Class Warfare Blog

June 8, 2020

The “Biblical” Source of Our Western Traditions, Part 2 of 2

I ran out of gas on this response to a claim I read. Here is the second half of my response (after the repeat of the lead in). Steve

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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. . . .” (Emphasis added.

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

Finishing, Finishing

  1. The power of mind to dominate nature and grasp truth of higher order (science)
    So, human beings would never have figured this out had it not been for the Bible? really? What did humans do for the 200,000 years before the Bible was written? Apparently not dominating nature and not grasping truths of higher order. So, the evidence that over ten thousand years ago, American native peoples didn’t use fire as a means of controlling the forage available to their prey animals. And they didn’t stampede prey animals into cul-de-sacs to slaughter them. Nor did any of those people have any religious thoughts at all, despite the burial process we have uncovered, and ritual spaces that were built? I am gob-smacked at this claim. Even after the Bible was written New World peoples used extensive irrigation systems to grow crops, built massive public works, cleared square miles of jungle to plant crops, established mail systems, etc, And they did it all without the guidance of the Bible . . . it’s a miracle!
  2. Government as ordained (the rule of law and order)
    Let’s see . . . to ordain means “order or decree (something) officially” so you cannot even have anything ordained until you have something like a government (theocratic or not) to do the deed. I presume this is a reference to a secular government being ordained by a religious government, as when the Israelites begged Yahweh to give them a king. Basically this seems to be the ability of religions to form governments. This doesn’t sound like the “rule of law and order,” this sounds like a thing guise of oppression. In other words, “we get to do to you want we want because God has ordained us to be able to do that.” This is the source of the divine rights of kings and, gee, I just don’t know how we would have gotten to our western civ without those wastrel, vicious kings.
  3. The importance of tradition and meaning (religious and cultural values)
    What? People didn’t transmit their culture, by indoctrinating their children until the Bible told them to or okayed the process? All of those rites of passage of prehistoric people were, what, unauthorized at best? People didn’t think traditions were important before the Bible? People didn’t imply meaning all over the place before the Bible? You know, hijacking is now a crime.
  4. History as purposeful (progress)
    Wow, I just don’t know how we get on in our day-to-day lives without knowing that our history was purposeful. In the US alone, all of those “settlers” (a disgusting euphemism for “conquerors”) were motivated by bring the word of god to the heathens. Greed for land and natural resources had nothing to do with it. History is not written by the victors then, it is simply the way that Biblical purposes play out. We are all just pawns to history writ large. What a crock of baloney. History is purposeful . . . what a concept! I guess those who claimed that “Progress was their most important product” were right in that they were just making it up . . . as a product . . . which we now call propaganda.
  5. Universalism as the ultimate goal (triumphalism). So, Genghis Khan’s desire to conquer the world was Biblical? Alexander the Great . . . him, too? So, our ultimate goal as participants in “Western Civilization” is to bring every other country into the fold? Is that true? The Bible’s stated goal of having the Jews rule the entire world is quite apparent. (This is what Yahweh promises.) The Catholic Church also that that particular goal, as does Islam. Gosh, don’t you think we would all be better off if that goal didn’t exist at all? This is hardly a good thing, you know.

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I happen to like this author’s works (I have only read two) but this list is beyond the pale. These are the defining characteristics of Western Civilization . . . and they all come from the Bible? If that is the case, why is it that the longer a country is part of the Big WC, the less religious it becomes? That doesn’t seem to be a Biblically sourced idea, now does it?

 

 

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.

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

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