Does the Bible really say THAT?

Aractus 01, September, 2015

Have you ever talked to a hardcore fundamentalist? They will justify anything and everything written in the Bible and claim that every other idea that comes along and challenges the Biblical view is wrong and nothing more than the futile pathetic loathsome concoctions of poor lowly mortal man, which can’t possibly improve upon God’s truly marvellous, righteous, and supreme ways.

This is something that as a Christian bothered me for a very long time. And in a moment I’ll give you some examples that no extent of creative interpretative theological manoeuvring can disguise for what they are.

But first I want to go back to where it all started. Cast your minds back to 50AD …

You’re in Jerusalem and a meeting is about to take place between the early Christian leaders. They are going to discuss whether we really need to follow the Law of Moses any more, or if we can start cutting our Jewish roots and carve out a new pathway for our apocalyptic movement. You see Barnabas and Paul arriving with some newly converted Syrian Christians. You see some Christians belonging to a more traditional Jewish wing of the church go over and begin arguing with the men over the need for circumcision. The apostles and the elders of the church break up the dispute and agree to discuss and settle the matter formally.

A fiery debate soon ensues, and after some time you see Simon Peter one of the original twelve disciples get up and attempt to draw the debate to a close. Peter stands up and addresses the apostles and elders in a loud strong voice, and makes dramatic, startling, and unexpected argument that shocks the crowd. He says that the Law of Moses is a yoke on the necks of believers that our ancestors have been unable to bear. The apostles and elders are drawn to an eerie silence – not knowing how to respond to such a bold anti-Jewish assertion. Even Peter’s brother and fellow Apostle Andrew is silent. James and Judas the brothers of Jesus are silent, as is John the son of Zebedee, and all the other church elders. In the silence Barnabas and Paul stand up and as the eyes of the church elders turn their way they begin testifying before them about the great numbers of Syrians and other non-Jews they have been converting – gesturing towards some of them that are sitting quietly with the other church laity.

You think to yourself just 20 years have passed since Jesus was killed by the Romans, the apocalyptic preacher who started the movement. He probably wouldn’t have agreed with such a radical shift, but he was gone now. In his place you see his brothers Judas and James sitting together quietly listening to Barnabas and Paul give their testimony regarding gentile conversions to the Christian gospel of salvation. You have to admit to yourself that even though Jesus probably wouldn’t have done it, it was still consistent with the gospel he preached when he was alive.

After Paul and Barnabas had finished speaking James stood up ready to make a decision on the matter at hand. He agrees with Peter that the yoke of the Law of Moses is an unbearable burden, one that has shackled their ancestors. He quotes a passage from the holy book of Amos, and another from Jeremiah. James hands down his decision saying that the church in Jerusalem will write to the Gentile churches and instruct them to keep only the following sacred Jewish laws: Not to eat of anything that has been polluted by idols, not to practise sexual immorality, and only to eat meat that hasn’t been strangled and has been drained of blood (kosher). The elders and apostles agree to James’s decision, as you leave you see Luke the Physician taking notes and perhaps preparing to write these letters.

The Jerusalem church then sent Judas Barsabbas and Silas to go with Barnabas and Paul to Antioch to ensure that the message is delivered to the gentile churches of the region. A few short years later Paul will disobey this decision by telling his congregation in Corinth in writing that they shall eat whatever they want. What I’ve just described to you above is essentially Acts 15 also known as the Council of Jerusalem. I only introduced three things into my rendering of it that are not strictly in the Bible – can you spot them?

The first is I simply named more people than is named in Acts – Judas and Luke for instance. The second is I said Jesus was killed by the Romans – this is now the overwhelming scholarly view and even the Pope has acknowledged this. The Bible however says the Jews killed Jesus. And the third is that I said that Jesus probably wouldn’t have done this – there is some evidence for my assertion though. Jesus does say the Law shall be upheld in the gospels, and if he wanted them to do this (tell the gentiles not to keep the whole of the law) he could have said so in the “Great Commission” or at any other time so the disciples didn’t have to wait until 20 years after his death to make this decision.

You see this is revisionism. It’s the church adapting, and that’s what virtually all regions have always done, even if they refuse to recognise or acknowledge it. The church reached an untenable position, an immovable obstacle – and that was they were preaching the “gospel of salvation” and people were willing to convert to Christianity but not to Judaism. You see Judaism was never itself an evangelistic proselytising faith – it was far more inwardly focused. The ancestral roots of the Patriarchs didn’t hold any meaning to the gentiles. Nor did the Abrahamic Covenant (which God hadn’t kept anyway), since Christians didn’t care about inheriting the land promised to the patriarchal ancestors of the Jews. It simply wasn’t designed to be proselytised, and that’s why it wasn’t working in 50 AD.

With this much insight you could almost mistake me for a scholar! No I’m just a sceptic and one that reads his bible and scrutinises it with critical thinking. So on we go.

1. The Bible doesn’t say Christians need to eat kosher meat.

Acts 15:20 “write to them to abstain foods offered to idols, sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled and from blood”. The only type of meats that don’t meet the ‘don’t do’s’ are kosher meats. Yes you could argue that James didn’t specifically say “don’t eat unclean meats” but it’s implied by instructing them to abstain from blood. Did you notice that after the council Paul went back to Antioch, and from there he wrote 1 Corinthians. So his letter to the Corinthians is quite soon after the council in Acts 15 – it’s only about 5 years later. In 1 Cor 8 Paul specifically tells the church in Corinth they can eat meat that has been offered to idols because idols aren’t real. In 1 Cor 10 he tells the church in Corinth they may eat anything sold in the market and not to question it.

And what’s interesting, to me anyway, is that Acts was written sometime between 61 and 85 AD. So between 10-35 years after that council, and up to 30 years after Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. Yet Luke’s account says that James handed down a decision that contradicts what Paul instructs the mid-first century Corinthian Christians in his letter. It’s interesting because there would be a clear motivation for a first century gospel writer to hide a potentially problematic conflicting decision, and yet they didn’t. So I think if it was Luke or one his close associates who wrote Acts that they had not seen Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. And with Paul clearly disobeying orders from Jerusalem it’s easy to see why his letters probably weren’t circulated outside of “his” regions until some time in the late first century or early second century.

  • VERDICT: Yes the Bible does say specifically that Christians should abstain from meat offered to idols, meat that has been strangled, and meat containing blood – and then it contradicts itself in another book.

2. The Bible doesn’t condone slavery.

Apologetics claim that the bible doesn’t really condone the practise, but rather tells the ancient Israelites they need to treat slaves with dignity and respect. I’ve even heard priests say that Israelite slaves enjoyed better conditions than the slaves of other nations. That is one fact that is easily refuted: Egyptian slaves could buy and sell property, could get married and divorced, could work their way to freedom, and privately owned slaves could not be made to do forced manual labour or demeaning tasks! Note there is some suggestion that convicted criminals could be made to do forced work, but not ordinary slaves. If slaves were mistreated or made to do forced labour then the owners could be made to be set them free. Slaves were treated equally regardless of their “race”. I have mentioned this to priests in the past and they have either denied it (since it contradicts the depiction of Egyptian slavery in Exodus) or have pleaded ignorance. Now how do we know this? Because historians tell us – they tell us slaves in Egypt were mainly prisoners of war and peasants who sold themselves into slavery.

The so-called rights that Israeli slaves have as outlined by Leviticus 25 do not amount to much. They can’t own or sell property and can’t work their way to freedom. Male slaves are to be given an opportunity to be freed after six years of service, but only one opportunity, and only if they are a debt slave (a Hebrew person), and they don’t get that opportunity if their owners give them a wife (and they want to stay married). Female slaves cannot be freed. Foreigners who are enslaved can be enslaved forever (Leviticus 25:46). And Israelite people are not to sell Israelite slaves to non-Israelites, but they can sell foreign slaves to non-Israelites. The instructions in Leviticus 25 on their own are enough to demonstrate that Yahweh clearly condones slavery, and is sexist, and also racist.

And yet priests and apologists still try to tell us God’s instructions were to give slaves better conditions. Admitting otherwise would be admitting that Yahweh is not perfect. But the question is better than what exactly? Better than some mythical primitive ancient Canaanite nations that we know next to nothing about? Even if such a thing were true, Egypt clearly had far better conditions. Egyptologists tell us that slaves had it better than peasants in Egypt.

As bad as Leviticus 25 is, there’s another part that’s even worse: Yahweh specifically instructs the Israelites to enslave people.

I’ve already addressed the crux of the apologist argument. Their argument that’s God’s instructions are not to go out and take slaves but rather to treat them fairly. Well yes that kind of addresses Leviticus 25, admittedly not very well (exactly what rights if any did foreign slaves have?), but in Deuteronomy 20 Yahweh does tell the Israelites to go out and enslave people:

Deut 20:10-14: “When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. And if it responds to you peaceably and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labour for you and shall serve you. But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. And when Yahweh your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword, but the women and the little ones, the livestock, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as plunder for yourselves. And you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which Yahweh your God has given you.”

So not only does Yahweh tell them to go out and conquer lands by warfare, but when they do that they are to enslave everyone. In Deut 20:16-18 he goes even further by saying that in the cities of Canaan they are to let no one escape and kill absolutely everyone – young, old, child, and livestock. So not only does Yahweh condone slavery, but he specifically instructs his people to practise it as well. He could have said “after you conquer a city and you have killed all the men you can let the women and children flee”, but instead he says to enslave them.

  • VERDICT: The Bible not only condones slavery but Yahweh specifically instructs his people to practise it.

3. The Bible doesn’t say women are property.

I have heard priests and apologists and even the laity say that the Bible has a very progressive outlook on the rights of women. And I don’t think it’s a stretch to admit that probably Jesus may have had a progressive outlook on the status of women. But Jesus was just a first century apocalyptic preacher. These arguments can be a deflection because the question isn’t what did Jesus believe – he may well have believed that women should have equal rights. But unless you believe the Nicene doctrine of the trinity (and unless you’re a Christian you don’t) then it doesn’t answer the question of whether Yahweh is a malevolent, psychopathic, misogynist god or not. And even if you do believe the Nicene Creed, the Old Testament itself existed in its completed form for at least 2 centuries in ancient Palestine before the apocalyptic preachings of Jesus. So then the Old Testament clearly needs to be able to stand on its own, and it needs to be the one that reveals to us the character of Yahweh. If Yahweh is kind, faithful, and just then the Old Testament alone will reveal this.

But of course he isn’t. His character can be openly attacked from many different angles, and many people have done this over the years. To deflect away from it the standard Christian answer is that Jesus fully reveals his character and that anything we learn about the character of Yahweh from the Old Testament without the New is incomplete.

But, doesn’t Yahweh “reveal” himself to the Patriarchs? Doesn’t he also reveal who he is by the sacred covenants he makes (and then doesn’t keep) and the sacred holy laws he decrees?

Yahweh allows the Israelites to keep concubines which is just a fancy biblical word for sex slaves. In the previous passage I quoted (Deut 20:14) he even calls enslaved foreign women the “spoils of war”. Christians don’t know how to answer this problem. Because once it’s pointed out to them that biblical concubines are in fact sex slaves they can’t escape the problem. So how do I know that they are sex slaves and not merely women with a slightly lower status than that of “wife”? Well precisely because they are women with a lower status than wife who are themselves property of men. And in a moment I will prove Israelite wives are property.

Genesis 2:18 Yahweh creates women to serve men: “Then Yahweh God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.'” Now you might say, oh Daniel that’s just God saying men and women are made for each other. Well that would probably be true if it wasn’t for the context that the verse is in, have a look at this for yourself:

Gen 2:18-23: “Then Yahweh God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ Now out of the ground Yahweh God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So Yahweh God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

”          ‘This at last is bone of my bones
               and flesh of my flesh;
            she shall be called Woman,
                because she was taken out of Man.'”

So women are just like animals. According to Genesis, the reason animals exist in the first place is to serve mankind, and the reason women exist is specifically as a helper for men. There’s no getting around it: God creates it and brings it to Adam just like all the animals; Adam names the woman just like he names all the animals.

The Tenth Commandment: You shall not covet your neighbour’s property: Ex 20:17 “Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Now some Christians think that the context is ‘don’t have unclean thoughts about your neighbour’s wife’ – don’t desire her sexually. But look at the list, it’s a list of your neighbour’s property. Many of them will try to claim it says servants not slaves – but most modern Bible translations are done by teams of Evangelistic translators – you can be well assured that it does say slave. The Hebrew words used are Strong’s H5650 (male slave) and H519 (female slave), and H519 also means concubine. By including wives in a list of property that “thou shalt not covet” Yahweh clearly establishes that women are property.

Furthermore, nor the ten commandments or the book of Exodus discuss sexual immorality – that’s in Leviticus 18. And as for adultery, that’s the seventh commandment (Ex 20:14). And note that Jesus says this: Matthew 5:27-28: “‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” So Ex 20:14 covers adultery both the physical act and the lustful intent, according to what Jesus says. Therefore the tenth commandment can only mean not to covert your neighbour’s property.

The difference treatment between male and female slaves I have already noted. Women were viewed as property which is why they aren’t to ever be set free. Female slaves that are Hebrews and are the wife of a male slave are to remain with the slave owner if the male slave is freed (Ex 21, Lev 25) it is very clear that in the Israelite society women are to serve men and are property. Ex 23:17 the feast of unleavened bread is a festival only for men, women are explicitly excluded. Lev 18:20 defines adultery as a man sleeping with his neighbour’s wife. Yet married men could sleep with prostitutes, concubines, or unmarried women and it was not adultery. It was only adultery if the woman was married. Male and females have different monetary values as slaves: “If the person is from one month to five years old, your assessment for a male is five silver shekels, and for a female your assessment is three shekels of silver.” (Lev 27:6).

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 says that if a man rapes a virgin he is to pay her father 50 shekels of silver as retribution and shall be forced to take her hand in marriage, and he cannot divorce her. This is an interesting passage for so many reasons. One is that Yahweh clearly doesn’t know about inflation, but also Christians will claim that ‘well it doesn’t say that the rape victim would be forced to marry her rapist only that he is forced to do so’. That’s true enough, but even so – in what universe is it okay to tell rapists to marry their victims? In any case the monetary value being paid to her father clearly establishes that she is her father’s property (until she marries and then she becomes her husband’s property). Another thing is that up to this point divorce hadn’t been defined in the Bible, but it is defined clearly just one chapter later in Deut 24:

Deut 24:1-5: “‘When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favour in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before Yahweh. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that Yahweh your God is giving you for an inheritance.”

Jesus does say that there is something wrong with this, and he apparently says so twice (Matthew 5:32 and Matt 19:9). “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Now what did I just cite from above – ah yes the definition of adultery is when a man sleeps with a married woman (Lev 18:20). So look at what Jesus doesn’t say. He doesn’t say that adultery includes women who sleep with married men. Nor does he suggest that women have any right to get divorced from their husbands. Deuteronomy 24:1-5 makes it very clear that divorce is for men to disown their wives. Because women are the property of men they have no right to get divorced from their husbands. He has the opportunity to say this in Matthew 5:27-28 (as quoted 4 paragraphs above), but he clearly cites the Old Testament definition of adultery. Sometimes apologists will say ‘well people in ancient times just didn’t know any better’ – but Egyptian women could buy and sell property, they could inherit from their family’s estate, they could get divorced from their husbands, they could participate in juries, and they could give evidence in court equal to men’s. So some people in ancient times did know better.

Let’s compare this to Yahweh’s women: They can’t inherit from the family’s estate unless there are no sons (Numbers 27:8); They cannot file for a divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-5); And they couldn’t participate in juries or give testimony in court (the Talmud). My former priest, and other clergy, and apologists always like to use the argument that the women’s testimony of the resurrection shows the Bible is credible because an author inventing it would have used men who are able to testify in court. What they fail to disclose to you and I is that although women couldn’t testify in court, there’s nothing to stop them running to their families and associates and telling them of things they’ve just seen, such as an empty tomb where the deceased Jesus had been laid.

  • VERDICT: The Bible says in many places that women are property. It says it very plainly and without any apology. There is no doubt about it whatsoever: Yahweh is a woman hating misogynistic deity who views women as the property of men.

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