Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Refuting Biblical Arguments from Silence

The YouTube channel InspiringPhilosophy has a lot of great apologetics videos. The following is so good that I just had to post it on this blog:

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Was the Stoning of a Rebellious Son Too Harsh?

18    "If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them,
19    then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives,
20    and they shall say to the elders of his city, 'This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.'
21    Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.- Deut. 21:18-21

The following is a more developed version of my comments HERE.

When it comes to this issue of the stoning of a rebellious son, the son is clearly not a prepubescent child. He's obviously at least as old as a teenager since he's committing sins like gluttony and drunkenness. Any younger and the parents would be strong enough to prevent such sins. They could just take away the food and alcohol and the weak child wouldn't be able to resist. Some might object by saying that the parents are strong enough to grab a hold of him and bring him out to the elders. I'll address that objection later.

Also, the son is clearly incorrigible (so not a recent or very young teenager). He's described as stubborn. So, it's not a matter of a one time offense, but a son with a persistently unteachable spirit/attitude.

Furthermore, it seems the law was voluntary. The parents must voluntarily give up the son to the fate of stoning, and the community as a whole must agree to the stoning of the incorrigibly rebellious son. It wasn't a matter of private justice, but public justice. Parents couldn't just unilaterally stone their son to death in the backyard. Parents must (voluntarily) enlist the support of the community. So, both the parents and the community must be in agreement.

Finally, in all likelihood, the law served more regularly as a deterrent to scare kids straight. Few parents likely took advantage of the law. Especially since it would be a shame to the family for a son to have been stoned to death. Corporal punishment was an accepted form of training for parents to use back then and they would have availed themselves of that option as much as possible before recourse to stoning (v. 18). Stoning would have been the very last resort.

Regular beatings would remind kids of how much more stoning would hurt and its permanent nature (i.e. death). I'm reminded of how when me and my cousin were around six years old my uncle drove both of us to the parking lot of the Police Station and threatened to give us over to the police if we didn't stop fighting. It's no surprise that that scary experience dramatically decreased our tendency to fight. My cousin and I still laugh about it today.

Many adults (like myself) love and are thankful to their parents for having used corporal punishment on them when they were children. We also feel sorry for kids/adults who were never loved enough to be spanked, and the terrible consequences of that deprivation on the development of their character and the respectful attitude for authority (most especially toward God) they didn't develop.

Like I said above, some might object by saying that the parents are strong enough to grab a hold of the son and bring him out to the elders. So, this argues against the claim that the son is fairly mature. But the text doesn't say that the parents couldn't enlist other people to help them (like the elders themselves). Also, a sufficiently inebriated person is fairly easy to handle and guide. In which case, it's theoretically possible for parents to lead (or carry an unconscious) son to the elders. Then when he sobers up, he can be sentenced to death knowing full well why he deserved such a sentence.

Steve Hays wrote in his blogpost:

i) I didn't say if that was the thing to do now. Not everything that God commanded ancient Israel to do is a direct command to or for Christians.

ii) You fail to grasp the nature of the Mosaic penalty structure. As various scholars contend, the death penalty was generally a maximum penalty, not a mandatory penalty (first degree murder might be a notable exception). 

ii) The fact that the legislator invokes the purgation formula in the case of the incorrigible son indicates to me that in this case (and other cases in kind), the penalty is indexed to the cultic holiness of Israel. If so, that doesn't carry over into the new covenant era. By contrast, the penalty for murder antedates the Mosaic covenant. The penalty for murder is indexed to the image of God rather than holy land. 

Deuteronomy has a refrain about "purging evil" (Cf. Deut 13:5/6; 17:7,12; 19:13,19; 21:9,21; 22:21-22,24; 24:7). A dramatic illustration is the ceremony to cleanse the land of blood guilt (21:1-9). These penalties operate within a framework of ritual holiness, where the land is culturally holy, and transgressions defile the land, necessitating punitive actions that reconsecrate the land. But that principle doesn't carry over into the new covenant, because the holy land category is defunct.

Was the Penalty for Crushing A Man's Testicles Too Harsh?

11    "When men fight with one another and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts,
12    then you shall cut off her hand. Your eye shall have no pity.- Deut. 25:11-12

First off (pun intended) it should be noted that some extra-Scriptural Jewish interpreters believed that payment was able to take the place of having the woman's hand cut off. John Gill wrote regarding Deut. 25:11-12:
 .....though the Jewish writers interpret this not of actual cutting off the hand, but of paying a valuable consideration, a price put upon it; so Jarchi; and Aben Ezra compares it with the law of retaliation, "eye for eye", Exo_21:24; which they commonly understand of paying a price for the both, &c. lost; and who adds, if she does not redeem her hand (i.e. by a price) it must be cut off:
thine eye shall not pity her; on account of the tenderness of her sex, or because of the plausible excuse that might be made for her action, being done hastily and in a passion, and out of affection to her husband; but these considerations were to have no place with the magistrate, who was to order the punishment inflicted, either in the strict literal sense, or by paying a sum of money.
That seems like a plausible interpretation. But let's assume it's a wrong interpretation. How could a Christian respond to the allegation that the cutting off of a woman's hand is too harsh a punishment for crushing a man's private parts? The following is a more developed version of my comments HERE.

Presumably even at this time the Israelites were looking/waiting for the Messiah. By crushing the man's genitals it could prevent or delay the coming of the Messiah because he may no longer be able to produce offspring. So this would be a terrible offense in the eyes of Jews. Presumably, in the eyes of God it could be interpreted as rebellion against and unbelief in God's promise of the Messiah.

Also, just not being able to have children was already a terrible and shameful condition to be in for either males or females in Jewish culture. The man would have this shame forced on him for the rest of his life by the woman who crushed his private parts.

Another terrible deprivation would be the fact that since his testicles were crushed, he would be barred from joining the "assembly of YHVH" for public worship (Deut. 23:1). By the way, this is wrongly interpreted by atheists to mean men with crushed testicles couldn't enter heaven. The law of Deut. 23:1 referred to the earthly religious situation in ancient Israel. Remember, the Old Testament prophet Daniel was likely a forced eunuch and he was well pleasing to Yehovah/Yahweh.

Crushed testicles could also damage his ability to produce sufficient amounts of testosterone and so render him physically weaker. In the harsh conditions of the ANE (Ancient Near East), you needed all the strength, vitality and ambition you could have. Also, with crushed testicles, one might not be able to produce children who were often essential for economic survival. Later on the man and his wife (if he had been married before the woman crushed his testicles) would also eventually need to be taken care of in their old age by children that never existed because of his forced impotence.

Semites understood the connection between testicles and masculinity because they could observe how eunuchs lost muscle mass, lost depth of voice, lost strength, lost aggression, lost ambition, lost masculine features in terms of the size and shape of their skulls and facial hair, penile shrinkage and dramatic drop in libido.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Psalm 10:5 and KJV Onlyism

I'm NOT a KJV Onlyist. However, here's an alleged problem with modern translations that I encountered on Facebook by a KJV Onlyist:

I don't claim to know which is the correct translation. However, I don't think the modern translations are necessarily wrong, for the following reasons (which I posted on Facebook).

"Prosper" might be legitimate translation in light of the next verse (6). The context implies that he's boasting that he's secure and that calamity won't strike him. Similar to other passages in the OT where the wicked boast in their riches and earthly blessings.

The tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth abundantly.- Job 12:6 KJV

They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave.- Job 21:13 KJV

Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.- Ps. 37:7 KJV

For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.- Ps. 73:3 KJV

Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?- Jer. 12:1 KJV

The NET Bible footnote on this verse says, "Heb “they are firm, his ways, at every time.” The verb חַיִל (khayil, “be firm, be strong”) occurs only here and in Job 20:21, where it has the sense “endure.”"

John Gill in his commentary says the following (notice Jarchi's interpretation):

To God and to his people; or, "his ways cause terror" (a), so Aben Ezra; make men fear; as antichrist has made the whole world tremble at him, Rev_13:4; or, "his ways are defiled", as the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin render it; for to him is nothing pure, his mind and conscience being defiled, Tit_1:15; or, "his ways always remain" (b); they are always the same, there is no change in them for the better: or they "prosper" (c) as Jarchi interprets it; and this is sometimes stumbling to the saints, Jer_12:1;

Albert Barnes prefers the interpretation of the KJV of the word. But Barnes nevertheless admits that it's a difficult word to translate. Here's what Barnes says:

Psalms 10:5
His ways are always grievous - His paths; his manner of life; his conduct toward God; his dealings with men. The word rendered “are grievious,” יחילוּ yāchiylû - has been variously rendered. The Latin Vulgate renders it, “His ways are defiled.” So the Septuagint. Coverdale renders it, “His ways are always filthy.” Prof. Alexander, “His ways are firm.” So DeWette, “Es gelingen seine Wege.” Horsley, “His ways are confident.” This variety in the interpretation arises from the ambiguity of the original word - חול chûl. The meaning of this word, as given by Genesius, is to turn round, to twist, to whirl; and hence:
(1) to dance;
(2) to be whirled, or twisted upon anything;
(3) to twist oneself with pain, or to be in pain;
(4) to bear or bring forth;
(5) to tremble, to quake;
(6) to be strong or stable, as things twisted are.
Hence, he translates this passage, “his ways are firm, or stable, that is, all his affairs prosper.” But it seems to me plain that this is not the idea in the mind of the psalmist. He is not dwelling on the prosperity of the wicked, or on the result of his conduct, but on his character. In the previous verses he had stated some of the traits in his character, and the subsequent verses continue the description; hence, it is natural that we should expect to find some special feature of his character referred to here, and not that there should be an allusion to the stability of his affairs. It seems to me, therefore, that the exact idea here is, that his ways, or his modes of feelling and conduct were always perverse and forced, and hard; that there was always something tortuous and unnatural about him; that he was not straightforward and honest; that he did not see things as they are, and did not act in a plain and upright manner.

When it comes to interpreting the Psalms, I always profit from reading Joseph Addison Alexander's commentary (various versions freely online at

Here's a Screen Shot of of Alexander's commentary on this verse.

Click on picture to better read the comments.
I could have written more, but that should suffice to show that the modern translations do not commit a "gross" error.

Friday, August 12, 2016

From Bethsaida To Bethsaida?

In a live webinar Mike Licona addresses an apparent contradiction regarding the circumstances of the feeding of the 5000. He discusses it for about 5 minutes HERE. Basically Mike Licona points out two problems:

1. in Mark 6:45 it says that after the feeding of the 5,000 get onto a boat heading for Bethsaida. However, Luke 9:10 states the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 occurred at or near Bethsaida. The apparent contradiction is that the apostles were already at Bethsaida, so how could they be leaving Bethsaida and crossing the lake in order to arrive at Bethsaida.

2. The gospels seems to be confused as to where they intended to land and/or where they actually did landed. Was it Bethsaida? Gennesaret? Capernaum?

[UPDATE: Mike Licona has an article on the topic at his website HERE. It's uncertain when it was posted, but I suspect it was after the webinar mentioned above]

Regarding the apparent contradiction, I looked up Luke 9:10; Mark 6:32, 45; and John 6:17 in (admittedly dated) commentaries like those of John Gill, Adam Clarke and Jamieson Fausset and Brown commentary.

JFB says in John 6:17 "toward Capernaum — Mark says (Mar_6:45), “unto Bethsaida,” meaning “Bethsaida of Galilee” (Joh_12:21), on the west side of the lake. The place they left was of the same name (see on Mar_6:32)."

John Gill in his commentary on John 12:21 also speculates on two "Bethsaida"s. One of which was distinguished by calling it "Bethsaida in Galiliee" (John 12:21).

Gill writes:

"which was of Bethsaida of Galilee; See Gill on Joh_1:44. This place may be interpreted, "the house of hunting", or "of fishing"; for it is not easy to say which it has its name from, since צידא, "saida", signifies both hunting and fishing: and seeing it was in or near the tribe of Naphtali, where was plenty of deer, and a wilderness was near it, where might be wild beasts, it might be so called from hunting: and as it was situated near the lake of Gennesaret, it might have its name from the fishing trade used in it; for Peter and Andrew, who were of it, were both fishermen: but it is yet more difficult to determine, whether this is the same with, or different from the Bethsaida Josephus (s) speaks of, as rebuilt by Philip, and called by him Julius, after the name of Caesar's daughter, as I have observed in See Gill on Luk_9:10, See Gill on Joh_1:44; since this was in Galilee, of which Herod Antipas was tetrarch, and where Philip could have no power to rebuild places, and change their names; and besides, the city, which he repaired, and called Julian, according to Josephus (t) was in lower Gaulonitis, and therefore must be different, unless that, or any part of it, can be thought to be the same with Galilee: wherefore the learned Reland (u) thinks, that there were two Bethsaidas, and which seems very probable; and it is likely, that this is here purposely called Bethsaida of Galilee, to distinguish it from the other, which, by some persons, might still be called Bethsaida, though it had got a new name. Moreover, this Bethsaida is mentioned in other places along with Capernaum and Chorazin, Mat_11:21, which were in Galilee. And Epiphanius says (w), that Bethsaida and Capernaum were not far distant one from another: and according to Jerom (x), Chorazin was but two miles from Capernaum; and who elsewhere says (y), that Capernaum, Tiberias, Bethsaida, and Chorazin, were situated on the shore of the lake of Gennesaret. It is said to be fifty six miles from Jerusalem:........

(s) Antiqu. l. 18. c. 2. sect. 1. Ed. Hudson. (t) De Bello. Jud. l. 2. c. 9. sect. 1. (u) Palestina Illustrata, l. 3. p. 654, 655. (w) Contra Haeres. l. 2. Haeres. 51. (x) De locis Hebraicis, fol. 90. 6. (y) Comment. in Esaiam, c. 9. 1."

John Gill commented on Luke 9:10:

"into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida; the city of Andrew and Peter, Joh_1:44, and which, as Josephus (r) says, was by the lake of Gennesaret, and by Philip called Julias; and this desert place was the desert of Bethsaida, a lonely, wild, uncultivated, and desolate place, not far from it. Hither Christ went with his disciples, that they might be retired and alone, and have some refreshment and rest from their labours, and where they might privately converse together; and he give them some fresh instructions, and directions, and comfort.

(r) Antiqu. l. 18. c. 3."

So, it may be possible that they left Bethsaida (or the area near it) to Bethsaida OF GALILEE (or the area near it). In which case there is no contradiction.

John 6:17 says they "got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum." Mark 6:53 and Matt. 14:34 on the contrary says they arrived at Gennesaret. However, it's not clear whether they intended to get to Capernaum specifically, or whether it was to go in that general direction. Even the KJV and Webster translates it "toward Capernaum" rather than "to Capernaum". Capernaum may or may not have been their intended final stopping point.

When Mark 6:53 and Matt. 14:34 say they arrived at Gennesaret it's not clear (at least to me) whether they mean the LAND of Gennesaret or that side of the lake of Galilee called Gennesaret (i.e. the LAKE of Gennesaret). Though, in the original Greek it might be clear. Since I don't read Koine, I can't determine it either way. It also must be remembered that they may have stopped by various points along the lake (even possibly walking on land temporarily) before they arrived at their final destination and stayed on land.

Even in modern times when one is running errands getting from point A to point E you might stop by point B, C, and D. For example, taking context into consideration, it's no contradiction for someone to say in conversation 1. he arrived at O'Hare Airport, in conversation 2. he got to Office Depot, and in conversation 3. arrived at some hotel in Chicago. That's because he had to get there by plane and so landed at O'Hare. But also dropped by Office Depot to get materials to help him give his lecture at the hotel. His leaving home and FINALLY arriving at the hotel doesn't entail he didn't also arrive at O'Hare and Office Depot.

See also Lydia McGrew's blogpost on this subject:

But wait! There's more! Refuting a claim of discrepancy in the gospels

See also Jonathan McLatchie's blogpost on this subject:

Is Mark "Confused" About the Location of the Feeding of the Five Thousand?

See also Steve Hays' blogpost on this subject:

Was Mark confused?

See also Norman Geisler's article on this subject:

Was Mark Confused or was it Mike Licona?

Was Mark Confused? Birth Narratives? Original Readings?
by James White

See these other podcasts by James White: