Monday, October 12, 2015

Sins Of The Fathers (1)

On the old II Errancy discussion list Farrell Till had a debate with David Ariel in which Ariel defended the inerrancy of the Old Testament. Till began the discussion with the following post, May 3, 2002. More of the debate will follow in the coming days:

David Ariel has agreed to engage in a debate in which he will be defending the inerrancy of the Old Testament (Tanakh). I will begin the discussion by posting what I consider to be an example of biblical discrepancy, which he will then respond to.

In the debate on biblical inerrancy that Mr. Ariel has agreed to engage in, I will not be confronting him with examples like the discrepancies about the number of horses Solomon had or the age of Ahaziah when he began to reign, because these are the kinds of discrepancies that biblicists will pass off as copyist errors. Instead, I will be showing that the Bible contradicts itself on fundamental points of doctrine. In other words, the Bible will claim one doctrinal point here but a contradictory doctrine elsewhere, or the Bible will teach a doctrinal point that important biblical characters, including even Yahweh himself, ignored or disobeyed. These are discrepancies that cannot be dismissed on the grounds that the "original autographs" may not have contained these or that scribes miscopied or such like. They are discrepancies that require sensible explanations, and I will be interested to see how Mr. Ariel fares in giving us those sensible explanations.

In this posting, I am going to recycle an argument that I posted when Joe Carter was on the Errancy list trying to defend biblical inerrancy. It should be interesting to compare what Mr. Ariel says with the "explanation" that Carter posted to a discrepancy in the Old Testament concerning vicarious punishment. The Old Testament very plainly teaches that descendants were not to be punished for the crimes of their ancestors. My purpose in this first posting will be to explicate relevant passages to show that this doctrine was clearly taught in the OT. Then later I will explicate examples that show this doctrine was flagrantly violated with not just Yahweh's approval but sometimes as a result of his own decrees.

That descendants were not to be punished for the crimes or "sins" of their ancestors is taught most clearly in Ezekiel 18. The entire chapter addresses this divine decree, but I will quote only the first 20 verses, which are sufficient to show that this doctrine was clearly taught in the OT. 

Ezekiel18:1 The word of Yahweh came to me: 
2 What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, "The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge"? 
3 As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel.

Please take notice of the writer's claim that what he is saying was the "word of Yahweh," which had come to him, so Yahweh himself would be the antecedent of the first-person pronouns in this chapter. In other words, the claim is that Yahweh himself was speaking. I will now emphasize in uppercase letters words and expressions that relate directly to the doctrine under examination.

4 Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: IT IS ONLY THE PERSON WHO SINS THAT SHALL DIE. 
5 If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right-- 
6 if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor's wife or approach a woman during her menstrual period, 
7 does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 
8 does not take advance or accrued interest, withholds his hand from iniquity, executes true justice between contending parties, 
9 follows my statutes, and is careful to observe my ordinances, acting faithfully--such a one is righteous; HE SHALL SURELY LIVE, says the Lord GOD. 
10 If he has a son who is violent, a shedder of blood, 11 who does any of these things (though his father does none of them), who eats upon the mountains, defiles his neighbor's wife, 
12 oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination, 
13 takes advance or accrued interest; shall he then live? HE SHALL NOT. He has done all these abominable things; HE SHALL SURELY DIE; his blood shall be upon himself. 14 But if this man has a son who sees all the sins that his father has done, considers, and does not do likewise, 
15 who does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor's wife, 
16 does not wrong anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 
17 withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no advance or accrued interest, observes my ordinances, and follows my statutes; HE SHALL NOT DIE FOR HIS FATHER'S INIQUITY; he shall surely live. 
18 As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, HE DIES FOR HIS INIQUITY. 
19 Yet you say, "Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?" When the son has done what is lawful and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, HE SHALL SURELY LIVE. 
20 THE PERSON WHO SINS SHALL DIE. A CHILD SHALL NOT SUFFER FOR THE INIQUITY OF A PARENT, NOR A PARENT SUFFER FOR THE INIQUITY OF A CHILD; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own. 

When confronted with examples that show even Yahweh himself clearly contradicting this decree, some biblicists will actually argue that the examples cited happened before the time of Ezekiel, and so there is no inconsistency. I could cite in response to this the alleged immutability of the god Yahweh, but there is no need to, because this same doctrine was stated in a passage that biblicists will claim that Moses himself wrote before the Israelites entered the "promised land."

Deuteronomy 24:16 Parents shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their parents; only for their own crimes may persons be put to death.

Since most inerrantists will argue that Deuteronomy was written by Moses, they can find no room to dodge this issue by quibbling that the examples I will be showing later happened before the time of Ezekiel, for if they are going to argue that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, they must also accept that from the early stages of the Israelite nation, it was a Yahwistic decree that descendants should not be punished for the crimes or "sins" of their ancestors.

That this was understood to be a part of the law of Moses under which the Israelites lived is shown by the example of Amaziah, who became king of Judah after the assassination of his father Joash. Upon establishing his claim to the throne, Amaziah killed the royal servants who had assassinated his father, "but he did not put to death the children of the murderers; according to what is written in the book of the law of Moses, where Yahweh commanded, 'The parents shall not be put to death for the children, or the children be put to death for the parents; but all shall be put to death for their own sins'" (2 Kings 14:5). Notice that this passage claims that this was a law that was written "in the book of the law of Moses," so it must be understood as an intended reference to the statement quoted above from Deuteronomy.

Having now established that the law of Moses contained a Yahwistic decree that descendants should not be punished for the sins of their ancestors, if I can show that this decree was at times violated by either Yahweh himself or by direct commands from Yahweh, I will have established a discrepancy in the Bible.

An example of Yahweh's own violation of this decree is recorded in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21, which are parallel accounts of the same alleged incidents in the life of David. According to the story, David had sinned in taking a census. Why the act of taking a census was a sin is not explained, but as the story is told, David realized that he had sinned.

2 Samuel 24:10 But afterward, David was stricken to the heart because he had numbered the people. David said to Yahweh, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Yahweh, I pray you, take away the guilt of your servant; for I have done very foolishly."

Notice that David clearly stated, "I have sinned," an admission that conflicts with a biblical passage that claims David always did that which was right in the eyes of Yahweh except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite, but that is a discrepancy for another time. For now, we just want to notice that David said, "I have sinned."

After David had made this confession, Yahweh sent the prophet Gad to reprimand him and give him his choice of three different punishments.

24:11 When David rose in the morning, the word of Yahweh came to the prophet Gad, David's seer, saying, 12 "Go and say to David: Thus says Yahweh: Three things I offer you; choose one of them, and I will do it to you." 13 So Gad came to David and told him; he asked him, "Shall three years of famine come to you on your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days' pestilence in your land? Now consider, and decide what answer I shall return to the one who sent me." 14 Then David said to Gad, "I am in great distress; let us fall into the hand of Yahweh, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into human hands."

According to the parallel account of this tale in 1 Chronicles 21, Gad offered David a choice of SEVEN years of famine rather than the three years offered in this account, but, again, that is another discrepancy for another time. At this point, we will just notice that David decided to let Yahweh choose which of the punishments he should suffer. According to the biblical account, Yahweh chose to send three days of pestilence upon the land.

24:15 So Yahweh sent a pestilence on Israel from that morning until the appointed time; and SEVENTY THOUSAND of the people died, from Dan to Beer-sheba.

Let's take notice of what we have so far. David was the one who sinned, but Yahweh elected to send upon the land a pestilence that killed 70,000 people who had had nothing to do with the decision that David had made in taking the census. As the story was told, even David himself saw the appalling injustice of killing 70,000 people for something he had done.

24:16 But when the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, Yahweh relented concerning the evil, and said to the angel who was bringing destruction among the people, "It is enough; now stay your hand." The angel of Yahweh was then by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. 17 When David saw the angel who was destroying the people, he said to Yahweh, "I ALONE HAVE SINNED, and I alone have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let your hand, I pray, be against me and against my father's house."

Earlier David had said, "I have sinned," but here he said, "I ALONE have sinned, and I ALONE have done wickedly." The people of Israel were not responsible for David's actions in the matter of the census, yet David escaped punishment and 70,000 people paid for David's "sin" with their lives.

This tale clearly has Yahweh violating his own decree that said the person who sinned--and not others--should die for his own sins. Even if Yahweh had never decreed this, people with any sense of morality at all should be able to see the appalling injustice of killing 70,000 people for an act that was done by someone else.

David saw the injustice of it. "What have these sheep done?" David allegedly asked Yahweh. I'll ask Mr. Ariel to answer that question and show us that Yahweh's sending of this pestilence did not violate his own decree.

Farrell Till 

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