Friday, July 11, 2008

An Unnecessary Response Necessitated By Willful Ignorance

Apparently, Loftus finally got an expert to write something for his blog entry. Now the atheists think that because fifteen minutes have passed with no response from Triablogue, they’ve won. Since atheists cannot connect any logical dots and need everything spelled out for them, this post has become necessary. It is also necessary to practically re-quote everything Steve wrote in his original post, but since atheists don’t follow links…

First, what was Steve’s argument regarding Sargon?

1.Evan disregards the intertextual parallels between Noah and Moses: both are placed in an “ark” (tebah) waterproofed with bitumen.

2.”While certainly a folklore theme, the practice of placing a child in the river may have been a widely practiced form of abandonment, similar to the more modern practice of leaving a child on the doorstep of a house,” T. Longman, Fictional Akkadian Autobiography, 56.

3.Apropos (2), both Egypt and Mesopotamia were riverine civilizations.

4.Papyrus was a natural, Egyptian building material for rafts (cf. Isa 18:1-2). Wood was costly.

5.Evan confuses the date of Sargon with the date of the legend.

“Although set in the life of King Sargon of Akkad (2371-2316BC), the surviving fragments of the tale are Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian in date (7C-6C BC)…A further problem for those wishing to find a correlation between the Sargon legend and the Moses birth story is, as noted above, that the earliest surviving copies of the Sargon text date from Neo-Assyrian or later times. This factor, along with others, suggests that the legend may have been recorded by (or for) the late 8C Assyrian king, Sargon II, who took the name of his great Akkadian forebear and identified himself with that monarch. This possibility diminishes the case for the Sargon legend influencing Exodus because if we allow that J or E (usually dated to the 10C and 8C respective) is the source behind Exodus 2:1-10, and follow the traditional dating for these sources, both would predate the reign of Sargon II (721-705),” J. Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt, 136-37.

And that’s predicated on the late dating scheme of the Documentary Hypothesis. If we accept Mosaic authorship, the account antedates the legend of Sargon by many centuries.

6.”Exodus 2:3 contains the central elements of the Moses birth narrative that are so commonly compared with the Sargon legend. Yet we see [138-39] that this verse contains no less than six words used in Egypt during the New Kingdom…How is the presence of Egyptian terms in the narrative to be explained, especially if the motif was borrowed from Mesopotamia? This significant concentration of Egyptian terms militates against the Mesopotamian connection…Furthermore, it seems unlikely that a scribe during the late Judaean monarchy or the exilic period (or later) would have been familiar with these Egyptian terms,” Hoffmeier, ibid., 140.
So the core of the argument is:

1. There are parallelisms between Exodus and Genesis.

2. The commonality of placing infants in rivers is a more likely reason for the parallelism than having it copied from Sargon even if we discount 1.

3. The date of Sargon is after the date of Exodus given the J or E dating schemes (and Steve quotes Hoffmeier in support of this).

4. Exodus contains language that is consistent with New Kingdom Egyptian rather than Mesopotamian (which would be more likely if it were copied from Sargon).

Of these four main points, only point 3 has been attacked. Notice the importance in the argument: it’s not Steve’s first or second point. Even if Sargon was dated before Exodus, both points 1 and 2 would still stand. So all the work the atheists are engaged in is futile in the first place because even if they succeed in discounting 3, they’ve not proven their case.

I pointed this out to Evan repeatedly. The very first sentence (and the second one as well for continuity) of my first comment to him on Sargon was:

It's obvious Evan still hasn't gotten past the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Just because something happens after another thing doesn't imply that the second thing was based on the first thing or cause by the first thing.
Then, when Evan tried to keep the discussion sidetracked on the dating of Sargon and Exodus, I said:

No, that's not at all what the argument being advanced is. Firstly, you're still stuck in your post hoc mode. You really need to pay attention to what we're actually saying if you want to make a relevant comment.

1) The practice of abandoning unwanted babies in rivers predates both Exodus and Sargon, regardless of what dates you assign to either of them.

2) Therefore, the actual practice of putting children in baskets on the river is a much more likely source for having the same event in two different stories than having one story copied from another, especially given how Sargon getting put in a river is the ONLY link you've claimed between the legend of Sargon and Moses.

3) If the actual practice was going on, it would not be unlikely at all for both Sargon and Moses to have actually been put into a river at some point.

As you ought to be able to see from the above, this is true regardless of the dates assigned to the various texts.
All the italics were in the original, mind you. Evan should have been paying attention.

Once again, Evan tried to sidetrack from the issue, and I responded in my next comment:

You're still bound to your post hoc fallacy. You're still stuck thinking that because both talk about the same event then one had to be copied from the other.

Since you haven't paid any attention yet, I will repeat myself. The reason they both talk about the same event is because the event was fairly common in those times.


Will you PLEASE read that this time? Will you please get off your post hoc fallacy and interact with what's been said? Is that too much to ask?
Italics and bold were in the original. Evan did not read it and he did not interact with it.

So as you can see, my argument was consistently that Evan was committing a post hoc fallacy. Which is why I found it really funny that Loftus’s expert Avalos included me in his response.

The dating of Exodus and Sargon is irrelevant to my main argument. It’s only a tangential aspect that would provide more evidence, but the absence of which is not damaging to my position. So even if we grant Avalos’s claim that Exodus was written after Sargon this would not prove literary dependency.

Now if atheists really think that Evan’s getting the “upper hand” in the debate because he’s not answering something I’ve repeated multiple times, because he continually sidetracks, and because he thinks the date of Sargon and Exodus are the key aspect, then atheists are bigger fools than even I take them for.

But be that as it may, I can counter Avalos with the quotes Steve already provided from Hoffmeier. Now we have two experts disagreeing over a point that was not the main focus of Steve’s argument, and over a point that I’ve consistently pointed out is irrelevant to the main argument.

If that’s an atheist victory, God help ‘em in a defeat!


  1. What? It's been half an hour and Evan hasn't responded???

  2. For easy access to what Dr. Avalos wrote, click here.

    FYI I did not ask Avalos to respond to you. He was reading and sent me what he wrote.

  3. Evan is clearly in the right here. He's so right he doesn't NEED to respond to your points. Just give up.

  4. I forgot to include the answer to the specific questions that Avalos asked at the end of the post too. He asked:

    1. How do you explain the parallels between the Moses story and the Sumerian ana ittishu legal directives?

    2. What pattern of parallels from an Egyptian story is closer than the one from Sargon for the Moses story?

    3. Could you provide ONE text critical detail that would help you
    date the Moses story before the Sargon story.

    4. Are you able to read: A. Assyro-Babylonian; B. Hebrew?

    1. Is explained by the fact that it was fairly common practice for infants to be put into rivers in river cultures, as stated in Steve's original argument and repeated throughout by me. If there's another parallel to the Sargon story and Moses, what parallel is he talking about?

    2. Moses most strongly parallels Genesis, not any other source. Again, this was mentioned in the original argument by Steve.

    3. The fact that the correct Egyptian words are used is evidence for it. Not conclusive evidence, but evidence nonetheless. And even if it weren't the case that Exodus was written before Sargon, it doesn't matter to the argument.

    4 A.) No.

    4 B.) Yes, but I'm not a scholar in Hebrew.

    And as to the implications of 4, I am fully able to read those who've written about Assyrio-Babylonian and Hebrew without any problem whatsoever.

  5. Just because a scholar has credentials in an area, we assume their world view has been properly disposed of prior to evaluating evidence. In the case of Dr. Avalos my experience is he is very affected by his past with Christianity and thus tends to make rather hasty and unbalanced statements....just my two cents though. Not a critique of his arguments in this context but just an observation.