Bible Reference Index

Diglot Editions

Dunash ben Labrat

Ali Ahmad Said

Verbal System of Ancient Hebrew

The Bible as seen through the eyes of . . .

« Jonathan Paradise’s Garden of Hebrew Delights | Main | The Moshe Held principle »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

One thing I would note regarding the pottery: the presence of Ashdod Ware I clearly puts the assemblage into the beginning of the Iron IIA. I guess the only question would be if there is more than one stratum represented. Garfinkel has claimed over and over that it is a one period site (in this time as there are later classical period remains), but we must see the published results from the last 4 seasons before saying for certain.

John Hobbins

Thanks, Owen, for emphasizing the point you do.

Moreover, Mazar and Finkelstein do not differ as much as they used to about an absolute date for the Iron I - Iron II transition. According to Eric Cline at the SBL meeting in San Francisco, the low chronology is basically dead in the water at this point anyway.

Doug Mangum

Thanks for the roundup, John. I agree with you that the hype over these finds far exceeds the burden the evidence is actually able to bear. I don't know if I'd call them "boring" but definitely misguided in their attempt to win the media war and convince people they've finally proven the biblical version of King David's Israel existed.

John Hobbins

Hi Doug,

There are many reasons, at the intersection of biblical tradition, Levantine archaeology, and wider ANE context for suggesting that much of what we find in 1 Samuel - 2 Kings is plausible but unproven from a historical point of view. The finds at KQ are compatible with that basic conclusion. They are less compatible with the hypotheses of extreme minimalists like Thompson, van Seters, and Lemche.

Someone as bright as Israel Finkelstein, who is not a minimalist and has been careful to distance himself from that camp, may find a way to keep his revisionist hypotheses alive, but some of them are looking less promising than before.

Just my two denarii.

George Athas

Thanks for your take, John. I go into the "House of David = Jerusalem" equation in my book on the Tel Dan Inscription. Even if you disagree with that, though, it still seems as though there is a Jerusalem playing international politics by c. 800 BC. The question is whether this polity matches up with the politics at Khirbet Qeiyafa in c. 1000 BC. My conclusion is that it would be nice if it did, but at the moment, it doesn't. The jury is still out. I'm not sure how you're getting two entities in all of this, nor how it's sensational.

John Hobbins

Hi George,

BTW, will you be in Chicago this Fall? I can't remember if we have crossed path at ISBL meetings only, or at SBL meetings as well.

Maybe both Victor and I simply misunderstand you. I'll have to take a look at your Tel Dan book. Thanks for your very fine blogging.

Mitchell Powell

Forgive me if I'm majorly missing the point here, but in my Stuttgart Bible Exodus 20:21 reads (sloppy transcription): vaya'amod ha'am merahok umoshe nigash el-ha'arafel asher-sham ha'elohim. I translate this as something like: "The people was standing far off, and Moses approached the darkness where God was."

How does one derive from this an "in every place" rule of worship in contradiction to the notion of centralized worship? And what has this to do with Amos? (Verse 22 doesn't seem to help, either.)

John Hobbins

Hi Mitchell,

That would be Exod 20:24 in BHS. It is Exod 20:21, in my Koren Bible and my Hebrew-English Tanakh. I just gave away the fact that I prefer Jewish Bibles, didn't I? And I do.

As for Amos 5:5 (read in context, 5:1-12), that's my point: Amos knows nothing of centralized worship. People are worshiping in various places - Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba; for Samaria and Dan, see 8:14 - but that is not the problem. The problem is the same as the one dealt with by Isaiah in Isa 1:1-20 relative to those who go to Jerusalem to worship: worship without justice, which God hates.

I hope this helps.

Jared Saltz

John, thanks for the comments. I'm not sure I agree with the "boring" comment, though. Obviously, these are boring if we're looking to dig up an inscription which reads, "David, the King of Israel (you know, like it says in the bible) lived here," then we're going to be disappointed. However, I think that in the context of the (to put it as an extremes) minimalist vs. maximalist, these finds continue to flesh out the possibility/probability that (at the very least) the major historical premises told in S-K/Chr have some basis in history. And KQ has continued to add little pieces of information which seem to sway scholarship in that direction which to me is still quite interesting.

G.M. Grena

Hi John! Thanks for the Roundup. Regarding King Josiah's worship centralization & Amos, surely you're aware that Exodus & Deuteronomy were written in a timeframe prior to the much-later decision to build a house of worship in Jerusalem in response to King David, no? I must be misunderstanding you. Please clarify. It's an interesting topic.

John Hobbins

Hi Jared,

First of all, congratulations on your great blog. It is new to me, and I will add it to my list.

I agree with you that S-K/Chr have some basis in history; in fact, I am convinced they have a strong basis in history.

Yes, the KQ finds to date are compatible with that conclusion. But they are boring in the sense that this is what people in the middle of the maximalist-minimalist debate have come to expect, without disillusionment, from ongoing research in the fields of historical and anthropological archaeology.

In another sense, the finds are not boring at all. Archaeology is never boring for those of us in love with pots and the people who made them.

Mitchell Powell

Thanks, John. I can now see where you get the "any place rule." And with that in place, there reference to Amos makes perfect sense. But I can just as easily see how many faithful Jews and Christians could see these verses as entirely compatible with One-Place Theology.

George Athas

Yes, we've crossed paths at both SBL and ISBL, I think. And yes, I'll be in Chicago this November.

John Hobbins

Hi G.M.,

You say: "surely you're aware that Exodus & Deuteronomy were written in a timeframe prior to the much-later decision to build a house of worship in Jerusalem in response to King David, no?"

Maybe you're right. What evidence do you have for that conclusion? How do you explain the apparent contradictions between the prescriptions in Exodus and Deuteronomy? There are many of course, not just the ones under direct consideration here.

Todd Bolen


I appreciate your thoughts and interaction. I would read Exodus 20:24 in connection with Deut 12 differently. First, the commands of Exodus 20 were given while the Israelites were at Mount Sinai, ahead of their travels through the wilderness. The instruction of Deuteronomy was given after the wilderness travel and on the eve of entrance into Canaan. As the situation changed, commands were given to reflect new realities. Second, Exodus 20:24 is about altar design and not location. The reference to "in every place" makes sense given the history; patriarchs and even recently Israelites (see Exod 17:15) had constructed altars in various places. But when God brought his people into their new land and the people were no longer sojourners, he had a new command for them to restrict worship to a single place. The commands are only contradictory when the text is read flatly and without regard for historical context.

As for Amos, I think you overstate the matter. How do you know that Amos's critiques had "nothing to do" with the single place of worship? Amos says "do not seek Bethel, do not go to Gilgal" (5:5). It's certainly possible that he insisted on this in part because they were not legitimate places to worship Yahweh. Judah was condemned for being led astray by false gods, a danger that goes hand in hand with sanctuaries outside of Jerusalem (2:4). Amos certainly viewed the Lord as dwelling in Jerusalem (1:2). Furthermore, even if Amos did not "demonstrate an awareness" of the Deut 12 command, that by no means eliminates the possibility that the command had been given and was well known. The record of Samuel and Kings also attests to the requirement of Deut 12 and I am not convinced that all of this record is late (e.g., I don't think that 1 Kings 13 was a fiction written hundreds of years after the time of Jeroboam).

John Hobbins

Hi Todd,

Thanks for a well-stated defense of the view that Exod 20:24 ("any place") and Deut 12 (one place only, supposedly) reflect different contexts and different points in time. That is undoubtedly true.

The debate among scholars is about *which* contexts and points in time underlie the disparate texts.

I allow for the possibility that the Pentateuch embeds into its narrative divine prescriptions received in various historical periods and narrativized in terms of reception by Moses on Mount Sinai or similar.

This is still how attribution works in classical Judaism. It is why in the NT we hear of "the chair of Moses."

If I understand you correctly, you allow for this possibility for oral tradition only, not for written tradition contained in the Pentateuch.

According to you, unless I misunderstand, everything God is said to have prescribed through Moses in transit to the Holy Land was in fact so prescribed but in a sense unlike that otherwise attested in native Jewish tradition; if the latter, it would have to be considered erroneous.

My problem with this is that the approach does not allow for the possibility of attribution to Moses for legal purposes. This is what we have in the codex Hammurapi and more generally in the ANE.

Why things should differ in ancient Israel on this score is not clear to me. Is it possible that you are bringing expectations to the way biblical literature must work that have no basis in what we can deduce from the literature itself read against the background of ANE literature?

It's a great topic, one I hope to get back to later.

Jordan Wilson

I don't find the objects boring. But I do think it is a shame that these interesting artifacts have been made laughable by trying to make any connection at all to the ark or the temple. Just think of all the interesting discussion we could be having if they were simply presented without all the fanfare. I wonder what we'd be saying about them?

John Hobbins

Excellent points, Jordan. On my part, I am acutely interested in miniature pottery shrines, not just from KQ, but from throughout the ANE and east Mediterranean. Just an example.

The finds are boring only in the sense that if one was hoping for finds that are incompatible with biblical tradition and prove it wrong, or finds that make it impossible for one to doubt the factuality of this or that figure or event in the Bible, the finds, despite the press release, offer little of interest.

Bryan Hodge

John, in agreement with others who posit an internal logic to the Exodus prescription (versus the theology of the Deuteronomic law, which I think can be universally applied even without a temple in Jerusalem), I would just like to add that the internal logic within the setting of Sinai could not allow for a temple-centric worship, simply because the reader would have understood it to be saying that the Israelites were not allowed to worship God for the next four hundred years until a temple was built in Jerusalem. The practical logic, of course, if one believes, as I do, that the text is written post-exile/pre-second temple, that such altars are acceptable when no temple exists simply because YHWH needs to be worshiped even when no temple exists.

The Deuteronomic law, however, seems to be dealing with the theological problem with Gilgal or Bethel in terms of their iconic worship versus the Jerusalem temple's aniconic worship. The Torah sat in the ark within the temple. Hence, the temple was where God must be worshiped. That "worship via word rather than image" theology that the DH presents can be carried on even in terms of a post-exilic absence of a temple in the setting up of multiple altars. Those multiple altars, of course, would only function as surrogates until a temple was built (either within the logic of the Sinai narrative or within the logic of the author's setting where no second temple has yet been built).

Hence, I say all that to simply support the idea that the evidence can be interpreted in a non-History of Religions type way. The disparity may simply be one of theology and Sitz im Leben, centered on the situation of the audience rather than contradiction between two schools of thought.

It's not as though one view is going to be proven over the other, but simply that both seem plausible given certain presuppositions concerning the history of Israel. But I have to agree with Bolen that I don't see a Bible that presents Israel as monotheistic at any point. Indeed, it seems that the Bible is always in contention with the people on that point, so I do see a difference between prescription and description on those terms, and am not sure that your example of the dueling altars proves the point when it can be read in terms of the above.

What are your thoughts on that?

John Hobbins

Hi Bryan,

If I understand you correctly, you want to understand the Exodus prescriptions as allowing for multiple altars of a certain kind (earthen or unhewn stone, without steps; note that the KQ shrines, understood as models of full scale shrines, do not conform to the Exodus prescriptions, nor do they bear a resemblance to the ark) that would have been constructed by Judahites in exile say in the 6th cent. BCE.

For all we know, the Exodus prescriptions were interpreted as a warrant for multiple, technologically primitive altars in the 6th cent. By the same token, they may not have been. I am not aware of evidence either way.

The Exodus prescriptions, in the history of scholarship, are widely associated with the Covenant Code, with both understood as reflecting or refracting an understanding of cult and ethics earlier than that of the Deuteronomic and Holiness codes. There are plenty of reasons for suggesting that sequence and dating all three codes to the pre-exilic period. If you are read up in Pentateuchal criticism up to and including Knohl, Milgrom, and Schwartz, not to mention Stackert, Chavel, Levinson, and Wright, you will understand what I am getting at.

For the rest, I did not suggest that Exodus and Deuteronomy prescriptions are misplaced from the viewpoint of narrative logic, or that they severally lack internal logic.

Once the decision was made to compile the chief extant witnesses to God-given prescriptions regarding cult and ethics in (ex hypothesi) the exilic period and attribute the whole to mediation by Moses, the emplotment of said witnesses, each of which has a distinct style and set of interests, in the sequence CC, then P and H, then D, makes eminent narrative sense. The Pentateuch on this understanding is a massive achievement, a composed composite that does not shut off legal innovation but mandates it in that it requires interpretation and the development of law which somehow takes into account the disparate texts preserved therein (hence the chair of Moses of which the NT speaks).

The composition of the Pentateuch (allowing of course for the possibility of later add-ons) can be dated to the 6th century among circles invested in a restoration after destruction: the horizon of hope I refer to is evident not only in many texts in the prophets (e.g. Jer 31-33, Ezek 36-37, Isa 40-66, Zech 1-8, etc.) but in the Pentateuch itself, e.g. Lev 26 and Deut 30.

Bryan Hodge

Thanks for the clarification, John. I'm still forever working out my view of the Pentateuch's development (always questioning from every standpoint), but have enjoyed the refreshing arguments given by Knohl and Milgrom (I've not read Schwartz on the matter yet, but will give that a go soon). I believe, for now, that the CC is pre-exilic and is (re)adopted by a temple-centric community, as I believe is displayed by the Exodus author's decision to place the prescription in a narrative that argues against iconic worship and for the aniconic worship of the DH upon which that narrative description is based. I appreciate your observation that this could be justification of later postexilic altars as well as reflect an earlier tradition as well.

Thanks again for another great blog post and for fostering more stimulating discussion. God bless.

G.M. Grena

Hello again, John. Thanks for your patience. I delayed responding because Todd's response seemed to answer your issue about Exo 20 & Deu 12 very well, so it didn't seem urgent, but you probably know by now that I like to be thorough, & answer anyone who asks me something, especially in the context of a Scriptural interpretation challenge.

One point I would emphasize regarding what you label as an "apparent contradiction[s]" is that Deu 12:8 ("Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day") seems to acknowledge the context of earlier prescriptions recorded in Exo 20:24 ("any/every place"); therefore, it's difficult to interpret these books as independent writers where one goofed, not being aware of the other. I suppose you still could date both books much later than Moses & to different authors, but that leads into a broader discussion you mentioned, "about *which* contexts and points in time underlie the disparate texts."

You asked me, "What evidence do you have for that conclusion [about the Pentateuch predating the Jerusalem temple's construction]?" Logic: 1) The Bible provides the only answers to life's fundamental questions that comport with what I experience daily & analyze scientifically (e.g., pre-eminence of light, laws of nature, global flood). 2) The NT writings are historically reliable, & they fulfill significant OT prophecies of ("prescriptions" for?) the Messiah. 3) On multiple occasions, Jesus (being the Son of God, as vindicated by His resurrection) certified Moses as the author of Exo & Deu (i.e., "the Law"). Obviously I could elaborate at length on each of these points, but that's the gist.

If you know of any "apparent contradictions" that could not be resolved within my paradigm, or that would render it internally inconsistent, I'd certainly like a specific example. It's easy to suggest that these books were composed by multiple writers for theological or political reasons at late times, but when examined in detail, these hypotheses introduce genuine contradictions; when followed through, they reduce to absurdity (e.g., they require Special Pleading &/or violations of scientific laws).

That being said, I don't have any trouble accepting the possibility that later writers/copyists/redactors (particularly Ezra) might have changed words, spellings, or phrases occasionally to ensure clarity for contemporary readers. (By the way, that's where the expertise of excellent Hebrew scholars like you shines.) We see evidence of this in the Great Isaiah Scroll, though Isaiah's basic messages did not suffer. We do the same when translating these Hebrew texts into English. And of course I allow for Moses quoting/integrating earlier writings transmitted from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Joseph.

It's been a while since I visited your blog, but it's always refreshing to see someone like you writing thought-provoking essays, & interacting fairly & reasonably with your guests.

John Hobbins

Hi G.M.,

Thanks for the conversation. You are right to put the emphasis on paradigms. Let's begin with a basic agreement. We both intend to accord Scripture the highest imaginable authority. I trust you concur with the Reformer of Zurich that

[T]he word of God is to be held by us in the highest honor . . . and no word should be accorded the same faith as this one. For it is certain, it cannot err, it is clear, it does not let us go errant in the darkness, it is its own interpreter and enlightens the human soul with all salvation and all grace.

Out of love of Scripture and a commitment to its enduring vitality, for you, if I understand your paradigm correctly, that means assuming that Jesus spoke prophetically when he attributed the authorship of the Pentateuch to Moses, in anticipation of later discussion of that very question.

Whereas Jesus, viewed historically, and assuming he was like us in every way but sin, would have been quoting Moses i.e. the Pentateuch according to the conventions of the day, just as other biblical authors speak about the world as if the earth were a flat disk and the sky a dome with apertures of light called stars, you view Jesus as the one who came down, not only to seek and save the lost in accordance with Isa 61, but to decide things like in what sense Moses can be said to have written the Pentateuch.

You and Todd Bolen, as far as I can see, exclude the possibility that the Pentateuch was written by Moses in the sense of it having been written by those who, over the centuries, including Ezra but not only Ezra, sat in the seat of Moses.

I could be wrong, but I see your paradigm as involving case after case of special pleading, whereas the paradigm I work with, besides being consistent with what else we know about conventions of attribution in the ancient world, and in Judaism in particular, offers a simple and elegant solution to the question of the authorship of the Pentateuch, an obviously composite text if there ever was one, so much so that Richard Averbeck, an OT scholar at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School I very much respect, is wont to identify sources in the Pentateuch with contours a great deal like those popularized by Graf, Wellhausen, and later, Samuel Driver. Like you, however, he feels compelled to attribute the editorial combination of said sources to Moses *as opposed to* those who sat in the seat of Moses down through the ages.

Since I noted that I find the paradigm you work with to involve case after case of special pleading, I owe it to you, whom I consider a fellow member of the militia Christi, some exemplification.

Re *which* contexts and points in time underlie the disparate texts. The great medieval interpreters of the Bible began to discuss this, ibn Ezra for example, even if they tread very carefully, because they were afraid their observations would be used to dispute the veracity of the Torah. They were right to be worried in that sense, but they were also right to point out that the diction of a phrase like "the Canaanite was then in the land" implies a post-Mosaic author. In my judgment, and I make bold to stand up for it as founded on the highest regard for the authority of Scripture, to suggest otherwise involves special pleading.

I find that also to be the case with your interpretation of Deut 12:8, to wit, that "Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day" seems to acknowledge the context of earlier prescriptions recorded in Exo 20:24 ("any/every place"). It does not, as will be obvious once the rest of the phrase in Deut 12:8 is given: "everyone doing what is right in their own eyes." It is a stretch, an unacceptably large stretch, to assume as you apparently do, that (1) among the things that Moses in the steppes of Moab says "we do here this day" included making altars according to the prescriptions of Exod 20:24, and that (2) such doings would be characterized by the phrase "doing what is right in their own eyes," diction used elsewhere to describe actions in patent violation of divine prescriptions.

In the paradigm I consider to be faithful to scripture's witness to itself understood against the background of its ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean contexts and in light of native Jewish tradition to the present, I have no reason to deny that the Mosaic author of Deut 12 was aware of what the Mosaic author of Exod 21 had to say.

At the same time, as circumstances changed, prescriptions and practices relative to worship needed to change, and for a long time this was done by those who occupied the seat of Moses by emplotting those changes into the narrative of the bios of the people of Israel recounted in Exodus through Deuteronomy.

My questions to you: aside from questions of where the evidence actually leads, is there something that prevents you from adopting the paradigm I outline? If it is a paradigm you cannot adopt, what are the first principles on the basis of which you are precluded from doing so? These are honest questions.

I am happy to offer more examples of instances in which the paradigm I adopt makes better sense of the evidence than the one you adopt. But the two examples I gave above may serve as a starting point.

G.M. Grena

Quick question before I move on to other issues: On what basis would you "assum[e] that Jesus spoke prophetically when he attributed the authorship of the Pentateuch to Moses, in anticipation of later discussion" rather than simply assume He spoke historically to his audience as we commonly do for authors when in conversation? Did you quote the Reformer of Zurich prophetically for readers of your blog not yet born, knowing that the Reformer of Zurich did not actually write what you quoted?

John Hobbins


As always, thanks for the conversation.

If you read over my last comment, you will see that we are in agreement that Jesus was speaking historically to his audience. That is, he accommodates his speech to the conventions of the day, as he does in many other cases.

He does not anticipate later findings in fields of knowledge such as astronomy, biology, and botany in his speech, nor does he ponder questions about the sense in which Moses is author of the Pentateuch.

He goes with the flow on topics that are not essential to his God-given task, which is to seek and save the lost.

On the other hand, there are plenty of occasions in which, even if an inspired author clearly would have understood his own words to mean one thing, another inspired author gives those words a sensus plenior, a fuller sense, and the fuller sense is no less true to the facts.

Thus we have, in Matthew, the phrase "out of Egypt I called my son" applied to Jesus. Thus we have Paul applying the phrase "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain" to wage-receiving ministers.

What I am proposing is that the phrase "Moses said" has a fuller sense than would have been understood in some times and places, even if that sense was lost for generations in some or all traditions, and recovered only later.

This kind of thing happens with the accumulation of new information and the gradual shifting of paradigms that ensues. That is in fact what has happened in the intellectual and faith journeys of a large number of Bible-believing scholars: a paradigm shift, of which is made the structure of scientific revolutions.

You have to decide if the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture imply that a biblical author, whenever he would have accommodated his speech to the conventions of his day, was prevented from doing so if it would conflict with knowledge about things that would come to light thousands of years hence. For example, God says in Job 37:18:

Can you, like him, spread out the skies, firm as a molten mirror?

Note that God did not prevent the author of the book of Job from quoting him to the effect that the sky is a vault as firm as a cast-metal mirror the smith of which was God Most High. If the Bible is intended by God to teach cosmology at this level of fine detail, then it must at the very least be deemed to indulge in misleading language.

But the Bible is not intended by God to teach cosmology and a host of other things at the level of detail, except in polemical fashion with contrasting cosmologies of the day, such as that of the Babylonians. Again, when I point out this out, I am taking the text at face value, as a text that would have made eminent sense to its first readers.

In short, your "actual" - "not actual" binary is inadequate to the biblical facts on the ground. It is to those facts that I will be true, not to what I consider to be reductive and simplistic interpretations thereof.

G.M. Grena

Okay John, thanks for the long answer to the quick question! Upfront, we definitely differ on the application of Accommodation Theory to Jesus, so I'll clarify my position along the way.

"...assuming he was like us in every way but sin, would have been quoting Moses i.e. the Pentateuch according to the conventions of the day..." Invalid assumption. Apart from being sinless, He is also divine, and existed previously ("Before Abraham was, I am."), whereas we did not exist till God created us. So I reject your claim that Scripture is "the highest imaginable authority" while simultaneously being "consistent with what else we know about conventions of attribution in the ancient world". Even if those attributions were contemporary assumptions or educated guesses, they were not on the same level of authority as that of a divine being. If you limit Jesus to speaking historically in accommodation rather than prophetically with authority, which convention did He accommodate in John 8:56-8?

Furthermore, if you equate the Bible's content with contemporary, non-divine content, you have no basis for "accord[ing] Scripture the highest imaginable authority", whereas I do. Of course you're free to accord it any authority, but you'd be doing so arbitrarily if you don't acknowledge the messages within it delivered divinely (esp. the Exo & Deu prescriptions we're discussing).

Jesus confronted errors & sins; He did not ignore them or accommodate "the conventions of the day" if they were wrong. 2 quick examples: 1) He didn't answer the ruler's question about eternal life without first specifying that ordinary teachers are not (absolutely) good; only God is, so only God can tell us (collectively & individually) how to obtain eternal life. 2) After teaching a deep truth about casting the first stone, He didn't invite the adulteress to travel with Him to other towns & commit the same act so He could teach the same truth to others. Why? Because if you're God, you don't lie to teach truth. That's where our paradigms differ. On these bases I can confidently claim that if Moses were not the composer of The Law, Jesus would've corrected that erroneous belief. Can you cite an example of Jesus promoting any obvious falsehood (besides our OT authorship issue) to support your position?

"...other biblical authors speak about the world as if the earth was a flat disk..." Not true. By saying "as if", you admit you're interpreting what they wrote through your paradigm, which is erroneous if it doesn't allow ancient writers to use figurative language. Even if I, today, speak "as if" I ride my bike on flat streets, it doesn't mean I'm claiming that it is so (I know the streets have varying elevations relative to sea level). It's not Special Pleading (SP) because the contexts are different, & the excluding characteristic is relevant (I'm setting the discussion for bragging about the steep hills I climbed with my bike yesterday). It would only be SP if I were to say, "In this same (poetic or historical narrative) text, the meaning of one word is literal, while the other uses of the same word are figurative due to a qualifier that's irrelevant to the discussion."

"[T]he diction of a phrase like 'the Canaanite was then in the land' implies a post-Mosaic author." So does the phrase "Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab"! John, your point about SP would be valid if I were to suggest that Jesus knew who wrote Isaiah but didn't know who composed Exo & Deu. You're thinking like a "B.C." Hebrew who had no supreme authority to reference, whereas I'm thinking like an "A.D." American relying on Christ's authority. I'm not arguing that the words we have in DSS fragments of the Pentateuch are the exact words written by Moses exclusively. And I'm not guilty of SP because I have a valid basis for that belief (e.g., Moses would've had access to many ancient texts while growing up in Egypt among royalty per Exo 2:10, & no control over minor additions after he died).

If someone living in Qumran a century before Christ made minor grammatical alterations to an Isaiah scroll, which was later read by Jesus in a synagogue, it doesn't mean Isaiah didn't write any prophecies about the Messiah, or that Jesus was inconsistent for not pointing out that the copy from which He was quoting (Mark 7:6; Mat 13:14; 15:7) contained some minor textual differences compared to Isaiah's original composition. He would only have been wrong if He had said, "These are the exact words of Isaiah exactly as he originally wrote them" & we had an autographed copy of Isaiah with an indisputable provenance we could use for comparison.

"It is a stretch, an unacceptably large stretch, to assume as you apparently do..." I'd like to hear your interpretation of what the Israelites were doing "in the steppes of Moab" prior to crossing over the Jordan per your paradigm of it being fictitiously invented at a much later time. Are you suggesting that the reason the Israelites were doing "actions in patent violation of divine prescriptions" is because they had not yet been given divine prescriptions, or because the prescriptions were not of divine origin? [Please excuse my chuckling here...] If they were not delivered from God to Moses, where is the record of God delivering any to anyone else at any other time? Or do you believe post-exilic Jews were gullible, arbitrarily accepting any pseudepigrapha presented to them by fellow Jews sans scrutiny?

Humor aside, if you agree that the author of Deu was aware of Exo, then our main dispute is still whether the composers of these 2 sections were Moses (receiving them from God) or not, right? My basis is clear: the objective authority of my divine, risen Savior Who consistently confronted errors & misinterpretations at every recorded opportunity. Your basis is? The fallible subjective background of ANE and Mediterranean contexts "as circumstances changed" and fallible subjective native Jewish tradition whose "prescriptions and practices relative to worship needed to change"? Keyword by you: "relative".

Your "honest questions" deserve an honest answer: What is the purpose of adopting such an arbitrary theology if I know upfront it will be subject to change? It seems contradictory to on one hand express "a commitment to its enduring vitality" (as the laughingstock of academia?), while on the other hand argue that it's the product of arbitrary opinions that changed over time (which is why so many intellectuals scoff at it). The purpose of espousing the theology I do is so that I have a confident anchor in life to withstand changes that would otherwise lead me astray from the truth, & thus jeopardize my salvation (e.g., the acceptance of relativism vs. absolute standards to which I'm accountable). Oh, & it's nice to be able to refute academicians on occasion with absolute, non-accommodating authority.

Regarding Job 37:18, obviously you referred to Elihu (misattributed by you to God) as an exhibition of contemporary ANE belief, not as an authority on the creation of the universe; & with that I would agree. Obviously Elihu had never read Genesis, or he would've known that God spoke the heavens into existence, a concept foreign to ANE cult fiction. God's interruption of the speakers in 38:2 comes as no surprise, & "commanded" in 38:12 harmonizes with the account preserved by Moses.

John Hobbins

Hi G.M.,

These topics interest a lot of people very much. You and I approach them in different ways. I am confident that others will find this exchange enlightening.

Here are a few areas in which we differ.

You seem to have no way, in your paradigm, to allow God to accommodate his speech to the conventions of the day, or to permit God, as he inspires writers to write, to make use of non G.M.-approved literary genres.

On the other hand, in a case like Job 37:18, since the words are attributed to Elihu and not to God directly (you are right about that of course), their truth value is open to question by you, and you are free to accuse Elihu of getting his creation theology wrong.

I find your conclusions to be unacceptable. An examination of all the relevant passages will show that Elihu, insofar as he speaks about God as Creator, speaks in line with the rest of the biblical witness. Whereas for me the content of Job 37:18 is true in every way, a light unto my path and, in the narrative logic of the book of Job, a light unto Job's path (note that God in the first person goes on to make similar arguments from creation), you feel free to throw the content of Job 37:18 under the bus and claim (wrongly) that its content is incompatible with the principle that God spoke the heavens into existence. Perhaps you simply forgot that God himself says in Isa 45:12 that "my hands stretched out the heavens."

That would be my first observation. You are quick to argue from first principles. You are slow to interpret scripture on the basis of scripture. You show no desire to interpret attributions of authorship found in scripture in light of patterns of attribution in extra-biblical Jewish literature, or in light of ANE and ancient Mediterranean precedents and contexts.

To begin with, at some point you have to allow scripture itself to limit the scope of your first principles.

In your mind, and mine, Jesus was both human and divine. For me that means that God gave him all his own attributes (love, knowledge, and power) in sufficient abundance to accomplish his appointed task of salvation. Note that according to Jesus, he did not even need to know the day or the hour of his return (and he did not know it) in order to accomplish that task.

For you on the other hand, in what sense the Pentateuch is attributable to Moses is evidently a question of greater import than the day and the hour. It is as if it is something we need to get right, or else. I find this assumption on your part not only to be invalid, but dangerous.

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, not to enlighten us on the kind of questions (genre, provenance, date, authorship) that the academic study of the Bible, which you are careful to distance yourself from, seeks to answer.

My basic problem with your approach is the following. You treat the questions and answers the academic study of the Bible treats as would a Johnny Cochran style lawyer. You are good at it, too.

Like Cochran you have a client to defend, in your own words, an "absolute, non-accommodating authority." Though I do not believe that such an authority exists in the sense you need it to exist (and I base myself on the evidence of Scripture) - any more than I believe that OJ was innocent - I grant that you, like Cochran, are good at sowing doubt in the minds of the jury that maybe your theory of scripture is defensible after all.

Your theory has yet to be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be wrong, and that is all you need to show in order to allow you, and the jury, to acquit your theory.

The trouble is, the academic study of the Bible is not construed by believers who engage in it as felony proceedings in which a theory of scripture like yours is on trial.

That is how *you* construe it, which is why you are careful to define yourself as an outsider to the academic study of the Bible. You submit, as it were, an amicus brief for a position you espouse from the outside.

The only people who think of the academic study of the Bible the way you do are those, which may include you, whose faith would be dashed if their absolutist theories of Scripture were shown to them to be worthy of rejection. I take that back: ex-fundamentalists like Bart Ehrman who build their careers around taking on their former co-religionists think along the same lines, in reverse.

So, my "AD American." You are talking with another AD American who is more than happy to go on an intellectual journey and think like a (1) BC Hebrew, (2) a first-generation Christian, or a (3) Calcedonian Christian of the sixth century. It's a wonderful journey, and, if undertaken with a thirst for righteousness, conforms to the Augustianian ideal of faith seeking understanding.

I encourage you, my dear landlubber, to overcome your fear of deep water, and make the plunge into an ocean in which your faith will be tested, but also purified.

G.M. Grena

Hi John! Thanks for continuing to share your insight with me (& whoever else we haven't put to sleep with this exchange)! I'm still a little confused over your concluding May 13th criticism about my interpretations being "reductive and simplistic". I want you to know you hurt the feelings of a good friend of mine named Occam!

"See, that's what I want to talk to you about. He's feeling real bad. ... See, I understand you were just playing around. But [Occam], he just doesn't get it. Of course, if you were to apologize..."

I probably won't be able to address your latest remarks in depth till this weekend (need time to heal from your Johnnie Cochran wounds), but I do have a couple more quick questions.

1) Do you think it was possible for God to "stretch" the heavens per Isa 45:12 before speaking them into existence per Gen 1, or are those 2 acts mutually exclusive? Can a potter fashion a vessel without first buying [creating] some clay? It reminds me of the old saying, "If the heavens don't fit, you must ... admit ... my interpretation is valid."

2) After reflecting on your position, which I think I'm understanding better as time goes by, would it be a fair analogy to compare your interpretation of the role of whoever held the Seat of Moses to a Jewish papacy? In other words, it didn't matter who wrote what over the centuries (Holiness Code, Covenant Code, Deuteronomistic History); whenever they spoke/wrote on a subject, it was considered ex cathedra, Mosaic & of divine origin? If that analogy's invalid, please clarify the distinctions; if it is valid, then why do we read about God interacting directly with so many prophets, but none of these Jewish popes except for Moses?

John Hobbins

Hi G.M.,

Thanks for continuing the conversation. Let me clarify first of all that my purpose is not to wound you or your friend Occam. As for Occam, an Occamist might well prefer the concept of Mosaic authorship I offer, since Occam advised against the multiplication of entities and, by extension, hypotheses. That’s because my concept files all authors who contributed to the Pentateuch under “Moses.”

That is, in Jewish tradition all instruction i.e. Torah in the sense of text that combines (1) protological narrative, (2) embedded law from the mouth of God, and (3) embedded prophecy, is attributed to Moses.

To be clear, an elegant claim of this sort is not found in the Hebrew Bible (though something like it is attested in the NT). The same holds for other elegant claims that believers are wont to affirm, such as creatio ex nihilo; per Jews, the pre-existence along with God of entities like Torah, repentance, the garden of Eden, Gehenna [Hell], the Heavenly Throne, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah [b. Pesachim 54a (compare Genesis Rabba 1:4)]; per Christians, the Trinity and a Christ with two natures.

In fact, since the claim is not found in Scripture, unless you set up Jesus as a decider on this issue (to which Jesus, I am convinced, would respond: “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?" [Luke 12:14 (NLT)]), people who place themselves as humbly as possible under the authority of the Bible – someone like Mike Heiser – may still choose to multiply entities and note that Genesis is not attributed to Moses in the text so there is no necessity that we attribute it to Moses.

Beyond that, many have claimed, once again multiplying both entities and hypotheses, that Moses didn’t write his own death notice, those parts that clearly reflect a post-Mosaic perspective (“and the Canaanite was then in the land”), and who knows what else.

My approach is different. It attempts to treat Jewish tradition with respect of the kind it deserves if Paul is right that the gifts of God to the Jews are irrevocable. It is the recipients of those gifts who attribute all of the Torah to God first of all, to Moses as its one and only mediator, and, at the same time, to interpreters thereafter who sit in the seat of Moses. It is rare that the complexities of this elegant formulation come to expression. But they do. Try this:

I really liked the clip you linked to. Here is another one that is relevant:

What is needed, I submit, is not bluster, but humility.

Enough humility to recognize that Jewish tradition gets things right on the question of attribution in three different senses. Enough humility to recognize that academicians who seek to answer the piddly questions of date, provenance, and authorship, not for legal purposes, but for the purposes of historical reconstruction, sometimes get things right, in the piddly sense.

As for your specific questions, yes, I think that one and the same result can be described as (1) the outcome of an act of the will which expresses itself in a verbal statement (a decision) and as (2) the outcome of a long process and of great exertion - on the other hand, inspiration often consists of seeing one aspect of something very clearly, whereas another aspect of the same thing, though seen clearly by another under inspiration, is not seen at all.

As far as the Covenant, Holiness, and Deuteronomic Codes are concerned, the contents of all three are attributed to God, with Moses as mediator; for this as a response, in the case of CC, to the Code of Hammurapi, see the recent volume by David Wright.

The analogy with the popes is partial. From the historical point of view, they adapted their concepts of tradition and authority from the rabbis on the one hand and the Roman emperors on the other, all the while with an eye on passages in the New Testament which regard Peter (hence, the see = seat of Peter).

G.M. Grena

I apologize again for this delayed response. I drafted it last weekend, then encountered personal problems all week that took precedence before I could finish reviewing it. Since it's been a while, I thought it would be helpful to summarize/emphasize our point of contention before continuing.

JH: "[T]he prescriptions of Deut 12[:13] ... stand[s] in contradiction to prescriptions found in Exod 20:[24]."

GG: "Exo & Deu were written in a timeframe prior to the much-later decision to build a house of worship in Jerusalem..."

TB: "[T]he commands of Exodus 20 were given while the Israelites were at Mount Sinai, ahead of their travels through the wilderness. The instruction of Deuteronomy was given after the wilderness travel..."

[Disclaimer: I occasionally refer to Todd & myself collectively since we made the same point, but in this lengthy rebuttal, I'm speaking independently; please don't blame him for any mistakes I make.]

JH: "What evidence do you have for that conclusion? ... I allow for the possibility that the Pentateuch embeds into its narrative divine prescriptions received in various historical periods and narrativized in terms of reception by Moses on Mount Sinai or similar. This is still how attribution works in classical Judaism."

By stating "still", you've committed the logical fallacy of Begging the Question (#1) since there's no evidence for that interpretation in the Bible.

If our interpretation resolves the alleged contradiction, it is SP (#2) for you (as a Christian) to assert that classical Judaism (CJ) is authoritative on who composed The Law centuries before Christ (resulting in a contradiction), yet not authoritative on whether Jesus of Nazareth qualified as the Messiah.

Note: "narrativized" means falsely attributed to Moses by someone who has presumptuously composed a law of God, which is nothing other than blasphemy, a capital offense against God (Deu 18:20)!

JH: "According to you ... everything God is said to have prescribed through Moses in transit to the Holy Land was in fact so prescribed but in a sense unlike that otherwise attested in native Jewish tradition ... it would have to be considered erroneous."

Matthew 15:6 "Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by [native Jewish] tradition."

The "Seat of Moses" refers to the act of administering justice per already-received laws. It has nothing to do with an arbitrary institution of new laws.

Exodus 18:13,16 "Moses sat to judge the people and ... make them know the statutes of God, and his laws."

Nehemiah 1:7 "We ... have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses."

Assuming you believe Nehemiah was historical, either he was a false witness, or CJ is heretical. If you believe he's fictitious, you're again committing SP since CJ believes he's historical.

Ezra 7:6 "This Ezra ... was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given..."

The text doesn't even hint that Ezra instituted new laws! Isolated commands such as Jeremiah 42:19 show that God was capable of issuing new ones to people other than Moses for special circumstances.

Matthew 23:2-3 "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat; all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do..."

...not because they arbitrarily institute new laws & deceitfully attribute them to God via "narrativiz[ation]", but because they are accountable to accurately teach according to the laws God gave to Moses.

JH: "[Your] approach does not allow for the possibility of attribution to Moses for legal purposes. This is what we have in the codex Hammurapi and more generally in the ANE. Why things should differ in ancient Israel on this score is not clear to me."

Things should differ in ancient Israel because God chose them for a special purpose in this world (Malachi 1:2-3), & gave laws directly to Moses, whereas Hammurabi either instituted his own, or plagiarized/tailored others.

JH: "We both intend to accord Scripture the highest imaginable authority."

Really? Though you obviously admire Scripture with respect for Jesus & Christianity, it is clear that you place CJ (i.e., heresy) & contemporary ANE literature (i.e., paganism) on a pedestal with Scripture. Scholarship isn't bad until it is elevated above, or placed on the same level as, God's true revelation to us. We should always beware the mindset described in Isaiah 14:13-14.

JH: "I see your paradigm as involving case after case of special pleading..."

This is the logical fallacy named Wishful Thinking (#3). You want this to be true, but you have not backed up your claim. To be guilty of SP, I'd have to be basing my belief on an irrelevant characteristic. I don't believe Moses wrote his own obituary because he was dead. That's a relevant characteristic. It would take a miracle for a dead person to write, & I have no basis for believing that particular miracle (unlike his Transfiguration appearance for which I do have a basis). As for the claim about the Canaanite being in the land, the relevant characteristic is that the Israelites never completely drove out the Canaanites (Judges 1:27-33; Zechariah 14:21), so the statement cannot be used to support a late composition date; it simply indicates that they were there in Abram's time.

JH: "[A]side from questions of where the evidence actually leads, is there something that prevents you from adopting the paradigm I outline?

First, evidence is inanimate, & cannot lead. This logical fallacy goes by the name of Reification (#4). We can use evidence to present an interpretation, but evidence itself is impartial & does not bolster any argument of its own accord.

My answer to your question is that I cannot adopt a paradigm based upon logical fallacies because I'm a rational person. That's why I'm a Christian. Anyone can claim to be a Christian (the current U.S. president is an excellent example); very few people can justify their basis for being a Christian.

JH: "[Jesus] goes with the flow on topics that are not essential to his God-given task, which is to seek and save the lost."

Not true! He goes with the flow when the flow is going with God; otherwise He's pro-division (Luke 12:51; John 7:43; 9:16; 10:19)! Trashing the Temple vendors (Matt 21:12; Mark 11:15; John 2:15) was not essential to seeking & saving the lost! Calling scribes & Pharisees "hypocrites" (Matt 23:13-29; Luke 11:44) was not essential to seeking & saving the lost!

JH: "You seem to have no way, in your paradigm, to allow God to accommodate his speech to the conventions of the day..."

I believe God accommodated people per the OT & NT by speaking in their respective languages (in contrast to the alleged revelation given to con-artist Joseph Smith that required translation).

JH: "Elihu, insofar as he speaks about God as Creator, speaks in line with the rest of the biblical witness."

I'm not arguing that you & Elihu are wrong 100% of the time. Here you've committed the fallacy of Division (#5). Just because some of Elihu's statements are true, doesn't make all of his statements true.

JH: "You show no desire to interpret attributions of authorship found in scripture in light of patterns of attribution in extra-biblical Jewish literature, or in light of ANE and ancient Mediterranean precedents and contexts."

Correct! There's a huge difference between someone receiving a revelation from God & recording it faithfully, vs. concocting such a revelation & expecting people to believe it & base their lives upon it. Again, you've demonstrated that you don't actually "accord Scripture the highest imaginable authority"; you view it as belonging on a bookshelf labeled Historical Fiction / Spiritual Enrichment.

JH: "It is as if [God's revelation to Moses] is something we need to get right, or else."

Correct! Or else we have no rational basis for our core theological beliefs. "The Pilgrim's Progress" would be a crock were it not based on true history preserved in the Bible that it's allegorizing.

JH: "Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, not to enlighten us..."

Chalk up another logical fallacy known as the False Dilemma (#6). On what basis would Jesus identify "the lost" if God had not preserved the record of Adam's sin, or if said sin were a fictitious idea composed pseudonymously? If Moses included Gen as the historical preface to his reception of The Law from God, then Jesus had a basis for seeking, saving, and enlightening us; otherwise he had no basis for any of those tasks.

JH: "Like Cochran you have a client to defend..."

False Analogy (#7) is the name of this next fallacy you committed. Defense lawyers are under no legal obligation to seek or present the truth (Ever heard of the 5th Amendment?), but to counter claims against their chosen client by raising what they believe will be reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors.

In contrast, my arguments are based on the only internally consistent record claiming to be a revelation from God, & my arguments are non-arbitrary, which presupposes that an absolute truth exists & can be discovered. By arguing that God's laws in Exo & Deu were fictitious narratives like those of pagans, you defeat your own argument because you've abandoned the possibility that anyone can determine an objective truth.

JH: "[Y]ou, like Cochran, are good at sowing doubt in the minds of the jury that maybe your theory of scripture is defensible after all."

My goal is not just to sow seeds, but to make sure they were not sown in fallacious soil. And I enjoy hacking away at irrational weeds that prevent them from receiving Light.

JH: "Your theory has yet to be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be wrong..."

While yours has been shown to be based on fallacies & self-defeating premises. Some scholars remind me of the old joke about entrepreneurs who lose a few cents on each sale, but believe they can overcome the deficit by selling more.

JH: "[T]he academic study of the Bible is not construed by believers who engage in it as felony proceedings..."

Here's the Ad Populum (Bandwagon, or Appeal to the Majority) fallacy (#8). True, the majority of scholars treat Holy Scripture as guilty till proven innocent, but it doesn't mean they're right; in fact, I can demonstrate that they're wrong since they have no basis for determining an objective truth if they assume it doesn't exist. If you accept the Bible's claims, it's self-affirming, & thereby proves those scholars to be wrong. No other purported revelation from an objective source of truth can accomplish this. To God be the glory for figuring this out without any help from me!

JH: "...whose faith would be dashed if their absolutist theories of Scripture were shown to them to be worthy of rejection."

If Christ be not risen, my faith is in vain (1Cor 15:14), & I want it to be dashed. If our ancestors did not sin (Gen 3), Christ's purpose was vain (1Cor 15:22), & deserves to be dashed.

JH: "Occam advised against the multiplication of entities and, by extension, hypotheses."

On the subject of determining the truthfulness of one claim against another, isn't Occam subservient to Aristotle? You're viewing our positions relatively (one may have advantages over the other), whereas I'm viewing them absolutely (one may be right, one has to be wrong).

JH: "My approach ... attempts to treat Jewish tradition with respect of the kind it deserves if Paul is right that the gifts of God to the Jews are irrevocable."

Here you've committed the Red Herring fallacy (#9). We're not arguing whether God gave gifts to the Jews, which gifts, or whether said gifts are revocable; if you'd like to start a separate discussion, please specify the relevant verses. Also please qualify the level of "respect" we should have for a tradition that views Jesus as a blasphemer who deserved crucifixion & wasn't raised from the dead by God. Here's a snapshot of my position: Galatians 1:8-9.

JH: "What is needed, I submit, is not bluster, but humility."

In any debate, what is needed is logic, not emotion. I'm obligated to stand boldly, unashamedly on the reliability of Holy Scripture. As Christians, we cannot do that if our claim is based upon a dishonest document.

In summary, the number of fallacies I've committed to support our position that there is no contradiction between Exo & Deu: 0. Number committed by you to support your position that Exo & Deu contain contradictions: 9. Also note that our position does not require any of the Bible writers to commit blasphemy as yours does, since that would defeat their purpose of spiritually enriching us with a message from God.

If the Black Knight from your Monty Python video were here, I think he'd advise you to "call it a draw" now.

John Hobbins

Hi G.M.,

Aw shucks. Thanks for putting so much effort into a rebuttal. I would return the favor if I thought it would help, but I don't think it would.

I see one spiritual danger to your position. You throw out some very strong accusations, to the effect that a biblical author, if he followed attested norms of attribution in Judaism and beyond in the ancient world, must be considered a dishonest human being and guilty of blasphemy. You also seem to imply that I commit blasphemy by suggesting that he should not be so considered.

You might want to be careful about making the accusations you do. It won't cut it on Judgment Day - I don't think it cuts it now - to defend oneself by saying that "I acted in good faith on the basis of what I thought was true." That will not be a sufficient defense.

We are also called to humility. I don't see any in your apodictic statements and terrible accusations.

On my part, I will not accuse you of anything other than being guilty of using sophistry as a blunt instrument to attack viewpoints you reject.

As for your own viewpoints, I am more convinced than ever that you derive them from Scripture by manipulating passage after passage like so many wax noses and by ignoring and not accounting for countless details Scripture contains.

You have chosen a Johnny Cochran style defense. This approach is not open to the academic Bible scholar. The academic Bible scholar, no less than the academic scholar of the Quran, will take an inductive approach rather than use as a fortress (of sand) a definition of inerrancy imposed on the text (Bible or Quran) from the outside.

When I point out to an apologete of Islam that the type of inerrancy they impute to the Quran is not imputed to the Quran by itself, they continue merrily on their way. They are unable and unwilling to distinguish between the claims they want to make about the text, the claims the text makes about itself, and the claims tradents of the text have made about it down through the ages.

One does not attribute to scripture the highest imaginable authority by saying things about it that are not true.

Inerrancy language is, on the other hand, love language, a form of doxology. For example, I love my wife and find her perfect in every way. I find Scripture to be perfect in every way as well. That's because I've learned to understand some things others see as imperfections to contribute to perfection of a higher order.

As I see it, your approach is different. You are in denial about the ways in which Scripture does not correspond to your expectations. My concern then is that you will reject Scripture, as happened to Bart Ehrman and countless others, as soon as it dawns on you that God didn't follow the rules you believe God must have, in providing Scripture to us.

G.M. Grena

JH: "[A] biblical author, if he followed attested norms of attribution in Judaism and beyond in the ancient world, must be considered a dishonest human being and guilty of blasphemy."

Correct, assuming that said author claims to be speaking on behalf of God, which is a seriously distinct claim from chronicles of human actions.

JH: "You also seem to imply that I commit blasphemy..."

No! By defending your belief about someone who has committed a crime, you haven't committed a crime; you're simply wrong.

JH: "It won't cut it on Judgment Day... That will not be a sufficient defense. We are also called to humility."

Behold, three apodictic statements from someone who believes God's Law was composed by liars.

JH: "I will not accuse you of anything other than being guilty of using sophistry as a blunt instrument to attack viewpoints you reject."

Behold, an example of psychological projection: accusing me of sophistry after unsuccessfully defending the fallacious nature of your position. Just so there's no misunderstanding, I use logic not just "to attack" erroneous interpretations of the Holy Bible, but to mighty-through-God pull them down (2Cor 10:4).

JH: "One does not attribute to scripture the highest imaginable authority by saying things about it that are not true."

I see. One attributes to Scripture the highest imaginable authority by saying it contains core, foundational texts (Exo & Deu) that are not true, thus leading to "true" scholarship & "true" spiritual humility. (As a "sidebar" to other readers, this is where fallacious reasoning leads you. The technical term is reductio ad absurdum.)

John, I'd like you to back up your apodictic accusation that I've said things about the Bible that are not true. (You contradicted your earlier statement that you wouldn't accuse me of anything other than sophistry; fallacious reasoning is distinct from telling lies.)

You've mentioned Bart Ehrman a 2nd time now, so I understand that's an important issue to you, as it is for me (a university classmate of mine gave me a copy of "Jesus, Interrupted" last year, & like you, he was either not willing or able to defend his position after I diagnosed Ehrman's problem). I'm not in fear of following his path to heresy, but that subject's not relevant to your Khirbet Qeiyafa Roundup. After searching your blog, I did not see any posts directly related to Ehrman. Please let me know if you wrote one, & I'll consider interacting there; if not, please consider writing one. Suggested title: "Did Ehrman Err on Inerrancy?"

John Hobbins

You are a barrel of fun, G.M. I love the fact that you are not pulling any punches. I love a good knock-down fight. I brawled rather often in middle school. Even if we sometimes gave each other a heap of pain in the boxing ring or on the wrestling mat, we would try to remain friends. I will try to fence with you in the same spirit.

Rarely have I interacted with someone who is leans so heavily on sophistry and the long pointy finger of accusation. It is in fact very difficult to respond to you without accusing you in turn.

Rarely have I seen someone so willing to set aside what Scripture is, its actual features, in favor of a mirage of logic and impeccable reason.

In your hands logic is a weapon, not a method of discovery. There is a difference, but it is lost on you.

You already know what the Bible must be, based on your first principles. You are unwilling to allow the Bible as it presents itself to the reader fully aware of the ways in which it is treasure contained in earthen vessels, manufactured from ANE and Mediterranean soils, to correct your first principles, to call them into question.

At least you are honest and concede that in your mind a biblical author who "followed attested norms of attribution in Judaism and beyond in the ancient world, must be considered a dishonest human being and guilty of blasphemy."

It doesn't seem to occur to you that you thus set yourself up as judge and jury of ancient authors because they fail to conform to your crystalline logic.

I am sorry to see that you struggle with the simplest of tasks. If you put "Ehrman" in the search engine in the upper left hand corner of this blog, the first post to be listed is the following:

Money quote:

I am neither a fundamentalist nor a reverse fundamentalist. I am a student of ancient texts who can think of nothing better than to defend said texts from modern mis-interpreters. In my view, fundamentalists and reverse fundamentalists alike are prone to expect the wrong things from the Bible. In the following, I fisk a few of Ehrman’s unreconstructed fundamentalist expectations. ... [end quote]

Ehrman is a reverse fundamentalist. Moody Bible Institute cannot be blamed for that, since it has produced many scholars who have remained believers but have, by dint of careful research and epistemological humility, left behind whatever naive expectations they may have had in their approach to the Bible.

At least you now know what my object is on this blog. It is up to you to decide whether you will come back to it given my goal, which is to defend ancient texts, those of the Bible and those beyond the limits of the Bible, from modern mis-interpreters like you and Ehrman.

You are free to go on - and on - in the manner of a defense attorney in favor of your client, which isn't the Bible but your anachronistic assumptions about the Bible.

But, as you have already noticed, your briefs on behalf on your assumptions will be ignored by academic biblical scholars. We have work to do, and you are a distraction to that work.

John Hobbins


Here is another quote for your edification. It will help trace the abyss that separates your position from mine:

First of all, [Stanley Fish in his polemic against Dawkins and friends] deflates the argument that the humanness of Holy Scripture, in origin and in transmission, is an argument against the existence of God.

I blame fundamentalism, and ex-fundamentalists like Bart Ehrman, for the ubiquity of this line of argument. That’s because fundamentalism describes Holy Scripture, in origin and in transmission, as immune to the laws of human activity as otherwise attested.

That is unconscionably bad apologetic, like standing in a hole and asking for a shovel to dig oneself deeper. It is also bad theology.

I love Scripture as much as any fundamentalist. I can and will tout its perfection, its extreme perfection, to anyone who will listen. But I locate its perfection in its capacity to be the word of God while remaining obedient to all the usual laws of historical contingency. Not its presumed capacity, for which I see little evidence, to be God’s word in suspension of said laws.

If Dawkins and the like think that the humanness of Holy Scripture throws belief in God into question, that’s because fundamentalists imply that it does, not because of logical entailment.

More able theologians, including Calvin, speak of God’s accommodation to human realities in the communication of the Word.

The principle needs to be unpacked with greater boldness than Augustine or Calvin ever did. Augustine’s hermeneutic of love shows the way. But Augustine did not dwell on the implications of his view that a hermeneutic of love is necessary when reading Scripture. Given the growth of historical consciousness since, reticence on the point is no longer an option.

God embraced human culture the moment he allowed men and women to speak on his behalf in their own language, and speak back to him with indelicate honesty and ruthlessness. The whole reason scripture exists at all is that truth of the highest order is understood to have come to expression in the contingency and particularity of human experience, and to be offered again in the here and now in its retelling.

Evidently God allows the communication of his Word to be subject to the historical, moral, and spiritual limitations of those to whom the Word is entrusted. Rightly understood, this is why the Bible rings true, verbally and fully, I would add (the adverbs underline the paradox of revelation).

That revelation is not a hermetic essence speaks to its truth, not its falsehood as our ho-hum atheists conclude.

Atheists allow themselves to be led around by the noses by well-meaning but wrongheaded fundamentalists on this point. Psychologically, of course, atheists and fundamentalists, at least of the middle and low brow varieties, need each other. It all makes sense in a way. Their respective theses are designed to provoke an endless game in which one, and then the other, play St. George and the dragon.

End quote. Source and context:

Michael Welch

Dear Dr. Hobbins, Hi!!! Would you agree that it is possible that the Khirbet Qeiyafa Ostracon's script is the same script that Yahweh used to write the Ten Commandments on the stone tablets at Mt. Sinai? This script appears to have continued on into the 9th and 8th centuries B.C. and is found on some of the ivories from Samaria which were excavated between 1908 and 1935. Also would you agree that the Gezer Calendar is written in Phoenician script but the language is Hebrew. And, would you agree that the Tel Zayit Abecedary with its 'Ezer inscription is Hebrew script and Hebrew language? From this we could argue that the Israelites were using three different scripts in the late 11th/early 10th century B.C. to write the Hebrew language. Concerning logic and the Bible, would you agree that logic and knowledge is what the Bible is based on like the Apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 15:3-4:"...that Christ died for our sins according to the Old Testament Scriptures was buried and rose again the third day according to the Old Testament Scriptures." With Much Gratitude and Admiration, Michael Welch, Deltona, Florida

John Hobbins

Hi Michael,

The evidence in hand suggests that a variety of scripts were in use before the rise of a nation-state with a centralized administration under Solomon or a successor resulted in the development of a script and conventions regarding the use of that script specific to that polity.

You are right therefore. We can speak of possibilities, but not certainties, if we try to imagine in what script God would have revealed his commandments to Moses back in the day.

For the rest, there is a lot of evidence that suggests that biblical literature embeds truth in genres and conventions and assumptions about what is the case (knowledge) with respect to a whole range of subjects that are specific to the times and places in which it was written down. The truth the texts convey would not have been intelligible to the intended first audiences were that not to have been the case. In other ways, biblical literature follows a logic of its own, unparalleled elsewhere. In the matrix of this web of symmetries and asymmetries, the Bible imparts truths that can be found nowhere else.

What is not the case is that biblical literature conforms to the *logic*, expectations, and assumptions about what is the case (*knowledge*) of a modern fundamentalist or reverse fundamentalist.

The following verse does not solve any of the problems discussed on this thread. But it is well-suited to serving as a warning against those who are hyper-confident that they know by what means God imparts truth (Isa 55:8):

My calculations are not your calculations,
and my ways are not your ways, says the Lord.

Michael Welch

Dear Dr. Hobbins, Hi!!! Thank you for your response. So are you saying that the Bible cannot be systematized into a Systematic Theology or a Dispensational Theology? If you are, then I would agree with you. Also are you saying like Dr. Philip K. Hitti said in his History of the Arabs that it really does not matter if what a culture believes is true or not as long as they believe it to be true. Thank you for everything that you do. With Much Gratitude and Admiration, Michael

John Hobbins

Hi Michael,

I think of systematic theology as a worthy endeavor, so long as the strengths and weaknesses of the endeavor are not lost sight of.

I am not familiar with the statement by Hitti you refer to. Can you source it? On the face of it, I strongly disagree.

Michael Welch

Dear Dr. Hobbins, Hi!!! Very good. I was doing this from a thirty year old memory of reading the book, and since I do not have a photographic memory, this is not a good thing. I was able to find Dr. Hitti's book on the Internet. Here is what Dr. Hitti said on page 88 of his book History of the Arabs: "The light of authentic record illumines but faintly the Jahiliyah age(this is the age before Islam). Our sources for this period, in which the North Arabians had no system of writing(of course this information is old and things could have changed since Dr. Hitti wrote this book), are limited to traditions, legends, proverbs, and above all to poems, none of which, however, were committed to writing before the second and third centuries after the Hijrah, two to four hundred years after the events which they were supposed to commemorate. Though traditional and legendary this data is none the less valuable; for what a people believe, even if untrue, has the same influence over their lives as if it were true." Thank you for everything. With Much Gratitude and Admiration, Michael

John Hobbins

Okay. Michael. I am unimpressed by Hitti's misleading true/untrue binary. At the intersection of anthropology, critical theory, and history, scholars now have far more respect for the cultural memories of a tribe and/or religion.

Beyond that, some of the best students of the historical Muhammed, no less than some of the best students of historical David, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, Jesus, and Aqiba (the same cannot be said of the historical Moses), have more confidence in the basic outlines of the lives of protagonists as reflected in tradition. Here is Patricia Crone, a top-shelf Muhamned scholar:

We shall never be able to do without the literary sources, of course, and the chances are that most of what the tradition tells us about the prophet's life is more or less correct in some sense or other. But no historical interpretation succeeds unless the details, the context and the perspectives are right. We shall never know as much as we would like to (when do we?), but Islamicists have every reason to feel optimistic that many of the gaps in our current knowledge will be filled in the years ahead.

Crone is referring to advances in our knowledge of the interrelatedness of the culture of pre-Islamic Arabia with that of the rest of late antiquity. In many ways, the situation is similar with respect to our knowledge of the life and time of Ezra and Nehemiah, Hillel, Jesus, and Aqiba.

Background and source in this post:

Michael Welch

Dear Dr. Hobbins, Hi!!! Thank you for all of your time and efforts. So are you saying that the Biblical characters are historical and can be illuminated by archaeology. With Khirbet Qeiyafa we have Saul or David apparently sending at least 500 storage jars to site, which is more than any LMLK jar amount sent by King Hezekiah. Also if you add Khirbet en-Nahas to the mix, King Saul, King David and King Solomon on down to King Jehoash from the Jehoash Tablet inscription may have been controlling copper production in Biblical Edom. After the ninth century production ends for some reason. So I do think that archaeology can illuminate the Bible more. I do not think that we need archaeology to prove the Bible. I think that archaeologists are lucky to have the Bible. Thank you for all of your time, hard work, insights, and everything that you do. With Much Gratitude and Admiration, Michael

John Hobbins

Hi Michael,

There are lots of issues you raise.

(1) As a believer you may feel that everything we read about in Genesis-2 Kings must have happened exactly as told and if it didn't, the Bible is a pack of lies and so is God.

On the other hand, a believer may feel comfortable with the notion that Genesis - 2 Kings is a compilation of sources and an inspired interpretation of the history of Israel by a member of the court-in-exile of Jehoiachin in the 6th century (note how Gen-2 Kgs ends).

On that hypothesis, the compiler worked with the sources he had, not the ones we (or he) wished he had. On that hypothesis, it would not be surprising that, 400 years after the fact, it was unclear who killed Goliath, David or Elhanan, with disparate traditions preserved by the same compiler. Just an example.

In the same way, a modern scholar will examine the work of an ancient historian like Thucydides and note the probability that a particular speech T reports was composed by T for the occasion; put another way, that it is unlikely that T depended on oral or written traditions when he supplied the speech for his purposes. A modern scholar will say the same thing about a speech of Solomon for example.

If, as a believer, the second path, a path of sifting and winnowing and weighing probabilities, is open to you, then the finds of a site by KQ can be evaluated without the need to make hasty correlations of the kind you suggest. Otherwise the temptation will be to pounce on any and every discovery that is compatible with biblical tradition in order to back up the (to my mind incredible) view that God suspended the normal laws of human activity when he inspired the court historians who produced Gen - 2 Kings to write what they did.

(2) A hasty correlation is what you engage in when you suggest that the storage jars found at KQ were sent there by Saul or David. It is more typical of a scholar who wishes to test possible correlations between archaeological finds and ancient traditions to put things otherwise. That is, provenance analysis of the storage jars' ceramic fabric would be undertaken. If it turned out the ceramic fabric comes from the soils surrounding Hebron, Jerusalem, or Gibeah, then your hypothesis begins to look interesting. Not before that.

(3) Perhaps you are unaware that the authenticity of the Jehoash Tablet inscription has been challenged. If and when this is cleared up, the inscription can function as an ancient witness. Not before that.

Michael Welch

Dear Dr. Hobbins, Hi!!! Thank you for your insightful reply. I agree with your second position, mostly because of life experience. I was raised in a small farming town of around 99 people in central Illinois. In the 1950s they tore down a barn and made a sidewalk. Under the barn was a glass soda bottle with the name of the next town up. It was from the late 1890s to the 1910s, but no one in that town remembered where the bottling works was located. Also, try to do a family geneology. Sometimes you can go back 500 years, but sometimes you can only go back 100 years. I should have made it clearer that all of my ideas are possibilities. Concerning clay analyses, with the LMLK jars the Shephelah clays appears to have been dug up, and the jars made near Jerusalem, so an analysis of the clay from the Khirbet Qeiyafa storage jars may not tell us where the jars were made. Concerning the Jehoash Tablet Inscription, I believe that the science trumps any epigraphical problems, thus it is authentic. But like everything else I have written, these are my opinions. I guess what I was trying to get across with my point about the archaeologists are lucky to have the Bible is that without a written text we really do not know much. For example, the Mayan people used to be thought of as this peaceful culture with their astrologer priests, but the recent decipherment of their hieroglyphs proved that they were a warring people bent on blood sacrifices. Thank you for everything. With Much Gratitude and Admiration, Michael

John Hobbins

Thanks for the conversation, Michael.

[G. M. presenting a caricature of] John Hobbins

It's good to see that G.M. Grena has abandoned his inadequate "actual" - "not actual" binary concerning the Bible. My hope is that he will repent for bringing false expectations to the text. I cannot overemphasize the spiritual danger present when someone casts history in a "happened" - "did not happen" fashion.

As Christians, we need to ask ourselves what difference does it make whether an actual Jesus of Nazareth existed. Would we live any differently? No, of course not! What difference does it make if this Jesus character actually said anything? None! We need to make do with what early Christian writers imagined Jesus said since he lived among people who attributed words to others, and there's no reason not to view this Jesus as any other Jesus who may have been living at the time. We need to allow for the possibility that nothing written about him in the New Testament is reliable.

As I said previously, the whole reason scripture exists at all is that truth of the highest order is offered in the here and now in its retelling by people centuries removed from the events, with nothing but their vivid imagination.

It's a waste of time to seek truth when God generously gave us each vivid imaginations to dream up our own truth. I was treated to a perfectly liberal and perfectly pious education as a Sunday school brat, yet I managed to become a rational interpreter of ancient writings. Think of the quandary liberal educators would face if they could not invent history to help children learn that they can make up their own moral code, and act accordingly free from restrictions imposed upon them by fundamentalists. We should especially encourage an acceptance of abortion and homosexuality (God's opinion of these issues be damned) to expand our common ground.

I am committed to helping readers, whatever their point of departure, escape from the modernist/ fundamentalist way of framing the issues. The reason is simple: the fundamentalist / reverse fundamentalist mindset brings false expectations to the texts. It misreads them by definition. I know this because I only read - I never misread - that's what fundamentalists do!

Since the first goal of most religious interpreters of the Bible is to strengthen the faith of listeners, these questions are rarely if ever handled as well I handle them. However, I'm convinced that that is not a viable strategy. I have even called it a "faithless" strategy. Perhaps my language is too strong but I feel strongly about these things (ever mindful to avoid the dreaded "actual" - "not actual" binary, except when I'm arguing against people who actually bring actually false expectations to the actual text composed by actual pseudepigraphers).

Even if we have *no such* commitments, it doesn't make sense to say, "I'm all right with fables - attributed to Aesop or the Apostle Paul though there is no way to tell for sure which are his and which aren't - but not with conversations between gods and people as in the Iliad, because that's just made up; and not with the Sibylline Oracles because that style of prediction was incubated and follows conventions that do not fit our cultural assumptions." We must first embrace the imagined conventions of the imagined writers before we can know with confidence what truth they intended to convey about their cultural environment.

If that environment taught that if a painting by Chagall or Van Gogh or a passage of Scripture isn't a literal representation, it is inadequate vehicle of truth, I am saddened. Saddened because there's no difference between the stroke of a color-filled canvas, and perceived black-on-white words.

[G.M. presenting a caricature of] John Hobbins

Hi G.M.,

It's obvious to everyone that you wrote the previous message to illustrate a pseudepigraphon. Putting words into people's mouths is a wonderful way to start a conversation. I suppose that next you're going to say I can't argue that what you did is wrong or deceitful, only spiritually edifying, eh?

G.M. Grena

Dear John, is it just my imagination, or do I see "the long pointy finger of accusation" coming my way? In my figurative hands, logic is both a defensive strategy, AND a method of discovery, as I answered each of your challenging questions, and we discovered that you have no rational basis (foundation) for your belief that Exo & Deu were written like contemporary pagan literature (& after reading your logically lame accusations of Ehrman, I can extend the same argument to 1Timothy & 2Peter).

It's interesting that when someone successfully defends a position counter to your own, thus figuratively punching you in your own blog-boxing ring, logic becomes a "weapon" in your mind (an Appeal to Emotion fallacy). I believe Ann Coulter would diagnose your condition as Liberal Victim Mentality syndrome.

I stand by my arguments, as they are based on the Bible. I reject your fallacious claim that they're based on "anachronistic assumptions". They can only be anachronistic if you circularly assume that the Bible writers were like any other writers, just as Ehrman assumes that Jesus was an ordinary man, therefore He was an ordinary man. However, even if they are anachronistic, that would be a more logical assumption than yours, which has been shown to be irrational & contradictory. Now that's a genuine "unconscionably bad apologetic"!

John Hobbins

Hi G.M.,

Hilarious, if you ask me. At 6:20 and 6:21 pm., comments are sent from your customary email address, but signed as if I were the commenter, and then a third email is sent from the same address, at 6:22 pm, this time signed as if by you.

I'm guessing at this point that you wrote all three comments.

Perhaps you think that if someone who occupies the seat of Moses to this day and stipulates torah which, insofar as it is judged "constitutional," is attributed to Moses, you can say what you please and attribute it to me.

This is apparently your version of "two wrongs make a right."

Your incomprehension of ancient modes of attribution is showing. You remind me of Bart Ehrman. No, that is not a compliment. Like him, you suffer from a fundamental inability to think, if only for a moment, in categories not your own.

G.M. Grena

"[Y]ou suffer from a fundamental inability to think ... in categories not your own."

And you (the real John Hobbins) are able to think in a category where God miraculously enters history to give us a verbal revelation, which is written down & faithfully copied? If so, can you give me an example? If not, can you admit you promote your own fundamentalist actual/non-actual binaries (i.e., that Exo & Deu actually represent late compositions falsely attributed to Moses as a common Jewish tradition, & that God has never actually worked a miracle because it would actually be "immune to the laws of human activity as otherwise attested")?

John Hobbins

Hi G.M.,

You ask,

"[Are you] are able to think in a category where God miraculously enters history to give us a verbal revelation, which is written down & faithfully copied?"

I am able to think in that category. I affirm it wholeheartedly, just not in the way you do.

It's Sunday morning. I will enter the pulpit 3 hours from now, and I will count on the promise that God miraculously enters history to this day, speaking to his people through the word of God preached.

The God I know works miracles every day through preachers who are very much creatures of their own day, through translations however faithful which contain a number of misunderstandings of words and phrases. Yet both serve, by God's grace, as perfect vehicles of the message of salvation.

I note, I observe, that God accomplishes his perfect will through the Word Of God preached, the Word of God translated, and the Word of God incarnate, even though it is patently obvious that in all three modes God accommodates to human limitations ("not even the Son knows").

But you want me to accept the theory, which you share with Bart Ehrman, that either God worked a miracle such that the Word of God inscripturated and copied came to us by way of authors and copyists who were preserved in their work from being creatures of their day and the normal vicissitudes of human activity, or God is a liar.

Why should I accept such a foolish alternative for which there is not a shred of evidence?

What you fail to understand is that God works miracles every day, especially through the Word of God incarnate shown us by the Holy Spirit; the Word of God inscripturated, a light unto our path; and the Word of God preached by which we are saved, yet those of us who participate in the giving and receiving of this Word remain fully human and accommodated to our time and place in a thousand different ways.

I'm guessing that the miracle I describe is too awesome and inexplicable for you to swallow. That's fine. You are welcome to your lesser miracles.

But please, lay off of your fellow brothers and sisters who believe in miracles more amazing than the ones you are willing to consider.

The alternative you seem willing to defend to the death is not derived from the Bible, as you falsely claim. It is a postulate of pure reason as Kant might call it. With it you protect your client as a defense attorney might, but that client is not the Bible; rather, it is a precarious house of cards.

Too often I have seen one of those cards evaporate in the mind of someone who thinks like you, with the result that they throw out the baby (Christ) with the bathwater (a theory of scripture which does not stand up to rigid scrutiny). That is a not a result a believer will applaud.

When all is said and done, it is a question of spiritual discernment. For you as I understand it, adherence to your theory of scripture is a matter of status confessionis. If someone does not accept it, sooner or later you will end up accusing him of being a liar and traitor of the Gospel.

On my part, I am happy to welcome you into the same fellowship of believers of which I am a part, despite the animated disagreements I may have with you. Even if you are (fill in the blank: an Obama supporter, a Romney supporter; a believer in creation through evolution, a believer in creation over six 24 hour days; a meat-eater, a vegetarian), I am not going to withdraw the hand of fellowship for that reason.

Moreover, at the end of the day, I can walk away from an animated discussion like this, confident that God will work his purposes through you in the present and future, either in the proper sense or sub contraria specie, and confident that he will do the same through me.

Whether you realize it fully or not, G.M., whether I realize it fully or not, our God is an awesome God, he reigns from heaven above, with wisdom, power, and love.

G.M. Grena

Thank you for proving my point, John. If you really believed that there's nothing morally wrong with attributing the words of God & the writings of Moses to some imaginative, but anonymous Jew, you certainly would not have edited the name on those 2 posts from "John Hobbins" to "[G.M. presenting a caricature of] John Hobbins". I submit that the reason you did that is you don't believe your own paradigm is valid. You hold the truth in unrighteousness, & have changed the truth of God into a lie (Romans 1:18,25).

When you (or anyone else) enter a pulpit today, it will be no more miraculous than any other human activity including immoral acts such as atheists committing blasphemy.

John Hobbins

On the contrary, G.M., there is a clear and obvious difference between presenting a caricature of someone, and occupying the seat of Moses. Your argument is so full of holes I could drive a Hummer through it. No one is going to fall for your argument, unless they are already wedded to it, like someone in a very bad marriage from which they cannot escape.

Unless someone is an unreconstructed fundamentalist like Bart Ehrman and, to my surprise, yourself, she will see the difference of which I speak without difficulty.

In your comments you define a lie by your own understanding, and trust in that understanding strongly enough to suggest that because I disagree with your definition, I make God a liar. I reject the suggestion. I believe your accusation is based on ignorance, not true understanding.

For the rest, it is astounding to me that you deny that God works wonders and signs in our day. In your mind, God is a miracle worker with a very small range and capacity.

You seem able to imagine him only as a dictator/dictat-er, whereas Scripture presents God as an artist able to draw both within and outside the lines and able to make objects of extreme beauty out of the most rustic of materials.

All of these truths escape you in your approach to the Word of God written, treasure in earthen vessels.

In my experience, though not in yours apparently, God is alive in the world, his wonders to perform, through miracle after miracle within an ordinary, non-miraculous matrix.

Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do" (John 14:12). You have an awfully small God you believe in, one that can fit into a small handful of your brain circuits, if you believe that the words of Jesus do not apply to what happens each and every day when the Word of God goes forth through preaching, witness, and example.

Like your Ann Coulter, G. M., you are an accomplished polemicist. You cut a pretty figure, as she does. But I wouldn't trust her or you to solve the simplest of problems. The ability to answer questions of the kind we are discussing, to grasp their complexity and deal with them faithfully, requires a different skill set than that of a polemicist.


Dr. Hobbins,

As a lay Christian struggeling with the issues presented by modern OT research I very much appreciate the time you take to respond and even argue with others online.

Most scholars wouldn't bother with an online back-and-forth this long.

Please never think that you are wasting your time. Taking the time to gently explain your position to lay people over and over helps people like me enormously.

God bless

John Hobbins

Hi Shaun,

Thanks for the encouragement. I can be gentle, you're right, but I admit I can get hot under the collar, too. There is a time and place for both tempers.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Google Blogrolls

a community of bloggers

  • Abnormal Interests
    Intrepid forays into realia and texts of the Ancient Near East, by Duane Smith
  • After Existentialism, Light
    A thoughtful theology blog by Kevin Davis, an M. Div. student at University of North Carolina-Charlotte
  • AKMA's Random Thoughts
    by A. K. M. Adam, Lecturer in New Testament at the University of Glasgow
  • alternate readings
    C. Stirling Bartholomew's place
  • Ancient Hebrew Grammar
    informed comment by Robert Holmstedt, Associate Professor, Ancient Hebrew and Northwest Semitic Languages, Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto, and John Cook, Associate Professor of Old Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary (Wilmore KY)
  • Antiquitopia
    one of the best blogs out there, by Jared Calaway, assistant professor in the Department of Religion at Illinois Wesleyan University.
  • Anumma - Hebrew Bible and Higher Education
    by G. Brooke Lester, Assistant Professor in Hebrew Bible, and Director for Emerging Pedagogies, at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (Evanston IL)
  • Awilum
    Insightful commentary on the Bible and the Ancient Near East, by Charles Halton
  • AWOL - The Ancient World Online
    notice and comment on open access material relating to the ancient world, by Charles Jones of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University
  • Balshanut
    top-notch Biblical Hebrew and Semitics blog by Peter Bekins, Ph. D. student, Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati OH, faculty member, Wright State University (archive)
  • Believing is Knowing
    Comments on things like prophecy, predestination, and reward and punishment from an orthodox Jewish perspective, by David Guttmann
  • Ben Byerly's Blog
    thoughts on the Bible, Africa, Kenya, aid, and social justice, by Ben Byerly, a PhD candidate at Africa International University (AIU), in Nairobi, Kenya working on “The Hopes of Israel and the Ends of Acts” (Luke’s narrative defense of Paul to Diaspora Judeans in Acts 16-20)
  • Berit Olam
    by a thoughtful Matt Morgan, Berkeley CA resident, grad student in Old Testament at Regent University, Vancouver BC (archive)
  • Better Bibles Blog
    Discussion of translation problems and review of English Bible translations by Wayne Leman, Iver Larsen, Mike Sangrey, and others
  • Bibbia Blog
    A Bible blog in Italian and English by former students of the PIB and PUG
  • Bible Background research and commentary
    by Craig Keener, professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary
  • Bible Design & Binding
    J. Mark Bertrand's place
  • BiblePlaces Blog
    a spotlight on the historical geography of the Holy Land, by Todd Bolen, formerly, Assistant Professor at the Israel Bible Extension campus of The Master's College, Santa Clarita CA
  • Biblicalia
    The riches of orthodoxy brought online by Kevin Edgecomb, a seminarian at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (Brookline MA)
  • Biblische Ausbildung
    by Stephen L. Cook, professor of Old Testament / Hebrew Bible at Virginia Theological Seminary
  • C. Orthodoxy
    Christian, Contemporary, Conscientious… or Just Confused, by Ken Brown, a very thoughtful blog (archive). Ken is currently a Dr. Theol. student at Georg-August-Universität in Göttingen, part of The Sofja-Kovalevskaja Research Group studying early Jewish Monotheism. His dissertation will focus on the presentation of God in Job.
  • Catholic Bibles
    a thoughtful blog about Bible translations by Timothy, who has a degree in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome (Angelicum) and teaches theology in a Catholic high school in Michigan
  • Chrisendom
    irreverent blog with a focus on the New Testament, by Chris Tilling, New Testament Tutor for St Mellitus College and St Paul's Theological Centre, London
  • Claude Mariottini
    a perspective on the Old Testament and current events by a professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, Chicagoland, Illinois
  • Codex: Biblical Studies Blogspot
    by Tyler Williams, a scholar of the Hebrew Bible and cognate literature, now Assistant Professor of Theology at The King's University College in Edmonton, Alberta (archive)
  • Colours of Scripture
    reflections on theology, philosophy, and literature, by Benjamin Smith, afflicted with scriptural synaesthesia, and located in London, England
  • Complegalitarian
    A team blog that discusses right ways and wrong ways Scripture might help in the social construction of gender (old archive only; more recent archive, unfortunately, no longer publicly available)
  • Connected Christianity
    a place to explore what it might be like if Christians finally got the head, heart, and hands of their faith re-connected (archive)
  • Conversational Theology
    Smart and delightful comment by Ros Clarke, a Ph.D. student at the University of the Highlands and Islands, at the (virtual) Highland Theological College (archive)
  • Daily Hebrew
    For students of biblical Hebrew and the ancient Near East, by Chip Hardy, a doctoral student at the University of Chicago
  • Daniel O. McClellan
    a fine blog by the same, who is pursuing a master of arts degree in biblical studies at Trinity Western University just outside of Vancouver, BC.
  • Davar Akher
    Looking for alternative explanations: comments on things Jewish and beyond, by Simon Holloway, a PhD student in Classical Hebrew and Biblical Studies at The University of Sydney, Australia
  • Deinde
    News and Discussion by Danny Zacharias
  • Discipulus scripturae
    Nathan Stitt's place
  • Dr. Claude Mariottini
    balanced comment by a professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Seminary, Lombard IL
  • Dr. Platypus
    insightful comment by Darrell Pursiful, editor at Smyth & Helwys Publishing, on the New Testament faculty of Mercer University
  • Dust
    A diary of Bob MacDonald's journey through the Psalms and other holy places in the Hebrew Bible
  • Eclexia
    The heart and mind of this Bible and theology blogger sing in unison
  • Eat, Drink, and be Merry
    The journey of a grad student with a love for ancient languages at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (archive)
  • Elizaphanian
    Rev Sam tussles with God, and limps away
  • Emerging from Babel
    Stephen investigates the potential of narrative and rhetorical criticism as a tool for expounding scripture
  • Evangelical Textual Criticism
    A group blog on NT and OT text-critical matters
  • Evedyahu
    excellent comment by Cristian Rata, Lecturer in Old Testament of Torch Trinity Graduate School of Theology, Seoul, Korea
  • Exegetica Digita
    discussion of Logos high-end syntax and discourse tools – running searches, providing the downloads (search files) and talking about what can be done and why it might matter for exegesis, by Mike Heiser
  • Exegetisk Teologi
    careful exegetical comment by Stefan Green (in Swedish)
  • Exploring Our Matrix
    Insightful reflections by James McGrath, ass't. professor of religion, Butler University
  • Faith Matters
    Mark Alter's place
  • Ferrell's Travel Blog
    comments of biblical studies, archaeology, history, and photography by a tour guide of Bible lands and professor emeritus of the Biblical Studies department at Florida College, Temple Terrace (FL)
  • Fors Clavigera
    James K. A. Smith, professor of philosophy at Calvin College, thinks out loud.
  • Friar's Fires
    an insightful blog by a pastor with a background in journalism, one of three he pens
  • Gentle Wisdom
    A fearless take on issues roiling Christendom today, by Peter Kirk, a Bible translator
  • Giluy Milta B‘alma
    by Ezra Chwat and Avraham David of the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts, Jewish National and Hebrew University Library, Jerusalem
  • He is Sufficient
    insightful comment on Bible translations, eschatology, and more, by Elshaddai Edwards
  • Higgaion
    by Chris Heard, Professor of Religion, Pepperdine University
  • Idle Musings of a Bookseller
    by James Spinti of Eisenbrauns
  • if i were a bell, i'd ring
    Tim Ricchiuiti’s place
  • Imaginary Grace
    Smooth, witty commentary by Angela Erisman (archive). Angela Erisman is a member of the theology faculty at Xavier University
  • James' Thoughts and Musings
    by James Pate, a doctoral student at HUC-JIR Cincinnati
  • Jewish Philosophy Place
    by Zachary (Zak) Braiterman, who teaches modern Jewish thought and philosophy in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University
  • kata ta biblia
    by Patrick George McCollough, M. Div. student, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena CA
  • Ketuvim
    Learned reflection from the keyboard of Jim Getz
  • Kilbabo
    Ben Johnson’s insightful blog
  • Kruse Kronicle - contemplating the intersection of work, the global economy, and Christian mission
    top quality content brought to readers by Michael W. Kruse
  • Larry Hurtado's blog
    emeritus professor of New Testament Language, Literature & Theology, University of Edinburgh
  • Law, Prophets, and Writings
    thoughtful blogging by William R. (Rusty) Osborne, Assistant Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies as College of the Ozarks and managing editor for Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament
  • Lingamish
    delightful fare by David Ker, Bible translator, who also lingalilngas.
  • Looney Fundamentalist
    a scientist who loves off-putting labels
  • Menachem Mendel
    A feisty blog on rabbinic literature and other Judaica by Michael Pitkowsky, Rabbinics Curriculum Coordinator at the Academy for Jewish Religion and adjunct instructor at Jewish Theological Seminary (New York)
  • mu-pàd-da
    scholarly blog by C. Jay Crisostomo, grad student in ANE studies at ?
  • Narrative and Ontology
    Astoundingly thoughtful comment from Phil Sumpter, a Ph.D. student in Bible, resident in Bonn, Germany
  • New Epistles
    by Kevin Sam, M. Div. student at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Saskatoon SK
  • NT Weblog
    Mark Goodacre's blog, professor of New Testament, Duke University
  • Observatório Bíblico
    wide-ranging blog by Airton José da Silva, Professor de Bíblia Hebraica/Antigo Testamento na Faculdade de Teologia do CEARP de Ribeirão Preto, Brasile (in Portuguese)
  • Observatório Bíblico
    Blog sobre estudos acadêmicos da Bíblia, para Airton José da Silva, Professor de Bíblia Hebraica / Antigo Testamento na Faculdade de Teologia do CEARP de Ribeirão Preto, SP.
  • Occasional Publications
    excellent blogging by Daniel Driver, Brevard Childs' scholar extraordinaire
  • old testament passion
    Great stuff from Anthony Loke, a Methodist pastor and Old Testament lecturer in the Seminari Theoloji, Malaysia
  • Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Blog
    A weblog created for a course on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, by James Davila (archive)
  • On the Main Line
    Mississippi Fred MacDowell's musings on Hebraica and Judaica. With a name like that you can't go wrong.
  • p.ost an evangelical theology for the age to come
    seeking to retell the biblical story in the difficult transition from the centre to the margins following the collapse of Western Christendom, by Andrew Perriman, independent New Testament scholar, currently located in Dubai
  • PaleoJudaica
    by James Davila, professor of Early Jewish Studies at the University of St. Andrews, St Andrews, Scotland. Judaism and the Bible in the news; tidbits about ancient Judaism and its context
  • Pastoral Epistles
    by Rick Brannan and friends, a conceptually unique Bible blog
  • Pen and Parchment
    Michael Patton and company don't just think outside the box. They are tearing down its walls.
  • Pisteuomen
    by Michael Halcomb, pastor-scholar from the Bluegrass State
  • Pseudo-Polymath
    by Mark Olson, an Orthodox view on things
  • Purging my soul . . . one blog at a time
    great theoblog by Sam Nunnally
  • Qumranica
    weblog for a course on the Dead Sea Scrolls at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, taught by James R. Davila (archive)
  • Ralph the Sacred River
    by Edward Cook, a superb Aramaist
  • Random Bloggings
    by Calvin Park, M. Div. student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton MA
  • Resident aliens
    reflections of one not at home in this world
  • Revelation is Real
    Strong-minded comment from Tony Siew, lecturer at Trinity Theological College, Singapore
  • Ricoblog
    by Rick Brannan, it's the baby pictures I like the most
  • Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
    Nick Norelli's fabulous blog on Bible and theology
  • SansBlogue
    by Tim Bulkeley, lecturer in Old Testament, Carey Baptist College (New Zealand). His Hypertext Commentary on Amos is an interesting experiment
  • Ancient Near Eastern Languages
    texts and files to help people learn some ancient languages in self study, by Mike Heiser
  • Midrash, etc.
    A fine Hebrew-to-English blog on Midrash, by Carl Kinbar, Director of the New School for Jewish Studies and a facultm member at MJTI School of Jewish Studies.
  • Phil Lembo what I'm thinking
    a recovering lawyer, now in IT, with a passion for a faith worth living
  • Roses and Razorwire
    a top-notch Levantine archaeology blog, by Owen Chesnut, a doctoral student at Andrews University (MI)
  • Scripture & Theology
    a communal weblog dedicated to the intersection of biblical interpretation and the articulation of church doctrine, by Daniel Driver, Phil Sumpter, and others
  • Scripture Zealot
    by Jeff Contrast
  • Serving the Word
    incisive comment on the Hebrew Bible and related ancient matters, with special attention to problems of philology and linguistic anthropology, by Seth L. Sanders, Assistant Professor in the Religion Department of Trinity College, Hartford, CT
  • Singing in the Reign
    NT blog by Michael Barber (JP University) and Brad Pitre (Our Lady Holy Cross)
  • Stay Curious
    excellent comment on Hebrew Bible and Hebrew language topics, by Karyn Traphagen, graduate, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia PA (archive)
  • Sufficiency
    A personal take on the faith delivered to the saints, by Bob MacDonald, whose parallel blog on the Psalms in Hebrew is a colorful and innovative experiment
  • The Sundry Times
    Gary Zimmerli's place, with comment on Bible translations and church renewal
  • Sunestauromai: living the crucified life
    by a scholar-pastor based in the Grand Canyon National Park
  • ta biblia
    blog dedicated to the New Testament and the history of Christian origins, by Giovanni Bazzana
  • Targuman
    by Christian Brady, targum specialist extraordinaire, and dean of Schreyer Honors College, Penn State University
  • Targuman
    on biblical and rabbinic literature, Christian theology, gadgetry, photography, and the odd comic, by Christian Brady, associate professor of ancient Hebrew and Jewish literature and dean of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State
  • The Biblia Hebraica Blog
    a blog about Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, the history of the Ancient Near East and the classical world, Syro-Palestinian archaeology, early Judaism, early Christianity, New Testament interpretation, English Bible translations, biblical theology, religion and culture, philosophy, science fiction, and anything else relevant to the study of the Bible, by Douglas Magnum, PhD candidate, University of the Free State, South Africa
  • The Forbidden Gospels Blog
    by April DeConick, Professor of Biblical Studies, Rice University
  • The Naked Bible
    by Mike Heiser, academic editor at Logos Bible Software
  • The Reformed Reader
    by Andrew Compton, Ph.D. student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (focus on Hebrew and Semitic Languages) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • The Sacred Page
    a blog written by three Catholic Ph.D.s who are professors of Scripture and Theology: Michael Barber, Brant Pitre and John Bergsma
  • The Talmud Blog
    a group blog on Talmud News, Reviews, Culture, Currents, and Criticism
  • Theological German
    a site for reading and discussing theological German, by Mark Alter
  • theoutwardquest
    seeking spirituality as an outward, not an inward quest, by David Corder
  • This Lamp
    Incisive comment on Bible translations in the archives, by Rick Mansfield
  • Thoughts on Antiquity
    By Chris Weimer and friends, posts of interest on ancient Greek and Roman topics (archive). Chris is a graduate student at the City University of New York in Classics
  • Threads from Henry's Web
    Wide-ranging comment by Henry Neufeld, educator, publisher, and author
  • Tête-à-Tête-Tête
    smart commentary by "smijer," a Unitarian-Universalist
  • Undeception
    A great blog by Mike Douglas, a graduate student in biblical studies
  • What I Learned From Aristotle
    the Judaica posts are informative (archive)
  • Bouncing into Graceland
    a delightful blog on biblical and theological themes, by Esteban Vázquez (archive)
  • Weblog
    by Justin Anthony Knapp, a fearless Wikipedian (archive)
  • Writing in the Dust
    A collection of quotes by Wesley Hill, a doctoral student in New Testament studies at Durham University (UK), and a Christian who seeks the charism of chastity
  • גֵּר־וְתוֹשָׁב
    by David Miller, Associate Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism, Briercrest College & Seminary, Caronport, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • ואל-תמכר
    Buy truth and do not sell: wisdom, instruction, and understanding - a blog by Mitchell Powell, student of life at the intersection of Christ, Christianity, and Christendom
  • משלי אדם
    exploring wisdom literature, religion, and other academic pursuits, by Adam Couturier, M.A. in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible (graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)

Viewing Documents

  • Adobe Acrobat Reader
    To view the documents on this blog you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have this, download it from the link above.
Blog powered by Typepad



  • Ancient Hebrew Poetry is a weblog of John F. Hobbins. Opinions expressed herein do not reflect those of his professional affiliations. Unless otherwise indicated, the contents of Ancient Hebrew Poetry, including all text, images, and other media, are original and licensed under a Creative Commons License.

    Creative Commons License

    Copyright © 2005 by John F Hobbins.