Saturday, October 17, 2009

We are the Lunkheads, Mighty Mighty Lunkheads...

Joseph Farah is a Bible-believing Christian. He's such a good Christian that he considers it his Christ-ley duty to turn his nose up at any new-fangled Biblical criticism. Take this new theory from a Old Testament scholar in the Netherlands.

Professor Ellen van

Wolde, described as "a respected Old Testament scholar and author" in the London Telegraph, claims the first sentence of Genesis – "In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth" – is not a true translation of the Hebrew.

"She claims she has carried out fresh textual analysis that suggests the writers of the great book never intended to suggest that God created the world – and in fact the Earth was already there when he created humans and animals," the report says.

How this little morsel has eluded scholars for the past 3,000 years was not explained.

First of all, Jo-Jo, the fact that something has eluded earlier biblical scholarship doesn't necessarily disprove it. Plenty of interesting tidbits have become lost, forgotten or censored over the years-- see the Cairo genizah, for instance. Of course, what Farah is really sniffing at is the suggestion that his view of Genesis might be wrong-- or even worse, that it might be open to interpretation. For the record, the concept of the Old Testament God liking to sort and separate stuff (kosher and treif, Jews and Gentiles, whatever the hell shatnez is about) is hardly new. Mary Douglas pointed this out decades ago. None of this proves van Wolde's theory, of course, and I don't know enough Hebrew to evaluate her claim either way. Then again, I'm pretty sure Farah doesn't, either. Luckily that won't stop him from bashing the prof.

Van Wolde boasts of having once worked with Italian novelist Umberto Eco, best known for his books "The Name of the Rose" and "Foucalt's Pendulum," which has been described as a "thinking person's 'Da Vinci Code.'" If those aren't qualifications to revise the Bible, I don't know what is.

She worked with Emberto Eco! A-ha! That proves that she... hates God? Or something? Also, I'm just guessing here, but I'd be willing to bet that her qualifications for her thesis probably have to do with, I don't know, having an advanced degree in biblical studies, doing years of research, actually speaking the language she's discussing, little things like that. Incidentally, Joe, how many PhDs in Biblical studies do you have? What's that? I can't hear you too well through this wooden baseball bat I'm smacking you with.

Farah tries to suggest that Van Wolde is just another godless academic trying to destroy religion, when actually the Telegraph article he plagiarizes from points out that her real point is to clarify the vision of exactly who God is and what his role should be understood as being:

[Van Wolde's] analysis showed that the beginning of the Bible was not the beginning of time, but the beginning of a narration.

...She said she hoped that her conclusions would spark "a robust debate", since her finds are not only new, but would also touch the hearts of many religious people.

She said: "Maybe I am even hurting myself. I consider myself to be religious and the Creator used to be very special, as a notion of trust. I want to keep that trust."

What's that? Nuance? Doubt? An open discussion? Not on Joseph Farah's watch! Break out the snide guns!

She admits that technically "bara" does mean "create" but added: "Something was wrong with the verb."

Got it.

"God did create some things, but not the Heaven and Earth," she says conclusively. "The usual idea of creating-out-of-nothing, creatio ex nihilo, is a big misunderstanding."

Van Wolde added: "The traditional view of God the Creator is untenable now."

No word yet on whether Van Wolde and her colleagues are working on revisions of these other Bible passages:

Yes, Joe's not going to bother with actually reading what Van Wolde wrote; instead he's going to play Bible defender by... that's right! Quoting from an English translation of the Bible. And, since this discussion hinges on the integrity of correct Hebrew word meaning and grammar, Farah is making it easy for people to peer-review his work by not citing the translation he's using. (I can't figure it out, it seems to be something close to New American Standard but slightly more old-fashioned... in any event, it sure ain't JPS). This should be good.

  • Psalm 89:12: The north and the south thou hast created them: Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy name.
  • Genesis 2:4: These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens;
  • Psalm 148:1-5: Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights. Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts. Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created.

  • Isaiah 42:5: Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein:

  • Isaiah 45:8: Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the LORD have created it.

  • Isaiah 45:12: I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.
Now, Farah doesn't really explain how his Bible quotes prove anything, but then again he doesn't seem to actually be arguing anything, so maybe he's smarter than I thought.

But where things get really, really convincing is when Farah switches over to the New Testament.

  • Ephesians 3:9: And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

  • Colossians 1:16: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:

  • Revelation 4:11: Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

  • Revelation 10:6: And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer:

  • Romans 1:25: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

  • 1 Peter 4:19: Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

These quotes, as all bible savants know, are particularly devastating evidence in a debate about the meaning of a Hebrew word, given that the New Testament was written in that special Hebrew dialect known as Greek. Good one Joe.

Ah, Joseph Farah: Culture Warrior, Super-Christian, Anti-Elitist, and Master Lunkhead. Is there anything he can't make an ass of himself over?

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