I recently discovered a book that I can’t wait to read called Adam’s Ancestors: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human Origins (author: David Livingstone; Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008). The book is about how, in response to Darwinism, certain 19th and 20th century preachers and biblical scholars came up with the idea that there were races *before* Adam. They justified the idea with some truly bizarre Bible interpretation. Whether theologically conservative Christians and Jews who imbibe such ideas realize it or not, much of this is similar to “root race” theories peddled by occultists like Helena Blavatsky, whose esoteric teachings were one thread in the racial theories of people like Adolf Hitler. (And in case you think these ideas aren’t still around, spend some time on the internet).
Here are two reviews of this important academic work (an antidote to nonsensical Bible interpretation and misguided apologetics):
I know — a very unlikely source. But biblical bungling isn’t confined to popular evangelicalism. I’m honestly torn over whether to subject my readers to more of this sort of blather, but hey, I guess that’s why I’m here. I have heard that this YouTube video is making the rounds (thanks Pam), so I guess I have some sort of obligation.
Needless to say, this absolute BS. The worst kind of sophistry. A few reasons why:
First, the Song of Solomon verse isn’t a prophecy (nothing is being predicted).
Second, to eliminate the consonants suggests that vowel sounds have no importance for meaning. Uh … ALL languages have vowel sounds whether vowels are represented or not. WRITING is an attempt to convey a language without speaking (by graphic means); it is not *the* language itself. If WRITING were to be equated with LANGUAGE, then all languages which never got a writing system or whose writing system was lost really never existed! Huh? A language needs ALL its sounds (consonant or vowel) to convey meaning. Picking one to the exclusion of the other results in erroneous or contrived meanings.
Third, this logic would mean that if I found a string of consonants in the Hebrew text and eliminated the vowels, I’d have predictions of people or other proper nouns by name. Sweet! Let’s try a few! (Unfortunately for those of you who can’t look these up in Hebrew, the profundity of my discoveries won’t have as much impact — you have to settle for transliterations at the links I provide below).
Did you know that Job 7:19 predicted the academy award winning film, Rocky? Yep. The consonants in the last word of the verse spell it out (see the last word in this column). In 2 Kings 4:26 the OT writer prophesied Alex Haley’s breakthrough novel “Roots” – just check the second word if you don’t believe me. I’d love to keep these amazing revelations rolling, but I’m afraid many of you would quit your jobs and sell your possessions to join my new “consonant only” religious cult (vowels are of the devil, you know).
Part of me wants to say there is a special place in hell for people who handle the biblical text this way (or maybe a remedial heaven), but before we laugh too much, we ought to be reminded of how many utterly stupid things Christian “teachers” say about the Bible that follows exactly the same “method” of interpretation. Examples like “Rosh” and “Meschech” in Ezekiel 38-39 for “Russia” and “Moscow” come immediately to mind. And then there’s that viral video about how Jesus gave us the name of antichrist and it’s Barack Obama. Already blogged that one.
No, it’s not another archaeo-journalism piece of tripe. The WP ran an article on “End Times Theology in the Age of Obama” in which my post debunking the (in)famous “Did Jesus give us the name of the antichrist” viral video is mentioned.
Some of you may have noticed that there has been recent discussion on this thread on the PaleoBabble site. Apparently someone who desperately wants to say the serpent and Eve had sex to (not sure) defend Zecharia Sitchin or some sort of sexual activity between reptilian aliens and Eve has been trying to defend this idea (not well — see the comments). I think my position is clear on this (!) so I’m not going to keep answering comments. I thought this might be more useful.
As I see it, this fellow’s view is based on:
1) ignoring what I presented in the original thread — that Gen 4:1 provides no evidence that Eve and the serpent had sex, producing a reptilian / serpent seed.
2) insisting that the verb “beguile” used in Eve’s self defense (“the serpent beguiled me”) means “to have sex with.” We are supposed to accept this and then, Eve’s discovery that she was naked AFTER she sinned (read the narrative in Genesis 3 — wouldn’t she have had to be naked for her tryst with the serpent – how did she miss that?) meant that she was pregnant (I know, nakedness doesn’t mean pregnant, but play along with this guy here).
In attempt to inject some sanity into this, I offer this PDF. It is a list of all the other occurrences in the Hebrew Bible of the verb translated “to beguile” (it is Hebrew, nasa’ — for those who know Hebrew, this is not the common nasa’ that means “to lift or carry” – it is a homonym). Anyway, you can read the results. Just substitute “have sex with” or “impregnate” for all the green highlighted English terms (I do these searches in a reverse interlinear, which allows a Hebrew word search with results displayed in English for those who don’t read Hebrew). You’ll have fun with the exercise, trust me. Some real howlers here.
3) Insisting that the phrase about Eve’s eyes being opened also indicates something about having sex or pregnancy. Hmmm. Genesis 3:7 says “the eyes of both of them [i.e., Adam and Eve] were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” I wonder if the serpent also had sex with Adam. Or maybe eyes aren’t really eyes…but some sort of esoteric code word for “womb” or “vagina.” Bummer neither works with Adam.
And they pay me for this. No . . . wait . . . they don’t. But it’s still fun.
This, dear readers, must surely be the holy grail of paleobabble. This tops anything I’ve had on this site since its inception. Don’t believe me? Watch the video below–but first lock up all the sharp objects in the house and hand someone else the key.
Someone kindly brought this piece of paleobabble to my attention recently. The site argues that certain Arabic letters/symbols visually resemble the Greek text of “666″ in the book of Revelation. More accurately, the Arabic allegedly resembles the common Greek New Testament manuscript abbreviation for “666″ (the number is abbreviated to correspond to the numbers “six hundred” – “sixty” – and “six”). Here’s a picture that explains the claim (Maybe it’s just me, but I only see a visual similarity for ONE (the blue line) of the three letters):
1. Arabic as we know it (and as this claim presents it) wasn’t a language until somewhere around the 4th century A.D. — 300 years after Revelation was written.
2. Literary Arabic of the kind this visual represents was even later – around the 7th century A.D.
3. The third letter (the numeral “6″) in the “Codex Vaticanus” manuscript image would likely not have been written that way originally. In earlier manuscripts, such as the papyri, the shape is different. Below is a picture of one of the few papyri of a portion of the book of Revelation that has survived. It is P115 and dates to 225-275 A.D. It has the passage that gives the number of the beast — except this is the famous example that has “616″ instead of “666″ (the red arrow points to the number). That difference doesn’t matter for us, since the last number/letter is “6″:
Below is also a closeup with the Vaticanus “6″ inserted for comparison:
Sorry boys and girls. Just more nonsense . . . er, paleobabble. Believing that the number of the beast points to a Muslim antichrist because of these Arabic letter/symbol shapes requires (among other things) believing that the writer of Revelation, writing in Greek, to be thinking the meaning of his Greek letters was to be found in letter shapes of a literary language that didn’t yet exist. Ridiculous. But fun.
This steaming pile of paleobabble reads exactly like the classic “I had proof of aliens but the government came and took it away” stories that are ubiquitous on the web. This is another Aaarrrgghhhh! Award nominee. (I’ll have to get around to judging those soon).
The “beauty” of this sort of story is that it is both completely unverifiable and completely unfalsifiable. No one except those who put out the story have names. What a piece of research! What heroic whistleblowers! Proof, please.
I’m betting the Smithsonian moved Adam’s body to AREA 51. Elvis is night security there.
Just remember: sanctified illogic and chicanery is still illogic and chicanery.
I discovered this morning that there is a new blog online that takes on the “King James Only” nonsense). For those of you who don’t know what that is, the KJV-only idea is that the KJV itself is the result of a 17th century act of divine inspiration–it is God’s own translation of the original manuscripts of the Bible for English readers. All other English translations are either inferior or products of satanic activity (since they are based on “Alexandrian” manuscripts from that pagan hell-hole, Egypt). Many who hold to KJV-only also believe that the manuscript traditions upon which the English KJV is based are complete and inerrant representations of the original documents of the Bible. PaleoBabble readers got a little taste of this silliness with the “666 in the NIV” post I did a little while back.
This is paleobabble, of course, to anyone who knows anything about the transmission of the biblical texts or who cares about logic. It’s an interesting idea to devote a whole blog to this subject, and the contirbutors are apparently former KJV-only adherents.
Just when you think preaching can’t get any more insipid, you find yet another logic-defying sermon out there on the web. “Thanks” to the person who sent this to me.
Some surface observations on the problems with this “Bible lesson”:
1. Since the NIV *printed* the longer ending of Mark, isn’t it true that there are in fact 678 verses in Mark? Didn’t he just count them for us?
2. As educated students of the textual history of the Bible (any Bible) know (guess that excludes this pastor), verses were not original to the text of either testament. That means that versification is artificial from the get-go, so any numerical “truth” derived from counting them is, well, paleobabble. Chapter divisions were added in the 13th century. During that century, Stephen Langton (ca. 1227), a professor at the University of Paris, and Cardinal Hugo de Sancta Cara (ca. 1244-1248) pioneered the chapter divisions. (One wonders how this preacher might react to catholics being the source of the chapter divisions). Much earlier than this, the NT was divided into sections ca. the Council of Nicea, and before that the Hebrew Masoretes divided their canonical texts into section, paragraph, and phrasal divisions using accenting traditions. These divisions (oh, horror!) do not coincide with the KJV divisions or those used by other modern English translations. It is not known exactly when versification was added, but the oldest such scheme seems to be Italian Dominican biblical scholar Santi Pagnini (1470–1541; another catholic!), though his system was not popularly adopted. As Christopher Smith notes in an article produced for a magazine I edit, “Robert Estienne created an alternate numbering in his 1551 edition of the Greek New Testament.”1The first English New Testament to use the verse divisions was a 1557 translation by William Whittingham (c. 1524-1579).
None of this probably matters to the speaker, though, since he appears to be a King James only adherent. That brings me to the next problem.
My point here is that this view is completely on the fringe — and there are real reasons why it is. Frankly, the KJV debate is really a debate about the NT. None of its arguments work with respect to the Hebrew Bible (they don’t work on the NT, either, but applying them to the Hebrew text is where it really gets laughable).
4. My King James Bible says that 666 is “the number of a man” (Rev. 13:18) not the number of a manuscript tradition or publisher or versification scheme.
5. Jesus (I assume that’s who he means by the video title – the greatest preacher) didn’t assign verses to the Bible, nor does he ever reference them. Nor did he write Mark (or any other NT book). If the preacher is talking about himself, then substitute his name for Jesus accordingly.
I’ll fly my flag at half mast again tonight, not for Ted Kennedy, but for the state of the American pulpit.