Friday, September 25, 2009

“The ten worst verses of the Bible”


Jewish date:  7 Tishri 5770.

Today’s holidays:  Ten Days of Repentance (Judaism), Friday of the Twenty-Fifth Week of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism), Greater Eleusinian Mysteries (Thelema).

Worthy cause of the day:  “Protect Yellowstone/Greater Rockies”, “Repeal telecom immunity and roll back PATRIOT ACT abuses”, “Break Up Insurance Monopolies”, “Divided We Fail:  Tell Congress that they can't stop now!”, and “Go to Africa”.

Today’s topic:  “The ten worst verses of the Bible”:  I have been sitting on this article from Christian site Ship of Fools for a while now.  They took a poll and listed the “winners”.  However, they gave no defense whatsoever of the verses, which I consider a horrible mistake.  I am therefore undertaking to correct this defect here by defending the verses from the Hebrew Bible.

As I have told people many times before, both in the physical world and on the Internet, morality is purely a matter of opinion.  As such, any objection based on moral grounds—one of the major possibilities—is liable to be ignored or summarily dismissed due to the objector and the defender having incompatible opinions on morality.  E.g., I, an Orthodox Jew, will not accept arguments that eating meat is wrong because my moral system, Judaism, is rooted in the Hebrew Bible, and the Hebrew Bible explicitly permits eating animals.

1) "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." (1 Timothy 2:12)—This is from the New Testament.  I am under no obligation to defend it.

2) "This is what the Lord Almighty says... 'Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'" (1 Samuel 15:3)—‘Amaleq was the sworn enemy of the Children of Yisra’el.  This was war, plain, simple, brutal, and ugly.

3) "Do not allow a sorceress to live." (Exodus 22:18)—Magic, as mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, is not benign, harmless, or what David Copperfield does.  It is divination, attempting to foretell the future through implausible means.  Today we call these people “psychics” and “mediums”, and they are infamous for lying, cheating people out of their money, and ruining people’s lives.  Execution (by a court, not vigilantism) is as fitting a punishment as any.

4) "Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!" (Psalm 137:9)—This is a lament of Jews deported to Babylon.  The sentiment is an expression of their emotional pain and not a recommendation for action.

5) "So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go." (Judges 19:25)—This is a horrible incident.  The man was desperate and did something panicky and stupid.  The rape (which was ultimately fatal) outraged the Children of Yisra’el so much that it caused a war among the tribes.  Keep in mind:  noting that something happened is not necessarily approval of it.  Even those who participate in the war were eventually shocked at what they have done.

6) "In the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error." (Romans 1:27)—New Testament.  Not my problem.

7) "And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said, 'If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return victorious from the Ammonites, shall be the Lord's, to be offered up by me as a burnt-offering.'" (Judges 11:30-1)—And to make a long story short, Yiftaḥ, due to not foreseeing that something not acceptable for sacrifice might be the first being to come out to him, is put in the unspeakable position of having to sacrifice his daughter.  To be blunt, Yiftaḥ was an idiot and deserves nothing but condemnation for his idiocy, and I have never heard of a contrary opinion.

8) "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt-offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you." (Genesis 22:2)—It was a test.  It was only a test.  And the point is that in Judaism morality is top-down, dictated by YHWH and not by humans.  The moral opinion of YHWH is the one that counts, not ours.  I have also heard the claim that while Yiṣḥaq was not actually slaughtered and burned, he did have something of the status of a sacrifice after this incident, e.g., he was not allowed to leave the Land of Yisra’el, just as a sacrifice may not be taken out of Yisra’el.

9) "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:22)—More New Testament.

10) "Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel." (1 Peter 2:18)—Also more New Testament.

Shabbath shalom.