Friday, June 24, 2011

Youthful student syndrome

Richard Hess responded again to an email Steve Hays sent to him asking him to respond to my arguments on Mesha’s sacrifice. Before I quote Hess’s responses and my rebuttals, I’d like to address something Steve Hays said about my argument on Mesha’s sacrifice. He claimed that because Mesha’s sacrifice was not to Yahweh (on my reading), I am wrong to include this in a section arguing that Yahweh accepts human sacrifices. This is totally confused. First, in my review of Copan, I deal with this text for no other reason than that I’m responding to Copan’s attempt to deal with this text. I most certainly do not cite this text as evidence that Yahweh is a moral monster. Second, in my book I deal with this text not to argue that it provides proof that Yahweh accepted human sacrifices, but expressly to offer it as evidence that whoever the narrator of the story was seems to accept that human sacrifices to deities were efficacious. I am not claiming that the author of Kings believes that Yahweh accepts human sacrifices. I make that claim about other texts; not Kings.

Unfortunately for him, Stark lacks elementary reading skills. His own reply is a study in hopeless confusion.

Did I impute to Stark the position that Yahweh accepts human sacrifice in 2 Kgs 3? No. Rather, I made two different points:

i) I said 2 Kgs 3 would only be relevant to Stark’s general thesis that Yahweh is morally repugnant if, in 2 Kgs 3, Yahweh accepts human sacrifice.

ii) I then pointed out that Stark’s actual argument didn’t even attempt to show that Yahweh accepts human sacrifice in that text. Hence, Stark’s five pages of flamboyant rhetoric were beside the point.

Far from claiming that Stark says human sacrifice is acceptable to Yahweh in 2 Kgs 3, I explicitly said Stark does not, in fact, argue for that interpretation.

In addition, Dr. Hess was not responding again to an email I sent him. Rather, as I said in the introduction to my post, he was sharing some email correspondence with me. I’m not the only person in the world who emails Dr. Hess.

If Stark is so incompetent that he can’t exegete what one of his own contemporaries wrote, in Stark’s mother tongue, who belongs to the very same culture as Stark does, what does that tell you about Stark’s ability to exegete a text in an ancient foreign language, written in the 1st millennium BC, by someone belonging to a completely different culture?

Steve needs to talk to Matt Flannagan, who will tell him how important it is to get an interlocutor’s position correct before one attempts to critique it. Matt has relayed this to me quite effectively.

Of course, Stark is propping up one tendentious claim by reference to another tendentious claim. I had criticized one of Matt Flannagan’s buddies (Glenn Peoples). Because Flannagan values cronyism more than truth, he attempted to salvage his buddy’s reputation.

There’s a little clique consisting of Randal Rauser, Glenn Peoples, and the Flannagan power couple. Members of the clique cover for each other. From what I’ve read of him, Matt Flannagan is the best of the lot, but the bar was set low. 

One more thing. Steve critiques me for making convenient claims about redactions and different sources that just so happen to put the evidence where I need it to be to make my case. I am sorry if Steve does not understand how source and redaction criticism work, but I don’t happen to be the one who is identifying the various sources. I am following consensus views that were arrived at for reasons that have nothing to do with most of the arguments I’m making in these debates. Once again, let’s become familiar with what’s informing an interlocutor’s position before we critique it. If we’re not willing to put in the effort to understand source criticism and other historical-critical tools, then let’s refrain from making outlandish claims to the effect that I am conveniently moving textual evidence out of the way for my own purposes.

i) Stark suffers from a common student syndrome. A young student learns something for the first time in class, then is quick to share his “discovery” with the rest of the world, as if no one else ever heard of it before. What’s new to him must be new to everyone else.

ii) Stark suffers from another common student syndrome. The starstruck novice who instantly assimilates with the prevailing groupthink of his academic environment. 

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