27 August 2014

The Elijah Challenge - Which god is greater, Allah or the god of the Bible?

Finally a Bible-believing Christian has issued the Elijah challenge to the Bible-god's only major rival -- Allah!

The Reverend Bill Keller has challenged the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to a prayer/animal sacrifice contest, modeled after Isaiah's challenge to the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18.

Here is Mr. Keller's youtube challenge. (You can skip the preaching by going to 7:50, where the challenge begins.)

Mr. al-Baghdadi, ... I have a challenge for you. If you read in the Bible in the book of First Kings, chapter 18, verse 16 through 39, you'll read about the God of the Bible's prophet Elijah, who challenged the prophets of Baal to see whose god would answer by fire. Like the prophets of Baal, you also follow an imaginary, false god you call Allah. I serve the god of the Bible, the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the great "I am", the creator of the universe and all that is in it.

I will come to Iraq, Syria, any location you desire. We will each take an unblemished animal, cut that animal into pieces, put those pieces on wood, but not set fire to the wood. Once prepared, you have one hour's time to call on Allah to rain down fire on your offering. If at the end of that hour, Allah has still not answered your pleas, I will call upon the one true god of the Bible, Jehovah-jireh; not to just bring down fire on my offering, but yours as well.

Mr. al-Baghdadi, if your god Allah does not answer you and my god answers my pleas, you will resign as the leader of ISIS. You will retire from your life of terror. You will encourage your followers to live in peace and I will be free to return to the United States. If your god Allah answers your pleas by fire and my god does not, I will renounce the Christian faith and you're free to kill me or do whatever your like. ...

The world will be watching with great anticipation to see whose god is truly god, the god of Islam or the god of the Bible....

Well that would be fun to watch, now wouldn't it?

Still, I think al-Baghdadi has the advantage here. Christians are a bit out of practice on animal sacrifice, whereas Muslims sacrifice millions each year at Eid al-Adha.

But did you notice that Mr. Keller changed the 1 Kings 18 contest rules? If al-Baghdadi wins, he can kill Mr. Keller; if Mr. Keller wins, al-Baghdadi gets to go free (after renouncing his life of terror). That's not what happened in the Bible. Here's what Elijah told his followers to do after he won the prayer/animal sacrifice contest:

Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there. 1 Kings 18:40

So is Mr. Keller going to chicken out here or what? When Elijah won the contest by fire, he slaughtered the 450 prophets of Baal. He didn't even give them the option of converting, as al-Baghdadi probably would do.

Still, the whole thing would be fun to watch! I'm betting that neither god could spontaneously combust the bloody mess of animal parts. What would happen then?

Maybe they could settle it all by arm wrestling or something.

23 August 2014

EJ&T: Numbers 10 - Two silver trumpets

In the Every Jot and Tittle project, I am listing all of the Bible's commandments from Genesis to Revelation, in accordance with Jesus's words in Matthew 5:18-19. I have no idea how many commandments I'll find, but Jewish tradition claims there are 613. See here for a list of those that I've found so far.

  1. Make two silver trumpets to call people to meetings.
  2. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shalt thou make them: that thou mayest use them for the calling of the assembly. Numbers 10:1-2

  3. Only the descendants of Aaron can blow the trumpets.
  4. The sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow with the trumpets; and they shall be to you for an ordinance for ever throughout your generations. Numbers 10:8

  5. When you go to war, blow the trumpets to remind God to save you from your enemies.
  6. And if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before the LORD your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies. Numbers 10:9

  7. Blow the trumpets on solemn days, at the beginning of every month, and when you make burnt and peace offerings to remind you who God is.
  8. Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the LORD your God. Numbers 10:10

EJ&T: Numbers 9 - Passover rules for travelers and unclean people

In the Every Jot and Tittle project, I am listing all of the Bible's commandments from Genesis to Revelation, in accordance with Jesus's words in Matthew 5:18-19. I have no idea how many commandments I'll find, but Jewish tradition claims there are 613. See here for a list of those that I've found so far.

  1. Celebrate Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month.
  2. And the LORD spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying, Let the children of Israel also keep the passover at his appointed season. In the fourteenth day of this month, at even, ye shall keep it in his appointed season: according to all the rites of it, and according to all the ceremonies thereof, shall ye keep it. Numbers 9:1-3

  3. Rules for those who have recently touched a dead body or are traveling during the Passover
  4. If you are unclean at the time of Passover because you have recently touched a dead body, then you are not allowed to celebrate Passover with the clean people. Unclean people must wait a month to observe Passover. Unclean Passover is observed on the fourteenth day of the second month. Those who are traveling during the Passover are to observe Passover with the unclean people.

    And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the passover unto the LORD. The fourteenth day of the second month at even they shall keep it. Numbers 9:9-11

  5. If are clean and not traveling and refuse to celebrate Passover, you will be "cut off" from your people.
  6. But the man that is clean, and is not in a journey, and forbeareth to keep the passover, even the same soul shall be cut off from among his people: because he brought not the offering of the LORD in his appointed season, that man shall bear his sin. Numbers 9:13

  7. God changes his mind about whether or not strangers can keep the Passover.
  8. In Commandment 21, God said that strangers can't observe the Passover, but here he changes his mind.
    And if a stranger shall sojourn among you, and will keep the passover unto the LORD; according to the ordinance of the passover, and according to the manner thereof, so shall he do: ye shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger, and for him that was born in the land. Numbers 9:14

22 August 2014

EJ&T: Numbers 8: Rules for Levites (Shaving "all their flesh" and mandatory retirement at fifty)

In the Every Jot and Tittle project, I am listing all of the Bible's commandments from Genesis to Revelation, in accordance with Jesus's words in Matthew 5:18-19. I have no idea how many commandments I'll find, but Jewish tradition claims there are 613. See here for a list of those that I've found so far.

  1. How to become a Levite
  2. First you must get clean. Here's how to do that:
    • Get sprinkled with water
    • Shave off every hair on your body
    • Wash your clothes
    And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them. And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying upon them, and let them shave all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean. Numbers 8:5-7
    Next, find a young bull for a meat offering, along with some flour mixed with oil; and another young bull for a sin offering.
    Then let them take a young bullock with his meat offering, even fine flour mingled with oil, and another young bullock shalt thou take for a sin offering. Numbers 8:8
    Then go to the tabernacle and ask everyone to put their hands on you, while they offer you to the Lord.
    And thou shalt bring the Levites before the tabernacle of the congregation: and thou shalt gather the whole assembly of the children of Israel together: And thou shalt bring the Levites before the Lord: and the children of Israel shall put their hands upon the Levites: And Aaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord for an offering of the children of Israel, that they may execute the service of the Lord. Numbers 8:9-11
    Next, you and your fellow Levites put your hands on the heads of the young bulls and kill them; one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering.
    And the Levites shall lay their hands upon the heads of the bullocks: and thou shalt offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, unto the Lord, to make an atonement for the Levites. Numbers 8:12
    This ceremony will show everyone that you and the other Levites belong to the Lord. [After God killed every Egyptian firstborn, he decided to make every firstborn Israelite his own, but he changed his mind about that a while back (See Commandment #330) when he replaced every firstborn Israelite with the Levites. That way God won't have to kill all the Israelites when they come to the sanctuary.]
    And thou shalt set the Levites before Aaron, and before his sons, and offer them for an offering unto the Lord. Thus shalt thou separate the Levites from among the children of Israel: and the Levites shall be mine. And after that shall the Levites go in to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation: and thou shalt cleanse them, and offer them for an offering. For they are wholly given unto me from among the children of Israel; instead of such as open every womb, even instead of the firstborn of all the children of Israel, have I taken them unto me. For all the firstborn of the children of Israel are mine, both man and beast: on the day that I smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for myself. And I have taken the Levites for all the firstborn of the children of Israel. And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the service of the children of Israel in the tabernacle of the congregation, and to make an atonement for the children of Israel: that there be no plague among the children of Israel, when the children of Israel come nigh unto the sanctuary. Numbers 8:13-19

  3. The working age for Levites is 25 to 50.
  4. God set a mandatory retirement system for Levites. They must retire when they are fifty years old.
    And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, This is it that belongeth unto the Levites: from twenty and five years old and upward they shall go in to wait upon the service of the tabernacle of the congregation: And from the age of fifty years they shall cease waiting upon the service thereof, and shall serve no more: But shall minister with their brethren in the tabernacle of the congregation, to keep the charge, and shall do no service. Thus shalt thou do unto the Levites touching their charge. Numbers 8:23-26

20 August 2014

No Wives, Only Slaves: On the Necessity of Retranslating the Bible

a guest post by David Tuchman

OMGWTFBIBLE is a new translation of the entire Hebrew Bible as a comedy. But that doesn’t mean I don’t take my translation very seriously. Beyond all the jokes, in retranslating Genesis, I’ve discovered two trends that reveal the approach to women and property taken in the culture surrounding the text that are not apparent in existing translations.
One of the earliest decisions I made when writing the OMGWTFBIBLE was to maintain an almost megalomaniacal consistency. If a word was translated a particular way, I stuck with that translating, regardless of context or traditional approaches. This led to some striking discoveries in Genesis, particularly regarding the words usually translated as “wife” and “servant.” I discovered that, depending on how the book is translated, nobody gets married in Genesis. And everyone owns slaves. And it’s not a coincidence those two words are so controversial.
Traditionally, Genesis is filled with marriages and wives. Adam makes Eve the first wife, Abraham takes a wife and then a concubine, and, after a veil-assisted switcheroo, Jacob ends up with more wives than he can handle. But none of those men necessarily have wives. In Hebrew, the word for “wife”—אשה [isha]—is identical to the word for “woman.” And at no point in Genesis does anything described explicitly as a wedding take place.Nearly every time a man and woman get together, the phrase used is ויקח אשה  [vayikach isha]—“and he took a woman”—forceful language that at one point, in Genesis 34 (Episode 16), is assumed to connote rape. It seems clear to me that women in Genesis are treated merely as property traded by the men who own them. In fact, the word usually translated as “husband”—באל [ba’al]—can actually mean “owner.”

There’s no dearth of owners in Genesis either. Every single one of the patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—is a slaveowner. Once again, this is a case of selective translation. In most translations, we’ll read of these men’s many servants. But like women, servant is translated from a word that has more than one meaning. עבד [eved] also means “slave.” This word is evoked every Passover, in the traditional reading of the Haggadah, when Jews sing עבדים היינו [avadim hayeenu]—“we were slaves”—during the ritual Passover meal. I translate it only as slave to ensure it’s clear that these men owned slaves. Abraham and Isaac not only owned slaves but received them as payment.
Throughout Genesis, women are repeatedly treated as property as slaveowning is casually mentioned as attributes of the book’s heroes. Theses two strands meet in Genesis 24 (Episode 9), when Abraham sends a slave to search for a woman for his son Isaac. When the slave, who remains unnamed throughout the episode, finds a suitable woman, he spends most of his energy trying to convince Rebecca’s father and brother to give her to Isaac as his woman. Asking her consent in the matter seems merely an afterthought, which speaks to the status of women in this world. Usually, this character is referred to as a “servant,” but as a slave, his story becomes much more interesting. As a man in bondage, what are his feelings about acquiring yet another piece of property for his master’s son? The answers are nowhere in the text but the question is nevertheless compelling.

At the moment, I’m nearly finished with my translation of Exodus, which, like Genesis, is full of surprises. To me, these shifts in understanding emphasize the need to retranslate the Bible. We must criticize at every turn. We can’t merely accept that traditional historical readings are correct. It’s crucial to our engagement with the world that we question everything we are told.

If you are in New York City, you can catch a live recording of OMGWTFBIBLE at 8PM on August 25th at the Beauty Bar on 14th street. More details here

If not, David is in the middle of an IndieGoGo campaign to raise money to take his podcast on the road. If you donate enough, I'm sure he'll come to your city. Check out his video below.