Keeping the Slaughter of Canaan in Context

By Shannon Byrd

Are the conquest narratives in the Old Testament any different from what we are currently viewing with ISIS throughout the Middle East and Europe? Questions like this often come up in discussing the existence of objective moral values and duties and their proper grounding. When God is posited as the grounding of morality, the objector usually brings up some obscure OT text that he or she thinks will demonstrate that God has a warped sense of morality and it is usually in this context that the conquest narratives are brought up.

False Distinction

One reason this problem has persisted is that many Christians aren’t comfortable with God judging people; they draw a distinction in their minds between the God of the OT and the non-violent, peaceful Jesus of the NT. However, this distinction is an artificial one, Jesus regularly denounced others and threatened judgment. He took a whip and drove moneychangers out of the temple (Jn 2:15). Never mind what he said in Matthew 18, “. . . whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” So this distinction between God in the OT and Christ in the NT falls flat on death ears. Christ didn’t downplay the texts depicting judgment and for modern Christians doing so actually skews the image of Christ.

The Bible is Literally True

We’ve all hear this before, “Either the bible is literally true, or it’s literally false.” I remember agreeing with statements like this as a kid growing up in church; it sounded pious, but I didn’t know any better at the time. Many critics of Christianity as well as pastors have little to no understanding of biblical hermeneutics. Just because everything in Scripture is true, does not mean it is literally true. What am I saying? If we take everything in Scripture to be literally true, then tree’s sing,(1 Chr 16:33; Ps 96:12), Christ is a door (Jn 10:7), YahWeh flies in the sky on Cherubs (2 Sam 22:11), and Elihu’s heart jumped out of his chest (Job 37:1). Clearly everyone understands these texts to be figures of speech and aren’t to be taken literally; they were consciously exaggerated by the author for the sake of effect. Taken literally, these passages sound like a Harry Potter novel.

The statement “either the bible is literally all true, or it’s literally all false,” is also a logical fallacy. Just because some passages of Scripture are literally true, it doesn’t follow that all passages are literally true. So, not only is thinking in this manner hermeneutically flawed, it’s logically flawed as well. There we have it, two solid reasons to reject a rigid literal only interpretation.

Additionally, there are good textual reasons not to take the conquest accounts literal. K Lawson Younger Jr. notes that the accounts in Joshua 9-12 are figurative and utilize what he calls a “transmission code,” which is a commonly stylized and frequently hyperbolic method of recording history.[1]

It is clear that from within the book of Joshua itself, the text indicates that it isn’t to be taken literally. Consider the text of Joshua 10:20, ”It came about when Joshua and the sons of Israel had finished slaying them with a very great slaughter, until they weredestroyed, and the survivors who remained of them had entered the fortified cities.” If they were slaughtered and destroyed then there shouldn’t have been any survivors.

One of the best examples of why we should regard the text as hyperbolic occurs in Joshua 8.

v. 16, And all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were drawn away from the city.

v. 17, So not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who had not gone out after Israel, and they left the city unguarded and pursued Israel.

v. 22, The others came out from the city to encounter them, so that they were trapped in the midst of Israel, some on this side and some on that side: and they slew them until no one was left of those who survived or escaped.

v. 24, Now when Israel had finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the field in the wilderness where they pursued them, and all of them were fallen by the edge of the sword until they were destroyed, then all Israel returned to Ai and struck it with the edge of the sword.

Taken literally, this block of scripture would be manifestly nonsensical. If there were no survivors or fugitives remaining in Ai, who did the Israelites pursue?

Joshua also exaggerates numbers:

v. 25, all who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000—all the people of Ai.

Yet earlier the spies Joshua sent in prior to the battle for Ai make the remark:

Do not let all the people go up; only about two or three thousand men need to go up to Ai; do not make all the people toil up there, for they are few (Josh 7:3).

Clearly these texts aren’t meant to be literal, something else is going on and the hagiographic hyperbolic interpretation fits best and takes the passages that appear at face value to be nonsensical and interprets them within a flexible framework, just as other Near Eastern texts were understood at the time. A great deal of the narratives that contain troop numbers and or casualties mentioned are exaggerated for added effect. This was common during that period.

           

The Canaanites Were Innocent

Often times it’s assumed by many that the Canaanites were the victims of a terrible crime against humanity. “They were attacked and massacred for no reason at all,” I’ve heard some say—but is this true? Scripture presents a different story; the Canaanites were called wicked (Deut 9:5). What were they guilty of? Moses listed all the occultic practices of the Canaanites; they did “detestable things,” “practiced witchcraft,” and sacrificed their children to Baal via fire. Moreover, the Canaanites practiced bestiality—disgusting—this is why it is mentioned in Leviticus 18; God did not want the Israelites practicing this as the Gentile nations around them had done. “Not good enough evidence,” the skeptic might say, “the authors were biased and looking for a reason to fight the Canaanites.” To be sure, no one is without bias, but did the author accurately report what the Canaanites were doing? Extra-biblical evidence corroborates what the OT reports of them. In the Canaanite epic poem The Baal Cycle, we learn: “Mightiest Baal hears; He makes love with a heifer in the outback, A cow in the field of Death’s Realm . . . He lies with her seventy times seven, Mounts eighty times eight; [She conceives and bears a boy].” I think the evidence speaks for itself; Canaanite sexual practices are well documented.

“Utterly Destroy”

In Joshua 6-12, it is reported that Joshua “utterly destroyed” multiple cities and peoples. It is unlikely that whoever finalized the form of Joshua intended it to convey that the Canaanites were exterminated at God’s command. Joshua was intended as a literary component consisting of Deuteronomy, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings. It is best to interpret it as preceded by Deuteronomy and succeeded by Judges. Given Judges is literarily linked to Joshua, the book presents a different story; it starts with the presumption that the Canaanites are still present in the land. So, Joshua on the surface seems to show that the Canaanites had been “utterly destroyed” yet Judges assumes they are not. In Joshua specific locations are mentioned where Joshua exterminated everyone (Hebron 10:36; Debir 10:38; Hillcountry Negev and western foothills 10:40). Yet, in the first chapter of Judges, it’s affirmed they couldn’t drive the Canaanites out from these very cities (Debir v.11; Hebron v.10; western foothills v. 9). Moreover, Joshua reports that he took the “whole land,” (Josh 11:23) whereas God makes a statement in Judges that presupposes Joshua did not take the whole land (2:21-23).

This tension can even be seen within Joshua itself, “It came about when Joshua and the sons of Israel had finished slaying them with a very great slaughter, until they were destroyed, and the survivors who remained of them had entered the fortified cities,” So, Joshua destroyed them yet they had survivors? What is going on? It seems to me, Joshua occurs in a literary genre that allows for the language of “utterly destroy” to be immediately followed up by a narrative stating the Canaanites were not “utterly destroyed.” So, put simply, Joshua appears to be highly stylized hyperbole whereas Judges appears to be more like down to earth history. This means Joshua is used to teach theological points rather than give a detailed account of history as it happened. Additionally, this sort of hyperbole was very common in Near Eastern conquest accounts and wasn’t understood as literal.

Some Innocents Were Killed

Given that the interpretation of Joshua presented here, the critic might still argue that some Canaanites were still killed including innocent children. I fully admit that this is possible. Is this a defendable position? My view is if we can coherently defend that if human beings on exceptionally rare occasions can kill innocents for some greater purpose or some greater good, then we have an even better reason for God issuing such a command.

First, humans kill innocents all the time for the sake of a greater good. Consider this scenario: a plane headed for Washington D.C. is reportedly hijacked. A terrorist has control of the aircraft and is headed for the White House, where thousands are gathered. The Air Force intercepts the plane and the fighter pilot is faced with a choice; he can either let the plane hit its intended target, killing thousands and potentially the leaders of the executive branch of government to include the president, or he can shoot the aircraft down and kill everyone on board to include the terrorists, men, women, and children. Is it coherent for this pilot in this extremely rare circumstance to kill innocent human beings? Most would say yes, he would be rational in making such a decision.

This pilot is armed with counterfactual knowledge and knows that if he does not shoot the plane down, more lives will be lost. Like the pilot, God knows counterfactuals as well. He knows not only what will occur, but also what would occur given different circumstances, and he knows this infallibly, whereas humans do not. So, is it coherent that God could command the killing of innocent human beings? My answer is yes. God may know that permitting the killing of some innocent Canaanites might have prevented future and greater loss of life or even greater apostasy by Israel leading to more spiritual death. The point is, if we as humans can rationally justify killing innocents in rare circumstances, and do so with hypothetical knowledge, then we have no grounds to criticize God, who does so, and is omniscient.

* Please read this related article from my colleague, Tim Stratton, shining additional light on the subject of the Canaanite Objection.

[1] K. Lawson Younger Jr., Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990).

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40 replies
  1. David says:

    Shannon, your apologetic defense of the Canaanite genocides presents manifold problems.

    How does Jesus being just as violent as Yahweh (promising to eternally torture everyone that does not fall in love with him, assuming they ever even hear of him) seem to you a good thing?

    How do you decide which parts of the bible to take literally and which to view as hyperbole, myth, folklore, or legend? But I like the way your headed here Shannon. I do believe the bible is mainly folklore. For more on this read Alan Dundes, “Holy Writ As Oral Lit, The Bible As Folklore”

    How, to you, is it a good thing that Joshua might have only slaughtered some/many women, children and animals? How is the harem sacrifice of just “some” of the Canaanite children to Yahweh ok? That’s what the bible says it was, human sacrifice to a deity in a holy war.

    If Joshua exaggerated the numbers killed in the conquest, and that made it into the biblical canon, how do we decide what else in the bible might have been exaggerated? Maybe the resurrection was just an exaggeration. Maybe the claim that people will be punished in hell forever is another exaggeration.

    Shannon, you do realize that early biblical texts directed the Israelites to sacrifice their first born to Yahweh and they did so as part of Yahweh ordained worship? There are multiple biblical texts that affirm Yahweh endorsed human sacrifice.

    Do you teach your own children “theological points” by telling them stories of innocent children being slaughtered by marauding hordes?

    Your “Some Innocents Were Killed” rationale is especially weak. You said, “The point is, if we as humans can rationally justify killing innocents in rare circumstances, and do so with hypothetical knowledge, then we have no grounds to criticize God, who does so, and is omniscient.” Why does Yahweh need men to do his dirty work? Sounds like an Islamic terrorist rationale to me. Does he lack the ability to take care of the Canaanites himself? If he had taken care of it himself he could have assured that NO innocents were killed. It seems to me that if Yahweh is the omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent being you believe him to be he could have “surgically” withdrawn the life giving force from each and every inhabitant of Canaan that he needed out of the way and they would have dropped peacefully to the ground, dead. No children with hacked off heads. No pregnant women run through with a sword. No elderly women clubbed to death. Can you not see that these are the acts of humans later rationalized by claiming divine directive? Sorry Shannon but gods don’t kill people, people with gods kill people.

    I wonder if your readers are familiar with this disgusting spin from, I’m sure one of your apologetic heroes, Mr. William Lane “Joseph Goebbels” Craig? In his book “Slaughter Of The Canaanites” he writes the following, “So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgement. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life. So who is wronged? Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli [sic] soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing”. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? THE WRONG DONE TO THE “ISRAELI SOLDIERS”? DID HE REALLY WRITE THAT? HE DID. IT IS TRULY SHOCKING. I wonder if you think Nazi soldiers should be pitied for having to kill Jews at Auschwitz? The Nazi’s said the Jews were evil, I guess we should assume they were. This is ANE propaganda meant to demonize a group of people for religious and political purposes.

    Shannon, the Conquest Narratives are nation building texts, created as a rationale for the Israelites to lay claim to the land. If they actually happened they are horrific. If they didn’t happen, as thankfully the overwhelming consensus of over 100 years of archaeology in “The Land” indicates, then the book of Joshua and its companion texts qualify as folklore. Either case makes the bible very difficult to accept as a reliable text upon which to base one’s life. If you condone the Canaanite genocides and then condemn the murderous acts of 9/11 you are by definition a moral relativist. Something I’m sure you would adamantly deny.

    Here are some good starter texts on the subject, Thom Stark’s, “The Human Faces Of God: What The Scripture Reveals When It Gets God Wrong And Why Inerrancy Tries To Hide It” and the kindle version of, “Is God A Moral Compromiser?” Also read “Disturbing Divine Behavior” by Eric Seibert. Susan Niditch’s, “War In The Hebrew Bible: A Study In The Ethics Of Violence” is a good read. Hector Avalos has written an excellent book titled, “Fighting Words: The Origins Of Religious Violence”.

    Reply
    • Chris Brownwell says:

      David,

      You have some good questions if you truly are looking for answers. Perhaps you are just looking for more plentiful material for misinterpretation. (With how you described William Lane Craig and his work, I suspect you are merely here for the latter.) Several of your questions are quite easily answered. But before I get to answering any of them, perhaps others will chime in, please explain where you get your standard of morality to condemn the killing of “innocents?” By what standard, and whose authority do you determine who is “innocent” and who is “guilty?” Why is killing “innocents” wrong? Why is passing off “folklore” as truth wrong?

      Have you given much thought to your presuppositions and their sources?

      Reply
      • David says:

        I’m sorry Chris but my statements above are not misinterpretations. They are straight forward, honest interpretations that have not been subjected to your apologetic reinterpretations. If you were not committed to defending the bible at any cost you would be more open to what I said. And I’m sorry but I don’t think I have any greater presuppositions than you do. In fact, I used to believe exactly as you do and then my former presuppositions changed to new suppositions.

        I’ll admit that inserting the “Goebbels” alias was a little over the top but I added it in hopes of driving home a very important point. That point being, that Craig and some other apologists I’ve read will stop at nothing to divert attention from the real point of an issue. Do you not find Craig’s “poor Israeli solders” apologetic offensive? It’s the equivalent of saying, “I know that normally the one being run through with the sword is the one harmed but in this case, it’s really the one doing the killing that is being harmed.” Tell me Chris, in what other context would you accept this nonsense? It’s the classic blame shift. “If the Canaanites hadn’t been so vile these poor soldiers wouldn’t have had to kill them for Yahweh.” “If young Pakistani women would just submit to Sharia law their families wouldn’t have to pour gasoline on them and set them on fire to satisfy Allah.” It’s sickening.

        You said, “please explain where you get your standard of morality to condemn the killing of “innocents?” By what standard, and whose authority do you determine who is “innocent” and who is “guilty?” Why is killing “innocents” wrong? Why is passing off “folklore” as truth wrong?” For the sake of discussion, I’ll concede that the bible (word of god, god’s character, whatever you wish) is the standard for morality. So, let’s say I get my standard of morality from the bible. If then, the writings in the bible presented a clear and consistent moral code and the actions attributed to its’ author, Yahweh, perfectly followed that moral code we might have something. But sadly, neither the bible nor Yahweh does this for us. If there are inconsistencies in the code or the code giver your argument fails. Additionally, on your view which seems to say that we can’t make a single moral decision without the god of the bible, the moral code given in the bible would also have to be exhaustive. It would have to cover every single potentiality related to moral decisions, which it also does not do. Even with all the biblical writings and the principles we can draw from them we still have to arrive at some moral decisions by choosing, what we believe to be, the lesser of two evils. So that is why I feel free to claim that the bible fails as a grounding for objective morality. Do you not feel like god should be subject to the principles that he gives for man in his word? I do.

        And I’m not saying there is anything immoral about thinking folklore is history. It’s simply a misunderstanding of a piece of literature. Nothing immoral here. Just confused.

        Reply
        • shannon Eugene Byrd says:

          Hey David,

          I think you have made a few mistakes and misunderstood Divine Command Theory, so I wish to clear that up.

          You stated, “So, let’s say I get my standard of morality from the bible. If then, the writings in the bible presented a clear and consistent moral code and the actions attributed to its’ author, Yahweh, perfectly followed that moral code we might have something. But sadly, neither the bible nor Yahweh does this for us. If there are inconsistencies in the code or the code giver your argument fails.”

          This actually isn’t what Divine Command Theory is; DCT is the theory that God is good and wills towards the good and his commands that are willed toward the good create moral obligations for us. So, the morality isn’t based on Scripture, rather it is based on what God commands, and those commands are in scripture. The difference is subtle, but it is a difference. Hermeneutics comes into play a great deal in this. Some of God’s commands were for a specific time and people toward a certain purpose, so not all God’s commands are for all time to all people. Moreover, within DCT is discretionary theory, the notion that God could have commanded differently, though it still be towards the good.

          Reply
    • Kalmaro says:

      Hello David, was looking at some of the objections you had to the post made by Shannon Byrd and a few things you said stood out to me.

      In your first statement you seem to be claiming that there are those who have never heard of Jesus. However, the real question is how many people who would care to know about Jesus have never heard about him. This may sound odd bug there are people who have never once heard of God but still have a basic understanding of a creator diety. I see no reason why they could not learn about Jesus if they were interested in learning about a creator God. Ultimately though, this is all speculation so I’m not sure how really goes against what Byrd said.

      As for knowing when to take the Bible literally or figuratively, that just comes down to research and common sense. A lot of times you can just tell when someone is using a metaphor, like the example about Jesus having hinges when described as a door. The rest of the times you would have to be learned in the culture around the time of the writings so you can get an idea what types of words were used to describe events.

      You mention human sacrifice but I don’t see anywhere that God wants people sacrificed to him.

      You’re next point comes to common sense again. There is no indication of hell being temporary. The numbers being used are just used as emphasis in certain situations. To know when to take the numbers seriously you just have to read around to understand the context, just takes some study.

      You mention God commanding child sacrifice, this is false, no where in the Bible does God ever tell anyone or support anyone sacrificing their children. There are verses that may give that impression but no command to do that is given.

      Also, you have a large point about how it apparently is wrong for God to kill anyone at the end of it, but half way through that same post you point out how God could have just killed certain people. Overall, it appears like you’re saying that if God gets people to carry out his judgment then this shows a weakness on his part. Why is that the case? What rule says that God can not interact through whatever he chooses? Furthermore, while you are right in saying that God could surgically kill just specific people at will, the real question is ‘should’ he have done so. This once again begs the question of what standard you are applying to God that says what he did could be wrong.

      The soldiers who murdered the Jews can certainly be pitied if they were forced to follow orders. I’m not claiming any were, nor am I claiming that I know the hearts of any that felt forced. I’m only saying that I would pity a soldier who was having to choose between the safety of his family for disobeying an order and the life of someone innocent. There’s no way to win that situation.

      I won’t deny that what happened in the old testament was horrific, but comparing what happened to the Canaanites and the 9/11 attacks won’t work. One was God basically punishing a nation and the other was the result of a group of misguided people acting on their own.

      Reply
      • David says:

        Kalmaro, there is a lot I could say about your post but time is short. I’ll just respond briefly to a few statements. And I’ve read all the apologetics on these and other verses. All very unsatisfactory to my thinking.

        You said, “You mention human sacrifice but I don’t see anywhere that God wants people sacrificed to him.” See II Sam. 21. When Yahweh tells you that the land is under a famine due to the sins of the king that preceded you, and you give up his descendants to be murdered to end it, that is Yahweh instructed human sacrifice. Am I missing something?

        You said, “You mention God commanding child sacrifice, this is false, no where in the Bible does God ever tell anyone or support anyone sacrificing their children.” The story of Jephthah and his daughter is a perfect example of child sacrifice. Jephthah needs a boost in battle, he vows to Yahweh to sacrifice whatever comes first out of his house when he returns victorious, Yahweh gives him victory, Jephthah fulfills his vow. When Yahweh gives you victory in battle for a vow you made to sacrifice a human that’s Yahweh supported human sacrifice. Don’t call his vow rash as many apologists do. The text nowhere condemns the vow or calls it rash or even inappropriate. On the contrary, Yahweh’s response rewards the vow.

        You said “I won’t deny that what happened in the old testament was horrific, but comparing what happened to the Canaanites and the 9/11 attacks won’t work. One was God basically punishing a nation and the other was the result of a group of misguided people acting on their own.” I have one question Kalmaro, how do you know? Your position says nothing more than, “the Canaanite genocides were right and the acts of 9/11 were wrong because we have the right god”. That’s scary. Maybe if Christians would condemn some of the evil in their sacred texts the Muslims would condemn some of the evils of their contemporaries.

        Reply
        • shannon Eugene Byrd says:

          2 Samuel 21 is not about sacrificing to Yahweh, that is a horrible misreading of the text.

          Robert Bergen states:

          “Compensation was not to come in the form of money or land, but in a manner prescribed by the Torah. In cases involving the unsanctioned taking of human life, the Torah called for retribution-in-kind (cf. Exod 21:23; Lev 24:21; Deut 19:21), even though the case might involve aliens (cf. Lev 24:22). Thus the Gibeonites requested that justice be served by executing seven of Saul’s descendants.”

          Robert D. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel, vol. 7, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 445.

          Reply
          • David says:

            Shannon, if you read a story in any religious writings that claimed that a famine could be ended by people being killed out of vengeance and hung up in trees you would call it human sacrifice. It is only because this story is in the bible that you defend it. If this story was in the Quran you would make a big deal of it and point to it as yet another piece of evidence that Islam is evil and Christianity is true.

        • shannon Eugene Byrd says:

          David,

          You said:

          “The story of Jephthah and his daughter is a perfect example of child sacrifice. Jephthah needs a boost in battle, he vows to Yahweh to sacrifice whatever comes first out of his house when he returns victorious, Yahweh gives him victory, Jephthah fulfills his vow. When Yahweh gives you victory in battle for a vow you made to sacrifice a human that’s Yahweh supported human sacrifice. Don’t call his vow rash as many apologists do. The text nowhere condemns the vow or calls it rash or even inappropriate. On the contrary, Yahweh’s response rewards the vow.”

          What the text actually says:

          Judges 11:29–35 (NASB95)

          29 Now the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, so that he passed through Gilead and Manasseh; then he passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he went on to the sons of Ammon.
          30 Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand,
          31 then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the LORD’S, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.”
          32 So Jephthah crossed over to the sons of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD gave them into his hand.
          33 He struck them with a very great slaughter from Aroer to the entrance of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim. So the sons of Ammon were subdued before the sons of Israel.
          34 When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. Now she was his one and only child; besides her he had no son or daughter.
          35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to the LORD, and I cannot take it back.”

          God, didn’t even answer answer Jephthah’s vow, he disregarded it.

          Regarding the vow, it seems to me there are two possibilities: (1) Jephthah’s vow was rash and not well thought out, or (2) it was shrewd and calculating. Neither, say much about his character, do they?
          In the first instance, Jephthah could have meant that whatever comes through the doorway (presumably an animal of some kind) would be sacrificed. If the vow was calculating then he may have been the product of the paganism. Consider that in Judges 10:10 the author admits that Israel at this time was worshipping Milkom and other Ammonite gods.

          Also, keep in mind the difference between what is descriptive and prescriptive. The Hebrew OT never condones child sacrifice, in fact, it outright condemns it (Lev 18:21; 20:1–5; 1 Kgs 11:7; 2 Kgs 23:10; Jer 32:35. Cf. also Jer 7:31–32; 19:5–6, 11; Ezek 16:20–21; 20:25–26, 30–31; 23:36–39).

          So, the notion that this is a Yahweh sanctioned child sacrifice is ridiculous.

          Reply
          • David says:

            Shannon, you did it again. How did you selectively read the passage above and miss the evidence that Yahweh actually “rewarded” the vow? If Yahweh disregarded the vow please tell me what verse 32 is talking about. Jephthah had just finished making the vow in verse 31 and immediately there after in verse 32 it says “and The Lord gave them into his hand”. It says it right there in the text. There is no other way to read it Shannon unless your an apologist.
            Also, if Jephthah’s vow was rash, inappropriate or evil I think the Holy Spirit forgot to communicate this to the writer of the book of Hebrews as Jephthah is praised in that book for his conquests in battle. Someone who sacrificed a child for a victory in battle doesn’t strike me as someone to be held up as a glowing example in the Hall of Faith chapter of Hebrews.

        • Kalmaro says:

          You raise some good point, but I would like you to consider a few things.

          Considering the 2 Samuel verse, where does God actually say he approved of the people being hanged? I looked at the verse again and there does not seem to be any indication that God said thanks or anything like that. In fact, the famine doesn’t seem to be lifted until later. God does not seem to acknowledge the ‘sacrifices’. It’s true he said they were in trouble because of Saul’s family, but he never goes from there to say that sacrifices must be made, and when they are killed he doesn’t seem to acknowledge it. I’m not seeing the problem.

          For Jephthah it’s the same thing, no where does God ever appear to accept the sacrifice, nor does it actually confirm that he burned her like he said he would. It seems to be hinted but not said for sure. Even if he did though, when he made the first promise to God that he would in the first place, no where does God shown to agree with the man’s terms. It seems more probable that God would have helped him anyway since that was his plan from the start, Jephthah was the one that was desperate to win. I don’t see what is wrong with calling him brash for that, if anything it just shows a lack of faith in God. You can assume God helped him because of the promise but that’s all you can do, you can’t justify that assumption, meanwhile there is more evidence to suggest that God meant what he said when he did not want people to be sacrificed to him.

          I’m not sure what your point is in your last statement. God commanded a nation to be punished for sins, which is rough but to say that God was immoral for doing so is going to be tough. The 9/11 attackers were not acting on any authority but their own, which is why I said you can’t compare the two instances. Yes I do believe they worship a different God but I’m not sure what your objection is to that. Also, I’d be happy to go over any more evil you think is in the Bible, but before we do we would have to establish what objective you are using to tell what I’m the Bible is evil.

          Thanks for being patient, this site never notified me of your response, I just checked today on a whim.

          Reply
          • David says:

            Kalmaro,
            I often see this type of response from Christians when their scriptures are challenged. It’s a kind of “playing dumb” like a misbehaving child might do when confronted by a parent. “What, where, I don’t see it.” “What are you talking about, I didn’t do that?”
            The passage says there was a famine for three consecutive years, so what did David do and why (this is important Kalmaro because it shows what David did because the famine was causing a problem) SO, David sought Yahweh. What did Yahweh tell him? He told him it was because of Saul’s sin against the Gibeonites. So what does David do, he summons the Gibeonites. What did they ask for? Saul’s descendants. What does it say they are going to do with them? Hang them “before Yahweh”. That’s right Kalmaro, murder them and expose them before Yahweh. What does that mean to you? What does David do? He gives over seven of Saul’s descendants. At this point another problem arises. Why would Saul’s descendants, who appear to have been living in close proximity to David without incident low these three years of famine, be punished for Saul’s sins now? Does this seem right to you? Even in the OT it says that a child should not suffer for the wrongs of his father. This seems to me to violate that command. Still, David hands them over and they are killed and then hung where? “Before Yahweh”. Yahweh is deeply involved here, David asked Yahweh, Yahweh said “here’s the problem”, David calls the Gibeonites and asks what they want. Do you suppose that Yahweh was standing by whispering in David’s ear, “What are you doing David?”, ” I, I, I didn’t tell you to do that.” No, David is doing it because Yahweh whispered in his ear and said, “Hey since you’re asking David, here is the problem and if you summon the Gibeonites I think they might have a deal for you. II Sam. 21:14 ends like this, “After that, God answered prayer in behalf of the land.”
            So to you Kalmaro, unless you have explicit language from Yahweh”s lips saying “David, if you will offer up to me, the descendants of Saul, AS A HUMAN SACRIFICE, I will end the famine, free the land of Saul’s guilt and once again hear your prayers” then you just can’t see how anyone could call this human sacrifice. What caused the famine? Saul’s sin. What ended the famine? The murder of his descendants. It’s pretty clear Kalmaro. In other cultures they sacrificed humans to the gods to end droughts, win battles, ensure blessings on their harvests, etc. But not here, oh no, this can’t be that. It’s just not possible because this story is, after all, in the bible. Kalmaro, what is the story telling us? Why is it here? What is the story about? If one of its’ elements is not human sacrifice, why did people have to be murdered to even the score and end the famine? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you saw this type of story in the Quran you would instantly condemn it and happily refer to it as yet another evidence that Islam is evil and Christianity is true. But because it’s in the bible you refuse to admit what it is telling us. That’s either dishonesty or self delusion.

            As for Jephthah I’ll repeat what I had to say to Shannon above, “How did you selectively read the passage above and miss the evidence that Yahweh actually “rewarded” the vow? If Yahweh disregarded the vow please tell me what verse 32 is talking about. Jephthah had just finished making the vow in verse 31 and immediately there after in verse 32 it says “and The Lord gave them into his hand”. It says it right there in the text. There is no other way to read it. Kalmaro, ask yourself, why is the story of Jephthah in the book of Judges? What is it about. If human sacrifice is not on the table here why is it even part of the story. By the way, this is a tragedy similar to that of the Greeks. I hope you don’t hold to the position that it actually happened. It’s not history, it’s fiction. But regardless of the genre, it is an affirmation of the early Israelite belief in, and in this case, the Yahweh endorsed sanction of HUMAN SACRIFICE. Sorry, it just is.
            And by the way, I’m using the bible against the bible. If the bible contains contradictions between its’ moral code and its’ supposed code giver, Yahweh, you have a problem. The bible can’t say human sacrifice is wrong in one place and then affirm it in another. Don’t you agree Kalmaro?
            There are many examples of Yahweh endorsed human sacrifice in the bible. In fact, I believe you can make a strong case that human sacrifice (even sacrifice of Israelite children to Yahweh) was endorsed by Yahweh in many places in the bible. I recommend you get a copy of Thom Stark’s book, “The Human Faces of God”. He does a much better job of laying out the case. He goes into great detail to debunk the apologetic arguments that you and others are offering up here.

          • shannon Eugene Byrd says:

            David,

            First, I think you need to understand the difference between exegesis and eisogesis. When someone exegetes a passage, they go through the language, cultural context, genre, and so on to discover what the text actually says. When someone eisogetes, they read a passage and presuppose what it is saying. Exegesis is author centric, whereas eisogesis is reader centric. If you want to uncover what the text actually says and doesn’t say, you need to focus on what is actually stated and prohibit yourself from saying what it does not say.

  2. Luke says:

    Shannon,

    I have a question about your final section regarding the killing of innocents to achieve a greater good. It seems to me there is some confusion between accepting the death of innocents, and specifically targeting them. In your plane example, the children are what is often termed “collateral damage” meaning an unintended target. In the plane case, there is simply no way to kill or destroy the thing you wish to destroy, without killing the children.

    (Or are you arguing that even if the pilot could avoid killing the children, it would still be okay if s/he did?)

    Your comparative case, Canaan, does not have that problem since killing and fighting at the time was of the close range, hand to hand and small weapons variety. Collateral damage was, at worst, extremely rare. It seems that to kill the children, one would have to specifically target them.

    This is a stark difference between your hypothetical pilot, and the case of Canaan.

    In order to have a proper analogy, you would need to give an example in which targeting innocents that could be spared was morally acceptable to you or to “most”. (“Most” was the test you offered in this section.)

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Shannon Eugene Byrd says:

      Hi Luke,

      The point of the scenario is not to draw an exact parallel, the point is to show that given certain scenario’s people are rationally justified in killing innocents if a greater good could/would be achieved. Keep in mind that humans are rational in doing this even though they do not have perfect omniscience. If they know the deliberative conditional “If I do not kill x, then a y will occur” perfectly. The consequent could turn out differently. God, however has perfect knowledge and knows no falsehoods. He knows, that “if he commands, or permits, x to be killed, then y will not occur. So, God knows that if he did not command all the resistant Canaanites to be killed, then perhaps they could go on and commit more atrocities, sacrifice more children, or cause surrounding nations to follow their practices, which included sexual intercourse with animals. Some Canaanites actually repented and joined Israel, others did not.

      Also keep in mind that commands to kill women and children (like in Numbers 31) are given after God gave a command, which didn’t include killing everyone. God commanded Israel to take the Mediates action as an act of war and to meet them in battle, then subsequently, it’s Moses that commands killing women and children. This is a point that most miss when reading this text.

      Reply
      • David says:

        Shannon, in Deuteronomy 6:1-3 Moses tells Israel, “1. These are the commands, decrees and laws THE LORD YOUR GOD DIRECTED ME TO TEACH YOU to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.” Then in verses 4 we have the Shema, what is considered the core verse in all of Jewish religion, “4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one”. Then in verse 5, “5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” we have a text central to Christian belief that Jesus would later quote in the new testament. In the rest of chapter six Yahweh, through Moses, tells the people many other things they should and shouldn’t do when they enter the land. Then in chapter 7, “1. When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— 2 and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then YOU MUST DESTROY THEM TOTALLY[a] Make no treaty with them, and SHOW THEM NO MERCY. 3 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4 for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. 5 This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles[b] and burn their idols in the fire. 6 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
        Shannon, are you in agreement that all of verses in chapters six and seven above are direct instructions from Yahweh to Moses and that Yahweh has instructed Moses to teach them to the people? If you are in agreement then this statement is nothing but an obfuscation on your part, “Also keep in mind that commands to kill women and children (like in Numbers 31) are given after God gave a command, which didn’t include killing everyone. God commanded Israel to take the Mediates action as an act of war and to meet them in battle, then subsequently, it’s Moses that commands killing women and children. This is a point that most miss when reading this text.
        It sounds like you are saying that Yahweh didn’t intend for the women and children to be killed but that Moses, in a fit of rage, went overboard and threw in the slaughter of the women and children for good measure. Please, please stop trying to imply that Yahweh didn’t have in mind the killing of everyone. He did and he told Moses to instruct the people in this way. You are being dishonest. When Moses speaks in the old testament, he speaks for Yahweh. You are, once again, being intellectually dishonest in an attempt to rescue Yahweh from something that we all, skeptic and believer alike, agree is immoral. If you didn’t think it was wrong you wouldn’t try to soften it with your deception. I’m sorry Shannon but you can’t claim that Moses was not speaking for Yahweh in Numbers 31. There is no indication in the passage that Moses was speaking of his own volition. He was, just as he was in Deut. 6 and 7, speaking on behalf of Yahweh and his words carried the same weight as if Yahweh himself had spoken them. This is what drives me crazy about apologetics. It’s makes liars out of, what I suspect, are otherwise very kind and honest people.
        And does the inconsistency in Numbers 31 and Joshua chapter 7 escape your notice? In Joshua 7 Achan and all of his family (wife, parents, children, etc.) are stoned and burned to ash for taking objects that Yahweh had put under the ban, the harem, the sacrificial offering to Yahweh for victory in battle. Then over in Numbers 31 they are dividing up the spoils. What changed? They also kill all of the boys and the women who had been soiled by other men (the non-virgins), then they save the virgins for themselves. So the soldiers and the priests divide up the virgins for sex slaves? I think this is what is intended here. I don’t think the problem with this needs to be further explained. It says in Deut. 7:3, “Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons”. Does this command not apply in Numbers 31? It seems to me to violate the apologetic that says, all the men, women and children have to be slaughter to keep the Canaanites from leading the Israelites away into the worship of other gods and the hybridization of their pure race. The race that would need to be kept pure so that Messiah could come through them? Did these Midianite virgins not pose the same threat as all the other inhabitants of the land that were supposed to be slaughtered. Do you see any inconsistency here Shannon?

        Reply
      • Luke says:

        Shannon said:“The point of the scenario is not to draw an exact parallel, the point is to show that given certain scenario’s people are rationally justified in killing innocents if a greater good could/would be achieved.”

        Shannon, as my comment stated there is a difference between targeting innocents, and being unable to avoid killing them. The problem isn’t in killing innocents, it’s in targeting innocents. Using a less precise verb doesn’t resolve that problem.

        I’m sure you realize there is a huge difference between the two.

        To achieve your goal, you need to show a case where it’s reasonable to target innocents and you haven’t done that.

        Shannon said:“Also keep in mind that commands to kill women and children (like in Numbers 31) are given after G-d gave a command, which didn’t include killing everyone. G-d commanded Israel to take the Mediates action as an act of war and to meet them in battle, then subsequently, it’s Moses that commands killing women and children.”

        Earlier, you seem to argue that it’s okay for G-d to command the killing of children. Then you come back and argue that G-d didn’t command such a thing after all. This signals an uneasiness about G-d doing such things; it’s as if you think G-d would have done something wrong to command such a thing, (so you make sure to tell us He didn’t)

        Do you think G-d would have done something wrong? (If not, why mention this?)

        Thanks,

        Luke

        Reply
        • shannon Eugene Byrd says:

          Luke,

          I do not think God actually commanded the killing of innocent women and children; when I argue that God is justified when he did so, I am arguing from a worse case scenario. The aim is to show that given the worst case scenario, one is still rational in believing God had morally sufficient reasons for commanding the Canaanites to be driven from the land or killed, given their decision to remain.

          Is killing innocent human beings always wrong?

          My belief is that God in highly unusual occasions could allow exceptions to a general rule against killing innocents for the sake of some greater good. So in order to refute this, one would need to offer an argument that it is impossible that a perfectly good being would ever allow rare exceptions to a rule against killing innocents for the sake of some greater good.

          In regard to the killing of the innocent children, for the sake of argument, say God did command targeting them. If God knows that commanding them to be killed would bring about a some greater good. We are not privy to that counterfactual knowledge; we don’t know what would have happened if they were left alive? Would they have grown up and restart the old Canaanite practices of forcing women to have sex with animals because of her husbands erectile dysfunction? We just don’t have access to those counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, but God as an omniscient being, does have that knowledge.

          Also, keep in mind the moral argument:

          1. If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
          2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
          ∴ God, exists.

          So, in order to object to a Divine Command Theory of metaethics, you need to offer a rival ethical theory that can uphold objective moral values and duties, otherwise, you are left with your own subjective opinion. I look forward to your response.

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            “1. If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
            2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
            ∴ God, exists.”

            Shannon, you still haven’t demonstrated that objective moral values and duties do exist, and you still haven’t explained how God existing would create objective moral values and duties.

            Bear in mind that if you explain the above using existing moral principles then you are begging the question. In other words, you can’t use a principle that would flow from objective moral values (such as property rights, or fairness) to explain why God existing would create moral principles.

          • Luke says:

            Shannon said:“I look forward to your response.”

            Sure. And sorry for the delay.

            I’m not as sure as what specifically you’re asking me to react to (this is why I try to often ask ‘yes or no’ questions). It seems to me that you’ve said: we can think of cases where killing innocent people seems rational to most of us (again, this was a test you introduced in the article). I then pointed out that there is a difference between collateral casualties and targeted casualties, and to have an analogous example, you’d really need to show a case where targeting children/innocents would seem rational to most of us (again, your test).

            You provided the example of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I agreed that this may be a good example (accepting your history), but needed to ask two questions to really judge that. I think you did a decent job of answering this but there was a bit of confusion. My question was asked in the context of invasion being off the table. We’re not invading because that would cost even more lives, that premise was accepted in my question, so since we’re not invading, my question was “Do you think if the US had had the ability to kill most civilians in a city but spare the children — so two choices: most civilians including children are killed or most civilians excluding children are killed — you believe the US would have chosen the former? You also believe this would have been the morally correct choice?” (edited for clarity)

            You answered, but you put invasion back on the table, which wasn’t really the question. (in other words, my question was of the common ‘all else being equal’ type common in these discussions.)

            (I also should have stipulated that we’re not taking into consideration things like who will take care of the children, since most civilians are dead. We’re just looking at the value of their life for it’s own sake.)

            That’s okay, I think. I think we’ve both made our points on this one. I actually think you did a decent job. I’m not convinced, but it’s a decent argument. It could satisfy some, for sure. I’ll be happy to give you the last word, if you wish.

            Now back to your request for my reaction.

            Well again, I am not sure what to say and what you’d like me to react to. If you ask me a question, I will be quite happy to answer it. I want to give you the information you’re asking for, I’m just not sure what that is yet.

            I do have some reaction, I’m just not sure if it’s what you’re asking about.

            Shannon said:” I am arguing from a worse case scenario. The aim is to show that given the worst case scenario…”

            This scenario is worse or worst according to what standard?

            Let me explain:

            You indirectly answered my question of “Do you think G-d would have done something wrong [in ordering the death of innocents]? (If not, why mention this?)”, by saying: “I argue that G-d is justified when He did so”

            Now, If G-d is justified (as you put it), then the action is not at all wrong, or 0% wrong.

            So you have some possibilities, all of which are 0% wrong, so what standard are you using to judge one as worse than another?

            You did ask a question::”Is killing innocent human beings always wrong?”

            It seems to me this was a bit of a rhetorical headline, but I will answer in case it was a question directed at me.

            I would say “no”. There are all sorts of thought experiments like the Trolley problem, etc., etc., and I fall on the side that believes that killing innocents is not always wrong, though the circumstances in which it’s not tend to be rare and extreme.

            Again, if there is something specific you’d like me to react to that I missed, please ask and I will be glad to answer.

            Thanks,

            Luke

    • Shannon Eugene Byrd says:

      One example I can think of with regard to killing innocents was the bombing of Heroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. The United States Bombed these two largely undefended cities, will thousands upon thousands of innocent men, women, and children, and they had a rational reason for doing so. The U. S. knew that if they did not end the war in the Pacific quickly that it would go on a very long time and an even greater number of people would die in conflict. They knew this because Russia had plans and was attempting to enter the war with Japan. As terrible as the bombings were, leaders believed they prevented greater loss of life, but only God knows for sure.

      Reply
      • Luke says:

        Hi Shannon,

        This may be a good example (if we accept your history, which I’m happy to do here) — well done. Let me ask two quick questions, just to make sure it actually works.

        Do you think if the US had had the ability to kill everyone but the children — so two choices: most civilians including children are killed or most civilians excluding children are killed — you believe the US would have chosen the former? You also believe this would have been the morally correct choice?

        (I also asked another question in the comment above yours. I didn’t want you to miss it. You can see above for context, but the question was: “Do you think G-d would have done something wrong? (If not, why mention this?)”)

        Thanks,

        Luke

        Reply
        • shannon Eugene Byrd says:

          The U.S. did have the ability to kill most civilians excluding children, but this was an unfavorable choice, because the saving of the children would have been at a much greater cost of life overall. The battle over the islands cost both sides heavily. Urban conflicts are very hazardous and civilian casualties can get very high; look at the civilian death toll in Iraq. Honestly, the best choice to end the war quickly and save more lives was to bomb Heroshima and Nagasaki. It was the best way to stop Japan from expanding in the Pacific, they had just killed millions and raped thousands in China.

          With regards to Israel, the archaeological record seems to indicate that many of the cities weren’t actually destroyed. This is why Copan, myself, and others argue for a hagiographic hyperbolic interpretation. Much of what is reported in Joshua leaves the impression that no one is left in the land, yet Judges presses forward with the assumption that many of the Canaanites were still in the land. Clearly, the “utterly destroy” commands, and accounts of them carrying them out are not to be pressed for literal accuracy. This type of rhetoric was common in the Near East, and the accounts in Joshua are no different. The original audience would have understood this, but through thousands of years of removal, we often miss this point. The book I listed in my footnotes is very good on this topic. Also, read Copans book, “Did God Really Command Genocide,” and “Biblical History and Israel’s Past.” The last book really brings out some archaelogical discoveries in regard to this topic.

          Reply
  3. David says:

    Guys, I guess more than anything the point I’m trying to make, especially about the old testament, is that it all seems more to me like the sort of things men would write about and do than any special revelation or action from a god. I’m not really criticizing a god per se. I’m criticizing the mind set that makes you believe that somehow in the bible you have found something unique, a story about a “true” god. I’ve heard preachers call the story of Jesus, “the myth that came true”. I agree with the myth part, just not the true part. All cultures have stories of supernatural events and miracles. Many stories of gods and celestial beings exist. All ancient civilizations had myths and legends. There are multiple attestations of the creation myth, the fall myth, the flood myth, myths about giants, myths about gods impregnating humans and producing super human god-men, virgin births, dying and rising gods, men with superhuman strength, etc. Do you really think axe heads floated, that the earth stopped rotating for a day so Joshua could defeat a foe, that shouting brought down the stone walls of a city, that a thousand men stood in line so Samson could kill them all with the jaw bone of an ass, that cutting his hair off made him weak, on and on and on and on. And why is it that these sensational things, that the bible claims happened in the past and will happen again in the future, don’t happen today? And does it mean anything to you that for every one of these examples there are parallel stories from other cultures that predate the bible? And as far as claims of healing miracles go, I want to see a limb regenerated, not someone’s “miraculous” gold filling. I want to see a cancer patient with the death rattle in his lungs miraculously restored to health, not some story about a prayer that made someone’s headache go away or god giving them a parking spot at the grocery store. And would it be too much to ask that I could see it somewhere stateside and not have to go to some remote village in Africa to witness it? I truly would like to see something supernatural and have believed for, longed for and waited for such for 40 years. But, alas, nothing of the sort. Maybe a few strange intuitions or weird coincidences but nothing I could call miraculous. What does the logical mind conclude? That the bible must be true because my parents taught me it was and because Christianity is the predominant religion in American culture? If you take a reasoned approach, what makes the most sense? I believe Israelite culture evolved out of Canaanite culture, separated and transitioned from polytheism to monolatry or henotheism to monotheism. It’s not a radical idea at all. In fact, there is vast evidence for this belief inside and outside the pages of the bible and it is the consensus view of most who have taken the time to study the subject. Not all, but most.

    Reply
    • shannon Eugene Byrd says:

      Hey David,

      When it comes to the Bible, Jesus verifies the bible, not the other way around. What makes the bible unique, is that it is rather unbiased in nature; the prophets often times rebuked Israel just as hard or even harder than surrounding nations. The crucifixion and empty tomb of Jesus are independently attested too in several sources, stemming from different traditions. The notion that Jesus resurrection was borrowed from pagan mythology has been dismissed well over a hundred years; it is dead, let it stay dead. Bart Ehrman and Richard Carrier have had interesting online dialogues over this and Ehrman as you know, is no ally to Christians, but he at least admits that Jesus existed. Take a look at how my friend Mike Licona, handled his debate with Carrier.

      Reply
      • TGM says:

        Sure Jesus verifies the bible. And how do we know this? Because the bible says so. Good one! And, incidentally, Carrier owned Licona in that debate.

        Reply
        • shannon Eugene Byrd says:

          Hey TGM,

          You missed my point. Jesus has independent attestation outside the NT. Mara Bar Sarapion, Tacitus, Josephus, and others affirm the existence of Jesus. This is what I meant by Jesus verifying the bible and not the other way around. What you posted is just a straw man argument.

          Reply
          • David says:

            Shannon, the attestation you speak of is very weak and doesn’t do anything more than indicate that a dude named Jesus existed in ancient Palestine. Doesn’t at all help confirm which Jesus this might have been or that he actually rose from the dead. And don’t bring up the Testimonium Flavianum. All but the most ardent of Christian apologists have accepted the fact that this passage has been redacted from it’s original form.

          • shannon Eugene Byrd says:

            When a historian finds two ancient sources that corroborate, they have hit historical “pay dirt.” Mara Bar Sarapion mentions Christ being killed; Josephus mentions Christ, as well as a very detailed account of Christ’s brother James being killed. Without the resurrection, there is no explanation of the rise of early Christianity despite the many attempts to stop it by use of force.

          • toby says:

            The mara bar letter is from the 6th or 7th century and thought to be as old as 73ad. It doesn’t mention jesus by name, only king of the jews. Do you agree that this could have been anyone? How do you know how many people were referred to as king of the jews.

            The passage by Josephus is contested by scholars. What are your thoughts on this?

      • David says:

        Shannon, I never said Jesus didn’t exist. I said the resurrection story is similar to and could have been borrowed from myths that predate the bible. When you claim this theory was dismissed over 100 years ago all you really mean is that Christians, after over 1800 years were able to come up with an apologetic that satisfied Christians. And I’m sorry but I have to agree with TGM on the Licona/Carrier debate. Carriers arguments were much more convincing, in my opinion, than Licona’s.

        Reply
    • shannon Eugene Byrd says:

      The last few sentences of your paragraph are a textbook demonstration of the genetic fallacy; the notion that you can dismiss knowledge on the basis of how one acquired that knowledge. Saying Christianity is dominant in American culture doesn’t necessitate that it is false any more than saying Atheism is a minority position, therefore it is true.

      In regards to taking a reasoned approach, this can only be done if you have free will to follow the evidence where it leads, one cannot be biologically determined and free to follow the argument and evidence where it leads.

      With regard to Israel evolving out of Canaan, I’ve done studies on this topic as well (Israelite Origins) and looking at the biblical record all the evidence points toward the Patriarch Abraham coming from Babylon, not Canaan. In fact if you follow the record of his travels from Ur as he followed the fertile crescent, you;ll see that he encounters various cultures throughout the travel, which gives credence to the account.

      Also, there is not a consensus on the origin of Israel being from the Canaanites. This assertion that Israel was from the Canaanites is based on thin evidence from similar pottery shards. Israel emerging from Canaan cannot account for the huge population growth that occurred in the late Bronze age city-states. Lawrence Stager posits that there must have been a major influx of people into the highlands in the twelfth and eleventh centuries BCE. Moreover, if Israel emerged from within Canaan, then what purpose would the conquest accounts serve? I’ve read some of the major competitors to the biblical narrative such as the “mixed multitude theory” and they seem to have little to rely on other than a bias against the authenticity of the Pentateuch. Without good textual evidence that the traditional account of Israel’s origins enjoys it seems likely that the other theories are simply ad hoc.

      Reply
      • David says:

        Shannon, have you read Dever, “Who Were The Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? Whether you want to admit it or not Dever, being neither a bible maximalist nor minimalist and having argued vigorously against both, is the most reasoned voice on the subject. Any bible maximalist, “Prove The Bible” archaeology is totally fringe.
        I agree with you that Abraham came out of what is modern day Iraq. Read Shlomo Sands, “The Creation Of The Land Of Israel.

        Reply
      • David says:

        The fact that you automatically consider the Pentateuch to be “good textual evidence” is telling. It’s a compilation of religious writings Shannon. Not the Encyclopedia Brittanica. If the science and the “good textual evidence” are at odds which do you accept as accurate?

        Reply
  4. Mary says:

    David I longed for finding the same supernatural miracle myself and then I found one and it has been a big faith builder for me. Have you heard of Marlene klepees ? her miracle was verified by the mayo clinic and is truly incredible !

    Reply
  5. barry says:

    First, I have Turek’s book “Stealing from God”, and his apologetics-motivated question to atheists to account for the laws of logic, I believe is illegitimate since the laws of logic are axiomatic, and it is error to pretend self-evident truths can be independently confirmed or justified. Turek’s error is no less than the error of the atheist who asks where an eternal god ‘comes from’. His only possible rebuttal is to say perhaps the law of non-contradiction is not self-evident. Sure, that would open to the door to denying it’s axiomatic nature, but he’d also probably be fired for stupidity. Unless he can show that logic is not axiomatic, then it is, and like an eternal god, it is error to ask somebody to explain why it exists.

    Second, if Deuteronomy 28:15-68 is historically true and accurately reflects God’s words to Israel, then apologists need to be more biblical, and drop the attempts to sanitize the horrors of the divine atrocities of the OT, and simply and bluntly admit that the deity they serve is a raving lunatic who becomes so offended at not being the center of attention, that he knowingly empowers child-molesting pagans to capture Israelite kids (v. 32, 41). Here, god is not merely “allowing” such child molestation, he is causing it no less than the neighbor who opens his gate, knowing full well his pit bull will run out and bite you. Nobody would listen to that neighbor in Court as he says he only intended the dog to attack, he didn’t do the attacking himself. So God’s culpability for these worst of horrors on children is not lessened in the least by the mere fact that he didn’t actually commit those acts himself. When you knowingly hire a pedophile to baby sit your kids, YOU are just as culpable for his crimes as he is. Actions speak louder than words, and I care far more about stuff god allegedly does, than I care about his ‘words’.

    v. 30 includes the threat of married Israelite women suffering the horror of rape. Under the universally accepted canon of hermeneutics called “immediate context”, the immediate context indicates that this threatened rape would be a result of Jehovah causing Israel to lose various wars with the pagans (v. 25) and causing Israelite children to be kidnapped by the child-raping child-sacrificing pagans to whom Jehovah was granting the war victory (v. 32).

    Lest the apologists start a new career in sophistry because of this post, they are reminded that v. 63 prevents them from saying God is holy, just and good. In v. 63, your English bibles twice use the word “delight” or “rejoice”, in a text which says God will ‘rejoice’ at inflicting these horrors on disobedient people just as much as he will ‘rejoice’ to prosper those who obey him. In the Hebrew, this word is “sus”, and in the Lxx, it is “euphraino”. In either case, the lexicons require that the word necessarily connote happiness, cheerfulness, rejoicing, gladness, glee, and the like. It cannot be whittled down to just being satisfied that justice was done. v. 63 seems to go out of its way to say something that most Christians vehemently deny, that God takes pleasure in inflicting the worst of horrors on adults and kids.

    So you don’t even have the option of saying God would only reluctantly bring these horrors on Israel. According to v. 63, the smile on God’s face as he inflicts these sadistic scenarios on his people, is just as wide as it is when he prospers those who obey him. If you don’t like the idea that something in the bible might contradict Ezekiel 33:11 (“I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked…”), then maybe you are long overdue for a harsh lesson in what it means to know that you are sinful, limited, and very capable of missing the forest for the trees for decades.

    Apologists have two options: a) their god does not merely “allow” evil people to commit the worst crimes against children, he grants power to such evil people for the express purpose of enabling them to carry out such specific crimes, and God’s actions speak louder about the actual state of his holiness, than do his easily mouthed “I am good and just” self-serving accolades, or, b) the Old Testament contains inaccurate statements about God, an absolute nightmare of a pandora’s box for any self-respecting “inerrantist”.

    If you insist this OT stuff doesn’t tell the truth about God, then you need to supply a criteria by which the reader can separate OT fiction from OT fact about God, and if you wish to dialogue fruitfully with unbelievers, that criteria cannot be premised upon presuppositions only a Christian would believe (such as Jesus being the ultimate example). As as spiritually dead atheists, I would suggest the criteria should be normal criteria such as grammar and immediate context to help in determining an author’s true intent, but feel free to insist that the Holy Spirit shows you secret messages in the biblical text that those outside your secret club cannot ‘see’.

    If the only criteria you can come up with are those that require the other party to adopt Christian assumptions, then you must honestly admit you have no way to meaningfully set forth to atheists your ‘explanation’ of the divine atrocities in the OT.

    Choose you this day how you will swerve. One thing’s for certain: your failure to be impressed by the “god’s ways are mysterious” excuse whenever heretics and cultists use it to get around serious problems in their own beliefs, argues that you actually think that excuse is never worthy to be used by anybody in the first place. So you will not be using it to get out of this present jam either. Fare ye well. barryjoneswhat@yahoo.com

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