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Guest Post: Paul Copan Replies to Hector Avalos – Deuteronomy 25:11-12, an Eye for an Eye, and Raymond Westbrook

July 9th, 2011 by Matt

My book review of John Loftus’s The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails prompted several responses from Hector Avalos, one of the book’s contributors. Avalos has offered critiques of not just my arguments but also those of my good friend Paul Copan. This Guest Post, written by Paul Copan, responds to some of Avalos’s charges. Paul Copan writes:

Paul CopanRecently Hector Avalos has responded to a particular argument in my book Is God a Moral Monster? (Baker).  In it, I follow biblical scholar Jerome Walsh’s interpretation of Deuteronomy 25:11-12:[1] If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand[yad] and seizes his genitals, then you shall cut off her hand [kaph]; you shall not show pity.

I first came across Walsh’s perspective by way of Richard Davidson’s book on sexuality in the Old Testament, Flame of Yahweh (Hendrickson)—a book I highly recommend.  I follow both Walsh and Davidson on the view that this text is not referring to amputating the hand, but rather depilation.  This was a punishment of humiliation involving shaving a woman’s pubic hair in thekaph—the curved region below the waist.  I won’t elaborate on what my book says, but I’ll simply address Deuteronomy 25:11-12 in the bulk of this blog posting.  In the post, I’ll address the question of lex talionis (“an eye for an eye”) and the work of Raymond Westbrook.

1. Preliminary remarks: I have been in communication with Jerome Walsh, who prefers to stay out of the discussion.  Walsh has read Avalos’s post, though, and noted too that he did not see anything new in Avalos’s arguments that he hasn’t encountered before.  He simply saw nothing linguistically to persuade him to alter his views.

Avalos’s repeated identification of kaph = “hand” as the “literal” meaning is misleading.  While it may be the commonest meaning, the term has less-common usages too (the bowl of a spoon, the frond of a palm tree).  It’s unproductive to start from the assumption that commonest meaning is the only one allowable unless one can prove otherwise.  The point in the article is that yad tends to refer to the hand without connotation or nuance, or when the hand is envisaged, as an instrument of pointing, hitting, doing.  Kaph, so far as he can see, connotes the hand as an instrument of grasping and holding, thus the curvature and the focus on the palm.

In Walsh’s estimation, Avalos seems to be operating from the position of a methodological absolutism:  “X” is the common opinion, and unless one can definitively prove not-X, then one must espouse X.  He doesn’t appear to leave much room for “more likely” or “less likely” as the possible evaluation of a hypothesis.

Avalos cites Marc Cortez for support: “The Law on Violent Intervention: Deuteronomy 25.11-12 Revisited,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 30:3 (2006), 431-47.  As I note in my book, though, it is unfortunate that Cortez fails to interact with Walsh’s essay, which had been published two years earlier.

In correspondence with Walsh (May 2010), he commented on an online version of Cortez’s article.  He pointed out that while Cortez dismisses Eslinger’s attempt to identify kaph with gynecological exactitude (and he can agree with Cortez on that point), Cortez does not deal with the fact that kaph is used not just for the palm of the hand, but for several other curved, arched objects, both corporeal (sole of foot) and not (bowl of a spoon, frond of a palm tree).  Walsh’s argument simply treats kaph as the curve of the groin, a very likely meaning in Song of Solomon, and (pace Cortez) in Genesis as well.

Cortez wants to retain without discussion the understanding of kaph as “hand.”  But Walsh notes that Cortez’s explanation of why a “talionic” law would equate “hand” as an instrument of offense with “palm of the hand” as the object of “cutting-off” is, basically, “why not?”  That begs the question.  Further, he ignores completely that there is no reason whatsoever for treating the qal of qatsats as if it were the piel.  In the piel, it clearly means “to cut off.”  In the few other instances of its appearance in the qal, it means “to cut (hair).”  Why, in this unique case, should the qal be translated as if it were a piel?

Now, Walsh readily acknowledges that his article is not the standard reading of the passage, and that Cortez’s evaluation of others’ interpretations of Deut 25:11-12 is judicious, careful, and sober.  He would agree with Cortez completely that the peculiarities of this unique law in the Israelite corpus have led scholars to some truly egregious attempts to make sense of its oddity.  And Cortez is very good indeed at identifying the unpersuasive lengths to which some scholars have gone.  But he, like all of those scholars, has not looked at the words.  This is the contribution that Walsh’s article proposes to make.  Instead of accepting unquestioningly that “you shall cut off her hand” is what the Hebrew words mean, he has argued that that is a misreading of the Hebrew terms.  To put the disagreement in a nutshell, let me quote a line from Cortez’s article.  Cortez says:  “The first and most important question that must be addressed with respect to the woman’s punishment is whether or not it should be understood as an application of the lex talionis.”  Not so.  The first and most important question that must be addressed with respect to the woman’s punishment is WHAT THE WORDS MEAN.  Only then can we even approach the question of whether or not the punishment is a talionic counterpart to the crime.

In short:
(a) Kaph does not refer to the “hand,” simply speaking.  It refers to the hand as an instrument of containing (thus as a curved holder, often translated as the “palm of the hand”).  Yad refers to the hand as an instrument of control, of holding, of pointing.  To treat the two terms as synonyms in order to establish the talionic quality of the law is unconvincing.

(b) Kaph clearly can refer to the genital region.  Even if one does not follow Eslinger’s particulars (and I most certainly do not), the uses in Genesis and Song make it clear that something below the waist is intended.  Kaph can also refer to several other bodily and non-bodily curved objects.

(c) The verb qatsats means “cut off” in the D-stem (the piel).  To assume that it means that in the qal has no justification in Hebrew.  Our only qal examples of the verb other than the passage under consideration are universally accepted as meaning “to shave.”
Those observations invalidate the translation “cut off her hand”; Walsh’s proposal is an attempt to cope with that invalidation and offer an alternative that is consistent with what we know of Hebrew.

Here are further points to note:

2. Concerning kaph: Yes, kaph certainly does mean “whole hand” in numerous instances.  It doesn’t refer only to the palm of the hand.  Yad can be distinguished primarily by the nuance of grasping or holding (kaph) versus that of pointing or striking (yad), but there is clearly a great deal of denotational overlap.  Therefore, there could be a talionic quality to the law, despite the shift from yad to kaph:  she puts out her yad, but grasps with her kaph, which is the instrument of crime and therefore the object of punishment.  (Others have argued, in somewhat the same vein, that yad means the hand-including-[part-of-]the-forearm, whereas kaph means the hand from the wrist down.  Thus only the kaph gets punished, since the kaph is the specific part of the yad that touched the assailant’s genitals.)

Even though kaph refers preponderantly to the human hand, not to other objects, the meaning of kaph is not the starting point of Walsh’s argument.  Given that kaph can mean other parts of the body as well, and that the usages in Genesis and in Song of Solomon indicate that it can be used of some bodily area below the waist, one shouldn’t foreclose the possibility of such a meaning here before having examined the rest of the verse.  Eslinger’s arguments for a sexual referent (especially in the explicitly sexual context of grasping the assailant’s genitals) are strong.

3. On the verb qatsats: It is true that, sometimes, a verb can be used in both piel and qal in almost the same senses.  But this is clearly not the normal practice with Hebrew verbs.  The D-stem (the piel) transitivizes an intransitive qal, or (often) intensifies it.  Sometimes it means something entirely different.  Here the intensifying force is seems inescapable.  Why assume that the qal and piel do mean the same thing unless that conclusion is inevitable?  Otherwise, why distinguish two morphological categories?

Hezekiah “shaved off” the gold leaf from the Temple doorposts, using the D-stem of qatsats (2 Kgs 18:16).  That is the reading of RSV, NRSV, NIV (and probably other versions as well); they translate it “stripped.”  It is unconvincing.  If the decoration is gold plate, one “removes” it or “cuts it off” (qatsats, D-stem), one does not “shave” gold plate.  And if the decoration is gold leaf, which could theoretically be “shaved,” wouldn’t it make more sense to follow other versions (e.g., NAB, NJPS) in assuming that Hezekiah had the gilded doors and doorposts themselves removed and sent as tribute?  In Walsh’s view, that is what is pretty clearly meant.  Cogan and Tadmor, in the Anchor Bible, argue for “stripping,” and call the idea that Hezekiah “cut off” the doorposts “novel”; they then cite two passages (2 Kings 16:17 and 24:13) to support their idea.  In Walsh’s reading, both passages they cite undermine their argument and demonstrate that qatsats in the D-stem clearly means to “cut up” or “cut off.”

In the qal, qatsats is very rare.  Aside from Deut 25, it occurs only three times, always in the same phrase, and always in Jeremiah, to describe a particular group of desert raiders (Jer 9:25; 25:23; 49:32).  There is nothing in any of those texts to suggest that this shaving was ritual, that it was considered “mutilation,” or that it deserves the term “hacking off” (which tries to reintroduce the intensification of the D-stem sub rosa).  There is absolutely nothing in any of the three Jeremiah texts to indicate that the term refers to more than a distinctive hair-style (or perhaps beard-style), created precisely by the way the hair was cut or shaved (qatsats in the qal).  (The Hebrew is, literally, “shaved at the edges”; “temples” is a more or less conventional translator’s guess as to what part of the cranium the “edges” are.)  Far from being scorned as a form of mutilation, hair-shaving appears in approved Yahwistic rituals, as Walsh mentions in his article (see Numbers 6 on the Nazirite; Deut 21:12 [what appears to be a mourning ritual]; and especially Numbers 8:5-14, where the purification of a Levite in preparation for undertaking his sacred duties includes shaving all his hair, presumably including pubic hair).

In short, there is no evidence in any of the appearances of qatsats of an overlap between piel (“to cut off, to sever, to amputate”) and qal (“to cut [hair]”) meanings.

4. What of “show her no mercy?”  It is true that the few other instances of this formula (apparently four, all in Deuteronomy) appear in contexts of serious crimes and punishments (usually, though not always, involving death).  But it need not be assumed that the formula is appropriate only when such seriousness is the case.  It seems to be a stereotyped legal formula, and that suggests that its function may be other than that of a literal admonition or an expression of outraged horror.  Scholarly argument has been made that the force of this formula is to disallow the alternative of substituting a fine for the specified punishment.  If that is the case, then it preserves the talionic relationship between offense and punishment (notice that the same formula is associated with the fundamental statement of talion in Deut 19:21) and does not allow the woman to escape her public humiliation by paying a fine (something her husband may have been quite willing to do for her, since she has saved him from a beating).  But this does not require us to deem whatever she did as heinous as murder and other “show no mercy” offenses.

5. What of the Septuagint (LXX) and Aramaic translations?  True, these translators render the verb qatsats as “cut off” (rather than “shave”), but the greater weight should be given to the Hebrew text.

 6. A clear parallel in Middle Assyrian Laws (MAL) with Deuteronomy 25:11-12A common argument in an attempt to show that Deuteronomy 25 refers to a literal amputation is that there is a purported parallel in Middle Assyrian Laws. However, the single most significant difference between the MAL (A ¶¶ 4) and Deut 25:11-12 is that the MAL explicitly cites the crushing of the man’s testicle(s).  The biblical passage does not.  One can’t formulate a law and leave out the specifics of the crime!  True, the verb hzq can sometimes imply damage, but more often it does nothing of the sort.  Therefore this law, as formulated, would apply to any woman who took hold of the assailant’s genitals whether or not she did any damage.  The parallel with the MAL, as attractive as it seems superficially, founders on that difference.  Moreover, there is no sense of proportion (as there is in the MAL).  The verb hzq might mean simply grab, or grab (roughly), or grab (and squeeze), or grab (and crush), each of which—if this is a talionic law—would require a different punishment (as in the MAL); but there is no such recognition ofdegrees of damage and correlative degrees of punishment.  And therefore the mutilation-as-punishment mandated by the MAL can’t be used to argue for a “mutilation” interpretation ofDeut 25:11-12.  Rather this passage refers to a punishment of humiliation.  As Raymond Westbrook, in his History of Ancient Near Eastern Law, writes of punishment in the ancient Near East: “Humiliation was a valid form of punishment.”[2]

At any rate, Walsh’s case for depilation should not be so easily dismissed.  In fact, Bruce Wells, who has coauthored Everyday Life in Biblical Israel with Raymond Westbrook, recently reviewed a summary of Walsh’s case for depilation rather than mutilation.[3]  He concurred with Walsh!

As for the interpretation of Deut 25:11-12, I find the summary that you gave quite convincing. In fact, it fits the talionic pattern better than the traditional interpretation. If a second edition of Everyday Law ever comes out (and I have no idea if this will ever happen), I will make it a point to include this interpretation. The only thing I would add is that, according to my understanding of biblical and ANE law in general, compensation in place of the shaving would still have been an option in situations like this.[4]

7. A Misuse of Raymond Westbrook’s Work? Finally, let me comment on Avalos’s “challenge” to both Matt Flannagan and me.  We argue that the three talionic passages (“an eye for an eye”) in the Pentateuch do not require bodily mutilation but make provision for monetary compensation.  For example, Exodus 21:22-25 makes room for such monetary provision in repayment for physical injury.   Matt Flannagan and I have appealed to various scholars, including the late Assyriologist Raymond Westbrook, for support on this.  Avalos has thrown down the gauntlet to give a simple “yes” or “no” on whether Westbrook viewed one of these talionic passages—namely, Leviticus 24:17-22—literally.

First, here is Avalos’s initial charge against Flannagan: “Why Dr. Flannagan Fails History”.

Westbrook has made himself quite clear in Everyday Law in Biblical Israel: An Introduction[Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2009], pp. 78-79). Therein he discusses how later Rabbinic literature, and specifically Mekhiltah Neziqin 8 to Exodus 21:24, claimed that “An eye for an eye’ [means] money.”

Westbrook comments: “This interpretation seems strained to a modern reader. The introduction to the formula in Leviticus 24:19 is unequivocal: “If anyone maims a fellow, as he had done so shall it be done to him” [emphasis Avalos’s].

Then Matthew Flannagan responded to Avalos’s charge (“A Reply to Hector Avalos’s ‘Why Flannagan Fails History’”) that Flannagan had egregiously misrepresented Westbrook on the above passage.  Flannagan interpreted Westbrook as saying that even though Lev. 24:19(seemingly) presents an unequivocal formula for literal maiming and that the rabbinic interpretation (“eye for eye” means “money”) seems strained to modern readers, this rabbinic understanding is actually on track.

In a June 30 comment by Avalos responding to Flannagan’s “Reply to Hector Avalos,” Avalos says this (my italics):

Note Westbrook’s phraseology: “Scholars have therefore tended to see the rabbinic opinion [that ‘an eye for an eye’ means ‘money’] as a disguised reform.”

The scholars who see the Rabbinic monetary payments as a “reform” are the ones that are incorrect in Westbrook’s opinion, and NOT the ones that hold that Lev. 24:17-22 was meant literally. That should be clear if you had read enough of Westbrook’s works, which clearly you have not done.

Why not just admit you [Matt Flannagan] are wrong instead of making it worse for yourself?

Then atheist John Loftus, confident in Avalos’s judgment, piled on and proceeded to accuse Flannagan and me of “lying for Jesus”—or something close to it in, Only Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan Can Set the Record Straight.

(Ironically, I had posted comments in response to Matt Flannagan’s “Reply to Hector Avalos,” as Matt Flannagan pointed out how Hector Avalos had misrepresented me as well.  Did Avalos admit he was wrong, despite my follow-up comments further exposing Avalos’s misrepresentation?  Not at all. He asserted he stood by these misrepresentations as accurate and then engaged in what struck me as diversionary tactics, calling on me to declare whether Westbrook’s writings on Lev. 24:17-22 consider lex talionis literal or not.)

Well, Avalos has actually made it worse for himself because it is he—not Flannagan—who has misread Westbrook! Just to confirm this, I contacted Westbrook’s co-author Bruce Wells, who co-wrote the above-cited book, Everyday Law in Biblical Israel.  Here was Bruce Wells’ email reply to my query about what he and Westbrook meant in their book (pp. 78-79) about the meaning of the Leviticus 24 passage in connection with the rabbinic “reformed” view of monetary compensation:

I think I can clarify what Westbrook and I were trying to say about the talio passages in the Pentateuch. First, it sounds as if the statement of talio in Leviticus is final and that there is no room for a monetary punishment in place of the physical punishment. It’s not that the Leviticus text explicitly excludes monetary punishment, but it makes no reference to it whatsoever. What we were trying to say is that, even though it sounds “unequivocal,” it’s not. There would have always been the allowing of a monetary punishment to take the place of the physical punishment. Second, we were trying to say that the rabbis’ interpretation was actually on the right track in this case (we say elsewhere, I think, that the rabbis were often not on the right track). The eye-for-eye principle meant that the appropriate amount of money for an eye should be paid and no more. Third, when we say that the penalties don’t seem to fit, we mean something like this. The Exodus text is about striking a pregnant woman and possibly injuring the fetus. The text goes on to say “tooth for tooth,” but teeth wouldn’t be involved in the event, regardless of whether one thinks that injury to the woman is paramount in the text or injury to the fetus…. we believe that compensation (a monetary fine/punishment) was always allowed to take the place of the literal, physical punishment.[5]

Now Matt Flannagan and I can put it to Hector Avalos: “Why not just admit you are wrong instead of making it worse for yourself?”


[1] Jerome T. Walsh, “You Shall Cut Off Her…Palm? A Reexamination of Deuteronomy 25:11-12,” Journal of Semitic Studies 49 (2004): 47-58.
[2] Raymond Westbrook, History of Ancient Near Eastern Law, Vol. 1 (Leiden: Brill, 2004), 75.
[3] Email from Bruce Wells, 7 July 2011.
[4] Wells’ final point is one with which I would concur and would include in my second edition ofIs God a Moral Monster?!
[5] The email from Bruce Wells was from 6 July 2011.
Westbrook and Wells also write this about the talionic passages:

The three references in the Torah to talio all consist of a list of injuries and maimed body parts, with slight variations in detail. Curiously, in none of the contexts in which they occur do they quite seem to fit. In Exodus, the list follows a case involving the miscarriage of a fetus; in Leviticus, that of a blasphemer, in a sequence that begins with the punishment of homicide and compensation for killing a sheep. In Deuteronomy, it supposedly represents the punishment of a false accuser. The overall impression is of an ancient maxim, applied wherever “measure for measure” is to be the standard of justice, whether or not the case involves any of the physical injuries listed. Raymond Westbrook and Bruce Wells, Everyday Life in Biblical Israel (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 79.

Cross Posted at: Parchment and Pen

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57 responses so far ↓

  • Like I said at the end of that other post about Hector and Loftus.

    Ouch!

    Really would kill them to give up the useless Bible polemics and learn some philosophy? Come up with some plausible new philosophical arguments against the existence of God?

    Seriously!

  • That this comes on the heels of Loftus claiming on his blog that he’s peaked what with his work and all it has allowed… well, sort of puts those comments in an ironic light, don’t you think?

  • Although I can see how the text could be translated the way you describe Paul, I don’t see a problem with a strict punishment for a woman grabbing testicles in a fight. I’m quite in favour of it to be honest.

    Given the necessity of offspring to ensure ones future, punishment for threatening the organs of generation would be necessarily severe. Because of the perceived severity, actually implementing the punishment was probably unnecessary.

    On the other hand I don’t see how genital depilation could be considered a equitable punishment, even with the shame of public exposure attached.

  • The Rabbis taught if it is the only way a Woman can save the life of her husband then she is not punished at all.

  • All I see is an awful lot of theoretical interpretations of the ‘law’. How it was actually applied (and if that application was consistent) and how it is recorded as being applied seems to remain unanswered and I still think that the best people to ask are not the Christians but the Jews, so I hope you’ll understand that I’ll wait for some Rabbis to offer THEIR learned opinion before reaching a conclusion.

  • July 2011 Screwballs…

    Paul Copan starts dropping nukes on Avalos….

  • Paul I have already provided you with the Rabbinic position, its that the lex talionis is not literal, so repeating that claim over and over does not achieve much.

  • Hector Avalos is a vapid, supercilious, condescending piss-poor excuse of a debater. If he still somehow has an academic job, then he should be sacked.

  • Thanks for the guest post, Matt. I appreciate it. Keep up the good work!

  • Here’s my prediction of the approximate timeframe in which Avalos will admit that his analysis was simply mistaken, and Loftus will admit that he got carried away in simply agreeing against the enemy without being careful: Never.

    Somehow, Paul and Matt, this will still be portrayed as your fault.

  • This post certainly seems to me to settle the issue in Matt’s and Paul’s favor. Whether Hector will admit this is another issue, but it’s not really relevant in my opinion (as nice as it would be), for the facts are clear as can be to any fair minded reader.

  • a packet of gravel? get yr packet of gravel here for the stoning…..

  • Avalos does offer something of a reply at Parchment and Pen (http://tinyurl.com/3cd42a5). He certainly doesn’t come close to an apology for his shabby treatment of Matt Flannagan, who was dead-on about Westbrook/Wells and was actually reading the “unequivocal” correctly. Check out Avalos’s comments at P&P and evaluate for yourselves.

  • Avalos and his sychophant Loftus have really lost the plot.

  • It appears an unnecessary tension between the possible interpretations and practices. Why should this be interpreted as legislation or modern common law cases? Why shouldn’t payment of money compensation be considered a valid, natural and desirable development, evolution or innovation rather than as a corruption? It appears that the law of Moses is not legislation, nor even a record of binding case law. It is a commentary on a flexible customary law system.

    Suppose, for example, that the original meaning was cutting off the hand. This would be rarely done and when done would lead to needless hardship and discontentment and perhaps conflict and discord. A less strict judge allows a public pubic hair shaving as being an alternative remedy. The alternative is seen as causing less hardship and as more fitting. Later, attitudes towards shame and public exposure become more refined and money transactions wider and deeper, and a less strict or more innovative judge allows settlement in money, and this is acceptible generally and becomes custom, and, over time, customary law. It is not even necessary to suppose that these developments originate from lax or innovative judges. Not only not necessary, not even likely. Where the parties can negotiate out of court settlements, payment of money is the natural form of settlement, and it is the amount and how it is worked out that requires development of methods and valuations that become law when generally accepted.

  • Well, Avalos has actually made it worse for himself because it is he—not Flannagan—who has misread Westbrook! Just to confirm this, I contacted Westbrook’s co-author Bruce Wells, who co-wrote the above-cited book, Everyday Law in Biblical Israel. Here was Bruce Wells’ email replyallowing of a monetary punishment to take the place of the physical punishment. Second, we were trying to say that the rabbis’ interpretation was actually on the right track in this case (we say elsewhere, I think, that the rabbis were often not on the right track). The eye-for-eye principle meant that the appropriate amount of money for an eye should be pai

  • My Son strikes again,

    The previous post(Jul 10, 2011 at 10:33 am ) is his doing.

    I am kinda proud he knows how to copy/paste.

  • Dr. Copan,

    Even the latest response will not help redeem what you stated here:

    
“Our interlocutor might ask: What about Scripture’s emphasis on lex talionis-an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth? Is this not a brutal retribution? First, an investigation of the Pentateuch’s lex talionis texts (Exod. 21:23-5; Lev. 24:17-22; Deut. 19:16-21) reveals that, except for capital punishment (“life for life”), these are not taken literally. None of the examples illustrating “an eye for an eye” calls for bodily mutilation, but rather just (monetary) compensation.”
    http://www.epsociety.org/library/articles.asp?pid=45&ap=4

    I had already explained that your position requires Dr. Westbrook to say that these laws are ALWAYS taken non-literally.

    Even Dr. Wells is not saying that. He is saying that SOMETIMES they may be taken as monetary and SOMETIMES they may be taken literally.

    Or have you changed your position from always non-literally to sometimes non-literally?

    I explained further here why any support from Westbrook that says that SOMETIMES these laws are not taken literally will not really support your more sweeping and absolutist non-literal claim (“NONE”, etc.) about these laws:


    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2011/06/flannagan-versus-westbrook.html#disqus_thread

  • RE: “who was dead-on about Westbrook/Wells and was actually reading the “unequivocal” correctly.”

    Actually, he was not “dead on.” Dr. Flannagan thought that Westbrook was speaking of the view of some “OTHER” scholars.
    http://www.mandm.org.nz/2011/06/a-reply-to-hector-avalos-why-flannagan-fails-at-history.html

    But Wells indicates that this is THEIR OWN view:
    “What WE were trying to say is that, even though it sounds “unequivocal,” it’s not.” [capitalized emphasis mine].

    Again, Wells is not saying that these laws WERE NEVER taken literally, and I have explained that any view that says that they
    were SOMETIMES taken literally cannot be cited as support for someone that says (as Dr. Copan does) that these laws were ALWAYS taken non-literally.

    I explained why “SOMETIMES” non-literally is not sufficient for support here:
    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2011/06/flannagan-versus-westbrook.html

  • @Matt – you’re missing my point. You’re pointed me at a book. Fair enough, but these threads are all testament to how a literary source can be interpreted in different ways. What I keep asking for is for an actual, living, breathing Rabbi to come on this forum and give his reasoned opinion and the justification for that opinion, much in the same way that if I wanted to know about the application of Kiwi law I could read a book or I could ask Madeleine who actually practices that law.

    That’s my point – I’m not trying to trip anyone up or make anyone look foolish.

    I simply want to know from an advocate/judge how the law was/is actually applied.

    I don’t think that is too much to ask.

  • Paul,

    Every Rabbi I read says these verses are not applied literally. It’s like hectoring (pun intended) someone to produce a mainstream biologist who says evolution happened.

  • >I had already explained that your position requires Dr. Westbrook to say that these laws are ALWAYS taken non-literally.

    Rather where they originally intended to be taken non-literally or literally.

    Now since you are the guy who claims the God of the OT is a moral monster. The burden of proof is on you show the literal was the original intent.

    Yeh good luck with that.

    Because Law & Scripture can be misinterpreted and abused. We Catholics have been bitching about this for the past 500 years.

    But I won’t go there.

  • Back in Ye Old Days Canon Law said person accused of heresy had the right to appeal to the Pope.

    Now Joan of Arch was unlawfully denied this right, Can any Law(secular, religious, Divine etc) be abused? Naturally!

    Has Law been abused? Of course! But the issue is what was the Law’s intent.

    The burden is on the Atheist to prove to me this Law was intended to be literal. That others might have abused it or misinterpreted it later on is not relevant.

  • God sed to Abraham ….kill me a son

    Abe sed to God… where do you want this killin’ done…

    God sed……down on….. highway…61

  • The burden is on the Atheist to prove to me this Law was intended to be literal. That others might have abused it or misinterpreted it later on is not relevant.

    Patented Yachov pseudo-logic, which even most catolicos would reject. Indeed one might say the brutal nature of Levitical law, aka Lex Talionis– was….one of JC’s preoccupations was it not. And I wager many a papist would agree (at least the rational sort. Aquinas himself rarely refers to the Old Testament –a few references to later books, mostly Isaiah forward). And as far as …dogma goes, Lyell, and Darwin and radiometric dating did sort of greatly modify the Genesis story, did it not, BY

  • @Matt (again)

    Ok, so what the argument seems to revolve around is that only one interpretation of the text is viable, is that correct ?

    It seems to me that the text is open to both interpretations given the nature of the society using it. Without any case law to substantiate it’s application one way or another then it’s all pretty moot stuff as far as I can see.

    Is there any evidence to support a contention that there was only one interpretation used across the whole of Judaic society ?

    If justice was administered locally and the courts did not try to have a coordinated approach then both interpretations are arguably possible in theory and practice.

  • Moot.

    Yeah that’s the word. A better question for the biblical literalists (and even for the Loftus hacks): what was “judaism” prior to…the Septuagint, circa 250bc??? There was no collection of texts, but merely a few scraps of semitic languages–mostly Aramaic. Potshards do not a grammar or literature make. What is known, comes from the …ptolemaic greek interpretations of those myths. The DSS confirm the LXX for the most part–. Israeli scholars have admitted as much–there is little or historical-evidence, even for basic OT themes (ie, Abraham, Moses, exodus, etc). And for that matter, the parallels to Egyptian myths are obvious .

    As Schopenhauer realized.

  • @ Ben Yachov – “Every Rabbi I read says these verses are not applied literally. It’s like hectoring (pun intended) someone to produce a mainstream biologist who says evolution happened.”

    Some names would be nice, actual case law would be even better.

    “Has Law been abused? Of course! But the issue is what was the Law’s intent.”

    No, it’s how the law is applied that matters.

  • @Paul

    I’m a little busy. Try looking up “Eye for and Eye” on the Wikipedia. Then jump down to Judaism view on the matter.

    That’s a start.

    Cheers.

  • >No, it’s how the law is applied that matters.

    Not for Catholics, Eastern Orthodox or Orthodox Jews.

    It’s what it intended. Not that we are dispensed from our duty to apply the Law as it was intended.

  • Paul, citing the Talmud generally counts as providing rabbinic opinion.

    Your other comments assume that ANE law codes functioned like modern law does in courts, one has statutes, precedent and so on. From what I have read tribal nomadic societies probably took a dispute to an elder who decided in accord with what he thought was just, the torah or instruction was for them to meditate on so as to learn the principles justice required, so they could be wiser when cases came before them. These laws then probably express the idea that punishments should be proportionate to the crime. Of course one way of making punishment proportionate is punishment in kind, another way is to apportion damages proportionate to the offence, “judges” would decide how to do this at there own discretion, there may not have been a huge body of case or statute law to guide them.

    We westerners think of rule by law not people, ancient societies may have had judgement by the wise person.

  • Matt, when will you respond to me?

  • John, everything you have asked Matt in your list has been answered already in the comments. Re-read the discussion. You just have not noticed.

    …Much like you seem to have not noticed that the claims published on your blog that Matt misrepresented Westbook, that Paul Copan claimed x when he did not, remain un-retracted even though they have been, as someone on Theology Web put it, “nuked”.

    Every time your claims have been refuted you seem to change the subject rather than acknowledge your mistake. This ‘answer my 5 questions’ crusade being the latest smoke and mirrors.

  • Diamond,
    Have you actually studied the DSS or even the history of LXX? It would appear not, for your final comment was almost completely non-factual. For instance, each of these statements is blatantly false and anyone who has worked in and with the DSS knows this to be true:
    1. “There was no collection of texts” – Any scholar in the Pentateuch, or the Twelve or any other highly developed canonical work knows this is manifestly false. The books work off each other in intricate literary ways. And yeah, since the completed works are found at Qumran that means that these collections were made prior to then.

    2. “a few scraps of semitic languages–mostly Aramaic” – You might check out the work of Ada Yardeni that has catalogued Hebrew and proto-Hebrew texts. I would suggest her fine book “The Book of Hebrew Script” as a primer. The Hebrew language as we know it developed separately from Aramaic, from Phoenician as early as the 11th century.

    3. “Potshards do not a grammar or literature make” – of course there is much more than potsherds alone, but the bulk and number of these potsherds can rather easily show us the grammar and literary style of proto-Hebrew. Moabite and Edomite too for the most part. Furthermore, you can learn how they developed from each other…it’s fascinating stuff, which I suggest you try reading some time.

    4. “The DSS confirm the LXX for the most part” – No, actually, they don’t. The vast majority of canonical DSS texts are proto-Masoretic, but there are proto-LXX texts found there as well. It’s fascinating to me that the community kept both LXX-Jeremiah and MT-Jeremiah side by side in the same library…and appeared to find both as Scripture. I would suggest a basic intro to OT textual criticism. Begin with Tov, as it’s the best.

    5. “the parallels to Egyptian myths are [blank]” – Potential words for the blank are “sparse,” “non-existent,” “spurious,” but not “obvious.” Once again, there are parallels in Mesopotamian literature, as well as Ugaritic works (Canaanite), and although there are historical links between the biblical narrative and Egypt and you find similarities in descriptions of locales, measurements, etc. there are no “parallels to Egyptians myths” that hold water among the concensus of OT scholars today. Some might suggest a parallel here or there, but they are not among the concensus and usually the parallels are stretched to say the least.

  • Paul,
    I understand your question, but it’s somewhat surprising from you. After all, you clearly prefer non-Christian exegesis of Christian texts, so why not non-Jewish exegesis of Jewish texts? Anyways, I’m assuming most of the Christians on this board would see themselves as believers of the Jewish texts, and some of us are professors and teachers of it, so do we qualify? Could you call me “rabboni?”

    To answer directly, what you and I call Judaism didn’t start in reality until at least after 70-AD. It’s core is in the Hebrew/Israelite/Jewish texts, but it’s so is Christianity’s core. After all, those texts were the early church’s only Bible. We know of at least three large sects of Judaism before Christianity (Pharisees, Saducees, Essenes) and depending on your interpretations of some texts possibly a couple more. We simply do not have enough information to trace the history of any of these groups beyond the 1st or maybe 2nd century B.C.E. and before that it’s almost entirely scholarly speculation. After the destruction of Jerusalem, only the Pharisees and Christians remained with the Pharisees becoming “Judaism” and the Christians…yeah, well…here we are!

    So basically, I don’t think a modern day rabbi, even the most Orthodox, who descends from a Pharisaical line that originates just before Christianity would have any more insight than any of the rest of us with degrees in the field.

  • NO G. Kyle. You’re mistaken. The only text was the LXX. The masoretic is merely an adaptation, with some hearsay via “oral” tradition–and one reason the DSS are kept sort of hidden was because it confirmed the LXX, and those nasty greeks. For that matter, the Israeli archaeology people grant there is little or no evidence to confirm the OT, certainly not the ancient sections (pentateuch). An “Exodus” most likely never happened. There are NO other sources than the LXX, excepting a few scraps of vaguely semitic looking languages, usually Aramaic. Hebrew wasn’t even codified until 4-5 AD (some say later)–it’s not a classical language as was greek, latin, sanskrit. St. Augustine nearly suggested as much and said the LXX was THE text (and not…perfect).

    The BS is real deep. As with many greco-roman monuments and temples in the “holy land”–the jews and muslims cover them with grafitti (hey, I ___ ‘ed yr mama here, etc), call them Methusulah’s Fort or something, but they are usually some temple to Apollo, or something. Those pleasant ionian columns–no judean or bedouin shepherd built that.

  • @ Matt (and others)

    “Your other comments assume that ANE law codes functioned like modern law does in courts, one has statutes, precedent and so on. From what I have read tribal nomadic societies probably took a dispute to an elder who decided in accord with what he thought was just, the torah or instruction was for them to meditate on so as to learn the principles justice required, so they could be wiser when cases came before them. These laws then probably express the idea that punishments should be proportionate to the crime. Of course one way of making punishment proportionate is punishment in kind, another way is to apportion damages proportionate to the offence, “judges” would decide how to do this at there own discretion, there may not have been a huge body of case or statute law to guide them.”

    Thanks, that’s pretty much what I thought, which is why this all just seems like such a storm in a teacup.

    If the Elder concerned was harsh then the literal interpretation is not beyond question whereas if the Elder was less harsh then a non-literal interpretation is not beyond question.

    This fits in with my understanding or the early history of any codified legal system – it isn’t homogenous in application. That comes along some time later, usually after a battle or two.

    Thanks for your time – much appreciated.

  • Madeline, I don’t visit TWeb since they’re a bunch of hacks, Glenn Peoples excluded.

    You mean Matt answered my five sets of questions:

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2011/07/more-hand-waving-from-matthew-flannagan.html

    Please point me where.

    Cheers

  • Diamond,
    I would strongly suggest that you find the time to either read a book on an introduction to Old Testament Textual Criticism. I’ve already suggested one by Emmanuel Tov. He’s an agnostic Jew, and considered the living authority in the field.

    Where to begin?

    1. You say, “The only text was the LXX” – That is only an assertion, and rightly so since it’s indefensible. The fact of the matter is that our oldest manuscripts are demonstrably not from the LXX tradition. The oldest manuscripts of the LXX date to the 4th-5th cent. C.E. The oldest fragments are the nine fragments found in Rahlfs. The fragments date from the late 2nd cent. B.C.E. to the late 1st cent. B.C.E.

    Even using relatively liberal dates, you have the entire Old Testament (with the exception of Esther) extent at Qumran in texts dating before the mid-1st cent. B.C.E. Not just a couple fragments either (as those nine of the LXX), but tens of thousands of fragments and virtually complete manuscripts. The vast majority line up with the MT (by at least a 7:1 ratio). Read any authority on the subject and you will see this to be true; vanderKam, Tov, Fitzmyer, Abegg…it doesn’t matter…pick anyone who is a recognized expert. Furthermore, the mixed texts (some words agree with LXX, some with MT) that favor the MT vastly outnumber those that favor the LXX overall. I’m not trying to be rude, but your assertion simply cannot be maintained in light of the current evidence in the field.

    2. “one reason the DSS are kept sort of hidden” – I’m not sure if you mean that they were kept “sort of” hidden or that they are kept sort of hidden, so I will respond to both.

    At Qumran, the scrolls were kept in a library. The debates today center around whether the library was closed to texts used by the community or something similar to a medieval collection where all sorts of texts were kept for future generations. There is archaeological evidence of scribal practice where the texts were copied in a two-level scriptorium. The texts were thus available to all those in the community who were able to read/write and could copy the texts. The community as a whole seems to have separated itself from the ruling class in Jerusalem whom they believed had become corrupted in its mixture with the Greeks and Romans, but it was in no way “hidden,” nor were the texts.

    Maybe your grammar was correct and you meant they are “hidden” from the public today? Of course this is obviously false. All I have to do is open up Accordance and I have access to a good majority of the manuscripts (literally access to tens of thousands of fragments). I have transliterated texts (into standard Hebrew characters) of both canonical and non-canonical writings as well as actual images of Trever’s findings in 1Q. Using these I can compare the texts to both the LXX and MT traditions and see where they best line up.

    A good example is 1QpHab (Habakkuk Pesher). This is one of the best preserved texts found at Qumran. It dates to the mid-1st cent. B.C.E. and thus matches the dating of the oldest fragments of the LXX, but this is a relatively complete manuscript as opposed to fragments. Out of the hundreds of words preserved in the commentary and its text, it agrees with LXX only a handful of times, and agrees with the MT around 97% of the time. We can even bring in the other Habakkuk texts from around the Dead Sea (Mur88, 8Hev1 and 4QXIIg – in case you don’t know the first two were not found at Qumran, which is why their indexing looks different), which are both fragmentary but still confirm my point. Even 8Hev1, which is a text in Koine Greek, agrees with LXX against the MT only once in its preserved verses.

    Overall, I think I’ve made the point rather clearly that your comments are both out of step with current scholarship and out of step with the data on the ground. I believe anyone who takes (or has taken) the time to study the field will find what I’ve said to be the case.

  • Paul Copan Replies to Hector Avalos…

    Paul Copan replies to Hector Avalos http://www.mandm.org.nz/2011/07/guest-post-paul-copan-replies-to-hector-avalos-deuteronomy-2511-12-an-eye-for-an-eye-and-raymond-westbrook.html Labels: Hays, Hector Avalos, hermeneutics, Paul Copan, Village Atheist…

  • G. Kyle–

    You missed the point again: the pre-Christian LXX is the earliest, and pre-dates the others (MT and Jerome’s texts used for the Vulgate, which Augustine criticized–). The wiki supports that reading as well:

    the oldest manuscripts of the LXX include 2nd century BCE fragments of Leviticus and Deuteronomy (Rahlfs nos. 801, 819, and 957), and 1st century BCE fragments of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and the Minor Prophets (Alfred Rahlfs nos. 802, 803, 805, 848, 942, and 943). Relatively complete manuscripts of the LXX postdate the Hexaplar rescension and include the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus of the 4th century and the Codex Alexandrinus of the 5th century. These are indeed the oldest surviving nearly complete manuscripts of the Old Testament in any language; the oldest extant complete Hebrew texts date some 600 years later, from the first half of the 10th century.[6][17] While there are differences between these three codices, scholarly consensus today holds that one LXX — that is, the original pre-Christian translation — underlies all three.

    The DSS had more evidence of the priority of the LXX (tho’ not always matching the MT, or supposed other hebrew texts (unlikely, since hebrew wasn’t even a language). One reason it’s kept under wraps. Earlier MT texts are….hearsay–with the jews making various guesses to when it was assembled—-the samaritan texts also confuse matters. There may be scraps of semitic-looking languages (usually Aramaic, with some vague tetragrammatons) but it’s not the LXX, the dating of which is quite established (ie, ptolemaic greek era in Egypt).

  • Diamond,
    1. You quoted Wikipedia as a valid source?
    2. You don’t seem to realize that the quote from Wikipedia actually agrees with and supports what I’ve said above. I mentioned specifically the nine fragments from Rahlf’s which amount to a few words from a few verses of the Old Testament that agree in form with the LXX. I showed that there are complete manuscripts, not only fragments from Qumran that predate the Rahlf’s manuscripts. I discussed a particular example in 1QpHab which gives all of the first two chapters of Habakkuk and matches the MT 97% of the time.

    Before I go on any further attempting to show explicitly how the oldest Hebrew texts favor the MT in their readings, I need you to answer an honest question. Are you capable of reading basic Hebrew and Greek to the point that I could discuss passages with you and you would understand? If not, then I suggest you trust those who can, which (once again as I’ve shown above) unanimously agree with me on this one. If you are able, then we ca begin looking at some of the oldest texts from Qumran that pre-date the Rahlf’s fragments I mentioned above and your quote from Wiki mentions.

  • OH! I think I see where you are misunderstanding that quote now. It is saying that the oldest complete OT manuscripts are found in Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, etc. Well, that’s kind of true, but the wording could have been betteer,

    You see, codices (the type of binding that predated books) weren’t commonly used until the 2nd-3rd century C.E. Larry Hurtado has done some wonderful research on the history of codices that I would suggest. Before this time, The individual books of the Bible were kept on papyrus scrolls, leather pieces, etc. The format made it impossible to keep the entire OT on one scroll (the size would be enormous), so the books remained separated until the invention of the codex.

    So the quote you give from Wikipedia only refers to the oldest copies of the books bound together in a codex, thus giving the “complete” OT in one place. In reality, there are complete (or nearly complete) manuscripts of each of the books from Qumran. It is in these manuscripts, which predate the Christian era, where we get our best glimpse into the earliest form of the OT, and as I’ve shown above it agrees with the MT.

    Does that help clarify things?

  • The idea that you, Paul Copan, “restricted” your use of a scholar’s work, troubles me. “Restricted” here seems to mean something along the lines of non-full-disclosure about how directly cherry-picking you may be being of a scholar’s work (particularly when that scholar doesn’t agree with your thesis, but only agrees with a particular reading of one text, and when that agreement comes in the form of merely “allowing for” a certain possibility without addressing how unlikely that scholar believes that reading is). Or perhaps, the kindest thing that might be said is that your “restricted” use of a scholar’s work is quite open to an interpretation which might view your use of a scholar’s work as misrepresentative of that scholar’s work.

    What is one to do, then, when evaluating how Paul Copan uses the work of other scholars to support his other claims. As an outsider, it can seem some apologists, perhaps like Paul Copan, perhaps not, often try to pass off (likely unintentionally) their own apologetic work as being genuinely scholarly. It does seem there are people who want knowledgeable, clear writers to popularize the scholarly work done in these areas, but they do not want (appearingly) agenda-driven apologetics.

    Or perhaps there may be people who want and are comforted by apologetic work, possibly like that of Paul Copan. Unfortunately these authors often seem to participate in the hubristic endeavor of elevating their own narrative imaginings about scripture to the level of scripture itself. If Paul Copan believes there is a segment of the population who wants an apologetic interpretation (buttressed by a “restricted” use of a scholar’s work) and not a scholarly interpretation (demonstrated by a charitable attempt to understand a scholar’s intent based on a non-restricted reading of a scholar’s total work), and if he additionally believes his apologetic imaginings can comfort those people, so be it.

    I imagine many copies of works like Paul Copan’s will sell; there is a certain charm to these works. The parts I’ve read of Paul Copan’s work make it seem like he enjoys stringing a large number of (seemingly unlikely) “posibilities” together so as to teleologically arrive at a predetermined end point. His imagination seems vast. It just seems it might be best for such endeavors not to claim broad scholarly support, which, it may be the case, that Paul Copan appropriately has not.

  • When I said “restricted” above, in reference to an apologists work, I said it was “likely unintentional” that they were passing off their apologetic work as a genuinely scholarly one. A reading of my full comment doesn’t suggest I mean “restricted” as “disingenuous”, but rather, I meant it as an example of confirmation bias in action. Cheers.

    Thom Stark has been charitable with his time and scholarship in regards to the topics your book brings up. As someone who has put a book out into the public, I wonder if Paul Copan might be addressing any of the many remaining points in which his book and his review disagree?

  • G Kyle—

    No. Lets put it this way: the best– ie soundest– arguments are for the LXX as the earliest and authoritative text (and Augustine’s opinions in favor of the LXX–not to say greek Gospels– ought to be kept in mind as well). There are no agreements about the “canonization” dates of the MT–some ortho-jews say…pre LXX, others say 2nd AD, etc. Now, the DSS did offer some support for the MT< but the earliest texts are still 1st century, BC not as early as dates for LXX. It's mostly conjecture anyway, whereas the dates of the assembling of the LXX are mostly agreed upon—approx. 250 century bc. I don't pretend to be an OT scholar, but can read a bit of greek. Thats neither here nor there. Some of the …gnostic opinions of the Old T. should be kept in mind as well (not to say Im "gnostic"..either). The early christians often rejected the Old T. Marcion for one had many supporters. Im pretty sure the Old T (ie, the LXX) was regarded as secondary (ie, the old dispensation–as JC suggests)….for centuries. Aquinas's Summa has few references. It's with the protestants that the old T (and MT) resurfaces

  • Diamond,
    Are you now arguing that the canonization of LXX predates an MT canonization? That could very well be the case, but tells us little about the earliest form of the texts. What the texts originally said is what is most interesting to me, and it seemed like you were originally arguing that the LXX gave the best representation of what it said. I showed that was false above, and now you seem to be changing your point to arguing about the earliest canonization.

    Either way, your most recent comment has plenty to discuss in and of itself apart from your previous comments.

    1. Christians obviously favored the LXX, and there is no need to go to Augustine…just read the NT quotations. That doesn’t show us that it’s tradition is earlier…it just shows us that one of the Jewish sects in the 1st century C.E. preferred it.

    2. I don’t know where you are getting your information, but there is no agreed upon date for the origin of LXX. There are no living LXX scholars who would place the date at 250 B.C.E. It is just as mysterious as the MT canonization origins. Using comparative linguistics, scholars have placed the writing of the LXX Pentateuch to the 3rd or 2nd century B.C.E. since it uses an early form of koine, but the rest of the LXX OT uses koine indistinguishable from the time of the NT. Of all the scholars I’ve read on the subject, most place the completion of LXX to the later part of the 1st century B.C.E.

    3. There was never an “assembling” to write LXX. Scholars unanimously say that the whole story of the 70 is mythical. The text itself reveals developing linguistic features and appears to have been written over a couple centuries.

    Anyways, I’m done with the conversation. I hope what I’ve said above has helped clarify things for you as I have spent a lot of time studying the DSS, and the LXX. I’m of the opinion, and in line with the consensus of scholars, that the DSS overwhelmingly support the MT and that these are the earliest manuscripts of the OT. I cant think of a single colleague in the SBL who would disagree. You and I are in agreement though that the earliest Christians preferred the LXX, but you seem to put more weight in the legends surrounding the origin of the LXX than I do. Thus, you place the creation of the LXX at 250 (which is contemporaneous with the earliest DSS), and I place it’s completion in the mid-1st century.

    Thanks for the conversation.

  • As I said, I’m done, but for clarity sake, maybe you could tell the other readers (and myself) which question you have attempted to answer:

    1. Which tradition (LXX or MT) gives us the most reliable source for the “original” text?
    2. Which tradition gives us the most reliable source for the canon of the texts?
    3. Which tradition was (or should be) authoritative for the church?

  • You sound jewish G. Kyle. That’s part of it. I said the LXX is most likely the authoritative OT text. That doesn’t mean one accepts it as dogma.

    However absurd fundamentalist christianity may be (including the RCC form), orthodox judaism quite outdoes it in absurdity. Logos was not about …locust recipes.

  • Diamond,
    I’m a standard evangelical Christian. You didn’t answer my question. I’m just wanting clarity from you.

    1. You originally made the false claim that there was nothing but scraps and potsherds mostly in Aramaic from before the writing of LXX. I showed that to be false from the evidence and recommded scholars and books to assist those wanting to understand the point.

    2. You said that the DSS “confirm the LXX for the most part,” which is patently false. I showed that through examples from the scrolls themslves and asked if you were competent in the languages so that I could show you some more examples of why your claim was false, and no scholar supports it, despite your claim that Israeli scholars have admitted as much. Which scholars? Yardeni? Ahituv? Garfinkel? Of course they haven’t.

    3. You stated, “The LXX is the only text” and that the MT is only an adaptation. I showed rather clearly that DSS scrolls such as 1QpHab from the exact same time as the writing of the LXX support the MT. In other words, if there was no LXX at the time and extant texts support the MT, then your claim is false.

    4. You said the LXX pre-dates the MT and quoted Wikipedia for a source. I showed why the wording on Wikipedia was incorrect, and how the earliest manuscripts support the MT, with some fragments and a minority of texts at Qumran supporting LXX.

    5. You said the “soundest arguments are for the LXX as the earliest…text.” I think I’m the only one who has given any arguments thus far. We are in agreement as to the usage of LXX by the early Christians, but that doesn’t support it being an earlier form of the text…it just shows that they preferred LXX, or more likely they preferred using a Greek translation in their Greek writing and LXX gave them one that was in use at the time.

    As you can see from this brief recap, your points have been sort of all over the place, but I’m just trying to get clarity from you as to the point you are attempting to make. So here are the questions again…which one are you trying to ask?

    1. Which tradition (LXX or MT) gives us the most reliable source for the “original” text?
    2. Which tradition gives us the most reliable source for the canon of the texts?
    3. Which tradition was (or should be) authoritative for the church?

  • You originally made the false claim that there was nothing but scraps and potsherds mostly in Aramaic from before the writing of LXX.

    You haven’t refuted that: in fact you grant the MT in the DSS are from 1-2 cent. BC–not before the accepted dates of the LXX. What are the other supposed sources?/ There may be a few other fragments–the tunnel thing, and…. scraps and potsherds mostly in Aramaic. Finally I repeat my other point–the OT itself (whether LXX or MT) has glaring inconsistencies and little or no relation to the history/archaeology–the centuries between “Abraham” and “Moises” for example–what is that, 2-3 pages in Genesis?? . Im not saying it’s…without significance, but more like….the Iliad, than a historical document–though Homers the OT scribes weren’t..

  • I gave you resources to begin looking at the data. Furthermore, I discussed 1QpHab which is contemporaneous with the section of the XII in LXX. You either didn’t read or didn’t understand my comments above…there is no concensus date on the writing of LXX. Most say the Pentateuch section of proto-LXX was written in the 3rd-2nd centuries, but there are no manuscripts to say this for sure. Only the few scrap fragments that we mentioned above, but hardly enough to say anything definitively in regards to date. Other than that you have the later legend in Josephus and elsewhere, and that’s it.

    The rest written some time before the middle of the 1st century B.C.E. It’s pure speculation based on the development of Greek grammar, because there are not enough fragments from before the New Testament and early church quotations to adequately date the few fragments of LXX from before the time of Christ.

    The DSS on the other hand have many, many manuscripts, with a few aligning with the proto-LXX (in Hebrew). This allows scholars to say that those sections of the LXX were finalized by the mid-1st century B.C.E. The rest is up in the air.

    The MT on the other hand has near complete manuscripts from Qumran and multiple copies of most books that can be dated to the mid-2nd century. So yeah, as we’ve already discussed (and I think you are finally conceding), most of your arguments above were wrong.

    “You haven’t refuted that: in fact you grant the MT in the DSS are from 1-2 cent. BC–not before the accepted dates of the LXX”

    You’ve gotta be kidding me. What are those “accepted dates,” and who accepts them? Any scholars anyone has ever heard of? I’ve mentioned some in the comments above who side with me, and I could name more. And that’s beside the point of you missing the basic thrust of all the comments above in order to attempt to save your assertions.

    You should have kept anonymous using your other pseudonym, because I’ve read your work here and at other sites in the past and have no more interest in discussing the issue with you since on this topic and many, many others you have been shown the data, presented with arguments and refuse to admit your folly in the face of them.

  • My apologies for not having responded here sooner (my computer “died” and has only just been repaired).

    First, my credentials: I am not a Rabbi in the modern sense, having not received ‘ordination’ (smicha). However, ‘Rabbi’ derives from the Hebrew ‘Rav’ meaning teacher (by doubling the Veit it becomes a Beit and the adding a Yod we get ‘Rabbi’ or ‘My Teacher’) and I have been acknowledged as such by leaders from among the Hassidim.

    I have discussed the ‘lex talionis’ with Matt at length over several years and, bye and large, am in agreement with him. But, rather than simply take my word for that I refer the curious to this analysis from a Modern Orthodox website: http://www.aish.com/tp/i/moha/48961051.html

    I think you will see here that the author, citing only Jewish sources, comes to conclusions that are identical with those arrived at by Matt using Jewish, Christian, Philosophical and legal sources.

    To me, the issue is so clear cut and obvious that I confess that I would never have even considered writing a defence or apologetic on the issue! I am still dumbfounded that anyone can read the plain text and come up with an interpretation that involves judicial maiming… it is too un-God-like, too un-Jewish, too un-just!

  • BTW, to Paul Copan, well argued, well reasoned and we;; done!

  • David thankyou for your response. The information at the link you provided was very interesting.

  • David,
    Thanks for your comment! It’s nice to see that modern orthodox interpretation of lex talionis lines up with modern evangelical interpretation.

  • [...] to see how Copans devel­ops this book. In the mean time, there have been some exchanges between Paul Copan, Hec­tor Avalaos, Matthew Flan­na­gan, and Thom Stark con­cern­ing Copan’s answers, so if [...]