Tuesday, June 27, 2017

When I Was A Child...

The following article is from *The Skeptical Review*, 2002/July-August:

by Farrell Till
The apostle Paul once said something that makes me think of gullible Bible believers every time I read it: "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways" (1 Cor. 13:11). Children believe many outrageous things. They believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and all sorts of things that they heard from their parents, who had read them fairy tales and other fantasy literature. As children grow older, however, they discard these childish beliefs, except for the fantasies they were taught in church. Somehow many children grow into adulthood and eventually die without ever giving up the religious fantasies they learned as children.

I often wonder why. I remember an early childhood trip that my family made from Southeast Missouri to Memphis. Christmas was approaching, so I suppose my parents were making the trip to buy presents for my brother and me that they would slip under the tree and fool us into thinking that Santa Claus had brought them. They didn't know that my brother, who was in the first grade at the time, had been telling me that he had learned at school that there was no Santa Claus.

I didn't want to believe him, but that trip made me accept that my brother was right. The trip to Memphis was only about 90 miles, but along the way, we passed through towns, which although small seemed like cities compared to the town of 415 that was only a couple of miles from our family farm. We went through Hayti and Steele, Missouri, and then through Blytheville and Osceola, Arkansas, and finally came to Memphis, the city! I remember thinking on the way back that there was no way that one person could go to all of the homes I had seen that day and leave gifts for the children, so how could he possibly go to every home in the world? At the time, I had no idea how big the world was, but I knew that there were far away places like China, because my mother used to tell my brother and me that the starving children in China would be glad to have the food we were leaving on our plates.

I guess on that day, as far as Santa Claus was concerned, I became a man and put away the childish belief in a jolly fat man in a red suit, who went all over the world taking gifts to children who had been good. I don't remember if this had any effect on my belief in the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, but at least one belief in fantasy bit the dust that day.

Religious beliefs were another matter. My mother took my brother and me to Sunday school, where I saw grandparents, aunts, and uncles who obviously believed everything that was said there. When we went to my grandparents' for dinner, we always had to bow our heads while my grandfather thanked God for what we were about to eat. I suppose that because so many grown-ups whom I trusted and respected believed the religious fantasies taught in church, I too continued to believe them well into adulthood.

In childhood, believing in some of those religious fantasies wasn't so hard to do. I could believe in the virgin birth, because I thought that my own mother was a virgin too. When I first began to hear the facts of life on the school playground, I thought, "No Way! My parents would never do that." Tales about angels and spirits? Why wouldn't I believe them? My father and uncles, in a time when there was no TV to watch, used to sit around telling ghost stories that made my skin crawl.

About a decade into my adulthood, I began to wonder seriously about a book riddled with tales of animals that talked, of ancient patriarchs who routinely chatted with God and received visits from angels, of men who could perform great miracles parting the waters of a great sea and sometimes walking on water, of people who could interpret dreams and see into the future, of people who could walk unharmed through the flames of a fiery furnace, of people who rose from the dead, and so on ad infinitum. Eventually, I reached a point where such fantasies were as hard for me to believe as the one about Santa Claus.

In other words, when I became a man, I put away childish things. I have often wondered why preachers in particular, who should have enough familiarity with the Bible to recognize the fantasies in it, rarely put away their childish beliefs.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

"I Love You And You Are Going to Love Me Too [Or I Will Hurt You Badly]"

I wonder if this video brings anything to mind for fundamentalist Christians about their "loving God", Yahweh? Nah, probably not.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

A Lesson in Basic Hermeneutics

From *The Skeptical Review*, May-June 2002:
by Farrell Till
Hermeneutics is the science of interpreting written texts, especially those that claim to be sacred, and it seems that our old friend Roger Hutchinson is in need of a lesson in the fundamentals of hermeneutic theory. That Hutchinson would try again to postulate some far-fetched "solution" to a biblical problem is not at all surprising, but I must say that I was surprised that even he would resort to the absurd explanation that he proposed above to one of the many New Testament passages that taught the second coming of Jesus was imminent.

Readers will probably remember that Hutchinson attempted unsuccessfully last year to explain away the prophecy failure in Matthew 24:34, where Jesus said that "this generation will not pass away till all these things be accomplished." One of "these things" that Jesus had just mentioned was a clear description of his second coming, which he said would be accompanied by various astronomical signs and that all the tribes of the earth would see. Clearly that didn't happen in the lifetime of those to whom Jesus was speaking, so Hutchinson tried some of his verbal legerdemain to make this mean that Jesus was really saying that the generation alive whenever Jesus did return would not pass away till it had seen all "these thing," which would include the return of Jesus. Yeah, right. Whenever I read Hutchinson's "explanations" of what disputed biblical texts really meant, I can't help wondering why God didn't providentially arrange for Hutchinson to have been born in biblical times so that God could have chosen him to write at least some books of the Bible. Why, if the omni-one had done that, he wouldn't even have needed to "inspire" Hutchinson, who undoubtedly would have known how to explain everything clearly without divine inspiration.

Archaeological Proof? (3)

From the Errancy Discussion list, 5-4-97:

The tower of Babel and the dispersment of the people after changing 

their speech which can be confirmed by several language scholars and 
archeological finds as the remains of the Tower of Babel can still be seen. 

Yep, I'm believing more and more that AA just has to be Aubrey Matthews. 

If not, I will say again that Aubrey and AA should try to get together. They
will get along famously.

The greatest oriental language scholar Dr. Max Mueller declared that all
human languages can be traced back to one single original language. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Throne of David Prophecy

From the Errancy Discussion list, 1-19-98:

At 09:55 PM 1/18/98 EST, ITS786 wrote:

>Dear Farrell Till, 

>Assalam Alaikum,

>A Christian wrote to me saying that his Faith is true because many prophecies

>have come true; I know that there is an answer to these; can you send them to

>me.  Thank you; Jazakullah.

>Prophecy: "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.

>He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and

>upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever."

>(Isaiah 9:7) 

>Fulfillment: "A record of the geneology of Jesus Christ the son of David, the

>son of Abraham." (Mathew 1:1, 6)


As we continue to look at the prophecy fulfillment claims of Stevan's
Christian friend, we should keep in mind that his/her method of
argumentation is merely to cite an OT passage and then a NT passage as
"proof" that the OT prophecy was fulfilled.  In neither case, does the
Christian offer any kind of textual or corroborating evidence to support his
position.  For example, the prophecy fulfillment claim above doesn't even
attempt to show that Isaiah meant that the kingdom of David would be
established forever only in a spiritual or figurative sense, and neither
does he present any kind of evidence to show that Matthew's genealogy of
Jesus was accurate in the listings that showed Jesus to be a descendant of
David.  I will discuss these two points separately to show that they both
pose serious problems to Christian claims that the kingdom of David would be
established forever.  

Did Isaiah have Jesus (a person who wouldn't even be born for seven more
centuries) in mind in the passage cited above?  Well, let's notice first of
all that this text doesn't even stipulate that this person would be a
descendant of David.  It merely says that whoever this was would establish
the throne of David forever, so it would be possible for someone who was not
a descendant of David to establish his throne.  However, since other OT
prophecies did predict that a descendant of David would establish his throne
forever, we will grant to Stevan's Christian friend that descent from David
would have been a requirement to fulfill this prophecy.  The prophecy claim
is still in serious trouble because of the following problems.

1.  The context of the statement clearly shows that it was intended to have
an immediate application or fulfillment rather than one that wouldn't happen
until centuries later.  The verse just before the one cited as a prophecy
shows that it had reference to the time in which Isaiah lived: "For unto US
a child IS born, unto US a son IS given; and the government shall be upon
his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty
God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government
and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his
kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
FROM HENCEFORTH EVEN FOREVER" (9:6-7). Notice the tense of the verbs in
verse six.  Isaiah said, "(U)nto us, a child IS born, unto us a son IS
given," so this was not something that was going to happen seven centuries
later but something that had already happened to "US."  The promise or
prophecy in this verse is like the one two chapters earlier (7:14) that
Christians have twisted and distorted into a prophecy of the virgin birth of
Jesus, but just as Isaiah had said in chapter 7 that the birth of a child to
a maiden (not virgin) who was at that time with child would be a "sign" that
the military alliance of Syria and Israel would not succeed against Judah,
so in chapter 9, he was making another prophetic statement to "US," the
people living at that time.

That Isaiah so intended the prophecy in 9:7 to have immediate application is
clearly indicated by the phase that ends verse 7 (which I have typed in
uppercase letters above).  In other words, this child who was born to "us"
at that time would establish the throne and kingdom of David FROM HENCEFORTH
EVEN FOREVER.  Anyone who knows both Jewish history and the meaning of the
word "henceforth" should be able to see that rather than this being an
amazing example of prophecy fulfillment, it is a clear case of prophecy
failure.  "Henceforth" means "from this time forth" or "from now on."  So
Isaiah was saying that a child IS born unto US and that he would establish
the kingdom and throne of David "from this time forth" or "from now on."
Obviously, this didn't happen, because after king Zedekiah was taken to
Babylon (2 Kings 25), no other king has sat upon David's throne, and
certainly David's throne and kingdom were not established "from HENCEFORTH
even forever."  Even if one is going to claim that Jesus sits on the throne
of David (something impossible to prove), he/she would have to explain the
six-century gap from Zedekiah to Jesus when no one sat on David's throne,
when Isaiah had clearly said that the kingdom of David would be established
HENCEFORTH even forever.

Biblicists will, of course, contend that the promise to establish David's
throne forever was intended only in a figurative sense, but it is easy to
show that OT writers clearly intended their readers to understand that the
establishment of the literal throne of David was supposed to happen.  That
can be shown by looking at Psalm 132:11-12: "Yahweh has sworn in truth to
David: He will not turn from it: 'I will set upon your throne the fruit of
your body.  If your SONS (plural) will keep My covenant and My testimony
which I shall teach them, THEIR SONS also shall sit upon your throne
forevermore."  So the promise wasn't that A SON (only one) would sit on
David's throne but that his sons and their sons (plural) would sit on the
throne forever.  Clearly, OT writers ethnocentrically believed that Yahweh
would establish the literal kingdom of David forever in that descendants of
David would always literally reign in Jerusalem.

I could examine many OT passages to show that this was the clear intent of
the Davidic prophecies, but to keep the posting reasonably short, I will
look at just one other.

>Jeremiah 33:14  The days are surely coming, says Yahweh, when I will

fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

>15  In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to

spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

>16  In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety.

And this is the name by which it will be called: "Yahweh is our righteousness."

>17  For thus says Yahweh: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne

of the house of Israel,

>18  and the levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to

offer burnt offerings, to make grain offerings, and to make sacrifices for
all time.


Notice that Jeremiah said that when the time came that he was speaking about
"Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety," so he was clearly
speaking about something that would happen to secure the safety of Judah and
Jerusalem.  Whenever this happened, Jeremiah claimed (v:17) that "David
shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel."  So
once again, we have a prophet promising that David's throne would be
established forever.  If biblicists contend (as they will) that all of this
is to be understood figuratively and that it is only in a figurative sense
that Judah and Jerusalem have lived in safety since Jesus was resurrected to
sit on David throne, then they will have to explain the very last verse in
my quotation from Jeremiah (above).  Jeremiah said not only that David would
never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel but that "the
levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt
offerings, to make grain offerings, and to make sacrifices FOR ALL TIME."
Jeremiah was clearly predicting the establishment of BOTH the kingdom of
David and the OT levitical system forever, so biblicists can find no support
for their "figurative" interpretation of the Davidic prophecies in this
passage from Jeremiah.  To the contrary, it shows that their figurative
interpretation is merely a dodge to try to get around a clear prophecy failure.

2.  The second point that Christians must prove is that Jesus was a
descendant of David.  Stevan's Christian friend obviously thinks that he has
accomplished that just by quoting from Matthew's genealogy, where it was
claimed that Jesus was the "son of David."  What Christians must prove is
that Matthew was accurate in making that statement.  I understand that by
the first century A. D., the lines of descent were so obscured that it
wasn't possible to determine what tribe individual Jews had descended from,
so what evidence do Christians have to show that Jesus really was a
descendant of David? We demand more than Matthew's mere word.  What evidence
did Matthew have that enabled him to know this?   I won't even raise the
issue of the Christian claim that Matthew's genealogy is only a genealogy of
Joseph and not a genealogy of Jesus, who wasn't fathered by Joseph.  I'll
wait to see what Christians on the list may have to say about this point
before I say any more about it.  I suspect that inerrantists who were on the
list when the conflict between Matthew's and Luke's genealogies was
discussed will choose to remain mum on this subject.

There is much more that I could write about the failure of the Davidic
prophecies, but I will wait to see if Stevan's Christian friend even
attempts to reply to what I have already said.

Farrell Till

Friday, May 26, 2017

More On The Resurrection...

From the Errancy discussion list, 8-26-95:
Roger Eisinger has sent me personal messages about an inconsistency in the resurrection narratives that I believe I posted on this list. Since it pertains directly to the purpose of the list, I am going to post our exchanges here for everyone's consideration. The problem I presented was the one about inconsistencies in Matthew's and John's depiction of Mary Magdalene on resurrection morning. Matthew's narrative has Mary M hearing an angel say that Jesus had risen, but John's had her believing that the body had been stolen. My position is that these are irreconcilable inconsistencies.

I think that some of the difficulties in trying to reconcile those 
two gospel accounts can be avoided by considering the possibility that 
neither Matthew, Mark or Luke bothered to record the portion of the 
resurrection story that the writer of John relates in John, Chapter 20 vs 
1-10. In John's account, Mary Magdalene approached the tomb two times. 
The first time, she sees only that the stone is rolled away. 

This is a common "explanation" that inerrantists use to explain the discrepancy in Matthew's and John's depiction of Mary Magdalene on resurrection morning, but it just won't work. You said that Mary Magdalene approached the tomb twice in John's account, and the first time she saw only that the stone had been rolled away. Well, that couldn't have been all that she saw, because if she did not look inside, then she couldn't very well have known that the body was gone. That, however, is just a minor problem in your explanation, because Matthew said that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb on the first day of the week, and "behold there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone from the door and sat on it" (28:2). So Matthew's Mary M didn't just go to the tomb and find it empty as John's Mary M did; she saw the angel remove the stone. The narrative went on to say, "But the angel answered and said unto THE WOMEN..." (V: 5). I asked you to state who these women were, but you didn't do it, so will you do it now: who were these women that the angel spoke to? You have to say Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, because they are the only two women identified in Matthew's narrative. So what did the angel say to THE WOMEN? "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here: for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord Lay" (verses 5-6). If Mary Magdalene learned that the body was gone, it would have had to have been at this moment, wouldn't it, when the angel invited THE WOMEN to see where the body had lain? If so, she discovered that the body was gone within the context of an angel's telling her and the other Mary that Jesus was gone because he had risen, as he had said he would.

With all of that in mind, please tell me why Mary Magdalene would have left the tomb and then told the disciples that the body had been stolen? Please do not ignore this question. It is crucial to your insistence that the resurrection narratives do not have irreconcilable inconsistencies, so it is something that you must explain.

You further said, It is at the second visit to the tomb that she sees the angels, and perhaps it is this second time that should be compared with the other gospel writers.

No, I beg to differ with you. Matthew clearly said that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb on the first day of the week, an earthquake struck, and an angel came down, rolled away the stone, and told THE WOMEN that Jesus was gone because he had risen as he had said he would do. So if Mary M didn't see an angel at this time, then you must show us why Matthew's narrative gives sufficient reason to believe that she was blind. On the assumption that you can do that, you must then show us that Matthew's narrative gives sufficient reason to belief that she was also deaf and could not hear what the angel was saying.

Furthermore, you have made no effort to explain why if Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (the *they* and *them* of Matthew's narrative) ran from the tomb with great joy" (v:8), Mary M would have run and told the disciples that the body had been stolen. This scenario requires one to believe that THE WOMEN ran from the tomb with great joy because they thought the body had been stolen.

Your attempt to have Peter telling about a first visit that Mary M made to the tomb and the other gospel writers of a second visit is so far-fetched that it hardly deserves comment, but here are some things that you must explain in order to make this "solution" even halfway believable. If Mary M had made a first trip to the tomb and found it empty and reported her findings to Peter and the other disciples, then...

(1) She somehow determined that the tomb was empty before the stone was rolled away, because Matthew's narrative (which you say is about Mary's second visit) states that an angel descended after an earthquake and rolled the stone away. How was she able to determine on her first visit that the body was gone?

(2) On Mary's second visit to the tomb (after finding on her first trip that the body was gone), Mary M and the other women with her were discussing how they would roll the stone away because it was heavy (Mark 16:3-4), when Mary M would surely have known that there was some way to get into the tomb with the stone in place; otherwise, she couldn't have determined on her first visit that the body was gone. Furthermore, if this was Mary's second visit to the tomb, why was she talking to the women about rolling the stone away instead of talking about the disturbing news that the body had been stolen?

(3) If Matthew, Mark, and Luke were writing about a second visit to the tomb (as you claim), then you must explain why Matthew had the angel descending to roll away the stone, whereas Mark had the women arriving to find that the stone had already been rolled away.

Quite frankly, Mr. Eisinger, there was nothing in your posting that even comes close to reconciling these discrepancies. I understand how that you could grow up believing what you were taught, because the same happened to me. I believed it so much that I spent 12 years of my life preaching it, but when I saw problems like the ones in the resurrection narratives, I had the personal integrity to admit to myself that I had been misled by people who were probably sincere but, nevertheless, misled. I find it hard to believe that you can make a defense like the one you sent to me and really believe that it has merit worthy of consideration, because it doesn't. If you wish to continue this discussion, I will be happy to do so, but at the moment I am suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome that requires me to type my messages mainly with one hand, so I will have to insist that you face the issues that I have taken the time to lay before you. A good place to begin would be to answer the questions about Matthew's narrative that I included in my first posting. For your information, here they are again:

1. If we assume that the angel was not a "person," who are the only
two people that Matthew identified in this passage (except, of
course, the guards)?

2. Who are THE WOMEN referred to in verse five, where it says, "But the angel answered and said to THE WOMEN..."?

3. To whom do the third-person plural pronouns THEY and THEM
in this passage refer to? (Please designate the antecedents of these
pronouns by name.)

Farrell Till

Paul's Spiritual Resurrection

Farrell Till from the Errancy Discussion list, 4-5-96:

In an earlier posting, I reviewed Dan Barker's major argument that he presented in his first speech in a debate with Michael Horner at Northern Iowa University. I believe that the argument is devastating to the popular belief in a bodily resurrection of Jesus, so I am posting that part of the review again to which I will add an analysis of 1 Corinthians 15:35-44, which I believe strengthens Barker's argument. I have sent this analysis to Barker, and he agrees that it makes his argument pretty conclusive. Inerrantists on the list are invited to respond to the argument.


In Barker's first speech, he said that the burden of proof was on the one claiming the miracle of a resurrection but that he was going to offer to Horner what he has been asking for, and that is an alternative hypothesis that explains the data better than Horner's supposition that a resurrection literally occurred. He told Horner not to assume that this alternative hypothesis denies the possibility of miracles, because such a denial was not a part of the hypothesis. The hypothesis simply proposes a more likely explanation for the Christian belief in the resurrection.