Bible LOLz

Unlike a matzo during Passover, the pallidness of the Bible is occasionally leavened with unintended humor.  Here are two examples from Deuteronomy, the first from Chapter 10:

15Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day.

16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.

And two really dumb rules handed down from Yahweh (Deuteronomy 23):

1He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.

2 A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD.

I wonder if Orthodox Jews still prohibit bastards and castrati from entering the schul.

As a palliative, I offer the LOLCat Bible version of the second set, from the LOLCat Bible Translation Project (the best parody of religion EVER):

Here iz soem lawz from Moses Cat 4 u
Rulez for who cant goe insied teh Ceiling Cat’s houz.

1 Soz, leik, if u haz goed to teh vet and been neutered or if u haz has crushed harbls then u can’t go in The Ceiling Cat’s house.

2 Nowun begatten of, leik, a forbidden marriage, nor his bebes nor his bebe’s bebes all the wai to ten bebes away can enter The Ceiling Cat’s house.

Feel free to append your favorite funny parts of scripture in the comments.

Progress report: I am well into Judges now, which means that I’m nearly a quarter of the way through.  I can’t express the unbearable tedium of having to read the Bible. Its vaunted “poetry” is nonexistent, and the long lists of people, tribes, and geographic demarcations of the Promised Land are mind-numbing.  As a work of fiction, it hasn’t yet gotten off the ground. But I will finish it, and when I do, it’s time for the readers to send me presents!

124 Comments

  1. Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Judges reads something like old comic books. Kings has a soap opera feel.

  2. J
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Just wait for Ezekiel 23:20!

    • Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      Oh, those were the good old days I guess . . .

    • Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      Beat me to it. (jeez, you gots to be quick here) Probably my favorite Bibull lol.

      v 11-20:

      11 And teh youngr sister saw this but wantd to be bigger ho then oldr sister. It wuz on lik donky kong. 12 So she gots her sisters blak book an findeds all the mens who made teh nastee with her sister. An she sayd “HAI U R HOTT LETS MAK OUT” 13 An I sees that she is lik her sister. Becuz they iz lik teh ho. An now she iz durty. Lik a ho. 14 But she wuld gets honry at pikshurs of mens in red. 15 An she gots turnd on by theyr belts and theyr hats and teh red, becuz red is teh awesom. 16 An soes she hads her girlfrenz tell the mens in red where to hav gud time. 17 An teh mens in red did things to her. And she did things to herslf with teh mens in red. And then lots of mens in red tuk turns doing things to her. And then she was lik eww gross. 18 Ans than alls knos her nekid body an where her mols are an stuff an I cans not luk at her becuz she is lik her sistr, an thas kinda grose. 19 Buts she just maks teh notty danse mors and mores becuz is how she useded to play as chiled. An she wuz rly gudz at it. 20 She liekd teh guys with teh big dixxxes… teh RLY big uns, like donkeys LOL… and massiv cumbuckits like horse!

      Classy!

      • J
        Posted June 29, 2012 at 6:15 am | Permalink

        This is clearly the version that should have been sent to every school in England!

  3. Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    “As a work of fiction, it hasn’t yet gotten off the ground.”

    -That’s because most of the OT (especially the lists, law-containing parts, and records of prophecy) wasn’t meant to be viewed as fiction. Most of the OT was intended to be viewed as fact, even though numerous parts of it were obviously made up. However, some books (such as Ruth, Job, and Jonah) were likely meant to be viewed as fiction.

    • Kevin
      Posted June 27, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      Yes, and the Iliad was meant to be a history of the Trojan War.

      Doesn’t mean it wasn’t fiction just the same.

      • Posted June 27, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

        The comparison is not exact, but close enough.

        • Occam
          Posted June 27, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

          Not close, no cigar, no snuff, not even a nicorette.

          One striking fact about the Iliad: it recounts mainly the final 51 days of the Trojan war. There are many retro-references and flashbacks strewn in, but that fact remains: the action time-frame of the epos, as we have it, is contained within those final 51 days. There are indications that the currently preserved text, amplified and magnified, may be only a fragment of a much vaster cycle. But the whole story of the Trojan war it is not, much less ab vrbe condita or ab initio mvndi.

          The OT is a creation and foundation myth. Every tribe has those.

          The Iliad is the tale of one outstanding episode of turmoil and destruction, which may well have borne a particular significance at the time of its fixation in writing, with the aristocracies of the Greek poleis facing crisis and impending fall.

          • Posted June 27, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

            Good points about comparisons between the Iliad and most of the OT, Occam. What was your link to the Levy et al. 2008 paper about, anyway? Khirbet en-Nahas has little to do with the emergence of the Kingdom of Edom, though it may explain the Bible’s claim of Judahite control over Edom in the mid-9th C BC.

            • Occam
              Posted June 28, 2012 at 1:59 am | Permalink

              About method. This paper makes a nice compact showcase for methodology.
              Ben asked for radiocarbon dates and archaeological context.
              Levy et al. 2008 has it all:
              – archaeological context;
              – import finds;
              – stratigraphy;
              – a good series of radiocarbon dates;
              – a Bayesian sequence model;
              – a set of sensible historical questions that could link archaeological findings and historical sources, including (gulp! hope Ben doesn’t read this!) inferences derived from “biblical scholarship”, however defined.

              Now, the interesting question is: what would the conclusions of this study be if biblical references were left out?

              This is of course a common problem in archaeology: historical sources are all too easily drafted in support of one’s pet hypothesis, instead of being tested against it. But in that particular region, it’s a minefield.

  4. Jim Jones
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    You could save yourself a lot of time:

    http://www.amazon.com/Good-Book-Hilarious-Disturbing-Marvelous/dp/0061374253

    “Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible” by David Plotz.

    He sticks to the Hebrew Bible – that’s bad enough!

    Quote: “Along the way, he grapples with the most profound theological questions: How many commandments do we actually need? Does God prefer obedience or good deeds? And the most unexpected ones: Why are so many women in the Bible prostitutes? Why does God love bald men so much? Is Samson really that stupid?”

    • gravelinspector
      Posted June 28, 2012 at 5:20 am | Permalink

      Along the way, he grapples with the most profound theological questions: […] Is Samson really that stupid?

      That one is easy. He’s a “jock” (EN_US ; EN_GB doesn’t really have a word for this (very)sub- species) ; he’s not that stupid, he’s more stupid.

  5. Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Seems like you are suffering some divine punishment! If not, why keep reading it? LoL

    I admire your effort. I understand that no one can say to you “read it first, before ranting!” LoL

  6. Martin
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    In ancient Hebrew, did ‘stones’ really refer to testicles? That’s great.

    • Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      Keep in mind he’s reading the King James Version.

      Other translations give different results.

    • Posted June 28, 2012 at 3:34 am | Permalink

      And presumably this text is the reason a eunuch may not become a priest – or a Pope. And there is said to be a chair in the Vatican with a hole in it on which the Papal candidate must sit for a solemn inspection – tactile if I remember rightly – followed by a Latin formula that means “He has cojones!”

      • gravelinspector
        Posted June 28, 2012 at 5:29 am | Permalink

        followed by a Latin formula that means “He has cojones!

        According to my father (who did have formal training in Latin, unlike me), “duo testiculum habat, et bene pendente!”
        Translate : “two stones he has, hanging down, swinging free, oscillating merrily”
        Optional extra, continuing the last line from a very rude mountaineer’s song, “with a yard and a half of nylon hanging down below the knee!”
        Allegedly, this papal fitness test follows on from the legend of Pope Joan besprogging in the Forum. Emphasis on the “allegedly”.

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted June 28, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

          I recall that song from my rugby days, but with “foreskin” instead of “nylon”.
          “Hanging down – inches thick
          Oh my god! – what a prick!”

    • Caroline52
      Posted June 28, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      I think stones simply meant testicles in the 16th century English spoken by the King James translators. It’s not like they necessarily saw the Hebrew word for small geological bits of rubble and discerned that it was meant to refer to testicles.

      • J
        Posted June 29, 2012 at 6:20 am | Permalink

        That made for a very funny production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream I saw some years ago, where Pyramus & Thisbe gestured towards the groin of the actor playing the wall whenever they used the word stones!

  7. Steve Smith
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Funny in anticipation of Jesus’ purpose in the NT:

    Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.
    —Deuteronomy 24:16

    • Posted June 27, 2012 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      and funny how this bible can’t get its message straight. Are people responsible for their own sins or not – Exodus5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me

      Poor Yahwey, can’t make up his mind. Poor puny god has a worst memory that many of the puny humans it supposedly creates. I’m at least a better proofreader than it.

    • Kevin
      Posted June 27, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      You mean “in direct contradiction”, don’t you?

      • Steve Smith
        Posted June 27, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

        “In direct contradiction” would be Ezekial 18:20:

        The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

  8. Stackpole
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    After you finish Job, go find a copy of the Complete Poems of Robert Frost, and read “A Masque of Reason” — it serves as the 43rd Chapter of Job.

  9. Ray Moscow
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Don’t worry: even when you’ve finished reading it, you still won’t be legit because you haven’t spent decades wrestling with its deeper meaning.

    Especially by those who haven’t ever read much of it.

  10. Dominic
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    If I were you I would skip to the end!

    • gravelinspector
      Posted June 28, 2012 at 5:31 am | Permalink

      Spoiler alert : Jesus wept. Then died.

  11. Adrian
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Spoiler; He dies violently in the end and his followers go off on mind-bending drugs.

    • gbjames
      Posted June 27, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      Now you’ve gone and ruined it.

  12. kuremmu
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    i wonder. do orthodox jews actually keep ten+ generation genealogies? do they still keep ‘bastards’ desdcendants out? do they keep track of them and invite 11th generationers back in?

    • Kevin
      Posted June 27, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      It was all about who inherited the goats. And the tent. And the good dishes.

  13. Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD.

    Is there anybody man has ever lived who hasn’t had one single bastard amongst all 512 of his direct male ancestors in the preceding few centuries? Seems to me that congregation will be mighty empty….

    b&

    • Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      …and am I capable of poorfeeding properly?

      b&

  14. MM
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Not related…but fitting the Bible LOLz:

    It looks like that circumcision of children
    might be soon forbidden in Germany.

    A court (praise the Kölner Landgericht) gave the verdict that the interest of the child for physical integrity has priority over the freedom of religion of the parents.
    Halleluja !

    The Muslim & Jewish organisations & the
    catholic church are UNITED and ENRAGED…..

    • Posted June 27, 2012 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      I do love when theists who hate each other and who are sure that the “other” is going to be damned, now have a common cause because their invisible friend is upset.

    • Occam
      Posted June 27, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      “The fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighs the fundamental rights of the parents.”
      Note: this refers to every aspect of parental authority, not just the religious freedom of the parents to mutilate their babies. (Pippi Långstrump, where art thou?)

      The Cologne verdict is a landmark.
      It remains to be seen whether it will also have lasting consequences.
      Don’t pin your hopes too high.

      For one thing, I’m betting this case will climb all the way to the German Supreme Court, the Bundesgerichtshof.

      Given Germany’s antecedents, be brave judges those who dare stand up to the perfect shitstorm now unleashed. All Abrahamite pressure groups, whether of the Mosaic, Islamic, or various and nefarious Christian denominations, are yelling blue murder, as if the court’s decision not to allow the foreshortening of babies’ foreskins for purely factice reasons was curtailing their precious freedom of religion. Godwin points are already being earned by the ton. And if the Supreme Court wiggles its ass out of this quagmire, it will may end up passing the buck to the Bundestag, asking them to legislate. No German politician (except some swastika-brained skinheads) would risk the opprobrium of being deemed an anti-semite for the sake of safeguarding the integrity of a newborn’s prepuce. After all, it’s no longer a Jewish problem, the German Jews are just a token minority, whereas nowadays most skin ring covenants are entered into with Allah, and we don’t want to mess with that crowd, do we?

      • Posted June 27, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

        Criminal law professor Dr. Holm Putzke of the University of Passau, who has been on this issue for some time, told the German-Turkish News,
        “This was already an appellate decision. Since the state bar apparently has decided not to consider any further appeals, the judgment is final. There is no way to challenge this ruling. This message is especially true for individuals or organizations that might viscerally attack this decision just to declare their outrage and disgust.”

        • Occam
          Posted June 28, 2012 at 2:43 am | Permalink

          A comment by Holm Putzke regarding the verdict, for those who read German, here.
          Don’t know how well Google Translate handles German legalese.

          A judicial review before the Constitutional Court, the Bundesverfassungsgericht (Normenkontrollverfahren), regarding the constitutionality of the legal norms applied in the case is still possible.
          [Art. 93 Abs. 1 Nr.2 GG, §§ 13 Nr.6, 76ff. BVerfGG;
          Art. 100 Abs. 1 GG, §§ 13 Nr.11, 80ff. BVerfGG]
          That’s at least what my legal eagle tells me, and that’s how far I’ll stick my neck out.

    • Claimthehighground
      Posted June 27, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      The court has really pissed off the amalgamated brotherhood of mohels. This is the most unkindest cut of all.

      • gravelinspector
        Posted June 28, 2012 at 5:36 am | Permalink

        Dear Mr HighGround,
        My friend Mr Lecter wishes to invite you for dinner. Please send me your address so that I can arrange for him to visit.
        He’ll cook.
        So will you. Partly.

  15. Mattapult
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Am I following this correctly… Your Mom screws up and has you out of wedlock. Her punishment is (or should be) stoning to death. Your punishment is no Mom, and no making right with god for at least ten generations after you. God really loves children doesn’t he.

    Well at least he didn’t kill you because your parents didn’t know to splatter blood on the door.

    Besides, ten generations is nothing. Compare that to the punishment the omniscient One handed down to Eve’s descendants after she put her hand in the cookie jar that god left open for her.

  16. tbolland
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Levititus has an interesting caution:

    Lev 18:22 And thou shalt not lie with a man as with a woman, for it is an abomination. Lev 18:23 Neither shalt thou lie with any quadruped for copulation, to be polluted with it; neither shall a woman present herself before any quadruped to have connexion with it; for it is an abomination.

    I must wonder whether the use of a sheepskin condom mitigates the sin.

    • tbolland
      Posted June 27, 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      Following on, it seems to be the case that Kangaroos, etc., are exempted from this quadripedal guideline. This opens up a large vista of sanctioned bestial opportunities.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted June 27, 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

        For mood music, try “Duck, Be a Lady Tonight” or “Baby, You’re My Centipede”.

        • J
          Posted June 29, 2012 at 6:28 am | Permalink

          Tie me kangaroo down, sport

  17. revjimbob
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Why don’t you listen to an audio book of the Bible? I am listening to the old one spoken by Alexander Scourby – I recommend it, and you can let your mind wander a bit when all the micro-management shit and senile repetition is going on.
    I have just finished the Pentateuch.

  18. BilBy
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    “harbls”?! Shades of ‘Clockwork Orange’ Nadsat – yarbles and yarblockos – from Lolcats. Someone more fluent than me in lolcat should translate the start of Clockwork Orange – now that I’d read.

    • Posted June 27, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

      Duz Ceiling Cat haz a house, or a rufspes?

  19. logicophilosophicus
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    @ Jerry Coyne
    It’s a shame you’re reading the OT from a mindset of anti-Christian evidence seeking. You’re really missin out. In Judges you will find poetry, notably the Song of Deborah, which is possibly the oldest text in the Bible – 12th century BCE, so hundreds of years older than the Iliad. It’s arguably a great text for feminists, given the prominence of Jael and of Deborah herself. For sure, the story has little to do with divinely inspired morality (far less 21st century morality). But it’s a great story, and a rousing anthem.

    • Posted June 27, 2012 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      That is a most astonishing claim. What evidence could you possibly have to support the notion that the Song of Deborah can be reliably dated to ~1300 BCE?

      Or is this just another case of, “Teh Babble sez it its TWUE! ITS TWUE!”

      b&

      • logicophilosophicus
        Posted June 27, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        How interesting that you are so keen for confrontation that you

        a) convert “12th century” (i.e. 1100-1200 BCE) into “1300”

        b) don’t bother to check any authorities (1100+ is standard sholarly dating – nothing to do with me; I think Isaac Asimov dicusses this in his essay/book “The Stars in Their Courses” which is of course a stirring quote from the Song, but you’d need to check)

        c) ignore my use of he word “possibly” (I never rely on anyone else’s opinion unless I am competent to judge)

        d) pick on the dating, which is the most peripheral (though facinating)point I made

        e) ludicrously ignore my several postings herein which make it abundantly clear that My position is absolutely NOT Judeo-Christian: I have expessed NO acceptance of Biblical authority

        • Posted June 27, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

          …and how much more interesting that your response is devoid of evidence to support your initial extraordinary claim.

          Please excuse me while I dismiss without evidence that which you have asserted without evidence.

          You might think you’re not espousing religious propaganda, but your words sure read as if that’s exactly what you’re doing.

          Here’s a hint: “standard scholarly dating” of anything in the Bible invariably equates perfectly with Catholic dogma. Those same “standard scholars” will tell you that all that stuff that the Bible claims happened but that we have mountains of evidence that it didn’t happen really did happen. And then, of course, they assign “standard dates” to the stuff that didn’t happen.

          Start with the assumption that the Bible is bullshit, that there’s damned little of it that survives from antiquity outside of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and that there’s not much reason to assume that any of it was ever set to parchment significantly earlier than the oldest of the Scrolls, and you’re not likely to keep spewing this kind of bullshit. Otherwise, you might as well get your dates from Usser and be done with it.

          b&

          • Posted June 27, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

            Ben, have you read a single scholarly book on textual criticism of Genesis-2 Kings? Most authorities (including I. Finkelstein) do place the composition of most of the Song of Deborah in the pre-monarchic period, and accept the Pentateuch was written in the 8th-2nd Cs BC, not by Moses. Your assertion that ““standard scholarly dating” of anything in the Bible invariably equates perfectly with Catholic dogma” and that “Those same “standard scholars” will tell you that all that stuff that the Bible claims happened but that we have mountains of evidence that it didn’t happen really did happen” is baseless-please cite actual, non-religious, 21st century scholars if you plan to spew such crap any more. There is good reason to assume much of the Deut. Hist. was written in the pre-Exilic period (e.g., the Joshua 15&18 town lists, which date to the time of Josiah).

            • Posted June 27, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

              My remark about “textual criticism” should read “textual and source criticism”.

              • Posted June 27, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

                You’ve got to be having carnal relations with Mickey’s dog to think that textual and source criticism is a reliable method of dating anything, let alone a centuries- or millennia-old document.

                Where’s your C-14 test, your dendrochronology analysis, your archaeological dig, something else reliable?

                Or are you one of those who’s so upset by, “The answer cannot be reliably determined with the available data,” that you’ll glom onto an answer, any answer, so long as it’s stated pretentiously?

                Yes, I know. Biblical scholars don’t give a flying fuck about the scientific method, and think that handwriting analysis constitutes the gold standard in dating methodology. Just because they’re a bunch of idiots doesn’t mean that anybody else should put up with their insanity.

                b&

              • Occam
                Posted June 27, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

                Not even an integrated approach is assured of yielding satisfactory results.
                For a nice example, see:
                http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/short/0804950105
                (Open Access). Be sure to look at the supporting material files, too.

              • Posted June 27, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

                “You’ve got to be having carnal relations with Mickey’s dog to think that textual and source criticism is a reliable method of dating anything, let alone a centuries- or millennia-old document.”

                It’s not all that unreliable. For example, the earliest extant written copy of the Rigveda dates from the 13th century CE. Yet, it would be remarkably foolish to argue therefore that the Rigvda was written in the 13th century CE. The way they* dated the Rigveda is somewhat like dendrochronology: use otherwise dated archeological artifacts referring to the Rigveda to follow the development of the Sanskrit language, and then compare the language with the one used in the Rigveda. Of course, such methods would never be as accurate as C-14 dating, but can still quite reliable dates with errors of a few centuries plus or minus. I am not sure why the same methods could not be applied to parts of the Bible.

          • Posted June 27, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

            Source criticism is actually a very reliable method of dating biblical passages in some instances (read Nadav Na’aman’s “New Light on Hezekiah’s Second Prophetic Story” for an example of this). Are you so clueless as to think that the date of the original composition of a document can be determined by nothing more than physical dating methods and archaeological context of a MS? For the OT (in whose case handwriting analysis cannot be used due to lack of early manuscripts) the realia (e.g., settlement patterns, technology, customs) mentioned or implied in the text are very reliable indicators of its date.

            “Biblical scholars don’t give a flying fuck about the scientific method”
            -A 21st C AD, non-religious scholarly source to support your claim. [crickets]. As you have already stated, a statement stated without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. Also, what exactly do you mean by the ‘scientific method’ in this context?

            “and think that handwriting analysis constitutes the gold standard in dating methodology.”
            -Correct for some inscriptions, but I don’t see how this relates to the OT. Do you have a better standard for dating unprovenanced authentic inscriptions?

            “Or are you one of those who’s so upset by, “The answer cannot be reliably determined with the available data,” that you’ll glom onto an answer, any answer, so long as it’s stated pretentiously?”

            -I am actually quite fine with “The answer cannot be reliably determined with the available data”.

            • Posted June 27, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

              I am actually quite fine with “The answer cannot be reliably determined with the available data”

              I call bullshit on this one, considering that, in your previous paragraph, you actually admitted that you think that handwriting analysis is a useful dating metric.

              Handwriting analysis! Dear sweet Jesus on a pogo stick, handwriting analysis!

              Anybody who’s ever even watched a calligrapher should know how completely barking mad it is to think that you can judge the age of something by the style of the penmanship, and you’ve really got to be an idiot to think that it’s even worth pretending to use this phrenological joke of a scam instead of radiometric dating.

              Jesus Christ, man…the level of gullibility you’re displaying here is such that you’re making me want to offer you a bridge for sale.

              b&

              • Posted June 27, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

                Do you think scholars can not tell apart archaizing writing from actual old writing? Do you deny that, in the long run, letter styles change? Have you even bothered to look at a comparison of ancient Semitic inscriptions and how their letter forms change throughout time? If so, why do you dismiss as ludicrous that which is admitted by thousands of scholars to be very useful in dating inscriptions? Thanks to the numerous inscriptions from the Northwest Semitic world we have found, epigraphers can easily distinguish 10th century BC inscriptions from 8th C BC ones (as long as we have a good clue as to their origin-e.g., compare the Qeiyafa Ostracon with the Ahiram inscription, roughly contemporary in date).

              • Posted June 27, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

                Oh, I’m sure any competent papyrologist is more than capable of offering a good first-order approximation of a document based on its visual characteristics. But if you think that’s even potentially more reliable than a well-performed radiometric analysis, then I’d be more than happy to sell you a sliver of the One True Cross.

                b&

          • JonLynnHarvey
            Posted June 27, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

            Ben,
            I love your sense of humor (thanks for inadvertantly introducing me to Tim Minchin by thw way) but I think you tend to confuse skepticism with nihilism.

            There’s a lot of !*specific*! stuff in the Bible we know is not true because of
            !*specific*! red flags. But you tend to think that the fallback/default assumption is that nothing there is true, since in general Biblical authors are pathological liars. Historians generally don’t work that way.

            • Posted June 27, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

              When dealing with a known pathological liar, the default stance should always be to assume that even the innocent trivialities are false. If independent evidence reveals otherwise, fantastic, but those who make a habit out of lying lie even when the truth would obviously serve them better.

              Any historian who assumes that anything in the Bible not obviously false is true until proven false is a very, very gullible fool.

              b&

              • JonLynnHarvey
                Posted June 28, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

                Ben,

                Religion and other false beliefs can be a complex combination of confabulation from pathological lying, honest delusion, altered states of consciousness, extreme naiveté/gullibility, commonly human forms of self-deception like false pattern-recognition, post-traumatic stress, schizophrenia, and nervous breakdowns and many more things.

                For example, many commentators think the New Testament’s St. Paul had temporal lobe epilepsy which can induce powerful hallucinations but is far less impairing than general schizophrenia. Swedenborg seems to have experimented with extreme consciousness-altering forms of meditation, and thus in his 50s after an otherwise normal life did what he did. By contrast, David Koresh seems to have been seriously disturbed across the board even in his early teens.

                Archaeologists are quite sure at this point that the story of Moses is a “whole cloth” fabrication and so even the mundane details can be presumed false. On the other hand, the same archeaologists are certain there is a real Kings David and Solomon and the Biblical narrative is a partially fabricated and partially factual tale (with notably much less supernaturalism in general than the Moses story).

                In the case of Jesus, there is such a shortage of evidence either way, it becomes a matter of what is the most parsimonious interpretation of the evidence. One thing that concerns me with Jesus mythicism is that the three leading mythicists have conflicting and mutually contradictory theories about the real origins of the New Testament and all three have an overly complex Rube-Goldberg quality (especially Earl Doherty). Unlike Moses, a non-existent Jesus seems to create more problems than it solves. And if Paul really had temporal lobe epilepsy then there is little reason to doubt his mundane autobiographical statements. Hence, I am unconvinced by mythicism.

              • logicophilosophicus
                Posted June 28, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

                JLH

                I agree 100%, but I think there is a further point to be made about ANCIENT religion. It was universal – you didn’t have to be delusional or in denial of scientific fact to believe. When you had an idea, you had learned to believe you god was speaking to you. Whe you had conflictin selfish and altruistic urges, you believed god wad whispering in one ear and he devil in the other. You weren’t ignoring Einstein, Darwin, Newton, Gallileo, Copernicus… They were in the unknown future, at the end of a long, hard road, and only saw further because they were standing on the shoulders of giants. The authors of the Torah and the Deuteronomic History had the bad luck to be born over two and a half thousand years ago. Why blame them? Just feel lucky.

          • logicophilosophicus
            Posted June 28, 2012 at 2:44 am | Permalink

            My noncontentious statement has unleashed a torrent of imprecation: “[T]he Song of Deborah… is possibly the oldest text in the Bible – 12th century BCE, so hundreds of years older than the Iliad.” [Filippo: “Just how many ‘hundreds’? Methinks I detect bloviation.” Youthinks wrong. Supposedly three or four hundred, since you seem unable to Google it yourself.]

            Ben Goren: “Please excuse me while I dismiss without evidence that which you have asserted without evidence. You might think you’re not espousing religious propaganda, but your words sure read as if that’s exactly what you’re doing. Here’s a hint: ‘standard scholarly dating’ of anything in the Bible invariably equates perfectly with Catholic dogma… Start with the assumption that the Bible is bullshit, that there’s damned little of it that survives from antiquity… and you’re not likely to keep spewing this kind of bullshit.”

            Ben Goren: “You’ve got to be [fucking Goofy] to think that textual and source criticism is a reliable method of dating anything.. Biblical scholars don’t give a flying fuck about the scientific method… Just because they’re a bunch of idiots doesn’t mean that anybody else should put up with their insanity.”

            Nonsense. The assertion that the Song is older than the Torah, when the Torah claims to be written by Moses, who (if indeed he existed at all) died at least a century (fundamentalists would say three centuries) before Deborah, is one of the many DISPROOFS of Biblical accuracy.

            The British New Atheist, A. C. Grayling, listed five (non-religious) books (his top 5 from hundreds he cited in his “The Good Book”) which help us to understand “how to live a satisfying and morally good life.” Only two of the five are modern – Richard Dawkins’s “The Greatest Show on Earth” and Robin Lane Fox’s “The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible.” These quotations are from Fox’s book:

            “I write as an atheist… historian… there are times when atheists are loyal friends of the truth.” (p7)

            “In [Judges] chaper 5 he [i.e. the D source, the Deuteronomic Historian, writing c. 550 BCE] quotes the famous Song of Deborah, which is plainly very old (probably the oldest in the Bible) and may well be a primary source [roughly, an eye-witness account], composed for the victory over Sisera c. 1100 BC.”

            If you want to let Fox know personally that he is fucking goofy for using textual analysis, is spewing bullshit, and is an insane idiot who doesn’t give a flying fuck about the scientific method, you can contact him at New College Oxford, where he and Dawkins are both Fellows.

            • Filippo
              Posted June 28, 2012 at 5:06 am | Permalink

              ‘[Filippo: “Just how many ‘hundreds’? Methinks I detect bloviation.” Youthinks wrong. Supposedly three or four hundred, since you seem unable to Google it yourself.]’

              “Supposedly three or four hundred . . . .”

              Did you yourself Google or Wiki or search wherever for it and pin down the answer to “hundreds”? Did you get a specific (range of) date(s) and, if so, why not specifically state it?

              If I spend $200.00, have I spent “hundreds” of dollars? If it took two days to receive a response to an inquiry, did I “have to” wait for “days”?

              • logicophilosophicus
                Posted June 28, 2012 at 7:05 am | Permalink

                Filippo. You still think I am being dishonest here? I’ve already given sources for 1100+ for the Song of Deborah. You think that I am deliberately seeking the highest possible date for the Song and the lowest for the Iliad in order to glorify the Bible. McDaniel (“Deborah: Poetry in Dialect – a Philological Study of Judges 5 with Translation and Commentary) discusses dates suggested by various scholars at great length on various grounds of content, dialect and possible historical milieu. He rejects a high date of 1225 and lower dates around 1150, settling on 1190.

                http://academic.reed.edu/humanities/110tech/iliad.html#Basic

                Gives a date for the first writing of the Iliad (as opposed to its final received written version) of c. 720 BCE. A principal issue is the illiteracy of Dark Age Greeks. It’s hard to write stuff when you can’t write. (Compare the earlier literacy of the Hebrews as evidenced specifically in the Song of Deborah [Judges 5.14 – “Out of Machir came down governors, and out of Zebulun they that handle the pen of the writer”] – yet another of the fascinating details unique to this priceless early source.)

                1225 minus 720 is a range of 500+ years, but I went for a more cautious “three or four hundred” which would satisfy most mainstream ancient historians, I think.

                What do you think? Bloviation on my part? You have obviously been guilty of one of those “assertions without evidence” I am hearing so much about. That Jesus you hate so much had an apt saying about this:

                “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” (The Sermon on the Mount.)

                He didn’t have to be a god to get that right.

              • Filippo
                Posted June 28, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

                I have looked at Wikipedia entries about The Iliad and The Song of Deborah.

                I acknowledge an apparent expert’s dating Deborah somewhere in the 12th century BC based on its “grammar and context,” however accurate and meaningful that method is. (Just how often and how much does grammar and context detectably change?) Her birth year is listed as 1200 BCE, but two years of death offered, 1124 and 1067 BCE, which would seem to also call into question the accuracy of her birth year.

                The Iliad entry quotes Herodotus (on whatever basis) as placing the writing of it around 850 BCE. It also stated that the Iliad records events of the early 12th century BC.

                Whenever their respective tales were first put in writing, it appears that Deborah and Ajax et al were doing their respective thangs at about the same time.

                I hereby acknowledge, admit, confess to confusing the time period of the (“historical”?) 12th century BCE events with that of Homer’s writing, approx. 400 years later.

                I hereby plead guilty to the charge of “hypocrite.” I’ve labored the better part of the morning digging out the log.

                I apologize for uttering out loud, so to speak, and directing toward you, the word “bloviation.” My insufficient knowledge of the subject matter absolutely was not a basis for justifying use of the “b” word. I confess that “bloviation” likely characterizes my own initial use of the word.

                Accordingly, I hereby rest my voice on this issue, and leave it to other readers who, perhaps reflecting on their own exchanges with you, may consider that there yet remain one or more reasonable bases warranting continued use of this descriptor.

                I still object to – and consider as prima facie evidence of bloviation (especially more and more in the media) – the use of such obfuscatory “white noise” words like “may” and “seems” (as if a reporter’s subjective perception of how something “seems” is objective reporting of fact). Also, e.g., the fatuous, hyperbolic description of “hours” or “days” having passed, when in reality the quantity was a maximum of two, if that.

              • logicophilosophicus
                Posted June 28, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

                I know the trick you mean, and it is dangerous. Someone takes say $97,000 and reports it as $100,000, legitimately rounding, he would say. Next guy says “a six figure sum” which becomes “a cost in the hundreds of thousands” which becomes “several hundred thousand” by a general process of Chinese Whispers. All I can say is that I am much stricter with myself than that, truth-obsessive in fact, and that sometimes requires me to put “apparently” or “possibly” or – going down the scale – “supposedly”, depending on how much trust I place in the source. I don’t disapprove of your intention to keep bloggers honest, but… Well, never mind.

    • Posted June 27, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      The song of Deborah is Judges 5 2-31. and missing out? It’s a sycophant’s anthem to a vicious primitive god that admits that this god is less than powerful:

      ‘Curse its people bitterly,
      because they did not come to help the Lord,
      to help the Lord against the mighty.’

      poor god, it needs help and its “angels” say that it should punish people for not helping it. It also has that Deborah also admits that a being a woman is “bad” since she tells Barak that he will be dishonored by his god by his god giving the victory to a woman.

      These small bits about Deborah and Jael(in two chapters of one book and never again mentioned, and even the chapters can’t get the events the same) are always a great thing to read to see that the bible is a contradictory mess. I do love when Christians mention them when their precious NT has all about how women are less than men, that they should never ever teach them, should never speak in “church” (yes, it does say that they can prophecize, so?) that women are damned unless they give birth (Timothy is just great for this misogyny), and shows that a lie is perfectly fine with this god as long as it supports it, conflicting with every other bit about lying in the bible, when it is *never* okay.

    • rhetoric
      Posted June 27, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      The point is that this document is supposed to be directly inspired by the single greatest thing to ever exist inside or outside the entire. fucking. universe.

      A few decent poems strewn about (i.e. very rare) between the genocide, misogyny, and pure insanity does not redeem it in the slightest. Keep in mind that all this ‘great’ poetry usually involves the enemies of the Jewish god being murdered and then mindless masturbation to the greatness of their god, like in the Song of Deborah.

      It’s like regarding Mein Kampf as great literature because Hitler tacked on a 3 page children’s story at the end. And the children’s story was about murdering Jews.

      • logicophilosophicus
        Posted June 28, 2012 at 3:00 am | Permalink

        The Bible is not supposed to be written by God even according to most Christians and religious Jews, nor “directly” inspired. For example, the two versions of the Sisera story (Judges 4 and 5) have inconsistencies which have been recognised since the 19th century at least. It is a compilation of revered texts mostly historical in intent (i.e. revered by the compilers).

        Just because you find parts morally repugnant (personally I read a lot of historical fiction filled with cruelty and violence) doesn’t invalidate the rest. Many people would find this assage from “The Descent of Man” reugnant, but that’s because they wrongly judge the past by today’s standards:

        “…the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break will then be rendered wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state as we may hope, than the Caucasian and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as at present between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.”

        • gbjames
          Posted June 28, 2012 at 5:14 am | Permalink

          This will come as quite a surprise to Christians in this world. Some of them still refer to it as “the word of God”. No doubt it just a figure of speech. They wouldn’t go so far as trying to use it to create social policy.

          • logicophilosophicus
            Posted June 28, 2012 at 7:26 am | Permalink

            The operative word was “some”. There is certainly have a fundamentalist problem in the US, but apart from the occasional Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon missionary on the doorstep we never hear “The word of god” phrase. It probably persists in liturgy – I wouldn’t know – like “Amen” – but not generally as a belief. Do you think ordinary Chritians are so stupid that they think Moses wrote an account of his own death?

            Meanwhile, I notice my actual POINT, the parallel example of Darwin’s hope that inferior races will be exterminated by Caucasians, has raised no comment. No doubt it was just a figure of speech?

            • gbjames
              Posted June 28, 2012 at 8:43 am | Permalink

              I have no idea who the “we” in “we never hear ‘The word of god’ phrase” is. You are living in a very protected part of the world apparently. I’d suggest you take a look at the current Republican Party platform for the State of Texas if you think it is only a fringe of Christianity that believes this crap.

              http://s3.amazonaws.com/texasgop_pre/assets/original/2012Platform_Final.pdf

              Your “actual point” is a false equivalence. Nobody takes 19th Century race comments as scriptural inspiration. A whole bunch of Christians take the Bible as their guide. Except, apparently, in your home town.

              • logicophilosophicus
                Posted June 28, 2012 at 9:26 am | Permalink

                That’s fair comment, to the extent that you have a fundamentalist problem in the States which we don’t have in the UK. I’ve mentioned this already. I knw it’s a problem that needs to be addressed, in case some born again fruitcake gets his hands on the nuclear button. But I suspect that the Ones who get to the White House are strictly Sunday Christians. Politicians have to do a lot of dealing and lying – especially to the voters – to get to the top.

                Re Darwin, he’s not as far along the road as we are. He pointed out in the same chapter, I believe, that a savage only has altruism towards his own tribe, and will happily kill a stranger. That’s the beginning of the road. If you read the Song of Deborah you’ll see that she expcted the Canaanite Sisera – with his mother’s approval – to slaughter the Hebrews and sexually enslave their young women. Those were the morals of the time. Darwin understood. Modern Christians understand, and (understandingly) reject the mores of the 1st millennium BCE. Even the Klan stopped burning black churches decades ago, I hear.

              • gbjames
                Posted June 28, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

                “But I suspect that the Ones who get to the White House are strictly Sunday Christians.”

                You suspect wrong. George W. was not a “strictly Sunday Christian”. God told him (and his friend Tony) to take us all off on an adventure in Iraq a few years back.

                We have a whole lot of true believers in Congress. They dominate one of our two political parties. My state’s Governor is a True Believer who seeks guidance from The Lord for everything he does.

                Wake up. The world is full of these nut jobs. They are a treat to us all, even if your home town is blissfully insulated from them for the moment. (Have your state schools started receiving their copies of The Bible yet?)

              • logicophilosophicus
                Posted June 28, 2012 at 10:16 am | Permalink

                I think you are not cynical enough about politicians:

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:George_W_Bush_approval_ratings_with_events.svg

                No religious motivation required. It was the same over here. They gambled on finding WMD which Saddam was pretending to hide, by refusing inspector access. Their popularity set off downhill again when it turned out hat Saddam was not even an honest liar.

                Neither Bush’s nor Blair’s record has any obvious religious dimension. Maybe a little vote grabbing for Dubya on embryonic stemcell research, bits like that.

                But what’s that got to do with the literary or historical merits of the Song of Deborah?

              • gbjames
                Posted June 28, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

                I’m plenty cynical about politicians. But I can also recognize religious presidents whose life has been saved from the evils of the bottle by his acceptance of Jesus. And Tony has converted to Catholicism for cynical political reasons?

                I guess there is no problem of religion on this planet after all!

              • logicophilosophicus
                Posted June 28, 2012 at 11:38 am | Permalink

                Your ironic “no problem” remark implies that I see no problem with religion. Not so. The issue here is whether many people – Bush was supposedly an example – believe the entire Bible is the verbatim word of god. Bush is a Wesleyan, and in their articles of belief they make it clear that the OT “moral commandments” (the rules concerning one’s own moral behaviour) are the only part binding modern Christians. Other commamdments (most of the Deuteronomic Law) are not, and the support of God for Joshua, Deborah etc certainly does not imply that their actions would be approved today or can be taken as a model. And that’s STILL got nothing to do with literary or historical merit or interest.

                Bush and Blair both converted to the more traditional churches of their WIVES. A strong wife is a powerful force – even where alcohol is concerned.

              • gbjames
                Posted June 28, 2012 at 11:52 am | Permalink

                No, I don’t think the issue is whether many people believe entire Bible is the verbatim word of god. I don’t think there is a single person who fits that definition. The most fervent literalists still pick and choose.

                The issue is whether large numbers of people believe it is a divine guide to living and governing. And there are huge numbers of these people. The Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Jim DeMint, Scott Walker types are immensely powerful. Why do you want to pretend that this isn’t the case?

              • logicophilosophicus
                Posted June 28, 2012 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

                I wrote “the issue” meaning the point of this discussion in this thread. I see no evidence that any Cristian, however fundamentalist, now acts as if exterminating the Amalekites is a model for 21st century realpolitik. The Bible may be a dreadful influence on scientific literacy, but it is not now (though it may well have been in the past) dangerous in terms of world stability. (On other issues, contraception for example, it is interpreted in a shocking way by major churches and millions of their congregation. But you can’t blame the Song of Deborah for that. And, if you could, it wouldn’t be on literary or historical merit – that would be daft.)

              • logicophilosophicus
                Posted June 28, 2012 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

                Sorry! I meant to say that I don’t presume to know anything about the four politicos you mention. Obviously you would know better than I, and they may be part of the USA’s Fundamemtalist problem.

              • gbjames
                Posted June 29, 2012 at 4:49 am | Permalink

                “The Bible may be a dreadful influence on scientific literacy, but it is not now (though it may well have been in the past) dangerous in terms of world stability.”

                How can you write a sentence like this with a straight face? Scientific literacy has a gigantic effect on public policy. Global warming? Dealing with it has crippled by people who are convinced that God wouldn’t allow such a thing and in any case Jesus is about to return so there’s no need to fret.

                You mention the idiocy regarding contraception. Do you seriously think that doesn’t have implications for the fate of the rest of us on this little twirling rock of a planet?

              • logicophilosophicus
                Posted June 29, 2012 at 8:17 am | Permalink

                “Scientific literacy has a gigantic effect on public policy. Global warming? Dealing with it has crippled by people who are convinced that God wouldn’t allow such a thing and in any case Jesus is about to return so there’s no need to fret.”

                I think you’d need evidence for that. George W Bush kept the USA out of Kyoto because – he said – it was unfair to bind America when other soon-to-be greater emitters were exempt, when the effectiveness of Kyoto was dubious, and when the extent of anthropogenic effect was still arguable. I think he was dead right on all three, though that’s not relevant here: he wasn’t acting from religious belief.

                Meanwhile countries like Brazil or the Philippines, overwhelmingly Catholic, are passionate about the climate change issue. I’d need evidence.

                (On contraception, note that religion has little effect compared to prosperity. Affluent Catholics limit their families, and hevsame is true of other religions. The Mormons will get there eventually.)

        • J
          Posted June 29, 2012 at 6:43 am | Permalink

          Just because you find some parts morally inspiring doesn’t validate the rest! Taken as a whole, the Bible is just awful.

        • gbjames
          Posted June 29, 2012 at 6:50 am | Permalink

          Could the Bible be a hodgepodge of material in which one could find whatever one wants to find? Who’da thought!

          • logicophilosophicus
            Posted June 29, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

            @J/gbj

            One more atheist view: “Western civilization, it seems to me, stands by two great heritages. One is the scientific spirit of adventure – the adventure into the unknown, an unknown that must be recognized as unknown in order to be explored, the demand that the unanswerable mysteries of the universe remain unanswered [he means “never immune from further investigation” I think], the attitude that all is uncertain. To summarize it: humility of the intellect. The other great heritage is Christian ethics – the basis of action on love, the brotherhood of all men, the value of the individual, the humility of the spirit.” (Richard Feynman)

            So far we’ve seen Dawkins valuing the literary merit of the (King James) Bible, Asimov valuing its cosmology, Lane Fox valuing its historical content (and, incidentally, the high literary skills of some of its original unknown authors), Feynman valuing its moral influence – whether you agree with these high profile atheists or not (and on what grounds, i.e. what’s your expertise?) can’t alter the fact that their judgment proves that it is reasonable to value the Bible on a variety of levels. Or are these atheists unreasonable people? You confidently state that your opinion is so unchallengeable that it compltely invalidates theirs? If not, you need some of that humility Richard Feynman was talking about.

            • J
              Posted June 29, 2012 at 8:56 am | Permalink

              My point was that you can find literary merit in there but that is not a view that can be taken of the Bible as a whole . Same for morals & cosmology*!
              *Cosmology? Really?

            • gbjames
              Posted June 29, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

              You can find nice bits. You can find horrid bits. So every reader and religious sect gets to make what it what they will.

              Fine. Until you start using it as the basis for controlling how other people live their lives and for making public policy. And, please, don’t go telling me that that doesn’t happen.

              • logicophilosophicus
                Posted June 29, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

                So you DO believe your opinion invalidates those great atheists. That’s where we defiitively part company.

              • Posted June 29, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink

                ’round these here parts, an argument from authority does more to harm your position than enhance it.

                Besides which, within any reasonable rounding error, there’s fuck-all in the Bible that’s admirable. It makes Mein Kampf seem like a Disney special in comparison.

                b&

              • gbjames
                Posted June 29, 2012 at 11:35 am | Permalink

                Frankly, I think you’re trolling. And I think these guys would all disagree with the way you are attempting to enroll them to support a ridiculous position.

                Oh… and what Ben said about arguments from authority.

              • logicophilosophicus
                Posted June 29, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

                “Argumentum ad verecundiam or appeal to authority, when correctly applied, can be a valid and sometimes ESSENTIAL part of an argument that requests JUDGEMENT or input from a qualified or expert source.” (Emphases added) Merit/value is a judgment. To show that there is significant merit/value in the Bible which is not dependent on religion, it is essential to find non-believers with appropriate knowledge/study/expertise who judge that there is significant merit. There is no other way.

                http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_verecundiam

                It’s useful to know what you’re talking about. The clue is in the tag (logicophilosophicus).

              • gbjames
                Posted June 29, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

                You are too full of yourself, by half.

              • logicophilosophicus
                Posted June 29, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

                “Too full of yourself.” Check back and see if anyone in this thread has admitted ignorance on any issue, or apologised for not adequately valuing another’s greater knowledge on an issue. Two people. You are not one of them, I am. Check back to my Richard Feynman quote. Do you understand what he meant by the need for humility in both the scientific and moral realms? Think about it sometime.

              • J
                Posted June 30, 2012 at 2:07 am | Permalink

                “It’s useful to know what you’re talking about. The clue is in the tag”
                Nope, I think gbjames got it spot on – people who call for humility in others to get them to shut up are full of themselves.
                Arguments from authority aren’t as useful in the sceptic community because we each look at claims/opinions & judge them for ourselves & in the case of the Bible it seems that most of us here disagree with you – it’s awful. Accept that, move on.

              • logicophilosophicus
                Posted June 30, 2012 at 3:25 am | Permalink

                You have not been asked to shut up. The examples I gave – my own admissions that someone else’s points had merit – are nothing to do with shutting up.

                “Argumentum ad verecundiam or appeal to authority, when correctly applied, can be a valid and sometimes ESSENTIAL part of an argument that requests JUDGEMENT or input from a qualified or expert source.”

                “Most of us here” agree with the proposition “start with the assumption that the Bible is bullshit”. Having no qualification or expertise, and having already decided the answer, you set yourself up as an authority beyond challenge. That’s poor logic, poor scepticism and poor atheism. And I am certainly moving on from this particular “discussion”.

                I’ll just reiterate my starting point. The Song of Deborah is agreed by effectively all qualified experts to be the oldest fragment of recorded Hebrew history, with even the names of real people from the time. That very fact contradicts the religious claims of the Torah. Given the small and tribally separatist nature of the Hebrews in Palestine/Syria for the best part of a millennium it is quite probable that Deborah and Barak appear somewhere in Jerry’s ancestry. As a Jew who loves the culture but not the religion, he’s missing something precious if he brushes the Song aside.

              • J
                Posted June 30, 2012 at 3:56 am | Permalink

                My starting point is not that the Bible is bullshit but that the Bible is a book. Reading it leads me to the conclusion that it is bullshit. Apparently there’s a part of it that you like. That’s great, good for you, there’s probably at least a passage in there that I like – it’s a long book! But finding a nice bit does not make it a good book .
                And you did come across like you were telling gbjames to shut up by saying that the opinions of the people you mentioned were more valuable than his. You don’t need to be an expert or an authority in anything to simply read the Bible & see for yourself that for a modern reader it comes nowhere near being a great piece of literature.

              • gbjames
                Posted June 30, 2012 at 6:58 am | Permalink

                You know, last night I read your “Think about it sometime” response. I had finished a nice sushi dinner with my wife and enjoyed a pair of bottles of a local IPA. I muttered something to myself that I won’t repeat here and decided that in the morning I’d take a trip down memory lane.

                This thread began with logicophilosophicus (the clue is in the tag) expressing his opinion that if one (Jerry in particular) reads the bible as a skeptic then you miss out on what it is all about, rousing anthems and the like. I don’t remember anyone actually claiming that the Song of Deborah (asserted to be a “great” text for feminists) was a lot of drivel, but perhaps someone did. So what. People have different opinions about art.

                Skipping past discussions about the relative value of handwriting and dating techniques, we find logicophilosophicus (the clue is in the tag) that the Song is sooo amazing and A. C. Grayling, Richard Dawkins, Robin Lane Fox all support his position. Which position at this point? I don’t know. Maybe that the Song is sooo amazing.

                Later we hear from logicophilosophicus (the clue is in the tag) that we’re just READING THE BIBLE WRONG! Hold the presses, this just in…. Of course there are inconsistencies in the bible (the Sisera story)! MOST Xtians and Jews don’t even think it was “‘directly’ inspired”. This is where I became interested because that assertion flies in the fact of an enormous body of reality. Where I live we have an entire political party that bases its platform on the fantasy of God talking to them through this book.

                When this is pointed out, logicophilosophicus (the clue is in the tag) says his “actual POINT” has something to do with Chuck Darwin being a racist. Say what? All that stuff about how nobody but a few JoHos and Mormons really believe this stuff is off topic? We’re really here to talk about Darwin’s views of “savages”? Really?

                Of course not. logicophilosophicus (the clue is in the tag) informs us that we’re really here because the Song of Deborah informs us about the morals of the time.

                Oh. And I’m not cynical enough because I think that there are a lot of politicians who are true believers. I’m mistaken about George W. and the rest. He and the rest aren’t religious believers, despite all evidence to the contrary. They just have wives. Silly me.

                In fact (I’m told), the bible has a dreadful influence on scientific literacy but not to worry, that won’t have any deleterious affect on world stability.

                Meanwhile. Again with Dawkins/Lane Fox/Feynman. Surely if you list some BIG NAME ATHEISTS, then surely everyone will agree with you. About what exactly? That the Song of Deborah is one tasty little poem? Are you trying to start a SoD Appreciation Society? Have at it.

                I’ve said, and others like “J” have tried to make the point, which is so painfully obvious that it embarrasses me to have to repeat it, that this particular book (or library in the minds of some) is full of so much internally contradiction, so many styles, so much inconsistency, that one can find just about anything you want if you look in the right parts. You’ve settled in on the One True Poem. Maybe you think it is the loveliest poem on Planet Earth. Maybe Richard Dawkins agrees with that assessment and will join the SoD Appreciation Society. I don’t know, and I don’t particularly care. What matters, as far as I’m concerned, is that we recognize the book for what it is, a collection of oral histories, stories, and bronze age religious fantasies. There are some bits that are kind of nice. There are many bits that are horrific. And there are vast tracts of dull and tiresome drivel.

                Have a nice day.

    • Filippo
      Posted June 27, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      ” . . . the Song of Deborah, which is possibly the oldest text in the Bible – 12th century BCE, so hundreds of years older than the Iliad . . . .”

      Just how many “hundreds”? Methinks I detect bloviation.

  20. Golkarian
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    “And the Lord was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.”
    —Judges 1:19

    • Kevin
      Posted June 27, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      SPOILER ALERT:

      But later, he sends a mudslide.

  21. heleen
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Judges is quite fun, and most of it after Judges too. But one should approach it as tribal self definition, not as something with high moral ground.
    And Ben Goren, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deborah
    Such judgements on age of bible books are made on linguistic grounds. After all, at some point the tribal history-by-mouth shades into written history.

    • Posted June 27, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      “tribal self definition”

      just like all of the rest of the bible, an attempt by one tribe to declare itself special and deserving of land/resources.

      • Marella
        Posted June 27, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

        And to explain why they keep losing wars regardless of how special they are.

  22. Daryl
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Once you realise that judges is a kind of brutal folk fiction, it actually becomes quite entertaining (in a horrifying way). My favourite is from judges 19. The story of the priest (!) who throws his concubine to a mob and the next morning finds her raped to death. Making virtue of necessity, he then chops up her body and fed exes the parts to every corner of Israel in the hope of starting a war. So hilariously ridiculous.

    Absalom getting his head stuck in a tree whilst riding his mule has always tickled my funny bone. He’s just dangling in mid air! It’s like the biblical writers inhaled deeply whilst standing next to a Norman Wisdom film. (who’s Norman Wisdom, Americans may ask? Only the greatest actor ever).

    Oh if you’re bored now, wait till you get to the prophets. I found jerimiah a most turgid read.

    • Rebecca Sparks
      Posted June 28, 2012 at 6:53 am | Permalink

      I loved the story of Ehud as a kid. The fat, corpulent body swallowing up the sword, the attendants thinking the king had some sort of horrible diarrhea–plus I was left handed and the bible’s all right-handed this and right-handed that all the time.

  23. ginger k
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Oy vey. I remember reading the catholic version of teh bible when I was 13. It confirmed my atheism. Ironically, people who saw me reading it assumed I was devout.

  24. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    The worst of the Bible is Leviticus through Judges and everything in between IMO.

    Yeah though I walk through the valley of the boredom of Leviticus through Judges, I will fear no brain-death, for my LOLcat is with me….

  25. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    OK, I’m going to volunteer here some very silly ancient !*Buddhist*! rules.

    Earliest rules for Buddhist monks (vinaya) held that it was

    a worse offense to have vaginal sex with an iguana than to insert one’s pecker into the nose of an elephant.

    Source: The Red Thread by Bernard Faure.

    No rules in Buddhism are engraved in stone either literally or figuratively

    • gravelinspector
      Posted June 28, 2012 at 5:56 am | Permalink

      Earliest rules for Buddhist monks (vinaya) held that it was

      Citation please.
      1. Iguanas don’t have vaginas per se but conjoined urethral/ rectal passages called a “cloaca” (Latin, equating to “sewer”). But we’ll let that pass, because birds are similarly constructed, and I’ve seen “Bob’s Animal Farm.”
      Iguana are a New World genus of reptile. Not likely to be molested by many early Buddhists.
      Nasally violating an elephant. “Bob,” down on his farm, would be impressed. And filming, because if the film didn’t work for his “normal” clientèle, he’s likely to get some footage for the self-mutilation and/or snuff brigade.
      The sound in the background is my bovine excrement detector sounding it’s HIHI alarm ; there are no lorries of bovines dribbling nearby.

  26. greyhound1405
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    I’m adopted and thus a Bastard (most people have to work at that ;-)-), so I can’t go in a place of worship (Great reply to Street preachers – Oh no I’m a Bastard, so I can’t possibly accept Jesus, as he wouldn’t want me).
    Can’t win can we, because my mother is not allowed to abort me either!
    So glad I am out of all this minefield of twaddle…

    • gravelinspector
      Posted June 28, 2012 at 6:04 am | Permalink

      I’m adopted and thus a Bastard (most people have to work at that 😉 -)

      I fail to see the necessary connection. Without knowing your personal circumstances, it’s perfectly plausible for you to be legitimate, but for your parents to have died while you were very young, and so for you to have been adopted into another family. I can’t name a Biblical example off the top of my head, but adoption of children across families was a polite euphemism for “taking hostages” throughout the Dark Ages and Mediaeval periods ; the Romans were certainly not averse to it (Suetonius, ad nauseam) ; I doubt deeply that they invented it. (Come to think of it, the Egyptians did it too ; bracketing the Bible’s creators in time and space.)
      So who says that being adopted, in and of itself, means that you’re a bastard, and what’s their reasoning?

  27. greyhound1405
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and I have been chemically castrated as a side effect of hormone treatment for prostate cancer, so I guess I’m f%$&%d having damaged stones as well?

    • gravelinspector
      Posted June 28, 2012 at 6:11 am | Permalink

      You and your children unto the tenth generation. As Tommy and Turkish repeatedly express it in the film Snatch, you’re “f%$&%d, proper f%$&%d!”
      I don’t see any let out for any children you had before your medical procedures ; they’re in the same state of dis-grace. Another barrel-bottom of morality scraped out by the Bible authors.

  28. Jeremy Nel
    Posted June 28, 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    By far my favourite:

    Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel

    1 Kings 21:21

  29. Caroline52
    Posted June 28, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, has anyone asked what kind of presents you’d like when our outpouring of gratitude begins? Please hint.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted June 28, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      Just kidding, of course, but my readers know me well enough to know my penchants! 🙂

  30. lisa
    Posted July 29, 2012 at 2:15 am | Permalink

    Keep on plugging; I have faith in you and your ability to overcome. It does get a little better, depending on your edition/ translation. But if you truly wish to understand, at least in part, the religious and/or fundamentalists mind set, you need to have your quotes ready, even as the devil does. However, I find it also find it very interesting that even though I have read the same bible as many millions of Christians, I cannot but wonder precisely where their lives and actions in anyway conform to most of the rules or tenets of their faith, most especially the New Testament. When you have the actual ‘instructions’ of their belief, AND the knowledge of their regular behavior (or lack of), it makes the ‘debate’ so much more fun. And not to be picking on Christians, this holds true to of most of the ancient sacred writings available are mostly the same.


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