Class Warfare Blog

June 7, 2020

The “Biblical” Source of Our Western Traditions

I have been reading another William G. Dever book “What Did the Biblical Writers Know & When Did They know It?” The title sounds like a Watergate catch phrase but the book was written in 2001, so. . . ?

Near the end of the book the author is commenting on the value of the Bible in our civilization/culture and he stated the following as being derived from the Bible:

  1. The absolute worth of the individual (the right of self-determination)
    2. The rule of law and justice (democracy)
    3. The immutable authority of morality (virtue)
    4. Liberty and justice as the foundations of politics (public morality)
    5. A free, entrepreneurial market
    6. The power of mind to dominate nature and grasp truth of higher order (science)
    7. Government as ordained (the rule of law and order)
    8. The importance of tradition and meaning (religious and cultural values)
    9. History as purposeful (progress)
    10. Universalism as the ultimate goal (triumphalism).

Of these Dever states that we take “for granted the following notions and cultural values, nearly all of them derived from one or another interpretation of the Hebrew Bible. . . .”

Interestingly, I have owned dozens of Bibles and I must not have got the one he is drawing from.

Where to Start, Where to Start?
I guess I should just take these in order.

  1. The absolute worth of the individual (the right of self-determination)
    I guess he wasn’t referring to children, or women, or slaves, or non-Hebrews, or . . . The Hebrew Bible is all about obedience, obedience to Yahweh and his representatives upon Earth. The worth of individual Hebrews is found in the encoded laws and commandments and whatnot. Even trivial infractions of scriptures result in penalties of death, with no particular due process to be followed . . . take the bride not a virgin to the city gate and stone her to death, stone to death a cheeky teenager who speaks disrespectfully to his parents, etc. And as to value, prices are put on people’s lives, in silver or cattle, that tell exactly what value the Bible places on individual human lives, aka not much.
  2. The rule of law and justice (democracy)
    This is ludicrous. Nowhere in the Bible is democracy even mentioned, let alone condoned or recommended. The entire Biblical system is set up to be ruled by authoritarians. The father in the family. The military leaders in the armies. The priests and kings and whatnot in the public sphere. There is no voting, no solicitation of public sentiments, no agora where politics is debated, etc. Taxes are collected by tax farmers, aka thugs. The rule of law was determined by who was ruling at the time. Authority determined which rules were enforced and which were disregarded. (Is not the Bible full of excoriations of Hebrews who failed to exercise the law and their responsibilities . . . over and over and over.)
  3.  The immutable authority of morality (virtue)
    The immutable authority of Yahweh is what one finds but morality varies, depending upon Yahweh and who happens to be his representative on earth at the moment. When David disobeys Yahweh (confusingly as David and anyone reading the book cannot find out where he was disobedient), Yahweh punishes him by killing tens of thousands of his followers. What ever happened to “Thou shalt not murder?” I guess the absolute worth of the individual is as a marker for Yahweh’s ire. There is no abstract morality that all swear to follow. Yahweh issues commandments, not suggestions, not “if you love me, you will’s” . . . commandments and the implication is obey or else. How is that even a moral system?
  4. Liberty and justice as the foundations of politics (public morality)
    WTF? Politics? What politics? There is no polity, no elected officials, no elections. There is no place in which “citizens” have a say in anything. In fact there are no “citizens.” There are Hebrews, who are related through religion. Liberty? Justice? Possibly these concepts existed but, if your ass was needed in the army, you were in the army. Liberty? Self-determination? As long as you obeyed, well, I guess they existed somewhere else.
  5. A free, entrepreneurial market
    This is stated as if the Bible created these things. The idea of a market was created by the people, not by the Bible. The rules of the market were determined by the people participating, not by the Bible. As usual, religion comes along and co-opts these things but I think the Bible played a role in Biblical era markets about as much as it plays a role in the N.Y. Stock Exchange, which means not at all. According to the Bible you are free to act in a market, free to be a slave, free to starve, free to die of disease. free, free, free. And while you are dying, you can be an entrepreneur, too.

* * *

I am too emotionally drained to continue. I will do the other five tomorrow or the next day.

4 Comments »

  1. Tell me … why did Donald J. Trump come to mind as I was reading your comments about each of the points? One might even go so far to think he might have read the bible after all because he seems to follow its storyline so accurately.

    Like

    Comment by Nan — June 7, 2020 @ 1:31 pm | Reply

    • Exactly. Donald Trump is the Endarkenment to oppose the Enlightenment.

      On Sun, Jun 7, 2020 at 1:31 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

      >

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — June 7, 2020 @ 1:34 pm | Reply

  2. Maybe he forgot the concept of “reaching”. That must be in the Bible… oh yeah, it’s faith

    Like

    Comment by jim- — June 7, 2020 @ 2:02 pm | Reply


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