07
Mar
10

Ancient Texts

Every time I log onto Facebook, someone has posted a religious quote from the bible; usually it’s one of those fluffy, meaningless quotes, but here are some examples:

O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago.- Isaiah 25

Have not I commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.- Joshua 1:9

Be content with what you have, for God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.”-Hebrews 13:5,6

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. -Matthew 5:8

These can pretty much be summarized by the vague “be good,” “don’t be afraid,” and “God has done cool shit” without ever really explaining what is “good,” why shouldn’t we be afraid of thermonuclear weapons, and what, exactly this deity has done recently. I wonder why they aren’t fond of including the quotes like this, though:

If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife. -Deuteronomy 22:28-29

Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain. -Numbers 23:24

And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. -Mark 4:11-12

(Mark 4:11-12 is my favorite; it basically states that parables are intentionally cryptic so people can’t understand, and thus will suffer eternally for it)

I’m curious, however, about this interesting idea it brings up; many Christians, when asked if they believe what’s in the bible, will say “yes.” When asked the follow-up question of “all of it?” will similarly respond “yes.” The follow-up to this one is “have you read all of it?” is usually “no.” Why, then, do they ascribe to believing it is absolutely inerrant and factual?

I have a few ideas, and it revolves around the fuzzy nature of “belief” specific to non-methodologically acquired knowledge (non-methodological knowledge or NMK). Whereas methodologically acquired knowledge (methodological knowledge or MK) revolves around analysis of a variety of facts and reaching a belief or conclusion based upon these facts. Knowledge derived in the absence of a methodological framework is what is often termed “common sense,” but I would prefer to term this “culturally acquired knowledge.” Various cultures will acquire different “common sense” notions. This is one of the few parts of cultural relativism to which I agree; i.e. cultural knowledge varies across cultures. I posit here that the Abrahamic religions only exists because the texts are so selectively quote-mined that most “believers” never really read the entire thing.

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4 Responses to “Ancient Texts”


  1. 1 fysierm
    March 7, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    Counting for inflation, any idea what the modern equivalent of “fifty shekels of silver” is?

    Question asked without dubious intent, of course.

  2. 2 jaredcormier
    March 7, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    Well, since the value was a matter of the value of the silver it was made of, here is the conclusion:
    1 shekel = 11 grams
    50 shekels = 550 grams
    550 grams = 19.4 ounces
    19.4 ounces of silver @ market price ($17.7/oz) now would cost $343.38

    Now, if you look at the buying power of the coins, that’s a bit more complex. A denarius (which we know much more about) was worth about 3 days pay of a soldier and could buy bread for a family for a week. So it would be worth about $20, the denarius was 1/2 the size of a shekel, so we’ll multiply it by 2. $40 per shekel (this is a REALLY high estimate since the denarius was worth (to the Romans) double its metal content value. I’ll allow for it, though. So, $40/shekel and 50 shekels, that leads to a high estimate of about $2,000.

    The cost to rape a young girl: anywhere between $350 and $2,000.

  3. 3 Cody
    March 12, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    If you haven’t yet, you should watch “The Chaser’s War on Everything” pertaining to bible-believing Americans. They use some really good excerpts from the bible as well.

    http://richarddawkins.net/articles/4128

  4. 4 jaredcormier
    March 12, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Yea, I saw it on Pharyngula, there are a few others on Youtube. Pretty good stuff.


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