24 October 2010

Oct 24

Reference links:
Old Testament

We finish up yesterday's stories about the people who worshiped the Queen of Heaven. Jeremiah and God wash their hands of them, but disaster will come upon them as a result.

After that, we jump back in time to the time of Jehoiakim. Jeremiah deliver a message from God to Baruch, his scribe. Baruch should not strive for greatness since God will destroy Judah, but God will also save Baruch.

After that, we get some prophetic poems about Egypt and Philistia.

The background for the one about Egypt is that Egypt had just been defeated in a battle against Babylon. Jeremiah predicts that the Egyptian army will be defeated and conquered:
Pack up! Get ready to leave for exile,
you citizens of Egypt!
The city of Memphis will be destroyed,
without a single inhabitant.
...
They will cut down her people like trees,” says the Lord,
“for they are more numerous than locusts.
Egypt will be humiliated;
she will be handed over to people from the north.”
As far as I can tell based on skimming Wikipedia (articles on pharaohs Hophra and Ahmose II, King Nebuchadnezzar, and the Babylonian empire), this prophecy never came true. Unlike other prophecies that had a conditional nature, this one seems pretty unconditional. This is not the first time this has happened. So what makes Jeremiah a good prophet?

The prophecy about Philistia is equally dire.

New Testament

The author of 2 Timothy gives some good advice and then ruins it at the end:
Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.
It's great to say that people should be kind and teach gently. It's rank stupidity to claim that everyone who disagrees with you has been ensnared by the devil

After that, the author gives the the recipient some advice about what the last days will be like. Now, if this actually had been a personal letter from Paul to Timothy, this would be rather good support for the generally well supported hypothesis that Paul thought the end days were imminent. Why would Paul mention what the last days would be like if he did not think it would be relevant to Timothy in his own life? Now, since this letter was not written by Paul to Timothy, we cannot conclude anything from this allusion to the last days.

In this passage, the author mentions some folks I didn't remember:
These teachers oppose the truth just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses. They have depraved minds and a counterfeit faith. But they won’t get away with this for long. Someday everyone will recognize what fools they are, just as with Jannes and Jambres.
Jannes and Jambres, who are they? Well, it seems I was confused for a reason. They are not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. Apparently, other Jewish tradition identifies them as some of the magicians who were up against Moses and Aaron in the Pharaoh's court during the ten plagues in Egypt (NET Bible, Wikipedia).

He also makes some disparaging comments about women, but that's about what you'd expect from the author of the pastorals.

The author ends by once again asking Timothy to remain faithful to what he has been taught. This ends with the well known passage about all scripture being inspired by God. However, the more interesting bit comes just before that:
But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you.
Ummm, that's not how it works. The fact that you trust the person who teaches you and the fact that they believe what they are teaching to be true does not, in fact, have any bearing on the actual truth of what is taught. Being sure about something, unfortunately, has a very low correlation with actual real world truth.

To say otherwise is to imply that those who disagree with you, such as all of those people who sincerely believe the religions they were brought up in, were taught in bad faith and are teaching their own children in bad faith. Perhaps some people believe that, but I cannot see such a claim and anything short of ridiculous.

Psalms and Proverbs


Proverbs about fools. The second one goes meta:
A proverb in the mouth of a fool
is as useless as a paralyzed leg.