09 September 2010

Sep 9

Reference links:
Old Testament

Isaiah continues on about the sins of Israel and the punishments that will be brought upon Jerusalem. There are some interesting metaphors, including one comparing Jerusalem to a woman who has her beauty stripped away and another comparing Israel to a vineyard which only yields bitter grapes.

However, it seems to me that what is most interesting is how generic this prophecy is so far. This is pretty much a generic prediction of punishment. Especially once you go down the road of interpret metaphorically, it could apply to almost any country or city that has fallen. Examples like this are why non-believers are unimpressed by arguments from fulfilled prophecy. For reference, here are some criteria for what would make a good prophecy as determined by Richard Carrier in Sense and Goodness Without God and stated by Luke at Common Sense Atheism:
  1. The prophetic text clearly envisions the sort of event alleged to be the fulfillment. (The prediction should not be so vague that a wide range of events would “fit” the prediction.)
  2. The prophecy was made well in advance of the event predicted.
  3. The event actually happened.
  4. The event predicted could not have been staged by mere humans.
  5. The event should be so unusual that its apparent fulfillment could not be explained as a good guess, and could not have been inevitable.
  6. The source of the prophecy should not have been edited to produce a selection bias. (That is, we should be fairly confident that compilers didn’t just make a hundred predictions and throw away their 99 documents which made false predictions and keep the one that came true.)
By these criteria, Isaiah clearly fails to provide a convincing prophecy. So far in Isaiah, (1) clearly does not hold. We do not have data to judge on (2) and (3). Isaiah's prophecies, if they came true, probably would fulfill (4). Countries rise and fall relatively frequently, especially in the ancient world, so no points on (5). Since we know Isaiah was edited, we can not judge either way on (6).

Of course, it could be unfair to interpret this as prophecy as all. Maybe Isaiah actually intended this to be a rhetorical warning about all that would happen if the people of Israel failed to follow the ways of God. That makes the passage more reasonable, but, in a way, less interesting. It becomes little more than rhetoric. Good fiery rhetoric, but rhetoric all the same.

New Testament

Paul talks about false apostles or, as my translation would have it "super apostles". What a great phrase! Super apostles! You can almost hear the fanfare and the cheers.

I find it interesting that, in today's reading at least, Paul makes no attempt to convince the readers why these apostles are false. He seems to take it as good enough that they preach a message he considers incorrect. Paul could provide reasoning showing why his preaching is right and theirs is wrong. Instead, he just states that they are deceitful and wicked. This is just an argument from authority, and such arguments are fallacious.

Psalms and Proverbs

Don't move ancient boundary markers. I know you're thinking about it. But don't do it. It's bad. Also, competent workers will rise to high positions.