22 April 2014

Obey Me, Even When You Won't

After Moses reviews the Ten Commandments, he elaborates on a strange exchange of words that allegedly occurred. The account presents more details than the original one in Exodus 20. Not sure what is going on here. First, the Hebrews express surprise and relief that they have heard the voice of the living god and still live to tell about it. Second, they urge Moses to listen to the remainder of Yahweh's message as an intermediary--so that they will not die.

"And it came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, (for the mountain did burn with fire,) that ye came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders;  And ye said, Behold, the LORD our God hath shewed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth.  Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, then we shall die.  For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?  Go thou near, and hear all that the LORD our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the LORD our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it." Deuteronomy 5:23-27 (KJV)

Despite the incoherence of the reaction of the Hebrews, Yahweh concedes their point.

"And the LORD heard the voice of your words, when ye spake unto me; and the LORD said unto me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken." Deuteronomy 5:28 (KJV)

Yahweh sends them to their tents. He laments that they have not the will to obey him that all will go well with them in their land. (This seems to be the essence of the Mosaic Covenant. Obedience to Yahweh's law will lead to thriving in the land. No notions of an afterlife are even hinted.) Then, after his lamentation of their inability or unwillingness to obey, Yahweh tells Moses to teach them his statutes, that they may obey and prosper in their land.

 "O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!  Go say to them, Get you into your tents again.  But as for thee, stand thou here by me, and I will speak unto thee all the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which thou shalt teach them, that they may do them in the land which I give them to possess it.  Ye shall observe to do therefore as the LORD your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.  Ye shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess." Deuteronomy 5:29-33 (KJV)

Yahweh seems to lack the same coherence of thought as his chosen people.

20 April 2014

He is Risen? Or Has He?

1. And Jesus died.

And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last ( Mark 15:37)

2. Because the Sabbath approached, they found a cave nearby so that they could entomb Jesus quickly even without proper preparation of the body.

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away.  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb (Matthew 27:57-60)

A couple of female disciples followed to learn the location of the tomb place so they could return after the Sabbath to properly prepare the body for burial.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb (Matthew 27:61)


Joseph and Nicodemus already prepared the body for a proper burial, eliminating the need for the female disciples to return to the tomb.

After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:38-41).

3. After the Sabbath passed, two women arrive after sun had risen to anoint the body for burial.

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. ( Mark 16:1-2)


Before the sun rose, Mary came alone to the tomb. Because Nicodemus already prepared the body for burial, Mary brought no spices but only came to grieve.

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark. (John 20:1)

4. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary arrive to witness an earthquake, the stoned rolled away from the mouth of the tomb, and one angel sitting upon the stone. Although the tomb guards fainted with fear, the two women approached the scene.

And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. (Matt. 28:1-4).


Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, and Salome arrive to find the stone rolled back and no angel upon it. They entered the tomb to discover one angel and were alarmed.

And they were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?" And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back— it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. (Mark 16:3-5).


The women find the stone rolled back and no angel on it. They enter the tomb to discover two angels and became frightened.

And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground. (Luke 24:2-5).


Mary Magdalene came alone to discover the stone rolled away, saw no angels, and ran . . .

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran . . . ( John 20:1-2)

5. The one angel sitting on the stone tells the women that Jesus has risen. He directs the women to tell the other disciples the good news of the resurrection and that they should go to Galilee to meet Jesus. As they leave, they run into Jesus, who greet them repeats the instructions given by the angels.

But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you." So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me." (Matthew 28:5-10)


One of two angels inside the tomb tells the women that Jesus has risen. He gives no instructions about meeting Jesus in Galilee. Neither do they run into Jesus as they run from the scene to tell the disciples the good news.

And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise." And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. ( Luke 24:5-9)


After Mary Magdalene, who initially saw no angels, told the disciples about the empty tomb, the disciples came and witnessed it for themselves. They returned home. Mary, still weeping by the tomb, then enters the tomb to see two angels. Then she turns to see the risen Jesus.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Aramaic, "Rabboni." (John 20:11-16).


The only angel inside the tomb tells them Jesus has risen and that Jesus will meet his disciples in Galilee. Because of their fear, however, the women told no one.

And he said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you." And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (Mark 16:6-8).

He has risen!


Has he ?

19 April 2014

Tenth--And Best--Commandment Reviewed

Moses reviews the Tenth Commandment:

"Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour's." Deuteronomy 5:21 (KJV)

What is the punishment for violating this command?

Unlike every other commandment, there isn't one.

That is because it serves as a principle of ethics rather than a principle of law.

Laws have coercive power and punishments attached. For each of the previous commands, Yahweh provided in other texts a punishment for its violation. Not so in this case. Whys is that?

It is because the tenth commandment actually serves only as an ethical principle of natural law and not as positive law. Moreover it is the only sound one in the Decalogue because it alone addresses the root of ethical behavior: right and wrong desires. Yahweh inadvertently stumbled upon the key insight offered by Aristotle in his Ethics,  the most sound philosophy of ethics to come down to us from the past.

Aristotle put it this way in Book VI:

"Pursuit and avoidance in the sphere of appetition correspond exactly to affirmation and negation in the sphere of intellect; so that, since moral virtue is a state involving choice, and choice is deliberate appetition, it follows that if the choice is to  be a good one, both the reasoning must be true and the desire right. and the desire must pursue the same things that the reasoning asserts."

18 April 2014

Ninth Commandment Reviewed

Moses reviews the Ninth Commandment:

 "Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour." Deuteronomy 5:20 (KJV)

This refers only to legal proceedings, of course. During this blog through the Bible, readers will encounter many occasions when Yahweh condones--or even supernaturally enhances lying-- in order to insure that his will is done.

The penalty for lying under oath varies with what the perjurer attempts to gain.

"If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong;  Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days;  And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother;  Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you.  And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you.  And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." Deut 19:16-21 (KJV)

The phrase "eye for eye" actually originated in Hammurabi's Code of Law,  much older code.

16 April 2014

Eighth Commandment Reviewed

Moses reviews the Eighth Commandment:

"Neither shalt thou steal." Deuteronomy 5:19 (KJV)

This is another common sense commandment.

Even the penalty actually makes sense. Rather than sever a thief's hands (as is done by their Semitic cousins, the Muslims), the Mosaic Law calls for restitution.

If the property is found in the thief's possession, he must restore double. I suppose that is in line with the idea of depriving the thief of exactly what he attempted to deprives of his victim.

"If the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double."  Ex 22:4 (KJV)

If the property has been sold already or has been slaughtered for sale, the restitution is increased.

 "If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep." Ex 22:1 (KJV)

If  a later writer of scripture forgets what was written earlier, the restitution is increased even more.

"Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; 31 But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house." Prov 6:30-31 (KJV)

That sounds like a possible solution to our own prison overcrowding. Simply seize the property of convicted thieves, auction it off, and give the proceeds to the victims.

And more good news for us conservatives law and order types, religious or not.. If one catches a thief breaking in and strikes him so that he dies, the homeowner is free from any liability.

"If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him." Ex 22:2 (KJV)

14 April 2014

Seventh Commandment Reviewed

Moses reviews the  Seventh Commandment:

"Neither shalt thou commit adultery." Deuteronomy 5:18 (KJV)

This seems reasonable enough, i.e., another common sense commandment that hardly requires divine wisdom to propagate.

It becomes much more complicated, however, when one looks at specific "case law" examples that Moses provides in the rest of the Torah.  When Moses lays out specific "case law" examples of adultery, seduction, and rape, they appear not so much as crimes against Yahweh or the woman, but against the woman's male protectors--the husband or the father. In the ancient Hebrew patriarchal society, it appears that adultery pertains only to a situation involving a woman under the authority and protection of a man.

Lets take a look.

"If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.  If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her."  Deut 22:22-23 (KJV)

For example, if a man seduces a married or betrothed woman, the law condemns both parties in the relationship to death.

 In this case, the married woman is under the protection of her husband; a betrothed woman (an arranged but not yet consummated marriage) is under the protection  future husband. The women  have betrayed their protectors. The man involved in the relationship has subverted the authority of the male protectors of the woman. They must die.

A different case: if  a man seduces an unmarried and unbetrothed woman, the law requires him to pay a bride price to the father and marry her. 

"And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.  If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins."  Ex 22:16-17 (KJV)

Revealingly,  the text makes no mention of the status of the offending male. He can be married. It is the status of the woman in the case that determines the nature of the violation and its consequences. Some readers might suggest that the male must be unmarried; that is why the law requires him to take the woman as his wife. Not so. Remember--in ancient Israel polygamy is legal. A married man who seduces an unmarried woman must take her on as an additional wife.

This interpretation of the Seventh Commandment seems to hold when one looks at another kind of crime in the Torah: forcible rape.

The woman's status holds the same determinate role in these cases as well.  It is not such much a crime against a woman as a crime against her patriarchal protector.

 If a man rapes a married or betrothed woman, he is to be executed:

 "But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die:  But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter:  For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her." Deut 22:25-27 (KJV)

Then there is this especially morally outrageous case of when a  if a man rapes a unmarried or unbetrothed woman: 

"If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;  Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days." Deut 22:28-29 (KJV)

If a man rapes a single woman, he must take her as his bride. The text does not mention the status of the man. Again, he could be married. When he rapes an unmarried and unbetrothed woman, he must take her on as an additional wife.

So the Seventh Commandment does not seem to define adultery in the way we define it today.

In all these cases, the status of the woman regarding a male protector determines the outcome of the case. It is never the status of the male that is the determinate factor in any of these cases.  The Seventh Commandment suggests a patriarchal double standard for marital relationships.

This does not seem just. But maybe Aquinas is right: we are all too mortally blinded by sin to see it.

Or maybe it is just an example of Middle Eastern "Olde Tyme Religion" that keeps women in their place and that endures in Islam today.

12 April 2014

Sixth Commandment Reviewed

Moses reviews the Sixth Commandment:

 "Thou shalt not kill." Deuteronomy 5:17 (KJV)

The first five commandments, although not specifically described this way, generally referr to relations between Yahweh and his people. Even the fifth commandment, honoring one's father and mother, can be construed that way. Many ancient societies conceived of parents almost as gods.

The next five commandment refer to relations among the Hebrews themselves. The commandments supposedly contain divine wisdom allegedly transmitted through divine revelation Some Christians argue that these commandments should be posted in public places for public benefit. These next commandments actually reveal nothing beyond the common sense rules of any society.

I supposed it would not hurt to post them in the annexes that link local jails with the court in which defendants are tried. Lawbreakers might find the Ten Commandments a useful reminder.

The first commandment forbids murder.

Well, every other organized society also has the same prohibition. No need for divine revelation here.

Now some liberals criticize this passages as contradiction those other passage that call for the death of Hebrews for certain crimes such a murder, blasphemy, or violation of the Sabbath.

The Bible clearly distinguishes between murder as the taking of innocent life and capital punishment, manslaughter, and war.