15 July 2010

Jul 15

Reference links:
Old Testament

Fascinating, fascinating. Today's reading is almost exactly the same as the books of Samuel, sometimes word for word. The chronicler leaves out anything that is uncomplimentary to David including a time he was injured in battle and all of the family drama.

The phrasings, at least in translation, are so similar to those in Samuel that it seems the chronicler must have been working from the scroll for Samuel. The degree of similarity makes some of the differences between the two narratives even more perplexing.

Some of the differences are small differences of phrasing ("David has sent them to spy out the land" verses "David has sent them to spy out the city"). Others may be attributed to scribal error (700 charioteers killed becomes 7000 charioteers killed), others are obviously motivated from a desire to present David a certain way, and yet others are just bizarre.

The substitution of Gezer for Gob for the location where the Israelites battled the Philistines may also be a scribal error, or it may be a case of the Chronicler updating the location to be more relevant to the times. Other differences are harder to explain. David takes a census again, but this time, there are 1,100,000 able warriors in Israel (as opposed to 800,000 before) and 470,000 in Judah (as opposed to 500,000 before). David paid 600 pieces of gold for the threshing floor where he built an altar to God as opposed to in Samuel where he paid 50 pieces of silver.

Some changes are obviously motivated by the message the chronicler wanted to communicate. For example, Chronicles changes the one who prompted David to take a mysteriously evil census from God to Satan. It also contains an additional passage which explains why David built an alternate altar to stop the post-census plague even though, supposedly, he was well aware of the requirements to only make sacrifices at the Tabernacle (he was terrified by the angel).

It is hard not to notice all of these differences when the two accounts are so very very similar. Parallel passages like this should cast great doubt on the idea of the Bible being the directly inspired, inerrant word of God (as if enough doubt has not been cast already).

First off, the inconsistencies are not what you would expect from God. But even if you manage to explain all of those away with scribal errors and later redactions, you still have to wonder, why would God inspire the Biblical authors to write almost exactly the same thing twice? Is this information really so key that it needs repetition? It seems much more plausible that the non-inspired human authors were rewriting the traditional scriptures for their own purposes.

New Testament

Paul rants at the Jews. Circumcision is only valuable in so far as it is a sign of what is truly important: a changed heart. In fact, uncircumcised Gentiles will be declared God's people if they obey his law, Yet there is benefit in being a Jew, because God chose to give his revelation to the Jews, and God will be faithful to them.

Paul then goes on to what might be a legitimate complaint against those around him but what, given Paul's track record with correctly representing the beliefs of others, I would not be surprised to find out is Paul attacking a straw man:
“But,” some might say, “our sinfulness serves a good purpose, for it helps people see how righteous God is. Isn’t it unfair, then, for him to punish us?” (This is merely a human point of view.) Of course not! If God were not entirely fair, how would he be qualified to judge the world? “But,” someone might still argue, “how can God condemn me as a sinner if my dishonesty highlights his truthfulness and brings him more glory?” And some people even slander us by claiming that we say, “The more we sin, the better it is!” Those who say such things deserve to be condemned.
The argument above, as Paul presents it, does seem rather silly. However, his version seems like nothing more than a parody of the very legitimate disagreements over how God's justice interacts with predestination (whether complete or partial as in the case of Judas or the hardening of Pharaoh's heart).

Psalms and Proverbs

I read recently that many of the proverbs seem to support the status quo of the ruling elite. Today's first and third ones certainly fit that bill:
It isn’t right for a fool to live in luxury
or for a slave to rule over princes!
The king’s anger is like a lion’s roar,
but his favor is like dew on the grass.
The proverb in between those two, however, is quite instructive, especially given that I have something of a temper,
Sensible people control their temper;
they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.