Virgins and Holy War

One of the passages from the Old Testament that I just can’t rationalize is in Numbers 31 where the Israelites are told to kill all the Midianites except for the virgins which they were to “keep for [themselves].” I read through the whole passage yesterday for another look at what the Midianites were supposedly guilty of.

Enticing the Israelites to worship Baal.

I used to invalidate Islam by saying how evil Allah was because his instructions were to convert or kill.

Quran (9:5)
But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them…

What’s the difference?

Numbers 31:7-18
They warred against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses, and killed every male.
They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain, Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. And they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword. And the people of Israel took captive the women of Midian and their little ones, and they took as plunder all their cattle, their flocks, and all their goods. All their cities in the places where they lived, and all their encampments, they burned with fire, and took all the spoil and all the plunder, both of man and of beast.Then they brought the captives and the plunder and the spoil to Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and to the congregation of the people of Israel, at the camp on the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho.

Moses and Eleazar the priest and all the chiefs of the congregation went to meet them outside the camp. And Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live? Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lordin the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves.

Maybe because the passage in the Koran is for all time and the one in the Bible was a one time deal? Because that would make it o.k.

 

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Presuppostions

The more history and science I learn, the more apparent it becomes that the book of Genesis is not historical or scientific. I posted a similar comment on Facebook yesterday and a friend posted a link to Josh McDowell’s book “The Bible Handbook of Difficult Verses.” It was marked to a point in the book regarding Adam and Eve. I decided to give it a chance. Somehow, I landed on another book by McDowell called “Answers to Five Tough Questions.” I quickly saw the typical Presuppositional Apologetics that is required to defend the Christian faith.

McDowell starts by assuming the Bible is the word of God and is true. If science doesn’t go along with what the Bible says, he asserts that either the science is flawed or our biblical interpretation is incorrect. He never indicates that science is right and the Bible could be wrong.

THIS IS NOT HONEST INQUIRY!

Of course, I got angry and annoyed all over again at the misrepresentation of science and the fact that when I give the Bible one more chance, all I am given is biased and twisted information that is used to support a preconceived conclusion.

Hell and Anxiety

When my second child was born and I developed post-partum anxiety almost immediately, our church housed a Christian counselor who offered free services. I saw her a few times during which she loaned me a set of tapes by Lucinda Bassett. Lucinda is the founder and CEO of the Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety. In this self-help series, Lucinda has clients in a round-table-discussion of sorts sharing their stories and how her exercises helped them overcome their anxiety, panic attack, and agoraphobia.

I recently remembered something that kept coming up in the discussions. Some of her clients had come from Catholic backgrounds and developed an immense fear of Hell. Lucinda apparently thought this was unhealthy as she wanted her clients to heal from it. At the time, as a Believer, I did not see how overcoming the fear of Hell was helpful. I thought, “Well, shouldn’t a person be afraid of Hell? I mean, it’s a pretty scary place?” Also, at the time I didn’t realize it was the most likely cause of my anxiety. I saw other Christians who believed in Hell going about their lives just fine. I guess I thought I was odd, or different, or just plain messed up. I wanted to be like the other Christians who rejoiced in their own salvation, while not being severely affected by others’ lack of it.

Thankfully, I was never really able to do that.

But more importantly, psychiatrists (like Marlene Winell) and counselors (like Lucinda Bassett) are starting to see how religious dogma has harmed people. There are now retreats and online groups where people are gathering, sharing stories, and helping each other heal. More and more people are speaking out of the fears they developed being raised in rigid, religious households. While my household was not rigid (my parents were never black and white thinkers), the church we attended was… or at least I WAS. I took it all in and I took it all seriously. Maybe a little too seriously.

 

 

Old Testament Canon and the Book of Daniel

In Church I was taught that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, etc. knew the words they were writing would become Scripture. This belief is only held by fundamentalist Christians, and any study into history reveals the untruth of that statement. Furthermore, I was led to believe that the Old Testament Canon had been fixed prior to Jesus’ day, complete with all 39 books we now call Scripture.

The Jews divide their Scriptures into 3 sections, Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) Prophets (Joshua, Judges, II & II Samuel, I & II Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi), and Writings (II & II Chronicles, Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, and Daniel). To my surprise, the first formal “Old Testament” Canon was the Septuagint (circa 250 BCE), and only contained the Torah. Around 150 BCE the Prophets were added. It was not until the Council of Jamnia in 90 CE that the Writings were considered Scripture.  Up until this point, the inclusion of Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and Daniel were still in question.

I was not surprised to learn that the book of Daniel was of the last to be canonized. After all, most biblical scholars date Daniel to sometime during the Second Century BCE. And contrary to Christian and Orthodox Jewish belief, critical scholars do not give Daniel a later date because all of his prophecies came true. The dating comes from a variety of factors and one being that the writer(s) got some prophecies correct, yet got some other facts incorrect. I am not going to go into all of them here as it is something I need to further study. I will say that in my opinion, the prophecies are vague and with a little fudging can point to whatever someone wants. Like with chapter 9, which Christians and Jews have a completely different interpretation of.

Chapter 9 begins with Daniel lamenting over the possibility that the Jews’ exile will last longer, perhaps forever. He prays and is then given a prophecy from the angel Gabriel. Verse 25 will be our main focus here and we need to look at two different translations to understand the two different interpretations.

The original Hebrew and the English Standard Version reads, “Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.”

The New American Standard and King James Versions read, “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and sixty- two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.“

In the Jewish and ESV versions, the Hebrew words for “anointed governor/prince” are translated as “an anointed prince.” In Hebrew, this is a very general term that is not referring to THE MESSIAH. In fact, as I have stated in earlier blogs, there is no reference to “The Messiah” anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures. The KJV and NASB however, took the liberty to add a definite article along with capitalizing “messiah.” In Hebrew, if this were referring to “The Messiah” it would have read, “ha moshiach.” The definite article “ha” is not found in the Hebrew. Furthermore, the word “moshiach” is used in numerous places throughout the Old Testament to refer to someone or something that had been smeared with oil. It is only here where the KJV and NAS chose to add the definite article along with a capital letter.

Also, the Jewish and ESV versions separate “seven weeks” from “sixty-two weeks.” The KJV and NASB merge them together to read, “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks,” which equate to sixty-nine weeks. When this passage is used to point to Jesus, the NAS, KJV, or similar translation must be used. The English Standard version would not work, yet the ESV matches the original Hebrew! It is also worth noting that the original King James Version did not combine the seven and sixty two weeks. The 1611 Version reads just as the ESV does.

When the NAS or KJV is used, it is interpreted that from the time Aterxerxes gave permission for the Jews to repair the walls of Jerusalem to when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey was sixty-nine weeks of years (69 × 7 = 483 years). I found two dates for Aterxerxes decree. One is 457 BCE, the other in 445 BCE 457+33=490 and 445+33=478. Neither of those add up to 483.

Furthermore, was Aterxerxes really the one who fulfilled this prophecy? Maybe, yet there is also a prophecy stating that Cyrus is God’s anointed one who will give permission for Jerusalm and the Temple to be rebuilt. Isaiah 44:28 reads, “It is I [Yahweh] who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfil all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built’, and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’”

That brings us to the Jewish interpretation, which is that “the going forth of the word” is when Jeremiah actually gave his prophecy. Jeremiah 29:10 says, “For so said the LORD, ‘For at the completion of seventy years of Babylon I will remember you, and I will fulfil my good word toward you, to restore you to this place.” The prophecy then states that the Temple will stand for 434 years (62 weeks of years). However, the Temple was complete around the year 349 BCE and destroyed in 70 CE, which only comes out to be 419 years.

The last week, according to Jews is the time between when Rome permitted the Jews to offer sacrifices and when Vespasian destroyed the Temple (3.5 years). Three and a half years later, Herod’s Temple was built. Huh?

Christians place the last seven years at the end of days saying that the Antichrist will set up the abomination of desolation in the Temple and then destroy it. Problem is, Ezekiel states the Temple will last forever, though it appears to me that Ezekiel’s Temple was supposed to be built after the Babylonian Exile, but wasn’t. Hmmm…

Is your head spinning like mine is? What have we learned here? I learned that neither the Jewish nor the Christian interpretation of Daniel 9 works. Each one requires fudging, skirting, and alluding. The Christian version requires changing the Hebrew meaning of moshiach, adding a definite article and combing the two time periods. The Jewish version isn’t much better and also requires some alluding. The critical scholarly interpretation is that it points to the Maccabean time period. At some point in time, I may study and prepare my thoughts on it, but for now, I must get back to life.

In closing I will say that had Daniel 9 pointed to Jesus, would not Matthew have mentioned it in his Gospel? He mentioned the fulfilling of numerous prophecies from the Old Testament that were not prophecies at all, or had already been fulfilled. If this prophecy had not yet been fulfilled, I would expect Matthew to say, “This was to fulfill what God said through the prophet Daniel….” But he didn’t.

*Addition since publication (Sources: Pelikan, Jaroslav Whose Bible is It? and Smith, Charles Merrill How the Bible was Built)

Sick Religion

I am currently working on a post detailing the making of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. But I want to take a break from that and do a little venting.

I just don’t get people.

Recently, I have looked for opportunities to inform people on how the modern-day notion of Hell came about. To my surprise, people still want to hang on to it. I either get a blank stare when I say, “It was made up” or I get an all out, “Well, I believe in it.”

Why is that?

Are these people so indoctrinated that they are too scared to not believe in it? Do they think if they stop believing in it, then they might be sent there? Or do they actually love the idea of being God’s privileged people who are able to escape judgment while the rest of humanity be tortured for all eternity for not adhering to their particular doctrines?

When I first began noticing a disconnect between the Old and New Testaments, I said to a certain person, “Ummm… according the the prophets of the Old Testament, the Jews are not going to Hell.”

This person’s response was, “How can you say that?”

Excuse me? If someone had said that to me, I would have seen this as “Good News” (pun intended). I would have wanted to know what this person had read that led him to this conclusion. I find it appalling when I tell Christians Hell is not real, and the result is a snub-nose, stone-wall  reaction in defense of the most horrifying form of punishment imaginable. Christianity is supposed to make people loving, caring creatures. Yet, it appears that Christian (at least the fundamental ones) revel in the torturous punishment of those who don’t believe as they do. And that is sick.

About a year or so ago, I came across Nehemiah Gordon’s presentation on his journey to the actual Valley of Hinnom (Hell) in Jerusalem. I revisited it last week and have watched it even a third time. I just love it! If you wish to watch the entire video, it will be posted below. But here I will highlight the powerful words from his speech.

He begins by narrating a conversation he had with a Christian from the Southern United States. Imagine a faux southern drawl coming from a young man impersonating a sweet old lady from Dixie. Nehemiah says, “She said to me, ‘Nee-a-miya! You’re gonna burn in Hell! You Jews, you don’t believe. You ain’t got no grace!'”

Nehemiah continues, “So what is this Hell? And what is this ‘grace’? Is it a novel concept that only appears in her Bible, which is the New Testament? Or is it found in my Bible as well?”

He then goes on to explain the history of the Hinnom Valley, how it was used in child sacrifice for the worshipers of Molech. The statue of Molech’s hands were spread out over a deep pit of fire. The people would place a live child in the hands of the statue. As it burned up, the body of the child would shrivel up and eventually fall down into the pit of Hell, literally.

Nehemiah says, “Now, this woman is telling me that I as a Jew… who is following the prophets that God revealed his word to (the prophets of ancient Israel) that because I’m doing that, that I’m going to burn in Hell and God won’t have any grace for me. She is ultimately telling me that my god – well her god really, is like the god of Molech.”

Ouch!

Redefining Messiah

At Church Sunday, the pastor stated the common, albeit unfounded, notion that those who died prior to Jesus had to believe the Messiah “would come” in order to obtain everlasting life. I find this difficult to believe first, because as I stated above, it is not found in Scripture, and second because the New Testament says his followers did not understand he was to suffer and die. I guess Jesus’ followers, had they died prior to Jesus, would have been some unlucky folks.

Fact is, there is nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures that mentions anything about a one certain definite-article-the-capital-M, Messiah. It’s not there. The idea seems to have come about either during the Babylonian Captivity, or even later, during Roman Rule. The Second Temple Jews believed a person would come along and bring about an everlasting Kingdom of God on earth which would grant freedom and autonomy to the Jewish Nation. Part of this Kingdom of God would be the restoration of the Northern Kingdom, which is why, I believe Jesus said, “I came but for the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24)

Instead, Jesus was arrested, tried, and crucified by the Romans. They weren’t too keen on the idea of the Jews having autonomy. Then, a couple of decades later we see the birth of antisemitism and Christianity.

I hope to soon find the time to write about the early church fathers. They are the ones who gave us the legends of the apostles’ martyrdoms, applied names to the Gospels, and put the New Testament together. And you know what? THEY WERE ALL CATHOLIC!

 

 

 

In Mourning

A lot of people mourn the loss of their faith. I never really did that. However, the more vocal I am about it, the more final it becomes, and then I start to mourn.

I don’t mourn over my Christian faith, but over my Jewish one. I know a lot of people see the god of the Old Testament as wrathful, but at least he never consigned anyone to everlasting torment in a fiery pit. He just wiped them off the face of the earth.

And that’s way more merciful.