Sunday, September 07, 2008

Atheism au chocolat

Like a bullet-riddled gunslinger, Hector Avalos staggers forth to get off one final round before collapsing in the dust:

Sometimes amateurs don’t know enough to know they they don’t know enough.

i) One of the revealing things about Avalos is his lack of adaptive intelligence. He never learns from experience. He never learns from his own mistakes. If Hector were a caveman, natural selection would have weeded him out at an early age.

ii) Apropos (i) every time he reverts to this elitist appeal, he simultaneously discredits his fellow team members at DC, as well as the readers of DC. Who are the team members at DC if not a bunch of “amateurs”? Who are the readers of DC if not a bunch of “amateurs”?

Every time Avalos reverts to this elitist appeal, he makes himself a debunker of Debunking Christianity.

iii) As I’ve also pointed out, when you belittle your opponent as a mere “amateur,” you raise the bar for the level of your own performance. If Avalos performs this badly against an “amateur” like me, what does that say about the fatal weakness of his position?

To review briefly, I provided four irrefutable conclusions in my post of July 14, 2008 Moses is a Basket Case of Bad History:

I. There is no actual evidence that a Moses river-story was present in the seventh century BCE.

That assertion would only follow on two grounds:

i) Exodus doesn’t count as actual evidence.

ii) The Urtext of Exodus (or a 7C copy) didn’t contain a Moses river-story.

Avalos needs to explain why Exodus doesn’t count as actual evidence. He’s simply taking his liberal view of Scripture for granted.

He also needs to supply “actual evidence” that our extant MSS of Exodus depart from the Urtext (or a 7C copy) at this point. Demonstrate that the “Moses river-story” is a late scribal or editorial interpolation.

II. There is plenty of evidence that the Sargon river-story was present in the seventh century BCE.

i) This isn’t Hector’s argument, this is my argument. As I already pointed out to Avalos in a previous reply, I’m the one who drew attention to the dating of Sargonic source materials. Evan was unaware of that fact.

I did this before Avalos ever jumped into the fray. So this is not an “irrefutable conclusion” which I need to refute. This was a part of my original argument. I’m the one who introduced this argument in the first place.

Avalos is a Johnny-come-lately, parroting my argument as if it were his argument.

So this is another illustration of Hector’s lack of adaptive intelligence.

ii) Moreover, this would only be helpful to Hector’s case if a 7C date for the Sargon Legend antedated the “Moses river-story.”

Avalos needs to supply “actual evidence” to substantiate his relative chronology. He needs to supply “actual evidence” (not an argument from silence) that the “Moses river story” is later than the 7C.

III. Sargon’s presence in actual documents can be attested from the late third millennium BCE and far into the first millennium BCE.

i) Yet another illustration of Hector’s lack of adaptive intelligence. As I’ve pointed out on several occasions now, this appeal fails to distinguish between the historical Sargon and the literary Sargon.

Early, general evidence for the historical Sargon doesn’t amount to specific evidence for the literary Sargon (e.g. the Legend of Sargon).

i) Avalos pretends to be a minimalist, but he’s a selective minimalist. He’s a minimalist about the Book of Exodus, but a maximalist about the Legend of Sargon.

ii) One of Hector’s dilemmas is that an argument from silence cuts both ways. For example, he can’t simply posit that our extant MSS of Exod 2 diverge from a pre-7C MS of Exod 2. He needs “actual evidence.”

iii) Moreover, one of the scholars I cite (Millard) does make an effort to sift the evidence for Sargon.

IV. Moses’ presence cannot be found in any extra-biblical record before around 1-3 centuries BCE.

i) Which is only relevant under the gratuitous assumption that Exodus (or Exodus—Deuteronomy) doesn’t count as actual evidence for the life of Moses.

ii) Before we proceed any further, let’s make a general observation about Hector’s minimalism. There’s no historical record—at all—for most people who ever lived and died ever lived and die. History books focus on famous people, and other people who happened to be associated with famous people (e.g. family, friends, enemies). That’s a tiny subset of humanity.

According to Hector’s argument from silence, most people who ever lived and died never lived and died. The only people who exist are people who make it into the history books, who left some “actual evidence” of their passing.

According to Hector’s argument from silence, human history is characterized by blank intervals, long expanses of empty space when no one existed, to be punctuated at random by discrete human beings who pop into existence, appearing out of thin air, with no forebears. It’s a fascinating historiography.

So let’s examine the statements of each major respondent collected by Triablogue one by one, and see if they were able to refute my main claims enumerated above.

Of course, this is a classic example of someone who’s trying to dictate the terms of the debate. Avalos is attempting to limit the discussion to what he thinks is relevant, and to his arbitrary rules of evidence.

He [Hoffmeier] actually refuses to argue his side. He just declares that I am so “ideologically committed” that he does not to even want to offer evidence in his response.

That characterization is deceptive on three grounds:

i) Hoffmeier has argued for his side in his monograph.

ii) Hoffmeier doesn’t “just declare” that he won’t offer a reply. In fact, immediately on the heels of this statement, Avalos feels it necessary to interact with one of Hoffmeier’s responses.

iii) Hoffmeier also made the observation that “His [Hector’s] statements about the dates of biblical books as you know is theory, not fact. Something Avalos and many like him seem to forget.”

Avalos passes that over in silence.

Yet, in another statement, Dr. Hoffmeier agrees that the Sargon legend “may well be the earliest example of the expose[d] child motif.” That would mean that my claim about the Sargon story predating the Moses story has been vindicated by Triablogue’s own expert.

Now Hector is dissembling on two grounds:

i) He misrepresents his own position. Hector’s claim wasn’t limited to chronological priority. He made a claim of literary dependence.

ii) He also misrepresents Hoffmeier’s position. He quotes the first half of Hoffmeier’s sentence, but omits the second half. Here’s the full statement:

“Indeed the Sargon legend may well be the earliest example of the expose child motif, but that does not mean that Exodus 2 could not be completely independent. To ignore the clear Egyptian linguistic elements of Exodus 2 (one that does not fit a Mesopotamian setting) is sheer obscurantism!”

For Hoffmeier, chronological priority doesn’t imply literary dependence. And the whole point of arguing for chronological priority is to lay the groundwork for a claim of literary dependency.

Triablogue, of course, cannot tell you if this is true or not as they are just relying on Hoffmeier.

Once again, whenever Avalos makes this move, he debunks his fellow debunkers at DC, as well as the audience for DC. He also renders himself irrelevant in the process.

If we can’t tell you whether this is true or not since we are just relying on Hoffmeier, then we can’t tell you whether Hector’s argument is true or not since we are just relying on him. And Loftus can’t tell you either. Or Evan. Or Holman. Or Touchstone. Or Weimer. Or Winell. Or Daniels. Or Babinski. Or McCall. Or Tarico. Or Exapologist, &c. Or the average reader of DC.

Can Triablogue tell you whether this is true or not? No. They would have to know enough about Hebrew/Aramaic Jewish literature in the postexilic period to evaluate this claim.

Can John Loftus tell you whether Hector’s attempted rebuttal is true or not? Or Evan? No. Or Holman. Or Touchstone. Or Weimer. Or Winell. Or Daniels. Or Babinski. Or McCall. Or Tarico. Or Exapologist, &c. Or the average reader of DC? No, no, no!

They would have to know enough about Hebrew/Aramaic Jewish literature in the postexilic period to evaluate this claim.

Who is the target audience for Hector’s post? He disqualifies almost every reader in advance of reading his post. Hector must be pretty dense to keep recycling this elitist objection. He discredits his own potential supporters in the process. No one is allowed to agree with him who isn’t an expert—since only an expert can evaluate his putative evidence.

At best, we’d have to take his word for it. But when the experts disagree, why should we prefer his word over the word of another authority?

Thus, Dr. Hoffmeier’s efforts to restrict the knowledge of gome’ to pre-exilic Hebrew writings fails. Indeed, the use of gome’ does not preclude a Jewish writer of the post-exilic period from composing a story about Moses using that Egyptian loanword.

i) One of the problems with this attempted rebuttal is that Avalos is abandoning his own standards. Remember, Avalos is a “minimalist.” He demands “actual evidence” for his conclusions.

Now Hoffmeier cited no fewer than six Egyptian loanwords. For Avalos to question one out of six doesn’t get him where he needs to go. Avalos needs “actual evidence” for the late occurrence of each and every loanword.

As he himself tells us, This is the difference between rigorous history and wishful thinking. We minimalists will only declare something historical when we find actual evidence for it.

So let’s hold him to his own standard. Did he furnish us with “actual evidence” for the late occurrence of every Egyptian loanword in Exod 2? No.

Hector is only a minimalist when it happens to serve his immediate purposes. As I say, he’s a selective minimalist.

ii) It’s significant that we have a cluster of New Kingdom Egyptian loanwords in a text set in the New Kingdom period. Not just an isolated loanword that a later scribe might happen to know.

And while Egyptian loanwords may offer evidence of an Egyptian source or context, this does not make it a context of 1400-1200 BCE.

So is he conceding one plank of Hoffmeier’s case after all?

And it does not preclude also a Mesopotamian source that might have provided some preceding motifs for the Moses story. I have already offered evidence for Mesopotamian parallels that Triablogue does not address (e.g., the ana ittishu laws).

Is Avalos senile? I specifically addressed his appeal to Mesopotamian case law. I did so in some detail.

Hess states “The Sargon Story is as Avalos says.” And so how did Triablogue conclude that not one expert agreed with me?

Another example of selective quotation:

i) Notice that Avalos is misquoting Hess. He altered the original statement, which reads: “The Sargon story is generally as Avalos says” (emphasis mine).

Avalos pretends to be quoting Hess verbatim (see the quotation marks), but he edited out the key qualifier.

BTW, this raises the question of whether he’s a reliable source of information. When he’s quoting from the secondary literature, can he be trusted to accurately reproduce the material?

ii) And there’s a reason why Richard Hess introduced the qualifier. For, as he goes on to say,

“The form of the Sargon legend involves a first person intro and an epilogue that concludes with 1 of the 4: blessings/curses, didactic lesson, temple donation, or prophecy. None of this applies to the Moses story; so if there was a borrowing it was more general than Avalos would like to admit.”

There’s nothing wrong with selective quotation if your sampling is representative of the writer’s overall position or argument. But for Avalos to misquote Hess and then suppress the points at which Hess explicitly takes exception to Avalos, insinuating that Hess actually agrees with Avalos, says a lot about Hector’s lack of professional integrity.

I assume Avalos is banking on the expectation that most readers of DC will simply lap up whatever is put in their dog dish, lacking the independence of mind to compare the response with the original.

Moreover, Hess agrees that there is no historical evidence for Moses from his time outside of the Bible. What he offers is HOPE that one day we will find it.

That also skews what Hess actually said. He was critical of Hector’s selective appeal to archeological evidence. Critical of Hector’s sloppy argument from silence. Read the original.

In addition, I do not state that Moses did not exist. I do claim that there is no evidence for the existence of Moses from his time anywhere outside of the Bible. That is a true statement, and neither Hess nor Triablogue has offered us a single historical source to refute this statement.

That begs the question. For Avalos, lack of extrabiblical evidence is lack of evidence, period. He automatically discounts Biblical evidence. Why should we submit to his arbitrary rules of evidence? Speaking of which:

This is the difference between rigorous history and wishful thinking. We minimalists will only declare something historical when we find actual evidence for it.

Let’s see how long it takes for him to abandon this principle.

Hess also does not address my discussion, in, of the House of David stele, which also contradicts biblical history, depending on certain readings. In that book [The End of Biblical Studies], I also pointed out that King Arthur has inscriptions mentioning him, but no one considers Arthur to be the historical figure described by Medieval historians.

i) Didn’t take very long for him to abandon his principle, did it? You see, Hector’s demand for “actual evidence” is just a charade. He will not allow anything to count as evidence for Scripture.

If, say, we dug up an inscription from the Mosaic era which bore witness to the existence of Moses, he would automatically discount that evidence. This is his real rule of evidence:

a) If there’s no archeological evidence for the existence of Moses, then we have no reason to believe he ever existed.

b) But even if there were archaeological evidence for the existence of Moses, then we still have no reason to believe he ever existed since this might be equivalent to Arthurian inscriptions.

ii) And since he introduced the distinction between “rigorous history” and “wishful thinking,” we might ask ourselves where he himself ranges along that continuum.

Here’s a clue: Avalos is currently on a tirade against Helmut Koester because Koester pans his book on The End of Biblical Studies.

Now, who is Koester? A protégé of Rudolf Bultmann!

When even Helmut Koester is too conservative for Avalos, that's proof positive that Avalos a charter member of the lunatic fringe. Hector is so far left that we’d have to invent a new coordinate system just to get a fix on his locaton. And even then we’d need a stargate to make first contact.

Apparently Triablogue is now so ideologically committed that they cannot realize that Currid is refuting their notion that the Moses story preceded similar Near Eastern legends.

Once again, Avalos is misrepresenting my position and his alike:

i) Avalos denied the Egyptian background (e.g. allusions to Horus), but affirmed a Mesopotamian background (e.g. allusions to Sargon).

Currid does just the reverse. So Currid’s position is not the same as Hector’s.

ii) There is also a material difference between an Egyptian background for a story set in Egyptian, and a Mesopotamian background for an Egyptian story set in Egypt.

The implication of a Mesopotamian background is that Exod 2 is essentially fictitious. It takes a story about someone else, at another place and time, and transplants that to a different setting, with a different character, who reprises the same experience—only he didn’t really have the same experience. The whole exercise is a literary artifice.

That’s quite different from a story set in Egypt which may contain have some Egyptian motifs or literary allusions. That’s entirely consistent with a historical account. You’d expect a historical account, set in Egypt, and written for an “Egyptian” audience (i.e. the Exodus generation), to be “imbued with Egyptianisms.”

iii) I myself never took the position that the Sargon Legend couldn’t precede Exod 2. I was simply holding Avalos to his own standard. If he’s going to make that claim, then he needs to document that claim with “actual evidence.”

I also made the point, repeatedly, that chronological priority doesn’t imply literary dependence. Even if we concede the chronological priority of the Sargon Legend, this doesn’t imply that Exod 2 is indebted to the Legend of Sargon.

What Currid says, however, is that the Egyptian legends are more important than the Mesopotamian legends. Currid says that the author of the Moses story was using some common “motifs” found in other birth stories. But motifs imply literary, not necessarily historical, features.

i) Which misses the point. If Exod 2 is, in part, a polemic against some aspect of Egyptian mythology (e.g. Memphite theology), then it would have to allude to Egyptian mythology.

ii) Moreover, as a polemical allusion, it would involve a deliberate contrast between the factual character of Moses and the fictive character of Horus. Cf. J. Currid, Ancient Egyptian and the Old Testament (Baker 2001), 97, 102-103. Avalos can’t even track Currid’s argument.

iii) On a final note, it’s ironic that Avalos chides me for quoting the views of scholars who, to his own way of thinking, support his position rather than mine. Did he think I would screen them first and only post their replies if they coincided with my own views at every point?

I asked them for their opinion, and when they were gracious enough to respond to my inquiries, I posted them as is. It reveals a lot about Avalos, albeit unintentionally, that he finds this objectionable. But, of course, we see a lot of censorship on the far left, so his reaction is hardly surprising.

He [Allen Ross] apparently also sees the story of Moses may be drawing on at least some literary, rather than historical motifs, of earlier stories.

Several problems with this representation:

i) Ross was also critical of the alleged Sargonic parallels. Avalos passes that over in silence.

ii) An earlier story doesn’t have to be historical for a later, historical story to allude to it. For example, a biographer or war historian can include Classical allusions in his work, comparing a modern-day general to a Homeric hero.

I am not sure that he [Alan Millard] offers a strong endorsement of historicity…Fictional novels and folklore are replete with things that happen all the time. This does not make any particular incident in novels historical.

Avalos is being evasive. The question at issue is whether a common motif creates the presumption that a story containing such a motif is fictional rather than factual. Since these sorts of events happen in real life, their common occurrence in a historical narrative creates no presumption of legendary borrowing or legendary embellishment. You can’t cite that as evidence to cast doubt on the veracity of the account.

He [Tremper Longman] offers another weak endorsement of historicity…Just as with Millard’s comment, there is a difference between the occurrence of a general phenomenon (abandonment) and the occurrence of a specific instance of that phenomenon (Moses’ abandonment). Proving the general occurrence of a phenomenon does not constitute proof of the specific occurrence of a phenomenon.

Notice how Avalos is shifting the burden of proof. He was the one who cited certain allegedly parallel phenomena as presumptive evidence that Exod 2 is unhistorical. Of course, this argument is fallacious if such phenomena occur in real life.

Now he’s switching to a very different argument. He’s gone from a disproof of a specific phenomenon—based on alleged parallels—to the claim that all reported instances are suspect apart from proof.

But a report is, itself, a form of evidence—testimonial evidence.

The fact that people fly in jet airplanes does not mean that specific instances depicted in the movie, Airplane, actually happened. Comprende?

The general fact that people fly in jet airplanes, combined with a report of a specific flight, constitutes evidence that a specific flight took place. Comprende?

What in there disagrees with anything I have said about foundling wheels in the Middle Ages?

Unfortunately, Avalos is just as dimwitted as Evan—which is why I had to explain the relevance of foundling wheels to the issue at hand:

The fusillade from Triablogue’s Holy Moses post makes it all the more apparent that we are dealing with amateurs who are very ill-read even in the scholarship they cite. Triabloguers apparently are not even reading directly some of the scholars they cite for evidence. Just a few examples.

1. They cite Lewis through another source, and do not address the direct quote I have from Lewis where he leaves the Legend of Sargon’s composition open to a wider range of dates. Apparently, Triablogue writers cannot afford to buy the book or find a library with the book.

i) Other issues aside, how many members of DC own a copy of Lewis? Does Evan? Or Ken Daniels? Or John Loftus? Or Joe Holman? Or Ed Babinski? Or Exapologist? Or Harry McCall? Or Lee Randolph? Or Shygetz? Or Valerie Tarico? Or Chris Weimer? Or Jason Long? Or Marlene Winell? Or Touchstone?

How many readers of DC down a copy of Lewis? Avalos never misses a chance to debunk the Debunkers.

ii) And how would a "wider range of dates" prove the Legend of Sargon antedates the Book of Exodus?

2. Emanuel Tov is cited, but not directly, to prove that he has discussed the problematic nature of the Urtext.

A really dumb accusation since I give the pagination. How would I know that unless I own a copy of the book in question?

Triablogue is apparently unaware that, in The End of Biblical Studies (pp. 79-80), I already critique Tov’s change in his definitions of Urtext from the first edition of his manual to the second edition of his manual.

Why would I bother to read his fish wrap? After all, just consider one of the blurbs that his own publisher put out to plug his book: “I [Gerald Larue] highly recommend this book to the general reader as a readable and reliable guide to understanding the important results of biblical research."

To the “general reader”? Isn’t that a synonym for “amateur”? Why is Avalos writing a book for popular consumption when, by his own admission, we benighted amateurs are incompetent to evaluate his arguments?

3. Triablogue ascribes a belief to Cyrus Gordon, but it does not cite where he is supposed to have expressed this belief.

Where he is supposed to have expressed this belief? That’s a fine specimen of Hector’s self-reinforcing ignorance. Here are the citations:

C. Gordon, “Higher Critics and Forbidden Fruit,” ChrTod 4 (Nov, 23, 1959), 3-6.

C. Gordon, A Scholar’s Odyssey (SBL 2000), 80-81.

What? Why would the Hebrews living in Babylon be necessarily an allusion to the Documentary Hypothesis? We have plenty of evidence for Hebrews living in Babylon. Has Triablogue ever heard the Babylonian captivity or of the Murashu documents?

If Triablogue believes in the historicity of its own Bible, then surely it must know that Abraham comes from Mesopotamia, and that the Hebrews were taken to Babylon and they lived there (see 2 Kings 25, Ezekiel 1, Ezra, Daniel, etc.)

Is Avalos just playing dumb, or is he really that thick? Was I questioning the historicity of the Babylonian Exile? No. Rather, I was following up on his own referent.

When Avalos asks, “what is so difficult about hypothesizing that the Sargon legend became known in Palestine or among Hebrews living in Babylon?” what is his timeframe if not the Babylonian Exile?

And, of course, this would dovetail with the Documentary Hypothesis, which situates the final redaction of the Pentateuch in Babylon, vis-à-vis the Babylonian Exile.

And why cite Cyrus Gordon as an authority here?

Avalos likes to dismiss all of his opponents as right-wing zealots. I’m merely pointing out that Cyrus Gordon, who was, in his own generation, the doyen of comparative Semitics, rejected the Documentary Hypothesis.

Apparently, Triablogue is unaware that Cyrus Gordon thought the Hebrews (or Phoenicians) had made it all the way to North America, but perhaps Triablogue has not heard of the controversy over the Paraiba inscriptions that involved Gordon.

Actually, I own two of his works on cultural diffusion (Before Columbus; Riddles in History). But that’s beside the point. I’d add, though, that Gordon was a far more distinguished scholar that Avalos will ever be.

I already discuss why we cannot trust automatically what Tacitus and many other Roman authors have to say. What they say has to be checked against data from the actual time of the Roman empire. See The End of Biblical Studies, pp. 115-121 and 215, n. 34.

Notice how Avalos is giving an answer to a different question than the question I actually posed. Did I ask him whether he automatically believes everything Tacitus says? No. Rather, I asked him whether he is just as sceptical of Tacitus as he is of Moses.

This presumes that there is a stigma attached to Prometheus. I was just stating a simple fact that the publishers Triablogue regards as authoritative have also published some of my work.

I don’t regard “publishers” as “authoritative.” Some publishers are more reputable than others, but my main point was the ironic observation that while Avalos likes to flaunt his academic credentials, he didn’t publish The End of Biblical Studies through an academic publisher, whereas Hoffmeier did publish his monograph through an academic publisher.

Various well-known scholars have written for Prometheus, including Richard Freund, director of the Bethsaida Excavations, and Gerd Lüdemann.

Not to mention this scholarly tome:

“Engagingly written as a journal of fond memories, life experiences, lessons learned, and tragedies overcome, this is the story of the family that gave the world actress Jennifer Aniston. Written by her mother, Nancy Aniston, this tender, poetic, and charming memoir represents a healing exercise, and most importantly serves as an example of how to cope with and understand estrangement between parent and child. During the meteoric rise of Jennifer's popularity on the hit television comedy Friends, Nancy and her daughter had a misunderstanding imposed on them by a tabloid TV report,” &c.

Or this monument of sober erudition:

“This book is a must read for any true chocolate afficionado… The world loves chocolate and chances are—with most of the population saying their favorite flavor is chocolate—you do too. This enjoyable book will serve to deepen, not only your love, but also your understanding of chocolate. Some may think that chocolate is simply a treat, something that satisfies a sweet tooth. After reading this truly pleasurable and educational account by two leading dieticians, you will agree that chocolate is much more than that. You will discover it encompasses a culture, a cuisine, a treatment, and much more!... Replete with luscious photography and enticing recipes, this delightful, even mouthwatering, book will bring your appreciation for this gift of Mother Nature to a new level.”

I’m sure that Hector’s own book on The End of Biblical Studies fully measures up to the high standards set by these weighty titles.

Apparently, Triablogue doesn’t mind Christian presses publishing biblical scholarship, but somehow atheist presses cannot be respectable in biblical scholarship.

Well, if Avalos is any yardstick, then they can’t be very respectable in the field of Biblical scholarship. However, I’ll happily concede that atheist presses can be respectable publishers of books on boxed chocolates and Jennifer Aniston.

What we should divulge, of course, is that Hayes and Co. have published ZERO (count them) significant items, in any respectable press or peer-reviewed journal. Triablogue doesn’t count.

In that case, Debunking Christianity doesn’t count either. I realize that John Loftus is a slow coach, but at some point it ought to dawn on him that having Avalos on the team is a standing reproof to his own blog.

For the record, I've published in Evangelical Quarterly.

First, notice that Triablogue could not cite one piece of evidence for the existence of Moses even in the seventh century BCE.

Of course, that way of framing the issue already begs the question in his favor. His suppressed premise assumes that the composition of the Pentateuch was later than 7C, or that—even if it was earlier—our extant MSS don’t correspond to 7C MSS of the same. Given his tendentious assumptions, he then shifts the burden of proof.

My conclusion is not dependent on whether my view of scripture is liberal or not. It depends on whether we have any actual artifact with a Moses river-story from the seventh century BCE. There either is or is not an artifact from that century with a Moses Story.

Of course that depends on his view of Scripture. It depends on his dismissal Scripture itself as a historical witness to the life of Moses. And it also depends on his liberal dating-scheme for the Pentateuch.

This is no different from saying that we have no evidence for a Bill Clinton presidency story in the eighteenth century.

A stupid comparison since the story of the Clinton presidency is set in the 20C rather than the 18C. So naturally there’s no prima facie presumption that he was actually president during the 18C.

There either is actual evidence or there is not. The truth won’t depend on whether one is a liberal democrat or a right-wing zealot.

For Avalos, the record of Scripture never amounts to “actual evidence.” That does depend on his ideological bias.

Again, this shows how little Triablogue knows about Akkadian words and literature. My claim is that Moses and Sargon share a motif of seeing a luminous phenomenon (Akkadian word: nurum).

One of Hector’s problems is that, because he’s so conceited, and holds his opponents in such contempt, he makes a number of sloppy, unguarded statements. When we catch him in his own ineptitude, he then waxes indignant because he made a public fool of himself.

The word nurum, especially when used in omens and sacred literature, is quite specifically applied to divine phenomena. Thus, in the Enuma elish, the Babylonian creation story, we have a reference to the “nuru sha ilani” ("the light of the gods") in Tablet 6, line 148.

Avalos is now committing a standard semantic fallacy, of the sort James Barr discussed in his classic review of Kittel. In the text cited by Avalos, does the word itself carry a numinous connotation? No. It’s the combination of the word in association with the “gods” that carries a numinous connotation. The context is numinous, not the word all by itself.

You don’t write an omen text saying Sargon saw a nurum if that meant just ordinary moonlight. An omen text, by its very nature, suggests that there is something special and meaningful about what he saw.

Now he’s committing another semantic fallacy. It’s not the meaning of the word itself that carries a numinous connotation, but only when it occurs in a numinous genre.

This is even clearer in another omen also quoted by Lewis (Legend of Sargon, p. 139), which reads: “omen of Sargon who marched into the land of Marhas[h]I and (to whom) Is[h]tar appeared in a burst? of light.” Again, the word “burst” might be unclear, but not so the word for “light” which is the same Akkadian word (written here with the Sumerogram: ZALAG2) used in the omen I quoted before.

He keeps reiterating the same semantic fallacies. (As I say, he lacks adaptive intelligence.) In context, it’s not the word itself that carries a numinous connotation, but its explicit association with a divine apparition.

Thus, it is clear that both Moses and Sargon share a motif in which a divine being appears to them in association with some divine luminous phenomenon.

Instead of being an example of parallelomania gone astray, it is an example of the sheer and profound ignorance of Near Eastern and Sargonic literature exhibited by Triablogue.

This is a textbook case of parallelomania. Notice his lurid double standard. On the one hand, he demands a very specific parallel to prove Exodus, viz. It depends on whether we have any actual artifact with a Moses river-story from the seventh century BCE.

On the other hand, he contents himself with a very generic parallel to disprove Exodus, viz. Both Moses and Sargon share a motif in which a divine being appears to them in association with some divine luminous phenomenon.

Hector is Mr. Minimalist whenever it comes to proving Scripture, but Mr. Maximalist whenever it comes to disproving Scripture.

Yes, we need to differentiate writing in respectable scientific publications, such as Mercury: The Journal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, from sectarian creationist drivel. Here is another instance where Triablogue lack sufficient training to identify the difference. This is truly ironic because they otherwise extol the difference between Prometheus press and Oxford University Press, both of which include work of mine.

Once again, he made a sloppy, unguarded statement, and when he’s caught in his own ineptitude, he lashes out.

Avalos is not an astronomer by training. He’s not a professional astronomer. He is, in fact, an amateur.

We’ve now gone from a postmortem on Avalos to an exhumation of the corpse.


  1. Logic 101: Never think like Hector Avalos.

  2. On a somewhat related note, Daniel Block is editing a book due out in October defending the historicity of pre-exilic Israel.