Jump to content

a critique on Jonah


jasonlong
 Share

Recommended Posts

As many of you know, I have written a book about this and that. While reviewing pages that link to mine, I came upon a semi-harsh review written by a somewhat freethinking undergrad student of religious studies. He claims that I solicited him to review my book (it was actually a link exchange request). Anyways, his primary argument is that I do not have a sufficient background in biblical translation. As an example, he cites the case of Jonah. His comments appear in quotes and mine appear in regular type. If you would, please give an honest appraisal of how well you think I have demonstrated that it was foolish for him to state that the book of Jonah was certainly intended to be a figurative work. He has not yet had time to reply. He may be a member here for all I know.

 

--

Dr. Long's book is typical of anti-bible books written by otherwise intelligent atheists who think that simply using facts to disprove the bible will work. In fact, he is absolutely right about that, but unfortunately he makes a lot of absolute statements regarding the bible that, although correct, he fails to back up with references.

--

 

This paragraph makes little sense to me since the second half does not follow the first half. Your first sentence implies that I shouldn't think that using just facts will work, but you say in the very next sentence that it will. If, as you state, the Bible can be disproven by stating the facts, what is wrong with stating the facts? This is clearly contradictory. If the statements I make are correct, even without reference, how am I intelligent "otherwise"? Exactly what makes the book "typical"? Exactly what mistake did I make in my approach? I'm not even sure what you're trying to say here. You state that I use a method that will work and that the statements I make are correct. Is your only problem the lack of references? This issue is covered quite clearly in the introduction. I suppose that's a legitimate argument, however. It just wasn't my intended approach.

 

--

Dr. Long clearly is educated and has a scientific bent towards his studies, but he still looks at the bible in the same way that a typical Christian does. He assumes that the bible as we have it today is absolutely correctly translated and interpreted, and that some statements made are meant as they might be meant in a modern sense.

--

 

I would say that this is a grossly incorrect statement. While explaining the problems, I take the time to go over several incorrect translations and interpretations when such instances arise. I am fully aware that there are many instances where the Bible has been mistranslated into English. This is why I use more than one version and utilize a lexicon, among other tools. Therefore, it is absolutely false to say that "he assumes that the bible as we have it today is absolutely correctly translated and interpreted." I never make such an assumption, and it's really insulting that you would make such a statement. Furthermore, I am fully aware that the Bible was written so that its contemporaries could understand it. I would never expect it to be fully comprehended by and targeted toward modern man, unless it was trying to be passed off as the perfect, timeless word of God - which is exactly the point of the book. Is it unreasonable to think that God could make the Bible clearly understandable to us, directly pointing out symbolism as opposed to literalism? If you feel that there is a passage where I fail to do this (other than Jonah, which I'm getting to), would you mind pointing it out?

 

--

As an example, he scientifically disproves the possibility of the story of Jonah and the whale by explaining that a human could not have survived the digestive juices in the stomach... etc etc. Yeah, most people with an IQ can tell you that. But what he misses is that the story is not even supposed to be a true tale of someone swallowed by a whale. In fact, the term "Swallowed by a whale", at least according to Richard Shankman, a prominent dispeller of modern and historical myths, was at the time a euphemism for saying that someone was overcome by an enormous problem. When the bible says that Jonah was swallowed by a whale (or great fish) what it means is that he was struggling with a problem of great importance (exactly what is going on if you actually read the story)

--

 

Exactly how have you determined that the first two chapters of Jonah are not trying to be passed off as a literal truth? What we have is a 6th century BCE fantasy probably attempting to be passed of as historical fact, much the same way that the equally ridiculous book of Job is tried to passed off as historical fact. These were superstitious times you know. There is no clear indication that anyone contemporaneous with the tale had a way to know that it was not a literal story. By the 6th century, you had an entire population thinking magic sky daddy caused earthquakes with his anger, made snakes and donkeys talk, sent angels to fornicate with humans, moved the sun back and forth in the sky, wrestled with humans, turned rivers into blood, grew lice from dust, transformed sticks into snakes, starved people for forty days, killed children with bears, etc. What exactly was so ridiculous, in comparison, that the story wasn't being passed as a literal tale? Like I say many times in the book, how does one definitively say what is figurative and what is literal? I do not have access to the works of Shenkman and cannot say the story is absolutely literal, but let's look at what we know about the story.

 

1. The story begins with a request by God for Jonah to go preach at Nineveh. Exactly what about this makes Jonah a man who is "struggling with a problem of great importance?" As we see later in the book, the people pose no problem to Jonah, and the voyage would have been no problem had he not run away. Incidentally, this beginning is pretty consistent with other literal prophetic narratives where God orders people around.

2. The story contains detail that is totally unnecessary for a figurative tale. The first instance is that of Jonah going to a specific location, paying a fare, and boarding a boat bound for another exact location.

3. After the original ridiculous assertion that the creator of the universe is talking to Jonah, the creator is now creating a storm at sea. The sailors begin to pray and make arrangements to secure the safety of the ship. Is this any more ridiculous than other stories in the Bible?

4. They approach Jonah and identify him as the cause of the storm.

5. Jonah requests that they throw him overboard.

6. Instead, the men try to get back to land.

7. The men ask for forgiveness after failing to reach land and toss Jonah into the sea, which makes the sea calm again. Again, is this any more ridiculous than other stores in the Bible?

8. At the very last verse of the chapter, we learn he is swallowed by a great fish. While the story may have very well been an allegory for a man struggling with a great problem, what exactly is the problem? Why does the reader not supposedly learn of the story's figurative nature until this point? Why the previous inclusion of such precise details? Does it make sense for the author to structure such a story where one doesn't learn of the tale's figurative nature until this far into the story? I see no hint at symbolism, only an equally ridiculous story about to begin.

9. The tale about Jonah is attributed to Jonah. While I have little doubt that no such man ever existed, would it be prudent for a man to include such a symbolic story in his own account? It hardly makes sense for a man to combine a symbolic fable with events of his own life.

10. Chapter two begins with Jonah's prayer that includes many of the same details from chapter one. Why are the words of Jonah labeled as his exact words if the story is still told as symbolism? The story indicates that Jonah spoke the exact words of chapter two while within the fish. Literally spoke in a symbolic story?

11. The fish vomits Jonah onto land.

12. The third chapter begins with the statement that "the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time." Why would the words of the Lord come on him again if the first part of the story (the part starting with Jonah running away) never happened. In this instance, we see God requesting, Jonah refusing, unknown problem, God requesting, Jonah accepting. How did Jonah's problem of great importance get solved if the whale story never happened? This time Jonah agrees to God's request without reservation. What happened to make him change his mind? The only thing that I can see is that he was supposedly swallowed by a great fish and almost died. If not, are we still in the symbolic part of the story? If so, where does the symbolism end?

13. 3:10 indicates that God changes his mind here.

14. Now chapter four starts with Jonah being angry at God for all he has been through for nothing. "What was the point of all this," Jonah seems to be asking. This indicates that if Jonah was never in the fish, the symbolic part of the story is still in effect. The whole story is understood to be a fable?

15. More worm and vine nonsense, but is this any more ridiculous than other stories in the Bible?

16. The story ends with what seems to be a moral lesson, possibly indicating it was a fable. However, Job and Exodus among other books read in a similar fashion (a good man won't renounce God, stupid people won't stay with God, the foolish have no trust in God, etc.) These stories are told as literal events. Nothing exempts the book of Jonah or the tale of the whale from being passed off as a literal event.

 

The point is that none of the ignorant primitives knew the first thing about what would happen to Jonah when he went into a fish. The story was quite plausible when you include the interventions of the almighty, and this intervention was widely believed to have taken place many times in the past. I'm not sure what you found was so convincing about the works of Shenkman, but I hope you provide more information or reconsider your position on this matter.

 

Let us consider something else. Jesus said, "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." [Mt 12:40] The author of Matthew wants the reader to believe that Jesus is predicting his death and resurrection here, but why would he use a figurative story as a comparison to a real event? Is Jesus saying, "Just as Jonah was symbolically swallowed by a fish, I will symbolically die"? No, he is not. Jesus is clearly under the impression that story actually took place, just as he is under the impression that he will die and resurrect over the same length of time.

 

With all this aside, I am more than aware that some people believe the whole tale to be a work of fiction. Still, it is not directly exhibited as such. If it is the inspiration of God, as apologists maintain, there should be some indication to modern readers that it is fiction. There is no such indication. In fact, many authors, such as Douglas Stuart, offer a defense for the story being passed as a historical plausibility. Sure, there are many elements of satire in the story, but don't you feel you were way overstepping your bounds by implying that it was an absolute fact that the story was symbolic (But what he misses is that the story is not even supposed to be a true tale of someone swallowed by a whale)? Can a case not be made for the opposite? Is Shenkman the ultimate authority on the matter? I could go on and on with this point, but I've rambled too long.

 

--

Although well meaning, Biblical Nonsense is chalked full of many of these misinterpretations.

--

 

I may have very well made many misintepretations, but I'd be willing to bet they aren't much more than the "misinterpretation" you already found. If you want to point them out, I'd be happy to respond.

 

--

Dr. Long has studied his bible well, and he has studied his science well, but he failed to study biblical history, biblical interpretation, and textural interpretation well enough to really pull off this book.

--

 

I hope this may have helped change your position.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Whaaaaaaaaal Doc Long...

 

When a fairly intelligent twelve year old can read your book and is enabled and empowered by it to help refute a whole religious culture in his school classroom with its information, suspect the book is well written.

 

Tons of information packed into a slim volume, more useful to me than a library of dusty tomes, BN works as a reference and a refresher.

 

n

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had a Christian argue with me once that every strange and supposedly miraculous incident in the Bible was supposed to be taken figuratively, not literally and that I was reading it all wrong. Until I brought up the story of a dead guy coming back to life after three days.

 

Apparently, the idea of men in the bellies of whales is ridiculous, but dead guys coming back to life are a-okay.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Whaaaaaaaaal Doc Long...

 

When a fairly intelligent twelve year old can read your book and is enabled and empowered by it to help refute a whole religious culture in his school classroom with its information, suspect the book is well written.

 

Tons of information packed into a slim volume, more useful to me than a library of dusty tomes, BN works as a reference and a refresher.

 

n

 

Whatever happened with that request the teacher made for him to leave the book at home?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

School District Paid Liars and my Paid Lair had a few hundred dollar lunch, descision was made that despite the *argumenative subject* of BN, the lawsuit(s) proposed were not worth harrasing Beastie over..

 

Had already served School District with an "Equal Color of Law/Equal Protection" problem earlier last year over the fundie kids and their volumes of tracting and witnessing to their classmates.

 

Kids then were evangelizing with rather aggressive manners and tones, even to those who told them to FOAD..

When this year Beastie brought BN into class and DARED read it to himself, that fired off a counter-shitstorm that was resolved through light legal action.. :)

 

Doc, your book has caused a cool interest in many of the adults in Beastie's life that are not part of my particular circle_of_friends. Have seen several copies now with other adults and I did not supply them out of the half dozen I ordered in...

 

Word spreads when there is something of substance.. :)

 

n

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's an awful lot of ruckus. You should have suggested that you would have him leave it at home in exchange for them agreeing to read it. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jason-

 

A few thoughts about your detractor.

 

Dr. Long's book is typical of anti-bible books written by otherwise intelligent atheists who think that simply using facts to disprove the bible will work. In fact, he is absolutely right about that, but unfortunately he makes a lot of absolute statements regarding the bible that, although correct, he fails to back up with references.

Silly atheists, thinking that facts have anything to do with the Bible!

 

Dr. Long clearly is educated and has a scientific bent towards his studies, but he still looks at the bible in the same way that a typical Christian does. He assumes that the bible as we have it today is absolutely correctly translated and interpreted, and that some statements made are meant as they might be meant in a modern sense.

If the Bible as we have it today is neither translated nor interpreted correctly, then he's already admitted to Christianity being false.

 

As an example, he scientifically disproves the possibility of the story of Jonah and the whale by explaining that a human could not have survived the digestive juices in the stomach... etc etc. Yeah, most people with an IQ can tell you that. But what he misses is that the story is not even supposed to be a true tale of someone swallowed by a whale. In fact, the term "Swallowed by a whale", at least according to Richard Shankman, a prominent dispeller of modern and historical myths, was at the time a euphemism for saying that someone was overcome by an enormous problem. When the bible says that Jonah was swallowed by a whale (or great fish) what it means is that he was struggling with a problem of great importance (exactly what is going on if you actually read the story)

So even though the Bible is neither translated nor interpreted correctly, this intrepid individual is able to distinguish literal from figurative language?

 

Although well meaning, Biblical Nonsense is chalked full of many of these misinterpretations.

How does someone who claims there to be no correct translations of the Bible have the grounds to conclude your book to be chock-full of misinterpretations?

 

Dr. Long has studied his bible well, and he has studied his science well, but he failed to study biblical history, biblical interpretation, and textural interpretation well enough to really pull off this book.

Again, how is any Biblical interpretation possible given that he has claimed there to be no correct translations of the Bible?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jason,

 

I have done my fair share of critiqing the Bible and Biblical stories. I have come to a conclusion that this methodology is counter-productive. My reason for this conclusion is that these fantastical stories (Jonah, Sun Stopping, Adam & Eve, Job-Satan, etc.) are no different than the moral/adventure myths of Greco-Roman, Eqyptian or any other ancient fables. I have never, and I would guess you have not either dissected the story of Jason and the Argonauts, or any other such fantasitical stories with the goal of debunking them. The question is why we feel the need to do so with the same types of fables in the Bible. I would suggest that unlike the stories of Jason or Hercules, a rather large proportion of modern people actually believe that the fables in the Bible are somehow exempt from the same reasonable interpretations tha other fables are. As Ex-Christians or non-believers, when we dissect the Judeo-Christian fables in this manner, we at the same time give this elevated credibility to them, at least in the eyes of the believers. My approach is to now treat Judeo-Christian fables exactly as I treat Greco-Roman fables, as stories that are intended to entertain and/or convey some moral message and are not in any way to be considered as factual. Now, if we can only get the WB Network to air "Jesus the Legendary Journeys", the obvious parallels might be seen.

 

Bruce

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jason, as I've read through your book, thoroughly enjoying myself, I've found myself being frustrated by three of things that are similar to what your critic brings up.

 

1) The VAST majority of Christians in this country are self-trained in cognative dissonance and don't care about contradictions unless and until the fact that they are unresolvable is smacked in their face. The common mistake that a lot of us make is bludgeoning Christians with a host of contradictions (a'la Skeptic's Annotated Bibe) without engaging in more sophistocated counter-apologetics. What happens in the mind of the believer when a problem is brought up is this: He jumps to the nearest mentally available counter argument that mystically cancels out the problem. For example, quote a passage about stoning rebellious children and you'll get a quote thrown back at you about "God is Love" or "The OT law is for the OT time" or "Christianity isn't a law-based religion." There is excellent conditioning in Christianity, both in laypersons and in theologians, to switch between different conflicting arguments without ever following one to it's logical conclusion. If OT law is for the OT times, for example, then why is the Christian still holding up pieces of the OT Law (such as the prohibition on homosexuality) that do not appear in the New Testament? Or, conversely (because this happens a lot) why is the Christian justifying his actions by what was permitted in the OT rather than following the MORE ethically demanding guidelines of the New Testament?

 

This mindset is terribly and habitually cognatively dissonant, which is why **just** using facts to show that the Bible is nonsense doesn't always work. The second biggest source of dismay I've had reading your book is that you tend to assume that your audience is as common-sense reasonabe as you are.

 

2)Chronological snobbery shows up in your book on more than one occasion. Moral attacks on the Biblical content are harder to pull off than just pointing out the barbarism compared to how we live now. You must ALSO show why the barbarism gives the lie to the Bible's grand moral admonitions ("Love your neighbor" etc.). The (believer's) reason is this: If God existed, and his word defines good, then it doesn't matter whether he commands barbarity or not. God said it, that makes it good, at least in that situation. BUT, if you show that God's actions (both directly and by proxy) contradict his dictates to peope, then you have something. You do demonstrate this sometimes, but there are several occasions (IIRC) that you talk about "what we would accept today." The problem with that statement is that it's terribly ethnocentric and leaves you open to other subcultures accusing you of being morally degenerate because you are too tolerant, too humanistic, or lack the courage to do unpleasant/barbaric things that are clearly the will of God.

 

3) The lack of references bugged me a lot. Your book is the type of book that encourages a lot of further reading or inquiry. References - or even a suggested reading list - would be a fabulous addition. They'd also allow people to check your sources and engage the critical thinking faculties that your book so effectively encourages.

 

 

-----

 

In spite of the above, it's a fabulous book, Jason. And the guy is out to lunch on the Jonah thing. It's not possible to know whether people took it literally or figuratively when it was first distributed, since different groups of Jews and Christians have taken it each way since records of such things have been kept.

 

Keep up the excellent work!

-Lokmer

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I never would have thought to critique the book this way at all.

 

If anything, I see it as a piece of work that could very well jump-start people's curiosity on this subject.

 

It's an attention getter.

 

If someone is really curious, they will read your book and start their own research regardless of whether or not sources are listed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jason-

If the Bible as we have it today is neither translated nor interpreted correctly, then he's already admitted to Christianity being false.

So even though the Bible is neither translated nor interpreted correctly, this intrepid individual is able to distinguish literal from figurative language?

 

Well, Zach, he's actually not Christian. He just thinks I happen to miss the boat on the Jonah story. He's under the impression that it's a concrete fact that the story was understood to be figurative or symbolic. It's my position that there's a good case that stories like Jonah (and Job for that matter) were meant to be literal because:

 

1. they are no more ridiculous than other biblical stories

2. a parable, moral, or higher meaning does not automatically mean symbolism

3. the stories themselves do not read like a symbolic tale

4. unless demonstrable otherwise, a historical narrative should be considered literal

 

The story may very well have been intended to be symbolic, but I feel that the evidence is lacking.

 

Jason,

 

I have done my fair share of critiqing the Bible and Biblical stories. I have come to a conclusion that this methodology is counter-productive. My reason for this conclusion is that these fantastical stories (Jonah, Sun Stopping, Adam & Eve, Job-Satan, etc.) are no different than the moral/adventure myths of Greco-Roman, Eqyptian or any other ancient fables. I have never, and I would guess you have not either dissected the story of Jason and the Argonauts, or any other such fantasitical stories with the goal of debunking them. The question is why we feel the need to do so with the same types of fables in the Bible. I would suggest that unlike the stories of Jason or Hercules, a rather large proportion of modern people actually believe that the fables in the Bible are somehow exempt from the same reasonable interpretations tha other fables are.

 

Interesting perspective, but if we simply treat them as fables, can the Christian not say, "If you only study some apologetics, you'll see why the 'fables' in the Bible are much more feasible than you might think?" In my opinion, it's easiest to tackle the fables in order to show imperfection. Once imperfection is demonstrated, this opens the door for a large onslaught of questions.

 

As Ex-Christians or non-believers, when we dissect the Judeo-Christian fables in this manner, we at the same time give this elevated credibility to them, at least in the eyes of the believers. My approach is to now treat Judeo-Christian fables exactly as I treat Greco-Roman fables, as stories that are intended to entertain and/or convey some moral message and are not in any way to be considered as factual.

 

Bruce

 

That's a reasonable position, but many will also say that the stories can't be disproven; otherwise we would be trying. It's really a double-edged sword. Dispute them - elevate them; ignore them - can't answer them. As far as my story with this fellow goes, we both agree that it never happened. The debate is over whether or not the story was intended to be literal or symbolic.

 

I never would have thought to critique the book this way at all.

 

If anything, I see it as a piece of work that could very well jump-start people's curiosity on this subject.

 

It's an attention getter.

 

If someone is really curious, they will read your book and start their own research regardless of whether or not sources are listed.

 

This is how it was intended. I'm glad you see it that way.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jason, as I've read through your book, thoroughly enjoying myself, I've found myself being frustrated by three of things that are similar to what your critic brings up.

 

1) The VAST majority of Christians in this country are self-trained in cognative dissonance and don't care about contradictions unless and until the fact that they are unresolvable is smacked in their face.  The common mistake that a lot of us make is bludgeoning Christians with a host of contradictions (a'la Skeptic's Annotated Bibe) without engaging in more sophistocated counter-apologetics.

 

I'm with you 100% on this. First, I think people spend way too much time on contradictions. They seem to be ranked second, only to errors. I gave them less than 10% of my focus. I had considered choosing only five to ten contradictions and focusing on every possible resolution that apologists would offer. After doing a rough sketch of this would turn out, I figured it wouldn't hold the common person's attention. I discovered this most of all when I dedicated two pages to Isaiah 7:14.

 

What happens in the mind of the believer when a problem is brought up is this:  He jumps to the nearest mentally available counter argument that mystically cancels out the problem.  For example, quote a passage about stoning rebellious children and you'll get a quote thrown back at you about "God is Love" or "The OT law is for the OT time" or "Christianity isn't a law-based religion."  There is excellent conditioning in Christianity, both in laypersons and in theologians, to switch between different conflicting arguments without ever following one to it's logical conclusion.  If OT law is for the OT times, for example, then why is the Christian still holding up pieces of the OT Law (such as the prohibition on homosexuality) that do not appear in the New Testament?  Or, conversely (because this happens a lot) why is the Christian justifying his actions by what was permitted in the OT rather than following the MORE ethically demanding guidelines of the New Testament? 

 

This mindset is terribly and habitually cognatively dissonant, which is why **just** using facts to show that the Bible is nonsense doesn't always work. 

 

Again, I agree 100% about your observation of the common believer, but I feel that I did what I could to anticipate how christian readers would feel. For instance, I discussed cognitive dissonance to a great deal (nearly a whole chapter) before ever touching on any biblical issues. I explained how it worked, why it worked, said it would pop up while reading the book, and brought it up again several times throughout the book when I thought someone would feel it. At the conclusion, I gave a brief list of things to watch out for while reading apologetic arguments that try to alleviate the dissonance. I'm not sure what else I could have done while attempting to maintain the length at a reasonable level. I'm sorry it wasn't up to your expectations in this regard.

 

The second biggest source of dismay I've had reading your book is that you tend to assume that your audience is as common-sense reasonabe as you are.

 

I never thought of that. The facts don't work, common sense doesn't work, emotional appeals don't work. What is one to do? I suppose I just kind of assumed that if you don't have a decent level of common sense, you're going to be stuck with that mind set anyways.

 

2)Chronological snobbery shows up in your book on more than one occasion.  Moral attacks on the Biblical content are harder to  pull off than just pointing out the barbarism compared to how we live now.  You must ALSO show why the barbarism gives the lie to the Bible's grand moral admonitions ("Love your neighbor" etc.).  The (believer's) reason is this:  If God existed, and his word defines good, then it doesn't matter whether he commands barbarity or not.  God said it, that makes it good, at least in that situation.  BUT, if you show that God's actions (both directly and by proxy) contradict his dictates to peope, then you have something.  You do demonstrate this sometimes, but there are several occasions (IIRC) that you talk about "what we would accept today."  The problem with that statement is that it's terribly ethnocentric and leaves you open to other subcultures accusing you of being morally degenerate because you are too tolerant, too humanistic, or lack the courage to do unpleasant/barbaric things that are clearly the will of God.

 

It's hard not be ethnocentric when we are, in fact, morally superior to those who support and make excuses for such actions. It was my intention, however, to compare those actions with today's standards to show that we have outgrown such dated nonsense - to demonstrate that the OT version of God was a product of the time - a product of the people. Again, I'm sorry if the book disappointed you in this regard.

 

3) The lack of references bugged me a lot.  Your book is the type of book that encourages a lot of further reading or inquiry.  References - or even a suggested reading list - would be a fabulous addition.  They'd also allow people to check your sources and engage the critical thinking faculties that your book so effectively encourages.

 

As for the reference thing, there's several reasons why I did what I did.

1. I seem to have a rather good memory and can retain all sorts of meaningful information. Thus, I could remember what I read without having to check all the references (some of it was just common knowledge anyway). Not exactly the best approach for a scholarly work, I know, but it wasn't really intended to be one.

 

2. No references might facilitate a search on the part of the reader (e.g. "I don't believe this at all. I'm going to look it up somewhere.") Who knows what they come across during the search.

 

3. Actually, there are about twenty or so references - a few specific and a few general. I include them only when I specifically mention them.

 

4. And, actually, there is a recommended reading list (apologetic, neutral, and skeptical). I kept the list short because I wanted people to focus on my favorites.

 

5. The book was pretty much a spur of the moment thing, if you can believe that.

 

In spite of the above, it's a fabulous book, Jason.  And the guy is out to lunch on the Jonah thing.  It's not possible to know whether people took it literally or figuratively when it was first distributed, since different groups of Jews and Christians have taken it each way since records of such things have been kept.

 

Keep up the excellent work!

-Lokmer

 

Much appreciated.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He has not yet had time to reply. 

He may be a member here for all I know.

 

For all I know, I think you may be right. CLICK HERE :Doh:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For all I know, I think you may be right. CLICK HERE :Doh:

 

That appears very likely. I guess I'm psychic.

 

I suppose if junior ever finishes his undergrad in religious studies, he'll be a bit more knowledgeable with regard to exactly how superstitious people were back then and how this superstition lead to the development of religions. If you can withstand grammatically nightmarish essays that look they were written while in early high school, his page is here: http://www.angelfire.com/blog2/freereligion/ .

 

I was going to offer to help out with cleaning up his front page (I counted nine grammatical mistakes in about fifteen sentences - about the same rate of occurrence in the essays) because it's really embarrassing to have someone represent freethought who can't even use correct grammar when publishing online (e.g. there/their, an/and, where/were, etc). I guess he'll just have to look foolish now... :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ordered in half a dozen BN copies to distribute to school libraries and to the local Public...

 

n

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jason,

 

I haven't read your book and, frankly, I am hesistant in doing so. One of the problems that I have with books like the Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy or a website like The Skeptics Annotated Bible or even Dan Barker's Losing Faith in Faith is that most of these freethought works are not by actual Bible scholars. While many freethinking critiques of the Bible are probably right and have good points, the fact of the matter is that Christians probably won't take something serious until it's written by a Bible scholar and for good reason. Bible scholars on average have more understanding of the context in which the Bible was written and have specialized training in it's cultural background, language, etc.

 

I recall reading a transcript of a show in which Dan Barker was a guest on. Barker argued that when Jesus says that we must hate our family in order to become his disciples, I cringed because I knew that Barker didn't understand it in context. It doesn't matter that the Greek word for "hate" was used in the gospel from which Barker quoted. What matters is that "hate" was often used as an idiom meaning to "love less than" in Hebrew culture. It's the same thing when people accuse Jesus of being a false prophet when he predicts his resurrection in three days and people argue that three whole days didn't pass by. The fact of the matter is that in the context, Jesus was using a synedoche in which a part is used to represent a whole. So any part of a day can be used to represent a whole day in Hebrew time-reckoning.

 

This is what I find irritable in skeptical Bible critiques. They're often not written by actual Bible scholars and become easy prey for Christian apologists like Robert Turkel (but then again, he doesn't take actual Bible scholars seriously if they're not Evangelicals like him; witness how he reacts to New Testament scholars Robert M Price and Gerd Ludemann who are now skeptics). Critics who are not scholars often don't deserve to be taken seriously if they write the kind of tripe that Dan Barker writes.

 

Matthew

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm with you 100% on this.  First, I think people spend way too much time on contradictions.  They seem to be ranked second, only to errors.  I gave them less than 10% of my focus.  I had considered choosing only five to ten contradictions and focusing on every possible resolution that apologists would offer.  After doing a rough sketch of this would turn out, I figured it wouldn't hold the common person's attention.  I discovered this most of all when I dedicated two pages to Isaiah 7:14.

 

I have gone back and reread a bit, and you're correct. As time passed after I read the book the things which annoyed me grew in my mind (isn't that always the case?). Your approach is indeed more balanced than I remembered - my sincere apologies.

 

Again, I agree 100% about your observation of the common believer, but I feel that I did what I could to anticipate how christian readers would feel.  For instance, I discussed cognitive dissonance to a great deal (nearly a whole chapter) before ever touching on any biblical issues.  I explained how it worked, why it worked, said it would pop up while reading the book, and brought it up again several times throughout the book when I thought someone would feel it...I'm sorry it wasn't up to your expectations in this regard.

 

Actually I LOVED this part of the book - thought it was the strongest part of the book. It actually was refreshing to find it in the book. It's just that when it wasn't front and center it got lost in the shuffle. However, upon the re-read, it seems that this impression was aggrevated (if not created) by the fact that in the first reading I read the book out of order. Reading it in order is proving more coherent in this regard.

 

I never thought of that.  The facts don't work, common sense doesn't work, emotional appeals don't work.  What is one to do?  I suppose I just kind of assumed that if you don't have a decent level of common sense, you're going to be stuck with that mind set anyways.

 

Well, that's a fair gamble :close:

Wish I had a good answer for your semi-rehtorical question. Unfortunately I think that "what will work" varies from person to person. A lot of people have that one thread hanging out of their sweater, but it's not always the same thread. For me, that thread was integrity - reading Beyond Born Again by Robert Price really started it unravelling. The Bible itself was not a problem for me UNTIL I realized how dishonest were the people who were trying to defend it, and how every defence failed by any honest standard of biblical interpretation. This was an important thread for me because I was on a quest to make the Bible **work** together with itself (I was, indeed, writing a book on the subject). By seeing the dishonesty laid bare - and how extensively - I started then to question the reasons why the Bible didn't work.

 

I suppose what I'm saying is that the natural assumption that some Christians make (I was among them) is that the problem is with themselves, and not with the Bible. That's a very hard hurdle to get over. Some will assume they're not spiritual enough, some that they're not familiar with the original langages enough, etc. without ever stopping to think "If God wants to communicate with people, why is he using ancient languages, corrupt institutions, and people that muddle the message?"

 

If I had encountered your book before I read Beyond Born Again I would have enjoyed it greatly and gone about being a Christian. If I had read it afterwards, it would have gone quite a way toward taking my faith apart. Perhaps I have been reading it with an unfair set of spectacles and not thinking about other people who have different threads-to-be-unravelled.

 

It's hard not be ethnocentric when we are, in fact, morally superior to those who support and make excuses for such actions. 

 

Understood and agreed wholeheartedly. But I do think this is our modern Achilles' heel. I have a propensity toward the same, even though it is epistemologically shaky and easily tends toward jingoism.

 

It was my intention, however, to compare those actions with today's standards to show that we have outgrown such dated nonsense - to demonstrate that the OT version of God was a product of the time - a product of the people.  Again, I'm sorry if the book disappointed you in this regard.

 

I actually think you did it quite effectively. I just wonder how effective it will be to a Christian with an a priori commitment to God being the source of good things, and therefore the evil in the OT being good because it was ordained by God.

 

5. The book was pretty much a spur of the moment thing, if you can believe that.

 

You have fabulous impulses! Keep 'em coming. :thanks:

 

-Lokmer

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Matt penned above:

 

Jason,

 

I haven't read your book and, frankly, I am hesistant in doing so. One of the problems that I have with books like the Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy or a website like The Skeptics Annotated Bible or even Dan Barker's Losing Faith in Faith is that most of these freethought works are not by actual Bible scholars.

 

Matthew...

 

On one hand you have really sharp well trained gents like Lokmer who have grown up literally seeped in this kind of material. Can quote, think, grok and work with thoughts and processes that might make BN a *light read*.

 

Then you have the bottom dwellers of scholastic anti-sectarianism like myself who have studied and read enough *to be dangerous* in conversations and postings.

 

I find BN much like a set of Cliff Notes for those of we who can use information quicky and in a format that is readable and understandable.

 

Think too like this for a moment, as a parent of a boy I want to be raised resitant to sectarian influences, BN is a fantastic "beginner's ride" to resistance to biblical_authority.

 

Sectarians of all stripes have had their shots at me and not won. However I'll not be here for Beastie all the time. BN willhelp me innoculate my son agan' the religion bugs..

 

BN is a multipurpose box of ammunition amigo, it is not "just an X" form or format of of penmanship done by a demented bible hater..

 

n

IMAG0002a.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jason,

 

  I haven't read your book and, frankly, I am hesistant in doing so. One of the problems that I have with books like the Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy or a website like The Skeptics Annotated Bible or even Dan Barker's Losing Faith in Faith is that most of these freethought works are not by actual Bible scholars.

 

I think that's a pretty fair assessment. However, I would ask you to consider that the first four or five chapters have pretty much nothing to do with biblical scholarship. The remainder of the book is a summation of what I feel are the best arguments out there mixed amongst some lay philosophical observations. However, the book really isn't targeted toward people who have already left, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to you.

 

While many freethinking critiques of the Bible are probably right and have good points, the fact of the matter is that Christians probably won't take something serious until it's written by a Bible scholar and for good reason. Bible scholars on average have more understanding of the context in which the Bible was written and have specialized training in it's cultural background, language, etc.

 

I think that's a pretty fair assessment as well. Unfortunately, I'm not going to waste my time getting a PhD in some obscure study that means nothing to me. There isn't much (if anything) to the Bible that hasn't been already covered in discussion. If a Christian won't acknowledge anything in the book because the only thing that the author can offer is 16 years in the Church, a vast study of other Biblical scholars, and vastly superior intelligence, then so be it. Hopefully, they'll keep looking.

 

I recall reading a transcript of a show in which Dan Barker was a guest on. Barker argued that when Jesus says that we must hate our family in order to become his disciples, I cringed because I knew that Barker didn't understand it in context. It doesn't matter that the Greek word for "hate" was used in the gospel from which Barker quoted. What matters is that "hate" was often used as an idiom meaning to "love less than" in Hebrew culture.

 

I make the same argument that Barker does in my book. As far as I know, there is nothing to support your position that it was an often used idiom that meant "to love less than." Can you back this up? Even Turkel doesn't take this position, but rather that it can be surmised just by reading into the context of the passage 1. He offers a single NT passage that he thinks can be rendered in this fashion (but it is only one of a couple dozen, and I think he only chose it for the similar structure). Rendering miseo as hate or despise is fairly consistent with the other harsh qualifications of being a disciple (e.g. tossing all your possessions).

 

It's the same thing when people accuse Jesus of being a false prophet when he predicts his resurrection in three days and people argue that three whole days didn't pass by. The fact of the matter is that in the context, Jesus was using a synedoche in which a part is used to represent a whole. So any part of a day can be used to represent a whole day in Hebrew time-reckoning.

 

I don't use this example, but I would refer you to Matthew 12:40. "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." If Jesus is using a synecdoche as you state, he's going to have to be dead for parts or three days and three nights - not parts of three days. Assuming earliest possible death and latest possible resurrection, he is dead:

 

1. last of friday (friday afternoon to us)

2. first of saturday (friday evening)

3. last of satruday (saturday day)

4. first of sunday (saturday evening)

5. last of sunday (sunday day)

 

Parts of three days, but not parts of three days and three nights. Regardless of whether or not part of a day can be used to represent a whole day in Hebrew time-reckoning, it clearly doesn't work when you consider what Jesus actually said.

 

This is what I find irritable in skeptical Bible critiques. They're often not written by actual Bible scholars and become easy prey for Christian apologists like Robert Turkel (but then again, he doesn't take actual Bible scholars seriously if they're not Evangelicals like him; witness how he reacts to New Testament scholars Robert M Price and Gerd Ludemann who are now skeptics). Critics who are not scholars often don't deserve to be taken seriously if they write the kind of tripe that Dan Barker writes.

 

  Matthew

 

I'm somewhat in agreement with you on this.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interestingly, prior to me leaving christianity, I happened to bring up the Jonah story and ask if anyone believed it was literal.

I truly expected that the majority, if not all would say it was symbolism or a story.

 

Suprisingly, the majority in this group said they took it as LITERAL.

I was suprised......upon some friendly arguing, they got very mad and kept the stance that everything in the bible was literal.......

(another reason I left)

 

:Doh:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interestingly, prior to me leaving christianity, I happened to bring up the Jonah story and ask if anyone believed it was literal.

I truly expected that the majority, if not all would say it was symbolism or a story.

 

Suprisingly, the majority in this group said they took it as LITERAL.

I was suprised......upon some friendly arguing, they got very mad and kept the stance that everything in the bible was literal.......

(another reason I left)

 

:Doh:

 

Hell, why not? If you're going to for talking animals, magic shows, resurrections, magic sky daddies, ad infinitum, you might as well stick to whale tales.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Son of Belial

In my denomination, the story was taken as fact. It seems odd to me that this person is claiming that "every-body knows" it's a parable or fable of some kind, when so many people I know believe it to be a literal truth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jason, one quick question: Is Biblical Nonsense a first work or a sole project? Will you be doing more refutations of Christianity books, or is this the last?

 

Thanks in advance,

Loren

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In my denomination, the story was taken as fact. It seems odd to me that this person is claiming that "every-body knows" it's a parable or fable of some kind, when so many people I know believe it to be a literal truth.

Same here. It was taught as literal truth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Same here as well. In fact, I can recall a few drawn out Sunday School debates about whether the "Great Fish" was a whale or a whale shark, and everyone was in deadly earnest. The thought of it being metaphor was absolutely anathema.

 

-Lokmer

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.