Lecture by Prof. Oded Lipschits: “The Myth of the Empty Land and the Myth of the Mass Return”

Don’t miss the lecture by my Tel Azekah colleague and Tel Aviv University Professor of Archaeology, Dr. Oded Lipschits, recently given at the University of Chicago entitled, “The Myth of the Empty Land and the Myth of the Mass Return.”

Give it a view.

“Myth of a Christian Nation” Question of the Day

I have a question regarding the myth that the United States was founded as a

I have a question regarding the myth that the United States was founded as a “Christian nation”.

Following up on Piers Morgan’s debate with Rick Warren, here’s your “Myth of a Christian Nation” question of the day.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Thus, in the U.S., you can worship any god you want to worship, and this is legal, acceptable, and protected by the Constitution.

However, Deuteronomy 13:12-16 says the following:

Deut. 13:12 If you hear it said about one of the towns that the LORD your God is giving you to live in,
Deut. 13:13 that scoundrels from among you have gone out and led the inhabitants of the town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods,” whom you have not known,
Deut. 13:14 then you shall inquire and make a thorough investigation. If the charge is established that such an abhorrent thing has been done among you,
Deut. 13:15 you shall put the inhabitants of that town to the sword, utterly destroying it and everything in it—even putting its livestock to the sword.
Deut. 13:16 All of its spoil you shall gather into its public square; then burn the town and all its spoil with fire, as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God. It shall remain a perpetual ruin, never to be rebuilt.

Now, we have heard many Christians say that the laws of the Old Testament have been “nailed to the cross” and are no longer binding. For instance, despite the fact that Lev. 11:10-12 clearly states that the children of God cannot eat shellfish:

Lev. 11:10 But anything in the seas or the streams that does not have fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and among all the other living creatures that are in the waters—they are detestable to you
Lev. 11:11 and detestable they shall remain. Of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall regard as detestable.
Lev. 11:12 Everything in the waters that does not have fins and scales is detestable to you.

Christians will argue that Peter’s vision in Acts 10 “trumps” this law, allowing Christians to eat food previously deemed “unkosher”.

Acts 10:13 Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.”
Acts 10:14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.”
Acts 10:15 The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”

Likewise, despite the fact that Exodus 20:8-10 – one of the 10 Commandments no less – clearly states that one should not work on the Sabbath,

Ex. 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.
Ex. 20:9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work.
Ex. 20:10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.

the NT gospel of Mark 2:27-28 states:

Mark 2:27 Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath;
Mark 2:28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

and Christians use this text to argue that even though at one time God had people PUT TO DEATH for so much as picking up sticks on the Sabbath (cf. Num. 15:32-36:

Num. 15:32 When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the sabbath day.
Num. 15:33 Those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses, Aaron, and to the whole congregation.
Num. 15:34 They put him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him.
Num. 15:35 Then the LORD said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him outside the camp.”
Num. 15:36 The whole congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. )

despite this, Christians no longer have to keep the Sabbath.

So, because the NT “overrides” the OT, the laws in the OT don’t have to be kept anymore.

EXCEPT, of course, for those laws that are NOT overridden, or better yet, those that are REITERATED and RESTATED by none less than Jesus himself, well, THOSE laws (like condemning homosexuals in Lev. 18:22 and Lev. 20:13 AND in Rom. 1:26–27, 1 Cor. 6:9–10, and 1 Tim. 1:9–10) – these OT laws are to be KEPT and ENFORCED by Christians, because the condemnation was repeated in the NT.

Got all that?? So here’s my question:

Where in the NT does Jesus say it’s OK to worship other gods?

Where does Paul say it? Where does Peter say it? I mean, if we’re supposedly a “Christian nation”, and Deuteronomy 13:12-16 clearly states that anyone who worships another god must be put to death – THEY AND THEIR ENTIRE TOWN!! – because another god was worshiped somewhere in the land, and if not one, but three of the 10 Commandments clearly state:

Ex. 20:3 you shall have no other gods before me.
Ex. 20:4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
Ex. 20:5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,

then there must be someplace in the NT where Jesus or Paul or SOMEBODY says it’s OK to worship other gods (IF, that is, we’re a “Christian nation”.) Right? It must be there in the NT, because religious plurality would CLEARLY violate the commands of the eternal, omnipotent, infallible, inerrant God who clearly spells out in no uncertain terms that we’re NOT supposed to worship other gods, and yet our nation has legislated, nay, our nation was founded on the idea of religious plurality. That is, our nation is founded on a principle that is directly contradictory to one of the most fundamental biblical Christian principles: worship only God.

So it must be in there somewhere.

So where is it?

I can’t find it in Matt. 4:10:

Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

I don’t see it in Matt. 22:36-38:

Matt. 22:36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
Matt. 22:37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
Matt. 22:38 This is the greatest and first commandment.

I don’t read it in 1 Cor. 10:14:

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols.

So WHERE IS IT EXACTLY that the NT authorizes our United States of America to protect those who worship other gods from the very punishments prescribed and authorized by the Bible against those who do so??

(And if the founding document of the U.S. is going legislate AGAINST the first 4 Commandments, then how again were we established as a “Christian Nation”?)

(Or, could it be that our nation was established with some laws that happen to be congruent with some Christian teaching (as well as with many other religions’ and philosophies’ teachings), but was NOT established as a “Christian nation”, especially given the fact that many of the founders were avowed Deists who believed in the existence of a god – a “grand architect of the universe” – but one who revealed himself through the strict physical laws of the universe – Deists who openly chastised Christians and Christianity for its reliance on miracles and mythology that contradicted the very fixed physical principles of nature they felt revealed the nature of God?)

But I digress. Let’s stick to the initial question: Where in the NT does it authorize our United States of America to protect those who worship other gods, when the OT clearly condemns it, IF we were founded as a “Christian nation”?


For more on this topic, read my earlier post: we were NOT founded as a christian nation: thoughts on article 11 of the u.s. treaty with tripoli

Also check out nonstampcollector’s (blog, YouTube) video, which makes a similar point:

Comments welcome.

this bird must have gone to ucla: a comment on wisdom and mythology

Raven

Raven

when is an historical fable not just a fable? when the evidence suggests that it is not only possible, but experimentation demonstrates that it is, in fact, true.

meet a smart, problem solving crow. he must have attended ucla. (i say that because not only is he very clever, even tempered, and a problem solver, but it is apparently learning how to deal with the draconian, state-imposed 8% cuts to his water supply.) here, the crow literally reenacts the solution to the problem set forth in aesop’s fable, the crow and the pitcher. (click here to read the story.)

we’ve known for some time that birds in the corvus genus and the corvidae family (like crows, ravens, jays, and rooks) are some of the cleverest birds on earth, possessing problem solving abilities and experimentally demonstrated capacities for self-awareness (via mirror tests). poe has written about them, bernd heinrich and thomas bugnyar have spent years studying them, and of course, they are a great football team.

but from this story, i hope to convey a brief thought on wisdom. true, many of the stories preserved in ancient texts are mythological; they are grand tales of marvels from the past. but there was wisdom even in ancient societies. despite their lack of scientific method and a comprehensive understanding of the universe, they knew they simply could not invent stories and expect people to believe them. the skeptics have always been with us. thus, behind even the most incredible myth, there is usually some kernel of initial truth or observation. to be sure, the tales inevitably grow and are embellished over time, but these stories usually have some root in observable fact, a phenomenological event, or daily routine. etiological explanations are derived over time to explain these phenomena, and cultural wisdom is ingrafted into them over time to make them meaningful. the result is usually a remarkable tale accepted as truth by those members of the community that produced the tale, and as fantastic myth by those outside the group. thus, a culture’s wisdom comes to be conveyed not by scientific fact or experimentation, but by the communal tales told throughout the ages. these stories come to define the group’s history, values, beliefs, and cultures. and unlike modern technologies, which have a very short lifespan, stories have withstood the ages.

so the next time you read a remarkable story, acknowledge that most of it may be embellishment and non-verifiable speculation. but always remember that there were wise men and women in antiquity, and that these stories often grew from a some historical event, or, dare is say, truth. because as much wisdom as a fable from aesop might convey, he just as well may have witnessed history.

%d bloggers like this: