ANSWERS TO TARA CHAPMAN #3... Matt and Keith Hunt
I WANT TO THANK MATT FOR READING AND ANSWERING TARA CHAPMAN'S ARGUMENTS TO DEBUNK THE BIBLE, GOD, AND JESUS CHRIST; I ALSO GIVE SOME COMMENTS.
Part III by Matt
Having shown the importance of proper hermeneutics for understanding Scripture and showing what are, in my opinion, plausible explanations for what may appear to be irreconcilable differences between accounts, I’d like to focus my attention on some of Tara Chapman’s extra-biblical observations. Specifically, I want to spend time criticizing her assertions that the Bible was formed from the stories of foreign cultures predating the biblical records and also that the biblical feast days are derivations of pagan customs. I also want to spend some time arguing her logic surrounding the Tree of Life account in Genesis. It is not wrong to have questions surrounding the authenticity of Scripture. However, it is dangerous to rely on one’s own logic when attempting to prove whether or not historical events actually took place. She also draws conclusions on the nature of God within her limited view, which I will also take time to argue.
Tara takes the time to show religious days from foreign cultures that have thematic, and at times, symbolic parallels to the feast days in Leviticus 23. She also notes that many of the Bible’s stories have similar counterparts in pagan nations, which “all can be found predating when the bible events supposedly took place. The Jews copied things from from [sic] other cultures and wrote out a fancy-sounding history for themselves.” This is a very serious claim. I am not an expert on the religious festivals of the Mesopotamian world, but I doubt that I need to be better acquainted with them to answer her statements. As I hope to show, her conclusion that the feast days were constructed from various pagan feasts that existed prior is a case of deduction through abstraction.
First, we need to ask when God’s festivals were created. Some, such as Adam Clarke, believe that it was from Creation once the visibility of the lights within the second heaven was restored. Read his commentary on Genesis 1:14. If this is correct, then the pagans definitely would have had a lot of time to copy their themes! It is certainly possible that the holy days were given to man in the Garden of Eden, though their meanings were not fully developed. Though it isn’t explicitly stated in Scripture, the Sabbath Day was given from the beginning once God rested on the seventh day. Far from simply being the model on which the Sabbath would only later be created following the exodus from Egypt, Adam and Eve received what was the first phase of the Sabbath. The Israelites received a Sabbath further developed through their personal experience with the saving hand of God.
(Keith Hunt: Adam Clarke Commentary. "Ge. 1:14 "'moadim' or the determination of the times on which the sacred festivals should be held. In thus case the word frequently occurs; and it was right that at the very opening of his revelation God should inform man that there were certain festivals which should be annually celebrated to his glory. Some think we should understand the original word to signify 'months' for which purpose we know the moon essentially serves through all the revolutions of time."
Barnes' Commentary, ".....The 'seasons' are the natural seasons of the year, and the set times for civil and sacred purposes which man has attached to special days and years in the revolution of time."
Obviously man did make up festivals as the centuries went one, but maybe God gave man His festivals also.
Now we cannot be positive that Clarke is correct per se. We sure know the word 'moadim' is used in connection with God's festivals to Israel. So we can only say, it MAY BE POSSIBLE God's festivals in SOME FORM were from the beginning with Adam and Eve. Genesis gives us little detail in the first number of chapters regarding many things, just the bare outline of events. So it cannot be proved either that God's festivals were NOT from the beginning. They may well have been)
Matt: In this same way, it is possible that man had access to all of God’s holy days from the beginning, but their meanings weren’t as developed until Moses was inspired to draw upon their significance in connection with the Israelites’ freedom from slavery. The Bible never says whether or not these days were observed earlier, albeit with different themes (though the central themes would have remained the same). Archaeologists can give dates for the existence of pagan festivals and draw comparisons to the dates of the biblical texts, but they can’t discern whether God’s festivals existed prior to there being a (known) written record of them. Incidentally, this is the answer as to why various stories, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, have existed prior to the evidence archaeologists have of the Bible’s similar stories. Either their records haven’t survived as well as those from pagan cultures, or they existed in oral traditions before being later copied. My guess is that both are true. As we are told that Moses was the first biblical author, there are many years in between Creation and the Book of Genesis. Meanwhile, I doubt many scholars would believe that God’s people lived within some hermetically-sealed vacuum from foreigners who could have duplicated their stories and customs.
Even if God’s festivals only existed from the time Moses recorded them – and this would have to be proven – it’s possible that Satan had access to some if not all of God’s plan of redemption. Unless one has a devotional perspective of biblical scholarship, this stance may seem untenable. However, for those who have an open mind towards the Bible being God’s inspired Word, there’s evidence that this hypothesis may be correct. The Book of Job shows (I’d say proves) that Satan has access to God’s realm and can speak to Him. I can only speculate on what this could have allowed Satan to know, but one of the things he could have known was the nature of God’s festivals which would be, assuming this chronology is true, given many years later to the Israelites following their escape from Egyptian bondage. This would give Satan plenty of time to duplicate these days before the biblical records.
(Keith Hunt: But when Satan duplicates it's very seldom ever exactly the same as God's laws. Example - Sunday observance is very close to 7th day Saturday observance, real close; Easter is often very close to Passover and feast of Unleavened Bread. If Satan does have a pagan feast day on one of God's feast days, it will never have the same meaning, but be some false ideas of some sort)
Other similarities between God’s holy days and pagan religious festivals may be explained by the additions the Jews later tacked on. The Seder, days of awe, lunar Sabbaths, etc. were never prescribed by the Bible. (Though Amos references a lunar Sabbath, it was never commanded to be observed.) Some of these observances were very likely adopted from foreign holy days, but that doesn’t prove that the days onto which they were added were of foreign origin. This no more proves that days such as Sol Invictus are Christian because apostates added their themes to a day that is Roman in origin. The Jews themselves are responsible for a lot of the misunderstanding of Scripture, just as the Christians were later. Many Christians started to observe Easter (which some scholars trace to the first century) and observe Sunday along with the Sabbath on the seventh day. The point I’m making is that it doesn’t take long for foreign influences to distort true religion to the point where some may call it an obvious derivation of pagan customs borrowed from other nations.
Despite the similarities between God’s feasts and pagan holy days, there are some noteworthy differences. There are, in fact, many differences, but I’ll only take the time to mention one of them. Tara states, “The Zukru festival was very much like Passover and Unleavened Bread. Instead of brushing a doorpost with blood to protect the inside inhabitants, the lamb sacrifices were done outside, and blood was brushed on everyone's foreheads. Two kinds of bread were made to eat by the people and the gods, barley bread and mashed bread, and they ate them with wine.”
Should it really be surprising that pagan nations have developed customs very similar to those of God’s feast days? If the nature of Satan is as Scripture states, that he’s a deceiver, then it only makes sense that there we should find perverted duplicates.
An obvious place to start would be to get people to misuse blood. The laws proscribing its ingestion and connections to uncleanness would likely not be transferred to foreign cultures. As blood was placed upon people’s foreheads in the Zukru festival of Emar, this would violate a standard for hygiene in Scripture. We would probably also not find the expiatory use of blood transferred. In many Mesopotamian rites, blood is smeared on doorposts, foundation stones, etc. as a means to satisfy the blood lust of demons. This appears to be the same use of blood found in the Passover ritual, as the blood on the doorposts prevented the death angel from killing the firstborn in the Israelites’ homes. However, this blood represented the innocent blood of Jesus. Death was averted because this blood represented atonement, and not because God lusted after blood.
Whereas the Mesopotamian pagans thought that blood would satisfy the thirst of demons, and thus prevent them from bring causing disaster, the Israelites used blood to avoid death by atoning. In other words, the pagans didn’t necessarily have the concept of moral uprightness in connection with blood. For the Israelites, blood was necessary as the result of wrong living. The shedding of blood and moral reform were not mutually exclusive. The closest parallel to the expiatory use of blood in the Zukru festival was the rubbing of stones with oil and blood after they ate and drank. Exodus 29 and Leviticus 8-9 describes the consecration to the altar, which may be compared to the aforementioned practice. However, the Zukru practice seems to be a means by which to prepare the passage of the god Dagan. This isn’t the same thing as a consecration, much less one that involves the forgiveness of sin.
Additionally, even if this did involve a consecration, the idea of consecration or sacrifice in general has its roots in the Bible. Genesis 4:3-4 mentions the offerings of produce and fat portions of the firstborn of a flock. Also, this flock was a flock of sheep, so the idea of sacrificing a lamb – and a firstborn one at that – originated with the Bible as well. Taramay say that stories exist predated this account, but so what? I’ve previously dealt with the issue of dates and authorship in an above paragraph. Considering that this account in Genesis occurs (relatively) shortly after the expulsion from Eden, it isn’t hard to imagine how other people could duplicate the sacrifices. Unlike many of the pagan nations, however, nations under God were forbidden to sacrifice humans (regardless of what Tara believes).
Of course, we should expect the expiatory use of blood to be duplicated as well, but perverted in such a way as to stand at odds with Scripture. In the Aristocritus Theosophia, Heroclitus says, “They vainly purify themselves of blood-guilt by defiling themselves with blood, as though one who had stepped into mud were to wash with mud: he would seem mad if anyone noticed him doing this. Further, they pray to these statues, as if one were to carry on conversations with houses, not recognizing the true nature of gods or demi-gods.” In the Greek tragedies, a murderer often washes his hands in pig’s blood in order to cleanse himself from guilt. Thus, we see another example of a biblical practice imitated but misused. This is similar to establishing Easter as a Christian holiday and requiring ham to be eaten in its festive meal.
Tara gives other examples of feast days having similarities to the religious days of pagans. However, while she looks at them as evidence for the Bible being a manmade text, I look at it as the opposite. Why are there so many parallels between God’s feast days and foreign religious practices? It’s because Satan understands that God’s ordinances are part of the one true religion. Thus, he wouldn’t bother creating similarities between other religions. Why waste his time perverting other religions if they cannot lead men to eternal life? Under this perspective, the more similarities there are between God’s practices to those in foreign religions, the better. They are evidence of a demon hard at work to imitate a religion that he finds so threatening to himself.
Finally, I’ll conclude this section by examining Tara’s criticism of the Tree of Life account.
First, she says, “If no one had eaten from it, then life would go along, but eventually something would come up where there would be a conflict of some sort. Maybe it would be a disagreement on property ownership or one man lusting after another's wife and causing jealousy, or whatever. This is where people would know good and evil. No tree necessary.”
I think the obvious question to ask here is, “How does she know this?” Even if this assumption is true, the Bible doesn’t say that there could be no sin outside of eating from the Tree of Life. Was not Eve’s decision to disobey God in going towards the tree to eat from it a spiritual sin before the fruit was actually eaten?
Tara continues, “If they were inherently perfect, where nobody would ever possibly enter a conflict of any sort, then they were never really created with free will, as free moral agents. And in that case, why would they have been created in flesh in the first place, if being spirit-bodied is supposedly the state of perfection?”
These statements are half-truths appended to false conclusions. First, the Bible uses words in different ways in different instances. Satan, it must be remembered, was also created perfect. In this sense, the state of perfection meant is that at the time, he was free from sin. It does not refer to his ability to abstain from sin anymore than it applied to Noah when he was described as having been perfect in all his generations.
(Keith Hunt: If the reader is wandering where it is mentioned Satan was "perfect" it is found in Ezekiel 28:12-19. It is a back and forth section of Scripture that ties in the literal king of Tyre with the "covering cherub" the "anointed cherub" who was upon the holy mountain of God. This fabulous cherub was "perfect in thy ways from the day thou were created, TILL iniquity was found in thee" [verse 15]. So perfection can be used to mean sinless, UNTIL iniquity or sin is partaken of. Adam and Eve were sinless until they sinned. Eve was drawn away with her own lust when she dwelt upon that which she had no right to, and so was enticed, and lust conceived it brought forth sin [the principle of James 1:13-15]. This was before she actually took the fruit and ate it. Adam sinned when listened to his wife, dwelt upon her words, was enticed, and also brought into lusting, which also was sinning before he partook of that which was not his to have and partake of)
Second, an agent who isn’t capable of sin may still have free will within those confines. This is in the case of all of those who are within the Godhead. Third, while it is true that having a spirit body is described as a state of perfection, it is not exclusive to those who are perfect. Satan and his demons are spirit-bodied, yet they have sinned. I’m not sure how Tara could have missed this. She also makes a pretty short-sighted observation in saying, “Also, how would it be sin to realize—to 'know'— there are bad consequences for some actions, which is what happens when we learn something is bad, as it's learned normally through our experience or observation of someone else's? It's called learning.”
It obviously isn’t evil to know whether or not certain actions will bring bad consequences, as God had warned Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of Life. However, Taraelaborates some more: “It's only foolish or wrong if, after learning, the behavior is repeatedly practiced. Again, it can't be a transgression to come to the knowledge of good and evil, because if it is: 1. Then the god of the bible (which is no creator of mine, I know now) is the ultimate transgressor, since he knows good and evil.”
The problem here is that Scripture never says that knowing good and evil is sin. First, sometimes the Bible’s use of the word “evil” refers to unfavorable consequences and lacks a moral quality. Second, the context must be viewed in how it applied to Adam and Eve. We can judge what is meant by what happened once the fruit was eaten. Both Adam and Eve realized that they were naked, so they covered themselves with fig leaves.
(Keith Hunt: And again it is how you use the word "knowledge" within a certain context. Adam and Eve had the knowledge that God had given them instructions about some various trees in the garden. They actually had a very child-like knowledge. The best way to think of it is with the Scripture found in Deut.1:39 - little children have a time when God says they have no knowledge between good and evil. They may have been told by their parents you can do this and not do that, and....well that's the way it is. Example: when I was a young child I was told by my Mother, "Keith we are visiting your aunt today; now do not touch anything that is not yours." I was not upset at this instruction, I loved my Mom and so I would do what she told me. Now at my aunt's house if I had really lusted after something; really wanted to touch it, dwelt upon touching it, if I'd let it fester in my mind; I would have already broken the spirit of the law of my Mother, if I had then touched it....I sure would have known, had the knowledge in a different way between good and evil. And I would have got some punishment from my Mother, for sure. Adam and Eve had sinned and come under the second death in so doing.....automatic, just the way it was set up from the very start by God. Just as my Mother had set things up, that if I touch anything at my Aunt's house....well I knew punishment would come from my Mother)
This dilemma was interesting to say the least. As they were a married couple and were the only people in the world at the time, it actually wasn’t a sin for them to have been naked! (In artistic terms, they’d be considered “nude” rather than “naked.) Why was it, then, that this couple, having come to the knowledge of good and evil, made such as mistake in judgment? It is precisely because that they only had the knowledge of good and evil. They had no idea how to properly apply this knowledge, and so they mistakenly believed that they were doing something wrong in not covering themselves. Thus, by eating the Fruit of Knowledge from the Tree of Life, they had come to learn of evil that could exist but not that they had committed. This was opposed to simply trusting God to guide them and not being burdened by worrying about evil that wasn’t present.
(Keith Hunt: they had come to the place where they lost their child-like-innocence as stated in Deut 1:29. They found themselves and knew they were in a ball-game where they had run-a-muck of the rules. Their knowledge of what to do and not what to do as innocent children, had turned into a knowledge that was now first-hand, very un-innocent)
Now onto Tara’s second line of reasoning: “It was inevitable. We know how we come to know good and evil. It's when we learn from experience or from the experiences of others. If someone eats a fruit off a certain plant, and it kills him or her, we know not to eat that fruit! In other cases, if we've seen lots of people eat that fruit with no ill consequences, but then someone comes along, and he dies afterward, we know it was only evil for him and similar others (he was allergic). So we were forced into 'sin,' anyway, since it was inevitable to learn what good and evil is without the tree!”
Is that so?
The dialogue in Genesis is not meant to be taken as a log of everything that God had told Adam of Eve in the Garden of Eden. The only correct statement Tara made above was that we know how we come to know of good and evil. We know from bad experiences whether certain practices are right or wrong. In the case of Adam and Eve, however, God must have told them what they needed to know that wasn’t in their innate knowledge. He must have told them about the Sabbath, about what was clean and unclean, etc. Adam and Eve had the benefit of God personally guiding them, but since the Fall, often we are left to learn things the hard way. While God must have taught them many things for proper living, it doesn’t mean that He taught them that actions such as murder were wrong. This may have been one of the sins that hadn’t crossed their minds until they ate from the Tree of Life.
(Keith Hunt: they had an innocent child knowledge only between good and evil. Yes many things we now know is sin, had probably never crossed their mind; certainly adultery would not have, nobody else around but them. When they dwelt upon the words of the great deceiver, and went into a state of personal selfishness and lust, then let that move them into taking, eating the fruit they were told no to eat, their minds lost the innocence; their minds now could become twisted and influenced by Satan; the knowledge of good and evil took on a meaning so huge now, it was like night and day, from their child like innocence. Yes they would have sinned eventually without a tree and fruit they were not to take and eat; but God can do what he wants in the rules he sets down. And he had to set some laws down from the start. He could have chosen Sabbath breaking, but he chose to use something more physical, the physical act of adultery could not be used; the act of stealing from each other would be a little ... well not really practical, it wasn't like they had money in the bank and they could steal from each other. They had everything that was in their physical world. Spiritually they had God talking to them. So what then was to be off bounds to them; something they both could be effected by; one tree they could not partake from. Kinda pretty logical to me considering the whole situation; there really had to be a world for them that was right or wrong. Bear with me here, as I'm not quite sure what Tara is complaining about or upset with in this early part of Genesis. Go back to the covering cherub; created with wisdom, beauty, perfect in spiritual body, by the throne of God. Yes given free agency of mind. No Sabbath day to break; why would he take God's name in vain; no marriage with angels so no adultery; angels can't kill one another; no other God but God, and can talk and see him, or them, as the Godhead was two beings. But sin could be done, by wanting to be God, to de-throne God and take his throne and be God. And the Bible tells us that is exactly what the covering cherub tried to do and a third of the angels teamed up with him to get the job done, So was it wrong for God to have something for Adam and Eve to sin by, immediately upon their creation? I think not. Why should it be any different for Adam and Eve than for the created covering cherub?)
Next, Tara reasons: “El, the Canaanite bible god, supposedly told Adam and Eve to not eat the fruit from that tree, but why put the damned tree there in the first place, if they're inevitably going to learn what's good and evil on their own, anyway?! And then he tempted them with it by telling them not to do it but leaving the serpent in the garden with them. Whatever that serpent was, whether a snake with legs or the Satan or whatever, it obviously knew things and talked, and it didn't even lie as people claim, because exactly what he said would happen did indeed happen. Their eyes were opened so that the [sic] knew good and evil like El. They also didn't die. As a matter of fact, they supposedly lived nearly a millennium! We don't live that long today. If it was the supposed 'second death' that was referred to, then damn, that's sick. I love my babies waaaaay too much, and they've done a whole lot worse than simply eating something I told them not to (they've done that, too), and it's not in my heart to bring them back from the dead only to kill them again in flames. I'm too loving for that. And too just for that. Feel like I should throw that one in, too.”
(Keith Hunt: Wow Tara really has it in for El. In creating free agency you have to have something you can freely do or not do. Something that your free agency can be told [like my Mother told me when I was small] you are allowed to do many things, but when we visit aunty you do not touch anything that's not yours. Satan the Devil could do all kinds of things, talk with God, be in his throne room, use his wisdom, probably ride a favorite horse God may have had, play with his spirit dog, fly through the universe, dive through a black whole and come out the other side unaffected. But he could not have God's throne; he could not be God. So why the hot under the collar from Tara, because El has a few rules when he creates you? And Adam and Eve ain't going to come up to be cast into the lake of fire. Why? Simple, God cast them out of the garden so they could not partake of the tree of life, set angels at the gates so they could not enter. Their salvation was put off until the second resurrection, when they will come up and let through the gate way to have a chance for the tree of life. And is it so wrong if some few [and I believe it will be relatively few] who reject salvation are brought to the stage door and told take a good look at all your missing for all eternity. Peter was inspired to tell us God is not wanting ANYONE to perish but all to come to repentance. Those who willfully choose death for all eternity, will die in fire, but that will only be a matter of seconds. If your child in this life in a sane mind goes out and kills a dozen people, children included, is it so horrible that the law of the land says you must die because of your willful actions? Well I do not think so)
I’m at a loss to explain how Tara could misinterpret the story this much. I thought that the concepts above would be easy for her to understand as someone once living in the light. The Bible says that in the day that either Adam or Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of Life that they would surely die. The meaning here is that they would die eventually, which I think should be quite apparent. They had immortality until they defied God. The death here thus does not refer to either an immediate death or the second death. Everything else that Tara says involves her elevating herself above God in her judgments. Though some matters of confusion may only be resolved by trusting that God is righteous even when we don’t understand, I’ll attempt to answer some of what she says.
The idea that she is “too loving” to ever kill her children misses the whole concept of function. The Godhead has the responsibility of balancing justice and mercy on a constant basis. A deity that is too merciful to ever enact justice would not be merciful at all. If a murderer never repents of his murders, then keeping that person alive would fail to show mercy to the victims and to the prospective victims. We don’t always understand certain judgments because we are not in the position to evaluate people, nor do we understand situations in their entireties as He can. Why hasn’t He given us these abilities or roles? Could it possibly be for the same reason that He didn’t want Adam and Eve to eat the Fruit of Knowledge? Could it be that He wished to express His love towards us by taking on these responsibilities on our behalf, not wishing that we should be burdened by needing to think of everything that He needs to know?
Furthermore, what is acceptable for human beings is not always what is acceptable to God. To illustrate, a child may reason that his parents are mean because they leave him in the care of someone else to go to work everyday. The child, not understanding what significance his parents’ affairs are may also reason that he loves them too much to ever willingly leave them during the day. This is acceptable to the child because he doesn’t need to leave for work. It is also right that he not do this because he isn’t fit to be employed. Thus, we can see that not only do people stumble due to lack of knowledge, but different circumstances apply to different people (or beings).
It is good that Tara doesn’t want to kill her children for wrongdoing. Since she doesn’t possess the role that God does, it would be wrong for her to do so. Instead of looking at this as God being a brutal deity of death, I look at it as being a part of His mercy. God handles unpleasant responsibilities so that we don’t have to do them. We may not fully understand why He needs to do these things, but as we aren’t qualified to do them ourselves, why should we? To take another example, what if we required blood in order to forgive others of wrongdoings towards us? One may consider God disgusting because He requires blood for forgiveness, but this is only because we don’t share the same function as Him. If we did, we might well have a different perspective on the matter.
Tara concludes her post with, “As a matter of fact, even though I wish they (and myself) were perfect, I would rather live eternally with my kids just the way they are (the good outweighs the bad by far) than to burn them to death. So how's that? I challenge anyone to answer me on this. Perhaps someone out there can show just how evil he or she is and show the true nature of his or her heart by trying to argue this, but I don't know who would want to do so. My eyes are indeed open to knowing good and evil, and there's a lot more evil in the "old testament" books than good. So for my choosing the good, who wants me to burn?”
Well Tara, I’d like to argue your points. Perhaps you’ll think I’m evil for it, but if you do then you’ll be acting in a manner that says more than what you know. First, I’d like to challenge the assumption that God wants to burn anyone. The Bible says just the opposite of that. God also loves your children (and you) just the way they are too, but that doesn’t mean that they should not strive to accept Christ and improve. You don’t understand the nature of God because you aren’t in His position, and it would seem that God would like to keep it that way. If indeed you notice more evil than good in the Old Testament, then it’s this blindness that may save you. Therefore, I can think of nobody who wants you to burn.
(Keith Hunt: I'll also challenge Tara on this point. Nothing wrong with loving your children, but sadly as they say "love can be blind." Suppose when a child of yours gets older, a teen or adult, and they in a sane mind-set plan and blow up a school full of kids, do you think it is love and justice to put them in prison for the rest of their lives, get three meals a day, watch TV, play games of this or that, and not have to face the justice of being executed and dying for all the deaths they brought to others, and the life long sadness to many parents, relatives and friends? Now a lot of people and States in your country still think it's justice to put to death those who willfully and deliberately go out and kill others. Now that is justice for this life. But God loves everyone so much that he allows them in their blindness to do all kinds of horrific things to others in this life, and maybe to get justice on them from the laws of the land; but God is going to resurrect those people, say to them, "Look I'm willing to forgive you those sins IF you will repent of them, and love me as much as I love you. I want, I desire you to be saved, I want to share with you my Kingdom, to live for eternity, to help me rule this universe." I think Tara you have sadly to say, lost your focus on the real love of God. I mean he really LOVES YOU!! YES HE DOES!! AND HE'D REALLY, REALLY, LOVE TO HAVE YOU LOVE HIM BACK)