Tuesday, January 26, 2010

143: Don't Marry Non-Israelites... I Mean, Non-Christians! & Ezra: In Review?

Ezra 8-10
I assembled them at the canal that flows toward Ahava, and we camped there three days. When I checked among the people and the priests, I found no Levites there. - Ezra 8:15

For the first time I can remember, the bible is written in first person. I think this gives the bible more validity to some degree. If only the new testament were written by Jesus. That doesn't rule out the possibility that Ezra is completely making all this stuff up, but at least we can rest assured that this narrative isn't an old wives tale. And indeed, nothing crazy or supernatural happens in this entire section.

Ezra (I'm assuming that's the speaker here) just tells us about the Israeli's journey back to Jerusalem. For the entirety of chapter 9 Ezra rambles on about how the people of Israel shouldn't intermarry with people from other nations. He also talks about how wonderful God is for letting them come back to Jerusalem.

Ezra is so upset with intermarriage that he exiles anyone who has intermarried from Israel. You also seem to have the option to divorce your foreign wife and not be exiled. Great husbands these guys are.

Ezra: In Review
I'm not sure if this is necessary, but I'm doing it anyway.

I can't tell if Ezra was actually interesting or if I was just so excited to be done with Chronicles that it seemed awesome. I'd like to say I don't have any objection to this book, but the bible always seems to throw at least a little bigotry into every book. Ezra was doing so well up until the "don't intermarry". What exactly is wrong with marrying outside your religions if both people are ok with it?

Overall though, Ezra was probably one of the easiest reads so far (again, I could be influenced by the horror that was Chronicles).

Fundie letter to the editors always seem to find their way onto my news feed. This one is about the validity of the bible:
Scripture is not accepted merely on “blind faith.” Despite aspersions by modern naysayers, the Bible has been subjected to frequent testing over the years. Attempts at discrediting it often fail to consider the original context or, as in this case, make the flawed argument that the Bible cannot be true simply because it claims to be.
Oh, so you have shocking new revelations that prove the bible's validity?:
The writer asked how prophets were accepted as true and not merely “hallucinating.” A simple examination of Old Testament text will answer this question: If a prophet made a prediction that did not come true, he was to be put to death.

Problem solved.
And how do we know these prophets weren't stoned? Or if they even made the predictions they did? Oh that's right, because the bible says so! Not to mention that the only prophecies I've read so far have been underwhelming. Most of the "prophets" just told the people what God wanted the Israelites to do. You can't prove those kind of prophecies false. This is far from "problem solved". The writer continues:
Finally, the writer asked how we know that Jesus was crucified rather than stoned.

First of all, stoning was not a Roman practice as the writer claimed. Secondly, the writings of first-century historian Josephus, who was not a Christian, verify that Jesus was crucified.

On these points, I believe there are ample grounds to accept the truthfulness of scripture.
Ok, maybe a guy was crucified? Josephus is widely disputed, but I won't get into that right now. After the 2 or 3 points you made your ready to accept the entirety of the bible? Any good science fiction book has a few real facts in it, does that make the whole book real? I think we're back to the bible's true because the bible says so.

(via IndependentMail.com)


  1. The somewhat plausible explanation I have heard for preventing marriage between people of different faiths is that marrying someone of a different faith puts your own faith at risk, even if you think it won't.

    Of course, that's putting a modern spin on it. Based on what I have read in the Bible, I feel that an equally valid answer is that the Biblical authors generally considered insular communities to be inherently better than those that did not.

  2. Interesting posts you have, though I think Christianity is dead and will be redeemed and brought to fruition and perfection through Thelema. Check out my blog at http://christianityisdead.wordpress.com/ if you will. Love is the law, love under will. ;)

  3. Whatever happened to that Brent douche, did he run out of apologetic responses? He was always good for another extra laugh around here.

  4. @Anonymous,

    You are so kind. Sorry to disappoint you and deprive you of entertainment. I am in the midst of my PhD comprehensive exams. I have 16 hours worth of exams to take. I should finish them next week. Say a pray for me will ya ; ) I told Bryan that I would not be commenting for a little while. But I will give one here since I am taking a break from studying/exam taking today. And, apparently anonymous needs some comic relief.

    In regard to interfaith marriage…Ezra and Nehemiah will have some similar concerns. The exile was a result of Israel violating the very first commandment regarding loyalty to the one true God (Ex 20; 2 Kings 17). Instead of following the word of God and critically engaging with their culture of polytheistic religions and corrupt practices, the Israelites (pre-exile) became immersed in their world. They became “Canaanized” in essence. Some of the problem can be attributed to interfaith marriages. A classic example is Ahab and Jezebel. Another one is Solomon and his wives that lead him astray from the Lord. Even before this, the patriarchs struggled—Judah/Tamar. Thus, the post exilic community leaders, Ezra and Nehemiah, are attempting to address one aspect of issues that contributed to the catastrophe of the exile.

    The exile did produce a change in the nation of Israel. After the exile the Jews eventually became fairly zealous for the “Word of God” (contra pre-exile). Ezra and Nehemiah had brought the teaching of the Pentateuch (Neh 8-9) and their theologically interpreted history (i.e. 1-2 Chronicles) back to the restored community. Subsequent generations that had a zeal for the word of God coupled with misunderstandings of the “law” became very legalistic in regard to the word of God (300-0 bc). The seeds for the pharisaical zeal for the law were planted during this time.

    Also what is even more fascinating is that after the exile, the Israelite people did not struggle with physical idolatry again. During the Greek and Roman empires with their pantheons of gods, Israel tended to remain monotheistic. We find this in the New Testament as well. The problem in the New Testament is not physical idolatry but the Pharisaical understanding of the law. Today, Jewish individuals may be completely irreligious and secular but they do not tend to be polytheistic nor image makers/worshippers of that image.

    I know many of you struggle with “why interfaith” marriage might be a problem. But I have a larger question for you. Why should anybody practice “marriage” at all [whether interfaith, heterosexual, homosexual, polyamorous (more than 2 individuals)]? What is the warrant for marriage of two people particularly in a non-theistic evolutionary worldview?

    "that Brent douche"

  5. Hi Brent, good luck with your exams!
    Can you explain me why the heck do you constantly conflate the fact of biological evolution with stuff that has nothing to do with it?
    Marriage, however you want to define it, is a social construct. It has really little to do with evolution.
    (Our evolutionary sex drive is more or less: impregnate / get pregnant, stay around until the offspring is able to fend it off for himself, wash, rinse and repeat. the number of partners is irrelevant)


  6. The exile was a result of Israel violating the very first commandment regarding loyalty to the one true God (Ex 20; 2 Kings 17).

    Exactly the kind of propaganda you would expect priests to write and preserve. In reality the exile was a political maneuvering by an empire to ensure its control over an area of land that it had conquered. Later opponents of the priesthood would make this point quite clearly - notably in the Book of Job which attempts to refute this point of priestly propaganda.

    Why should anybody practice “marriage” at all

    Because life is easier and less frustrating when you have a partner. Also more fun. Living your life alone can be difficult. When you're living with a partner you can help each other along the rough patches - emotionally, financially, physically and mentally. That's what the modern marriage ideal is - a partnership between two people. It began to replace the more ancient marriage ideal of property ownership a few centuries ago and has rapidly become the norm for marriage in the Western world. Almost no one today if you asked them what a "traditional" marriage was would bring up property ownership, but for thousands of years that is what a traditional marriage was - a claim of ownership by a man over a woman that was recognized by whatever legal authorities ruled the area. And religion got into the marriage business for the same reason that it used to be in the property rights business - because there used to be no distinction between religion and government. The king ruled because God (through his priests, naturally) said he ruled. As above, so below and all that.

  7. Gaga…

    Yes Gaga I will explain. Evolution is often put forth as the explaining philosophy of the cosmos (naturalism) in contrast to a theistic worldview. Thus, as Bryan engages in a critical reading of the Bible’s theistic worldview from his non-theistic, naturalistic perspective, I occasionally interject a critical evaluation of an atheistic, naturalistic worldview from my Christian theistic perspective.

    As an example, I would submit that the naturalistic worldview does not sufficiently explain marriage. Both your’s and Jer’s answers demonstrate this.

    Basically your answer argues, “life is concerned with ensuring its own propagation.” Fine. We can observe “scientifically” that this is the “drive.” But does your statement provide a warrant for why the institution of marriage that is in existence today (1 male/ 1 female in a committed relationship) is the best way to do that? Animals, plants, and bacteria propagate themselves but they do not have marriage. Even more fundamental however is the question that we cannot take for granted, “Why is life propagating itself a GOOD thing?” Why has evolution instilled a drive to propagate DNA? Why is this better than the extinction of DNA? Evolution cannot have an end goal or be tendentious can it?

    Jer’s answer is telling as well. If I am summarizing his view correctly then, marriage is a pragmatic arrangement for those who value ease and fun and companionship through this difficult life. Then I suppose that Jer would have no problem with people who find it easier and more helpful to live together in many different arrangements—threesomes, foursomes, etc (polygamy, polyamourous), or even alone with occasions of togetherness, etc. Jer’s answer has not given sufficient warrant for why this arrangement called “marriage” of two people is BEST to accomplish these goals rather than other arrangements. And again even more fundamental is this question that we should not take for granted, “Why should we value ease, fun, or companionship?” What is the warrant? Perpetuation of offspring? Survival? Why is survival or perpetuation of offspring valuable/good? Again, the scientific, naturalistic worldview cannot answer these questions.

    So while Bryan may struggle with the Bible’s view of “interfaith marriage,” I think there is a more fundamental issue at stake in the naturalistic worldview, “Why should marriage be the standard at all?” Instead of struggling with "interfaith marriage" or "homosexual marriage" what warrant is there to hold on to the concept of marriage at all?

    Thanks for the encouragement on the exams.

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  9. Sorry, stupid comment about all prophets, including Jesus being stoned and I apologize...really!

  10. Brent,
    Evolution is not a worldview. It's a fact of life. Whether one is a muslim, a hindu, a materialist or what have you, evolution happened.
    Yes, it has far reaching consequences, it informs us about how we got here and, in part, about why we are how we are, but it doesn't tell us what we ought to do from here onward. It hasn't principles that we ought to follow. As a matter of fact, we constantly go against the instincts that evolution has built in us (the most glaring example: we use contraceptives).

    Therefore, on matters that are in part or totally beyond our biological build up, evolution has little to say. I, as an atheist / rationalist / naturalist have to look at things like moral philosophy for explanations or suggestions.

    With that in mind, your questions:
    “Why is life propagating itself a GOOD thing?”
    It's not. Or, to put it better, is not good nor bad. It's how things are.
    It's akin to ask:"why are things falling on earth at 9,8 m/s^2 a good thing?"

    "why the institution of marriage that is in existence today (1 male/ 1 female in a committed relationship) is the best way to do that?"
    I don't know that it is. It's a social and cultural construct and, as Jer correctly pointed out, a relatively modern one at that. As a matter of fact, historically, marriage has been a social contract between the father of the groom and the father(s) of the bride(s). In muslim societies, marriage is defined as 1 male / 1-4 females and this has been the norm for centuries.

    You start from the assumption that your view of the marriage is the best possible. I think that it is a flawed premise.
    The only basis I have to pass judgement on the institution of marriage are the consequences on society at large and, as far as I can tell, homosexual or polyamorous marriages have no bad consequences.
    So they are ok for me, regardless of what my personal choices of partnership are.


  11. Nit-pick: in the last paragraph, read "consequences on society at large and on the individuals involved"

  12. Thank you gaga. You said most everything I was thinking.

    "“Why is life propagating itself a GOOD thing?”
    It's not. Or, to put it better, is not good nor bad. It's how things are."

    This is it precisely. There is no good or bad - just neutral. The terms "good" and "bad" only exist within societal and cultural ethical and moral frameworks. Animals do not consider it "good" or "bad" when one eats another. It is simply survival. Animals live together in nests or groups because a particular living situation behooves their survival.

    Similarly, some people find that modern marriage and living together in twosomes makes their lives better.

  13. Brent "that douche" Austin said:

    Even more fundamental however is the question that we cannot take for granted, "Why is life propagating itself a GOOD thing?" Why has evolution instilled a drive to propagate DNA? Why is this better than the extinction of DNA? Evolution cannot have an end goal or be tendentious can it?

    Just wanted to clear up an obvious misunderstanding of what you think evolution actually is. Evolution is not "the desire of nature" or something; at the heart of it, it is very simple. Life that has the traits to survive survives, and life that doesn't have the traits to survive doesn't survive. I would say, and I hope you agree, that one particularly important survival trait is the drive to propagate, yes?

    And this is borne out by what we see around us. We don't see many species of animals that don't have that particular drive in the world. Oh, I suppose there is one famous species I can think of that doesn't really have this drive anymore: the giant panda. We desperately want them to reproduce, but they're just not meeting us half way. In a related story: They're dying out.

    See how it works?

    Good luck with your exams. If they are testing your ability to jump through linguistic hoops in order to prove that something ridiculous actually makes sense, and isn't ridiculous, I'm sure you'll do fine.



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