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REPLY #68a TO
"RELIGION"



Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

This is the first of a nine-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.

(R) How are you? I am responding to your response which you posted as Reply #57 on your religion essay.
(MB) There was much food for thought in that reply. We'll see how much of it has been digested...*grin*

(R) Throughout these responses, I have often gone for information in other book sources (as also in the previous letters).
(MB) Well done. Hopefully, the fruit of your research will lead to some interesting discussion. May I ask what some of those sources were? It would be proper to give credit to them if arguments or quotes are taken from them.

(R) Please do not think any of this knowledge or these statements are mine alone.
(MB) What really matters is the quality and correctness of what is said. Einstein once said something along the lines of "wisdom is not knowing something -- it's knowing where to look it up". One who *doesn't* research his arguments is more likely to be wrong about them.

(R) I am sorry it has taken so long to reply to you. I have been very busy with school and work.
(MB) I'm more than a bit behind, as well. I guess there's worse things in life than being busy, eh?

(R) God bless. You are always in my prayers. It has actually been a few months since I received your e-mail. Yikes! Once again, I have been very busy.
(MB) Not to worry. Let's get on to the meaty stuff!

"Unity"??? The Bible is only "unified" in the respect that it features the same central character throughout.
(R) So you admit that the Bible has a central character throughout, that character being Jesus? This seems contradictory to your other statements that the Old Testament contains no prophecy concerning Christ. Christ is the central character of the Bible and is portrayed that way through the Old and New Testament.
(MB) Since there is not even so much as one single word in the Old Testament that specifically mentions or refers to Jesus, it's rather difficult to claim that he is the central character within. Also, since the Old Testament is the history and beliefs of the Jews -- and the Jews do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah -- it is even more difficult to support any claim for Jesus being the central character of the OT.
    There is a central character who pervades the entirety of the Bible, but that character is God. Therefore, I could hardly have "admitted" that the central character is Jesus and there is no contradiction in my other statements. Jesus is an important character, to be sure, but he doesn't make his appearance until near the very chronological end of the story and even then is only at the center for a very short time. This does not point to him being the central character of the entire Bible.


But, the same can be said for the holy books of any other religion -- most of which also claim to be inspired by the deity or deities which those books feature. There is nothing at all special about the Bible in this regard and no reason to set it apart from or above any other religion's holy book(s).
(R) As I said before, other books do claim to be inspired by God.
(MB) Not by "God", but by the deity or deities worshipped by those religions. There's a significant difference!

(R) However, the unity of other religious books is far from compatible with the Bible.
(MB) Is there any reason why they *should* be compatible with the Bible? Doesn't this assume that other books are "wrong" if they don't echo what is written in the Bible? Why isn't the Bible wrong and some other book right?

(R) It has 40 different authors, written over 1500 years in three different languages on three continents with many controversial subjects and agrees on everything. How do you explain this away as mere coincidence?
(MB) "Agrees on everything"? Surely you jest. You can start with the two different and mutually-exclusive creation tales in Chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis, the contradictory genealogies of Jesus presented in Matthew and Luke, and the inharmonious versions of the resurrection story in all four Gospels and try to justify how the various books in the Bible "agree on everything"?

(R) Can any other "holy book" make this claim? I think not.
(MB) The believers in any book can (and do) make similar claims. Of course, I doubt that they would want to try to equate themselves with the hundreds of documented errors and problems in the Bible.

(R) Lets take the Hindus for an example. Their "holy books" teach that the earth sits upon four white elephants and earthquakes are cause by the shifting of the elephants!
(MB) OK. The Bible teaches that the Earth is a flat plate floating on water with heaven supported above it by four pillars. Nonsense seems to abound in religious texts, eh? Needless to say, the errors in one religion's holy book don't forgive or eliminate the errors in any other religion's book.

(R) Any rational mind can clearly read the difference between the Bible and other "holy books."
(MB) Of course there are differences. But, we are no closer now to determining which is "right" and which is "wrong" than we ever were. So far, the best we can say is that all are full of bunk. If the Bible has errors within it, but can still be claimed to be "right", why can't the same claim be made for other holy books which also have errors within them?

(R) The Bible is full of prophecy being fulfilled which is something other books can't claim.
(MB) The Bible is full of something but it certainly isn't "fulfilled prophecy". You will have a very difficult time demonstrating that it is filled with them.

Independent evidence for the existence of any God must come from sources other than any given religion's holy book(s).
(R) You want evidence for the existence of God? How about CREATION!
(MB) How about it? Creation is a natural process and does not require supernatural intervention by God or any other deity. Even if we were to accept that some deity is responsible for creation, why must we assume that it was Yahweh who was responsible for it? After all, Man has numerous different stories about different deities who have been claimed to be the one(s) who did it all. Why are the stories in favor of Yahweh any better than any other story? There is certainly no evidence to support any of them over any other.

(R) How has God NOT made Himself known to you? Just because He doesn't jump out in front of you waving a big stick doesn't mean He doesn't exist.
(MB) There is not one single thing that anybody can point to that can be considered compelling evidence of the existence of God. Now, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but it does strongly suggest that God's existence is nowhere near as self-evident as his believers wish to assert.

(R) Want more evidence? How about fulfilled prophecy!
(MB) If these so-called "fulfilled prophecies" had any validity, don't you think that would have been clearly established by now?

(R) I have an amazing prophecy for you! It is found in Genesis 5. A genealogy you say? Well, yes. Let's look a little deeper shall we?
(MB) I suspect that this is going to get *real* deep, if you know what I mean. Oh, well... Let's put on the hip waders and jump in.

(R) Adam was the first man. His name in Hebrew means, suprisingly, "man."
(MB) Actually, the Hebrew word "adam" can also mean "ground". That's why the name is used in the second creation tale in Genesis 2 where Man is said to have been created from the dust of the ground and, therefore, is named Adam.
    What you are about to introduce is another golden oldie that has been refuted for many years. You'll give the supposed Hebrew translations of several OT names in the lineage descending from Adam and then try to put them together into a sentence that is supposed to be some sort of prophecy. There are many flaws with the methodology being used, but all that is required to trash this effort is to show that there is at least one incorrectly translated name. In actuality, there are several. Let's have a look at the rest of the list...


(R) Adam had a son named Seth. Seth means "appointed."
(MB) Seth means "substituted". Seth was the son given to Eve to substitute for the loss of Abel and the banishment of Cain.

(R) Seth's son was Enosh. His name means "mortal."
(MB) Enosh means "man" or "mankind".

(R) Enosh had a son named Kenan. Kenan means "sorrow."
(MB) Not even close. Kenan actually means either "bought" or "metalworker" depending on its usage as a verb or as a noun. For use as a proper name, its meaning is more likely to be the noun "metalworker".

(R) His son was Mahalalel which in the Hebrew means "the blessed God."
(MB) It's closer to "praise of God". However, for argument's sake, I'll accept it as given.

(R) Mahalalel had a son named Jared. Jared means "shall come down."
(MB) Jared means "descent", but it's only a small stretch to read it as "shall come down".

(R) His son was Enoch. Enoch means "teaching."
(MB) Oops! Enoch means "founded" or "dedicated"

(R) The son of Enoch was Methuselah. Methuselah means "his death shall bring."
(MB) Wow! Is this one miles off base, or what? This might be rather embarrassing for your account since Methuselah actually means "worshipper of the god Selah".

(R) Methuselah had a son named Lamech. Lamech in Hebrew means "the despairing."
(MB) Again, I can find no reference to this name other than that it is an "unused root of uncertain meaning". On a side note, one really has to wonder why Hebrew parents would name their children things like "his death shall bring" or "the despairing" or "sorrow".

(R) The son of Lamech is Noah. Noah means "rest, or comfort."
(MB) Agreed. This is more along the lines of the real meanings of Hebrew names.

(R) That's rather remarkable:
    "Man [is] appointed mortal sorrow; [but] the blessed God shall come down teaching [that] his death shall bring [the] despairing rest."

(MB) Let's try it with proper translations (and a bit of tongue inserted firmly in cheek), shall we?
    "Man substituted [a] man -- [a] metalworker -- [to be] the praised God. [He] shall come down [to the] dedicated worshipper of the god Selah (unknown) [and] rest."
    Hmmm... That *is* rather remarkable. Sorta sounds like "Man created God in his own image and likeness" to me.


(R) There you have it! The Gospel preached thousands of years before it happened. And this in a genealogy! How do you explain this away?
(MB) Looking at the proper translation, I'd have to say that maybe the authors of Genesis *were* trying to pass along a secret message. Reading it, it looks like I can take it as proof of my views. Out of curiosity, you didn't get that off the "Y Files" web site, did you?

To use any holy book as some sort of proof of its own validity is the essence of circular reasoning.
(R) As I said before, making claims is not proof. Prophecy can be demonstrated to show that the Bible is inspired. How about the prophecy concerning King Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1). Isaiah, writing around 700 BC, predicts Cyrus by name as the king who will say to Jerusalem that it shall be built and that the temple foundation shall be laid.
(MB) A big problem with this analysis is that Isaiah did not write those verses. This "prophecy" is contained within the part of Isaiah that was written around 540 BCE and is commonly referred to by scholars as "Second Isaiah". Therefore, this is not "prophecy", but history written by an observer.

(R) At the time of Isaiah's writing, the city of Jerusalem was fully built and the entire temple was standing. Not until more than 100 years later would the city and temple be destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. After Jerusalem was taken by the Babylonians, it was conquered by the Persians in about 539 BC. Shortly after that, a Persian king named Cyrus gave the decree to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. This was 160 years after the prophecy of Isaiah!
(MB) Once again, as shown by current Biblical scholarship, the "prophecy" was not written by Isaiah and was a contemporary history.

(R) Isaiah predicted a man named Cyrus, who would not be born for 100 years, would give the command to rebuild the temple which was still standing in Isaiah's day. Is this coincidence? That is absurd. How do you explain away this one?
(MB) No explanations necessary other than the facts known to us through Biblical scholarship. It is a weak faith, indeed, that must corrupt history into "prophecy" in order to justify itself.

(R) The Bible can easily be shown as a reliable historical document. With all the evidence for its validity and the resurrection of Jesus, reasoning from the Scriptures is not at all circular.
(MB) So far, Biblical historical "reliability" is in serious question. The evidence (at least as far as "prophecy" goes) seems to dispute your accounts rather than to confirm them. Also, the resurrection of Jesus is anything but historically reliable fact. Heck, the Gospels can't even get the story straight and it's supposed to be a major tenet of Christian belief! Even the Bible seems to have problems verifying the Bible.

(R) You still need to explain how the unity of the Bible and its prophecy do not account for its divine inspiration.
(MB) Done. I await your response.

That is easily refuted just by examining some of the numerous internal contradictions between various Bible verses.
(R) Contradictions? Let's see.....
(MB) Indeed, we will...

These contradictions run the gamut from different and incompatible versions of facts between different books relating the same stories to disputes on the very nature of God and Jesus.
(R) Supposed contradictions hold no water when you actually examine what is being said. Let's take a look, shall we?
(MB) Terrific! I'm sure we'll find that the contradictions are very real.

Examples of factual contradictions include 2 Samuel 24:9 (which says 800,000 men drew the sword) vs. 1 Chronicles 21:5 (which says it was 1,100,000),
(R) If you are going to single out verses by themselves, then I myself could point out "contradictions."
(MB) If the contradictions are contained in single verses, why should they not be addressed that way?

(R) This discrepancy involves the difference in who was included in each report. In the report in 2 Samuel, the number of men of valor who drew the sword was 800,000, bud did not include the standing army of 288,000 described in 1 Chronicles 27:1-15, or the 12,000 specifically attached to Jerusalem described in 2 Chronicles 1:14. Including these figures gives the grand total of 1,100,000 men of valor who composed the entire army of the men of Israel.
(MB) Let's look at the entirety of the two verses I referenced:
2 Samuel 24:9 -- And Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king: and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah [were] five hundred thousand men.

1 Chronicles 21:5 -- And Joab gave the sum of the number of the people unto David. And all [they of] Israel were a thousand thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword: and Judah [was] four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword.
    Clearly, the wording is the same except for the numbers of men that they report.
    Your attempted harmonization in 1 Chronicles 27:1-15 just won't work, as a simple reading will point out. Let's read Verse 1 for the key to the problem.
1 Chronicles 27:1 -- Now the children of Israel after their number, [to wit], the chief fathers and captains of thousands and hundreds, and their officers that served the king in any matter of the courses, which came in and went out month by month throughout all the months of the year, of every course [were] twenty and four thousand.
    The story then goes on to list the twelve different captains who were in command for each of the twelve different months of the year and says that they were each in charge of 24,000 men. This is clearly the *same* 24,000 men and not 24,000 different men for each captain. Your harmonization incorrectly multiplies the 24,000 by 12 to get 288,000.
    There is a 12,000 figure given in 2 Chronicles 1:14, but this is part of a different story and should not be incorporated into the accounting by Joab. Taking all this into account, you cannot successfully call my example a "supposed" contradiction.


(R) The figure of 470,000 in 1 Chronicles 21 did not include the 30,000 men of the standing army of Judah mentioned in 2 Samuel 6:1.
(MB) Sorry, but this just doesn't work. Let's read the verse:
2 Samuel 6:1 -- Again, David gathered together all [the] chosen [men] of Israel, thirty thousand.
    How do you transfer these men from Israel to become the "standing army of Judah"? Once again, we find that any attempted harmonization must add unrelated or incorrectly calculated numbers.


(R) This is evident from the fact that the Chronicler points out that Joab did not complete the counting of the men of Judah (1 Chron. 21:6). Both calculations are correct according to the groups which were included and excluded from each report.
(MB) If you are going to attempt to include the previous 30,000 along with the extra men from Benjamin and Levi, you are going to end up with far more than 500,000 and the contradiction with the account in 2 Samuel will still be there.

Matthew 27:5 (which says Judas died by hanging himself) vs. Acts 1:18 (which says he died by falling, bursting open, and having his innards gush out),
(R) These accounts are not contradictory, but mutually complementary.
(MB) Well, let's see:
Matthew 27:5 -- And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

Acts 1:18 -- Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.
    In addition to the obviously different stories of Judas' demise, the two accounts differ in what happened to the thirty pieces of silver. Acts has Judas buying the field where he died, while Matthew say that Judas threw the money away and it was used later by the chief priests to buy a field (an important "fulfillment of OT prophecy" for Matthew).


(R) Judas hung himself exactly as Matthew affirms that he did. The account in Acts simply adds that Judas fell, and his body opened up at the middle and his intestines gushed out.
(MB) Acts doesn't "add" anything. It tells a different story of how Judas died.

(R) This is the very thing one would expect of someone who hanged himself from a tree over a cliff and fell on sharp rocks below, especially when you note the geography of the area.
(MB) Two problems here. One is that Acts says that Judas "fell headlong". That wouldn't happen if he fell from where he hanged himself. Rather, such a body would fall feet first. Also, there is no mention of any cliff or any sharp rocks in the account, so your explanation is unsupportable. There's also a problem of logic. Presumably, both stories are reporting the cause of Judas' death. If, as you say, Judas hanged himself as reported in Matthew, he would have been dead long before any purported fall off any purported cliff onto any purported sharp rocks.

(R) Neither statement says that the other did not happen. If a man jumped from a building with a pistol to his head and pulled the trigger, it could be said that he died from jumping or from pulling the trigger.
(MB) Of course. However, both incidents would normally be recorded in the story of the man's death. If the account of Judas' death was important enough to be reported on two occasions, why can't the stories even come close to agreeing about how it happened?


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