deut 32:8–9 and the ancient israelite pantheon?

During a recent online debate the question of the meaning of Deut 32:8–9 was raised as evidence of the Bible’s affirmation of polytheism and the subordinate status of the God of Israel, Yhwh. The essence of the claim is that the version of this passage preserved in the DSS identifies El Elyon as head of a pantheon who assigns nations to various subordinate deities, and Israel is assigned to Yhwh in this process.

The argument rests upon the alternate reading found in a fragment from cave 4 at Qumran (4Q37 or 4QDeutj).1 This fragment only preserves a few words from these verses.

Continue reading

god and suffering — introduction

Small scream

Image via Wikipedia

Some time ago I heard a sermon entitled “How could a good God allow suffering?” There’s not much that can be covered in the brief time allocated to a sermon, but while (or perhaps “instead of”) listening I set about thinking of reasons offered in the Bible for suffering. This introductory post is simply to list those I could think of before (hopefully) examining each one in more detail. So here are reasons which came to mind:

  1. Human sin in general (e.g. Gen 3; Rom 1; 8:22);
  2. Individual sin (numerous places, particularly in the OT);
  3. Character building (Rom 5);
  4. Discipline (Heb 12);
  5. Preventative (Job 33);
  6. Glorification of God (e.g. John 9:2–3);
  7. “Completing” Christ’s afflictions (Col 1:24);
  8. Persecution (2Tim 3:12);
  9. Escaping evil (Isa 57:1–2)1;
  10. Mystery (Job).

If you can think of other reasons offered for suffering by the Bible, I’m happy to expand on this list.

A couple of brief introductory comments are warranted. First, the items on the list are not all mutually exclusive. Second, aside from (1) and perhaps (3) and (6), it is not really possible to be sure these apply to any specific situation without direct divine revelation (and, conversely, it is not always possible to be sure these do not apply).

  1. This isn’t really an explanation for suffering, at least for those “taken away,” but those left behind would suffer loss.

the silence of god

On a recent Q&A one of the viewers asked about God’s silence:

My question is: why has God gone so quiet? Just a few thousand years ago he appeared to people quite regularly. He turned rivers to blood, he parted seas, he flooded the world etc. He provided us with people like Moses, Jesus & Mohammed who had direct lines of communication. These days the only time you hear from God is through TV evangelists. You know, it’s almost as though the more educated we get, the less God wants to do with us. So, why has God gone so quiet?

John Lennox suggested that the problem was not that God was silent, it was that we aren’t listening. Now, of course, there’s something to this, but it got me thinking about Elijah’s encounter with Yhwh in 1Kings 19 again. It is a fascinating passage and the source of the “still, small voice” which prompted generations of preachers to proclaim that God’s preferred mode of communication was this mysterious whisper.1

They were, however, wrong. Read on for more…
Continue reading

biblical pronouncements

There’s a new app for iOS called “Biblical Audio Pronunciations” (also available in “Lite” version) which aims to offer “correct” pronunciation of biblical terms. The web page claims:

We carefully researched and recorded the pronunciations of important terms, names, and places, to help you embrace the Word of God more easily.

Does it live up to its claims?
Continue reading

accessing scholarly articles

I must admit I do not understand the publishing world. Aside from the astronomical prices for books from some publishing houses, there are some even more perplexing pricing models out there. Today I followed a link to a four page book review in Dead Sea Discoveries which took me to ingentaconnect where I can purchase this review for a “mere” $35.00.

By way of contrast, I can buy the entire book which was reviewed — Fitzmeyer’s 248 page A Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature What Are the Dead Sea Scrolls and Why Do They Matter? The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Short History, for around $20.00 (including delivery) from a number of major book sellers.

Now Robert Holmstedt is an excellent scholar, but I have to draw the line at paying more for a short review than for the entire book under review! It is difficult to see how organisations like ingentaconnect are serving the scholarly community.

yabt (yet another bible translation): the common english bible

The Common English Bible has been completed, the result of an impressive array of scholars, with admirable goals. A page comparing it with the NRSV and NIV is available here. Some brief and very initial observations based primarily on a few passages I like to check follows.
Continue reading

heavy stuff

Big Crunch overview

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been reading up on gravity for a bit of a diversion and came across this interesting quote from David Toback of Texas A & M University:

General relativity can predict what would have happened in a slightly different universe. For example, if the universe had the right mass back then it would give us the critical density now. However, if a short time after the bang the mass was tiny fraction larger, just 10–50 percent larger, the outcome would have been starkly different: the extra mass in such a universe would have caused a big crunch long ago. If the density were smaller by the same amount, the universe would have expanded so quickly that galaxies and stars would never have formed. This is troublesome. It suggests that the early universe had to be set up exactly correctly for us to come to be the way we are now.

10–50 is 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001, a fairly small number! Alternatively, it amounts to the addition or removal of a single chlorine atom to the mass of the Earth.