Monday, August 7, 2017

Clever ways to market the barbaric bible god in a more politically correct way to modern ears

James Patrick Holding attempts in yet another cartoon video to get away from the "shall" in the mandate in Deuteronomy to kill the girl who was not a virgin on her wedding night, by trifling that this law was not prescriptive, but merely exhortational.

Questions immediately present themselves to the neo-conservative who tries to dance that absurdly fine line between taking the bible seriously and marketing its god as a politically correct deity to modern ears:

What is Holding's criteria for deciding which "shalls" in Deuteronomy were mandatory and which weren't?

What does Holding have to say about conservative inerrantist Christian scholars who disagree with him on the point (and in Christian history, it is only Origen that would side with Holding's liberal view on these matters)?  How does Holding explain god not revealing the liberal truth to most Christians for so long?  Were most such Christians not sufficiently sincere in their prayers or in their faith?

When Holding says the death penalty for non-virgins in Deut. 22 is not prescriptive, isn't he opening the door to ways to abborgate this law in certain circumstances?  What did Jesus say about those who would attempt to get around or otherwise not comply with even the least part of the law?
 17 "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.
 18 "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
 19 "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
 20 "For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
 21 "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER ' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.'
 22 "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
 (Matt. 5:17-22 NAU)
Anyway, here's Deut. 22
 13 "If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then turns against her,
 14 and charges her with shameful deeds and publicly defames her, and says, 'I took this woman, but when I came near her, I did not find her a virgin,'
 15 then the girl's father and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of the girl's virginity to the elders of the city at the gate.
 16 "The girl's father shall say to the elders, 'I gave my daughter to this man for a wife, but he turned against her;
 17 and behold, he has charged her with shameful deeds, saying, "I did not find your daughter a virgin." But this is the evidence of my daughter's virginity.' And they shall spread the garment before the elders of the city.
 18 "So the elders of that city shall take the man and chastise him,
 19 and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give it to the girl's father, because he publicly defamed a virgin of Israel. And she shall remain his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days.
 20 "But if this charge is true, that the girl was not found a virgin,
 21 then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father's house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you.   (Deut. 22:13-21 NAU)
Holding doesn't make sense as usual:

1  -  Deuteronomy twice warns against anybody adding to or taking away from its words, it commands Israel to follow it exactly as written:
 1 "Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, so that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.
 2 "You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
 3 "Your eyes have seen what the LORD has done in the case of Baal-peor, for all the men who followed Baal-peor, the LORD your God has destroyed them from among you.
 4 "But you who held fast to the LORD your God are alive today, every one of you.
 5 "See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it.
 6 "So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'
 7 "For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him?
 8 "Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today? (Deut. 4:1-8 NAU)
 Notice the last clause, "ther you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God".  It is assumed in the text that one would not be obeying the Lord if one attempted to add conditions to, or allow exceptions to, the commands as they are given.

Notice also how the immediate context stresses the keeping of the "statutes".  The idea that this could be harmonized with another set of laws that provide exceptions under which the statutory penalties can be avoided, is total bullshit.

Notice also that the precise wording of Moses must be followed to the letter, because in v. 8, it is observed that no other nation has laws as good as Mosaic law.  This rhetorical question wouldn't make sense if the laws that made Israel unique, could be circumnavigated around in the Pharisee fashion Holding advocates for.
  31 "You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.
 32 "Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it. (Deut. 12:31-32 NAU)
So when Holding says law codes were only "didactic", thus implying more words were added and showing the law was not as mandatory as it looks on the surface, he contradicts Deuteronomy's mandate that the people follow exactly what was written without adding exceptions or additional circumstances.  If Holding is repeating what other scholars say, then those scholars have the same problem Holding does:  reading exceptions and extra conditions into the laws of Moses despite clear Mosaic injunctions against modifying the codes in any way.

Scholar Alexander Rofé, Professor Emeritus of the Bible at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, sees the death penalty as literal and mandatory

2 - Deut. 22:18-19 show that Moses knew how to specify different penalties for different shades of sinfulness.

3 - That we should assume the worst when trying to read between the lines is justified from the infamous story of how Moses required the stoning death of a man who gathered wood on the Sabbath day.  The command to do no work on the Sabbath day does not come with any conditions:
 8 "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
 9 "Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.
 11 "For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. (Exod. 20:8-11 NAU)
But when Israel found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day (working), Israel did not know what to do with him, and Moses judged that he be executed:
 32 Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the sabbath day.
 33 Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation;
 34 and they put him in custody because it had not been declared what should be done to him.
 35 Then the LORD said to Moses, "The man shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp."
 36 So all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. (Num. 15:32-36 NAU)
Notice:  If Holding and other neo-inerrantists are correct that we must assume Israel had other local laws that allowed for certain exceptions to Mosaic penalties for crimes or sin, then how could it be that Israel did not know what to do with the man gathering wood on the Sabbath day?  Easy, the inerrantists are wrong:  we should NOT be assuming Israel presumed that the law of Moses left room for unstated exceptions or conditions.  THAT is why they didn't know what to do in the case of a man violating the Sabbath day law.

4 - Holding says the command for death is to emphasize the seriousness of the offense, but as usual, he supplies no commentary from Christian scholars who agree with him that this particular Mosaic law allowed for exceptions or further conditions.

5 - Inerrantist Eugene H. Merrill uses "prescriptive" to designate several Mosaic laws in Deuteronomy:
(3) Disobedience at Kadesh Barnea (1:26–33) ‭[Deuteronomy 1:31]‬ 1    
(1) The Central Sanctuary (12:1–14) ‭[Deuteronomy 12:14]‬ 2    
(4) Laws Concerning Unsolved Murder (21:1–9) ‭[Deuteronomy 21:9]‬ 3    
(6) Laws Concerning Preservation of Life (21:22–22:8) ‭[Deuteronomy 22:8]‬ 4    
(2) Respect for the Dignity of Another (24:8–25:4) ‭[Deuteronomy 24:22]‬ 5    
1. The Gathering at Shechem (27:1–13) ‭[Deuteronomy 27:7]‬
Merrill also takes the death penalty as mandatory, so Holding must do what he usually does, and insist that Merrill got it wrong because Mr. Holding's view is the voice of God himself:

22:20–21 Occasionally, of course, the husband’s accusations would have substance and the evidence of virginity would not be forthcoming (v. 20). Should this occur, the woman must be stoned to death and at the door of her father’s house at that! Just as an unfounded accusation brought undeserved dishonor to the father’s name, one that could be proved brought justified dishonor. The reason is that the girl had clearly had sexual intercourse before her marriage, an act described here as “being promiscuous.” This translates the Hebrew ˓āśĕtâ nĕbālâ, literally, “She has done a disgraceful thing” in Israel. This formula occurs frequently to speak of a moral or spiritual breakdown of such proportions as to impact the whole covenant community negatively (cf. Gen 34:7; Judg 19:23; 20:6, 10; Jer 29:23).186 Only her death at the hands of the community could remove the disgrace brought about by her deed (cf. Deut 17:12; 19:13; 21:21; 22:24; Judg 20:13). 186 A. Phillips, “nebalah—A Term for Serious Disorderly and Unruly Conduct,” VT 25 (1975): 237–42.
Merrill, E. H. (2001, c1994). Vol. 4: Deuteronomy (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; 
The New American Commentary (Page 303). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Keil & Delitzsch agree with Merrill that the death penalty was literal:
Deut. 22:20, 21. In the other case, however, if the man’s words were true, and the girl had not been found to be a virgin, the elders were to bring her out before the door of her father’s house, and the men of the town were to stone her to death, because she had committed a folly in Israel (cf. Gen. 34:7), to commit fornication in her father’s house. The punishment of death was to be inflicted upon her, not so much because she had committed fornication, as because notwithstanding this she had allowed a man to marry her as a spotless virgin, and possibly even after her betrothal had gone with another man (cf. vv. 23, 24). There is no ground for thinking of unnatural wantonness, as Knobel does.
Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (2002). Commentary on the Old Testament. 
(Vol. 1, Page 946). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.
 6 - Talmudic sources indicate Deut. 22 was interpeted literally, and the Bride and Groom searched before consummation to make sure they didn't have a hidden bloodstained cloth by which to overcome her lack of virginity: Tosef. Ket. 1:4ff.; Ket. 1:1, 25a; 4:4, 28c; and Ket. 12a.  The problem of whether this law presupposed something unstated, such as the need for two witnesses, is answered from the Deut. 4 and other texts that forbade anybody from adding to or subtracting from the Law.

7 - The Qumran text 4q159 gives a version of this Deuteronomy law that still requires the girl to be executed.

8 - Specifically Deut. appears to be addressing the situation of the newly married girl who was not a virgin and yet kept this fact to herself until after marriage.  That is, the death penalty is not merely because she wasn't a virgin, but that she misled the man during betrothal to believe she was a virgin when in fact she wasn't.  The death penalty is for girls who get married without disclosing that they have previously lost their virginity.

9 - Holding says the fact that some virgins don't bleed when deflowered would have been pled before the Israelite judges, but he provides no evidence for this, and regardless, the fact that the author thought the lack of blood was conclusive, is further evidence of just how pre-scientific was the culture this law came out of.

10 - at time code 1:50 ff, Holding says the only people who interpret the text other than he and his cited scholars, are loud-mouth unqualified youtubers, which seems to indicate that Holding thinks most inerrantist Christian scholars, such as Merrill, are loud-mouth unqualified youtubers.

11 - Holding ends the video by saying stupid fundy atheists just don't realize how casual sex would have decimated people living in the ANE, and how important sexual chastity was, but if that is true, then the death penalty would seem to be intended literally, since a literal application of it would serve as a deterrent no less than harsh punishments in modern law deter because they are real, not mere threats.

12 - Holding's position with the liberal scholars, that this was a mere threat to showcase the severity of the offence, doesn't make sense.  If the law really wasn't applied exactly as written, the Israelite girls would have known this, and, like typical children who begin to notice that dad and mom never actually punish but only scream, would be likely to stop thinking this penalty was real, in which case the deterrent value of the law is lost.

13 - Holding may say Moses wasn't stupid enough to require his people to carry out all that he said without any type of exceptions or further conditions, but that he was this dense is proven from the story where his father in law has to tell him that it is stupid for Moses to try to be the one man whom all Israel come to for deciding their cases.  Somebody had to bang common sense into his head and tell him that with several million Israelites, they will never get their cases heard unless Moses appoints local judges:
13 It came about the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening.
 14 Now when Moses' father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, "What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?"
 15 Moses said to his father-in-law, "Because the people come to me to inquire of God.
 16 "When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor and make known the statutes of God and His laws."
 17 Moses' father-in-law said to him, "The thing that you are doing is not good.
 18 "You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.
 19 "Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people's representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God,
 20 then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do.
 21 "Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.
 22 "Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.
 23 "If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace."
 24 So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said.
 25 Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.
 26 They judged the people at all times; the difficult dispute they would bring to Moses, but every minor dispute they themselves would judge.
 27 Then Moses bade his father-in-law farewell, and he went his way into his own land.
 (Exod. 18:13-27 NAU)
14 - Merrill and K&D agree that Deut. 4:2 is forbidding any additions or subtractions to the law. Merrill cites ancient secular law warnings that similarly absolutely forbid any modifications.

Deut. 4:2. The observance of the law, however, required that it should be kept as it was given, that nothing should be added to it or taken from it, but that men should submit to it as to the inviolable word of God. Not by omissions only, but by additions also, was the commandment weakened, and the word of God turned into ordinances of men, as Pharisaism sufficiently proved. This precept is repeated in Deut. 13:1; it is then revived by the prophets (Jer. 26:2; Prov. 30:6), and enforced again at the close of the whole revelation (Rev. 22:18, 19). In the same sense Christ also said that He had not come to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfil (Matt. 5:17); and the old covenant was not abrogated, but only glorified and perfected, by the new.
Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (2002). Commentary on the Old Testament.
(Vol. 1, Page 874). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.
4:2 The divine origination of and responsibility for the covenant is underscored here also by the solemn admonition that nothing can be added to or subtracted from it (v. 2; cf. 12:32; Rev 22:18–19).150 In a unilateral arrangement of this type the sovereign and he alone set its terms.151 The vassal could only accept them as given and then make every effort to keep them. These are summarized here by the term miṣwôt (“commands”), a term that in context is synonymous with the combination ḥuqqîm (“decrees”) and mišpātîm (“laws”).

150 Such prohibitions are well known in ancient Near Eastern law and covenant texts. See the Lipit-Ishtar Lawcode epilogue in Pritchard, ANET, 161; and D. J. Wiseman, 3 (London: British School of Archaeology, 1958), 60, ll. 410–13: “(You swear that) you will not alter (it) [the covenant text], you will not consign (it) to the fire nor throw (it) into the water, nor [bury (it)] in the earth nor destroy it by any cunning device, nor make [(it) disappear], nor sweep (it) away.”
151 Mendenhall, “Law and Covenant in Israel and the Ancient Near East,” 29.
Merrill, E. H. (2001, c1994). Vol. 4: Deuteronomy (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; 
The New American Commentary (Page 115). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
15 - Holding may trifle that the conditions believed by an Israelite elder to justify refusing to impose the death penalty, does not constitute adding to or subtracting from the law, but indeed it does.  Moses could very well have had the same mind that most modern Legislators and battlefield generals have:  collateral damage is unavoidable, to raise the prospect of exceptions is to invite political corruption and cronyism, when in fact ruthless application of the law as written would achieve well the goal of making the people fear.

16 - The God Moses served once desired to kill him solely because he son wasn't circumcised:
 24 Now it came about at the lodging place on the way that the LORD met him and sought to put him to death.
 25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son's foreskin and threw it at Moses' feet, and she said, "You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me."
 26 So He let him alone. At that time she said, "You are a bridegroom of blood "-- because of the circumcision. (Exod. 4:24-26 NAU)
It should be clear  that Moses had an absolutist mindset and believed he was serving a god that was actually this barbaric.  This is more consistent with the conservative view that the death penalty for non-virgins in Deut. 22 was literal, than it is with no-conservatives who call it symbolic solely beacuse they desire to make god more politically correct as they market him to modern audiences.

Finally, Holding and his liberal scholars open a can of worms in saying this death penalty was merely exhortational and not prescriptive:

Which death-penalty laws of God ARE prescriptive, and how does Holding know?  Are the death penalties for homosexuality, bestiality and adultery prescriptive, yes or no?

It would seem that Holding prefers more to trifle in Pharisee fashion than to accept what the Law actually says.

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