Skeptic Tank Text Archive File

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

Pages 12-16: autumn SARAH'S POWER TO CONCEIVE: A RESPONSE (II) Bill Lockwood Once again I thank Farrell Till for the space to rebut his arguments, and once more I encourage Till to open his columns to defend the only system that he offers once he has removed the Bible from the hands of men--agnosticism. TILL'S DEFEAT The entire burden of proof in this exchange is upon Till's shoulders. He must demonstrate the Bible to be in error at Hebrews 11:11. I predicted it would be a load too heavy for his puny arms, and now we learn that I was not only right but that he has thrown up his hands and complained that he WON'T DO IT. Well, I am not the least bit surprised. See what he gives us. He says I need to learn that scholars don't take dogmatic positions-- which is his way of begging out. When he sees the lexicographers against him, he chirps, "We must wonder about the motives of the lexicographers." Yes, that's all you agnostics will ever do, run around "wondering" about everything and trying to induce others to start "wondering"--and then you leave them, without offering ONE TANGIBLE PROOF of anything. When I poke at Till that he did not prove his case at Hebrews 11:11, he says that "dogmatic positions are only typical of fundamentalist mentalities." When he spies all his arrows turned Tillward on the Egyptian hymn, he challenges: "Lockwood, I want you to prove the exodus even occurred." So you see, readers, it is good to emphasize at the first of a debate with an agnostic the roles each is to play, for they always want to "switcheroo" the horses with you. Yes, the "negative horse" is the only one agnostics like to ride, for when it comes to AFFIRMING a position, they have not the wherewithal to stay in the saddle. But I'm going to keep setting Till back in his OWN saddle, no matter how often he must dust off his "breeches." Notice a couple of examples. On the Egyptian hymn, Till said in his first article that this "antedates" the book of Genesis and precludes "scientific foreknowledge" of Genesis 3:15. I showed that this does not antedate Gene- sis, but here friend Farrell came challenging me to PROVE that Hebrews in- stilled monotheism into Egyptian culture and that the exodus even occurred. Of course, I was not trying to prove all of this but was only rebutting his foolish assumption that this hymn antedates Genesis and showing that I had a better case of vice-versa influence on this one. Now he flees to an Egyptologist and leaves his argument in my hand as far as this hymn is concerned. Second, I told the readers how it "could have been" on Sarah's faith, offering that she could have changed her mind for all Till knows about it. But he skedaddles back with this emphatic point: "The mere existence of a how-it-could-have-been is no proof that it actually happened that way." No, professor, I never pretended that my suggestion was proof of how it actually occurred. That's your job. You are to be prov- ing here, and I simply showed everyone that you have not the ability at this point if the possibility I offered actually exists. But more. Whether Till realizes it or not, he gave up his entire case right here. Don't miss it. Till's task is to prove the Bible in error, so I have said from the beginning for all of us to remember that the mere existence of a possibility of how a passage could read is not proof that it actually IS the case. But, true to agnostic style, this is all Till has as ammunition--possibilities. But, lo and behold, he now confesses that possibilities don't prove! Well, if this doesn't beat all! A promise of a big debate exchange with Mr. Agnostic, and he gives up without a whimper. I suppose, however, I will stay with it just for the fun of it. Third, Till characterized my piece as "primarily an ad hominem attack" 1 upon him because I used Farrell's follies as an example to answer ONE small item on Sarah. My guess is that since this was Till's only argument on Sa- rah's faith, as far as I could tell, he is just upset about how easily it was answered. But then he turned right around in the next paragraph and spoke about Lockwood's problem! If we are to learn from Till, we must suppose that he cannot meet the argument but wraps himself up in an "ad hominem" attack on me! I declare, I enjoy debating Farrell. What's more, I pointed out that van der Horst did not prove his case either, which must be done to carry the point of this mini-debate, and then Till railed against "fundamentalists" by saying we just cannot comprehend that scholarship does not take dogmatic positions. Well, my collegiate professor friend, call it anything you like, paint it any color you wish, berate some more on how far I am from scholarship, but the fat is in the fire: for if you don't have a can't-possibly-be-anything-else case, you don't have a case against the Bible. But, of course, he just doesn't know whether he needs a shut and tight case against the Bible or not, since an agnostic disclaims certain knowledge. He just cannot know what is a valid argument. Poor Till, why doesn't he just be good and give up this foolishness of agnosticism? Friends, never in my wildest dreams did I ever picture Till giving up this way without a good semblance of a fight, but, alas, he has done so, and everyone can see it. Till tried to raise from the dead, as far as an argument is concerned, a statement from van der Horst that said Leviticus 12:2 cannot mean anything else than "to make seed"; thus charging the account with a falsehood since it referred to the woman, not the man. Do not miss this point, readers. Till has now changed the focus of his attack. He, for the sake of argument, will grant me Hebrews 11:11 but said the "embarrassing situation" for me is "to prove that Hebrew scholarship is in error" when they (anciently) thought this passage proved that women emitted semen during intercourse. Well, I am indeed embarrassed, to be sure, but only for a man who wrote an entire piece to prove Hebrews 11:11 is in error but then said on his second round, "If I were to grant my opponent Hebrews 11:11, he still cannot handle Leviti- cus 12:2." Do not forget this change of focus, TSR subscribers. But what is the real problem here? You see, Till reads an article from an infidelic paper, not doing any of the research himself (while accusing me of not knowing any Hebrew, to boot!), and the authors that van der Horst quoted to favor his position on Leviticus 12:2 became the big chiefs and the rest of us just little Indians. First, I showed already that van der Horst has said his case is NOT PROVABLE, but the professor then fished out a line that said, "It cannot mean anything else than 'make seed.'" Naturally, Till overlooked the sur- rounding sentences and evidently hoped none of you would read van der Horst for yourself. Van der Horst concluded his analysis of Leviticus 12:2 this way: "We cannot avoid at least the possibility that the author of Leviti- cus 12:2 means what he seems to have written, that is, that a woman can produce semen" (emphasis added). This is a tentative conclusion, and the professor knows it. Even prior to the "cannot mean" statement, he said, "Leviticus 12:2 seems to indicate that a woman can produce semen..." (emphasis added). A POSSIBLE ALTERNATIVE, nothing more, is the CONCLUSION. Now, there is a good reason for this reservation, as the reader will discover in just a moment, but it is too late for Till. Little did van der Horst know that an English professor in the north country would jump up and say, "HE PROVED IT! HE PROVED IT!" But van der Horst did not prove it, and he tried to warn our little agnostic friend, but he will not listen. Second, Holladay's Concise Lexicon of Hebrew and Aramaic gives "to conceive seed" at Leviticus 12:2 (p. 92). (See also the ASV and Strong's Concordance.) This is where Till comes in simply to question the motives of the lexicographers, because he found where some rabbis thought it meant that a woman "emitted semen." 2 The Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon defines the word zara (Lev. 12:2) in its hipil form (p. 281-82) as "bear a child." Keil and De- litzsch: "bring forth a child." Thus, it reads, "If a woman 'brings forth' and bears a man-child, then she shall be unclean seven days." The idea here includes the birth, not just the conception! This is perhaps why van der Horst remained more reserved than Till. He saw the other side of the coin that Till refuses to see. But, once more, we are not finished with the professor yet. In The Pentateuch and Haftorahs (ed. chief rabbi Dr. Joseph Barry Hertz, Soncino Press, London, Heb. date 5713, 1952, p. 460), the rendering is, "If a woman be delivered and bear a man-child...." BE DELIVERED! Just as a plant bears seed, so does the woman. And, inciden- tally, this is exactly what the verse van der Horst referred to means (Gen. 1:11-12), bearing seed for further plant life. This means that Moses at Levit- icus 12:2 included for a female the entire process of the conception and bir- thing, not just the initial conception. Now, Farrell, do you know more than the rabbis??? Of course, readers, being an agnostic, Farrell cannot even know about this. Are you not ashamed of yourself at this point, Mr. Till? And to think, he tried to pit me against the scholars as to who knows best. Can I not read the books? Can I not comprehend the conclusions stated by translators? Yes, Farrell has, at least in this debate, reduced himself to proving the Bible errant because some leading rabbis of the time believed thus-and-so about women. "How art thou fallen from heaven, O day-star... how art thou cut down to the ground, that didst lay low the nations!" HEBREWS 11:11 This was to be Till's main argument, but he used only 1.5 columns out of more than 7 on it. We need not wonder why. Till tried his favorite ploy, reversing tables on me, by saying, "Even if you gain Hebrews 11:11, you cannot handle Leviticus 12:2!" After this exchange, I gather Till will say to his pupils, "Even if Lockwood DOES show that Leviticus 12:2 does not neces- sarily imply that women emit semen, he cannot handle this over here." Yes, Till is hard to pin down at times, because he vacates the lines of defense before the enemy arrives. Till's first and ONLY effort to rebut my article came this way: Lockwood opened the door to a ton of trouble for his position. He said the Greek literally meant "the laying down of seed" (p. 6) and then, astonishingly enough, went on in the same context to say that "this is an act of a male, not a female, in the repro- ductive process." Till admitted, "I could not have said it better myself," and wanted me to explain all of this. I hate to be such a party-pooper as I remove the jubilant smile from Farrell's lips, this being the only good point he made in the whole article, but I was not here conceding. I was merely rehearsing the primaries of van der Horst's work before I reviewed it in the next paragraphs. Yet this is Till's only defense in the entire review, what he thinks I admitted! When I offered alternate translations of katabole spermatos, Till ran to this again: "Why would 'receive power to establish a posterity' be a more accurate trans- lation, if Lockwood admits... 'laying down of seed' is what the Greek expres- sion meant?" Till's illustration is also based on the same assumption--that I was making a concession of van der Horst's point, when, in reality, I was merely giving the substance of what van der Horst had said so that I might review it. Try again, professor. By now, the readers are wondering about the several possibilities I of- fered at Hebrews 11:11 and why Till ignored them all. If Till is to carry his point, he must show (1) why these translations are not legitimate, and (2) that the writer indeed intended to convey the idea that Sarah emitted semen. 3 Did he do this, readers? He has not even pretended to. First, I showed that several translations make Abraham the subject of the verb. Bruce Metz- ger and Matthew Black do the same. What did Farrell say about this??? Silent as a Texas oyster! But I will add another one. The Translator's NT reads "the verse could also be trans. w/ reference to Abraham: 'by faith--though Sarah herself was barren--he received power to deposit seed..." (Appendix, p. 528). Your case is lost, Till, if this is a possible translation. Second, "mum" was the word from Till on Moulton and Milligan's "store- house translation." Third, "seed" could be used here for "posterity" (Wigram-Green, Berry's lexicon, Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, Cremer's; Thayer and Vincent's Word Studies). Thus, Sarah remains the subject. She had faith to "found a posterity." Even on a fourth possible solution, Till makes not even a peep. I sug- gested to him that he be more careful to learn these lessons so as to save himself such reproof in the future. He actually saw the lesson, I suppose, for he was careful this time not to bring it up! Will any of Tlll's agnostic buddies induce him to look at the argumentation here? GENESIS 3:15 Till thinks I missed the point here, but I was not making an effort on "scientific foreknowledge" except to expose his "Egyptian hymn to the sun- god" theory that places the hymn prior to the writing of Genesis 3:15. While Till tries to make up the ground he has lost at Hebrews 11:11 by grinding me with "hopelessly naive," which, if he says enough, maybe his agnostic friends will count as a good argument, let's note once again the Protevangelium herein, which Till avoided mentioning. "The text announces a male descendant who will ultimately win a crushing victory over Satan himself" (Theological Wordbook of OT, Vol. 1, p. 253). To this, I add that there is a deeper meaning than just the enmity between Satan and the woman's seed (line of descendants). Moses went on to prophesy that "he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Commencing with Gen. 3:15 the word "seed" is regularly used as a collective noun in the singular (never plural). This techni- cal term is an important aspect of the promise doctrine, for Hebrew never uses the plural of this root to refer to "posterity" or "offspring...." Thus the word designates the whole line of descendants as a unit, yet it is deliberately flexible enough to denote either one person who epitomizes the whole group (i.e. the man of promise and ultimately Christ), or the many persons in that whole line of natural and/or spiritual descendants (Ibid.). Adam Clarke said, "It shall bruise thy head, or rather HE, who? The seed of woman, the person is to come by the woman, and by her alone, without the concurrence of a man" (Vol. 1, p. 53). I also point out to Till's agnostic audience that the Targums of Jerusalem and of the Pseudo-Jonathan both say that this "victory over the serpent will be 'in the days of the Messiah'" (Cook Commentary, Vol. 1, p. 46). But the point of emphasis is that SO STRONGLY does this verse point to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, that the Jewish Bible of today (according to the Masoretic Text, The Menorah Press, Chicago, p. 5) makes it say, "They shall bruise thy head..." evident- ly referring it to the Jewish people, not Christ. But Isaac Lesser's transla- tion (Hebrew Publishing Co., p. 2) follows the original readings: "HE shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise HIS heel." I tell you, friends, so great is the case for the miraculous advent of the Messiah at Genesis 3:15 and of the Bible, in general, that efforts are contin- ually made to change the wording of the Bible and criticize the content with numerous exegetical flip-flops. Why does Till spend so much effort against 4 the Bible? Because, though he claims to be agnostic about God's existence, he KNOWS this: the Bible testifies eloquently to the truth upon its pages. And, so poorly has Till done in this exchange that I kindly suggest to him that from now on he quit trying to piece together some patchworked anec- dotes, sarcasms, and a few shallow exegeses while sitting at his computer late at night. He has surely made a poor showing in this exchange, and every reader knows it. (Bill Lockwood's address is 211 North Fifth, Marlow, OK 73055.) ********** EDITOR'S NOTE: We have promised not to comment at the end of rebuttal articles, and, as tempting as it is to point out the many absurdities in Lockwood's article, we will keep our promise. A response to the major points in this article has been written and mailed to Mr. Lockwood. A copy will be sent free on request to anyone wishing to read it. In the interest of fair- ness, we will include also his reply to it, if he cares to write one. Please in- clude a stamped envelope with your request. ******************** EFFORT... whereas the references of the other writers to early dawn and the risen sun were alluding to the arrival time at the tomb. It's a good theory, but it completely ignores the fact that John said, "While it was yet dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb" (20:1, NRSV). "While it was yet dark" is an adverbial expression of time that obviously modifies the verb came; thus, Mary came to the tomb while it was yet dark, according to John. Likewise, expressions like "very early on the first day of the week," "late on the sabbath day," "at early dawn," "as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week," and "when the sun was risen" are also adverbial phrases or clauses that modify the verb come in the passages that they are used in. There is just no other verb in any of the accounts for them to modify. For this reason, any effort to fuse all of the expressions into one consistent statement is doomed to fail. "When the sabbath was past" is an adverbial clause in Mark 16:1 that modifies the verb bought. In other words, the women bought spices "when the sabbath was past," yet came to the tomb "while it was yet dark." How could both statements be true? And how could the women have bought the spices "when the sabbath was past" yet had obtained the spices before the sabbath (Luke 23:54-56)? With no plausible way to solve this problem, we looked ahead and saw another inconsistency waiting in the wings. According to Matthew, when the women arrived, an "angel of the Lord" descended during an earthquake and rolled the stone away from the sepulcher (28:2), but the other three writers all said that the stone was already rolled away when the women came to the tomb (Mk. 16:4; Lk. 2: Jn. 20:1). At this point, we gave up and decided that Mr. Nielsen's money is safe. ******************************** FREE SUBSCRIPTION: A free one-year subscription to The Skeptical Review can be obtained by writing to P. O. Box 617, Canton, IL 61520-0617. 5


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank