Monday, April 13, 2009

why we sometimes seem strident, part two

Return of the virgin birth: This time it's personal 

When I started this blog I did so out of frustration. There were two facts that just would not stop bugging me and which I felt somebody ought to do something about. The first was the entirely cheering thought that every single fact discovered of the last three centuries of Biblical scholarship, archeology and history has added another reason to distrust and dismiss the Bible. The second is the infuriating fact that every time this is pointed out to a Christian, the Christian will simply lie, then leverage, then when the Atheist is wondering if they’ve run mad will leverage their lie into a patronizing hominy about how the power 

of Christ has enabled them to see past the fact that you’re an ill educated jerk.

 This is how just about every debate between a believer and a sane person I’ve ever seen has ended. However, there was and is one ray of hope, which is that Christians, in spite of their love for imaginary friends, are not the most imaginative lot and so tend to get their lies prepackaged by those who lie for a living. Thus I thought if one were to catalogue and respond to these lies, the debates might actually start getting somewhere. What I had failed to consider is that beneath every Christian lie, is another lie supporting it, and probably another under that, all the way down.

 This was brought home to me yesterday when some jabbering half backed bible thumper over on Ray’s blog (I would link but feel he gets far too much traffic as it is) wrote the following:


Greetings Mr. Comfort in the NAME which is above every name,


i've got to make this Post short as i need to finalize my message for tomorrow morning.


the other day, i followed the suggestion of one of the atheist Posters and eventually listened to all eight parts of the NZ debate.


i know when one debates one does not always take the time to correct every error in an opponents opening argument (the argument takes ~20min, but to refute each erroneous statement generally takes much more time). also, it's clear that your purpose was to present a clear Gospel presentation. something which you certainly did to the praise of His glory. may the Lord continue to bless you richly, brother.


however, for the sake of the atheists here, i'll take just a few moments to explain how utterly uninformed your opponent (Mr. Tyler-Smith, if my "old-timers" let's me recall it correctly) was on just one of the many things he really messed up on. if he were in my class, he would still be in my class!! he wouldn't get a passing grade on several of his points.


perhaps his major contention in his opening 20min dealt with the virgin birth of Christ. he, rather foolishly, in my opinion, makes such blasphemous statements as something to the effect that "God's Hebrew may not be too good".


anyways, for those who watched (or rather listened to) the debate on YouTube, Mr. T-S was WAY OFF the mark on this one, and a few others, but i only have time to deal with one.


there are two lines of reasoning i would like to present in support of my contention that he didn't know what he was talking about on the point of the virgin birth of Christ (unfortunately, i don't have time to refute his others, but many of them are just as easy to do).


since i don't know if i can enter greek and hebrew characters in this Post, i will transliterate into english characters.


1. regarding Matthew's use, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, of the greek word parthenos to describe the virgin birth, all should know that it wasn't Matthew who arbitrarily chose this word in contradistinction to the hebrew word the prophet Isaiah (also under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) used. parthenos was NOT a later, first century Christian extrapolation of Isaiah's prophecy. why do i say this? because it was the Jews who first used parthenos to describe Isaiah's prophecy. huh? what? huasheng, have you lost it? no. ~250 years before Christ was born, the city of Alexandria in Egypt had a large Jewish population. these Jews had lost the ability to read the Scriptures in Hebrew, and so 70 Jewish scholars who were fluent in both Hebrew and Greek (the language Alexander the Great brought to this area, hence the city's name Alexandria) undertook to translate the Scriptures from Hebrew into the language of the people, viz. Greek, beginning with Torah (the five books of Moses) and then progressing to the Neviim and Ketubim (Prophets and Writings which together with Torah comprise the three section of Tanakh, i.e the Hebrew Bible). this translation is called the "Septuagint" and sometimes designated in writing as "LXX", the roman numerals for "70" (70 translators, remember). well, what do you think they used for the hebrew "almah" found in Isaiah 7.14? righteeeoo, you gueesed it, they used the greek word "parthenos". why? because, contrary to what Mr. T-S (i hope i have his name right) and a host of others contend, "almah" could imply NOT merely a young woman, but also one who is a virgin. just ask yourself this, 70 men who were fluent in both Hebrew and Greek, could they really make such a ridiculous blunder and not have the others catch them on this? these men who revered the Scriptures, would they really be so careless? believe that if you want, but if you do you're just kidding yourself to avoid having to face the truth of the matter. the Jews were very careful with their handling of the Scriptures. apparently to communicate the truth of the meaning of Isa7.14 in Hebrew, they needed to use the greek word for "virgin", viz. "parthenos".


now, if this was the only line of evidence, i can understand that someone out there might still want to kid themselves and not be convinced. however, we now come to line of evidence #2.



2. to begin, the more common Hebrew word for "virgin", viz. "betulah" is also translated in the LXX by the greek word "parthenos". why? ("this is getting confusing" i can hear someone saying - ok, i'll try to clear it up) most words, not only in Scripture, but also in the English language, have what is termed a "semantic range of meaning" and NOT one single meaning. let me illustrate with the english word "nail". a carpenter can drive a nail with just two strikes from his hammer, but a woman would never call a carpenter to do her nails, and how many of us have heard a student tell another "i really nailed that test", or after a particularly vicious check, a hockey player might exclaim "i really nailed him". i hope that this childish illustration of "semantic range of meaning" communicates adequately. there are just so many illustrations of this truth of "semantice range of meaning" for words (the greek word "kosmos", is used in the NT in three or four different ways - semantic range of meaning again - the context makes the intended meaning plain). in the Hebrew Scriptures, "almah" and "betulah" have a partially overlapping range of meaning. "betulah" means virgin, and "almah" can be used of a virgin. all one needs to do is look up in the Hebrew Scriptures every time "almah" is used and one will clearly get the sense that "almah" is used of a virgin in the exact same sense that "betulah" is used of a virgin. in fact, there is NO INSTANCE in the Hebrew Scriptures where it can be proven that "almah" is used of a woman, or young woman, who is NOT a virgin. Mr. T-S simply is incorrect as are so many other skeptics. y'all know somewhat of the culture of the middle east. we are becoming more familiar with it in our news, family killing a sister/daughter/niece because she was raped, through no fault of her own, and is no longer a virgin. generally speaking, some middle eastern men don't want a wife who is not a virgin, even if she was forcibly raped. virginity is highly prized in that culture. do any of us think that it was different 2000+ years ago? just one illustration will suffice (i'll leave it to those who truly desire to know truth to look up the other instances of its use), in Song of Solomon 6.8 there are three classes of women identified: queens, concubines (not virgins, or perhaps, in some cases, soon not to be virgins), and virgins or virginal young women (the heb. here is not "betulah", but "almah"). does anyone really think that the distinction b/t "concubines" and "young women" was that the concubines were old??!!! of course not. the distinction is NOT b/t the ages of the two groups, but another characteristic distinguishes one group (concubines) from the other group (the "almah" or virginal young women) - both groups were young (how many young-to-middle aged kings, or even elderly kings for that matter, would have a hareem of elderly women for concubines?!!). obviously, the beautiful young, concubines were to be distinguished from young virgins, and "almah" was chosen to make that distinction. if you or i were going to pick a heb. word to distinguish concubines from virgins, we would probably pick "betulah" to make sure (to our modern understanding) that there is no misunderstanding. but, that would be our modern minds making this decision. we should always try to comprehend the mindset of the author and original readers/hearers in order to arrive at a correct interpretation - this is, perhaps, common sense; we ought to avoid anachronism and diachronism when we read and interpret). apparently, in ancient times, there was no misunderstanding when "almah" was used. its meaning overlapped "betulah" (don't we have synonyms in modern english? if anyone doubts this, just pick up a copy of "Roget's Thesaurus"). you don't have to just take my word for it, pick up a copy of the two-volume "Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament" (easy reference work for an english-only reader to use) and read for yourself. you might also consult a standard Hebrew Lexicon like "Brown, Driver, and Biggs" - though this requires that you can read some Biblical Hebrew (a bit different than Modern Hebrew) for yourself (though there is an abbreviated, condensed version where the hebrew words are transliterated [NOT translated - there is a difference; yeah,... agreed,another time.] into english).


i hope this explanation helps to clear up this matter of the "almah" and "parthenos" for any who have encountered it previously, whether in the NZ debate b/t Mr. Comfort and Mr. Tyler-Smith or elsewhere.


'nuff said.


sincerely yours because of HIM,

 While Mr. Oh-I-do-hope-there-are-big-hairy-men-who-will-piss-on-me-in-heaven (I do so hope I got his name right) for all his verbosity only actually makes four points, all of them wrong  the bigger point here is the very important difference between Biblical scholarship and apologetics. Biblical scholarship an Academic discipline, undertaken by terrifyingly dry, clever and erudite men who know off the top of their heads when some Aramaic word entered common usage.

 Apologetics on the other hand is not a discipline at all (academic or otherwise) but is simply a dodge where by the godly are  allowed to give voice to any pious humbug, empty headed bombast and deceptive demagoguery that comes to mind and are shielded form any criticism, or even observation that their claims often do not even make coherent sense let alone prove anything.

 And Mr I-have-to-spank-my-cock-with-a-frozen-spoon-every-time-I-think-about-Ray’s-mustache (I do so hope I got his name right) is the perfect example of this distinction, as he manages to get every point of fact wrong and yet still act like he is an authority on the subject. (since I know you have shit to do, I won’t ask you to read any books I know you don’t own - although everyone should own a copy of the Oxford companion to the Bible  and will just use wikipedia)

 First off, no, actually the use parthenos was a later, first century Christian extrapolation of Isaiah's prophecy, and no the Septuagint was not compiled 250 years before the birth of Christ. We know this because a the Letter of Aristeas, which dates to second century BC, says that the Jews only translated Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Which is backed up by three hundred years later by Josephus Flavius. Secondly as Wikipedia puts it “there is evidence, that the Septuagint was tampered with by the Church, the present Septuagint is largely a post-second century Christian translation of the Bible, used zealously by the church throughout the centuries as an indispensable apologetic instrument to defend and sustain Christological alterations of the Jewish scriptures.” As such it is reasonable to suppose that the Greek version of Isaiah used by the author was probably produced only shortly before the Gospel of Matthew, and thus the cock up theory seems profoundly plausible.

 As for the claim that there is NO INSTANCE in the Hebrew Scriptures where it can be proven that "almah" is used of a woman, or young woman, who is NOT a virgin, and that young woman and virgin were synonymous because any young woman who wasn’t a virgin would have had her brains beaten out by the righteous, this again is simply a lie. The first thing to note is that Jewish scholars say that Almah means a woman married, or unmarried and that there is no implication of virginity.  Even the Catholics accept this. However, even if you just look at the verse in question, Isaiah 7:14, the Jewish understanding is that the Alma referred to, is in fact Isaiah’s wife, and that since she is refereed to as ha-almah, or this women, and is prefixed in the verse with the adjective harah, the verse should be read as "this young woman, who is pregnant," or possibly "this woman who will soon be pregnant", which in either reading makes it perfectly clear that she was a young married women and not a virgin.

 I am guessing Mr I-only-believe-in- god-because-without-a-penis-I-need-something-to-get-me-out-of-bed-in-the-morning actually knows this, or he wouldn’t have been so careful to list the books of Apologetics that will confirm his story. There are dozens of standard works of biblical history and the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament isn't one of them. 

And they wonder why we sometimes seem strident. 

1 comment:

  1. Why do christians seem to assume
    a) non-believers have never read the bible. I know I've read far more than most believers.
    b) that we won't bother to fact check when they pull scriptural BS?