Thursday, August 28, 2008

Genesis 1:28 Freed from Tradition

I recently saw a post on the Boundlessline Blog discussing the number of children that we are having in today's society. I decided I would lurk around for a while.

Now, I am the first one to believe that marriage and children are important to a society. In fact, I believe that every church community has the duty to have people who are about the task of having and raising covenant children. I believe that every church must have people as part of this ministry.

However, it appears some have gone a step further, and declared that it is a sin to be able to have children, and yet not have children. In fact, it appears that these people would like to say that you are not holding to a Christian worldview if you disagree with them. I have even heard words like "liberal" being thrown around. I find this humerious since I have written against abortion and homosexuality, defended inerrancy numerious times, defended the Christian faith against the attacks of atheism and feminism, believe in the Mosaic authorship of the Pentatuch, the Davidic authorship of most of the Psalms, a literal seven day creation, and am a member of a denomination in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church that was formed as a reaction against liberalism. Yet, according to these people, because I disagree with them on this issue I am a liberal. It was sad to see, but mostly all I saw from the people promoting this position was rhetoric.

For instance, on argument that was continually brought up is that children are a blessing therefore you should have them if you can. However, using this logic, you must acquire everything that is a blessing if you can. In other words, no person can ever reject having anything that is a blessing. Such means that, if you can afford a swimming pool on a hot day, because it is a blessing, you must buy a swimming pool on a hot day. If you decide to put the money in a savings account instead, you must be engaging in sin, because you don't really believe that having a swimming pool on a hot day is a blessing.

In fact, I have heard Albert Mohler go far to say that, if you don't have children because of money, then you don't view children as a blessing, you view them as a financial inconvenience. Again, would Dr. Mohler be willing to say that every person must have every blessing, and money is no option? In other words, you must overdraw your checking account into the millions of dollars so that you can have a mansion, a swimming pool on a hot day, servants to do everything for you, and money is no option. If you don't do that, then you don't view a mansion, a swimming pool on a hot day, or servants as a blessing, but only as a monitary inconvenience.

The easiest way to refute these arguments is to follow the same principle. Force the person making these arguments to be consistent, and apply their standard across the board.

A girl by the name of Laura posted an argument that was a little bit better. However, even her argument was circular. Here is her argument as she posted it:

1. What does God say in his word about children?
2. Is God ultimately in control of our fertility?
3. If God calls children a blessing to be welcomed, and if he is in control of our fertility, do we have the right (as people whose lives are to be conformed to God's desires and values) to say, "I don't want kids" or "I want to put off having kids until ____"? Why or why not?

The crucial premise is #3. The statement "God calls children a blessing to be welcomed" can be interpreted in one of two ways. The key is how you take the term "children" here. The first possibility is that you take the term "children" to be referring to the actual child. The second possibility is that you take the term "children" here with an implied "having" [i.e., God calls having children a blessing to be welcomed]. We often times use nouns in this fashion. For instance, take the phrase "Fruit is good for you." We do not mean by that statement that the mere existance of fruit is good for you. It does you no good unless you eat it, or use it in some way, and that is what we mean by the statement "Fruit is good for you." Hence, #3 can be interpreted in one of two ways:

3' The actual child is a blessing to be welcomed.

3'' Having children is a blessing to be welcomed.

If Laura is taking the statement "God calls children a blessing to be welcomed" to mean 3'', then it is true that bearing children is a blessing, but the phrase "to be welcomed" begs the whole question. Is it true that, in every instance, we must welcome the bearing of children if we are able to bear children? Well, that is the whole question being asked, and thus, if 3'' is what she means by "God calls children a blessing to be welcomed," then she is simply engaging in a circular argument.

If Laura is taking the statement "God calls children a blessing to be welcomed" to mean 3', then she has stated something that is irrelevant because, while the actual child is indeed a blessing, the second half makes no sense because, before conception, the child simply doesn't exist [unless you are a Mormon, and believe in preexistence]. How can you welcome something that doesn't exist?

Rhetoric aside, though, Genesis 1:28 was brought up again. Honestly, I get so tired of hearing this verse quoted in this discussion, because no one wants to do any exegesis of this passage. The whole verse is generally not even cited. Generally only "Be fruitful and multiply" is cited!!!!!! It just seems like the folks on this forum think that, if you cite this text in this context ad nauseum, people will start to believe that it is talking to them as an individual couple. Never mind all the exegetical arguments to the contrary, and never mind that you cannot read that text in a consistent fashion like that.

As I have said before, if you take this interpretation, then how does one explain the next phrase, "Fill the earth?" If you say, on the basis of this text that, because I am able to have children, I must have children, then you are caught believing that I also must have seven billion children so that I "fill the earth." No one can read this text consistently in that fashion. You have to end up inserting an arbitrary break in the text, making the subject of "be fruitful and multiply" different from the subject of "fill the earth." In short, if "Be Fruitful and multiply" is a command directed at every individual couple, then so is the command "fill the earth."

Not only that, the subject is not even that hard to find. For instance, note Genesis 1:27:

A. And God created man in his own image.
B. In the image of God he greated him.
C. Male and Female he created them.

Notice how both the singular pronominal suffix "him," and the plural pronominal suffix "them" are used to refer to the singular "man." Generally when this happens, the term translated man, ~d'a', should be translated as the more general "mankind."

Now, let us take a look at the parallelism between verse 27c and 28a:

27c. Male and Female he created them.
28a. God blessed them and said to them,

Notice how the term "them" now matches up to 27c, which, as we have just stated refers to mankind. In fact, it is exactly the same form in Hebrew, ~t'ao [Direct object marker with 3mp suffix]!!!!!! Also, it is only two words later in the Hebrew text!!!!! Now, what warrant do we have for going from mankind in 27c, to individual couples only two words later, and then back to mankind again for "fill the earth?" How is that not arbitrary? Is it not more natural to see 27c-28 as referring to mankind as a whole the whole way through the verse?

In fact, adding more credence to our exegesis is the fact that, in verse 22, the same command is given to the birds, the fish, and "creeping animals," and they are spoken of in verse 21 as being created "according to their kind" [Whneymil.]. Because of this, it is rather hard to imagine God as commanding individual couples of birds to have children, and more than likely refers to each species of birds, fish, and creeping animals filling the sky, waters, and earth.

While I hate to use the term "species" of man [since it implies that we are equal with the animals], I think it might be appropriate here. It is the "species of mankind" that is commanded to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth in Genesis 1:28, not individual couples.

If you read the text "Be fruitful and multiply" as commanding individual couples, then you are caught not being able to explain the next phrase "fill the earth," without being arbitrary. Not only that, but you have to ignore the fact that verse 28 is a continuation of verse 27, and refuse to follow the suffixes from 27c-28a. Yet people still blindly quote the text in a discussion about whether or not individual couples must have children if they can. I believe this is done because of tradition. Tradition is a powerful thing. We believe something just because it is what we have always been told, or because one of our favorite teachers tells us it must be the case, and we refuse to actually examine what we believe carefully. That is why we should never just throw a text out blindly like this without first considering if we are using it properly. If we do not, the result is going to be that we end up putting the commands that come from our own traditions into the mouth of God.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Hypocracy of the Leftest Media with Regards to Archaeology

I hate to be the one to tell you this. I am not an archaeologist. My major area of study is Hebrew Bible [of which Archaeology is a related area]. I enjoy reading books on linguistics, logic, Hebrew grammar, and Hermeneutics. However, in studying Hebrew grammar, I have studied several inscriptions to understand the history of the Hebrew language. In fact, I got to take a class last semester from Dr. Lawson Younger called West Semitic Inscriptions, where we learned how to read the paleo-Hebrew script, and read the works of some of the greatest scholars in the area of the study of some major West Semitic Inscriptions.

Anyway, I went to my fiance's church last sunday, and one of the members of her congregation asked me if I had heard that Jeremiah's seal had been found. Now, you have to be skeptical about these things. There are so many sensationalists out there with no credibility whatsoever that you need to know where the story is coming from. However, I recognized the word "seal," as we had studied seals in West Semitic Inscriptions class. Hence, since it fit the time of Jeremiah, I thought I should at least do a Google search on it.

What I found was, not that archaeologists have found Jeremiah's seal, but the seal of one of Jeremiah's accusers from Jeremiah 38. And, the lady who found it, is Eliat Mazar, one of Israel's top archaeologists, to whom my professor, Dr. James Hoffmeier, even said was reliable. The letters are exactly the same as those found in the Hebrew Bible. Here is a photo of the seal. For those who cannot read the paleo-Hebrew script, I will write it in square letters beneath, and then, just to give you an idea, of how perfectly they match the Hebrew Bible, I will post the text of Jeremiah 38:1 so you can see exactly how they match up:

Seal in Square Characters: rwxXp !b whyldgl

Jeremiah 38:1: lk;Wyw> rWxêv.P;-!B, ‘Why"’l.d:g>W !T'ªm;-!b, hy"åj.p;v. [m;úv.YIw:
Why"±m.r>yI rv

As you can see, the Hebrew characters used in the seal are identical with the Hebrew characters in Jeremiah 38. The seal just simply reads, "[Belonging] to Gedaliah Son of Pashhur." These seals were used to seal envolopes, and to mark ownership certain pottery. What I found interesting about this seal is not only that it bears a name straight out of the Hebrew Bible, but also that it bears a name which is Egyptian in origin, namely, the name Pashhur. It is Egyptian for, , "The son of Horus."

This is an interesting find on so many levels. Yet, it is gotten nothing as far as media attention. Go look on or However, the whole "Jesus tomb" nonsense a few years ago was repeated ad infinitum ad nauseum. Yet was a horrendus example of scholarship as even unbelieving archaeologists are willing to admit. Also, remember the "Gabrael's Revelation" tablet that got a whole lot of media attention a few months ago. It seems like if it can be interpreted in any way to be against the Christian faith, the liberal media will make mention of it. However, when it comes to finds like this one that can only be interpreted as consistent with the Christian faith, the liberal media completely ignores it. The hypocracy is too unbelievable for words.

I have a feeling that, if we complained, we would probably get a response similar to that of Israel Finkelstein. I found an interesting quotation from him on Wikipedia the other day. He was going after Mazar's methodology, and he said, "The biblical text dominates this field operation, not archaeology." In other words, by it's very nature, archaeology cannot be Biblical!!!!!! He starts with the premise that archaeology can have nothing to do with the Biblical text, and low and behold, when we go out and do the research, the archaeological find has nothing to do with the Biblical text. Note that this is a presupposition that Finkelstein brings to the discussion a priori. According to him, the Bible has nothing of historical, archaeological value to say, period. That is a presupposition that needs to be challanged right of the bat. Being a Van Tillian, I would argue that, because Finkelstein rejects the Bible as inerrant revelation from God, he cannot make sense out of the very archaeology he is doing. He assumes that he can do archaeology autonomiously from God, and yet, I would argue that he has to rely upon the truth of the scriptures to even do his archaeology.

Interestingly enough, my professor, Dr. James Hoffmeier has caught Finkelstein doing just that. In his book Israel in Egypt, the Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition [Oxford University Press. New York, NY. 1996. see pages 31-32], Dr. Hoffmeier discusses Finkelstein's attempted reconstruction of the origins of Israel in a monograph he wrote in 1988 called The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society). Hoffmeier first summarizes Finkelstein's argument. He says that Finkelstein tries to argue that the Cannanite culture declined in the sixteenth century B.C., and a significant part of the population became nomadic. Then there was a resettlement in the Late Bronze Age, and this resettlement became known as "Israel." The way he tries to argue for this is to show that there were shrines at Shiloh dating from this period that are very large relative to their population, and thus, the people must have been nomadic. However, what Hoffmeier points out about Finkelstein's methodology in arguing for the idea that these are Israelite is instructive. Hoffmeier points out that he offers no extrabiblical evidence from this, but argues from the importance of Shiloh in Joshua. Even when he tries to link these cites to ancient Israel from various aspects, Hoffmeier shows that he is, even at this point, relying upon what the book of Joshua says about them. Such is amazing hypocracy from a man who does not believe that archaeology should have anything to do with the Biblical text! The reason for this is that even Finkelstein is created in the image of God, and he knows deep down in his heart, that he cannot even do his archaeology without revelation from God.

You will find this same problem in The New York Times as well when they talked about Mazar after she found what she believed to be the palace of David. Consider this quotation from this very article:

Hani Nur el-Din, a Palestinian professor of archaeology at Al Quds University, said he and his colleagues considered biblical archaeology an effort by Israelis "to fit historical evidence into a biblical context." He added: "The link between the historical evidence and the biblical narration, written much later, is largely missing. There's a kind of fiction about the 10th century. They try to link whatever they find to the biblical narration. They have a button, and they want to make a suit out of it."

Even Israeli archaeologists are not so sure that Ms. Mazar has found the palace - the house that Hiram, king of Tyre, built for the victorious king, at least as Samuel 2:5 describes it. It may also be the Fortress of Zion that David conquered from the Jebusites, who ruled Jerusalem before him, or some other structure about which the Bible is silent.

I think we could rewrite that whole first paragraph to display the bias of "historical minimalists," as Dr. Hoffmeier calls them:

Historical minimalism is an effort to fit historical information into an exclusively extrabiblical context. The link between historical evidence and Biblical narration, [written very close to the events] is very strong. The Bible provides us the history of the tenth century. The historical minimalists will do anything they can to avoid any connection between the Biblical text and archaeology.

Notice how the shoe is on the other foot now. You see, the historical minimalists have their presuppositions as well.

Mr El-Din likewise has his presuppositions. In fact, [and the New York Times completely ignores this], Al Quds University is an Arab university! You don't think that this Arab professor has his biases? Again, totally left out, and totally ignored.

Of course, I am not accusing them for this. We all have our presuppositions. However, what I *do* criticise them for is not recognizing their presuppositions as well as holding to presuppositions that cannot provide the preconditions for the intellegability of reality. This is where I believe the discussion needs to go.

For instance, as a case in point, after dismissing the Bible as historically accurate, this article then relies upon the Bible by giving the Fortress of Zion as a possible palace for David. How can that be a possible palace of David if the Bible is unreliable to tell us that such a place existed in the first place! If archaeology cannot be formed by the Biblical text, as these people say, why is it that they rely upon the Bible so much when they get in trouble?

These prejudices keep coming up in this article. Note for instance:

Archaeologists debate "to what extent Jerusalem was an important city or even a city in the time of David and Samuel," he said. "Some believe it was tiny and the kingdom unimportant." The site of ancient Jerusalem, stuck between two valleys on a ridge south of the Temple Mount, is very small, less than 10 acres.

Israel Finkelstein, another renowned archaeologist, has suggested that without significant evidence, Jerusalem in this period was "perhaps not more than a typical hill-country village."

Notice how Finkelstein automatically assumes that, because of silence, it is "perhaps not more than a typical hill-country village." This is simply a logical fallacy. Simply because someone doesn't have evidence for something doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. For instance, up until the nineteenth century, no one could find any evidence that the Hittites existed. Now, we have not only discovered Hittite archaeological sites, but we have also discovered their language and their literature, and, in the process, discovered the earliest Indo-European language known to man.

You see, Finkelstein's argument must assume that we have adequate knowledge of the archaeology of Jerusalem. The problem is that there is so much more work yet to be done, and, in point of fact, the political instability of the area has contributed to the inability to do archaeology. Hence, Finkelstein's argument not only is an argument from silence [which is always a logical fallacy], but, in order for one to even have an inductive argument [i.e: it is not likely that any evidence will turn up], one must rely upon an adequate knowledge of the Archaeology of Jerusalem, which is something we simply do not have.

Finally, and I think most devistatingly showing Finkelstein's bias, what does the statement "without significant evidence, Jerusalem in this period was 'perhaps not more than a typical hill-country village.'" assume? That the Bible is not "significant evidence." Pure and simple. Again, Finklestein's atheistic view of archaeology is shining through plain as day. Yet, it is quoted at the end of this article, as if it were somehow significant, that one of the reasons why the dig was undertaken was to prove the accuracy of the Biblical account. So what. Everyone has their presuppositions. Reasoning is impossible without them. As we have seen, these people quoted in this article are just as biased as the people who were doing the dig, and it is sad to see this completely slip under the radar.

However, I have to say one more thing in relation to the seal I discussed at the beginning. Finklestein has, indeed, commented on it, and his comments are very telling:

Dozens of bullas from the period already have been found, some of which turned out to be fakes," he said

In other words, rather than be driven to counter-example of his view that archaeology cannot be Biblical, he is willing to make the outragious statement that this might have been a forgery. As Dr. Hoffmeier told us in class, forgeries are simply not found on controlled digs like this. It is amazing to see a brilliant man like Finklestein say some of these things all because he refuses to recognize the presuppositions he brings to the table.

I suspect this is why the liberal media has not made too much of this story. The only way that this story can be interpreted is as consistent with the Bible. Now, I am obviously not resting my Christian faith on this discovery. I am a Christian because of the fact that only Christianity can provide any way to know anything. However, I think it is amazing when this seal is not even mentioned by,, and, and yet, they promote the whole "Lost Tomb of Jesus" nonsense. It is an abosolutely unbelievable demonstration of bias from people who are "just publishing the facts."