Epicurean Paradox (Mis)understood

Suffering

A great amount of ink is being spilled on the so called the problem of evil. Without doubt the problem of pain and suffering is the most essential, and probably the most influential, case against the providence of a benevolent God in mankind’s world. The burden of proof, in this article, is to show that the classical problem of pain and suffering should not be understood as a case against the existence of God(s) but against divinely providence in mankind’s world.

A case for the incompatibility of the gods’ divine providence and existence of pain and suffering in mankind’s world can be traced  back to Epicureans who believed that the gods existed but did not take any interest in mankind’s affairs. Epicureans are among the first to contend, against Stoics, that the idea that mankind toil in the hostile and inhospitable world demonstrate that gods’ aeons of blissful tranquility is uninterrupted by mankind’s pain and suffering (Letter to Herodotus, D. L. 10.76¹).

It is inappropriate, according to Epicureans, to hold that this fragile and faulty mankind’s world was designed by beings that are enjoying the blissful aeons of existence. The existence of pain and suffering is, for Epicureans, a proof that the gods neither created mankind’s world nor concerned themselves with it. In De Rerum Natura Epicurean Lucretius poetically wrote (RN 5.195-199):

Quod si jam rerum ignorem primordial quae sint,

Hoc tamen ex ipsis caeli rationibus ausim

Confirmare aliisque ex rebus reddere multis,

Nequaquam nobis divinitus esse paratam

Naturam rerum; tanta stat praedita culpa.

Lactantius, a 4th century Christian theologian, was aware of Epicurean’s argument against philosophers who defended divine providence. He explained that philosophers were “almost driven against their will to admit that God takes no interest in anything, which Epicurus especially aims at.”(AG 13). Epicurus’ argument, according to Lactantius, unfold as follows:

God, he[Epicurus] says, either wishes to take away evils, and is unable; or He is able, and is unwilling; or He is neither willing nor able, or He is both willing and able. If He is willing and is unable, He is feeble, which is not in accordance with the character of God; if He is able and unwilling, He is envious, which is equally at variance with God; if He is neither willing nor able, He is both envious and feeble, and therefore not God; if He is both willing and able, which alone is suitable to God, from what source then are evils? or why does He not remove them?(ibid)

Philo, one of David Hume’s spokesperson in Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779), reechoed Epicureans’ position that “the course of nature tends not to human or animal felicity”(D 198) and reformulated Lactantius’ argument attributed to Epicurus. Philo contended,

Epicurus’ old questions are yet unanswered. Is he[God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil? (D 198)

Epicurean’s argument could be formulated as follows:

  1. The gods power and wisdom are infinite (thus whatever they will comes about and they know how to bring their will about).
  2. Neither mankind are happy nor is the world design for their felicity.
  3. Therefore gods neither will mankind’s happiness nor designed the world for their felicity.

The idea that the existence of pain and suffering leads to the conclusion that the god(s) did not exist would be foreign to Epicureans. Their argument was aimed to challenge the divinely providence in mankind’s world. It was not aimed to challenge the existence of gods. According to Epicurus’ admirer Lucretius and Epicurean spokesman in Cicero’s On the Nature of the Gods Epicurus strongly rejected atheism.

Epicurean paradox should, thus, be understood as a case against divinely providence in mankind’s world and not against the existence of God(s).

Bib:

Lactantius, “A Treatise on the Anger of God” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, eds. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, vol.7 (1886) Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

Diogenes Laertius Lives of the Philosophers, trans. R. D. Hicks, Loeb (1972) Classical Library, 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press


[1] See also Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods 1.45

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116 thoughts on “Epicurean Paradox (Mis)understood

  1. Perhaps a person will say, “I cannot fathom an infinite Creator, so why should I attempt to do so? And why should I attempt to awaken my heart to the love of Him/Her? What can my love provide God? So I will serve in complete surrender, doing that which is to be done, connecting to a will and desire far beyond my own.” Such a person is wise, and he has found a deep truth. But he is wrong? Yes, it is absurd, but God desires to be grasped by your mind. Yes, it is inconceivable, but God desires to find a home within the innermost chamber of your heart, no matter how tiny that place may be.

    • God is faithful in his self-revelations to the whole world, according to “the Law”, progressively elaborated in the ROAD MAP of the Scriptures whose demo will draw everyone to him.
      It works even for me! P.T.L.
      (John 6: 62-64; 12: 32-33; 19: 30-37)

  2. God’s ‘right and proper time’ is when men and women see what is right and place themselves in the ‘right place’ – that is God’s fulfilment – the moment of grace – not some mythical judgment day.
    You have possible solutions Prayson? Wow! That sounds very close to treading on God’s toes.

    • Gray, I believe you misunderstood me. I do not claim I have a solutions. I stated that there are possible solutions for Christians to offer to those who find the problem of evil as a stumbling block to believe in divine providence to which I will provide.

      In light of 1 Peter 3:15 I do not see how that is treading on God’s toes.

  3. But if God is unable or unwilling to intervene in human affairs, why bother worshiping him? Why praise him and build churches to honour him? If we reach a position that “There is a God, but he’s useless”, is that really much different from the Atheist position?

    • Epicureans would agree that God(s) are unwilling to intervene but would deny that God(s) are unable. I believe Robert, you are mixing groups around. Epicureans, Stoics and Christians. Christians and Stoics would disagree that God(s) is unwilling. Christians defense, one of them that is, is that God is able and willing, but has reason not to do so until His right and proper time, namely Judgment Day.

      That God has not put an end to evil and suffering now, could be because of (a) God’s common grace, as He call His people to turn to Him, under Christ, before God bring all evil under His dominion and render justice or (b) the pain and suffering has not yet reach intolerable limit for God(e.g. Genesis 15:16 in Old Testament there are many accounts that evil reached God’s tolerable limits i.e. Sodom & Noah).

      I will provide a possible solution in my future article that a Christian could offer to show that Christian’s story does provide an answer that shows that God is sovereign yet evil exists without sacrificing His providence as Epicureans.

  4. I propose that the problem of suffering should be understood in terms of what it really is, viz.: man’s continuing self-reliance, a.k.a., “the tree that gives knowledge of what is good and what is bad”, at the expense of personally revealed knowledge of God.
    The means of such knowledge is the universal “tree of life”, fulfilled by Christ’s death on the cross, which is verifiable as being Spirit-active, perfect and diacritical, a.k.a., “Jesus Christ: the faithful witness, the first-born from the dead”, a.k.a., Alpha & Omega, with a point of change for all mankind.
    (Matt. 16: 13-28; 17: 1-13; 26: 26-29; 27: 50-56; Rev. 1: 4-18)

  5. Pingback: A Non-intervening God and The Problem of Suffering | Allallt in discussion

  6. First of all, gotta say i love that John actually asks you to solve the problem of evil. Second, i love that you try Prayson.
    This, truly, is one of those things we can theorize about until our brains fall out but that God does not, ultimately, try to solve for us. So we need to begin with the truth that everyone is at an insurmountable disadvantage right form the start in “solving” the problem of evil.
    I would say three things in my own understanding:
    1. We need to include the ideas of first and secondary causation when speaking of divine sovereignty, viz. the way we relate God’s sovereignty to mankind’s responsibility.
    2. I might include here Augustine’s concept of “Felix Culpa” (fortunate fall) wherein he sees a providence within the fall of man that shines greater light upon the glory of Christ than could otherwise be seen without it.
    3. This argument of Hume’s is – in my view – a post hoc fallacy that does not get up high enough above the problem staring him in the face (rape, murder, etc.) to deal with it adequately, and, often further muddies the waters by appeals to emotionalism that make the “right” answer appear to be wrong or insensitive.

    The fundamental flaw, in the end of Hume’s, et al, argument is that is begins with man and not God, i.e. it begins with a view that man’s enjoyment/thriving/happiness/etc. is the highest of ideals and then seeks to put God in the dock to answer why He would (or would not) intervene to uphold that ideal. Problem is, God doesn’t begin with our own happiness/comfort as His highest ideal; He begins with His won glory and what achieves that.

      • Only if your question of morality begins with man as well. For where does the concept come from even of good and evil/right and wrong but what God has woven into His creative order. Morality is yet another means by which we submit to that order and glorify God.
        As to the “sociopathic narcissism” – i imagine you can guess what i’m going to say next. If you begin with man and say, “if i were to say i’m the best and everyone should praise me as the best or they will be damned” anyone would rightly give you the very label you give to God. But ask yourself: why is it wrong to say you are the best; the wisest; the most beautiful, etc? Is it not in realizing that those things are not actually true? Life and experience alone will prove you wrong if you believe that about yourself.
        But this is where Aslem’s ontological proof of God (which we batted around a few months back) comes in. Because if God is, in fact, “that thing about which nothing greater can be conceived” the God *is* completely justified and right in desiring His own glory above all others, because He truly *is* the greatest/smartest/most beautiful/etc. For anyone but God to claim those things about themselves is surely deluded narcissism, but with God it is meet and right b/c those claims are actually true of Him.

        • Anselm’s Ontological argument using subjective metrics and is therefore meaningless. If you don’t make judgement calls, the most “perfect” being could be the most narcissistic or the most evil or immoral. You can’t decide you prefer morality and therefore that is greater.

          As for the accusation of my narcissism, I think morality includes all species that are capable of suffering, and my extension all species that another species capable of suffering depends on. That, as far as I know from a basic study of ecosystems, is everything. God concerns Himself with Himself and Himself alone. I hope the distinction is clear. Not that reversing the accusation gets rid of my accusation, it’s just deflection.

          • The hinge for Anselm’s proof is that, ultimately, we are not the ones deciding what the perfect anything is (though if course we have our own string opinions on the subject). This is where revelation comes in: God, as the perfect One, reveals Himself to His creation and is, w/o contest therefore, the greatest being above Whom nothing greater can be conceived. We are not the ones deciding subjectively what the best is.
            Beyond that, you can say God is concerned with Himself alone but in saying that you immediately stop talking about the God of the bible. The whole basis of the Christian religion is of a God who is not concerned with Himself alone but who enters into human history for the express purpose of redeeming His lost creation; we’ll be thinking more and more of that event in the next few weeks 😉 God’s concern for His own glory then is one of priority, not exclusivity.

          • (1) Is existing a greater quality than not?
            (i) Is existence a quality?
            (ii) is it better?
            (2) If morality is about worship and faith, then it is not about morality

          • (1) Is existing a greater quality than not?
            (i) Is existence a quality?

            It’s hard to define really what existence is, but i think we can safely say that existence is not a quality. That being said, one might argue that one existence is greater than another based upon both objective and subjective factors.

            (ii) is it better?

            See answer to (i)

            (2) If morality is about worship and faith, then it is not about morality.

            I don’t think i said morality is “about” worship and faith. I simply think that morality is a part of God’s good design of creation, viz. how He ordains life to work best. Ergo, when we act in ways that are in accordance with God’s good design it brings about glory to God, but it’s purpose is first about ordering/governing of the universe. It’s similar to the way the good laws of a nation can bring praise to that nation as a safe place or advanced civilization, but the purpose of those laws is really just to govern its people well.

          • I also never said Anselm’s ontological proof was irrefutable and, in fact, it is more likely a notable argument from history of one man’s understanding of how to explain the existence of God; something most people already did at that time. So, it’s not an airtight case 😉

            What’s more troubling to me is the way you keep cherry picking my statements w/o ever answering their substance. I would think intellectual integrity would require you to face what i present and answer, not hammer at bricks in the wall of my argument seeking to make it crumble.

          • I’m not cherrypicking anything, I’m trying to have one conversation at a time, and there are two to be had.
            (1) The Epicurean narrative excludes God from leaving any evidence behind. How do you get from there to having good reasons to believe in God.
            (NB – Anselm’s argument doesn’t hold up)

            (2) Is God moral? The Epicurean model assumes God could sort out our problems, but doesn’t because He doesn’t concern Himself with our Earthly affairs. To me, that is the “does not care to stop our suffering” horn of Epicurus’ dilemma. You’ve asserted that God is actually moral because morality is actually about being good to His design.

            Fine, let’s have both arguments at once. On the issue of morality, would I be permitted into Heaven as a nonbeliever if my deeds are, more or less, good?

          • “On the issue of morality, would I be permitted into Heaven as a nonbeliever if my deeds are, more or less, good?”
            Surely one must begin by defining heaven !?

          • There you are – you have answered your own question. It’s time the Churches really, seriously, knocked on the head the notion many still have of some place above the clouds where we wander around in gleaming white robes and in a constant state of ecstasy. God is not ‘up there’ – he is ‘down here’.

          • More to come but here are a few quick thoughts i should make:
            1. I am not arguing for or against the Epicurean model but my own understanding of the “problem of evil” as i see it explained in Scripture. Along with that, the Anselm proof was simply an example i was drawing from not a proof that i was offering for myself on the problem of evil.
            2. I am not saying “God is actually moral because morality is actually about being good to His design.” The very concept of morality is one in which the desire or capacity for evil is assumed and must therefore be curbed. therefore God transcends any need for such constraints. B/c His motives/desires are always perfect and b/c He always accomplishes what He desires (viz. He doesn’t just have good motives but then fall short like we often do) morality is not a concept we apply to God but one which He must apply to a sinful humanity for the good of humanity.

            As to your last question, we need to begin by saying that morality has nothing to do with your entrance or denial of entrance into heaven. God never puts up a bar and says, “Well, if you can jump this high then you’re in.” The bar is placed as high as possible – at perfection actually – and then God justly says, “If you can attain that bar you can enter heaven.” Tow problems are 1) we already begin with a deficit being born under the sin of Adam and 2) even starting from zero we can not achieve that perfection.
            So, we need someone or something to step in for us b/c we can’t achieve what we need to achieve to get back to God. Enter Jesus – the God/Man who perfectly fulfills God’s righteous decrees and then substitutes Himself in our place; taking our sin upon Himself and crediting us with His perfect obedience. Therefore, faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins is all that is required for entrance into heaven. You actually don’t have any part of that; it is all done for you. That is also how God’s justice can be satisfied b/c our sins *are* paid for, just not by us.

  7. It seems obscure to me that you’re okay with this. I can quite easily move from ‘God does not at all intervene and did not design the world’ to “you have no good reasons to believe.”
    In addition, if theists posited this God, instead of one that is benevolent and designed the world (the on they do posit) we’d be having a very different conversation.

      • Assume, for a moment, that the Epicurean problem of suffering never intended to disprove God, not even when atheists use it today.
        Assume, instead, that it is only mean to disprove particular definitions of God: of a morally good and omnipotent God. It is meant to make a theist critically reexamine their definition of their God–a type of Socratic seminar–and decide whether the definition they hold is really compatible with the world we see.
        (They should decide that it is not, and adapt their definition accordingly. Then we can discuss their newly formed God.)
        What you have done is gone through great lengths to explain why God is not willing to stop suffering. You have explained that God is not benevolent, but think you’ve excused it by saying He doesn’t care about our entire reality.
        In your comments section you have discussed that God redeems His morality though retributive acts after an individual’s death. We have discussed this before, and I hope you have a pingback that links you to a new post I have just written, to explain why that does not make one moral.

        Away from the issue of morality and into His existence. If God doesn’t intervene with this reality, if He neither designed the world or cares for our wellbeing, then you have no evidence on which to base claims of His existence.

      • Thank you so much. This is one of the best comment that I delight to answer. I enjoy when I stir thinking on issues that are so important.

        I am not Epicurean, thus, I disagree with them on divine providence(or lack of). My aim was to show that Epicurean(and later Hume quo Philo) never set this case against the existence of God(s) but against God(s) providence. Atheists or theists understanding this problem as a case against existence of God(s) gives proof that they misunderstood Epicureans(and Hume) because both Epicureans and Hume believed in existence of God(s) and rejected on face value any notion of atheism.

        In this article I did not set to answer Epicureans but simply to correct a misunderstanding. I will write an article to address their case against divine providence.

        If Epicureans rejected god(s) designed the world and do not care about us or it, then what reasons do they have to believe in God(s), was your question. Epicurus, (like Cicero, and early Christians) reasons for believing in god(s) was what was called by John Calvin, sensus divinitatis. See: https://withalliamgod.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/sensus-divinitatis/

  8. … and … God does intervene. For most that would be called conscience, which, as I stated, is there in all of us if one is able to dig deep enough.

  9. If I’m understanding your intent Prayson, as from the first paragraph, you believe “pain and suffering should not be understood as a case against the existence of God(s) but against divinely providence in mankind’s world.”

    Am I to understand you do not believe in divine providence because of pain and suffering?

  10. Surely a rapist, ( a murderer even ), has the unconscious instinct to look deep within – to have that hidden knowledge of what s/he is doing is wrong? Surely that is God at work? Of course, God values free will – an integral aspect of the Biblical creation story – you choose to choose, or not to choose. One doesn’t grant God any rights, God is! By listening to God mankind is able to alleviate suffering. God intervenes every moment of every day – if only one were to listen.

    • I would resolve with the idea that it possible that a benevolent and omnicompetent God has good morally reason(s) not to remove pain and suffering. Philo(Hume’s spokesman) would not be happy with my answer. He would say:

      I will allow, that, pain or misery in man is compatible with infinite power and goodness in the deity, even in your sense of these attributes: What are you advanced by all these concessions? A mere possible compatibility is not sufficient. You must prove these pure, unmixed, and uncontrollable attributes from the present mixed and confused phenomena, and from these alone.(D 201)

      I would have responded that: “I cannot provide a sufficient answer to the challenge, Philo, but a mere possible compatibility shows that the problem of evil can be resolved. Epicurus questions can be answered”

      • Fair enough, but by granting a god this right you are, of course, confirming that a god who is capable of alleviating suffering, but doesn’t, values the free will of the rapist (for example) greater than the free will of the victim.

      • Yes, I would be confirming that God is capable of alleviating suffering but doesn’t at the moment for whatsoever good reasons God may have. I do not know if it follows that if God does not intervene in the example case you provided means that God values the free will of the rapist than that of the victim. I do know, if a morally perfect God exists, then the rapist would receive a proper penalty and the victim would receive a proper justice in the end.

          • “A god cannot be morally “perfect” if it favours the rapist’s free will over the free will of the child’s.”
            God does not favour in that manner – God offers, and man must ‘favour’ which way he turns.

          • It follows logically that your god indeed favours the free will of the rapist, for if it didn’t it’d intervene to alleviate the child’s suffering. Knowing that it doesn’t intervene, ever, means one of two things: your god does not exist, or it favours the free will of the rapist over that of the child…. Which is to say, it values the rapists free will more than the child’s free will.

          • I only ‘know’ ( not a word I sit happily with ) by being still, and quiet, and listening to the Spirit within my mind, heart and soul whispering Truth.

          • I believe you did not understand me, John. I said I did not see how from your example that it follows that God favors one will over the other. How did you reach that conclusion that if God does not intervene A from raping B, then God favors A than B? How do you know God’s mind(choices in favoring)?

          • We must go by what we have. The rapist imposes his will on the child and rapes her. The child is abused against her will. Despite her protests nothing intervenes. Her suffering continues regardless of her will. The rapists will is, clearly, stronger. Now, you believe in a personal god, a god who can and has (according to the scripture you hold sacred) intervened in human affairs… yet it does not intervene to alleviate the child’s suffering. From this we must logically conclude that this god favours the free will of the rapist over the free will of the child.

            Side note, did you read my latest article?

          • John, I do not see how it follows. Example, say John found Jones attacking a weak and disabled Jane. John can intervene and stop Jones attacking Jane. John chose, for whatever reason we do not know, not to intervene. How does that follow that John favors Jones’ free will over Jane, but not intervening? It is possible that John does not favor any free will over the other, or John favors Jane’s free will(what ever that means) over Jone’s but has reasons to permit Jones to attack Jane for a reason only known to John.

            I do not see, logically, how it follows that if A does not intervening the affairs of B and C, then A favors one over the other. Unless you have access to the mind of God, I do not see how you can know God’s favor or lack of.

          • Let say, John is Omni-everything (what that means). It does not change the fact that it does not follow that not stopping Jones attacking Jane, John favors Jones’ will over Jane’s.

          • I did not. I just gave John the ability that is attribute to God. The point was to show that it does not follow that Omni-competent John not stopping Jones, does not at all logically follow that John favors Jones will over Janes. There are other conclusions as I mention above could be also the case. So unless we know John’s mind, I do not know how we can know why John did not stop Jones.

          • Oh Prayson, you just tie yourself up in knots with all this philosophical banter. Keep it simple.

            I’m interested to hear what you think about Jewish rabbi’s confessing the Pentateuch is myth. How does that affect your faith knowing there was no revelation… that it was all a 7th and 6th Century myth.

          • I do not think he correct. I would answer his point in a future article. Have you read both sides of debate? I mean, have you read Scholarly Rabbi who argued on contrary, and weigh the arguments from both sides?

          • Of course, i contacted many Orthodox rabbi’s and a number of Israeli archaeologists who were practicing Jews, but there is no functional “other side.” The archaeological evidence is conclusive. The consensus is rock solid. If there is “another side” it’s trying to find “truth” in the allegory. Rabbi Steve Greenberg (Director, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership) summarized this point quite nicely by saying: “There are different ways to see a leaf, in plastic arts, biology, literature, even music and physics. None of them are false but eminently incompatible with one another.” What he of course was trying to tell me here was that even though a myth the Jewish origin tale has cultural value which is immeasurable… to which I fully agree. It’s a deeply significant piece of literature to the Jews.

            Orthodox Rabbi Shalom Carmy told me, “For a minimalist in Biblical history, as in other areas of research, the text is “guilty until proven innocent,” doubted until independently proven true. For a maximalist, it is true unless conclusively disproved. Thus a minimalist would deny existence of Moses. Should a maximalist be troubled by the absence of external references to Moses? That depends on whether that absence is extraordinary.” The answer to that question is, Yes, the absence is extraordinary… although he didn’t admit that. Anyone trying to still cling to the narrative as somehow historically valid have been forced into making all sorts of excuses to make the story fit. The dates are wrong, a tribe was deputized by YHWH to clean up the Sinai, Moses was actually three people, the Exodus wasn’t of 2 million people but 5,000, the conquest was minor, not grand… all sorts of excuses, but little more than excuses. The simple fact is none of the narrative matches the archaeology.

            You have to ask yourself, why would Rabbis admit all this if they weren’t convinced.

            So, how does this affect your faith?

          • Nope… far too many. I spoke with over 60 over 4 weeks. Just know, even though Conservative rabbis (the largest denomination in Judaism) openly reject the historical veracity of the Pentateuch (it’s taught in all but Orthodox rabbinic seminaries) most of them are still theists. Rabbi Wolpe (voted the most influential rabbi in America, 2012), for example, has been telling his followers since 2001 that Moses and the Exodus is fiction and there was never a conquest, but he still believes in a god simply because the Jews still survive. That, to him, is evidence for god. I personally find that quite ludicrous, but he believes its proof. As for revelation, he said “never happened.”

            Read my article again if it helps. Read it slowly. I presented the case as it stands. The question now is, do Rabbis have an obligation to educate Christians (and Muslims) what they themselves admit to each other in private?

          • John, I find hard to take you own your own words after you two times presented to me false information (one when you copy-pasted a whole article on the position of paleontology and another with Jesus being crucified in Rome)

            Before I swallow your words, I think I would like to read just 8 out of your more than 60 Rabbis you spoke with. Could you send me a copy of your research and then we take it from there? 🙂

          • I’m not going to copy entire email streams and paste them here on a public blog. I’m surprised you would even ask such a ludicrous thing. You can take my word for it, or not. That’s your choice. The fact, however, that you would even doubt me on this demonstrates just how terrified you are that what I have written is true. I can appreciate that terror, but I’m afraid to say, “facts” aren’t concerned about your sensibilities.

            You see, Prayson, while you and other Christian philosophers are wasting your time desperately trying to “conclude” your god on paper (because you can’t actually demonstrate it in the real world) other people are out doing real research. Perhaps you will too, one day? Perhaps you will find yourself with enough courage to contact the world’s leading biblical archaeologists and ask them yourself why they’re so certain the Jews were never in Egypt, that Moses was a legendary motif not found in history, that there never was an Exodus, and there was never a military conquest of Canaan. It’s all a myth, and as famed Israeli archaeologist, Professor Herzog, wrote, “Those who take an interest have known these facts for years.”

            Herzog is correct, and even Orthodox Jewish Rabbis are beginning to admit it. See Orthodox Rabbi Norman Solomon’s 2012 book, Torah from Heaven: The Reconstruction of Faith, in which he confesses that the Moses narrative is not rooted in reality but was little more than a “foundation myth;” an origin dream invented in the 7th and 6th century, not a descriptive historical fact.

            Ask yourself, Prayson: why would an “Orthodox” Rabbi confess to such a thing if the archaeological findings were not so utterly conclusive?

            There’s a real world out there, Prayson… A world full of facts and real information, so I would again urge you to read my essay; slowly and very, very carefully. Read each sentence, and try to understand it.

          • John, I am not terrified at all. You have only presented claims without providing proof, but just say-so’s so far and wish to be believed on your words.

            Do provide (A) just give names of 8 out of your over 60 rabbis you claimed to have spoke with in 4 weeks here on blog. I want to ask them 1. If it is true, they talked to you and 2. If you represented their thoughts correctly.

            And (B) do privately forward me those emails exchange. If they are academics, I could ask their permission(cc it to you) for me and a group of Scholars here at Dansk Bibel Institute to examine their claims. You do email their mails address. Also forward me your research. I will like to make sure that I do not accuse them of something they did not tell you( if they in fact spoke to you).

            John, if I took your words last times I would be holding false beliefs(e.g, Jesus was crucified in Rome) so I wish to be careful with your informations.

            If you would like me to take serious your charge, then let me see your evidence( your research) that I can verify it on my own. I cannot just take you on your words and a book review that you did. I am skeptical and want to read your research, contact at least 8 Rabbis you claimed to have spoke with.

          • Oh stop hyping on about me being wrong once. It wasn’t important at the time, and I admitted I got it wrong. Move on, Prayson.

            Knock yourself out.

            Rabbi David Wolpe
            Rabbi Nardy Grün
            Rabbi Adam Chalom
            Rabbi Jeffrey Falick
            Rabbi Robert Schreibman
            Rabbi Steve Greenberg
            Rabbi Irwin Kula
            Rabbi Shalom Carmy

          • John you said: “I spoke with over 60 over 4 weeks.”( November 24, 2013 at 18:43)

            I will take your next post another time. Now I want to focus on these Rabbi you spoke with 🙂

          • John, I are randomly firing numerous claims in your over 60 Rabbis you spoke of over 4 weeks. I wish to clear that out before jumping into other issues.

            John, from our history I am skeptical at anything claims you make because I would be loaded with false information that you sadly pass without checking out for yourself to make sure you are passing correct information.

          • In fact, just an hour ago I received this email from Rabbi Kula, President of The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. We’ve been chatting about evangelicals and as he gave me permission to pass this onto a group who focuses on the ludicrous actions of the Discovery Institute I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me pasting it here as well. He’s a good man and his words are quite telling.

            Hi John:
            I separate political issues from epistemological issues. People can believe whatever crazy ideas they want, they can build theme parks and churches that teach creationism and I have no interest in changing their minds. Now when it comes to what is taught in public schools and in our textbooks there people need to organize politically and make sure creationism is not taught as science (though can be taught as literature).

            But my sense is that correcting facts regarding misinterpreting scripture will make no difference to creationists and convince very few creationists as the issue is not actually about Scripture but about a world view fault line revolving around the meaning and purpose of human life…this is an existential psycho spiritual question projected on to scripture and so no getting the facts right will make a difference. Facts will always be reframed in order to hold on to the world view.
            So the best way to deal politically when creationists try to teach their nonsense in the public sphere is not to attack them for teaching nonsense but to try to understand the psychological and sociological truth of their views as distinct from their nonsensical science. science is just a transference object for very significant and even legitimate fears about a world that is vanishing for millions of people.
            Moreover rather than facts on how their interpretations are ridiculous data that shows that children learning creationism along side or as science are less successful, less able to compete in the marketplace, flourish less as human beings would be far more helpful in convincing people. But my sense is kids who learn creationism are no less successful in life though perhaps less of them go into science than kids who don’t learn creationism…and this may be because even taught as “science”along side Science creationism is taken in as moral philosophy/literature and isn’t learned as science.
            Anyway just some thoughts.
            Ultimately the truth will set u free….and the truth is quite persistent. The challenge is there are so many levels of truth in so many domains….
            Warmly
            Irwin

          • A thought just occurred to me. Are you seriously admitting to me that you’ve never heard the things I talk about in the article before? Are you seriously admitting you’ve never once looked into modern biblical archaeology? Are you seriously admitting you are completely unaware of the archaeological consensus? Is all this honestly new to you? If so, I’m utterly shocked. The information is freely available.

          • Evidently you don’t know very much or else you wouldn’t be shocked to read what I wrote.

            Which books on biblical archaeology have you read, Prayson? Could you name these, please?

          • John I am not shocked. I am aware of arguments for and against. Two books that comes to mind are: victor Matthews A Brief History of Ancient Israel and Barry Bandstra’s Reading the Old Testament: introduction to Hebrew Bible(4th ed.)

          • Not s ?

            But please, do list the books you’ve read and whatever articles you’ve pieced through. I’d be interested to hear what objections you might have to Maximalists and on what grounds you base these objections. If you’ve read about this subject and know what the modern consensus is (and why the consensus is so solid) then you must surely have this information…. 😉

          • John, Old Testament is not my field. Philosophy and New Testament(Pauline Theology) is my field.

            But do not turn the table around. It is you who made claims, thus I do not have to give you anything. The burden of proof is on you. I am waiting for your email.

          • Prayson, without the Old Testament you have NO New Testament. It’s the origin of your god, remember?

            Plus, there’s the rather awkward admission that Jesus names Moses. Now Jesus’ historical blunder in naming Moses as a real person is as conspicuous as it is damning to his credibility. It doesn’t, after all, speak too highly of a witness’s authority, intelligence, competence, insight or judgment if he couldn’t distinguish the difference between inventive geopolitical myth and actual historical fact; a history he, as god, was allegedly and intimately involved in. Indeed, if Jesus’ claims are to be taken seriously then there can be zero tolerance for even minor bungles in his knowledge of any earthly event, let alone one he supposedly participated in, and yet here is an oversight so outrageous that it is the equivalent of a charismatic preacher three-hundred years from today proclaiming Batman existed. This bumbling ignorance of basic regional history exposes Jesus (if he existed) to be little more than an amateurish charlatan masquerading as a supernaturally inspired magi… a lying magician whose word was and is, by definition, thoroughly worthless.

          • John, I meant I am not train in Old Testament. Their is no such thing as my god. I do not have a god. If God exists, then God is God of all, even for atheists.

            Old Testament and New Testament are sources of books that I believe to reveal that God dealing with creation.

          • Ermmmm, No… You are a Christian therefore you have one god, the god of the Tanakh: Yhwh. It did not show up in any other culture on the planet and is detailed in no other source. Alas, your belief is intrinsically and intimately bound to the Hebrew bible, for without that you have no god. It’s really as simple as that.

          • John, I do not have “my god”. I told you that already. You are mixing epistemology, how we come to know God’s character, attributes, providence etc( which is through special revelation) with ontology, existence of God (natural revelation)

            If God exists, then God is God of all. Different groups, Jews, Stoics, Epicureans, Platonism, Aristotelians, and many others are but those who attempt to explain who that God is.

          • And so your god is the god of Jesus, the god of the Tanakh.

            Of course, if you can show me where Jesus names a different god then i’ll have to reconsider everything. Can you, Prayson, show me where Jesus says his god (your god) was different to the god of the Tanakh?

          • John, I think you failed to understand me. I will try to clarify.

            God is a title like king or president and not a person. Yahweh(for Jews & Christians), Allah(for Moslem), Unmoved Mover(for other theists) are simply names of a being claimed to be holding that title.

            The God of Jesus means that the being that Jesus reveal is the one holding that title. Or Allah, is a being that Muhammad reveal to be holding that title.

            So there is no “my god” and “their god” or “your lack of god”, if God exists. Christians would say that the Yahweh is the one who holds the title “God”.

          • The Torah, the Prophets, etc. are only written records documenting God’s independent self-revelations, through implant in man of his independent image, a.k.a., “life-giving breath” or Spirit, from the “tree of life” in the beginning (Gen. 2: 7-9) to Christ’s death on the cross to date (John 19: 34-37).

          • Right… and so can you or can’t you cite some external source to the Tanakh where Yhwh is mentioned? Surely, if its the god of everything, it must have been revealed to multiple cultures outside the Canaanite hills. So, could you please cite one such source where Yhwh appears outside those Canaanite hills.

          • Again you misunderstood John. YHWH is a being who Christian & Jews claim to hold the title “God”. Canaanites, Stoics, Platonist &c. would claim other beings holding the title “God”.

            Example: Say society A & B claim the Venus is the name of the “Morning Star”. society C & B has a different name for the “Morning Star”.

            You are asking for me to find a name “Venus” in society C & B, which is absurd. There is no Morning Star of A & B and another Morning Star of C & B. There is simply Morning Star. Each societies are trying to say what that Morning Star is.

            I do not know how to make this clearer John. For you asking me for “my god” is like asking C & B for their “Morning Star”.

          • Please, Prayson… list me the books you’ve read on biblical archaeology. You claim to know it, so i’m very interested to hear what sources you’ve looked at…

          • These are some of books on Old Testament History and Archaeology on home bookshelf minus Old Testament’s commentaries and dictionaries..

            Negev, A. (1990). In The Archaeological encyclopedia of the Holy Land. New York: Prentice Hall Press.

            Jewish Publication Society. (1985). Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.

            Jamieson-Drake, D. W. (1991). Scribes and schools in monarchic Judah: a socio-archeological approach. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

            Meyers, E. M. (1971). Jewish Ossuaries: Reburial and Rebirth. Secondary Burials in Their Ancient Near Eastern Setting. (Vol. 24). Rome: Biblical Institute Press.

            Arnold, P. M. (1990). Gibeah: the search for a biblical city (Vol. 79). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

            Water, M. (2001). The Bible and Science made easy. Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.

            Wood, B. G. (1990). The Sociology of Pottery in Ancient Palestine: The Ceramic Industry and the Diffusion of Ceramic Style in the Bronze and Iron Ages (Vol. 103). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

            Sawyer, J. F. A., & Clines, D. J. A. (Eds.). (1983). Midian, Moab, and Edom: the history and archaeology of late Bronze and Iron Age Jordan and north-west Arabia
            (Vol. 24). Sheffield: JSOT Press.

            McNutt, P. M. (1990). The Forging of Israel: Iron Technology, Symbolism and Tradition in Ancient Society. Decatur, GA: The Almond Press.

            Younger, K. L., Jr. (1990). Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing (Vol. 98) . Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

            Edersheim, A. (1997). Bible History: Old Testament (Vol. 1).

            Hinson, D. F. (1992). The books of the Old Testament (Vol. 10, p. 56). London: SPCK.

            Hallo, W. W., & Younger, K. L. (1997–2002). The context of Scripture . Leiden; New York: Brill. 3 Volumes.

            Drane, J. W. (2000). Introducing the Old Testament (Completely rev. and updated., p. 62). Oxford: Lion Publishing plc.

            Scanlin, H. P. (1993). The Dead Sea Scrolls & Modern Translations of the Old Testament. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

          • All rather dated books, but i guess that’s a start. Perhaps you should brush up on more contemporary work. The staff at the archaeology department at Tel Aviv university are very open to talking…. i spoke with a number of professors there. Interesting people.

          • I will brush up and as I did take your challenge on Paleontology, which I discovered you echoed false information, and on Jesus crucified on a real tree and in Rome, I am interested to read both sides. I disappointed that most of the Rabbi are Secular Humanists. Dealing with New Testament, we have the Jesus Seminars scholars.

          • I quoted Rabbis from EVERY denomination. My purpose was to reveal the fact that all but Orthodox rabbis recognise and admit (mostly privately) that the Tanakh is a myth… which i demonstrated. I also demonstrated that even Orthodox rabbis are beginning to confess that it is a myth. Can you name a Jewish movement i did not source? In fact, i did miss one, the Reconstructionists, but as they are atheists/deists I figured it probably wasn’t needed. Their views are quite apparent.

            Now, get your facts straight, Prayson. I used an erroneous source which said Jesus was crucified in Rome. That was wrong, and i admitted it. Jesus being nailed to a tree was a separate matter, and is detailed in one of the apocryphal gospels. I provided you the link at the time. It says “Tree,” and the last time I looked, a “tree” is not a Roman cross.

            What false paleontology information?

          • August 2, 2013 at 21:10 on my article “Nietzsche’s Rejection of Darwinian Evolution” on paleontologists David Raup position. It was actually your copy-pasted source that was wrong and quoted Raup out of context making that the ideas Raup discussed there were rather new and have not been completely tested was Punctuated Equilibria, which is false. It was his theses, if you bothered to have read the original article, about extinction of some animals that he was talking about.

          • Ah yes, i remember. That was the post where you went completely off the reservation.

            Now, how about citing just one source external to the Tanakh where your god is mentioned.

            Just one will do…

          • O John. You ask loaded question. I do not have “my god”. If God exists, then that God is God of all. Including you. Jews & Christians would say, that being, is Yahweh. Moselm will say that being, is Allah. Epicureans, Stoics, and other theists would say different.

            So there is no your god or their god or your lack of god. If God exist, then God is God of all.

          • Don’t be ridiculous.

            Are you a Christian, yes or no?

            And are you going to allow me to do a guest post? I met your demands, I fulfilled your request, I proved myself, so you should now reciprocate as any gentleman would. I would like to do a guest post.

          • You asked for the email addresses of 8 of the rabbis i contacted. I provided those, although i wasn’t obliged to.

            So, yes you will allow me to do a guest post? Surely your faith is strong enough to handle anything i can write, right? Surely you’re not afraid that i will expose your religion to be false. Aren’t you confident enough in your faith to have little old me write a post? It’s not like you haven’t asked atheists before….

          • John, I asked atheist who had shown integrity and careful and clear thinking Robert Nielsen. Robert has never gave me reason to doubt his information. You gave me on a number of times doubts which turn out true that you copy-paste and pass false information without yourself checking it.

            If you conducted yourself as Robert (and I would add R. L. Culpeper) I, if so fit, will invite you.

            John, you have to be invited and not force your way in with “are you afraid” move. It does not work that way. Learn from Robert and R.L. what I believe to be a way to conduct ourselves and why I would give R.L. or Robert guest posts.

          • Now, Prayson… By the time of your “likes” on my blog you could not have possibly read all those articles. I really just wanted you to read the one on the rabbis and how they no longer believe the Pentateuch to be a historical document.

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