12. From the Garden of Eden to Canaan via Harry Potter

According to both fundamentalist and critical scholars, God was such an idiot that first he called Abraham from Ur of Chaldea to Canaan because he wanted to replace the evil Canaanites with the descendants of Abraham who could only be saints, then brought a great famine over the world just to force Joseph’s brothers to bow down to his feet so that all the descendants of Abraham ended up slaves in Egypt, and God did all that in order to prove his mighty power by bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. Of course, the Israelites could have ended up being the upper class in Egypt just as they are in most countries today, but then what opportunity would God have had to use his mighty power? Since God has nothing to do with so much power, why not enslave your favorites to create some opportunities to use your power just to have some fun and not die of boredom? Since according to this view it would be so boring for God not to do anything with that mighty power, he decided that the Egyptians should turn the Israelites into slaves as an appreciation for the fact that Joseph saved them from starvation by depriving them of everything they had and turned them into slaves in order to use his mighty power to prove that he can bring the Israelites out of Egypt:

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them (Exod 1:8‑14).

Who says that this biblical God does not know how to bless his favorites? Now God is back to square one and has to come up with another Abraham to take his descendants from another Garden of Eden back to Canaan.  Read more…

11. The Fights of the Lord and the Fights of the Ladies

Since Lot chose the wrong lot and Abraham chose the right one, God promised not only that Abraham’s descendants would enjoy that good lot that he chose, but the whole world would be blessed with the same lot so that today we should not see any more of Lot’s choice in the world but only Abrahams and the people like him, right? After so many thousands of years, is it not about time for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham? The obvious question that an ancient reader would have asked at this point is: How come that Lot’s descendants are seen everywhere and Abrahams are nowhere to be found and those who claim to be descendants of Abraham are perfect clones of Lot and have no resemblance to Abraham at all? Yes, Lot’s descendants may have changed their clubs into nuclear bombs and the greatest killers claim Abraham as their ancestor and his faith as their belief, but except the magnitude of the killing, nothing has changed. That Abraham failed in his dream to establish a different kind of world so that the world is just as full of evil as it has been since Cain killed his brother was a fact that no intelligent reader would fail to recognize and the author of Genesis, who was writing for intelligent readers, wanted to explain why the world has always been the way it is no matter when and where you happen to live in it. That Abraham failed to create descendants in his own image is what any intelligent reader would have wanted the author of Genesis to explain and in what follows everything must revolve around the answer to this question. True, Abraham may have been an unique individual in dealing with Lot, by befriending the Amorites and by his mediation for Sodom, but does it mean that he was such an ideal individual in everything he did and particularly in making sure that he not only would have many descendants, but his descendants would be copycats of him? Do the following stories try to prove how Abraham was consistently an outstanding individual who lived in stark contrast with his contemporaries – and particularly his modern civilized descendants – or did he fail in his whole enterprise and how that failure is explained? This is what an ancient reader would have expected the author of Genesis to explain in what follows and this is what we ourselves should look for when reading these stories. As any reader would expect, the ending of Lot’s story is followed by the continuation of Abraham’s story: …read more

10. The Lot of Abraham and the Lot of Lot

Probably no reasonable person would question not only that the world is full of evil, but that the greatest perpetrators of evil are precisely the most civilized, and especially the Christians, whose central belief is to save the world from evil and dream of living in an evil-free world. The pervasiveness of evil is even more disturbing as the advances in technology not only has not diminished the suffering, but is actually the very source of the greatest human tragedies. What is even more disturbing is that the ones who cause the greatest sufferings are the very ones who claim to be the wisest and the greatest champions of fighting evil. For evil to be able to function on such a large scale, any person with a modicum of common sense would conclude that evil must be mightily organized on a universal scale by some Great Architect of Evil who is able to control the world by fooling people into believing that by their participation in such a demonic scheme they would elevate themselves above ordinary people simply by claiming to have received some light that no one else can see. Although to suppose that such a conspiracy of evil has always been able to exist in history and particularly today when the world seems to be so full of knowledge may be hard to imagine by those who like to think that human societies are just free and people are allowed to do what they just believe is right, the reality of the pervasiveness of evil – that no one can deny can only be explained if evil is organized as the story about the Tower of Babel describes and was explained in the previous article. If one cannot avoid the conclusion that evil must be organized as that story describes, then the obvious question that a reader of Genesis would expect to find explained next after reading the story about the Tower of Babel is: What is God’s answer to the problem? Read more…

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9. The Tower of Evil

Probably no ancient reader would have questioned that it would be irrational for God to use the scenario of a universal flood and destroy all vegetation and animals just to eliminate the bad people, but some would have argued that such a scenario, no matter how irrational, at least would have solved the problem of evil and established an evil-free society forever. Although the writer has included in the story plenty of reality blockers to make clear that such a scenario is impossible to imagine in the real world, has to take the challenge seriously and show that even if God miraculously did find one single individual who was blameless and used his power to obliterate everything and everyone else through a cataclysm, that would not guarantee an evil-free world because evil can be introduced again in the world even by people who had lived for 600 years and had never done anything wrong. After the flood was over, the repopulation of the world is prefaced with the following introduction: “Noah, a man of the soil [hfmfdA)fh $yi)ax, ha’îš hā’ădāmâ], was the first to plant a vineyard” (Gen 9:20). An ancient reader would have seen this description of Noah as a glaring reference to Adam, who was not only made of soil/ădāmâ ‑ and that was the reason he was called Adam ‑ but was the one who started to cultivate the fields for the first time to obtain his own food after having been expelled from the Garden of Eden when God told him: “You shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Gen 3:18‑19). What is new about Noah as the new Adam is not that he started to cultivate grapes as food taking into account that grapes are rich in both nutrients and fluid that are in the juice ‑ both ingredients vital for the human body ‑ but that he used the grapes not as food, but to produce alcohol. What is unique about alcohol is not only that it has no nutritional value, but is perceived by the body as a toxin and therefore the body tries to eliminate it as quickly as possible and that is the reason people who drink alcohol feel the need to urinate abundantly because the body tries to eliminate as much fluids from the body in order to flush the toxin. The most important impact of using alcohol is not, however, on the human body, but on the human mind because it deprives humans of the very rationality that they attained by eating from the tree of knowledge, and this is suggested though a behavior of Noah that no one familiar with Genesis would have missed: “He drank some of the wine and became drunk, and he lay uncovered in his tent” (Gen 9:21). We have here a blatant reversal: While Eve and Adam had lived naked without feeling any shame, after eating from the tree of knowledge they decided that it was wrong for them to have their private parts exposed and developed shame; now Noah, used another fruit, but instead of eating it, he turned it into something that he could drink, and the new product, instead of opening his mind as the fruit of knowledge had done for Eve, it closed the mind completely so that Noah was no longer aware of what he was doing. The tent was the place where the whole family lived and where no member of the family was expected to be naked not only during the day, but even at night, therefore what happened next should come as no surprise: “And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside” (Gen 9:22). We do not know why Ham came into the tent but since Noah had not put a sign at the entrance that he was naked inside, whether Ham came into the tent to take a nap or for some other reason, was shocked to see his father naked and no doubt told his older and younger brothers about the condition of their father to warn them not to go into the tent and see what he had seen. And at this point both fundamentalists and scholars start to roll their eyes that what the text says is that Ham was evil because he not only did not refuse to look at his father naked, but actually enjoyed seeing him, and enjoyed it so much that he even went to tell his brothers how much he liked to see his father in that condition instead of doing what his brothers did, that is, they took a garment and going backwards to avoid seeing Noah naked, covered him, and that proves that Shem and Japheth were good while Ham was evil. As we have seen too often, both fundamentalists and critical scholars show complete lack of common sense when reading the Bible: Shem and Japheth were able to go into the tent backwards and use a garment to cover their father in order to avoid seeing him naked after they had been warned – and one may wonder how did they know where in the tent their father was without looking at him unless Ham had told them ‑ but how could Ham have done the same since he had no idea what was in the tent when he entered? And that he enjoyed seeing his father naked and that he told his brothers laughing is just pure fantasy because there is no hint in the text about that. Critical scholars, however, go beyond fundamentalists who imagine that Ham just enjoyed seeing his father naked, and they claim that Ham actually took advantage of his father and had homosexual sex with him. What both fundamentalists and scholars forget when they read the Bible is that regardless whether the people enjoy pornography or engage in illicit sexual behaviors, they never brag about what they do privately. If Ham did tell his brothers what he had seen, the only reason could have been to warn them not to enter the tent unaware of what they might see as he had done, and the fact that the other brothers decided to cover their father as they did proves that that is the way they understood the reason Ham had told them about what he had discovered. That there was anything evil or criminal in what Ham did only minds completely deprived of any common sense can imagine. Therefore, while there is nothing irrational or evil about what Ham did, what is irrational is what happened next: “When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers.’ He also said, ‘Blessed by the LORD my God be Shem; and let Canaan be his slave. May God make space for Japheth, and let him live in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his slave’” (Gen 9:24‑27). If Noah learned what Ham “had done to him,” it could only have been because Shem and Japheth told him, and although we do not know why they told Noah about the incident, there is no reason to suppose evil intentions on their part either but rather that they wanted to alert their father about his irrational behavior as a result of drinking alcohol so that he should not do it again in the future. Although apparently Noah was no longer drunk when he was told about what had happened and one would have expected him to regain his rationality by taking responsibility for his behavior, to blame himself, and decide not to do it again in the future, he decides to blame Ham’s son, Canaan, and curse him, although there is no evidence that Ham had even told his son about the incident, or that Canaan was even aware of what had happened. Can anyone imagine anything more outrageous? …Read more

8. Demythologizing Mythology

Demythologizing Mythology – Fragment

Contrary to popular and scholarly belief that genealogies in Genesis are just lists of names and of begats, their purpose is to prove that God’s whole enterprise with the creation of humans was a Lamech, that is, a failure. Just as God examined each part of the natural world after it was created in the first chapter and concluded that it was “very good,” he also examined humanity after it multiplied upon the earth and the conclusion could not have been more disappointing: “The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart” (Gen 6:5‑6). If God wanted to create humans in his own image, they not only had no resemblance to God, but also were downright evil. And when you mess up something, after some grieving and some heart-aching, what do you do? Wipe the slate clean and start all over again, right? That seems to be a no-brainer and there is no wonder that that is exactly what God decided: “So the LORD said, ‘I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created ‑ people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them’” (Gen 6:7). And how was God going to wipe out the whole life? Again, for ancient people this was a no-brainer because just as modern people know that if you want to wipe out the whole population you should use nuclear bombs, ancient people knew from the vast literature of antiquity that the way to do it was through a flood: “For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die” (Gen 6:17). When you have all the power, you can afford yourself to go wrong because you can fix anything really easy and start all over.

When it comes to the story about the flood, I imagine that the smart eyes of scholars start to roll again this time not because the author of Genesis tells some original stupidities but because he plagiarizes an ancient story no doubt, because he ran out of imagination and could not come up with something new. What makes scholars so dismissive about this story is not just the fact that it plagiarizes a popular ancient story but that that story was a patent myth which proves that the Bible not only does not offer any original ideas but is just second hand mythology that does not even rise to the level of genuine mythology.

Although scholars are sure that the Genesis flood is plagiarized mythology, when it comes to explaining what mythology itself is they are no longer so sure. They all agree that myths are stories concocted by ancient people by which they tried to provide explanations about the world as they understood it, stories that are strange and no longer make any sense because they were the product of simple minds that were completely unable to understand the world that they tried to explain. Although scholars agree that ancient people had different minds than theirs and mythology was their confused way of thinking, when it comes to explaining what mythological thinking itself is they themselves seem quite confused:

In spite of the great attention devoted to mythology in the ‎past two hundred years, nearly every student of this phenomenon ‎laments the difficulty of formulating a truly adequate definition of ‎myth. For example, Mircea Eliade, perhaps the 20th century’s leading ‎historian of religion, begins a volume devoted to myth with the ‎admission that “it would be hard to find a definition of myth that ‎would be acceptable to all scholars and at the same time intelligible to ‎nonspecialists.” Closer still to desperation is J. Rogerson’s ‎statement that “finding an adequate and all-purpose definition of ‎myth” remains ‎ an “impossible task”.

One of the earliest definitions of myth was offered by the Grimm brothers who defined myths as (….)

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7. Reasoned Reality of Good Without Evil and Reasoned Reality of Power

Reasoned Reality of Good Without Evil and Reasoned Reality of Power – Fragment

If I had to use a single word to describe the fundamental difference between how ancient readers understood a creation story and how modern Western readers read it is the verb “to be.” In other words, modern readers ‑ regardless whether they read Genesis, Greek mythology, Babylonian mythology, modern theories about big bang, and so on ‑ they would always say that such accounts describe how the world was, that is, how the world was sometime in a distant past called beginning. If modern readers were asked why they are interested in such stories, they would say that they want to know how the world was when it first emerged. By contrast, if ancient readers were asked why they read the same stories, they would say that creation accounts helped them understand how the world is and why the world is the way it is. If they were asked how they understood the world to have been in the beginning, most likely they would not understand what we mean by a beginning because they would find it hard to imagine why the way the world is today must be different from some beginning, no matter when that beginning was, and why is so important to know when that beginning was and how it was as long as it has no relationship to how that world is today. Therefore, they would say that Genesis and similar stories helped them understand how the world is today, that is, at the time when they lived no matter when they lived.

Because of this difference, ancient and modern readers disagree widely about when a creation story ends. Since modern readers understand creation as being a beginning, they conclude that a creation story ends when they isolate some details in the story that they call beginning, while ancient readers understood that a creation story ended when the story satisfactorily explained the world as they experienced it at the time when they lived. Because of this difference, modern readers have a tunnel vision and they can see in creation stories only a point that they call beginning and nothing else. Moreover, not only nothing else that follows matters, but the more disconnected is that beginning from everything else that followed, the more genuine that beginning is and the more accurately it has been isolated. By contrast, because ancient readers were interested in the end of the process and not the beginning, they would conclude that a creation story ends when they noticed that the world as described in the story matched the world as they knew today, and they concluded that the creation story ended when they could verify that whatever they knew about the world had been adequately explained by the story.

This contrast between ancient and modern readers in reading creation stories because of differences in their mindset can be seen regardless whether those stories are religious or so called scientific. Because in the minds of modern Western readers there is a chasm between the beginning of the world and the way the world is today, they not only read ancient stories that way, but the bigger the chasm between the beginning and the world, the more scientific it is. Probably no theory illustrates this better than the so-called big bang. As the name implies, the universe started with a big explosion and everything happened very fast. Although the universe came into being within a few short minutes, the actual beginning took place (….)

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6. The Irrationality of Sin

The Irrationality of Sin – Fragment

Traditional interpretations of Genesis fantasize that as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge humans and God became bitter enemies with God looking for every opportunity to strike humans dead and punish them for their disobedience. For these absurdities there is not even the slightest evidence in the text. Genesis does not explain how Adam and Eve survived after being driven out of the Garden of Eden and when no such information is provided, it is because the writer expected an intelligent reader to use common sense to infer the details. When animals are driven out of their environment that is their only source of food, their only option is to starve to death, but that is not what is expected of beings endowed with the ability to develop knowledge. Yes, in a garden with abundance of water trees may grow by themselves because God has created them with the ability to grow naturally wherever there are favorable conditions, but humans who have acquired knowledge similar to God’s, they can create the conditions where they are lacking so that they can have a garden of eden anywhere they want. Since we are not told that Adam and Eve died with God triumphantly officiating their funeral, it follows that Adam and Eve managed to plant their own trees and grow their own food. Not only they managed to grow their own food, but they discovered that they could grow much more than they could possibly consume. That is the fundamental difference between beings with the ability to know like humans and the other animals; while the other animals depend on an abundance that exists naturally without de ability to influence it, humans can create as much abundance as they want and almost anywhere. With hard work, it did not take long before abundance of fruit was lying everywhere and Adam and Eve must have felt the putrid smell of Eden getting stronger every day all around them. It is no wonder that they reached out, this time towards each other, for new knowledge: “Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have produced a man with the help of the LORD’” (Gen 4:1; emphasis mine). In this passage we find for the first time the word “to know” referring to sexual intercourse. Since sex is instinctual so that even the simplest animals can perform it without any training, what does sex have to do with knowledge? Since Adam recognized Eve as his wife and that she had even been taken from his body when he gave her the name Eve, what did he learn about her as a result of having intercourse with her?

In order to see how strange and unique this association of sex and knowledge is in the Bible, it is helpful to compare root meanings of vulgar words for sex in different modern languages. Unfortunately, because such words have been forbidden to be written down in modern times, they are poorly documented and their etymology is uncertain. For instance, in the Romanian language the curse word for sex comes from the Greek word “to plant,” which may mean that originally it was borrowed as a foreign language euphemism to replace whatever native word was used and was considered vulgar. Eventually the euphemism became the vulgar term and other euphemisms are used now. The root idea is that of planting or seeding a field and clearly is a male term. Apparently the case is similar in other Latin languages such as French and Italian. As far as English is concerned, the word “fac” apparently comes from the Latin “facere” which means “to make” and may indicate that the sexual act is viewed as that of “making” another human being. In German and other Nordic languages apparently the basic word is “ficken” and the idea seems to be that “to strike” but that may be a secondary meaning taking into account that in all languages to have sexual intercourse has also a secondary meaning of violence and as it was pointed out in a previous article, the word for sex is used in curse words to refer to violence and not to sex. I am not aware of any studies but I doubt that in any language the vulgar word for sexual intercourse is related to the words “to know” or “knowledge” as is the case in the Bible. Moreover, the word “to know” meaning “sexual intercourse” is used in the Bible strictly to human intercourse and never to animals. For instance, when referring to the conception of animals, a word with the basic meaning of “heat” or “become warm” is used (Gen 30:38 39). Another word used for rams breeding with the sheep is from the word hflf( which means “to go up” referring to rams that mount the sheep when breeding. For cattle, another word used is the piel form of the verb rabf( with the basic meaning “to pass over” implying that in a sexual intercourse a bull is passing over semen to the cow (Job 21:10). This association of sexual intercourse and knowledge is stranger as ancient people must have noticed that sexual intercourse was done involving body parts that have no relationship to intellectual activity. One possible connection is that, unlike animals, when humans engage in sexual intercourse they know that the result is pregnancy for women and the birth of children and therefore the sexual act is a deliberate choice and decision to give birth to other human beings. Although this may be true and is definitely one aspect of it, the truth may be deeper (…)

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5. Reasoned Reality in the Garden of Eden

Reasoned Reality in the Garden of Eden – Fragment

Before humans had been created we were given an interesting detail: “No plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground” (Gen 2:5). In other words, before humans appeared on the scene, there was only natural vegetation but no cultivation of fields whatsoever, and because cultivated plants grow only in fields on condition that they receive adequate rain, since there were no fields, God had no reason to send any rain either. Just as there is a reason for what humans are doing, so also there is a reason for what nature is doing. After humans were created, however, one would have expected God to send them in the fields and start pouring rain on the ground, but that is not what God did:

And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil … . The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden;  but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Gen 2:8‑9, 15‑17).

Consequently, God created humans so that they would till the ground but placed them in the most luxuriant piece of jungle where everything grew by itself. Why would anyone want to go through the trouble of tilling when you get everything for free? And if anyone wanted to do some tilling just for physical exercise, how could anyone till even a square inch among trees where roots were everywhere? Whenever humans practiced agriculture, they had to clear the ground of trees first. If Adam wanted to do some tilling, he needed an ax to fell down some trees and then he needed a plow or at least a hoe to soften the soil, but during those six days of creation when God came to the conclusion that everything he had made was “very good,” although he knew that humans needed to work the fields, somehow forgot to create any ax, any plow, any hoe, any sickle, or any tool that humans might need. Not only humans did not have any tools, but even if someone had offered them some, they would have had no idea what to do with them because using tools to till and cultivate the land required knowledge, something that the first humans not only did not have, but would not have been able to develop even if they wanted to because God hanged the knowledge on a tree and told them not to touch that tree. So, no knowledge, no tools; no tools, no tilling; no tilling, no sweat and sore muscles; and why would anyone want to do any work when everything grew by itself so that all humans needed to do was to lie down under trees with their mouths wide open so that when fruit got really ripe, would just fall by itself right into their mouth so they would not even need to climb into trees to pick it. The reason God planted trees to provide food for Adam and Eve was because trees are the only plants that need no care in order to grow, to yield their fruit, and even deliver their fruit to the ground so they even self-harvest. No wonder that the Garden of Eden has remained humanity’s ideal for la dolce vita (….)

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4. Created Reality and Reality That Creates Reality

Created Reality and Reality That Creates Reality – Fragment

To turn to the Bible—and particularly to Genesis—to expose and expand our narrow-minded and supposedly scientific view of reality can only be met with ridicule by scholars. After all, we modern people take great pride in our scientific thinking as the only true and accurate understanding of reality to which ancient people could not possibly rise because of their mythical or fanciful minds. Mike Ball relates that at one time the famous scholar Robert Alter—who pioneered literary approaches to the Bible—once quipped that those who wrote the Bible assumed that scholars who would read those texts were idiots. What he meant was that scholars have found in the Bible such absurdities that those who wrote it must have assumed that the readers were simply idiots and completely unable to spot even the grossest contradictions and inconsistencies. Consequently, only idiots can accept what those ancient writers said, and although ancient readers may have been such idiots, modern scholars cannot be expected to be so gullible.  That biblical writers assumed that their readers—including moderns scholars—would be idiots we do not know, but what Alter’s statement makes clear is what modern scholars think about those who wrote the Bible, that is, that they must have been idiots in order to write such stupidities that simply defy common sense. How else can be qualified but idiots those who wrote Genesis without noticing that telling how the world was created by one deity in the first chapter, completely forgot about it and in the next chapter tells a completely different story about the same creation but done by a different deity? And what else can be called but idiots those who read those stories for thousands of years without noticing the absurdity until modern scholars came up with what is called critical thinking?

Although I do not claim that modern scholars are idiots, I do not assume that those who wrote the Bible were idiots either. Modern scholars may be arrogant, but definitely not idiots. I do not believe that people can be aware of all their presuppositions but there is a presupposition that I am fully aware of and I already made it clear: I have a hard time to accept when a claim is made that for thousands of years people without exceptions have been idiots and not able to notice something that is a matter of common sense today until someone quite recently was smart enough to notice the stupidity. I already made clear this presupposition when I rejected the fundamental claim made by feminists that for thousands of years, no woman was smart enough to realize that men seized the power and used it for their own purposes including to abuse and marginalize women. That there have been a lot of stupid people who read the Bible—both in ancient as well as in modern times—I would fully agree but that humanity has been made of 100% idiots until Julius Wellhausen came along I find unthinkable.

That ancient writers had different assumptions about those who read their texts than modern people is quite understandable, but I am afraid that their assumptions were exactly opposite from our own. When we write something, we assume that anyone is able to read and if is able to read, then would understand it without any difficulty because meaning is conveyed by the words instantly without any effort on the part of the reader so that the reader is just a passive recipient because all the effort in making the meaning clear had been made by the writer. It should be obvious that for ancient writers such assumptions would have been hard to imagine. That everyone should be able to read probably ancient writers would have found unthinkable. Moreover, they did not think that reading is just a form of entertainment like listening to music as reading is for most modern people. Not only writing was not intended for everyone and reading was not expected from everyone, but because literacy was the privilege of the most educated minds, ancient writers assumed that only the most intelligent people would read it. Unlike modern writing which assumes no effort on the part of the reader for the understanding, ancient writers assumed that even the most intelligent people would make an effort to understand a text. A fundamental difference between ancient and modern texts is that in ancient texts (….)

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3. Objective Reality and Reasoned Reality

Objective Reality and Reasoned Reality – Fragment

Just as Abraham’s lost donkey provided important clues about how biblical authors thought and wrote, so also the missing “s” from Alice Bach’s “sexual/gender system” may provide important insights about how we, modern people, think and understand reality, or rather misunderstand it. If there is one thing that sets us, modern people, way above the biblical writers is the fact that we have acquired a sound understanding of reality which has enabled us to develop scientific thinking while ancient people had no idea what reality was, and therefore lived with fanciful ideas about reality that we label mythical thinking. We like to think that due to our clear understanding of reality, we know very well what we are talking about while ancient people didn’t. So when we talk about the “sexual/gender system,” what are we really talking about? What really is the “sexual/gender system”? Well, we know what sex is and even children learn quite early in life:  those private parts for humans and quite public for animals that are occasionally joined either because this behavior provides some gratification or results in the procreation of descendants similar to the parents that sustains the continuation of the species. Those private parts belong to the objective reality because they can be accurately observed and their activity can be documented using what is called the scientific method of observation. But what does gender refer too? Well, again, gender refers back to sex and somehow is another word for sex: The individuals which have the sex organ in a certain shape and use it in a certain way are called of the masculine gender and other individuals which have the sex organ of a different shape and is used in a different way are called of the feminine gender. But what about words such as pronouns that also have gender but do not have sex organs? Well, they don’t, but if they refer to something that has the male sex organ, then they are masculine, but if they refer to something that has the female sex organ, then they are feminine, and if they refer to something that has neither, then they are neuter because their sex organs cannot be found and decided. So eventually sex and gender are one system and if you know one, then you know the other.

At closer examination, however, the gender of words and the sex of animals do not quite match. A bull, for instance, has a male sex organ but the word “bull” is not of the masculine gender so that it is not replaced by the masculine pronoun “he” but rather by the neuter pronoun “it.” Similarly, a cow has the female sex organ but the word “cow” is not of the feminine gender therefore it does not take the feminine pronoun “she” but rather the neuter pronoun “it” just like its opposite sex, the bull. When it comes to goats, however, things are getting even more confused. Here we do not have a separate word for the goat which displays a male sex organ and another word for a goat which displays a female sex organ, so that we use the same word for both, regardless of their sex organs, and if we do want to indicate that we are talking about a goat which has a male sex organ, then we would need to create a compound word “he-goat” just as we use the compound word “she-goat” to refer to a goat with the opposite sex organ. What is even more strange, even when we use the pronoun “he” to indicate de male goat, when the word “he-goat” is replaced by the personal pronoun, it is not replaced by the masculine pronoun “he” but rather buy the same neuter pronoun “it.” In other words, even a “he-goat” is not a “he” but an “it.” And the same is true about the compound word “she-goat.” (….)

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2. Reality Blockers and Sexual Language

Article Abstract

Building on the concepts introduced in the preceding article like “reasoned reality and “reality blockers,” the article shows that sexual language ‑ with or without “reality blockers ‑ can be used to describe actions or situations that have nothing to do with sex, and readers understand the meaning because there is an implied “reality blocker.” Using narratives from the Bible, the author shows that “reality blockers” are literary devices used by ancient writers to describe “reasoned reality,” in other words, the text presents different ideas rather than what the apparent words seem to suggest. The use of these devices is shown to be quite common, not only in the Bible, but also in the ordinary language today as well. The narrative used to illustrate this is the story about the destruction of Sodom, where, despite of the homosexual language used, “reality blockers” are used in the story that show the story is not about sex, but about violence toward foreigners and murder. Then, the article shows that ancient writers understood that there were two kinds of reality: the reality of the things which “were out there,” and the reality of what we humans “think and feel” about the things out there. While the former is already known as “objective reality,” for the latter the author coins the term “reasoned reality.” Ancient writers not only understood both realities, but they also knew how to indicate what kind of reality they were talking about in their writings.  In order to show that sexual language is used even today without “blockers” to refer to violence and not to sex, the author mentions the final match of the 2006 Soccer World Cup between France and Italy, when the French captain was eliminated after hitting an Italian player with a head-butt in the chest. This violent behavior was a reaction to the Italian player’s use of sexual language as a way to insult the French player. Further, the article shows that modern scholars usually misinterpret ancient texts when they confuse sexual language with the reality of sexual behavior. When postmodern scholars, claims the author, are not able to identify literary devices such as “reality blockers” when interpreting ancient texts, they seem to use quite frequently an interpretive procedure that the article labels “reality emphasizer,” that is, to bring out the sexual reality behind the biblical texts even when no such reality is assumed by the text. As an illustration, the author uses the passage from the book of Numbers in the Bible about a ritual used by a husband who is taken over by jealousy for suspecting that his wife had been unfaithful to him. A well-known article by the feminist scholar Alice Bach illustrates how scholars see everything in a text as being about sexual behavior and sexual abuses because they lack concepts such as “reasoned reality” and “reality blockers.” Therefore, in order for ancient texts to be properly understood, modern readers need to rediscover the concepts that ancient writers used when producing their texts.

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1. Reality, Language, and Reality Blockers

Article Abstract

According to traditional understanding, there is a direct relationship between language and reality understood as objective reality so that language must describe objective reality and all words must be traced back to objective reality in order to be properly understood. Using the value of real estate as an example, the article shows that there are entities in the world that are as real as anything that belongs to the objective reality but are not objective in the sense that they are independent of the decisions of human subjects. Since there is no concept to describe such reality, the author introduces the concept of reasoned reality in order to point out that while such entities are as real as anything that belongs to objective reality, their existence is decided and shaped by human subjects based on some reasons that they choose. Once the concept of reality is expanded, texts can no longer be viewed as describing only objective reality but  reasoned reality as well so that readers, in order to properly understand a text, have to pay attention to the details in the text not only to decide whether objective or reasoned reality are intended, but also to understand how reasoned reality is construed by the text. Since ancient writers understood that language can describe both realities, in order to help readers not confuse objective reality with reasoned reality when reasoned reality is intended, they developed a literary device that the article labels reality blocker and defines as details in the story that make it impossible for the reader to imagine that what is described can happen in objective reality, and in order to illustrate the concept, the article uses two stories, the sacrifice of Isaac from Genesis, and the riding of a donkey by Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on his final week before he was crucified. In analyzing the Genesis story, the article points out details in the story that clearly depart from how things regularly happened at the time so that the reality described by the text departs from the objective or historical reality and is called reality within the text. Another interesting detail in the Genesis story regularly overlooked by both lay reads as well as scholars is that at the end of the story Abraham retrieves his slaves on his way back home but leaves the donkey behind, another departure of the reality within the story from how things regularly happened in the objective reality. The detail about the abandoned donkey in the Abraham story becomes significant as the story about Jesus’ final entrance in Jerusalem ‑ known as The Passions Narrative ‑ begins with the detail of Jesus finding a donkey that he rode as he came to the place where he would be crucified. That the donkey is not mentioned in order to describe how Jesus objectively travelled at that time is suggested by the fact that all gospel writers include a detail that would have made it impossible for Jesus to physically ride donkeys, such as that the donkey was young and untrained for riding or that it was even accompanied by its mother and Jesus actually rode both donkeys at the same time. Such details in the story are called reality blockers because they are intended to alert the reader that what is described in the story is not  an objective event – such as riding a donkey for traveling – but rather a reference to another story that describes a similar event, that is, the intended sacrifice by Abraham that was eventually aborted but was carried out to its fulfillment by Jesus when he was crucified.

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