Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Scooping and Copping (10)


The *Twilight Zone* series continues:

by Farrell Till
The Twilight Zone, where the children of Israel lived and worshiped their god Yahweh, was indeed a strange place. Perhaps the only thing stranger than this god was the legal system that he imposed on his "chosen people." On our last journey, we learned that Yahweh abhorred anything that was blemished, and so he had ordered all people with physical handicaps to distance themselves from the tabernacle altar, lest they profane Yahweh's holy sanctuary with their presence. Even blemished animals, especially those with crushed testicles, would profane Yahweh's altar if they were offered as sacrifices. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

What Have These Sheep Done?


This article from *The Skeptical Review* , 1999 / July-August, is simply devastating to the biblical inerrancy claim. Comments are welcome:

by Farrell Till
One of the most puzzling tales of the Bible is told in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21. Yahweh or Satan (depending on which account you want to believe) "moved David to number Israel" (v:1). Since biblical inerrantists argue that the Bible is completely free of errors, we will assume that in some sense Yahweh moved David to number Israel. One would think that if Yahweh moved David to number Israel, Yahweh would have been pleased if David did as he had been "moved" and took the census, but if you think this way, you are reasoning like a rational person, and Bible stories aren't necessarily rational. In fact, they many times tax the imagination of those who try to find rationality in them.

That's the case with this story about David. He conducted the census just as Yahweh had "moved" him to do, but for some reason known only to Yahweh and the Gleason Archer type of "apologists" who entertain us with verbal gymnastics that supposedly explain biblical discrepancies, Yahweh was ticked off after David had done exactly what he had been "moved" to do, and so he sent Nathan the prophet to call David on the carpet for taking the census (2 Sam. 24:12). That wasn't really necessary, because David had already realized that in doing what Yahweh had "moved" him to do, he had somehow sinned. That's what the inspired word of God says: "But afterward, David was stricken to the heart because he had numbered the people" (v:10). Why taking a census would be a sin, especially after God had moved David to do it, is anyone's guess. Well, not anyone's guess, of course, because the professional "apologists" like Gleason Archer, Norman Geisler, John Haley, etc. were apparently blessed with special insights that enabled them to know that the Bible didn't really mean what it plainly said. Just read their books, and you'll find all of the answers if you can stop laughing long enough to read them all the way through.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Great Balls of Fire! (9)


More from the *Twilight Zone*:

by Farrell Till
In modern civilized societies, special considerations are given to people who are physically handicapped. Governments both national and regional provide them with special parking facilities, access ramps, restroom accommodations, and other services intended to  integrate them into society as much as circumstances will allow. One would therefore think that back in the days when Yahweh, the omnibenevolent creator of the universe, routinely visited and chatted with his specially chosen people, treatment of the handicapped would have been at least equal to what it is in modern society, but when we journey back into the twilight  zone of biblical times, we learn that such was not the case. Rather than showing special consideration for the handicapped, Yahweh expressed a contempt for such people and even decreed that they were not to be allowed in his presence. Above all else, he did not want them profaning his sanctuary.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Those Resilient Heathens (8)


The *Twilight Zone* series continues:

by Farrell Till
In an earlier column, we noted the amazing resilience of the Egyptian livestock during the infamous plagues that Moses rained down on Egypt. The plague of murrain, which the Bible described as "very grievous" (Ex. 9:3), killed "all the livestock of the Egyptians" (v:5), yet when the plague of hail came only days later, it "struck down everything that was in the open field throughout all the land of Egypt, both human and animals" (9:25). And so the story continued. A plague would come and strike both man and beast, sometimes specifying that all beasts were struck down, as well as their food supply, yet when the final plague came, some of the amazingly resilient livestock of Egypt were still alive to be killed in the plague against the firstborn (Ex. 11:5; 12:29). And even then the wonders didn't cease. Pharaoh was able to muster an army of "six hundred picked chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt," as well as other horsemen (14:6-28), to try to stop the Israelite exodus. Where but in the Twilight Zone of inerrant biblical history could anything so amazing happen?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Amazing Livestock of Egypt (7)


More from the *Twilight Zone* series:

by Farrell Till
The tit-for-tat premise in the biblical story of the Egyptian plagues continued until Aaron struck the dust of the ground with his staff (Ex. 8:16-17) and brought forth an  infestation of lice or gnats or mosquitoes or maggots (pick your translation). At this point, Pharaoh's magicians, after trying with no success to produce lice (gnats, mosquitoes, maggots), threw in the towel and said, "This is the finger of God!" (Ex. 8:19). Yeah, sure! Only in the Twilight Zone would sorcerers, who had matched Aaron and Moses tit for tat in changing all the water of Egypt into blood and frog for frog in the second plague, have been deterred by a comparatively simple little thing like bringing forth lice (gnats, mosquitoes, maggots). If I had been Pharaoh, I would have given those magicians their walking papers on the spot. After all, what is calling forth a swarm or two of lice or gnats (mosquitoes, maggots) compared to changing all the water in Egypt into blood after all the water in Egypt had already been turned to blood? If nothing else, they could have faked it, waved their hands, said an enchantment or two, tossed some dust into the air, and then pointed at some of Yahweh's lice or gnats and claimed that they had conjured them up. Talk about lack of imagination!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Pharaoh, the Nincompoop (6)


The *Twilight Zone* series continues:

by Farrell Till
Absurdities in the story of the ten plagues go far beyond the changing of all the water of Egypt into blood, which was the subject of our last journey into the Twilight Zone of biblical fundamentalism. As Moses and Aaron called down the plagues, the implausibilites multiplied so rapidly that no rational-thinking reader could possibly believe that these events happened as recorded in the Bible. As previously noted, the story began as a tit-for-tat confrontation between Pharaoh's magicians and Yahweh's emissaries, Moses and Aaron. When Aaron changed his rod into a serpent, the magicians "did in like manner with their enchantments" (Ex. 7:11); when Aaron and Moses changed all the water in Egypt into blood, the magicians, in some way known only to Bible fundamentalists, "did so with their enchantments" (7:22). So the die was cast, and the duel was under way.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

When All Is Not All (5)


This is number 5 in *The Twilight Zone* series: 

by Farrell Till
To the Twilight-Zone mind of the Christian fundamentalist, nothing in the Bible is too absurd to believe. Twilight Zonery at its absurdest is exemplified in the way that Bible fundamentalists insist that the story of the Egyptian plagues is literally true in all of its details.  The plagues began when Yahweh commanded Moses to have Aaron stretch his staff over "the waters of Egypt" (Ex. 7:19) to change them into blood. The transformation was to include water that was in the rivers, streams, pools, ponds, and even vessels of wood and stone. When Moses and Aaron did so, "all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood" (v:20), and the blood, as Yahweh had decreed, was "throughout all the land of Egypt" (v:21).

"Well, why not?" Christian fundamentalists will demand. If we concede the existence of an omnipotent God for whom Moses and Aaron were acting as emissaries, the performance of a deed like this would have been rather insignificant compared to, say, the creation of the world. Perhaps so, but the writer of this little yarn so blundered in the way he told the story that, even with that concession, rational thinkers will have no difficulty seeing that it is pure fantasy. Whoever wrote it clearly intended to present it from the very beginning as a contest between the powers of Pharaoh's magicians and the power of Yahweh acting through Moses and Aaron. In a display of power to Pharaoh before the plagues themselves actually began, Aaron cast his rod down, and it became a serpent (Ex. 7:10). Not at all impressed with the demonstration, Pharaoh called for his magicians, who "did in like manner with their enchantments" (v:11). They cast their rods down, and they too became serpents.  Aaron's serpent, however, came to the rescue by swallowing the magicians' serpents [rods], presumably demonstrating that the power of Yahweh was superior to the power of the magicians (v:12).