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Is God a Moral Monster?

A BRIEF LOOK AT A BOOK EXPLORING THE OLD TESTAMENT’S CANAANITE “GENOCIDE,” “SLAVERY,” POLYGAMY, CONCUBINAGE, PATRIARCHY, KOSHER AND PURITY LAWS, AND HARSH PUNISHMENTS

Is God a Moral Monster?  Understanding the Old Testament God (Baker) is officially “in stock” at Amazon.com. It’s also in local bookstores one month ahead of schedule.

I wanted to alert you to this book, which sheds light on troubling problems (and misconceptions) regarding the “Old Testament God”:  “genocide,” slavery,” patriarchy and discrimination against women, the sacrifice of Isaac, harsh laws, kosher and purity laws, polygamy, concubinage, etc.

Critics are increasingly vocal about Old Testament ethical problems, yet much misunderstanding of ancient Near Eastern culture and distortion of the biblical texts accompany their arguments. According to some leading OT scholars who have endorsed the book (Christopher Wright, Gordon Wenham, Tremper Longman), this volume should prove to be a helpful resource to these vexing questions. 

Here are some of the highlights of the book:

  • THE HUMANIZING NATURE OF ISRAEL’S LAWS IN CONTRAST TO THE REST OF THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST: I argue that virtually point-for-point, Israel’s legislation is significantly morally elevated—even if not ideal or universal.  God meets Israel in the midst of deeply embedded fallen social structures and elevates them, even if not to the ideal level (cp. Matthew 19:8, where Moses permits certain laws because of the hardness of human hearts). The Mosaic Law’s morally elevated status is apparent in the far less-severe nature Israel’s punishments; the Mosaic Law’s lack of mutilation texts (I argue that Deuteronomy 25:11-12 is definitely NOT a mutilation text); the protection of runaway slaves from their masters (anti-return laws); servants automatically freed if bodily harm comes to them from their employers (anti-harm laws); and so on.
  • CANAANITE WARFARE DIRECTED AT NON-COMBATANTS: Noncombatants were not targeted in the Canaanite (or Amalekite) campaigns but rather non-civilian military, political, and religious centers (“cities”) like Jericho, Ai, and Hazor; these were not civilian centers.  War texts using comprehensive language regarding “women” and “children” are stock ancient Near Eastern phrasing, even if women and children are not involved.
  • HYPERBOLE AND ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN BRAVADO: The biblical text, like other ancient Near Eastern war texts, uses exaggeration or hyperbole (.e.g., “let nothing remain“everything that breathed”).  However, the biblical text itself (especially Judges, which is literarily linked to Joshua) reveals that a lot of breathing Canaanites remained and lived among the Israelites.  “Wiping out” all the Canaanites was not what Moses intended in Deuteronomy 20 (the term “driving out” or “dispossessing” is much more prominent in these texts—which is NOT the same as “wiping out”).  So Joshua (who didn’t literally destroy everything that breathed) “carried out what Moses commanded.”
  • CONCUBINAGE AS HAVING A “SECONDARY WIFE”: A “concubine” often refers to a “secondary” wife rather than a female used for a male’s sexual pleasure (e.g., after the first/“primary” wife has died—like Abraham’s wife Keturah after Sarah died).
  • POLYGAMY PROHIBITED: Leviticus 18:18 indicates that polygamy is prohibited by the Mosaic Law; it is not morally permissible even if less than ideal—which is unfortunately commonly assumed by Christians.
  • OLD TESTAMENT SLAVERY AS INDENTURED SERVITUDE:  While critics commonly equate Old Testament “slavery” with the antebellum South’s common harsh treatment of slaves, the term “slave(ry)” is misleading and should be understood as “contractual employment” or “indentured servitude”—much like a sports player who is “owned” by a team or a person contracted to serve a set time in the military.  Normally, according to the Law of Moses, servitude within Israel was poverty-induced, and it was to be voluntary and temporary (no more than seven years).  I deal with a number of difficult servitude passages.
  • NEW TESTAMENT SLAVERY AND ONESIMUS:  I dip into the New Testament on the topic of slavery, as this is a different issue than Old Testament indentured servitude. In addition to arguing for the radically humanizing treatment of slaves in the New Testament, I argue that Onesimus was in all likelihood not a slave; that interpretation of Philemon comes significantly later in church history. For example, there are no “flight” verbs in Philemon, which would be strange if Onesimus had run away.  Various scholars argue that Philemon and Onesimus were not only (alienated) Christian brothers, but possibly biological brothers as well.

I hope this whets your appetite for an in-depth, yet accessible, discussion of perhaps the most troubling questions Christians today must address.  Just in case, I’ve included (below) endorsements from the book.

“Lucid, lively, and very well informed, this book is the best defense of Old Testament ethics that I have read.  A must-read for all preachers and Bible study leaders.” 

Gordon Wenham, Emeritus Professor of Old Testament,  University of Gloustershire

“This is the book I wish I had written myself. It is simply the best book I have read that tackles the many difficulties that the Old Testament presents to thinking and sensitive Christians and that give such ammunition to the opponents of all religious faith. Paul Copan writes in such a simple, straightforward way, yet covers enormous issues comprehensively and with reassuring biblical detail and scholarly research. Use this book to stock your mind with gracious but factual answers in those awkward  conversations. Better still, give it to those who are swayed by the shallow prejudice of popular atheism without reading the Bible for themselves.  I strongly recommend this book. We have wanted and needed it for a long time.”

Christopher J.H. Wright, International Director, Langham Partnership International
Author of Old Testament Ethics for the People of God,  and The God I Don’t Understand

“The New Atheists have attacked the morality of the Old Testament with a vengeance.  In honesty, many Christians will confess that they struggle with what looks like a primitive and barbaric ethic.  Paul Copan helps us truly understand the world of the Old Testament and how it relates to us today.  I recommend this book for all who want to make sense of the Old Testament.”

Tremper Longman III, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College

“In his latest book, Paul Copan strides boldly forward into a theological lions’ den, fearlessly confronting some of the most difficult ethical issues surrounding the Christian Scriptures, and the faith built upon them. I can’t think of another work that deals with these complex and sensitive issues so comprehensively, and, at the same time, in such clear and approachable language. His defense of the biblical God is learned, courageous, and convincing.”

Philip Jenkins, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Humanities, Pennsylvania State University

“In a civil and reasoned manner, Paul Copan leads us through the wilderness of challenges to the God and the message of the Old Testament.  By amassing and clearly expressing arguments aware of the ancient Near Eastern cultural context and of the Hebrew text of the Bible, the author presents a thorough treatment of key issues.  This is essential and fascinating reading for anyone engaged in the ‘New Atheism’ debate.”

Richard S. Hess, Earl S. Kalland Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages, Denver Seminary 

“Paul Copan is the nation’s leading apologist regarding problems with the biblical text, and Is God a Moral Monster? is vintage Copan.  He takes on current New Atheist biblical critics and powerfully addresses virtually every criticism they have raised.  I know of no other book like this one, and it should be required reading in college and seminary courses on biblical introduction.”

 JP Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, and author of The God Question

“Paul Copan has done an outstanding job of explaining some of the most confusing and puzzling issues that emerge from the pages of the Old Testament. He engages with a myriad of serious philosophical and moral challenges to the portrayal of God in the Old Testament, and he answers these challenges adroitly with clear and easy-to-understand explanations from the biblical texts themselves. This is a very readable book, and it will be a valuable resource for all Christians who desire to understand the Old Testament in today’s context. I heartily recommend it!”

J. Daniel Hays, Professor of Biblical Studies, Ouachita Baptist University

“Most Christians today, myself included, are in dialogue with people we love who have been heavily swayed by the criticisms of Richard Dawkins, et al. against the morality of the Bible and its depiction of a horrific Yahweh God.  What struck me in reading Is God a Moral Monster? is the degree to which we as Christians need to rethink in radical ways our reading and understanding of the sacred text if we are to have any persuasive reasoning in this on-going exchange.  Sometimes the real monster lies not so much in criticisms from ‘without’ as in our own holding to certain incorrect paradigms of thinking about the Bible.  Aside from the apologetic importance of Professor Copan’s work, of far greater value for Christians the way in which his book forces us to reevaluate the very nature of the God we worship.  Read this book.  It will awaken your vision of God in wonderful ways!”

William J. Webb, Professor of New Testament and author of Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals 
Heritage Theological Seminary

“The most difficult questions that can be asked about Scripture include a list of ethical challenges to several Old Testament texts and teachings.  These issues have been taken up with more fervor of late, owing to the growing popularity of radical atheism and skepticism.  There’s virtually no scholar I’d rather read on these subjects than Paul Copan.  Building on his earlier research, Paul launches here into a treatment of a detailed list of such challenges, including the so-called genocidal conquest of Canaan.  This handbook of responses to these and other tough ethical issues is able to both diminish the rhetoric, as well as alleviate many concerns.  I recommend this volume heartily.”

Gary R. Habermas, Distinguished Research Professor, Liberty University and Seminary

“Paul Copan has written a most powerful and cogent defense of the character of God in the Old Testament in the face of vicious attacks by the New Atheists claiming that the Old Testament God is nothing less than a ‘moral monster.’ I have difficulty finding adequate superlatives to express my joy and satisfaction in the masterful accomplishments of this book.  It represents a landmark study of theodicy (the justification of God) in Old Testament ethics. Copan tackles such difficult issues as the alleged misogynist view of women and the practice of slavery in the Old Testament, and shows how God sets forth His egalitarian ideals at the very beginning (Genesis 1-2), condescends to work with Israel where He finds them in their hard-heartedness, but at the same time gives laws which are generally a great moral improvement over those found elsewhere in the ancient Near East and which call Israel steadily back toward the creation ideals. Copan provides the most comprehensive and compelling treatment I have ever seen on the problematic issue of God’s command to destroy the Canaanites. This book not only grapples with specific Old Testament passages and issues, but places them in the larger perspectives of God’s universal blessing to all nations, the revelation of God in Jesus Christ in the New Testament, and modern issues such as Islamic jihad and the divine foundation of goodness and morality (vs. the claims of naturalism).  For those who struggle with the claims of the New Atheists, or who have difficulty coming to grips with the picture of God in the Old Testament, this user-friendly book is an indispensible resource!”

Richard M. Davidson, Chair, Department of Old Testament Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary J. N. Andrews Professor of Old Testament Interpretation

95 Responses to “Is God a Moral Monster?”

  1. Do you know when the Kindle edition will be available?

  2. Interesting. There seems to be a lot of these books coming our recently.

    I’m fairly certain Greg Boyd has one he’s working on as well.

  3. I might have to get this!

    I was hoping you’d explain why you don’t think the Deut. 25 passage is about mutilation, though.

  4. Truth Unites... and Divides December 2, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Adding this one to my list.

  5. Arguing that Lev. 18:18 prohibits polygamy seems like quite the stretch to me.

    But it sounds like an interesting book. I will check it out.

  6. Delwyn X. Campbell December 2, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    It would seem, unless there is a meaning to these texts that even Christian and Jewish scholars have missed for all these centuries, that the author is reaching pretty hard for some of these arguments. The basic premise, that the Mosaic code was nicer than those of the Canaanites, even if it’s true, woulkd be a weak argument since YHWH is not supposed to simply be better than Baal and Molech, YHWH is GOOD and does good. It would seem to the opposition that these arguments are tenuous, otherwise they would have been made centuries, much less decades, ago.

  7. Delwyn,

    But Christians don’t think that the Mosiac Law is the full expression of God or His goodness. In one instance, Jesus said that God had permitted divorce in the Law because of the hardness of people’s hearts, not because He necessarily supported it.

    Also, I’m not convinced that the best arguments would have been made centuries ago.

  8. Delwyn:

    The book helps to codify, using various evidences, why the ANE is still largely misunderstood by critics of OT morality.

    The issues have been dealt with before in various commentaries on the Bible, but this text will provide a comprehensive treatment.

    Why write books at all, following your logic? Isn’t it possible that someone may have insights that aren’t readily apparent to others?

  9. Delwyn, why assume that no one has said these things in the past and that the things Paul points out are new???

    Would it suprise you to know many in the early church read the language in Joshua non literally, that Calvin suggested some hyperbole in the Joshua text, that for most of the middle ages Christians fought against certain forms of slavery and so on.

    What is always interesting is that when skeptics cite texts, Christians respond with arguments, often arguments that have been made for hundreds of years and then skeptics retort “why did not one ever say that before then?”

  10. I don’t know about the book, but the presentation at the EPS meeting was fantastic. I’ve thought about it a lot since.

  11. Hi, all.

    Thanks for your comments.

    I don’t know when the Kindle version will be available.

    JB, sorry I didn’t get into the details on Deut. 25; it’s what’s called “a hook”! In the book, I argue that the word isn’t “hand” and the verb is better rendered “shave.” But, to quote Forrest Gump, “that’s all I have to say about that”–at least here in the post!

    Ms Jack, the text of Lev. 18:18 actually represents a shift from incest prohibitions to prohibited extra-familial (non-kinship) relationships. The text says, “Do not take your wife’s sister [literally, ‘a woman to her sister’] as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living.” The phrase “a woman to her sister” is never used of biological sisters (nor is the parallel phrase “a man to his brother” use of biological brothers). And the verb “take as a rival wife” is used in noun form of Hannah and Peninnah–rival wives who aren’t biological sisters. Again, that’s all I have to say about that.

    Delwyn, I think you’re in for something of a helpful surprise. The points I repeatedly make have to do with (a) reading the biblical text *more* carefully; (b) better understanding the ancient Near Eastern context; (c) realizing that certain Mosaic laws should be viewed as non-ideal but permitted because of the hardness of human hearts (Matt. 19:8), as JB notes.

    Matt and Richard, thanks for your comments in response to Delwyn. Well said! Delwyn, just take the plunge and get the book!

    Robert, glad you made it to our panel discussion in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago–and that you liked it so well. Another attendee, an Old Testament scholar, has blogged on his visit to our panel discussion in Atlanta, in case you’d like to take a look:

    http://doctor.claudemariottini.com/2010/11/highlights-of-sbl.html

    Thanks to you all for your interest in the book.

  12. Author engages in a tremendous amount of confirmation bias. He picks points that specifically support his view and ignore the corollary points that undermine it. His polemic are not objective or rational.

    I always find it interesting when theists start breaking down the bible in phrases such as “the old testament” as if this is somehow different, but the same when it suits them. Theists are not trained in the nature of logic, rationality and consistency.

    If god is the objective standard of marialty, how do theists reconcile the contradictions of all the biblical commands to kill for various reasons. Lets see how confirmation bias will rear its ugly head.

    respectfully,

  13. Hello, Darren.

    I see you haven’t read my book. If you had, you would have made a more informed critique because I deal with sorts of objections you say I don.t.

    Incidentally, I do have a Ph.D. In philosophy from Marquette University; so I’ve been trained to understand a thing or two about “logic, rationalty, and consistency.”

  14. Dr. Copan,

    Thank you for your response. No, I have not read any of your books, but as a courtesy to your training I will pick up one and read it.

    That being said, there are points of philosophy that can be discussed without reading your specific take on the issue.

    You mentioned that there is an objective morality. You specifically speak about rape and try to imply that it is a universally accepted morality.

    Funny how you seem to ignore biblical passages such as Judges 21:10-24. Clearly condones rape in the passage.

    Or these deplorable passages in the bible.

    Kill People Who Don’t Listen to Priests(Deuteronomy 17:12)
    Kill Witches(Exodus 22:17)
    Kill Homosexuals(Leviticus 20:13)
    Kill Fortunetellers(Leviticus 20:27)
    Death for Hitting Dad(Exodus 21:15)
    Death for Cursing Parents1)(Proverbs 20:20), 2)(Leviticus 20:9)
    Death for Adultery(Leviticus 20:10)
    Death for Fornication(Leviticus 21:9)
    Death by fire for failing to follow the lord (Joshua 7:15)

    So much for…

  15. Thanks for the note, Darren. I won’t go into a detailed response, as my book does that. There I state that only one of sixteen potential capital crimes in the Law of Moses cannot be commuted to a lesser sentence of, say, payment.

    As to rape being morally permitted, your charge is false. The Law of Moses was to serve as a guide on such matters, and it clearly prohibits sex outside of marriage. In my book I discuss how rape in warfare is prohibited. (Also, we should take care not to turn descriptions/historical narrative into prescriptions either–the “is-ought” fallacy.) Keep in mind that Judges describes how life in Israel had sunk to a moral lowpoint–everyone doing what was right in his own eyes.) By contrast, the Law of Moses lays out a certain protocol to be followed before a man could take a wife in times of warfare, only after which could he rightly engage in sexual relations with her (see my comments on Dt. 21:10-14).

    I hope that helps. All best wishes!

  16. Dr. Copan,

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. Ok, so the bible doesn’t specifically say rape is condoned, but it does say go out and take any woman you choose and MAKE her your wife.

    Then you can have as much sex as you want whether she wants it or not; she is your wife after all.

    Slippery slope of semantics here, but as I stated I will be purchasing your book to read and have a more informed response to your polemics.

    Thanks again for your comments.

    Regards,

    Darren

  17. Darren,

    Thanks for your openness to discussion. Rather than respond further, I would just encourage you to read the book, and we can go from there.

    All best,

    Paul

  18. Darren,

    Just a heads up in case you happen to be a Kindle user. Paul Copan’s book is available on Kindle at the moment for $9.68. The usual list price is $14.99. Quite a savings.

  19. Paul,

    I have enjoyed your tempered responses to questions, thank you. What of passages like:

    Numbers 31:18
    But all the young girls who have not known a man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves.

  20. Doh, forgot to check the email notification

  21. Could you explain Hosea 13:16–and how an unborn fetus could have “rebelled” against your god and in so doing, deserved to die along with its mother as she was being “ripped open” with a sword?–or is that “hyperbole”? If that’s the case, Jesus being the “son of god” is hyperbole too!

    Or Numbers 1, where Moses takes a census–but does not include women and children, because after all–they are just property anyway.

    BTW–I too have a degree in philosophy, and teach philosophy and religion at university level.

  22. Hello, DG Sinclair. I appreciate your question. In the book I mention this passage (though focusing on Dt. 20) that sex outside marriage (including rape in warfare) was prohibited; a special ceremony was required to make a marriage official before one could engage in sexual relations.

    Cathy, thanks for your inquiry. On the issue of warfare/the Canaanites, my point is that hyperbole is common in warfare texts (not to mention Hebrew poetry); I am not saying that no swords were ever used! Consider how God said that he would “completely destroy” Judah through the Babylonians (Jeremiah 25:9). This certainly didn’t happen literally. Plenty survived within the land of Judah while the urban elite were shipped off to Babylon. As for Numbers 1, are you referring to the passage that refers to those “from twenty years old and upward, whoever is able to go out to war in Israel, you and Aaron shall number them by their armies” (Numbers 1:3)?

  23. Paul,

    Unfortunately, you did not address my question, so I will reask it.

    Could you explain Hosea 13:16–and how an unborn fetus could have “rebelled” against your god and in so doing, deserved to die along with its mother as she was being “ripped open” with a sword?–or is that “hyperbole”? If that’s the case, Jesus being the “son of god” is hyperbole too!
    There is no way anyone can accurately judge what is hyperbole and what is not.

    The Jews admit to embellishments of the text, and in “The Bible Unearthed” Jewish archeologists provide evidence that the Exodus, and the majority of the Old Testament is mere emebellishment. (The Bible Unearthed, Did the Exodus Happen? p. 48)

    As fpr Numbers, I am concerned with the census, as it only includes men, which illustrates the patriarchal and sexist nature of the text.

  24. Cathy, I wasn’t dancing around the issue. This ultimately gets back to the problem of evil and the question of undeserved suffering, which I acknowledge takes place. Obviously the unborn child has done nothing wrong. Does this mean that God could have no overriding reasons for allowing certain evils, even if we don’t know what these reasons are? Indeed, evil is more problematic for the atheist.

    As for the question of embellishment, this misses the point of how a culture uses language. Overstatement need not be considered embellishment since ancient Near Eastern cultures utilize sweeping language routinely—but the original readers would have readily understood this.

    As to the “sexist” nature of the text, I do note that the Old Testament law is given in a patriarchal setting with the father as the legal representative within the home. I cover a lot of this in my book. Have you read it?

    By the way, where do you teach in the Toronto area? ‘Was just up there.

  25. Paul,

    Just a thought regarding the issue of murder in the OT and elsewhere that has crossed my mind. I think there are two ways for the actions depicted in the OT to be justified. The first is what the position you defend – namely that God sees a much bigger picture then us and had legitimate reasons for doing what he did. The second possibility concerns how we understand the commandment “thou shalt not murder.” Jesus indicated that the entire law could be summed up in two laws – love God and love neighbor. Most would say the command not to murder falls under the auspices of the command to love ones neighbor. I have wondered as of late if it doesn’t fall more under the command to love God. It seems to me that murder violates this command because it usurps the rightful position of God as the giver and taker of life. Some might claim that this is special pleading for God, but no more so then when we say it is right for the government to imprison but not you or I.

  26. >> PAUL: This ultimately gets back to the problem of evil and the question of undeserved suffering, which I acknowledge takes place. Obviously the unborn child has done nothing wrong.

    Paul, I agree. I think this also answers the question of, for instance, people from nations who’ve never heard the gospel. In almost all cases, their ancestors were exposed to the gospel and rejected it – thereby bringing darkness upon not only themselves, but their children and generations after them. Our evil decisions don’t just affect us, but those in our charge, including the ‘innocent’ children.

    On a separate note, I was just at a Reasonable Faith conference in Turlock where I got to hear Kukl, Beckwith, Jay Richards, JP Moreland, and Bill Craig – sorry you weren’t there.

    I hope to attend this year’s EPS in San Francisco, so hope to see you there!

    I hate, however, the book tables, because I now purchase all on Kindle, and you guys can’t sign those!

  27. Paul,

    When a culture uses sweeping language routinely-then what they say cannot be viewed as being reliable.I hope you understand the logic in that.

    Many Christians claim the bible is the “breathed” words of your god Yahweh, which means Yahweh “breathed” words that are sexist and barbaric-not something an all-loving god could or would do.

    Also, if Yahweh is capable of evil, (he did create it after all -Isaiah 45:7), but is considered “all good”(which is paradoxical)-then we have no standard for what is “good.” Especially since you yourself admit you have no idea why your god would allow “certain evils”–and order evils to be committed himself, as he does shortly after he commands men NOT to murder (Deuteronomy 5:17)-Yahweh then orders them TO murder defenseless women and children. (Deuteronomy 20:16)

    Interestingly, Buddha, who was before Christ, spoke AGAINST slavery, and to avoid aggression–something Jesus did not do, as he “came not to bring peace, but a sword.

  28. Cathy,

    I guess you haven’t read my book, in which I deal with these very arguments. Interestingly, you take the hyperbolic language literally, but don’t take the language of vast numbers of Canaanite survivors literally. The same could be said for the “utterly destroy[ed]” population of Judah in the Babylonian exile (Jeremiah 25:9).

    Your comparison of Jesus and Buddha (in the context of slavery, of all things) lacks proper understanding of the biblical text/context. Jesus came to set people free (Lk. 4), and he was talking about the truth dividing families. Hey even people growing up in Christian homes who turn into atheists may frequently bring division and tension to their homes?! Also, your claim that God “created evil” is equally misinformed; the word routinely means “calamity.”

    What do you do with Anglop-American poetry, in which trees talk, the mountains listen, rivers dance? I guess we just can’t view these texts as reliable! “I hope you can see the…

  29. Oh, Cathy, I still didn’t find out where you teach philosophy as a professor. You didn’t mention this in response, nor do you even identify the institution at your blogsite. So I reask: at which college/university do you teach? Just curious.

  30. Paul,

    You made me smile…thank you for that.

    The difference between poetry, and the bible, is that poetry is not usually considered “historical”–which many christians claim the bible is–even though it does not meet the conditions for historicity. And, as the Jews readily admit, they embellished the text, which makes it unreliable as a source. What was embellished and what was not? What is hyperbole and what is not? If this is the case, then I am justified in stating that when Jesus said “I and the father are one”–that is hyperbole.

    Your god admits to creating evil. Calamity vs evil is a game of semantics you cannot win when in Proverbs 16:33 it states that “The lot is cast into the lap, but its EVERY decision is from the Lord.” EVERY is a universal term for ALL. Not some, or a few–but ALL. Everything murderers do, rapists–its been handed to them by your god. Now THAT’s evil….

  31. I always love how so many atheists insist on a even more literal reading of the Bible then even the most fundamentalist of Christians do while paying absolutely no attention to genre or time period.

    P.S. Paul I searched around and it appears that Cathy has made numerous claim to be a “professor” on numerous blogs and forums and never once backed up that claim with actual credentials.

  32. Michael T

    My credentials have nothing to do with my arguments. That is a red herring on your part. Address the arguments.

  33. Okay, Michael. Thanks.

    Cathy, here’s your chance to come clean! Let us know where you teach, and I’ll respond to your last comments.

    ‘Glad my comments made you smile!

  34. Michael T

    Of course I insist on a literal reading of the bible. Why wouldn’t I? If someone claims that a man is god, and they want us to take it literally, then why wouldn’t I take the other parts literally as well? Or, if we admit, as Paul does, that a good of the book is “hyperbole” then we have an epistemological problem. For instance, I have often said, “Me and my grandmother are one.”–meaning we have the same philosophy. Not that I AM my grandmother–as that would be ridiculous!! Likewise, Jesus did not mean LITERALLY that he was one and the same as Yahweh in the “strict” sense of ‘same.’–he meant in the “loose and popular” sense of same, in that Jesus had the same philosophy as Yahweh. So, why would you not want me to take the bible literally?

    For your knowledge, one of the best ways to argue is to assume what your opponent argues is true, and then show how absurd it is. Socrates was a master at this.

  35. Paul,

    Let’s assume for your purposes, that i am an elementary school dropout. Now that you have that out of the way, what is wrong, you don’t have a good counter argument?

    Your tactic of avoiding the argument by using ad hominem and red herring–which is childish and has nothing to do with the argument.

  36. Paul,

    Just to point out another contradiction, you claim Jesus came to set people “free.” According to the bible, Jesus said, ” I come to fulfill the law, and NOT to abolish the law. Follow all the prophets and all the laws until heaven and earth disappear.” (Matt 5:17-220)
    This would include all the sexist laws and materials you already admit to and permits slavery.

    And remember, Jesus came NOT to bring peace, but the sword. (Matt 10:34)–none of the above sounds like freedom.

    Jesus has some disicples arm themselves with swords (Luke 22:36-38): And if you want to say this is “hyperbole” such as the sword is the “word” as in the ‘word’ cuts like a two edged sword—remember “words” don’t cut off ears! (Luke 22:49-50)

  37. >> CATHY: The difference between poetry, and the bible, is that poetry is not usually considered “historical”

    Cathy, I think your reasoning is a little blunt, and so inexact.

    Hyperbolic language can be used in historical narratives, esp. when recording what someone said – for example, if someone used an idiom. That does not make the literature type = poetry.

    And as you know, not all of the bible is historical narrative – some of it, like Song of Solomon or Psalms, *is* poetry.

    Even more difficult, prophetic passages are a strange hybrid of historical narrative and symbology, so interpreting them requires more care and precision.

  38. >> CATHY: Calamity vs evil is a game of semantics you cannot win when in Proverbs 16:33 it states that ‘The lot is cast into the lap, but its EVERY decision is from the Lord.’

    First, the difference between calamity (events of disorder in the real world) and evil (a philosophical category) is significant – I think to equate them is to make a ‘category error.’

    One of the most interesting passages about the appearance of evil described in Ezekiel 28:12-15. Note that it specifically does NOT say that evil is a created thing, but that Lucifer was created ‘perfect’.

    You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you.

    As a philosopher, you probably already know that many argue that evil is not a created thing, but the absence of goodness. Just like darkness is not a created thing, but merely the absence of light.

  39. Second, I’m not sure that your interpretation of Proverbs 16:33 has anything to say about God specifically *creating* evil or difficulty – it’s really about God *allowing* all to happen (God’s sovereignty), and it is meant as an assurance that, although life seems random, and ‘the lot’ we are cast is a mix of good and bad, we are to hope in that God is still real, in control, and will right all wrongs in the end.

    The problem of evil, of course, is one of the best objections to the omni-god of the bible, and will continue to be so. However, there are good philosophic and theological explanations – though, they are admittedly incomplete and perhaps not convincing to all.

    I guess that’s why Paul wrote his book :)

  40. Paul, can you up the character limit on comments to 3000 or so? 1000 characters is maddeningly short.

  41. I did answer your questions earlier, Cathy. And then I casually asked where you taught. What’s the big deal?

  42. Paul

    the big deal is, is that I have been threatened by “enthusiastic Christians” in the past, and as this is the internet, i want to avoid any such possibility in the future.

    My arguments speak for themselves–which is another reason why I feel no need to “reveal” myself at this time.

  43. >> CATHY: (Matt 5:17-220) This would include all the sexist laws and materials you already admit to and permits slavery.

    Actually, not. Jesus fulfilled the symbolic ceremonial and dietary laws of the OT, and the NT is clear that we don’t follow them. The moral laws are still true, but the civil penalties listed were for Israel only. As to the behaviors in warfare, that’s an interesting argument. Were they one time allowances, or principles to be followed?

    >> CATHY: And remember, Jesus came NOT to bring peace, but the sword. (Matt 10:34) – none of the above sounds like freedom.

    This is a metaphorical statement about how following him would divide families, because those who hate his message would hate you, even your own family.

  44. >> CATHY: Jesus has some disicples arm themselves with swords (Luke 22:36-38)

    This, of course, was for protection along the road. Notice that when they wanted to arm to the teeth for jihad, he told them that two swords were enough – probably because they were for defense, not for warfare.

    Note also that Peter the Apostle wanted to defend Jesus with his sword in the Garden of Gethsemane, but Jesus made him put it away and actually healed the soldier Peter had wounded.

    You’ve really got a tough row to hoe if you want to make Xianity look violent or militant.

  45. dg sinclair

    It is taught in universities and seminaries that at some point Jesus is painted as a pacifist, and at other times, he is NOT a pacisifs–as per the passages I quoted, and in Mark 11:15 where he threw the tables over and threw out the money changers.

    As per the fulfillment passages of Matt 5:17-20–Jesus said ALL the laws stand and you must obey ALL the prophets until heaven and earth pass away. He did not say.–“Only the moral laws are ok, but the other ones suck” This is Paul’s doing–not Jesus. No, Jesus said follow ALL the laws and ALL the prophets until heaven and earth pass away. To say otherwise, is your use of Humpty Dumpty semantics.

    Wow–Christians who don’t want to take the bible as being “literal”–but instead as a holy book full of hyperbole and metaphor. This would be equivalent to a witness who uses hyperbole and metaphor, and lies 99% of the time, expecting the jury to believe the main points–Jesus is god; Jesus was resurrected, and so…

  46. Like Jesus’ view of kosher laws? Jesus wasn’t quite keeping the Law literally! Jesus’ being the fulfillment of the Law doesn’t mean that the Law continues. The Old Testament speaks of a new covenant to come

    I wouldn’t say Jesus was a pacifist, but he opposed zealots who wanted to overthrow Rome.

  47. Lol, I seriously doubt that Cathy has ever been threatened by a Christian.

    AARRR WE’RE GONNA COME HIT YOU ON THE HEAD WITH A BIBLE ARRRR!!

  48. Eureka! Cathy, I just came up with the solution to satisfy everyone’s curiosity: Even if you don’t tell where you teach, you could at least tell everyone where you got your Ph.D. in philosophy. In light of your claim to be a college professor, a lot of people are wondering if this is a warranted assertion. This has nothing to do with your arguments, which ought be taken on their own merits; no one’s disputing that.

    …unless you are going by a pseudonym! In that case it’s conceivable that someone might charge you with being misleading—precisely the charge you bring against biblical writers!! (:)

  49. Paul,

    Exactly!! The bible is so badly written it cannot keep things straight and is inconsistent and contradictory.

    Here we have Jesus contradicting himself! Jesus supposedly said “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

    Now, ANYONE is a universal term, which would include himself, but then he goes on to disrespect and teach others to break those laws when he stopped the crowd from the stoning the woman for adultery, and for saying it is not what goes in your mouth which defiles you, but what comes out.

    Yes, Jesus contradicts himself by going against Yahweh’s kosher food laws, which is contradictory to what he himself said in the fulfillment passages.

    No wonder you have to consider the bible as hyperbole and metaphor–in an attempt to try and make it consistent.

  50. Paul,

    Red herring, red herring, red herring! Just assume I am an elementary school dropout. I am practically illiterate–dumb and stupid! Now that we have that out of the way……can you stick to the arguments?

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