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Fundamentalism, Literalism and Inerrancy

Lee McCracken quotes a book called The Scope and Authority of the Bible (scm classics) by James Barr, which points out something that is frequently misunderstood by the critics of fundamentalism. Many atheists and others mistakenly believe that fundamentalism requires that one interpret the Bible literally at all times. But Barr correctly notes:

It is often said that fundamentalists are ‘people who take the Bible literally’. This however is a mistake. Fundamentalist interpretation concentrates not on taking the Bible literally, but on taking it so that it will appear to have been inerrant, without error in point of fact. Far from insisting that interpretation should be literal, it veers back and forward between the literal sense and a non-literal sense, in order to preserve the impression that the Bible is, especially in historical regards, always ‘right’. . . . It is the inerrancy of the Bible, especially its truth in historical regards, that is the fundamentalist position, and not the notion that it must always be interpreted literally. (pp. 77-8)

This is important to understand. Fundamentalism is not necessarily synonymous with Biblical literalism, but with Biblical inerrancy, which is not the same thing. In fact, as Barr notes, inerrancy frequently requires non-literalism. When a passage in the Bible is clearly contradicted by the evidence, there are two choices: One is to continue to insist on a literal interpretation and the evidence be damned (this is what young earth creationists do); the other is to reinterpret the passage as figurative or allegorical so that it no longer has to agree with the evidence.

It should also be said that even those who would generally consider themselves to be Biblical literalists do not take every single passage literally. When it says in the book of Isaiah that the trees clapped and the mountains sang, no one actually takes this to be literally true. The language here is clearly poetic and not intended to be taken literally and even the most hardcore fundamentalist is capable of recognizing the difference. The problem comes when passages are not so obviously meant to be figurative. That is where you get a big split between those who interpret a passage literally and those who do not.

Comments

  1. matty1 says

    I would have thought the stuff about ‘knowledge of good and evil’ being a fruit you could eat was clearly figurative and not literal but apparently this isn’t always clear.

    I’ve often thought that omphalos is the only near consistent way to be a young earth creationist. Accept that the evidence points one way but insist it is faked at a supernatural level. Not without its own problems but at least it doesn’t involve lying about what the evidence actually says.

  2. says

    Certainly my impression. They claim to be literal whenever they think they can feel holier-than-thou for it, but they’re perfectly willing to go metaphorical whenever they think literalism is at a disadvantage, or if it demands that they change their behavior.

  3. Michael Heath says

    While I have never made this category error, I don’t observe much space between these two groups when it comes to how their premises impact their public policy positions which effect all of us. What is the size of the literalist group? I haven’t encountered any in years with the exception of the type of conservative Christian layman who exists at the level of coherence and informedness of Sarah Palin. Not that she’s necessarily a literalist, just that she’s an illustrative example of the lack of intelligence and lack of historical literacy needed to be a literalist. Illiteracy even of the history of the development of the Abrahamic religions.

    As Ed previously noted, typical Bible passages inerrantists don’t take literally are framed and worded in a way where it’s clear the passage is not intended to be taken literally. That’s easy. But that leaves a massive amount of passages which are clearly framed as factual which are easily falsified and therefore require fierce avoidance or requires an insane or juvenile degree of denialism by inerrantists as well.

    So inerrantists effectively end up with the same conundrum literalists do, having to avoid or deny inconvenient facts which falsify their faith and beliefs or reveal the insane absurdity of holding such beliefs. And that’s where the smart ones, I kid you not, e.g., Albert Mohler, argue that they’re still right because the Bible is true, therefore the facts are wrong, because the Bible’s true. Somehow, they of course avoid digging into the underlying understanding of why those facts are supposedly wrong which is where avoidance or denialism comes in handy. They’ve got their circular argument to defend their determined ignorance.

    Mr. Mohler’s an interesting case study because he provides justifying arguments for why Christians should avoid testing the accuracy of biblical assertions. He gives them a moral out for denying the seeking of objective truth while simultaneously claiming they already possess objective truth, even when science convincingly falsifies their premises. So of course his blog doesn’t provide a comment thread. And others I’ve frequented (years ago and don’t recall) also moderate their comments. If there are some inerrantists who demonstrate they value free speech, please, I’d love a link.

  4. brucegee1962 says

    I got into an argument at a party once with a literalist.

    Him: “I don’t think it’s a good idea to study fiction. Fiction is all just lies. We should just study the Bible, because everything in it really happened.”

    Me: “But what about the parables? Didn’t even Jesus tell stories to make a point?”

    Him: “No. Those weren’t stories. If Jesus said that a king did something, that there really was a king who did what He said the king did. Jesus wouldn’t have said it if it wasn’t true.”

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    When it says in the book of Isaiah that the trees clapped and the mountains sang, no one actually takes this to be literally true.

    We can only pray that South Park will take inspiration from this vision and bring it to life in the majestic glory it deserves.

  6. tbp1 says

    And of course, what is lacking is any reliable way to determine which passages are to be taken literally, and which figuratively or allegorically, since Christians, even those using the same label (literalist, fundamentalist, whatever) frequently disagree among themselves.

  7. baal says

    Just because the trees don’t clap today, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have clapped in the past. Even that linguist Tolkien knew that the ents were a fading people and when they rest, they look just like trees.

    You have me on the mountain singing though.

  8. raven says

    All xians including the fundies are cafeteria xians.

    They never agree on what passages are literal and which are metaphorical. There is no way to decide except their ancient and effective practice of mass murder.

    It’s all just one Rorschach inkblot meaning whatever you want it to mean.

  9. kermit. says

    Bronze Dog and Michael Heath are right. There are tens of millions of US Christians who claim to be literalists, but who will deny the literal interpretation of anything which would make them change their behavior. They are often bright in some ways – they might be auto mechanics or engineers – but are crippled by their constant need to avoid introspection and compare any of their assertions to other assertionsof theirs.

    A bronze age goat herd could imagine that a storm god could make it rain until even the mountains were underwater, and he wouldn’t be stupid for doing so. But a modern Westerner would have to be very stupid, or simulate this, to believe in a literal global flood today. These people work very hard at being functionally stupid. Far harder than they would if they hadn’t been raised that way. I agree with you, Michael, that raising kids like this is child abuse.

  10. caseloweraz says

    Baal wrote: “You have me on the mountain singing though.”

    The hills are alive with the sound of music,
    With songs they have sung for a thousand years…

  11. zxcier says

    What about the third category, the Biblical science prognosticators who turn the vague language into ex post facto science predictions? Trees clapping, mountains singing – how did these so-called primitive nomads know about wind turbulence and plate tectonics? Science is only now catching up with the law put down by god!

  12. says

    Fundamentalism is really about the Bible as an idol, as the ultimate source from which all truth is derived. What is actually in the Bible isn’t so important. What’s important is the Bible as a symbol of unquestioned authority. It’s more like a magical talisman than a book. And it gives them the power of always being right about everything.

    Much of what fundamentalists believe, after all, has no real Biblical basis, or at least that basis is incredibly thin and contrived. And in many cases their beliefs cannot be squared with the straightforward teachings of Jesus. But that doesn’t stop them or even give them pause.

  13. jakc says

    I will guarantee that there are fundies who believe that mountains sing and trees clap because the bible said so.

    My favorite fun die (hmmm, autocorrect inserted that space. Think I’ll keep it) defense of inerrancy is “mistranslation”. God lets errors creep in later.

  14. peterh says

    Show me a fundamentalist who can clearly and simply distinguish between literalism and inerrancy.

  15. says

    Inerrancy will always be far more important than literalism one reason:

    It is much easier to defend (relatively speaking) since, where literalism fails, inerrancy allows any number of vagaries and tortured logic available to be used when you’re defending your position.

    A prime example of that is the Genesis Flood. Literalism requires you to defend the indefensible no matter how ludicrous it is. But if it’s only inerrancy you have to protect, that opens up a wide range of explanations and rationalization for you.

    Thus you get anything from interpreting the Flood as a localized disaster seen from the perspective of a primitive people, to it being a mythological morality tale with an important lesson about faith and God’s mercy.

    As long as you can find an explanation consistent with the overarching message of the Bible (as you/your pastor/your church/your denomination sees it) then you can claim that the doctrine of inerrancy remains intact (even as creationists join with the atheists to scoff).

    Why else is inerrancy so important? Because in the black and white world of the fundamentalist, it is the only thing that prevents their entire worldview from falling apart. It’s a vital crutch for their faith that allows them to resist any challenge to their beliefs unscathed. Kick it away and, they would argue, there is no basis for believing that anything in the Bible is true, even the Resurrection itself.

    If that was actually true, it would mean that many fundamentalists were living only a single step away from being an atheist at any time. Of course, in most cases, it doesn’t work like that, but it’s an interesting notion all the same.

  16. Michael Heath says

    tacitus writes:

    [Inerrancy v. literalism] is much easier to defend (relatively speaking) since, where literalism fails, inerrancy allows any number of vagaries and tortured logic available to be used when you’re defending your position.

    A prime example of that is the Genesis Flood. Literalism requires you to defend the indefensible no matter how ludicrous it is. But if it’s only inerrancy you have to protect, that opens up a wide range of explanations and rationalization for you.

    I don’t find inerrantists who would abandon as much as you claim they do, extending to the point they concede authorial error needed to abandon a global flood. After all, to both groups the Bible is the word of God where the presumption is that God is all-knowing. So both have to defend facts which are asserted as facts. That’s also why I argued above that from a public square perspective, there’s not much space between literalists and inerrantists. The latter merely spend more energy attempting to reconcile that which can’t be reconciled or making arguments to justify their avoidance of that which can’t be reconciled.

    I could be wrong because I stopped following their theological efforts to reconcile the Bible to actual truth several years ago. Do we know what inerrantist OECs argue when it comes to Noah’s flood? It seems their arguments would be every bit as absurd as YECs because they have to maintain the age when Noah supposedly lived since he was a human living in an era after we’d obtained agricultural practices.

  17. johnhodges says

    When the occasion arises, I try to get fundamentalists to read the teachings of Jesus according to the “plain meaning of the text”. What does Jesus say about accumulating wealth? About fighting evildoers? About following the Law of Moses? About actually having to FOLLOW the teachings of Jesus in order to be saved? Most of them don’t even know, and if they know, they instantly switch to non-literal interpretation to escape having to actually DO that stuff. See
    http://www.atheistnexus.org/profiles/blogs/the-ethics-of-jesus

  18. says

    Michael Heath,

    So inerrantists effectively end up with the same conundrum literalists do, having to avoid or deny inconvenient facts which falsify their faith and beliefs or reveal the insane absurdity of holding such beliefs.

    If it is so easy, please list 10 facts that I deny because I affirm biblical inerrancy along the lines of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

    tacitus,

    As long as you can find an explanation consistent with the overarching message of the Bible (as you/your pastor/your church/your denomination sees it) then you can claim that the doctrine of inerrancy remains intact (even as creationists join with the atheists to scoff).

    This is patently false. Defending inerrancy demands that you support your interpretation with evidence that an alternative definition of a word (the word ‘world’ is a good example) is plausible either by citing other uses in the bible or in non-biblical contemporary source. Or you demonstrate that such usage (such as numerical imprecision or ‘meaning-quoting’ rather than ‘exact-word quoting’) was acceptable practice in literature of the time and from that region (it’s ancient eastern literature, not modern western) or from that genre (apocalyptic, historic, poetic, etc.) Or that the way we use a word has changed even since we made a translation (a Hebrew word that the KJV translates as ‘evil’ would today be translated as ‘chaos’–but it was a correct translation at the time). Or that new scholarship, including older extant manuscripts and better understanding of ancient Hebrew and Greek shows that they made a translation which, in light of such advances, was obviously wrong–which is why the KJV is the least accurate scholarly translation.

    It is much more than “As long as you can find an explanation consistent with the overarching message of the Bible.” The explanation must be plausible.

    In fact, I find the dumbing down as usually occurring on the atheist or non-inerrancy side of these debates. Most people don’t really want to argue, or don’t want to do their homework, they simply want you to accept their interpretation (“bats are birds implies scientific error, end of story”) and summarily dismiss any counter-interpretation as willful self-deception. Most refuse to understand that you do not have to prove you are correct, an impossible standard, but only that your argument would be at least somewhat plausible to an intelligent, unbiased observer.

  19. Michael Heath says

    heddle,

    The link you provided goes to a Wikipedia page, please link us to the actual document you cite so we have the correct document and version.

    In addition I don’t know how you interpret all the biblical passages which have been falsified, either by science and/or because they contradict another biblical passage. So please provide us with your interpretation of the most obvious contradictions everyone but inerrantists/literalists know to be false yet you still believe to be true.

  20. says

    Michael Heath,

    Well the link to the document was in the “external links” section of the wiki page, but here it is.

    So please provide us with your interpretation of the most obvious contradictions everyone but inerrantists/literalists know to be false yet you still believe to be true.

    No, you are making the claim. The onus is on you to give me a list of the biblical passages which have been falsified, either by science and/or because they contradict another biblical passage.(*)

    (*) Most of the common “contradictions” I can address. There are a few (usually not the ones people come up with) that I have no satisfactory explanation for at the moment. That doesn’t shaken my affirmation of inerrancy as described in the Chicago Statement, because I allow for the possibility that I am just too dumb to figure them out. It would take a critical mass to rattle my stance–but your bravado suggests that you can easily come with, say, 25 of them.

  21. Michael Heath says

    Fine but I can’t start without knowing which standard you’ll be referencing. So I’ll need the version of the Bible I’m to use which makes certain factual assertions which are supposedly all true and supposedly don’t contradict assertions in other passages of that same version of the Bible. I prefer the Revised Standard Version but it’s your show, so which one am I reference?

  22. says

    Michael Heath,

    There is no “standard” bible–any translation can have errors. If you ask which I use, I think the best literal translations are the NASB and the ESV, with a slight edge to the ESV. I think the best paraphrase translation is the NIV. Any of these are starting points only. In many cases you have to go back to the Hebrew or Greek.

    If you are going to do this it will be great fun–but we’ll have to come back to this thread after it is dead. I say that because today I teach a class at 9:00, another at 11, then am giving a talk on the Higgs boson to public high school students (that should be fun!) at 1 and then off to Jefferson Lab after that–and then off for a romantic weekend with my hawt bride. I say that because failure to answer such questions immediately often results in claims of victory.

  23. dingojack says

    Geddle – Whar about Young’s Literal Translation? I find that helpful since it is closer to the original either Hebrew or Greek.
    Dingo.

  24. says

    DJ,

    Off to class right now– honestly don’t expect any time to play internets before Sunday evening. And then we have NASCAR from “exciting” Kansas speedway!.

  25. Michael Heath says

    heddle writes:

    There is no “standard” bible–any translation can have errors. If you ask which I use, I think the best literal translations are the NASB and the ESV, with a slight edge to the ESV. I think the best paraphrase translation is the NIV. Any of these are starting points only. In many cases you have to go back to the Hebrew or Greek.

    So to be clear. As a Christian you are claiming the Bible is the inerrant word of a God who has an impressive set of omni-powers. That your type of belief system asserts the Bible is objectively true as long as one properly interprets the word of God as its contained within an inerrant Bible. But that no one in Christiandom has even bothered to actually write an English translation which can be referenced as objectively true?

    First I reject your claim I have the obligation to prove you wrong since:
    a) I’m the one referencing what science understands and where,
    b) I also have no idea how you interpret certain biblical passages.
    So how am I to rebut that which you believe to be true if I don’t first understand what it is you actually believe and where you also won’t provide a document which makes factual assertions I can rebut? Where am I to start?

    I’m still willing to move forward and take the first initative, but I first need to understand whether:
    a) You’re going to dodge falsified biblical assertions or contradictions by claiming all English translations are wrong* or,
    b) You’ll defend that translation’s factual assertions.

    I’ll point to any one of the three translations you provide and start. But first I want to understand whether you’ll defend what I find to be false or contradictory as contained within those translations. If not, then I can’t start because I have no idea what you are defending. So perhaps a middle ground is possible if you won’t defend any one Bible’s factual assertions and apparent contradictions. I provide you with a theme which most people who’ve objectively studied the Bible accept as untrue, you explain how you reconcile these apparent falsehoods and contradictions to instead be true, e.g., the order of creation or certain claims about Noah’s flood.

    Can you appreciate the absurdly unfair position you’re expecting me to take here?

    * How hypocritical and unserious is it for inerrantists who speak English to claim certain truths which they themselves haven’t even bothered to translate into their own language? Especially given the enormous implications such assertions have on all of humanity rippling far beyond Christians and affecting all of us.

  26. peterh says

    “…In many cases you have to go back to the Hebrew or Greek.”

    In case you hadn’t noticed, there is no “back” to go to. There are so many instances of variance among manuscripts – no originals are available to us – that while the discussion can become increasingly scholarly (with luck) there can be no definitive resolution to the debates which began BCE and continue to this day. These variances existed in the oldest known manuscripts long ages before the problems associated with correct vs. incorrect translation ever arose. Inerrancy is a hybrid begotten of a red herring by a dead horse.

  27. says

    If it is so easy, please list 10 facts that I deny because I affirm biblical inerrancy along the lines of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

    Just to be clear, we are talking about the book with the unicorns, dragons, and sea monsters, right? And the talking snakes/talking shrubberies/talking donkeys? Sure we are.

    What a clever trick! By changing the rules and redefining “inerrancy” (and maybe then ignoring the redefinition anyways), you can make the bible “inerrant”. Funsies! That way, if there appears to be an error, you can chalk it up to pesky, feeble humans and discount it, because it’s the Word of God!

    The coolest thing about this strategy? It totally works for *any* book: the Quran, the Book of Mormon, the Bhagavad Gita, Dianetics, Altas Shrugged, or the Penthouse Forum. Declare it the Word of God, and you got yourself some USDA Choice Grade Inerrancy(tm). In fact, I’m pretty sure you can find apologists for just about any of those books using the same technique.

    I never heard of the “Chicago Statement”, but I don’t see how that it makes any of that hot brittle mess of garbage go away. Article XII really caught my attention. Let’s look at that, shall we?

    “We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit. We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creatio.n and the flood.”

    So, this statement explicitly states that’s inerrant, except… well… you know, where it makes testable claims, like in history or science or whatever. Oh, and that avoids it being falsifiable, because, well… er… the Chicago Statement says so, dammit. That’s a sweet, sweet loophole.

    I can see the utility. For example, the wincingly dumb genetics experiment by Jacob with striped goats? (Genesis 30:25-41.) That totally doesn’t count.

    Of course, there’s still another ace-in-the-hole available to the faithful: the “it’s a miracle” gambit. All the other blatantly silly tabloid stuff like zombie re-animation and virgin births (wink, wink) can be accounted for by a single go-to plot device. It doesn’t have to make sense, because… (deep breath)… “it’s magic!”

    In the end, this line of apologetics doesn’t seem to be all that useful. Unilaterally declaring a book as “inerrant*” only seems persuasive if you’re emotionally invested enough to ignore that little asterisk next to it.

  28. Michael Heath says

    joedelaney,

    I’ve known about the Chicago Statement for a long time. The real test here if heddle’s game is to consider a biblical factual assertion where we can convincingly and empirically falsify that assertion or point to an obvious contradiction. Then it’s up to heddle to create his own defense. Merely pointing to an article in that statement to claim a falsified fact or contradictory assertions are out-of-bounds and doesn’t count because that statement said so would be a pretty juvenile, unserious, and ridiculous way to defend inerrancy, so I’m optimistic heddle won’t do so.

    What I need from heddle to start is either have him point me to a Bible translation since he’s the one claiming the Bible is inerrant, and then I’ll start by finding a factually untrue statement (which will be easy); or else heddle starts by pointing to a popular passage that reasonable informed people claim is false and consider the cogency of his defense if it’s true.

  29. says

    Michael,

    What I need from heddle to start is either have him point me to a Bible translation

    You apparently did not read the Chicago statement. It claims only inerrancy in the original autographs. That is what I said I support. And yet you insist on having me choose a translation and defending the translation as inerrant. No can do. But I can assure you that there are not many times (none that I can think of, except in the KJV) where the explanation is “the translation is flat out wrong.” Rather the explanations sometimes require going back to the context, the genre and the Greek (or Hebrew). For example, there are tenses in the Greek that are not used in English, and statements, especially about ongoing action, lose some meaning when translated.

    I pointed out the type of problem you can run into in a discussion a while back. If you look at the qualifications for deacon in 1 Tim 3:8-11, the ESV gives:

    Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued,not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.

    While the NASB gives:

    Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.

    These two translations–both very good and very scholarly, both give acceptable translations of the Greek passage in isolation, yet send very different, conflicting messages. One (ESV) is used by those who want to deny the office of deacon to women and the other (NASB) by those who want to affirm it. (In this the internal evidence seems to favor the NASB.)

    That is an example of why why you can’t “pick a translation” to defend.

    joedelaney #33,

    You’re an idiot.

  30. Michael Heath says

    so heddle,

    Please then pick a passage most people think is factually incorrect and argue it isn’t. If you’re unwilling to do so, how about the most astonishing claims in Genesis 7 (Noah’s flood) we know could not have occurred and yet are claimed to have occurred.

  31. says

    Michael Heath,

    Well I probably won’t be back on until Sunday night lest I make Mrs. Calvinist very angry. But how about we go to a respected NT scholar like Bart Ehrman*. He is a former Christian, no friend of evangelicals, UNC prof, all kinds of creds, and writes numerous books about biblical contradictions. We could discuss some of his gotchas.

    ——————
    * Unless you are under the impression that FTB’s Richard Carrier has discredited Ehrman. Richard Carrier sure thinks so, he has said so many times–and Richard Carrier thinks very highly of Richard Carrier. And why not? He is a renowned author has avid fans world-wide. I know this because Richard Carrier tells me so right on the sidebar of his blog, named “Richard Carrier Blogs.” Oh, and he uses Bayes’ theorem, so he really knows his stuff. Only really smart people and average college students taking freshman probability use Bayes’ theorem.

  32. Michael Heath says

    I’d prefer waiting until you have time to address some of the most fantastical claims in Genesis 7, where I assume you know the set I refer to here.

  33. says

    Michael Heath:

    I’ve known about the Chicago Statement for a long time. The real test here if heddle’s game is to consider a biblical factual assertion where we can convincingly and empirically falsify that assertion or point to an obvious contradiction.

    We need to wait for nothing. Dude is claiming his favorite book of nonsense is magical because some silly document redefines the word “inerrant” to mean the opposite of the dictionary sense of the term (I guess this is that “sophisticated” theology folks are always talking about.) There’s no need to wait for Godboy to do a goddamn thing — he’s already shit the bed.

    It doesn’t matter what translation of the bible he picks — he could pick the October issue of Juggs Magazine as the inerrant Word of God, and his assertions would be equally ridiculous and tenuous (well no; I suspect Juggs has fewer weirdly neurotic stories about children eaten by she-bears for making fun of male pattern baldness.)

  34. ibyea says

    Plus, all the other stuff that did not happen: The two creation stories in Genesis (we know how the universe developed), Adam and Eve story (genetics prove two first humans isn’t possible), tower of Babel (we know how languages develop), Israelites slavery under Egypt (no evidence), the exodus (no evidence), Jesus (all stories told decades later after his supposed life by anonymous Greek authors), etc. The bible is so full of false history that I can’t take any claims in it with a grain of salt.

  35. says

    Man-child over here believes that a book with multiple friggin’ sea monster stories and unicorns is ‘inerrant’. Why bother pretending that this deserves some sort of even-handed discussion?

  36. dingojack says

    joe – I am certainly not supporting Heddle (he can fight his own battles) but ‘unicorns’? Show me the bible verse about unicorns!
    Dingo
    —–
    PS: I’d suggest getting a paper bag, placing it over your mouth and nose in an air-tight seal and breathing into that for a while (whilst consciously slowing your breathing rate). :)

  37. blf says

    Show me the bible verse about unicorns!

    The Pffft of All Knowledge lists quite a number.

    So does the much-less-reliable Answers in Genesis fruitcakes, who (predictably) assert the creature meant is a classical Unicorn and was a real animal:

    The absence of a unicorn in the modern world should not cause us to doubt its past existence. … Eighteenth century reports from southern Africa described rock drawings and eyewitness accounts of fierce, single-horned, equine-like animals.

  38. says

    Mical Heath,

    OK, when I get back.

    DJ,

    The unicorn issue is perhaps the dumbest of all biblical criticisms and only utter morons like joedelaney bother to bring it up. The Hebrew word, in all instances, is reym, which is most likely a type of ox. It refers to two-horned animals. The Hebrew word does not apply to a one-horned creature (except possibly a rhino) and never, ever referred to the mythical unicorn. The KJV (the only translation that uses unicorn) did not use the Hebrew here, they translated from a translation, the Septuagint. That uses an ill advised word in translating the Hebrew which the KJV translators translated into unicorn. Even so there is no indication, at all, that even they took it as the mythical beast, but rather a one-horned animal. But even if they did it doesn’t matter–in this case, trivially, the Hebrew does not refer to the mythical unicorn. No serious biblical critic brings this up. It is about the intellectual equivalent of asking “why then pygmies?”

    In this case you don’t need much scholarship to refute joedelaney–a third grader could do it.

  39. says

    Dingo:

    joe – I am certainly not supporting Heddle (he can fight his own battles) but ‘unicorns’? Show me the bible verse about unicorns!

    With pleasure. In the King James bible, there are nine references to unicorns. There are also races of giants, dragons, various sea monsters, and satyrs.

    Heddle can use the same song-and-dance, and say that those are *all* mistranslations too, and point to a super-duper Über-bible that has been conveniently lost, but if you read it, it would be completely accurate and amazing (except where scientific or historical facts might be involved.) The only problem is, nobody’s *seen* this set of documents, so it kinda falls into the same category as unicorns, sea monsters, and satyrs.

    Heddle:

    In this case you don’t need much scholarship to refute joedelaney–a third grader could do it.

    A third grader would do a better job than you. Unless there’s something wrong with the kid, they usually are savvy enough not to belive such silly shit.

    So your book is “inerrant”, except where testable scientific or historical facts are involved, in which case, the warranty is void. You don’t see a problem with how flimsy and dumb this sounds? I pointed out before that you could just as easily make the same claim about the Quran or the Book of Mormon, as millions of other people sincerely do (though usually without bothering with such a trivially redefined version of ‘inerrant’.) Again, you could also make the same claim about anything in print and have a similar outcome.

  40. dingojack says

    Really?
    Dingo
    —–
    Westminster Codex has:
    Deut. 33:17 – ‘רְאֵם֙’
    Isaiah 34:7 – ‘רְאֵמִים֙’
    Psalms 22:21 – ‘כֶּלֶב’
    Nombers 23:22 – ‘רְא֖ם’
    Numbers 24:8 – ‘רְא֖ם’
    Not a unicorn in sight.

  41. says

    Really, truly.

    “King James Version” != “New King James Version”

    (I guess King James found the unicorns to be a little awkward, too.)

    I’m curious what barnyard animals will be used to account for dragons and sea monsters. What translation will make the story of Jonah living inside a stomach for three days sound more plausible? It gets more complicated with easily identifiable but still magical animals: How about the talking snake? Balaam’s talking donkey was… what?

    All of it is a lot easier to deal with if the stories are treated as as Near Eastern Bronze Age folk tales. Then, all the hand wringing and need for excuses evaporates. Of course, the inerrancy also goes out the window, but you can’t have everything.

  42. says

    Michael Heath,

    Genesis 7 it is, although I have nothing unique to add to the standard OEC views of this chapter. It seems the critical issue is whether or not the flood was global. The relevant passages from some translations:

    18 And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. 19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. 20 Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered. (KJV)

    18 The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. 19 And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. 20 The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. (ESV)

    18 The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19 They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. 20 The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits. (NIV)

    Some, like the NIV, recognize that the message sent may not be the only interpretation possible, and add a footnote regarding v20: Or rose more than fifteen cubits, and the mountains were covered. That is important– it says (correctly) that the Hebrew is ambiguous–it can be interpreted as

    1) the water rose 15 cubits (~20 ft) and, as a result, covered the mountains or

    2) the water rose 15 cubits over the tallest mountain.

    Young’s Literal Translation, by the way, gives:

    fifteen cubits upwards have the waters become mighty, and the mountains are covered

    More on that anon.

    In any event, the passage as usually translated clearly looks like a worldwide flood. Alas there is no evidence for such an event. So inerrancy and OEC (which postulates a local flood in antiquity–say ~50ky ago in my view) are incompatible if there is no solution.

    There are two keywords in this passage: earth, and mountains. The word translated as earth is the Hebrew word ‘erets. Any biblical Hebrew dictionary will tell you that it has many meanings: the earth (i.e. the planet), dirt, people, the land, etc. For example, the same exact word is used in Gen 2:12: The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there. The same word is used in the next verse: The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush (Ethiopia).

    It is, in fact, interpreted as land in many, many OT passages.

    The word interpreted as mountain is the Hebrew word har. It may also be interpreted as hill or hilly land or mount. In fact the KJV interprets the same word as hills in v19 and then mountains in v20. You will find the word translated as {mountain, hill, hilly land, mount} seemingly will-nilly throughout the translations.

    Finally the phrase “that were under the whole heaven” is used idiomatically, not much differently than we do, to mean “under the sky” or “as far as the eye can see.”

    All that said, and verifiable, a translation that fits the Hebrew is

    The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly over the land (of Noah), and all the high hills as far as one could see were covered. The waters rose about 20 feet and covered the hills.

    To preserve inerrancy I don’t have to prove that this is correct. I may not even buy it. I have only to show that it is a legitimate translation–and it is.

  43. Owlmirror says

    Something I wrote in 2009, with a few minor edits here and there:

    [reposting because the original is still in moderation, presumably because of the multiple wikipedia links, which I am redacting in this version to text:]

    ———–

    The word “satyr” is used for the Hebrew sa’ir (שעיר). The word, as an adjective, can mean “hairy”, and the Vulgate translates it as such: pilosus. This is somewhat strange, because the word is used through the Old Testament, and while it sometimes refers to a place, Mount Seir (and always has the prefix that means “hill, mountain”), when it is used to refer to an animal, it means a goat (hircum). Why did Jerome use a different word when the Middle East had plenty of wild goats [wp:Wild_goat] that Isaiah was probably referring to as calling to each other in a desolate place? Well, perhaps he was unsure, and perhaps he meant something besides just “hairy wild goat”. Wikipedia (with, as ever, the eternal caveat) links pilosus to a “wild man” [wp:Wild_man] rather than a half-man, half-goat — which indeed includes the interpretation that the word “satyr” itself could also mean a wild man rather than a freakish chimera.

    On the other hand, the Septuagint does have the word ὀνοκένταυροι. This is not a word that I am at all familiar with, but it definitely does not mean “goat”. I see that Wikipedia does define onocentaur [wp:Onocentaur] as a mythical animal after all!

    Well, in that case, perhaps a tradition had arise that the word in this location did mean something stranger than a wild goat, and Jerome was just following that tradition. But I have no idea how this might have arisen, given all of the previous translations of the word as “goat”.

    But as noted above, Isaiah is a weird book and has some weird language. Perhaps over-imaginative translators, even centuries ago, read more into the text than was really there. Think of the apophenia and pareidolia and just plain pattern-seeking that goes into reading horoscopes and such.

    ———–

    The word “Unicorn” is used for the Hebrew word “re’em” (ראים), but this word has no reference to single horns. However, Jerome used monocerotis (Ps 92:10), which he appears to have taken from the Septuagint, which has μονοκέρωτος. Jerome also has, interestingly enough, rinocerotis (Num 23:22, Num 24:8, Deut 33:17, Job 39:9-10, Ps 29:6) (LXX: μονοκέρωτος, again). And he also uses unicornes (Is 34:7) where the LXX has ἁδροὶ, which appears to mean strong/stout men — here, Jerome might have been correcting what he thought was a mistake, using a word more in line with all of the other uses of re’em as translated in the LXX. There’s also one more instance of unicornium (Ps 22:21)(LXX: μονοκερώτων, yet again)

    Given the above use of rinocerotis, it seems plausible to speculate that Jerome actually saw a rhinoceros at some point in his travels, and had that in mind for all of his translations of re’em. After all, “rhinoceros” means “nose-horn”. As such, it definitely does not match the traditional unicorn, with a horn in the middle of its forehead, not anywhere near its nose. And while he does use “monoceros” and “unicorn”, keep in mind that these words had not been firmly attached to the mythical animal in the 5th century when Jerome was traveling and studying. Still, he should have stuck to the one translation of “rhinoceros”.

    Of course, while Jerome gets a pass on not intending a mythical animal, he was still wrong about the translation of the word. As best as I can tell, no species of rhinoceros has a natural range that extends anywhere near Israel, or even Egypt. Assuming that Jerome saw such a beast, it had no doubt been taken captive elsewhere and brought to a menagerie in the Mediterranean/Middle East. But perhaps he can be forgiven for not knowing that.

    More blame attaches to the translators of the KJV. By the time they were working, “unicorn” had its more mythical meaning, and rhinoceroses were better known as natural animals. But despite the fact that Jerome used rinocerotis more often than he used unicornes, they everywhere translated re’em as “unicorn”. Well, that’s their problem.

    Of course, modern scholarship suggests that Jerome, and the translators of the Septuagint, were simply wrong, and re’em is far better translated as “wild ox”, or aurochs [wp:Aurochs]. Presumably, the translators of the Septuagint lived in an area where there were no wild oxen, but the most impressive large horned animal that people would know of was a (caged) rhinoceros. Who can say?

    ———–

    [I also had a section on "dragon", but it needs work.]

  44. Owlmirror says

    @heddle:

    There are many problems that can be raised with your “translation”, but I’ll start with one point of Hebrew grammar.

    While you are correct that “‘rtz (ארץ, aleph-resh-tzaddi)” does indeed mean “land” or “earth”, there are different ways of conveying whether the term is meant in the general sense, or a more specific one.

    In Gen. 2:12, it says “ha’aretz hahih”, “that land”. It’s a specific land, not land in the general sense, or earth.

    In Gen. 2:13, it says “‘eretz Kush’. Again, the form “‘eretz”, with that vowel pointing, means a specific “land [of somewhere]” is being indicated. Similar usages are “‘eretz Yisrael” (the specific land of Israel) and “‘eretz Mitzraim” (the specific land of Egypt”).

    But the form used in Gen 7, like in Gen 1:1, is ha’aretz. THE land; land in general; earth, as in the solid surface that everything is on top of. If you’re going to argue that it means only the land of Noah, despite that fact that the grammatical form of spcificity is not used in Gen 7, then it is just as valid to say that in Gen. 1:1, God only created a small and specific land, not the planet Earth.

    Although, that having been said, I note that “Ha’aretz” is also used idiomatically to mean “the land of Israel”. But do you want to argue that God only created Israel, and only Israel was flooded?

  45. says

    owlmirror,

    despite that fact that the grammatical form of spcificity is not used in Gen 7, then it is just as valid to say that in Gen. 1:1, God only created a small and specific land, not the planet Earth.

    That (and the rest of your rebuttal) makes no sense. There is no way in which god creating only a small land in Gen 1 would ever be a reasonable interpretation. Just because ‘erets might be interpreted as land without specificity in Gen 7 (and that is perfectly valid, despite your ominous references to grammar) it does not imply that in all instances ‘erets without specificity must be interpreted as a small area of land and can never be interpreted as the entire earth. This is similar to another incorrect argument, championed by YECs, that since yom (day) when used ordinally everywhere else in the OT* refers to 24 hour days, its use ordinally in Gen 1 means Gen 1 must be referring to 24 hour days.

    Now if there ever was a exegesis (I can’t imagine what it would be) that required God only produced Palestine in Gen 1, the advocate of that position could indeed argue that the Hebrew supports it. Compared to modern English biblical Hebrew had a miniscule vocabulary and so the translations are often one-to-many. This provides for lots of wiggle room.

    ———–
    Which, while off topic, is not even true. See Hosea 6:2.

  46. Owlmirror says

    There is no way in which god creating only a small land in Gen 1 would ever be a reasonable interpretation.

    It would be as reasonable as saying that in Gen 7 only a small land is referred to as flooded.

    Indeed, it’s kinda appropriate to interpret Gen 1 as being about the God of Israel creating [only] the land of Israel. It’s mythic! It’s ethnotheocentric!

    Just because ‘erets might be interpreted as land without specificity in Gen 7 (and that is perfectly valid, despite your ominous references to grammar) it does not imply that in all instances ‘erets without specificity must be interpreted as a small area of land and can never be interpreted as the entire earth.

    Who said “in all instances”? Not I. But if you get to arbitrarily limit the scope of the word, why not anyone else?

    This is similar to another incorrect argument, championed by YECs, that since yom (day) when used ordinally everywhere else in the OT* refers to 24 hour days, its use ordinally in Gen 1 means Gen 1 must be referring to 24 hour days.

    It’s not so much the ordinality as the specific reference to evening and morning.

    But why do you care, anyway? You weren’t a day-age advocate, as I recall, because even if yom refers to “magically arbitrarily large period of time”, the sequence of described events in each “yom” does not match the findings of cosmology, geology, or paleontology.

    Have you changed your mind? Are you no longer an advocate of the framework interpretation?

    Compared to modern English biblical Hebrew had a miniscule vocabulary and so the translations are often one-to-many. This provides for lots of wiggle room.

    English has lots of “wiggle room” too. I could argue that Richard Carrier is inerrant, using standards similar to those of defenders of biblical “inerrancy” — and I would have better justification for doing so. I could argue that Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are inerrant, with only slightly worse justification.

    (“For Charles Lutwidge Dodgson so loved the world that he put a little girl into confusing, amusing, and alarming situations, that whoever believes in her will be able to cope with all the nonsense in the world.”)

    Heck, I could argue that I’m inerrant. It’s hardly my problem that you don’t accept the Internet Statement on Owlmirrorical Inerrancy.

    A completely off-topic question: Out of curiosity, what year did you convert/receive your regeneration?

  47. says

    Owlmirror,

    But if you get to arbitrarily limit the scope of the word, why not anyone else?

    I guess one man’s “using a legitimate alternative definition of a word” is another man’s “arbitrarily limiting the scope of a word.”

    It’s not so much the ordinality as the specific reference to evening and morning.

    Actually it is both–YECs make a big deal about the ordinality (and the evening and morning constuct)

    But why do you care, anyway? You weren’t a day-age advocate, as I recall, because even if yom refers to “magically arbitrarily large period of time”, the sequence of described events in each “yom” does not match the findings of cosmology, geology, or paleontology.

    I only care in an academic sense.

    English has lots of “wiggle room” too. I could argue that Richard Carrier is inerrant, using standards similar to those of defenders of biblical “inerrancy”

    Perhaps you can- I never claimed inerrancy a la the Chicago statement was an exacting standard! But seriously–that is why zeroing on the OT and creation accounts is not productive in this debate. Focusing on possible contradictions in the NT text is more stressful.

    what year did you convert/receive your regeneration?

    1998

  48. Brownian says

    I guess one man’s “using a legitimate alternative definition of a word” is another man’s “arbitrarily limiting the scope of a word.”

    Man, I forgot what a dishonest man Heddle is.

  49. says

    Brownian ,

    Man, I forgot what a dishonest man Heddle is.

    You are an idiot and a troll. There was nothing dishonest about that statement. It was lighthearted. And I did use a legitimate alternative definition–as even owlmirrow does not dispute. Not that you would know–your only skill is kissing PZ’s ass.

  50. says

    Brownian,

    And now that you have visited (and contributed nothing) why not go back to this chucklehead and brag about how you “verbally eviscerated” me. That should get you some of the only currency that you value– backslapping from the gang of idiotic prepubescents in the domain of, as Sam Harris called him, “that shepherd of Internet trolls PZ Myers.”

  51. Brownian says

    Not that you would know–your only skill is kissing PZ’s ass.

    When you converted because of your wife, did she demand you sacrifice your originality too?

    And now that you have visited (and contributed nothing) why not go back to this chucklehead and brag about how you “verbally eviscerated” me.

    You’re losing your touch. Go back to your smug pomposity. It’s the only game you have.

  52. Brownian says

    It was lighthearted.

    Man, I forgot what a dishonest man Heddle is.

    You have this to deal with:

    There is no way in which god creating only a small land in Gen 1 would ever be a reasonable interpretation.

    It would be as reasonable as saying that in Gen 7 only a small land is referred to as flooded.

    Can you do it without waffling, goal-post shifting, or any of your other assorted dishonesties?

    We’re all waiting.

    Watching.

  53. Owlmirror says

    I guess one man’s “using a legitimate alternative definition of a word”

    I disagree that it is legitimate based on the grammatical form used, as noted.

    I also disagree based on the narrative context in which it occurs. If a flood/disaster is local, you don’t tell those you want to save to build a boat (or shelter). You tell them to leave the local area; maybe get to ground higher than the flood peak. (Frex: Lot, told to leave Sodom rather than shelter anywhere in the city) The ark would not have floated to a mountain; it would have followed the floodwaters seeking lower ground.

    [more later]

  54. says

    Brownian,

    Can you do it without waffling, goal-post shifting, or any of your other assorted dishonesties?

    You are a miserable, pathetic creature. You can string together as many adjectives as you please; it doesn’t make them legitimate. The argument is whether land without specificity must be used the same way in Gen 1 and Gen 7. The answer is no. In Gen 1, given there is no known view of scripture that has God only creating Palestine, there is no reason to make the argument there. Nevertheless I added, at the end of my post, that it you did have a reason to make the argument in Gen 1 that the Hebrew supports it. And it does. Dipshit.

    joedelaney

    You are Brownian’s intellectual twin. Clearly separated at birth.

    Owlmirror,

    I apologize for mischaracterizing your argument, so I will re-characterize it as flat-out wrong. There is no grammatical issue here except one you are making up. There is no book of biblical Hebrew grammar that sets as a rule that which you are unilaterally imposing. Or if you know of one, please provide the link.

    Not to mention it is not hard to find counter-examples such as Gen 13:17 “arise, walk through the land” where the word is used exactly as in Gen 1 & 7 ( without any specificity– not “that” just “the”.) And yet it means something much, much less than the whole earth. Unless you think God was calling on Abram to circumnavigate the globe.

    If a flood/disaster is local, you don’t tell those you want to save to build a boat (or shelter). You tell them to leave the local area; maybe get to ground higher than the flood peak

    Sorry–arguments about what you would do if you were god may be relevant when debating god’s wisdom, but they are not relevant in discussions of inerrancy. At any rate, the flood could be local and yet much larger than the area of Sodom. It is not at all clear, just because you say so, that one method of preservation is obviously superior.

    The ark would not have floated to a mountain; it would have followed the floodwaters seeking lower ground.

    What does this mean? Are you saying that nothing that floats during a flood ever comes to rest on high ground as the waters recede? Really?

  55. Brownian says

    You are a miserable, pathetic creature. You can string together as many adjectives as you please; it doesn’t make them legitimate.

    I assure you that the feeling is quite mutual, and your statement is just as truthfully applied to yourself.

    You are Brownian’s intellectual twin. Clearly separated at birth.

    Look, if you’re not even going to try to come up with something approximating originality, drop the insult game.

    This is about as weak as quoting someone who is not me in a thread I’m not even participating in in an attempt to ‘gotcha’ me.

    Stick to tending to your own ego. It’s the only talent your God gave you.

    Not to mention it is not hard to find counter-examples such as Gen 13:17 “arise, walk through the land” where the word is used exactly as in Gen 1 & 7 ( without any specificity– not “that” just “the”.) And yet it means something much, much less than the whole earth. Unless you think God was calling on Abram to circumnavigate the globe.

    So then, you have absolutely no justification whatsoever for the claim “There is no way in which god creating only a small land in Gen 1 would ever be a reasonable interpretation”.

    Other than your own desire to avoid cognitive dissonance, of course.

  56. Brownian says

    Unless you think God was calling on Abram to circumnavigate the globe.

    I’m pretty sure Owlmirror doesn’t think ‘God’ ever called on anybody to do anything.

  57. Brownian says

    From the OP:

    the other is to reinterpret the passage as figurative or allegorical so that it no longer has to agree with the evidence.

    Thanks, Heddle. You’ve been more illustrative than we could have asked.

    Now, if you’d kindly head over to the fine art department, I believe they’re looking for some models for their drawing classes.

  58. Brownian says

    Oh, and one last thing, Heddle, since you claim to care about evidence.

    This comment:

    Not that you would know–your only skill is kissing PZ’s ass.

    I assume that’s an interpretation of scripture? Perhaps some of your vaunted theology?

    Because you can’t fucking support it any other way.

    As I said, you’re a dishonest man. A profoundly dishonest man.

    I hope your god rewards you well for your lack of integrity.

  59. says

    Brownian,

    Oh my god you are a moron. Sigh. Once again, what I wrote in #51 was

    There is no way in which god creating only a small land in Gen 1 would ever be a reasonable interpretation.

    Followed by, in the next paragraph of the same post:

    Now if there ever was a[n] exegesis (I can’t imagine what it would be) that required God only produced Palestine in Gen 1, the advocate of that position could indeed argue that the Hebrew supports it.

    Now a person of reasonable intelligence could infer that, taken together, I meant: Since nobody argues that God only created Palestine in Gen 1, to interpret it that way is unreasonable. Who would insist on an alternative translation that nobody advocates? It would be unreasonable. Yet, I allowed in the second paragraph that, if for some unforseen reason, someone wanted to argue for a limited creation in Gen 1, the Hebrew could not rule their view out.

    On the other hand, given that many Christians view Gen 7 as describing a local flood, it is quite reasonable for them to use the ambiguity of the Hebrew to support, legitimately, their interpretation.

    As I said, a person of reasonable intelligence would have understood, or at least accepted the clarification. But you don’t meet that standard, so for people like you I have clarified it again. I have no hope that you’ll grasp the concept.

    You continue to argue, stupidly, something along the lines that I am backtracking from saying it was grammatically impossible, when in the very post I made the comment I also added how it could be negated.

    This is about as weak as quoting someone who is not me in a thread I’m not even participating in in an attempt to ‘gotcha’ me.

    You almost make a relevant comment (accidentally) since you are not really participating in this thread in any manner beyond textbook trolling: Drop by, starting in #54, say nothing substantive, just deposit an insult bomb, step back. Unfortunately I am engaging in textbook troll feeding.

  60. Brownian says

    You almost make a relevant comment (accidentally)

    I take it back. It’s not just dishonesty. There’s something bigger gone wrong with you. You’re utterly incapable of responding honestly. You would scream bloody murder if anyone quoted someone else as if their comments reflected on you (and you have done exactly this). Yet you cannot even admit that you dishonestly referred to a comment by someone else on a thread I have nothing to do with and tried to tie it to me.

    Of course, it’s obvious what the issue is: you simply cannot abide from anyone else anything less than than the same sort of utter reverence for yourself that you hold for yourself.

    Unfortunately I am engaging in textbook troll feeding.

    No. What you’re doing is lying to yourself. You tell yourself I’m trolling and that you’ve no good reason to respond, and yet you cannot help yourself from doing so, because your enormous ego won’t let you.

  61. says

    What are you whining about? Are you talking about this?

    (To joedelaneny) You are Brownian’s intellectual twin. Clearly separated at birth.

    If so, grow some skin. That would make me scream bloody murder? Hardly. If so I would be screaming bloody murder continuously, given the number of derogatory “reminds me of heddle” type comments that peppered Pharyngula when I used to post there. You hang out too much with your homeboys. When you are not in the N in an all-out N on 1 (as you always are on Pharyngula) it appears you get your little feelings hurt.

    Of course, it’s obvious what the issue is: you simply cannot abide from anyone else anything less than than the same sort of utter reverence for yourself that you hold for yourself.

    Yes of course. It’s obvious. And this from someone demanding that the insults show some originality. Pot. Kettle. Black.

    No.

    Yes. It is textbook trolling. See what owlmirrow did? That was not trolling.

  62. Brownian says

    Oh, Jesus Christ. And you call me a moron?

    Pay attention, you fucking dipshit.

    I wrote this: “Yet you cannot even admit that you dishonestly referred to a comment by someone else on a thread I have nothing to do with and tried to tie it to me.”

    What could it have been in response to?

    Well, I can understand you’d have trouble following anything that isn’t masturbation over your god’s authority, but that’s why I quoted what it was in response to.

    You almost make a relevant comment (accidentally)

    See? See how I did that? I’ll put it all together, for the Calvinist in the class:

    You almost make a relevant comment (accidentally)

    I take it back…Yet you cannot even admit that you dishonestly referred to a comment by someone else on a thread I have nothing to do with and tried to tie it to me.

    Now, what was your comment in response to?

    I’ll go slow, since you’re clearly having a hard time following your own comments.

    It was in response to this (and here I’m charitably assuming you understand to communicate with other humans, though that is by no means obviously evident):

    This is about as weak as quoting someone who is not me in a thread I’m not even participating in in an attempt to ‘gotcha’ me.

    Why do I think that? Well, it’s a reasonable inference since, y’know, you quoted that part ‘n’ all:

    This is about as weak as quoting someone who is not me in a thread I’m not even participating in in an attempt to ‘gotcha’ me.

    You almost make a relevant comment (accidentally)

    Now, what is this “This is about as weak as quoting someone who is not me in a thread I’m not even participating in in an attempt to ‘gotcha’ me” all about? What could that be referring to?

    Think, Heddle. I know you’re not used to it, but think: what could you have possibly written that such a statement could describe?

    (Not that I can’t understand your difficulty. My statement actually describes two things, and compares them. The “as [blank] as” construction is typically used in that fashion. An advanced concept, I know.)

    The ‘this’ that begins the statement does refer to the joedelaneny comment I quoted. I called that ‘weak’; that’s all. It didn’t bother. It just showed a lack of creativity on your part. See, unlike you, I actually am self-consistent in that when I say I consider you miserable and pathetic, I don’t actually give a shit what you think about me, or anyone else. You love your evil god, because you’re an evil man, and that’s about it. I don’t care that I don’t rate with you, because I consider you a repulsive, terrible human being who prides himself on his ability to justify beliefs he admits he cannot justify to anyone else.

    But remember that “as weak as” construction, the one that I noted in English indicates a comparison, with the thing being compared to about to be mentioned?

    Well, the thing I was comparing to is “quoting someone who is not me in a thread I’m not even participating in in an attempt to ‘gotcha’ me.” You’d know that, because it came right after the “as [blank] as” construction.

    Again, think, Heddle. What could you have possibly written that such a statement could describe?

    Look, I don’t want to tax you too hard on something that’s not an attempt to justify your love of tyranny since that seems to be your only forte, so I’ll just answer:

    quoting someone who is not me in a thread I’m not even participating in in an attempt to ‘gotcha’ me” refers to this:

    And now that you have visited (and contributed nothing) why not go back to this chucklehead and brag about how you “verbally eviscerated” me.

    And that is the kind of thing you yourself scream bloody murder at, whenever you get lumped in with other Christians, whenever someone makes a comment about Christian belief that does not coincide perfectly with what you believe.

    (Of course, since it has nothing to do with me whatsoever, I know why you brought it up: it irked you, because you cannot abide any disrepect, you vain, vain man.)

    And even if that conclusion was too tough for you, a person of reasonable intelligence would at least be able to know which fucking comment I’m referring to.

    Hell, even a person of below reasonable intelligence who wrote the fucking comment should.

    So this:

    If so, grow some skin. That would make me scream bloody murder? Hardly. If so I would be screaming bloody murder continuously, given the number of derogatory “reminds me of heddle” type comments that peppered Pharyngula when I used to post there. You hang out too much with your homeboys. When you are not in the N in an all-out N on 1 (as you always are on Pharyngula) it appears you get your little feelings hurt.

    Is completely irrelevant, is hardly accurate, and just shows how fucking inept you are when the subject isn’t “What the Great Calvinist Heddle Thinks about Calvinism and God”.

    So fuck you, you fucking pompous asshole. Lose the attitude, or try a little harder not to be so fucking wrong.

  63. says

    Brownian,

    Oh, I see. Maybe it was obvious to everyone what you were whining about. Sorry I missed that–and of course the actual referencing of the offending comment would have been utterly superfluous wouldn’t it? Who does that? That’s for the weak-minded little people, not for intellectual giants like you.

    Well, I guess that’s it then–until your next drive-by trolling–which I have to try to ignore.

  64. Brownian says

    Sorry I missed that

    You should be sorry, lying fucker, since I described exactly what you wrote.

    and of course the actual referencing of the offending comment would have been utterly superfluous wouldn’t it?

    If you weren’t so busy trying to come up with clever ways to stroke your own ego, you might have been aware enough of exactly what you wrote to recognise it when described.
    But, since all you care about is defending your pretentiousness, you can’t even follow a simple line of comments.

    That’s for the weak-minded little people, not for intellectual giants like you

    Do you think this serves your point, dimbulb? Especially after all your exhortations as to what a person of reasonable intelligence would expect? You’re the most hypocritically oblivious person I’ve ever had the misfortune of encountering.

    Again, Heddle, call me a moron all you want. It’s not possible for me to care less. You’re actually bullshit, embodied in the form of a sycophant to a non-existent tyrant. There’s nothing admirable about anything you are.

    And if you can’t follow the conversation at hand, then shut up. That’s the advice you love to dole out, ain’t it?

    So follow it.

    Well, I guess that’s it then–until your next drive-by trolling–which I have to try to ignore.

    I’ll be sure to pop in to remind people what a disgusting liar you are whenever I feel like it. And you won’t be able to ignore it.

    Since you’re utterly incapable of mea culpas (other than the sarcastic kind), it’s pitifully easy to draw you into a situation like this where you’d rather eat your own foot than admit error.

    ‘intellectual giants’ indeed.

    I may not be one, but it doesn’t take much intelligence to tweak you into revealing your horrendous hubris.

    You’re a foolish and easily played man. You’re about as vain as they come.

    I’ll leave you with Owlmirror. Maybe there’s someone reading this thread who will be impressed by how well you can convince yourself that your version of Christianity is the true one and that you’re not actually a self-delusional prick.

  65. says

    Heddle, your bitter sissy tirades sustain me. They warm the inky black cockles of my godless heart. Go on, give us some more of that sophisticated theology. Tell us we’re mean poopyheads, and how if you ignore scientific and historical facts, the Lord of the Rings trilogy is totally accurate.

  66. dingojack says

    Owlmirror – concerning ‘onokentauroi’ see here.
    Nope, no mthyical animal there, unless gorillas, chimpanzees, bonoboes and humans are mythical.
    :) Dingo

  67. dingojack says

    I’m more interested in the magic chameleon donkey or the mysterious ruminating rodents. (I mean you’d think that when god was dictating the bible to humans, he’d at least know how the animals he designed and created worked, or he’d go look up the specs or something).
    Or why, when Peter asked an apparition of Jesus a perfectly good Latin question*, Jesus felt the need to answer him in a language that wouldn’t be invented for another 850 years; that Peter mysteriously understood even though nobody else in the whole world (at that time) would have?

    :) Dingo
    ——–
    * Where are you going slaver?
    Evidently Jesus’ disciples didn’t think much of him, but the feeling was clearly mutual since he thought of them as mere children

  68. Owlmirror says

    I apologize for mischaracterizing your argument, so I will re-characterize it as flat-out wrong.

    But it can’t be wrong, because I can’t be wrong. I’m inerrant now, because I’ve declared myself to be so on the Internet.

    Youll just have to accept it on faith that I’m right. But in case your obstinate and inherently anti-Owlmirror nature means that you have no faith, I’ll just have to keep arguing.

    There is no grammatical issue here except one you are making up.

    I hate relying on Wiktionary, but it’s easier than copying and pasting pages from a Hebrew grammar.

    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D7%90%D7%A8%D7%A5

    ‘erets is the singular construct form; ha’arets is the definite form.

    Not to mention it is not hard to find counter-examples such as Gen 13:17 “arise, walk through the land” where the word is used exactly as in Gen 1 & 7 (without any specificity– not “that” just “the”.) And yet it means something much, much less than the whole earth.

    Holy ignoring the narrative context, heddleman! The previous verses Gen 13:14-15 were all about specifying which land is being discussed!

    By the way, thank you for finding more support for the interpretation that God only created the land of Israel, since Israel is exactly what is being discussed in those verses, and referred to by ha’arets.

    Sorry–arguments about what you would do if you were god may be relevant when debating god’s wisdom, but they are not relevant in discussions of inerrancy.

    I acknowledge that I was positing what a typical sane, rational person would do in order to get vulnerable people out of the way of some imminent threat. I have no problem with you conceding that God, in the narrative, is insane, of course.

    At any rate, the flood could be local and yet much larger than the area of Sodom.

    The area doesn’t matter. The point is that there is no case where the time to physically travel out of the range of any local flood danger is greater than the time to construct a large ship (or its equivalent), from scratch, on land, in man-hours.

    Unless, of course, you’re positing magic shipwrights. Are you?

    Why, exactly, would a god need to save two (or sometimes 7) of every animal from a local flood? It’s not like any species are in danger of extinction (and God doesn’t limit the animals to just the rare ones, or mention an endangered-species preference; indeed, rather the opposite).

    It is not at all clear, just because you say so, that one method of preservation is obviously superior.

    The Internet Statement on Owlmirrorical Inerrancy says that my say-so, is so. If you don’t buy it, you’re just following your natural depravity.

    The ark would not have floated to a mountain; it would have followed the floodwaters seeking lower ground.

    What does this mean?

    That water seeks the lowest level, of course. How do we know that floods have occurred? By the patterns of deposition and the debris flows.

    Are you saying that nothing that floats during a flood ever comes to rest on high ground as the waters recede?

    Well, I wouldn’t expect it to, by and large. If a flood fills a basin, the currents will tend to push floating things to the edges of the basin; to the new higher coast of the lake or sea that the flood creates. If it fills a river valley, then of course floating things will follow the slope of the river valley to the sea.

    So, you’re basically positing that there’s some flooded basin that had a low hill called Ararat, and the ark snagged on this low hill, after a long period of time on the water, in preference to floating to and landing anywhere on the rim of the flooded basin?

    This is your theory?

    I’m pretty sure Owlmirror doesn’t think ‘God’ ever called on anybody to do anything.

    Owlmirror doesn’t, but Owlmirror is used to discussing contextual reality and trying to take fiction on its own terms, until suspension of disbelief is broken.

    Since nobody argues that God only created Palestine in Gen 1

    And nobody argues that God only flooded a small local area in Gen. 6-8.

    Some have argued that real floods (local river flood; Black Sea sill breach; Persian Gulf sea level rise) may well have inspired the stories, but not that the Bible narratives themselves directly and specifically refer to any of those local floods.

    On the other hand, given that many Christians view Gen 7 as describing a local flood

    I suspect that that many would view Gen 7 as being inspired by a local flood. I might be wrong, except for the fact that I cannot be wrong. Clearly, if Christians agree with you and not with me, then reality must be wrong.

  69. Aratina Cage says

    Mmmhmm. And where is slc1 and the good professor’s other defenders this time?

    Anyone?

    *shocked*

  70. Michael Heath says

    heddle,

    I’m late responding here where I recognize that if you haven’t subscribed to this thread I won’t be getting a response.

    My challenge was for the all the extraordinary claims in Genesis 7 taken into context. Your narrowing those claims to a description of some water and land misses the following passages in that same chapter, RSV, which I emphasize here:

    . . . 2 Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate; 3 and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive upon the face of all the earth. 4 For in seven days I will send rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” . . . 11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12 And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. 13 On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, 14 they and every beast according to its kind, and all the cattle according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth according to its kind, and every bird according to its kind, every bird of every sort. 15 They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. 16 And they that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in. 17 The flood continued forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18 The waters prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark floated on the face of the waters. 19 And the waters prevailed so mightily upon the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered; 20 the waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. 21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, birds, cattle, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm upon the earth, and every man; 22 everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23 He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the air; they were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark. 24 And the waters prevailed upon the earth a hundred and fifty days.

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