Yahweh’s sacred covenants

Aractus 06, September, 2015

I want to make this clear from the onset. These are my arguments – just like the last post. I’m not repeating something I read by some militant anti-Christian atheists – I don’t read books by people like Richard Dawkins. I don’t visit anti-Christian websites or care for their arguments (as I’ve previously pointed out many of their arguments are often weak at best). Until I wrote the previous blog entry I’ve never seen anyone on the internet explain what the Bible’s definition of adultery is. The reason I know what it says is because I read it from the Bible for myself – not because I read some criticism by third parties. It’s not my intention to take anything in the Bible out of context – I believe I’m being very fair in assessing what the Bible itself actually says. And you don’t need to take my word for it – read it for yourself.

Last entry I finished with the line “Yahweh is a woman hating misogynistic deity who views women as the property of men”. Yahweh’s character is what I’m examining here at the moment. Christians say that we have to learn about the character of Jesus to learn about the character of Yahweh, however as I pointed out in the last entry Jesus was just a first century apocalyptic preacher. Even for Christians who believe that Jesus is the begotten son of god, without the Old Testament there are no divine judgement from God, there are no covenants with God, there are no prophecies to fulfil, and there is no scripture for Jesus to preach from. Perhaps most importantly of all, without the Old Testament there’s no basis on which for God to judge us, there is covenant with Adam that makes him our Judge, there is no original sin, and therefore there is no need for a saviour. I believe that sums up why Christians can’t simply discard the Old Testament.

There is nothing in the Old Testament beyond the conventional wisdom of the ancient world. There are clearly immoral parts of the Old Testament, for example where Yahweh instructs the Israelites to enslave nations when you invade them in battle. The tenth commandment certainly should offend women today, yet many Christian women read it and do not understand what it is saying simply because we have theologians who take what the Bible says and what the meaning has been for centuries or millennia and change it to fit a new theology.

The overarching view of today’s churches is one of dispensationalism. This is certainly the theological basis for my former church, and at its core it teaches Christians the God’s revelation is progressively unfolding, slowly being revealed, and each time God reveals something new something more. This is why churches today tend to focus on only the New Testament writings, and many Christians seem to believe that the Old Testament no longer applies or has the meaning that it once had since it’s been displaced by newer revelations. Of course there are many problems with this theology, the biggest one in my view is that God never keeps of his sacred covenants so should why should we bother worrying about them?

Dispensationalism picks and chooses between which of the sacred ancient covenants that God made in the Old Testament that “we” think still apply. It is a contradiction because the covenant with Adam is still applied, yet the covenant with Moses isn’t. Essentially, God is still punishing us because Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – if he wasn’t, if he decided to move on and nullify the covenant, then there’s no need for salvation. The covenant that God makes with Adam is where and when he asserts his authority to be the judge of mankind. Without this covenant that God made with Adam, there is no basis for him to pass judgement on humanity.

The next sacred covenant God makes is with Noah. Noah is the first human being instructed to eat meat. God tells Noah that he will make all animals fear mankind. He instructs Noah, and the generations to come, to carry out capital punishment for the crime of murder. He promises never to destroy humanity again by flood. God clearly no longer keeps this covenant – there are plenty of animals that don’t fear humans for example. Also why I was a Christian I had this burning question – is Noah really real anyway? There are only two arguments that Christians can make – yes he was or no he wasn’t. If he was real and we go by what the Bible says in Genesis 6 through 9, then God tells Noah to spend 100 years building an Ark. That’s a very long time, and yes it is possible a natural basin in the Ararat Mountain range could indeed cause a flood so catastrophic that Noah would not be able to see any land. But here’s the thing – God would have known it was an illusion. He would have known he could just send Noah on a day’s hike or two-days at the most to get out of the flood range. Instead he has him build an ark for 100 years and tells him he’s saving all the world’s animals which isn’t really true.

It’s when we get to Abraham though that God truly reveals his true character. In Genesis 15 he tells Abram that his people will be oppressed and enslaved for four hundred years but that he will deliver them out of the land (of Egypt) with great possessions and they shall enter the land of Canaan, the land where Abraham is now, to possess. In Genesis 17, 24 years after Genesis 15, God renews the covenant with Abraham. He says that in his old age he will be fruitful and ancestor of a ‘multitude of nations’. God promises to keep the covenant for every generation to come as an “everlasting covenant” (Gen 17:7). In Gen 17:8 Yahweh says he will give the whole of the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants as an everlasting possession. He seals the covenant with the instruction for Abraham to keep the covenant of circumcision.

There are many problems with this divine and sacred covenant, as we will see. The biggest problem is that Yahweh doesn’t keep the covenant. He isn’t faithful to his people. Modern Israeli archaeologists have determined with certainty that at no time between the late bronze and iron ages was the land of Canaan ever possessed by a single unified nation. In the Iron Age it was briefly held by the Neo-Assyrian Empire, and of course by the time of Jesus it was under Roman control. Theologians over time have suggested that the ancient Jews weren’t ‘faithful enough’ that they somehow failed to receive this promise that God made to Abraham. Yet the book of Joshua makes it clear that from the Biblical point of view the ancient Israelites did inherit the land by conquering it. This would suggest that at least from the Biblical point of view God is keeping this covenant. Even if we ignore the hard archaeological evidence that shows this never happened, Christians and Jews cannot ignore the overwhelming evidence that for at least several centuries prior to Jesus the Canaan land was not under Jewish control.

So why doesn’t Yahweh tell Abraham the truth? He’s God, he knows the future, he knows that the covenant is a lie. He says it will be an everlasting covenant that the Canaan land will be an everlasting possession. Going by the Biblical account the “truth” is that God is going to become displeased with his people and let other nations come in and take control of the land from the Israelites. So why doesn’t he just tell Abraham that in the first place?

The Abrahamic covenant was re-affirmed several times. First with Moses, then with Joshua, then with David. It has been demonstrated pretty well that the covenant with Moses on Mt Sinai was actually based on ancient Hittite-vassal treaties. There are three ways to look at this, and Christians unsurprisingly always claim that “oh that just proves the Bible” any time there’s a similarity between something in the Bible and something in the real ancient world. That’s one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is that the treaties influenced the Mt Sinai covenant and therefore not a divine being. And the third and final way to look at it is to say that well yes it could been arrived at independently of the Hittite-vassal treaties, but the existence of said treaties show there’s nothing particularly unique or special about the divine commandments given in the Old Testament. They’re ordinary and you find them elsewhere. Throughout Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy God reaffirms the covenant that he made with Abraham.

In 2 Samuel 7:12-14 God again reaffirms the Abrahamic covenant to David who is now possessing the land, according to the Bible.

Also, Moses is mentioned some 80 times in the New Testament. Yet his historicity has been clearly shown to be invalid by modern archaeology. Many Christians actually accept this, because all they care about is whether Jesus was real or not. But without the patriarchs there is no sacred covenants, without Moses there is no Law, and without the Law there are no instructions for the Jews to find too difficult to keep and require salvation from.

I don’t think many Christians really actually care about this. A godless atheist heathen like myself can’t possibly have any real insight into what the Bible says. Denialisim is rife among the faithful – you don’t have to go to the extremes of fundamentalism to find it, you will find it in every single church. Neil Silberman notes that believer’s minds are “hardwired to believe that THEY are the authentic heirs of the biblical tradition”. Others scholars have noted that believes feel entitled to their own history. Something that rightly frustrates academics who devote their lives to the study of the ancient world. It’s not a very nice thing to say to a professional archaeologist or historian or scholar that their expertise isn’t needed because the Bible tells you the “truth”. It’s quite funny because Christians have largely backed off from their criticisms of other scientists such as astronomers, biologists, geneticists, palaeontologists, and geologists. Yet they still claim to be the enlightened ones, the ones who know “the” truth as if it’s some great secret kept from the rest of us. And with that I will leave you with this quote from biblical archaeologist Neil Silberman.

There is no difference whatsoever between Scientific Creationists (who twist every possible bit of empirical evidence to show that Darwin MAY be wrong and that the world COULD have been created in seven days 6000 years ago), with those fundamentalist biblical hardliners who INSIST that every single word of the Bible is inerrant, divinely inspired and that every historical story it contains is as reliable as a news report in the New York Times– no, sorry– the Fox News Network.Neil Silberman

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