      Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,    happy is the one who repays you    according to what you have done to us.9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants    and dashes them against the rocks.
      - Psalm 137:8 

      3. Psalm 137 is talking about infants / babies / little ones, NOT about children. This unambigiously refers to seizing infants and dashing them against rocks – again, something that not a single bible commentary disagrees with. 
      Example:
      “Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones. That takes the infants from their mothers’ breasts, or out of their arms, and dashes out their brains against a “rock”, as the word (k) signifies; which, though it may seem a piece of cruelty, was but a just retaliation; the Babylonians having done the same to the Jewish children, and is foretold elsewhere should be done to theirs, Isaiah 13:16. Nor is this desired from a spirit of revenge, but for the glory of divine justice”
      from Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible 

      4. This is really beyond ridiculous. You desperately try to avoid the conclusion that the Bible would bless the act of torturing babies to death – and you can only do so by completely ignoring all biblical and historical context whenever it suits you, by fallacies of equivocation (e.g. “children” = “infant”) and by making stuff up out of thin air. 
      You are completely and utterly delusional.

      • JohnM

         Clearly you’re in a rage, because your lack of insight has once again been exposed…

        The “land of the North” is the babylonian empire

        Zechariah 2 : 6
        “Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north,” declares the Lord, “for I have scattered you to the four winds of heaven,” declares the Lord.

        Israel was not scattered to the 4 corners of the earth. They were exiled in Babylon.

        And there were no Babylonian Empire, at the time of Zechariah. Cyrus the Great, a Persian King, conquered it and absorbed into the Achaemenid Empire in 539 BC.

        Your interpretation is invalid.

        The “daughter Babylon” cannot be a religion and cannot refer to anything that is yet to be created in the future because it is only mentioned in the hebrew bible in connection to the babylonian exile and because the verses refer to the Jews living(!!) in daughter babylon:

        The jews were not in babylonian exile at the time of Zechariah.

        Your objection is invalid.

        There were no babylonian empire at the time of Zechariah.

        Your objection is invalid.

        There were no babylonians living in the babylonian empire at the time of Zechariah. They were now living under persian rule in the Achaemenid Empire.

        Your objection is invalid.

        —-

        So why can’t it be a religion? It’s a rather silly claim to make, really.

        Is the Babylonian mystery religion not a product of ( a daughter of ) Babylon?

        And of course it can be in the future.. It’s a prophecy..

        Zechariah 1
        In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo

        …you can only do so by completely ignoring all biblical and historical context whenever it suits you…

        It’s you who’s completely ignoring all biblical and historical context, when it comes to the meaning of the title “The Daughter of Babylon”.

        • Andy_Schueler

          “insight”, you keep using that word, but you don´t seem to know what it means. 
          What you mean is “making shit up”.

          Israel was not scattered to the 4 corners of the earth. They were exiled in Babylon.

          Newsflash: this is a figure of speech (and in case you didn´t know, the world is not flat and has no corners).

          And there were no Babylonian Empire, at the time of Zechariah.

          The first six chapters are universally understood to be intended as visions which recall some of the nations history and are supposed to give hope to the returned exiles. Try to find a single scholar that disagrees with that.

          There were no babylonian empire at the time of Zechariah.

          The jews returned from exile in his lifetime and the babylonian captivity sets the scence for the first few chapters of the book of Zechariah. Try to find a single scholar that disagrees with that

          So why can’t it be a religion? It’s a rather silly claim to make, really.
          Is the Babylonian mystery religion not a product of ( a daughter of ) Babylon?

          Because a religion is not a geographic location where you can live in captivity. Because Psalm 137 makes no sense whatsoever when it would refer to an endtime religion that doesn´t even exist yet. Because Isaiah and Jeremiah explicitly and unambigiously refer to the babylonian empire under King Nebuchadnezzar II and the babylonian people when they talk about the “daughter Babylon”.

          And of course it can be in the future.. It’s a prophecy..

          Try reading the comment before you reply to it:
          http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/12/24/my-debate-with-on-the-nativity-with-apologist-randal-rauser-now-available/#comment-749455865

          It’s you who’s completely ignoring all biblical and historical context, when it comes to the meaning of the title “The Daughter of Babylon”.

          Try reading the comment before you reply to it:
          http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/12/24/my-debate-with-on-the-nativity-with-apologist-randal-rauser-now-available/#comment-749455865

  • JohnM

    Andy_Schueler :

    Because a religion is not a geographic location…

    Ohh.. So you can’t live in Christian Europe? You can’t live in the bible belt? You can’t live in the Jihad belt? You can’t live in the Muslim part of town? You can’t live in the Buddhist part of Kashmir? You can’t live in a Coptic city in Egypt?

    …where you can live in captivity.

    Captivity? It just says that they were living in “The Daughter of Babylon”. They are called out of a prosecution, like the holocaust. They are told to escape to Zion, before things end badly for them.

    The first six chapters are universally understood to be intended as visions which recall some of the nations history and are supposed to give hope to the returned exiles. Try to find a single scholar that disagrees with that.

    If that’s true, then all scholar are completely brain-dead…

    It’s very clear from the text, that this is a prophecy..

    Zechariah 1 : 1
    In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo:

    Zechariah 2 : 6
    “Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north,” declares the Lord, “for I have scattered you to the four winds of heaven,” declares the Lord.

    This is the Lord, speaking though Zechariah. It’s a prophecy. And a prophecy, is a prediction of the future, made under divine inspiration.

    If you have any trouble remembering that, in the future, just think if this simple rule:

    Prophet speak of the future.
    Historians speak of the past.

    Furthermore…

    Zechariah 1 : 18 – 19
    Then I looked up, and there before me were four horns. I asked the angel who was speaking to me, “What are these?” He answered me, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem.”

    When was the Jews scattered as a nation?

    In 70 A.D by the Romans.

    So is this speaking about the past?

    No. You would have to be a completely brain-dead scholar to think that.

    This is a prophecy about the future. As all prophecies are….

    • Andy_Schueler

      Ohh.. So you can’t live in Christian Europe? You can’t live in the bible belt? You can’t live in the Jihad belt? You can’t live in the Muslim part of town? You can’t live in the Buddhist part of Kashmir? You can’t live in a Coptic city in Egypt?

      Not at all analogous. What would be analogous would something like:
      “Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north,” declares the Lord.  “Come, Zion! Escape, you who live in Mormonism” 
      Religions have no geographic locations. 

      Captivity? It just says that they were living in “The Daughter of Babylon”. They are called out of a prosecution, like the holocaust. They are told to escape to Zion, before things end badly for them.

      Read the fucking thing. Zechariah, Isaiah and Jeremiah all mention the “daughter babylon”, Isaih calls her the queen of kingdoms. and that “the Lord”, “gave the jews into their hand” – and Jeremiah explicitly refers to Nebuchadnezzar as it´s King for fucks sake. 

      This is the Lord, speaking though Zechariah. It’s a prophecy. And a prophecy, is a prediction of the future, made under divine inspiration.
      If you have any trouble remembering that, in the future, just think if this simple rule:
      Prophet speak of the future.Historians speak of the past.

      Look up “prophecy” and look up “vision” (hint: visions can be of past, present or future events http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vision_(spirituality) ).

      When was the Jews scattered as a nation?

      Quite often:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_history
      Idiot.

  • JohnM

    Zechariah, Isaiah and Jeremiah all mention the “Daughter of Babylon”.

    Indeed they do mention that title. Even Zechariah. Which is rather lethal to your claim.. As Babylon, had ceased to exist at that point.

    The only rational thing for you to do at this point, is to realize, that the title doesn’t mean, what you think it does.

    John M: When was the Jews scattered as a nation?

    Andy: Quite often
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_history

    The word scattered only appear in a section describing the Crusader Period.

    Is there any period prior to that, that you want to discuss?

    This makes no sense whatsoever unless you want to propose that this “endtime pagan world-religion” develops time travel and travels back in time to help Nebuchadnezzar and the Edomites to pillage Jerusalem.

    According to the bible, religion is not a man-made thing as such. It’s a demonic thing.

    Ephesians 6:12
    For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

    No religion is true. There’s only one true God, and one true faith. The Christian position, is not a religion. It’s a faith. Placing ones faith in Jesus Christ for salvation… as all people already know of Gods existence ( Romans 1:20 ).

    But there’s a new Babylon. And an old Babylon. Yet only one Daughter of Babylon. And she shows up from time to time in history. I some cultures, she’s called Isis. In others, she’s called Ishtar, or (Virgin) Mary or Astarte or Venus.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_of_heaven_(antiquity)

    Religions have no geographic locations.

    But that’s not true. If I gave you a globe, and said Catholicism, you would point to Rome. And if I then said Islam, then you would point to Mekka.

    • Andy_Schueler

      Indeed they do mention that title. Even Zechariah. Which is rather lethal to your claim.. As Babylon, had ceased to exist at that point.

      Non sequitur because a vision can be about past, present or future events (and does not even have to correspond to events that actually happened). For fucks sake, look up the difference between “vision” and “prophecy”. 
      And again, read the fucking thing, the three books are not very long. 

      According to the bible, religion is not a man-made thing as such. It’s a demonic thing.

      Not even tangentially related to the point I made.

      But there’s a new Babylon. And an old Babylon. Yet only one Daughter of Babylon. And she shows up from time to time in history. I some cultures, she’s called Isis. In others, she’s called Ishtar, or (Virgin) Mary or Astarte or Venus.

      None of those Goddesses has ever been associated with the title “daughter of Babylon”.

      But that’s not true. If I gave you a globe, and said Catholicism, you would point to Rome. And if I then said Islam, then you would point to Mekka.

      No, I wouldn´t. I would call you an idiot. 
      Idiot.

      I´d also point out that you (for the fourth time now) don´t even try to explain how Psalm 137 could make any semantic sense whatsoever if your interpretation of the meaning of “daughter Babylon” would be correct.
      Furthermore, I´d like to point out that you are not even trying to explain how your interpretation of the meaning of “daughter babylon” could possibly be correct given that Isaih calls her the queen of kingdoms and mentions that “the Lord”, “gave (past tense) the jews into their hand” – and Jeremiah explicitly refers to Nebuchadnezzar as it´s King. 
      And you obviously ignore (for at least the tenth time now….) that “infant” / “baby” / “little one” unambigiously refers to infants. All you did is trying to distract from that by equivocating “children” and “infant” – although those are very different words (“children of x” could be very old people depending on context, but not “infants”) and Psalm 137 clearly uses “infant” NOT “children”.

      Since you ignored all of those points completely in all of your many responses, I´ll take this as an admission that you have no argument to offer.

  • JohnM

    Andy:

    I´d also point out that you (for the fourth time now) don´t even try to explain how Psalm 137 could make any semantic sense whatsoever if your interpretation of the meaning of “daughter Babylon” would be correct.

    I’m sitting here, trying to explain to you, why it’s completely impossible for Zechariah to be “talking about the Jews living in babylonian captivity”, as there were no Babylonian empire at the time. And as the Jews had been allowed to return to their homeland, 2 centuries before..

    And all I get from you is: “Read the fucking thing again, Idiot”.

    So allow me to be blunt:

    —-

    You don’t understand biblical terminology.

    You are completely ignorant of the biblical context.

    And you haven’t got the slightest clue about the historical events surrounding the text.

    Why would it make any sense to you?

    • Andy_Schueler

      I’m sitting here, trying to explain to you, why it’s completely impossible for Zechariah to be “talking about the Jews living in babylonian captivity”, as there were no Babylonian empire at the time. And as the Jews had been allowed to return to their homeland, 2 centuries before..

      You might want to look this up again, the Jews returned from Exile during Zechariah´s lifetime but before he wrote the text in the Book of Zechariah (His prophetical career began in the second year of Darius, king of Persia (B.C. 520), about sixteen years after the return of the first company from their Babylonian exile. - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zechariah_(Hebrew_prophet) ).
      Also,´a vision can be about past, present or future events (and does not even have to correspond to events that actually happened).
      Look it up.

      Since you stubbornly refuse to address any of the key issues with even a single word:
      http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/12/24/my-debate-with-on-the-nativity-with-apologist-randal-rauser-now-available/#comment-749634487
      and since you have stopped trying to defend your ridiculous interpretation of Psalm 137 after your equivocation fallacy had been pointed out, I take this as an admission that you have nothing to offer but are too dishonest to admit that openly.

    • http://www.www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      John, since you disagree with every single bible commentary linked, does this mean that all these commentaries are wrong? The same commentaries that you have evoked in other conversations?

  • JohnM

    Andy: You might want to look this up again, the Jews returned from Exile during Zechariah´s lifetime but before he wrote the text in the Book of Zechariah (His prophetical career began in the second year of Darius, king of Persia (B.C. 520), about sixteen years after the return of the first company from their Babylonian exile.

    I told you that 14 hours ago.

    JohnM: The Decree of Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem around 538 BC. Zechariah’s prophetical career began around BC 520, about sixteen years after the return from their last Babylonian exile.

    —-

    a vision can be about past, present or future events

    Zechariah was not an oracle, seeing vision in water. He was a prophet.

    Do you know what prophets do?

    —-

    Since you stubbornly refuse to address any of the key issues with even a single word…

    LOL!!!! What do you think I’ve been sitting here doing? Get a grip.

  • JohnM

    Bible commentators often disagree among themselves. They are not to be taken as a fact sheet. But rather as someone who attempts to shed light on something, with his own limited insight.

    I myself linked 2 commentators earlier in the thread. Not to use them as a fact sheet ( one of them is a Calvinist ). But to demonstrate, that my interpretation Numbers 31, is far from a rare one.

    As for the whole commentator issue..

    If you are serious about studying the bible, then there’s really no way around studying Greek and Hebrew. The real bible isn’t the translations that we are reading. The real bible, is the original texts, in the original language. You do miss out on smaller details by reading the translations. Especially the newer ones.

    And that’s nothing new.. We have Chinese people, who come to Denmark, just so that they can learn Danish, and read H.C. Andersen on original language, in order not to miss all the finer details of the text.

    Furthermore, the real bible is very complex to understand. Not only do you need to know a good bit about the Jewish Culture. And the ancient cultures that they lived among. And you also need to understand the terminology used in the bible..  Just think about how different a modern bible is, compared to an old King James version.. And that’s just the translations.

    It doesn’t make it easier, that Jesus actually spoke Aramaec… Older bibles still have has the Aramaec when Jesus speaks..  Like “Talita Kumi”.  And there’s also some theories about the NT being written in Aramaec first, before being translated to greek, which would make a lot of sense.. Yet make things more complex.

    So isn’t this a show-stopper you ask? Why does the bible contain all that, if most people don’t get it anyway? Well sure.. to some degree, I guess.. I think we all know, that the majority of people who call themselves Christians, barely scratches the surface of it all. Which is rather sad…

    The point is though, that you don’t need to understand the entire bible to be saved. You just need to understand the gospel.. Or actually, understanding John 3:16 will do.

    The only reason you would want to study the bible further, is to have a deeper understanding, to better read the times, understand the prophecies, and know what God has in store for us.

    If you want to understand why Jesus tells the Samaritan woman, that Salvation is of the Jews, not the Samaritans, then you should study the bible..  On the other hand, if you don’t need that, but just prefer to live according to the commandments of Christ, then you can do that as well.

    The same is true of baptism. The bandit on the Cross that died besides Jesus, never got a chance to be baptised. Yet Jesus told him, that he would be in paradise with him. It isn’t required as such, for your salvation.

    Also, bible speaks about 2 different baptisms.. The baptism of water and the baptism of fire. You don’t need the baptism of fire, to be saved. It’s only if you seek the Gifts of the holy spirit. And as far as I can tell, most Christians are not baptised with fire, only with water.

    Now, this is where another complex issue of the bible, enters the picture…

    1 Corinthians 2:14
    The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

    According to Paul’s letters in the bible, there are things which are spiritually discerned. Things that you cannot understand without the spirit. Those who are only baptised with water, but not with fire, will not comprehend these things. It will be foolishness to him/her.

    And by Spirit, Paul means the holy spirit:

    John 14:16-17
    And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

    And this of course leads up to the baptism of fire of the apostle, in Acts.

    So in order to be a good bible commentator, you must know Greek / Aramaec / Hebrew. You must have historical insight. You must have insight into the Jewish culture.

    And according to the bible itself, you must furthermore be born of the spirit, so that the things that are spiritually discerned, will not be foolishness to you.

    And even then, it’s quite possible to spend ones entire life, and still not completely understand half of what we read in the bible.. Because once you unlock one layer of insight, you understanding of certain passages may change.. 

    Like… Once you understand who the Samaritans really were, you will most certainly see a whole new meta layer of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. And in this way, you can go on to discover tons of meta-layers in the text. Meta-layers that are lost on people who are reading it for the first time, without the insight that you have.

    Therefore, one should never place ones trust in a bible commentator. Because regardless of them trying their best, and have honest intentions, they are human beings too, limited in their insight.

    What one should do. Is to study the bible and meditate ( the Christian version ) on scripture.

    • Andy_Schueler

      If you are serious about studying the bible, then there’s really no way around studying Greek and Hebrew. The real bible isn’t the translations that we are reading. The real bible, is the original texts, in the original language. You do miss out on smaller details by reading the translations. 

      We don´t have any original texts, we only have copies of copies of copies of copies…. And no two copies are alike – they are full of errors, interpolations, omissions and forgeries. Even with copy that does not contain any translation errors, you would still have no clue what the autographs actually contained.

      It doesn’t make it easier, that Jesus actually spoke Aramaec… Older bibles still have has the Aramaec when Jesus speaks.. Like “Talita Kumi”. And there’s also some theories about the NT being written in Aramaec first

      It´s Aramaic, not “Aramaec” you idiot. And only a handful of crackpots support Aramaic primacy.

    • Gandolf

      “If you are serious about studying the bible, then there’s really no way around studying Greek and Hebrew.”
       
      Well then if God was honestly so very serious about his wanting to save as many human souls as possible . He might also have better understood , just how many human beings might never ever even be born into the sort of luxury needed , to even be born into a position of being able to afford to study Greek and Hebrew . So where was Gods omniscience in thinking about that matter John . Sleeping ?

      • JohnM

        JohnM: The point is though, that you don’t need to understand the entire bible to be saved. You just need to understand the gospel.. Or actually, understanding John 3:16 will do. And in my experience, even small children understands the main points of the gospel.. It’s the prophets, Paul’s letters and Revelation, that tends to give people problems..

        • Gandolf

          Well John , then please do explain how would anyone know for very sure that they could even trust what is being said about this saviour . Are you really suggesting people should just agree to put their trust in what other men say they read and believe . How would this even be anything so honest, about one saying they were putting ones “faith in God “ . For surely in doing such things , it can only ever amount to someone putting their trust in conclusion being made , by other humans .Thus having faith in other humans ,rather than God Conclusions which might even have been twisted and changed and turned deceitfully by bible reading men,so as to suit these other humans agenda’s.
           
          This would amount to extreme foolishness , would ? it not . And could even be highly dangerous too. After all this is not just like any other old book that maybe can be taken a little lightly , for indeed evidently its supposed to be about word of God , and matters of eternity . Therefore surely some God in all his ”omniscience” ,  should also quite easily understand the extreme high importance  ,that word of God would have important need to appear in all languages that ever existed here on earth. And this would also help to back up the idea that this word of God , were indeed far more likely to be quite trustworthy and true. For God words in coming out in each language , could thus later also be matched and compared. With every nation having all the information at hand , written within a language they are also very familiar with.
           
          In my opinion John . It is also these minor matters , which also all add up in the mix of matter , to cause us some concern , and help prove to us of the very biased opinions , existing behind holy books like the bible.
           
          What good reason would you suggest i would even have , to be seeing these matters as any different .

  • JohnM

    Andy:

    You said “2 centuries” and then edited your comment afterwards. Liar.

    Lying, is deliberately telling untruth.

    I never intended to speak untruth. I made the mistake of writing a word, that communicated something other than I intended. And of course I corrected it, 2-5 min after posting, when I read what I had posted, and discovered my mistake.

    I think you’re just a bit mad at yourself, Andy. Anyone with a bit of historical insight, would instantly have noticed my mistake.

    It´s Aramaic, not “Aramaec” you idiot.

    Thank you for all the help you have provided, by making my posts more readable.

    I only wish that you would do it all the time.. You only seem to be doing it, when your ego is hurting really bad.. Which can also be observed  by an increase in the “Idiot, Moron” comments that you add to your posts.

    I can’t help feeling sad for you. You’re setting yourself up for failure, attempting to discuss the bible, without sufficient insight and historical background knowledge.

    • Andy_Schueler

      Lying, is deliberately telling untruth.
      I never intended to speak untruth.

      You do it all the time – just recently you made up some ridiculous lies about being some bigshot computer game developer although it was completely obvious from your comments that you are anything but a professional programmer.
      You are a pathological liar. 

      Which can also be observed  by an increase in the “Idiot, Moron” comments that you add to your posts.

      I call you a moron because you are a moron and I call you a liar because you are a pathological liar.

      I can’t help feeling sad for you. You’re setting yourself up for failure, attempting to discuss the bible, without sufficient insight and historical background knowledge.

      And let me point out again that you still are not even trying to address any of the key issues with even a single word and you stopped trying to defend your ridiculous interpretation of Psalm 137 (remember, that´s what we are actually talking about) as soon as your equivocation fallacy was pointed out and never lost another word about it.
      You keep on using this word “insight” – you really have no idea what it means.  
      You are wrong on every conseivable level and all you do is ignore all evidence and keep repeating “You lack insight, if you had my amazing  insight, you would realize just how little  insight you have. You need a lot of  insight to see just how much  insight you need to understand this verse, you don´t have this  insight, that´s why I´,m right because I have  insight and you are wrong because you have no  insight” – like a broken record. 
      You have no “insight” into anything, you are just a pathological liar.

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  • Peter

    Thanks Jonathan and Randal for the debate. I just listened to it. Randal’s arguments wound me up a bit but I take that as a sign that he successfully provoked me into thinking things through more (which is always good).  I had two thoughts I wanted to share.

    1) I think if Randal can appeal to the evidence for Jesus’s resurrection in a debate about the Nativity, you shouldn’t feel shy about appealing to his apparently failed apocalyptic teachings. For instance “Jesus was a false prophet. God would clearly not have begotten a false prophet. Therefore the virgin birth should have a low prior probability.”

    2) Randal forced me to think through why we should prefer eyewitness testimony with his analogies. It seems to that the reason is because memories are fallible and so recollections of recollections will tend to be less reliable than first hand accounts. He seemed to suggest that your preference for first hand accounts was an ad hoc criterion that you had devised to challenge the Nativity stories. Naturally I don’t think it’s ad hoc at all.

    • http://www.www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      With point 2:

      all accounts of ANY event must originally come from an eyewitness. Any secondary account is at least an interpretation of them.

      However, if a secondary (or tertiary etc) source has access to multiple eyewitnesses, then they can build a more accurate picture than one eyewitness alone.

      However, in the case of the nativity accounts, there can literally be only two eyewitnesses in most cases – Mary or Joseph. One assumes the shepherd were eyewitnesses to their accounts, and the magi to theirs, but is appears that their accounts were probably recounted by M or J at the best.

      Essentially, the quality of the accounts are exceptionally dubious at best.

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