Sunday, October 15, 2017

Did God Command Genocide In the Bible?

Some links that address this issue that's often brought up by skeptics.
Did God Command Genocide In the Bible?

The "Slaughter" of the Canaanite Tribes Revisited
My blog Answering Moral Objections to the Bible has many links addressing moral objections to the Bible.

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.