Saturday, July 19, 2008

Weighing The Church Fathers

Jnorm888, an Eastern Orthodox, said:

"Those who came from John never held to your view of the Trinity. They held to the Asiety of the Father. So your reading of the Gospel of John is false. The Christians of the first 4 hundred years didn't hold to your interpretation of the Gospel of John in regards to these matters....You may claim to only use scripture, but that claim is false when your interpretation goes against the Christian interpretation of those that came from the Churches planted by the Apostles....If the people who learned from the Apostles feet were wrong, then the Apostles were wrong."

Papias was a premillennialist, and he apparently was a disciple of the apostle John. Are you a premillenialist? And if one generation must have the same beliefs as the one that came before it, then why don't you assume that later Roman Catholic beliefs you disagree with, for example, must have existed in the previous generations? How could one generation of Roman Christians contradict the previous generation?

There was widespread opposition to the veneration of images among the early patristic Christians. And they don't seem to have believed in praying to the deceased. Why does Eastern Orthodoxy venerate images and pray to the deceased? The early patristic Christians widely interpreted scripture as teaching a young earth (see here and here). They also widely held that Mary was a sinner in her behavior, for example. Why doesn't Eastern Orthodoxy require its followers to hold such positions?

The beliefs of post-apostolic Christians aren't as significant as you're making them out to be. They are significant, but they're only one line of evidence among others. You can't ignore arguments from the Biblical documents or evidence from non-Christian sources (what Josephus wrote about Christianity, what Celsus wrote, etc.), for example. And the relationship of the early post-apostolic Christians to the New Testament is more significant than their relationship to the Old Testament. It's not as if Papias was a disciple of Moses or Polycarp was a disciple of Isaiah. They may have heard an apostle comment on a passage from Deuteronomy or Isaiah that they discuss, but not necessarily, and they probably didn't hear apostolic commentary on every Old Testament passage.

And it's not as though post-apostolic Christians are the only Christian sources we could go to in order to get reassurance that our interpretation of an apostolic document is correct. If we want reassurance that we're interpreting Paul's view of justification correctly, for example, we don't have to go to what Clement of Rome, Hermas, or Cyprian said about the subject. We can consult Paul's companion Luke. Or his companion Mark. Or his fellow apostle John. Etc. The idea that we might be wrong in our interpretation of Paul and Luke and Mark and John, etc. is more dubious than the suggestion that we might be wrong in our interpretation of Paul alone. (And one Pauline document can give us reassurance of our view of another Pauline document.) Once we get to the early post-apostolic Christians, we've already gotten multiple lines of reassurance of our interpretation. If you're going to claim that we should keep looking for more reassurances until we get to a source you agree with, then why couldn't Roman Catholics, for example, do the same with regard to early Western sources you disagree with? If we want to know what the earliest Roman Christians believed, maybe we should keep looking for confirmation of our interpretations until we get to the earliest Roman Christians who agreed with Roman Catholicism.

You write:

"AND CALVINISTS are called CALVINISTS because they follow? end of story. Your view of scripture comes from Calvin & friends."

Why are Catholics called "Catholics"? Why does the Church of Christ call itself the "Church of Christ"? Groups don't always name themselves after the earliest source of their beliefs. Sometimes using the name of a later source, not the earliest one, allows them to better distinguish themselves from another group, for example. What if every group that considers itself Christian just called itself "Christian", with no further clarification?

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Grounds For Rationality

In comments on an earlier post, I made the point that theism holds the grounds to rationality. Paul C disagreed, and after giving links to some of the various posts I’ve written on logic (especially this one), I asked him to provide an atheistic backing for rationality. Paul’s response was:

1. Things are generally as I perceive them.
2. At my level of perception, the universe appears orderly.
3. If the universe is sufficiently orderly, then rationality is a useful tool.
There are several problems with this (I won’t be too nitpicky since Paul probably hasn’t taken much time to work on this, seeing as how it was a quick response in a comment field). Let us just examine his first premise.

It is impossible for us to know that things actually are as we perceive them to be. All we have is our perceptions. We do not have access to an unfiltered reality. That is, no matter what the objective universe is, we only perceive it filtered through the lens of our perceptions. So what Paul’s first premise boils down to is a simple faith statement. He believes that reality is generally how it is perceived.

Now I should point out that I agree with this premise. However, I have a reason for agreeing with it—a reason that Paul cannot have. My reason for agreeing with it is because God created the universe and He likewise created us to experience that universe, therefore He created us with the ability to perceive the universe as it actually is. Only because of sin do we sometimes err in our perceptions (and by this I include such things as degenerative eyesight and hearing, which would not have occurred without sin, not simply hallucinations brought about by such diseases as schizophrenia, etc.). But while this would also be an interesting path to go down, Paul inadvertently leads us directly back to the argument I made in the blog post I referenced earlier. Paul’s first premise, you see, is based on perception.

In the blog post I wrote (and referenced for Paul, but which I suspect he didn’t read), I stated:

I perceive, therefore I am. Even if I am nothing but a brain-in-a-vat—or even if I have no “brain” at all, it’s all simply mental hallucinations with no actual physical reality—I cannot doubt that I exist. I perceive things. Regardless of whether these things are real or not, perception occurs. Something perceives, and therefore there must be a “perceiving being.” Since these perceptions are “owned” by me, I am this perceiving being (by definition). I exist.

Now this doesn’t tell me that I exist physically, or that anything I perceive is real or not; but it does tell me that I do, actually, without a doubt, exist. I am whatever I am (as yet, undefined). I have identity. A is A (or in this case, I am me).

And if I exist, then it is the case that I do exist and do not non-exist at the same time and in the same relationship. If I exist (in whatever form I exist), I really do exist (in whatever form that may be), and the contradiction of this is not the case. Thus, my bare existence alone requires the law of Non-Contradiction.

Since I exist, logic must be valid.
So you see that both Paul and I start with perception; however, Paul’s argument requires us to accept our perceptions as valid, whereas my argument is correct regardless of whether our perceptions are valid.

Furthermore, (as I wrote in my original post), this leads to other important facts about existence. As I wrote then:

And since logic is valid, we can use logic to probe some other questions. For instance, have I always been here? It is possible that I am the only being that has ever existed, despite my perception of other beings. I do not have the self-awareness with these other beings that I do with my self; therefore, I cannot “prove” they exist in the same manner that I can “prove” I exist. So it is possible they do not exist at all and I am the only thing that exists.

But it is also possible that I have come from something else. After all, I perceive a world that functions in a specific manner, and if my perceptions are accurate then this means that I have come from my parents.

But where did they come from? Perhaps they’ve always been here; perhaps they had parents too. And if they had parents, their parents may have had parents too. This chain can go back for a very long time.

But it cannot be infinite. At some point, something must have existed without being derived from previous existence—otherwise, we are stuck in an infinite regress with no chance of ever escaping to begin logic in the first place. Thus, the fact that I exist demands that somewhere there must be a self-existent being.

I might be that self-existent being, of course. So, too, could my parents, etc. But whatever the case may be, logic requires that whatever or whoever the self-existent being is must be the cause of my own being. If it were not the cause of my own being, my being would never existed (for we would be back to the infinite regress).

So, the fact that I exit proves the necessity of some object with self-existence that caused my existence. This object could not have been created by anything else (for the same reasons of the infinite regress). The "first" object to ever exist must be self-existent.

If an object is self-existent, it is a necessary object. It holds the power of its own existence, and therefore nothing can keep it from existing. If nothing can keep it from existing, then it always has existed.

Some problems arise when we include time. After all, time is measured by physical objects that move. Thus, one pendulum swing on a clock = one second. One rotation of the Earth = 1 day. Etc. These physical processes define the length of time.

But we’ve already shown that a necessary, self-existent object must always exist. If this is the case and if that object is physical, then we have an actual infinite of time. If time extends an eternity backwards, it would take an eternity for the past to have gotten here. Thus we must conclude that time isn’t eternal, but instead it must have begun at some point.

So how do we reconcile this apparent tension of an eternal self-existent object in a temporal time frame? Logically, this is satisfied by either jettisoning our definition of time (in which case we have no meaningful way to speak of time) or by acknowledging that the self-existent necessary object is immaterial. Since time is measured by physical objects, an immaterial object would not cause time to exist co-eternally with itself. This immaterial object must still exist in such a way as to provide the basis for my own existence, however. (After all, remember that the self-existent object is a logically necessary requirement due to my own existence.) Thus, in order to stay rational, we must acknowledge an immaterial self-existent necessary object that can cause my own existence.

It is important to note that due to the necessity of the immaterial aspect of this object, it is impossible for secular science to speak meaningfully about this object. If science is limited to the physical world only, then science cannot speak to this. As such, we have demonstrated a necessary being that extends beyond the limits of science. Thus, the fact of my existence proves that science cannot answer the questions of something that necessarily must be true!

Other attributes can be logically deduced from this same being. For instance, omnipresence (all existence derived from this self-existent source must come from this self-existent source, so the source must be omnipresent--there is no existence outside of the existence of this self-existent [object]); omnipotence (all power is derived from existence, so all power flows from the self-existent source—without that source, there is no power); and immutability (since logic is immutable, the source of logic must be unchanging as well).

Thus far, the only real difference between this object and God Himself is that we’ve yet to prove any kind of consciousness in this object. But that too is simple enough to deduce. After all, this entire time we’ve been using logic. Logic works because existence is based on laws, and laws imply a law giver.

Why is it that “nature” acts the way it does? We can give a list of reasons, but these reasons are likewise subject to the same question: Why do these reasons act the way they do? Once more, we cannot engage in an infinite regress here. At some point we must reach the level where we are left saying, “That’s simply the way it is.”

And at that level, laws will still exist. And again, laws imply law givers, so the very aspect of the “law-giving” (i.e. the consciousness) must be necessarily basic to this object as well. This law giver must be the same self-existent, immutable, omnipresent, omnipotent, atemporal being I have already demonstrated must exist. This being fits the definition of “God.”

But even if someone does not like the above, we can always turn the tables and use some empirical evidence (which, following induction, cannot be known for “certain”). Assuming that our perceptions are valid, that we see the world as it really exists, etc. we know the following. All consciousness we have ever observed has come from previous consciousness. There is no evidence that consciousness can come from non-consciousness. Since I am conscious, whatever the source of my being is would logically be conscious as well, for we have no warrant to believe consciousness could have ever come from non-consciousness--there is no proof, no evidence, no observation of this ever.
Now all of this follows regardless of whether we agree that our perceptions are valid. This means that even if we grant the entirety of Paul’s first premise and agree that our perceptions really do accurately represent reality, then the above follows. That is, the existence of anything necessitates the existence of something that is self-existent, eternal, omnipresent, etc. In other words, all the attributes that we commonly ascribe to God.

Thus, as soon as Paul uses his first premise, he is granting to the theist that God really does exist.

Now that I’ve demonstrated this for Paul once again, I would be happy to allow him to try again at demonstrating how rationality can occur without the existence of some kind of diety…

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The delusive hope that God will save everyone

“Gregory MacDonald” has done a 4-part response to something I wrote. I already replied to part 1. This is just a mopping up operation.

I waited for him to complete his miniseries, as well as waiting for commenters to weigh in.

MacDonald said that I had leveled an exceptionally serious charge against him.

I pointed out that “there are no exceptionally serious charges in universalism. Universalism trivializes every evil. If universalism is true, I could flay you alive with a penknife, say three Hail Marys after I die, or do 1000 hours of postmortem community service, then head for heaven. In universalism, all is forgiven since all are forgiven.”

MacDonald’s comeback is to say:

“My view is that there is no forgiveness except through the atoning death of Christ and heart-felt repentance and faith on the part of the sinner. This forgiveness comes at the cost of Christ's death on the cross. There is no trivializing of evil in that. The sinner is ashamed at what they have done and repudiates it. There is no sense in which their evil ‘doesn't really matter’."

But, of course, that misses the point. If no matter what I say or do in this life, I’m heavenbound, then there are no serious charges. There’s no danger in my saying or doing anything whatsoever. Hence, universalism trivializes evil.

MacDonald’s comeback is irrelevant since it fails to address the question of what would constitute an “exceptionally serious charge” given the outcome.

Rachel said...
“What I am getting from his arugement here is that forgiveness pre-mortem is called ‘grace’ and forgiveness post-portem is called ‘trivializing evil’."

You can always count on Rachel to pipe in with some clueless comment. Rachel doesn’t follow the logic of the argument or pay attention what people mean. She simply reacts.

The point at issue is what would qualify as an “exceptionally serious charge” given the outcome. Invoking universal postmortem salvation underscores my point, not hers.

I also don’t have any considered position on “post-portem” forgiveness. Is that a tertiary type of forgiveness in-between postmortem forgiveness and postpartum forgiveness?

“I think the bigger problem here, though, is that he seems to be in fact trivializing Christ's work on the cross. If there is some subset of people that absolutely have to suffer for their sins, then does he think Christ's sacrifice wasn't enough to take away the sins of the world?”

Once again, Rachel is incapable of accurately representing the opposing position. Is Hell predicated on the assumption that some people “absolutely have to” suffer for their sins? No.

Rather, it’s predicated on the fact that every sinner deserves damnation, and God gives some people what they deserve to illustrate the gratuity of grace.

And, of course, it would be asking too much of Rachel to actually study the connotations of “kosmos” in Johannine usage.

Back to MacDonald:

“I must confess to being somewhat surprised that Steve, who does not know me at all, feels so confident in his analysis of my inner life as to be able to make such claims.”

My observation wasn’t based on his inner life, but on his public statements.

“The revelation of God as triune - Father, Son and Spirit - is far more fundamental to my faith than universalism was, is, or ever will be. It is the heart of my Christianity and I would surrender universalist theology any day before surrendering trinitarian theology…I hope that helps.”

No, it doesn’t help. As MacDonald made clear in the first chapter of his book, if God consigned any sinners to everlasting judgment, such a God would be unworthy of worship. Therefore, if the Trinity were to consign some sinners to everlasting judgment, then MacDonald would deem the Trinity to be unworthy of his worship.

Jason Pratt said...
“Ah; I see that Steve has upgraded to calling you (in effect) an intentional murderer who by accident fails to murder.”

One can count on Jason Pratt to misrepresents his opponents. Pratt is a philanthropic universalist on paper, but in real life he resorts to underhanded tactics when dealing with his opponents. Abstract love for everyone combined allied with selective love in action.

What I did was to present an argument from analogy. Pratt pretends that analogy is identity. Pratt knows better, but he says it anyway.

Pratt espouses his back-patting brand of universalism because that’s so much nicer than the “Satanic” doctrine of everlasting punishment, but, in practice, Pratt’s commitment to nicety is purely theoretical—to be suspended whenever he must deal with somebody who doesn’t endorse universalism.

Josh said...
“I'm beginning to wonder if a Christian Universalist beat up Steve on the playground in grade school.”

I take it that Josh is still on the playground in grade school since he can’t muster an actual argument for his position.

Anonymous said...
“Bobby. While I probably stand somewhere between your position and Gregory´s on the trinity, I think Steve are nonetheless wrong to assume that universalism always or logically comes with other heresies (like anti-trinitarianism), and I understand why Gregory can be orthodox on some points and "heretical" on others.”
Of course, I never took the position that Lundström imputes to me. Apparently, Lundström relies on the filtered version of my position he sees on MacDonald’s blog it rather than mousing over to Tblog to see what I actually wrote.

Back to MacDonald:

“A doctrine of the unity/integrity of God's attributes: God is a unity in perfect harmony with himself. Consequently God's justice must be compatible with his love. All God's actions are loving and just. His love is a just love. His justice is a loving justice. So I claim that all God's acts of just punishment of sinners - including Hell - must be compatible with his love. And God's merciful treatment of his people - inclusing forgiveness and salvation - must be compatible with his justice.”

Of course, I already addressed this argument in my initial review of his book. MacDonald doesn’t believe in the unity of God’s attributes. Rather, he ranks them. He treats them as asymmetrical. He begins with his definition of love, then subordinates the other attributes to the priority of love.

“I suspect that this is where Steve and I disagree. It seems to me that any doctrine of Hell that is incompatible with God's love for the ones punished falls foul of the theology of divine integrity. I imagine that Steve solves that problem by arguing that God does not love those in Hell (except in the weaker sense of having shown them common grace in this life). But my problem with this move is that it is, to my mind, fundamentally problematic (see my post on ‘Calvinism, the Trinity, and God's Universal Love’).”

To begin with, there’s such a thing as exclusive love. The monogamous ideal of marital love is a paradigm-case. And that analogy is used in Scripture for God’s redemptive love.

Moreover, to love good is to hate evil. Therefore, God’s love for sinners, any sinners, is unexpected. It’s not something we can simply infer or deduce from the attribute of love.

Furthermore, love is not the only consideration. Justice is a divine attribute as well. Indeed, the exercise of justice is necessary in a way that the exercise of mercy is not.

(Yes, MacDonald tries to get around that, but I’ve addressed that move in my review.)

“It would be very interesting to hear Steve himself answer your argument about God´s unity. To me, this is one of the strongest arguments for universalism.”

I already did—in my initial review. Once again, Lundstöm acts as if MacDonald’s blog is the only source of information about my position.


“Further, it too often seems to be the case that these models always appeal to some kind of apostasy and yet the church seemed to do an adequate job with issues much more sophisticated as with Christology and the Trinity. Therefore isn’t this an a forteriori reason for thinking that the church was reliable in ‘word of mouth’ teaching during the same period?”

Did the early church do an adequate job on these issues? Is there no room for improvement?

Certain aspects of so-called Nicene Orthodoxy haven’t gone unchallenged by some Reformed theologians, beginning with Calvin. Calvin initiated a corrective when he defended the autotheos of the Father, Son, and Spirit alike.

Some Reformed theologians have followed his lead and taken his seminal insights to their logical conclusion.

John Frame, The Doctrine of God, 707-19.

Paul Helm, Calvin’s Ideas, 41-57.

Benjamin Warfield, Works 5:189-284.

Traditional (i.e. patristic, scholastic) formulations of the Trinity tend to be prejudicial to the Spirit.

They begin with the Father. Indeed, they regard the Father as the fons deitas. He is the “first” person of the Trinity in a strong sense.

You then have the Father/Son relationship. Because fatherhood and sonship are correlative, the binary relationship seems to be fundamental.

Since, by contrast, “spirit” isn’t correlative, the Spirit seems to be tacked onto God. But that’s is a consequence of how patristic theology has framed the doctrine.

And that also gave rise to the famous controversy over the filioque. The Latin formulation is just a modification of the Greek formulation. It’s operating with the same framework.

Yet, in application to God, fatherhood and sonship are metaphors. Of course, they stand for something—something eternal.

But we still need to unpack the metaphors. For example, both fatherhood and sonship are multifaceted metaphors, and we need to determine, from Scripture, what elements are analogous or disanalogous with the divine nature.

In human affairs, as Scripture depicts it, underage sons are subordinate to their fathers. But adult sons are not (especially when they start a family of their own), although grown children retain a lifelong obligation to honor their parents.

Among other aspects of the paternal/filial metaphor which Scripture applies to the Father/Son relation, we have notions of mutual honor and affection, as well as hereditary authority.

Those are not distinctively divine traits, although the Trinity is the exemplar of the human exempla.

And, of course, the “Son of God” is a divine title in the NT. One might ask why that is. I suppose it plays on the natural inference that fathers and sons are two of a kind. That would dovetail with the notion of consubstantiality.

Metaphysically speaking, there is no “first,” “second,” or “third” person of the Trinity. We can retain that convention as a convenient way of denoting the persons, but it’s not as if the Trinity is actually structured in a numerical series.

Metaphysically speaking, there’s no reason to begin with the Father, or begin with the Father/Son relation, and then try to integrate a “third” person (the Spirit) into that binary relation.

The Father is no more primary than the Son or the Spirit. You could just as well begin with the Son and the Spirit, and then relate the Father to that twosome.

I think that patristic theology makes two or three related mistakes.

i) It’s concerned with preserving the unity of the Godhead. And that’s a valid concern.

But it treats the Father as the unifying principle. And it grounds the unity of the Trinity in the Father by treating the Father as the fountainhead of the deity. As Timothy Ware puts it, summarizing the Cappadocians, there is one God because there is one Father. The “monarchy” of the Father.

But that’s implicitly unitarian.

ii) It underwrites (i) by seizing on the wrong aspect of the paternal/filial metaphor. “Generation” is a sexual metaphor—a metaphor for sexual reproduction.

Of course, the church fathers don’t apply this literally to the Godhead. But they do focus on that aspect of the paternal/filial metaphor, and simply try to reapply it more abstractly to the Godhead. The Father is the source and origin of the Son. And they analogize from that to the Spirit.

Latin theology modifies this model by claiming that the Father is the source of person, but not the nature, of the Son and the Spirit. But it’s moving within the same framework. Both sides reify metaphors.

iii) It’s also a mistake to treat the names of the Trinitarian persons as if that were our only or primary source of information about them, and then erect a whole edifice atop that slender foundation. The names are significant, and they’re a source of information. But most of our information should come from what the Bible ascribes to God in general, and the persons in particular. Not just what it calls them, but the attributes and actions it ascribes to them.

For example, traditional theology treats “spiration” as a distinctive property of the Holy Spirit. Yet not only does this substitute a paraphrastic description for a genuine explanation, but I hardly think the Bible calls him a “spirit” because that’s his distinctive property. All three persons of the Godhead are spirits; what is more, there are creaturely spirits as well as divine spirits.

The early church did a pretty good job on the Trinity. But it also made some missteps along the way. Some midcourse corrections are in order.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Holy Moses!

(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.)

Hector Avalos tries to repair the many blunders he made in his first response.1 This is in answer to my initial reply.2
First, Triabloguers admit they really do not have the knowledge to judge which scholar is correct about anything they discuss.
I made no such admission. I simply responded to his Avalos on his own grounds by pointing out that his elitism was self-refuting—given the popular constituency of his target audience (readers of DC).
Triablogue's main defense is that it is addressing a lay crowd.
Wrong again. I pointed out that DC is addressing a lay crowd, and that Avalos is addressing a lay crowd when he has Loftus post his response at DC. Hence, his elitism is self-refuting.
However, the authors should at least be honest and up-front with readers about the tentative nature of their conclusions and the level of their expertise in making judgments.
I'd suggest that Hector redirect his strictures at Evan, a blogger at DC who initiated this debate.
Yet, Triablogue repeatedly issues pontifications that do not warrant the level of certainty that they offer to readers. Thus, they mislead readers into thinking they are offering solid information.
I'm sorry that Hector feels so easily duped. I clearly overestimated my opponent.

But for other readers not as gullible as Avalos, how did my post on the Sargon legend offer something short of "solid" information? In three (#'s 2,5-6) of my six points, I cited two well-credentialed scholars. On point #1 I drew attention to intertextual parallels between Noah and Moses. That's easily documented in the standard exegetical literature. On point #3, I pointed out that Egypt and Mesopotamia are both riverine cultures (a point also made by Alan Millard). And, on point #4, I mentioned papyrus was a natural Egyptian building material for rafts—which I can also document.
Their next defense was that the bloggers on Debunking Christianity are vulnerable to the same charge of lack of expertise to judge my arguments.
Wrong again. Notice what a poor reader Avalos is. This doesn't inspire confidence in his mastery of ancient texts.

What I did, rather, was to point out that his dismissive elitism disqualified the very audience he was targeting. Loftus posted his response at DC. But since I daresay the average reader of DC doesn't know Hebrew or Sumerian or Akkadian, then the average reader of DC is in no position to independently verify information from secondary sources, including Hector's own response.
This is a bad argument because the fact that others also are vulnerable to my objection does not invalidate the objection itself against Triablogue.
To the contrary, it's a perfectly good argument when I'm responding to Avalos on his very own grounds. That's how he himself chose to frame the debate. When I respond to him on his own terms, that's a good argument, not a bad argument.

It says something about Hector's grasp of logic, or lack thereof, that he can't follow the implications of his own argument, and—even worse—that after you have to point it out to him, he still fails to register the point.
And there is one BIG difference between DC and Triablogue. DC knows and is humble about its limits, while Triablogue is not.
Let's remember that Triablogue didn't initiate this debate. DC did. In particular, Evan is the one who started this debate, and continued to defend his position. Obviously Evan isn't "humble" about the "limits of his expertise."
If Triablogue were as wise, they might have Dr. Hoffmeier to guest post on their behalf.
At some point I might well email a few OT professors I know. But for the time being I think it's useful for readers to see how badly an expert fares in a match up with a layman.

By his own, modest admission, Avalos has every advantage in this debate. If he maunders so despite his superior expertise, what does that say about his position?
It is important to show that one is able make expert judgments about the issue under discussion.
Which instantly disqualifies the target audience for Hector's two responses.
My arguments are not meant to be arguments from authority. None of my arguments are of the form "because I say so."
So is Avalos now conceding that one doesn't have to be an "expert" to evaluate the quality of his arguments, or the secondary sources he refers the reader to?
If Triabloguers had read The End of Biblical Studies, they would realize that some arguments are based on simple logic, and they don't require more than a good logical mind to examine them. No other expertise is always required.
Avalos is trying to ride two horses at once. And they're galloping in different directions.

This is his conundrum: on the one hand, he wants to disqualify Triablogue from debating the issue. But, on the other hand, he doesn't want to disqualify the readers for DC from following the debate. So he lurches back and forth between two contradictory standards: one standard for Triablogue, and another standard for DC.

But a double standard is a double-edged sword. That's his problem. And having backed himself into that dilemma, there's no face-saving exit.
Triablogue makes it appear as though I have one book ("the book") that is relevant.
Whatever possessed me to single out that particular title? Hmm. Let me think about that for a moment. Ah, yes, now it's coming back to me now.

It had a little something to do with the fact that Avalos himself was the culprit who singled out that particular title of his. Funny how I get blamed for following his lead. Oh, well, life unfair.

Humiliated by the fact that I merely drew attention to the publisher of his book, Avalos then proceeds to cite a number of other, tonier titles in an effort to bleach out the stigma of this particular title.

I empathize with his acute embarrassment. Common humanity demands no less. Indeed, it was out of compassionate concern for his reputation that I only mentioned one such title.

Since, however, he repays my discreet loving-kindness with this resentful outburst, I'm now compelled to divulge the further fact that he's published no fewer than three—count 'em, three!—titles with Prometheus Books! Oh the shame!

Whether the stain-remover of his other literary associations is strong enough to wash away the indelible odium of this association remains to be seen. Only the cleaners can say for sure.

If that doesn't work, I'm happy to lend him a pair of wraparound shades to conceal his true identity whenever he has to go outside.
I don't see anything comparable from the authors of Triablogue.
True, I've never had a title of mine published by Prometheus Books, much less three titles by Prometheus Books. But perhaps he can put in a good word for me so that when I submit a defense of the Resurrection to Prometheus Books, they'll accept it for publication.
Apparently, they disregard the fact that I have also published my views on Intelligent Design in a very respected astronomical journal—"Heavenly Conflicts: The Bible and Astronomy," Mercury: The Journal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (1998).
And there's less to that than meets the eye.3
I also have a formal degree and graduate work in anthropology, which is the center for the study of human evolution. Intelligent Design and evolutionary theory are the issue.
I see. So if a tenure track position opened up at MIT or Caltech to teach evolutionary biology, and Avalos listed his BA in anthropology on the application form, he'd be a shoe in for the job, right?
In fact, I have written extensively on science and religion.
So has Ken Ham.
Since Triablogue cannot win the credentials game, then it should focus on refuting the actual evidence I presented (again, none of it has to be accepted on my authority—they can check my sources if they can read them).
And the same standard applies to the scholars I've cited as well.
In deciding whether an Egyptian or a Mesopotamian origin for the Moses wet-nurse was more likely, I cited a parallel with the Sumerian-Akkadian ana ittishu legal texts. The parallels are:

1. A foundling
2. Raised by a wet-nurse
3. Until weaned
Actually, there is no parallel since Moses never had a wet-nurse. His mother nursed him, both before and after the incident in question. This is just one example of how careless Avalos is. And he's careless because his comparisons are driven by his infidelic agenda.
The fact is that one need not treat foundlings the same way in all cultures.
I never said otherwise.
Thus, it is clear that the Triablogue authors have no experience in analyzing the complexities and diverse options available in ancient Near Eastern law.
i) To the contrary, I merely answered Avalos on his own grounds. He gave an example, and I commented on his example. Now he's trying to do a patch-up on job on his prior performance.

ii) In the meantime, he disregards an obvious feature of Exodus. The narrative isn't driven by legalities. To the contrary, it's driven by illegalities.

Jochebed is breaking the law. And the princess is also breaking the law. Both of them are violating Pharaoh's infanticidal edict. So this is countercultural.

But Avalos isn't attempting to read the account on its own terms. Rather, he's trying to impose an extraneous framework on the account. Understanding the account on its own, in terms of intertextuality and narrative flow, would undermine Hector's infidelic agenda.
In fact, they show that they have not read the Legend of Sargon carefully at all. In the Sargon legend, Sargon is not given over to a wet nurse but he is adopted.
I didn't affirm or deny that. I merely answered Avalos on his own grounds. Apparently, that's a novel experience for him.

This is how it works, Hector: you give an example; I comment on your example. Try to remember that for future reference. Since, however, he broaches the issue, readers might like to see exactly what all the fuss is about. Here's a standard translation of the Sargon legend:
Sargon, the mighty king, king of Agade, am I.
My mother was a changeling, my father I knew not.
The brother(s) of my father loved the hills.
My city is Azupiranu, which is situated on the banks of the Euphrates.
My changeling mother conceived me, in secret she bore me.
She set me in a basket of rushes, with bitumen she sealed my lid.
She cast me into the river which rose not (over) me.
The river bore me up and carried me to Akki, the drawer of water.
Akki, the drawer of water lifted me out as he dipped his e[w]er.
Akki, the drawer of water, [took me] as his son (and) reared me.
Akki, the drawer of water, appointed me as his gardener.
While I was a gardener, Ishtar granted me (her) love,
And for four and […] yeas I exercised kingship.
The black-headed [people] I ruled, I gov[erned];
Mighty [moun]tains with chip-axes of bronze I conquered,
The upper ranges I scaled,
The lower ranges I [trav]ersed,
The sea [lan]ds three times I circled.
Dilmun my [hand] cap[tured],
[To] the great Der I [went up], I […],
[…] I altered and [..].
Whatever king may come up after me,
Let him r[ule, let him govern] the black-headed [peo]ple;
[Let him conquer] mighty [mountains] with chip-axe]s of bronze],
[Let] him scale the upper ranges,
[Let him traverse the lower ranges],
Let him circle the sea [lan]ds three times!
[Dilmun let his hand capture],
Let him go up [to] the great Der and […]!
[…] from my city, Aga[de…]!4
And that's it, folks!

Subsequent scholars have refined the translation, rendering enitum as priestess, viz, "My mother was a priestess."
However, there are also other parallels in adoption that show that the Sargon legend was related to laws of the ana ittishu series. So, it is the fact that BOTH the Moses and Sargon stories take different options that are both found in the ana ittishu legal series that is a good argument for a Mesopotamian, rather than Egyptian, parallel here.
Notice the facile assumption: Exod 2 must have a parallel somewhere—the only question is whether it's Egyptian or Mesopotamian. But Avalos never bothers to justify his operating assumption.

Real life events don't require literary parallels. Indeed, every historical event is, in some degree, unique.

Moreover, the behavior of Moses' mother and Pharaoh's daughter is extralegal and, indeed, illegal. Subversive. Seditious. So why would we even expect to find a parallel in Egyptian law?

Once again, Avalos isn't actually reading the text before him. Rather, he's comparing one text to another text under the facile assumption of literary dependence.

The princess didn't seek out a wet-nurse for the foundling because Egyptian law mandated that she do so. Quite the opposite, she was breaking the law by trying to spare a Jewish foundling. Avalos isn't even attempting to read the account in context.

She wants the founding to survive because she takes pity on it. Her maternal instincts kick in. And a foundling can't survive without a wet-nurse.

Avalos is also blind to the dramatic irony of the situation. Pharaoh tries to implement a policy of infanticide against Jewish man-children. Pharaoh's daughter rescues a Jewish man-child, and not just any Jewish man-child, but one who will grow up to one day challenge Pharaonic oppression. That's the providential motif.

Extrabiblical literary precedent isn't driving this story. Rather, the circumstances are driving the story. But Avalos can't be bothered with exegesis since that would scuttle his infidelic agenda.
Hypothetical legal situations do not lessen literary parallels between those laws and some later text. Rather, it is the FORM and CONTENT of laws that are more important in establishing literary dependence.
Once again, he misses the point, although I already explained it to him. Real world events don't require literary parallels. To the contrary, literary or legal parallels, if there are any, tend to be dependent on real world events. To the degree that history repeats itself (the infinite variety), that—in turn—gives rise, both to case laws and stock plot motifs.
Thus, Hammurabi's laws about an eye for an eye are quite verbally similar to those in Exodus 21:22. Many scholars doubt whether Hammurabi's laws were applied in real life, but the form and content of Hammurabi's laws are so similar to some in Exodus that most scholars do see some literary relationship.
Is Avalos claiming that the lex talionis didn't apply in real life? For example, was no one ever executed for murder, either under the Mosaic law code or Hammaribi's law code? Is that Hector's position? If not, then what becomes of his argument?
Otherwise, Triablogue offers nothing but rhetoric to dispute the parallel between Moses and the ana ittishu laws. They could not find a better Egyptian parallel for all their boasted knowledge of Hoffmeier's writings. The reason, of course, is that Hoffmeier also does not have a better parallel.
Notice that Avalos can never think outside his box. He keeps assuming that there must be a literary or legal parallel somewhere, and if no one can't unearth an Egyptian parallel, then we default to a Mesopotamian parallel.

At best, that assumption would only follow if you presume that Exod 2 never happened. Is that logical? No.

9/11 doesn't require a legal or literary parallel. Even if it happened to have a legal or literary parallel, that would be incidental to the event, which can stand on its own.
Whether the Moses story is historical or not will not detract from the fact that the Moses story matches some directives found in those Sumerian-Akkadian laws.
Disingenuous since the point of alleging these parallels is to cast doubt on the historicity of "the Moses story."
In judging literary dependence, one must address these parallels listed by Lewis (The Sargon Legend, p. 255):

I. Explanation of abandonment
II. Noble birth
III. Preparation for exposure
IV. Exposure
V. Nurse in an unusual manner
VI. Discovery and Adoption
VII. Accomplishment of the hero
Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that this is accurate. Avalos takes the position that if Exod 2 were independent of the Sargon Legend, the sequence would be different.

Really? What alternative sequence would be available to the narrator? Suppose we reverse the sequence:

I. Accomplishment of the hero
II. Discovery and Adoption
III. Nurse in an unusual manner
IV. Exposure
V. Preparation for exposure
VI. Noble birth
VII. Explanation of abandonment

Is that a viable sequence? No. That would be a thoroughly anachronistic sequence. For that would put later events before earlier events.

Let's try a different sequence:

I. Accomplishment of the hero
II. Noble birth
III. Discovery and Adoption
IV. Nurse in an unusual manner
V. Exposure
VI. Preparation for exposure
VII. Explanation of abandonment

Is that a viable sequence? Only if this is a legend about the hero’s prenatal accomplishments.

Let’s try another sequence:

I. Explanation of abandonment
II. Noble birth
IV. Exposure
III. Preparation for exposure
V. Nurse in an unusual manner
VI. Discovery and Adoption
VII. Accomplishment of the hero

Is that a viable sequence? Does it make sense for the exposure to take place before the preparation for exposure? Only if Exod 2 is literarily dependent on Through the Looking Glass.

Let’s try yet another sequence:

I. Explanation of abandonment
II. Nurse in an unusual manner
III. Noble birth
IV. Preparation for exposure
V. Exposure
VI. Discovery and Adoption
VII. Accomplishment of the hero

Does it make sense that the hero was suckled before he was born? No.

We can keep ringing the changes on the order of events. But even assuming that the parallels are exact, the reason they follow a certain order is because the sequence in question is a realistic sequence. If this were a real series of events, then that's the chronological order in which they would occur.

It says something about Hector's deficient powers of logic that he's oblivious to this obvious consideration.
The Sargon and Moses story share ALL elements except number V (Sargon legend lacks this). Of course, there are differences, but one must ask the likelihood that two people independently would experience 6 of 7 events in this sequence. One could say it was coincidence, but this is statistically improbable.
Thus far, I was assuming, for the sake of argument, that the parallels are accurate. But is that the case? Is V the only exception? Let's go back through the alleged parallels:

I. Explanation of abandonment
II. Noble birth
III. Preparation for exposure
IV. Exposure
V. Nurse in an unusual manner
VI. Discovery and Adoption
VII. Accomplishment of the hero

What about I? Here Hector is confusing a narrative sequence with a chronological sequence. I doesn't come first because it's the first event in a chronological series. Rather, it comes first because the narrator is explaining to the audience what triggered these events.

Is there something unusual about the Pentateuchal narrator explaining an event before describing an event? Does that point to literary dependence?

No. The Pentateuchal narrator often explains an event before describing an event. He's prepping the reader for what follows.

What about II? Was Moses of noble birth? No. So another parallel bites the dust.

What about III-IV? Why do you suppose the preparation for exposure precedes the actual exposure? Is this due to literary dependence? Or is this due to elementary logic?

What about IV? Did Jochebed "expose" her child? No. "Exposure" means that you abandon an unwanted infant to die. To die from heat or cold, starvation, dehydration, or predation.

If she wanted to kill her child, she'd just throw him on a trash heap or toss him into the river, to drown and be carried away by the current.

Instead, she puts in him a waterproof basket. Why bother if she's exposing him?

And she hides the basket in the bulrushes, out of sight and away from the current. And she assigns his big sister to watch over him. Indeed, it's quite clear from Exod 2:3ff. that she's trying to protect him.

We can speculate on why she employed this method. Maybe she felt that this was a way of getting him out of the house, which would be subject to inspection by the authorities, while keeping the child as safe and accessible as possible.

But given the narrative flow, another explanation is that she placed him there because she knew that's where the princess liked to bathe, and she was hoping the princess would find him and take pity on him. Only royalty could get away with flouting the law.

What about V? Moses was returned to his mother. Is there something unusual about a mother nursing her child? If Avalos thinks there's something unusual about that, a lot of nursing mothers would beg to differ. But maybe he was bottle-fed.

And, as Avalos is forced to admit, there is no parallel between this event and the legend of Sargon.

What about VI? But that's the narrative solution to the narrative problem. It's explicable, not by literary dependence, but by the inner logic of the narrative. He was meant to be discovered and adopted—whether by Jochebed's design or God's. That's how he escapes infanticide.

What about VII? Did Moses become a king? No. In fact, we have a double reversal of fortunes in Exod 2. He's spared infanticide. And he's moving up the social ladder. But then he becomes a fugitive. Moreover, Moses is even denied an opportunity to enter the Promised Land.

All Avalos has done is to trump up a series of specious parallels. He doesn't make any effort to examine his alleged parallels. And that's because, as militant apostate, Avalos has an ax to grind.
And there are more parallels between Sargon and Moses that are found in other types of documents mentioning Sargon. One document is a liver omen text from the Old Babylonian period (ca. 2000-1600 BCE, though variant parameters exist). The omen is reproduced by Lewis (p. The Sargon Legend, p. 136), and reads:
...omen of Sargon who made an incursion during darkness and saw a luminous phenomenon.
Does Exod 3 say the angelophany took place at night? No. Does the liver omen describe the "luminous phenomenon" as a burning bush or angelophany? No.

Where, exactly, is the parallel? Sunshine is a luminous phenomenon. Starlight and moonlight are luminous phenomenon. A torch is a luminous phenomenon. A campfire is a luminous phenomenon. This is a good example of parallelomania.
It is also noteworthy that one of Sargon's achievements is to climb mountains, and Moses also climbed a famous mountain (Sinai).
Is that noteworthy? Is the life of Sir Edmund Hillary literarily dependent on the legend of Sargon? After all, they were both mountain climbers, and Everest is a famous mountain.

The fact that Avalos is reduced to this sloppy, last-ditch exercise in parallelomania to prove his point merely disproves his point.

In the meantime, he studiously disregards a genuine literary parallel, because that undercuts his thesis of literary dependence on a legend of Sargon. But as one scholar observes:
The water ordeal Moses underwent is reminiscent of the redemption of Noah in Genesis 6-8. After the birth of Moses, his Mother Jochebed could not hide him for more than three months, so she placed him in a gome' tebah ("wicker basket"; Exod 2:3). The first term, gome' is an Egyptian word that means "papyrus." Tebah, an Egyptian word which means "chest, coffin," is also used in reference to Noah's ark. One should observe as well that in Exodus 2:3 Jochebed covers the wicker basket with "tar and pitch" as Noah did the ark (Gen 6:14). The deliverance of Noah can be viewed as a re-creation because God directs the cultural mandate of Genesis 2:18 to Noah and his offspring: "And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth;" (Gen 9:1). That command is the same decree that the Hebrews were fulfilling in Exodus 1 as they multiplied and increased in Egypt. So the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt is being cast by the Biblical writer as a re-creation.5
Suppose we applied Hector's analysis to the Jimmy Carter Legend:

Jimmy Carter

Born in the 20C
Born in the South
Southern Baptist
Southern Democrat
College graduate
Southern Governor
U. S. President
Time Magazine Person of the Year

Bill Clinton

Born in the 20C
Born in the South
Southern Baptist
Southern Democrat
College graduate
Southern Governor
U.S. President
Time Magazine Person of the Year

What's the statistical probability of two different people having so much in common—including some very rare distinctions? Oh, and here's the kicker: the Jimmy Carter Legend is demonstrably earlier than the Bill Clinton Saga. Obviously, the Bill Clinton Saga is a fictitious account, indebted to the Jimmy Carter Legend.
But where do they get the idea that Exodus and Deuteronomy are from Moses' lifetime? Apparently, being set in Moses' lifetime is the only evidence they need to conclude that the books about Moses are from his lifetime.
First of all, I didn't say Exodus "and" Deuteronomy, but Exodus "through" Deuteronomy (see the dash).

Second, I don't need to reinvent the wheel for the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, or subsections thereof. Conservative commentaries, monographs, reference articles, and OT introductions have done that.
By this logic, therefore, The Story of Sargon, must also be from Sargon's lifetime, since the text is set in his lifetime and it is portrayed as autobiographical. Yes, this is what passes for historical reasoning by the Triabloguers.
If the arguments were comparable—which I don't concede.

And the authenticity of Exod 2 or the Pentateuch generally doesn't depend on the inauthenticity of the Sargon legend. That's one of Hector's diversionary tactics.
Indeed, with Sargon it is MUCH different because we have actual archaeological artifacts with his name from his supposed lifetime. And then we have references to Sargon in subsequent centuries and all the way down to the existing copies of his story in the seventh century BCE.
This is a bait-and-switch tactic. General evidence for the historical Sargon doesn't translate into evidence for any given tradition, absent specific evidence for any given tradition. Avalos is trying to muddy the waters.
Nothing like that for Moses. If I am wrong, let Triablogue give us a document or artifact mentioning Moses that actually comes from around 1400 BCE, 1300 BCE, or 1200 BCE. The fact is Hoffmeier can't do it. Triablogue can't do it.
This is special pleading. Let's take a comparison. To my knowledge, our earliest copy of books 1-6 from the Annals of Tacitus dates to the 9C. And books 11-16 date to an 11C MS.

Is Avalos just as sceptical of Tacitus as he is of Moses? Why doesn't he lay his cards on the table? Is he sceptical of Exodus because our MSS are late? Or is he sceptical of Exodus because he doesn't believe in the supernatural?
Again, the fact is that all we have are stories of Moses extant in manuscripts from the 1-3 centuries BCE, and that alone cannot tell you that those stories were there in 1400 BCE or even in the 7th century BCE.
As I've pointed out before, but Avalos is too obtuse to absorb the point, questioning the fidelity of our MSS does nothing to help his case for literary dependency. For example, it's possible that the long ending of Mark is literarily indebted to a 2-3C scribe, who was—in turn—literarily indebted to bits and pieces of Matthew, Luke, John, and Acts. But since the pericope is spurious, who cares?
Triablogue deploys another standard apologetic technique (arguing against something a scholar did not say)…But, I did not say that textual criticism cannot help us reach "earlier" compositions.
Here's a verbatim quote of Hector's original disclaimer:
We can talk all day long about textual or literary criticism supposedly helps us reach earlier or to 'original' compositions…
Of course, given Hector's position on the "outdated" notion of the Urtext, perhaps the statement I quoted is not an original composition which goes all the way back to Avalos. Maybe it's been redacted by some pseudonymous editor.

As such, we can never hope to reach the historical Avalos, assuming he ever existed. We must content ourselves with the literary Avalos, making due allowance for legendary embellishment.
Triablogue is still dealing with an increasingly outdated notion that textual criticism is only about finding the "original." Triabloguers apparently think themselves as sophisticated by using the term Urtext, without realizing how increasingly outdated this concept is for biblical materials…Since the concept of an Urtext is eroding, textual criticism is focusing increasingly on textual histories (earlier compositions and relationships are included, even if "originals" are not.).
Actually, Emanuel Tov has a lengthy discussion of this "outmoded" concept in his standard monograph on the Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible.6

If you take a liberal view of Scripture, then you regard the composition of Scripture as an open-ended affair. First, there's a stage of oral development, followed by an initial commitment to writing which—in turn—undergoes multiple redaction. On that theory, the objective of textual criticism is to recover the final text. So the notion of an Urtext is only outdated on a liberal view of Scripture.

Of course, some books of the Bible are admittedly of composite authorship, viz. Psalms, Proverbs. But that doesn't invalidate the concept of an Urtext—only the application of the Urtext to anthologies like Psalms or Proverbs.

Hence, all Avalos has done is to beg the question in favor of his liberal views on Scripture.
This brings me to another FACTUAL ERROR made in Triablogue in this statement…Lewis DOES NOT SAY THIS, and no direct quote is presented for evidence.
I can understand why Avalos would be so easily befuddled. Just as he can't read Exodus in context, he can't read my own comment in context. I was summarizing a statement which Alan Millard made with reference to Lewis. So his argument is with Millard, not me.
Notice also how Triablogue uses an ad hominem argument to dismiss my conclusions (they call me an "apostate" as though that invalidates my arguments for parallels between Moses and Sargon).
To begin with, Avalos doesn't hesitate to characterize where opposing scholars range along the theological spectrum. In his initial reply to me, he said:
Such as those found in Hoffmeier, Hess, and other conservative scholars. I know the work of these conservative scholars well.
And in his rejoinder he says:
Alan Millard, who is a rather conservative Christian Near Eastern scholar…
So why is Avalos so hypersensitive when someone measures him by his own yardstick?

And, yes, it's useful for readers to know where he's coming from. It's not as if he rejects the historicity of Exodus on purely textual or archeological grounds. No, it goes much deeper than that. He doesn't believe that those things could happen.
Yet, as Evan has so insightfully pointed out, Alan Millard, who is a rather conservative Christian Near Eastern scholar, also thinks that the Sargon traditions were in circulation about a thousand years prior to the 7th century manuscripts.
This is another example of Hector's bait-and-switch tactic. The fact that some Sargon traditions antedate the 7C MSS by however long is no evidence whatsoever that any particular tradition antedated the 7C by any particular amount of time. Indeed, Millard's point is based on documented traditions that antedated the 7C MSS.

Avalos has already admitted that the legend of Sargon underwent internal development over time. It's therefore illicit to simply infer that a particular motif in a later MS can be trace back to a much earlier stage in the evolution the legend. Given the internal development of the legend, according to Avalos, we know that such an inference is fallacious. That Avalos keeps repeating the same fallacies doesn't bode well for his critical discernment.

Avalos also quotes Millard out of context. Indeed, it's striking that Avalos would presume to misrepresent Millard position when his article is available online for all to see. This is what Millard actually said about the disputed issues:
Some scholars suggested that the story was written to glorify him. Indeed, a few scholars still maintain this position…Gaston Maspero supposed that the Legend of Sargon projects the deeds of Sargon II into a remote past and says nothing about an earlier king (The Dawn of Civilisation [London: SPCK, 1885]), p. 599. See Lewis, Sargon Legend, pp. 101–107, for a similar view.

However, the absence of Aramaic, Persian or Greek influence in grammar and vocabulary of the sort visible in the books that are dated by obvious criteria after the Babylonian Exile (sixth century B.C.) makes it likely that the Exodus text is earlier.

What of the birth legend of Sargon? It is hardly likely that documentation of this will appear. The story is one common in various forms in folklore and is obviously comparable to the story of Moses in the bulrushes. Before we dismiss either or both as fiction, however, we should note that Babylonia and Egypt are both riverine cultures and that putting the baby in a waterproof basket might be a slightly more satisfactory way to dispose of an infant than throwing it on the rubbish heap, which was more usual. Today unwanted babies are frequently dumped on hospital doorsteps or in other public places in the hope that they will be rescued. The story of the foundling rising to eminence may be a motif of folklore, but that is surely because it is a story that occurs repeatedly in real life.7
It makes you wonder how trustworthy Avalos is in reproducing positions not readily available to the general public.
In an apparent attempt to fend off the flood of evidence that cuneiform literature was present in Palestine…
I have no problem with such evidence. I do have a problem with Hector's diversionary tactics.
In establishing the direction of literary influence…
Observe, as usual, how Avalos assumes what he needs to prove. He takes literary influence for granted. It's just a question of establishing the direction of literary influence.
That does mean that scribes in Palestine could be familiar with the Epic of Gilgamesh and other Mesopotamian stories.
We already knew that OT writers were conversant with pagan mythology. After all, a fair amount of the OT is explicitly directed against pagan mythology.
In contrast, we have ZERO biblical Hebrew texts in Mesopotamia from the equivalent periods.
That would only be germane on the gratuitous assumption that one borrowed from the other, and it's just a question of establishing the direction of literary dependency.
This alone shows that cuneiform literature was established BEFORE Hebrew literature, even in Palestine.
Given the fact that Canaan was occupied by Canaanites before Israelites took possession of the Promised Land, this is another one of Hector's trite observations that he tries to repackage as a devastating discovery.
And why should the Sargon legend be different? If Gilgamesh was known in Palestine, what is so difficult about hypothesizing that the Sargon legend became known in Palestine or among Hebrews living in Babylon?
"Hypothesizing." That's his case in a nutshell, all right.

As to Hebrews living in Babylon, that's an allusion to the Documentary Hypothesis, a theory which even a secular Jew like Cyrus Gordon didn't take seriously. So Avalos is simply propping up one bad argument with another bad argument.
I am not arguing that the Moses legend is copied directly from the Sargon legend. However, the similarities are too many to posit that two people experienced so many similar things independently.
Like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
We have one reasonable explanation, and that is that there was some literary relationship, even if indirect, between these stories.
Just as the only reasonable explanation for the parallels between Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton is a literary relationship. After all, their stories couldn't both be true. And maybe both of them are false.
If we were to assign a literary priority, we would have to start with what we actually have.
Notice that Avalos can never break free from his Pavlovian conditioning. If we were to assign literary priority…

But his argument is worthless on two grounds: he doesn't establish the truth of the premise, and even if the premise were true, literary priority doesn't entail literary influence. The poor guy is too logically challenged to think straight.
I. There is no actual evidence that a Moses river-story was present in the seventh century BCE.
That would only be pertinent if you assume a liberal view of Scripture, according to which the final text was the end-product of centuries of oral development and subsequent redaction. In that case, it would be a problem if the final text of Exod 2 were an imaginary retelling of a story about someone else at another time and place.

If, however, you take the Mosaic Urtext as your point of reference, then any major, creative deviation from the Urtext would be equivalent to the Comma Johanneum, the Pericope Adulterae, or the Long Ending of Mark. Avalos can keep drilling this dry hole until he's committed to a nursing home, but it won't get him anywhere with folks who don't already share his far left views of Scripture.
II. There is plenty of evidence that the Sargon river-story was present in the seventh century BCE.
Notice that Avalos has a habit of plagiarizing my argument as if this were his argument, then acting as if that argument were detrimental to my position when I was the one who brought it up in the first place. Just remember that I'm the one who originally had to inform Evan about the actual date of his source material. So it's amusing to see Avalos try to co-opt my argument and then pretend that he's scored some sort of coup.

Since imitation is the highest form of flattery, I appreciate the compliment, but I also claim the right to point out that I'm the real deal, and Avalos the impersonator.
III. Sargon's presence in actual documents can be attested from the late third millennium BCE and far into the first millennium BCE.
This is another decoy on his part. He keeps resorting to the same sophistries.

Once again, did I ever deny the existence of Sargon I? No. Was my position ever predicated on his nonexistence? No.

And Avalos builds on this straw man argument to insinuate another fallacy. General evidence for the historicity of Sargon I is completely irrelevant to whether Exod 2 is indebted to the legend of Sargon.

In some ways, Avalos is still a faith-healer at heart. He's now an apostate, but he continues to play on the credulity and stupidity of his nullafidian audience in the very same way as health-n-wealth scammers.
IV. Moses' presence cannot be found in any extra-biblical record before around 1-3 centuries BCE.
So what? Corroboration is nice, but to demand corroboration is viciously circular or viciously regressive. For you must assume that the corroborative evidence is reliable. And what corroborates the corroborative evidence?

Why assume that extrabiblical records are more reliable than biblical records? Why not reverse the burden of proof?

The only reason is that Avalos is a militant atheist, so he doesn't believe the Pentateuch could possibly be true.

4 J. Prichard, ed. The Ancient Near East (Princeton 1973), 1:85-86.
5 J. Currid, Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament (Baker 2001), 114.
6 Pp. 164ff.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"My Beloved is mine, and I am his"

For what it's worth, here's a devotional:

Is not our greatest consolation in trials and afflictions Christ himself? Indeed he is. As the prophet Isaiah says (43:2): “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Although it is our gracious Lord who either allows or brings about our trial, it is also our gracious Lord who is with us in the midst of it.

In the midst of the raging waters which threaten to drown us or the uncontrollable flames which threaten to engulf us, God promises his precious bride, “I will be with you.” If Christ is with us, then what have we to fear? If Christ is with us, then who or what can be against us? If Christ is with us, then it is well with our souls — come what may.

Like a wife who loves her husband so much she cannot live without him, all we want is for our Beloved to be with us. All we want is for our Beloved to stick with us through thick and thin, through the overwhelming floods of life, through its many trials, difficulties, afflictions, pains, heartaches, and everything else, through it all. In fact, when a couple dearly loves one another, trials only serve to draw them closer together; and that’s what we likewise dearly want, nearness to our Beloved. All we want is for our Beloved to love us, to protect us, to care for us, and to be with us, forever and ever. And Christ promises he will never leave us nor forsake us. Even in the times we are faithless, he is faithful. Christ promises nothing can separate us from his love. He is a steady rock, like the Rock of Gibraltar, in the midst of the stormy seas and unrelenting waves of our anguish and agonies. All we want is our Beloved and his love, and we have him. And so long as we have our Beloved, we have everything. So long as our Beloved is with us, so long as our Beloved is ours and we are our Beloved’s, we are safe and secure.

For our Maker is our husband, and he loves us with such an unimaginable, indescribable, unquenchable love, a love that the best, most perfect husband’s love for his wife is but a pale reflection.

In the midst of all our hurt and tears, all we want is our Beloved. So long as we have him, and more importantly so long as he has us; so long as he holds us and never lets us go; so long as he loves us with an unfailing, undying, ever faithful, ever committed, steadfast love; so long as he loves us and always continues to love us; so long as he is our husband and we are his bride, the Father having purchased us by the blood of Christ the Son and sealed us with the Holy Spirit as promised in the New Covenant; so long as our Beloved is ours and we are his in the bonds of the holiest of all holy matrimonies; so long as we have our Beloved and our Beloved has us, then no matter how long the tears may run, and no matter how deep the tears may cut, we know that in the end our Beloved will wipe away all our tears, and restore to us the joy of our salvation, when he restores us to himself. Then we shall see our Beloved face to face, and then we shall know our Beloved and his precious love for us, just as we have been known and loved by our Beloved even before we were a whisper upon our mother’s lips or thought in our mother’s mind. He is our Beloved, and he loves us and he died to save us to show us he loves us.

Thus, in the midst of all life’s most heart-wrenching pains and sorrows, all we need and all we want is to be with Christ, our Beloved. All we want is Christ himself. Nothing else and no one else will do but Christ and him alone. Our heart may be broken into a gazillion little pieces, but it can never be so broken as it would be broken if it did not have Christ, its Beloved — if it were to seek the One it loves but could not find him. And, yet, miracle of miracles, our Beloved’s promise is precisely that he is ours, and we are his, and he is with us, and he loves us, and he will always be with us, and he will always love us!

Although our mother and father, our brothers and sisters, our spouses and children, our relatives and our dearest, most intimate friends may turn against us or forsake us, our Beloved will never, no, never forsake us. Even when no one loves us, and all loves have fled from us, our Beloved loves us, our Beloved loves us who are unlovable. His left hand is under our head to protect us and carry us through, and his right hand embraces us, never letting us go but drawing us in to rest upon his bosom, because of his great love for us.

O, dear, precious, sweet Lord Jesus Christ, our Beloved! Our heart sings to you through the tears in thankfulness, for your infinitely gracious love towards us, even us, in the midst of our broken hearts, our shattered spirits, and our fallen, sinful lives, drawing us nearer to yourself by affliction and grief, with unbreakable cords of love, because you first loved and always will continue to love us! And not only do you love us, our most beloved Beloved, but you love to love us, simply because you love us! What more could we ask for than that which we already have, namely, you, our Beloved!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Take A Look At The Thinking Behind The Latest Edition Of John Loftus' Book

John Loftus keeps telling us about the latest edition of his book against Christianity. He did much the same with the earlier edition that Steve Hays reviewed (here, here, and here), a review John hasn't interacted with much. If you want some idea of the mindset behind the latest edition of John's book, I suggest reading the thread here. Notice how bad his reasoning is, how he repeats bad arguments that have been refuted in his presence many times, and how he misrepresents the beliefs of those he disagrees with. How much has John's reasoning and argumentation improved since the last edition of his book? If there's been a sufficient improvement, why isn't that improvement reflected in his posts?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ignorant sensationalism

“Rabbi David Wolpe shocked the Jewish world when he gave a Passover sermon that suggested that the Exodus as described in the Torah never took place.”

Evan missed is true calling in life. He should be writing for the National Inquirer.

Anyone who knows anything about modern Judaism knows that modern Jewry ranges along a theological continuum from far left to far right. It would hardly shock the Jewish world that a modern rabbi denies the historicity of the Exodus.

And Wolpe’s article show no sign that he’s ever studied the opposing literature on the subject.

Were Ancient People Gullible Enough To Sustain Modern Skeptical Theories?

The issue of the alleged gullibility of ancient people has come up again in a recent thread. In that thread, I've linked to four relevant articles on the subject: here, here, here, and here. In this post, I want to quote some of the passages on this subject in a recent book, Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd's The Jesus Legend (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2007). I recommend reading their entire discussion of the subject, such as on pp. 64-66, but here are some portions of what they wrote:

We are told that the reason people in the past could believe in and claim to experience miracles, while modern Western people supposedly cannot, is because, unlike us, ancient people were "naive and mythologically minded." Ancient people supposedly had little to no awareness of the laws of nature, no sense of critical history, and thus could not clearly separate fact from fiction....

Unfortunately for this perspective, there is mounting evidence that this alleged dichotomy between the worldview of ancient people and the worldview of modern Western people is itself a piece of modern mythology. For all their differences from the modern Western world, ancient people - as well as primordial groups today - were not nearly as uniformly "naive and mythologically minded" as many modern scholars have tended to assume. Two points may be made in this regard.

First, it should be acknowledged that the pervasive Western academic assumption that nonliterate or semiliterate cultures could not clearly distinguish myth from history was never based on solid empirical evidence. It is, in fact, largely an unwarranted Western, academic assumption. As we will explore in chapters 6 and 7, recent orality studies have demonstrated that orally dominant cultures (cultures in which reading plays little or no role) were and are often quite intentional in keeping fictional aspects of the oral tradition distinct from nonfictional elements when it comes to certain genres....

It is thus becoming increasingly evident that the common Western academic assumption that ancient, orally dominant cultures were not interested in actual history and/or were incapable of keeping factual historical remembrances distinct from myth is itself a grand myth propagated by modern Western scholars who were simply ignorant of the facts....

While most ancient historians certainly did not share the hyperskepticism of some contemporary Western scholars toward the supernatural, there was, as Glenn Chestnut has documented, "a good deal of skepticism within the Graeco-Roman historiographical tradition."...

Even more significant for our purpose (for it potentially affects our view of the gullibility of the authors of the Synoptic Gospels), it appears that when it comes to the question of belief in miracles, people in the first century were, on the whole, not very different from people in modern Western culture....

This observation [of F.G. Downing] comports well with Robert Grant's conclusion that "the least credulous period of antiquity was the late Hellenistic age."...[and] most modern people are not nearly as secularized as many Western scholars seem to assume....

Downing demonstrates that "the level of belief - or suspension of disbelief - seems to have been not much different from what we find today for belief in alternative medicines, belief in ley-lines, belief in visitors from outer space, or belief in the free market economy."...

Degh and Vazsonyi (pp. 112-15) also note the existence of a generally neglected - but quite common - genre of folk legend known as the "negative legend" (or "anti-legend"). The negative legend reports an ostensibly "supernatural" occurrence that is then debunked by supplying a rational, natural explanation for the phenomenon. The presence of negative legends within folk traditions is just one example that undercuts the false assumption that the "folk" are generally naive and gullible with respect to reports of supernatural occurrences. (pp. 64-66, 331, n. 89 on p. 331)

Again, I recommend reading the entirety of their comments. They go into much more detail, along with a large amount of documentation.