Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mistakes of Moses Expanded Universe: Genesis 11

This chapter brings us confusion about a tower, more genealogies with oft-overlooked implications, a few interesting anachronisms and some fun with Hebrew names.

Genesis 11:1
The Tower of Babel narrative begins by informing the reader that the whole earth had one language. This is odd considering what was stated in 10:5, 20 & 31. People typically try to get around the problem by assuming that the chronology of chapter 10 overlaps with the events of chapter 11, ignoring how forced that solution appears. The truth is that neither chapter 10 nor chapter 11 paint a realistic picture of how and why human migration actually occurs. Chapter 10 wants us to believe that people cleanly and uniformly spread out by families and settled according to their languages and cultures, thereby putting the cultural cart before the geographical horse. Chapter 11 wants us to believe that it would take divine intervention to get people to migrate instead of obvious factors like constraints on available resources, rivalries, instability, etc. Both ideas come from the imaginations of ancient people who had little understanding of things like cultural geography.

Interestingly enough, it seems that Native American mythology like that of the Iroquois comes closer to reality by suggesting that groups of people were first spread out and isolated from one another by the creator deity, the Holder of the Heavens, and then because of that cultural and geographic isolation their languages changed to be different from one another. This etiological myth for the origin of the differentiation of language has the added bonus of including some things we can actually observe when we look at how and why languages evolve over the centuries, unlike the Babel myth which relies solely on divine intervention.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Mistakes of Moses Expanded Universe: Genesis 10

Genesis 10:1-32
Here we find the so-called Table of Nations. These folks will go on to populate the whole world. There are some problems here, however. Most of the nations that can be identified in this passage are, not surprisingly, surrounding Israel. Many of these “nations” supposedly founded by these guys are not known to history or archaeology until well into the first millennium BCE, i.e. long after Moses was dead even though Moses is supposedly writing about them as though his audience is already aware of their existence.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Christianity's Culture of Pious Fraud

As I reflect on the time I spent as Christian, I can look back and see things that should have been obvious clues that something was not exactly right. The Bible itself contains many of those clues, but even outside the Bible, Christianity seems to have an ingrained sense that taking liberties with the truth is acceptable and even encouraged as long as it bolsters faith, reassures the doubting and furthers "the cause of Christ and His kingdom." One is left to conclude that for all their talk of having the truth, Christians in general seem to have a careless disregard for it. Most seem to be willing to believe anything as long as it conforms to their expectations.