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REPLY #56 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).


(R) In this note I will address your responses to the abortion issue -- specifically the Bible verses that you listed as sanctioning human sacrifices. I don't know where you are getting your information, but you are either quoting some other source that has misled you or you are picking out isolated verses that are referring to the topic without reading the entire context of the story. I hope that this information will help to clear it up.
(MB) I get my verses from the KJV and my other sources come from centuries of work by Biblical scholars.


(R) Exodus 22:28-29. First of all, the word "sacrifice" is not used.
(MB) Correct. The verse says, "Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me."
    Now, what was the method used to give such offerings unto God? They were sacrificed by burning.



(R) This verse refers back to Exodus 13:1-2 & 11-16 and the word is "consecrate" in 1-2 and "dedicate" in 11-16.
(MB) In the KJV, it's "sanctify" in that first reference and "redeem" in the second. Also, in Verse 15, the word "sacrifice" *is* used. "Redemption" of the sacrificed first-born males still means that they are dead.


(R) The first-born sons were to be redeemed with the sacrifice of a lamb to remember the Passover that freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
(MB) In Verse 13, it talks about either redeeming the first-born of an ass with a lamb or breaking its neck. It also mentions redeeming the firstborn among the children, but gives no similar alternative. Then, of course, the aforementioned Verse 15 follows.


(R) If you remember the movie The Ten Commandments, the first-born were spared only if the doorway of the house had been smeared with lamb's blood.
(MB) If you're using that movie to justify your interpretation of the Bible, I'm afraid you have no right to call *me* misinformed. The errors in DeMille's screenplay are numerous and egregious. Great special effects, though, even if Moses never actually parted the Red Sea.
    On a side note, how could an all-knowing, all-seeing God not be able to tell the difference between his chosen people and the Egyptians unless lamb's blood was smeared on a door?



(R) When verse 28 states "You shall give me the first-born of your sons," it is referring to this consecration through the sacrifice of a lamb that is described in Chapter 13. Hence, animal sacrifice is not human sacrifice.
(MB) As I have already pointed out, the meaning of the verse is quite clear. It is part of the Law that is setting the standards for acceptable sacrifices to God as a part of the larger body of the Law that begins in Exodus 20 with the delivery of the first version of the Ten Commandments. As you said, one must read the entire story in proper context.


(R) Ezekiel 20:26. If you begin reading at Chapter 20 or even later at 20:23, you can easily see that the people had rebelled against God and His ordinances for them.
(MB) This is a rather common theme throughout the Old Testament. Seems that God wasn't a very compelling figure even for those to whom he supposedly was directly affecting.


(R) The footnote on verse 25 refers to the pagan practices that the people had fallen into -- even to the extent of sacrificing their newborn infants, which God finds abhorent throughout the Old Testament.
(MB) Say what? Ezekiel 20:25, in its entirety, reads "Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live". What pagan practices are being referred to here? This "footnote" isn't coming from some apologetic work that redefines and rewords the Bible to get around its problems, is it? If not, what is its source?


(R) Verse 26 refers to this as an "object of horror."
(MB) Where does it say that? Ezekiel 20:26, in its entirety, reads "And I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the LORD." Again, I must question your source, since it's clearly off on some unrelated tangent.


(R) Judges 11:30-39. The story related here is the circumstances surrounding the death of Jephthah's daughter. Jephthah made a vow to the Lord that if he defeated the Ammonites, then he would sacrifice whoever was the first person to meet him upon his return. The footnote on verse 30 states that just because the author recognizes that Jephthah vowed a human sacrifice does not mean that it was approved. It was Jephthah making his vow TO the Lord, not WITH the Lord.
(MB) Now, I'm certain that you are being taken in by some apologetic revisionism. Let's read the first three verses in their entirety to understand precisely what's going on here.
Judges 11:30 - And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands,
Judges 11:31 - Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD'S, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.
Judges 11:32 - So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands.
    Now, what do we see? It's obvious that God approved of the bargain since Verse 32 depicts him doing exactly as Jephthah asked. This means that God was a party to the subsequent sacrifice. Since Jephthah's daughter was, indeed, sacrificed to the Lord, there is no doubt that God approved of the whole arrangement and allowed it to happen. The point of the whole story can best be summarized as "Be careful what you pray for because you might just get it".



(R) 2 Kings 15:16. This verse is to be read in the same light as the story from Judges. It is being recorded by the author because of historical value - not because it is being sanctioned.
(MB) Where was God to protect his people's pregnant women from the ravages of Menahem? What punishment was meted out to Menahem by God? The God of the Old Testament was not in the habit of ignoring things he didn't like.


(R) In verse 18 it is recorded that Menahem did evil in the sight of the Lord.
(MB) After Verse 17 records that he reigned as King of Israel for ten years. Also, nowhere is there any record of any punishment for Menahem's deeds. Furthermore, note that Menahem was King of Israel and that the account in 2 Kings is written from the point of view of the Judeans. Since Israel and Judah were enemies at the time, it is certainly understandable why any King of Israel would be condemned as having done "evil in the sight of the Lord". Similar condemnations are present elsewhere in the story in reference to other Israelite Kings.


(R) Psalm 137:9. Once again the footnotes for this Psalm help us to understand what the author wrote.
(MB) Why can't we read the verses for what they actually say rather than deferring to apologetic footnotes?


(R) This psalm was written after the return of the Jews from Captivity in Babylonia.
(MB) Actually, it was written during the Exile. At least, it depicts the laments of the Jews during the Exile as they awaited their return to their homeland.


(R) The "daughter of Babylon" is an idiom for the city of Babylon. The psalmist is personifying the city as a mother whose little ones are the adult citizens, not the infants, of the city. The author is obviously striking out against the injustice of their captivity and not directly saying that children should be sacrificed.
(MB) Sorry, but that's not the case. The reading of Psalm 137:8-9 in the Jewish Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures) is:
Psalm 137:8 - Fair Babylon, you predator, a blessing on him who repays you in kind what you have inflicted on us;
Psalm 137:9 - A blessing on him who seizes your babies and dashes them against the rocks.
    The verses are obviously not talking about killing adults. The author's intended meaning can not be denied and could hardly be any more clear. Not to mention that one doesn't kill adults by dashing them against stones.



(R) As you can see, recognizing that human sacrifice did indeed occur is not the same as "sanctioning" it. I fail to see how any of the above mentioned verses could possibly lead someone to believe that human sacrifice is "Biblically sanctioned" as you state.
(MB) Perhaps things are somewhat clearer for you now. This is not to say that we should condone human sacrifice in this day and age just because it was viewed differently thirty centuries ago. All this means is that the Bible is not an infallible guide for our era. Those who preach that we should all live as the Bible teaches are just going to have to clarify which parts of the Bible they are upholding. Personally, I feel no compulsion whatsoever to abide by the writings and superstitions of a few tribesmen long ago and far away.


(R) As a person who examines all the details, I find it offensive that you would try to prove your point through deception and omission. I hope in the future that you will be more conscientious about researching your "proofs."
(MB) I don't need to engage in any sort of deception since the evidence is in my favor. Consider that atheist and agnostic writers must research their arguments carefully since Christian readers are likely to be hostile and will jump on the slightest slip (real or imagined). On the other hand, it is the writers of apologetic works who are the ones who can afford to use underhanded tactics and slide misdirected arguments past their readers since the Christian majority is already predisposed to believing anything positive they have to say. If you need specific examples of these deceptions, I will be more than happy to provide them.
    Are you sure that you are actually examining all the details or are you just accepting what the apologists are telling you? What secular, pro-atheist, or non-Christian works (or texts supporting other religions) have you read in the course of your own research? If you haven't read any, how can you claim to have examined all the details?




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